Monday, December 18, 2006

New Beginning 177

For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be the female version of either Sherlock Holmes or Wong Fei Hung, and that pretty much sums up my life. Don't worry if you don't know who I'm talking about. I get that a lot.

If you're the only white girl in a Chinese family, out of place doesn't even begin to describe it. I mean, most of the time, it doesn't really register. They're just family.

But of course, other people don't see it that way. And that's how it always starts.

My cousin Wayne and I are on our way to our grandpa's house when we hear the yelling.

"Hey cutie. What's a sexy girl like you doing with that chink?"

I try to will Wayne along, to not make eye contact. I love my cousin, but he's got the survival skills of a lemming at full moon.

"You gotta problem with me?" Wayne demands angrily to the two greasy guys in the Dodge, immediately taking the bait.

"Yeah, I do, chink," the driver responds, and both of them step out of the car to face us, fists clenching.

"Excuse me, gentlemen," I begin, "but I can see from the red mud on your tires that you've been up Lookout Mountain, which is well known for marijuana growing. And from the nick on the bottom of your t-shirt, I can tell that you were in a knife fight using the Guatemalan 8" Switch, which is a rare blade in this vicinity. Also illegal."

The two reach back into their car to pull out baseball bats.

I fly into the air, launching a series of No Shadow Kicks into their faces, sending the two to the pavement in a bloody, groveling heap.

Wong Fei Hung tends to be more effective than Sherlock around here.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Pacatrue


HawkOwl said...

Oh, good, because I don't know who you're talking about. I mean, who ever heard of "Sherlock Holmes"?

Seriously, I would totally love to read about a white girl whose family is all Chinese. Very interesting concept. The voice, however, is totally not working for me. It sounds like a white girl, for one thing. I expect a child growing up in a Chinese family to sound like a Chinese child. That a Chinese writer would writer. Like Wayson Choy.

But also, the lemming simile would ruin the Song of Songs itself. If this is intended to be a funny piece, by all means. But if it's meant to make us experience the outlook of a white girl whose family is Chinese, don't do it. Similes are not cool.

Anonymous said...

The continuation was funny, but I just wanted to let the original author know that I enjoyed the opening and would definitely have kept reading if I had more.

(word ver: xokrkyi, ha!)

Anonymous said...

Amusing continuation.

I liked the beginning, but I think it would be best if you added in more explanation of her being white in a Chinese family. Trying to puzzle the hows of that distracted me too much from the writing.

Otherwise, I liked it.

Bernita said...

To hell with the "voice",if you can keep the balance between live humour and real danger, story sounds like a lot of fun.

Dave Fragments said...

I think you are trying to hard. I like the elements of the story and the humor, but you're trying to introduce too much. Relax, set the scene and if you want to shock the reader, start with the insult line.

But think:
They are on their way to Grandma;s house (like red riding hood) when car pulls alongside and a greasy, mechanic tough, rough trade dude yells: "Hey cutie. What's a sexy girl like you doing with that chink?" - - do you hear the contrivance?

Now the last person to use the insult "Chink" got into serious trouble. I doubt it's a pickup line. Think about this dialog. The latest talk (by empty headed idiots, of course) is the Kinsey data about penis length. They keep saying that Asians have short penises. (please be patient for another second, this has a point)... the insult might be "hey baby, Us white guys are more of a man than that that chink you're walking with. Leave doggy-dick for a real man with a big dick who knows how to use it."
That's demeaning in so many ways. And it really slaps down her brother while it says she's a piece of cheap slut.

And I like the lemming remark. It's quirky and lifts the tone.

Anonymous said...

I liked the beginning as well as the continuation. I think this author has started on something good, a story I would read further, even without the continuation.

And what's wrong with simile?
As for being a white girl in a Chinese family, I don't think it's possible to learn everything there is to know about a girl on the first page.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave, can I borrow some of that dialogue? I'm writing some speculative fiction about Richard Nixon's secret trip to Peking in the seventies. That would be perfect for Henry Kissinger.

Anonymous said...

