Wednesday, February 17, 2016

New Beginning 1054

I brushed my fingertips against the lavender as I walked.

The air was thick with the smoky-sweet scent of the violet flowers. All I needed was mint, and I knew exactly what aisle it would be in. After all, I came here at least once a week. I zigzagged through the garden center anyway, walking up and down the rows of plants, admiring their bursts of colors.

I knew it wasn't a typical place for a sixteen-year-old to hang out. Most of the other girls my age were spending their time at the mall or going on dates, while I spent my weekends covered in dirt in my garden. Not that I was a total social outcast— I was friends with most of my classmates on Facebook, and even got the occasional invite to a party. But I was happiest when I was surrounded by a rainbow canvas of plants and the rich smell of the earth.

I found the pot of mint I needed and headed towards the cash register. I was making my way down the tulip aisle when I saw Holt, staring solemnly at the small plot of baby Norfolk pine trees.

I hesitated at first, then thought, 'what the hell.' I walked over to Holt, my sneakers almost silent on the walkway. He didn't notice me approach, just staring down at the pines, his hands clasped in front of himself as though praying to nature.

I paused, briefly, then: "Uh, hi!" Holt jumped, startled, and spun around. A stream of piss traced an arc from the base of the plant to my legs and began to fill my sneaker. That was the last thing I ever said to him.

Opening: Sonia Bricel.....Continuation: anon.


The original opening had an extra paragraph:

Holt looked up at me, a smile spreading across his face. He was the newest addition to my junior-year class, having moved to Deep Cove three weeks ago. Living in a small town in Canada sandwiched between mountain and ocean, I was used to tourists coming and going. But new residents were rare.

The chosen continuation works better without that, but the unchosen one (see comments) works better with it. Include it when commenting on the opening.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

"Hey," said Holt, shyly.

"Hey yourself." I smiled back. "So--how long since you were--"

"Turned? About a year, I guess."

"So why haven't I seen you around?"

"Well--truth is--Pierre kicked me out a week ago. I knew it was safe to come here, so I did."

Pierre. Pierre Galmont, the most heartless and ruthless vampire in all of Quebec. "Why didn't he just kill you?"

Holt shrugged. "I dunno. Something about a prophecy and it being bad for business."

I understood. Murder is bad for vampire tourism, especially in a hole like Deep Cove.


Evil Editor said...

P1: No reason for this sentence to be a separate paragraph.

P2: I would change "what aisle it would be in" to "where it was." Also, I would delete "After all, I came here at least once a week." and insert "but" in its place.

P3: Get rid of "I knew" and "of the other." And the 2nd "I was" in the last sentence.

P4: "Making my way" suggests (to me) rougher terrain than this, unless the tulip aisle is full of obstacles. A whole aisle of tulips seems unlikely, considering most gardening purists would buy bulbs. Besides, if it's the tulip aisle, what are those pines doing there? I would go with: I was passing the tulips when I saw Holt staring solemnly at a small plot of Norfolk pines. (no need to call them "baby" as we can infer they're small if they're in a garden center. Not sure what the difference between "staring" and "staring solemnly" is here.

P5: He looked up? Is he squatting or just much shorter than the narrator? If you're going to mention tourists at all, mention why they're in Deep Cove; you make it sound like they only stop to fill their gas tanks on their way to the mountains or ocean. For instance: I was used to tourists coming to Deep Cove for the boating and fishing, but new residents were rare.

Anonymous said...

One of the big problems a lot of people have with first person is the number of times they use the word "I". As an exercise, try to remove every "I" that you can while still leaving this in first person.

I've never thought of lavender as smelling smoky. Probably too much camping with the wind blowing wood smoke in my face.

Paragraph one connects to sentence one of paragraph two, but sentence one doesn't seem to connect to the rest of paragraph two. Might want to try more of a transition. I agree with EE on the delete "I came here once a week." If it's important have it come up in conversation with Holt or the person at the register when buying the mint.

Paragraph three looks like unneeded backstory. Is it important that the reader knows this right now? You already have the MC enjoying the garden center. The reader can assume she likes gardening. Her relationships with her classmates will come up later if they're important. Keep the focus of this scene on the interaction between the MC and Holt, if that's what's important.

