Sunday, August 06, 2006

New Beginning 46

Gwen grabbed the last book out of her locker and shoved it in her backpack.

“What do you want to do now?” Jessie asked as she leaned on the locker door.

“I have to go home. Garret is coming home today.”

“Oh, sorry.” Jessie’s face scrunched up as she said it.

Garret was Gwen’s least favorite brother who was returning from his sophomore year of college. Actually, Garret was her only brother but whose counting!

“Yeah, I'm sorry too. Want to come over?” Gwen’s eyes met her friends in a not so subtle plea.

“No!” Jessie answered quickly, a little too quickly Gwen thought.

Although she understood her friend's feelings it still felt like a slap in the face. Garret, she knew, wasn't everyone's best friend. Garret acted like his shit didn't stink and treated everyone like they didn't matter. Not exactly good character traits for a doctor, which is what Garret planned to be.

However, they were excellent traits for an editor. Which is why, Garret explained as he gave Gwen a hello wedgie, he had decided to change majors.

"Because it's the only way to teach you not to mix up your homonyms, asshat."

Gwen wrenched herself free and glared at her brother. Sure, laugh it up now, she thought, while ewe still can. Sum day aisle bee a tacks accountant, and wheel sea whose laughing last.

Continuation: Marjorie James


Bernita said...

Erm, shouldn't that be "who's?"
Repetition here.
The first paragraph on the brother could be deleted, for example.
And if he acts as if his "shit didn't stink," the "treated everyone like they didn't matter" is automatically understood.
Think that "...face scrunched up as she said it" could be shortened to "Jessie's face scrunched up."
And the "No!" with exclamation, eliminates the need for "Jessie answered quickly...etc."
We get the idea without the explanation.

Nikki said...

“I have to go home. Garret is coming home today.”

Repetition of home - you could change the second home to 'back'. And use the contraction - the speaker's a teenager, she would be more likely to say Garret's.

"...whose counting!" makes me angry. Who's, please!

The whole paragraph is redundant anyway - you show Gwen's emotion quite well in her dialogue.

Anonymous said...

So, the book is about sister-brother relationship?

magz said...

snortchorklesplurt! the 'hello wedgie'...

aside, it's been my experience that MANY doctors have those character traits, I thought they taught them in med school! (While all good editors are born that way)

Anonymous said...

Love the continuation. It seems that replace who's with whose was good fodder for more than the comments.

Also, frankly, while I can live with obscenities in novels (and in life), I prefer not to have them shoved in my face in the first 150 words.

OTOH, it wasn't so bad that I would quit reading the original at the 150 word mark, which is another way of saying the story might be worth reading.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous: how do you feel about Catcher in the Rye, which famously has the word "crap" in the first sentence?

Obscenities are fine if they help establish something about the character who uses them.

Anonymous said...

Your story does not start here. Your story starts when Garret gets home (presumably). Absolutely nothing of interest happens in this scene; chop it all out and start where the story starts, i.e. at the point where the protagonist's life changes and she feels the need to take action. A casual conversation in the hallway is not that point.

Also, what's the conflict? Gwen doesn't like her brother; so what? Why should the reader care about that fact? What does Gwen want to accomplish, and how does Garret get in her way?

I'd suggest you think carefully about your book's plot - about what the protagonist's goal is and what sort of things oppose her. Then, try to find a way to get the reader to understand that tension right away. As I implied, the best way to do that is to start the story at the point when the protagonist's life has changed and she feels the need to take action to get what she wants.

Also, this scene consists of a bland conversation between two young women who (as yet) also seem very bland. Into this you dump two inelegant lumps of backstory/exposition about a villanous brother, couched in such language that it makes me dislike Gwen for being an immature jealous brat. I think you should hit your local library and read some books on writing - on how to structure stories and what sort of pitfalls young writers fall into. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King is a good one to start with.

You can also get some excellent advice by posting writing excerpts on such writing critique sites as Critique Circle and Forward Motion.

You probably have an interesting story to tell, but your execution is lacking. Learn some more about how to write well, and then take another look at your manuscript; you'll start to see the ways in which you're failing to engage the reader's interest.

Good luck with it!

Rei said...

EE, as always, your continuation was classic. Humorous, but with a deeper meaning.

Anonymous said...

but whose counting! yikes!

Anonymous said...

I read right over the "whose." Obviously, editors would not.

This opening didn't grab me.

Most of the paragraphs consist of one or two sentences. This lack of variety gives a choppy feel to the opening.

Nothing particularly exciting happens. As Goblin said, start when Garret arrives. (And did you choose Garret for the would-be doctor's name because it sounds like garotte?)

No sensory detail.

And not much character development.

Maybe you can't put all of that in a short opening, but at least get something in there to keep me reading.

Openings are difficult. We learn by analyzing what doesn't work (and what does). Thanks for sharing.

McKoala said...

home/home and whose stopped me reading.

Anonymous said...

Dear Writer:

Please read a few what-not-to-do books then start over. The scene as written is about nothing--and only Seinfeld can get away with nothing.

Anonymous said...

"The First Five Pages" has a section on the need to avoid "commonplace dialogue".

This passage reeks of it and it slows the story down before it even starts. There's no place for that conversation at all, where they finally decide to go home. Just say "my dorky brother is home" and then go there. It sounds like something cool is going to happen there.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed that I bothered to read the first 150 words... they bored me silly.... But I was so glad I did since they got me to that continuation. Still mopping the coffee off the keyboard after getting to the wedgie! ROFLMAO

Annie said...

I agree with everyone who has said this interaction should be scrapped altogether. It's boring and does nothing to move the plot along. It also makes the characters seem grating because reader don't like to see mundane chit chat.

Everything that was explained this dialogue could be expressed in a sentence or two of narration when Gwen arrives home and is reunited with Garret. (Is there a reason you chose this spelling? A garret is a watchtower. Garrett is a name derived from Gerald or Gerard. Not a huge deal since parents often give children alternate spellings of popular names -- Kelli, Jordyn, etc -- but since garret is a word, this one caught my eye.)

I don't mind the profanity, but I do mind cliches. That phrase made me wince.

The continuation cracked me up. Nice work, submitter.

Anonymous said...

Make this a prologue, then agents won't read it anyway and they'll miss the typos and cliches (whose ... friends ... shit don't stink).

Before getting valuable (well, hopefully) input here, you should make sure at least your first chapter is polished beyond belief. Those are glaring errors, enough that an agent wouldn't continue reading because they'll know this is too early of a draft.

It's tough to stay patient enough to do that, but the competition is brutal. Remember the motto: writing is easy, rewriting is hard. Take it to heart. A ms (not just yours, anyone's) isn't ready to submit just because you finally got through it. You have to be better than what's on the shelves today or why would an editor want to spend time on your ms?

Just my thoughts, and I hope I'm not sounding harsh because I have no right to be. I'm riding in the same boat, searching for an agent.

Daisy Bateman said...

Just going to hop in on the profanity thing here. I have no problem with books having curse words in them, and use them profusely myself, but if this is (as I assume) YA, then I think you're going to find that editors and agents will have some problems with it. Since the phrase isn't exactly critical to the plot or the voice, I'd suggest just finding another way to say her brother thought he was the bee's knees (though perhaps not that one).

Oh, and the Garret/t thing bothered me too.

Anonymous said...

From the author:

I am truly humbled by all the words of wisdom.
I really do appreciate the feedback and yes it is most helpful.

After re-reading my submission I too was appalled by my lack of proofreading. Chalk it up to trying to write while at work.

As goblin said, this is not where the story starts and I plan on cutting the beginning and when the brother/sister confrontation takes place, the profanity is relevant to the character.

Additionally, the name Garret was taken off of which gives the origin for a name. Yes it means “to watch” and it is Celtic which is one of the reasons I chose it. The family has a Celtic ancestry which is important in the story.

Thanks for the input!