I do wonder how large the garden center is to have an entire aisle devoted to tulips (I'm assuming bulbs). Are the pines beyond the aisle so that the MC has a view of them and Holt? If so, you might want to make that more clear.

"Newest addition" kind of implies there have been other additions, which contradicts the new residents being rare part.

Hope this helps.

Tk said...

A kid who is into gardening, that's interesting, especially if the plot hangs on it. (NB, I expect the plot to hang on it, given it is the story opening.)

There was too much backstory for me. The openings that draw me in best advance the story with every paragraph, even while introducing setting and character. But take, for example, your paragraph "I knew it wasn't". It doesn't move the *plot* anywhere further than it was in the paragraph before (I grant you it gives character information about age and social life, but that could be introduced when she meets Holt) (which it is anyway - there's a reference to her year in school and Holt greets her in a friendly way).

P.S. We Canadians don't use "junior year" much. We say Grade 10. (*not* 10th Grade either). Though maybe you did that on purpose for the US market?

khazar-khum said...

I was under the impression Holt worked at the garden center, though him being interested in plants would work if it fits the rest of the plot.

I guess I don't usually think of the garden center as a hot place for kids to hang out.

Evil Editor said...

No, he just goes to the garden center to stare solemnly at potted plants.

Author said...

Thanks guys! EE, do you offer paid-for editorial services on full manuscripts or one-on-one for queries??

St0n3henge said...

"I knew it wasn't a typical place for a sixteen-year-old to hang out. Most of the other girls my age were spending their time at the mall or going on dates, while I spent my weekends covered in dirt in my garden. Not that I was a total social outcast— I was friends with most of my classmates on Facebook, and even got the occasional invite to a party. But I was happiest when I was surrounded by a rainbow canvas of plants and the rich smell of the earth."

The problem with this paragraph is that it's intrusive. The character wouldn't stop to think about her social status. She'd be thinking about what she's doing. If she ran into somebody like her teacher or the parent of one of her classmates, she might briefly stop to think about it.
I was an awkward, geeky teen teen too, but I didn't stop to randomly think about how awkward or geeky I was, unless happenstance brought it to my attention.

Evil Editor said...

EE, do you offer paid-for editorial services on full manuscripts?

I regularly offer my services in charity auctions, most often The Brenda Novak auction for diabetes research. I assume that will run throughout the month of May this year. If it doesn't, I'll auction myself off, as I did last year to benefit Farm Sanctuary.

Chelsea P. said...

Hi Sonia! Your writing is quite lovely, and I found this passage to be almost soothing. You conjure the feeling of the garden center well. My only critique (and this is a personal pet peeve of mine, so definitely weigh it against others' opinions) is the "unique girl"/"most other girls" dichotomy you've set up here. I've seen it a lot, and it always feels a bit problematic. For one thing, it seems to imply that most girls are the same, which I've never found to be true. For another, it tends to place (intentionally or not) the unique girl above the others.

That said, I think it's a fairly easy fix. If you feel like the character needs to differentiate herself from other girls, maybe show that other girls have their own interests (beyond dating and clothes). For example, "While other girls my age were studying for exams or updating their YouTube channels, I spent my weekends covered in dirt in my garden." This way, we can see that other girls are doing their own individual thing, but your MC's thing is still unique.

That's about it. All in all, this was a very lovely passage. :)

St0n3henge said...

I'm going to have to disagree with Chelsea, pet peeve or no.

When I was a geeky teen, as far as I was concerned, all the other girls were the same. They all seemed to spend a lot of time worrying about their hair and makeup, talking about boys, and giggling. They also spent a good deal of time finding ways to be mean to girls they disliked.
Was this accurate? I doubt it. But from the point of view of a 16 year old, this was perfectly accurate.

Also, yes, I did feel I was a little better than they were. In my mind, my art, writing and studies were more important and more useful than whatever they had found to do. At least I felt I was accomplishing something. I missed a lot of social development, but at the time, that seemed frivolous and nonsensical.

I think your instincts are right. You're in the point of view of a teen, so things should make sense from that point of view. There's no use switching to the point of view of an adult unless this is an adult protag thinking back on her teen years.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

The thing is, the reader IS one of the other girls. I've seen this done before, and it alienates the reader. That's the problem.