Hawkowl, do you mean the Book of Songs? Song of Songs usually refers to the Song of Solomon, and Book of Songs (Shi Jing) is the Chinese folk poetry ref, and since Wong Fei Hung has already been brought up...

Anonymous said...

p.s. I meant the dialogue in your 10:36 comment. The dialogue from the opening might work for another project, though.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah, and much love for the pacatrue. Shadowless Kick rules!

Anonymous said...

I liked both beginning and continuation. Is this planned for YA? Voice sounds like it. I think this might really work, and give YA's something to think about. (I now live in a very vanilla small town that is just starting to expereince different cultures living next door, many of the younger generation are confused and bewildered.)

HawkOwl said...

Batgirl - the Solomon one. It's called the Song of Songs in my Bible. :)

Rei said...

If it wasn't present tense, I might have enjoyed this.

Virginia Miss said...

I love your voice, I'd keep reading this. Good luck.

pacatrue said...

My main concern is that right now we might have a great situation without a great story. Either through personal history, observation, or imagination, you've come up with a cross-cultural setting that is a great hook. But is there a great novel to go with a great hook? Right now this could be YA, adult, mystery, romance, adventure, contemporary, lit-fic, etc. and we have no idea.

I definitely don't mean that you have to spell out everything in the first page, but just make sure you don't take the easy path and fall back on how cool the situation is. If this is going to be a mystery (which I doubt) try to come up with the best mystery opening you can as well as the family setting. If this is going to be a contemporary novel about growing up cross-culturally in America (or something), make sure you start with a real, hard-core problem, not a minor one.

I've done a little reading about Korean adoptees to white American families, and the sort of painful racist experiences they relate are rarely the anonymous racists yelling stuff. Not that that didn't happen, of course, but it always seemed the more painful parts were the very personal aspects, particularly from people who they thought of as friends or family. The grandfather who never thought of them as really part of the family, no matter what. Feeling like you can never fit the image of what is beautiful in your high school. Etc.

You know all this stuff better than I, I assume, so make sure you use that knowledge to build a really moving, kick-ass story to go along with the kick-ass situation.

Make that No-Shadow-Kick-Ass.

Anonymous said...

Hey EE and Minions,

I've been reading the Snark snarks on hooks, and I've got a question. I wouldn't mind submitting the question there, risking a near-certain blast from the clue gun, but she already said she's not answering questions right now.

I understand what a hook is afer reading them and her comments. What I don't understand is where it goes and what it does. Could it be crudely defined as "the first blob of a query letter"? Is it a stand-alone type of thing?

Some of those hooks are pretty awesome all by themselves, without anymore specifics on plot. But I doubt if any agent or editor would want to receive them without getting any more information on the story.

Can somebody edumacate me?


A befuddled minion

Anonymous said...

dave@10:36, doesn't the insult used depend a lot on what time period the story's set in?


Virginia Miss said...

To anon 3:22 re: your question about Miss Snark's hooks:

My understanding is that the hook is the bit in the query letter that hooks the agent. The rest of a query letter is pretty standard-issue stuff.

Evil Editor said...

You'll be sending a query letter. It will certainly have stuff like Dear Agent X, and Sincerely yours. It will have a hook, which could be at the beginning, or after a brief intro. It could be almost the entire body, though it's best to find a place for the title, genre, word count.

Dave Fragments said...

Hissy Fit alert:
Whichever ANONYMOUS is buggin me about that insult.

I wrote it as an example. I wouldn't paint a character as bad just using that insult. It's a cheap and cheesy way out of good writing. It's a child's insult. It made a quick example and that's all it should make. You are not Beavis or Butthead so quit giggling and get over it.

We're better writers than that.

Anonymous said...

Since we're off the track, EE did YOU set up Miss Snark by leaking the crap-o-meter as a literary contest over the web? I read the connection, and can see how everyone with any ms would see the COM as a "quick way to get published for free". OUCH! Could even you be THAT evil???

Anonymous said...

Thanks Virginia and Evil! I kind of sort of thought that was it but I'm pretty dumb.

Evil Editor said...

I'm not sure what you're talking about. Set her up for what?

Anonymous said...

EE, Dave didn't tell you? dear Miss S got 700 crap-o-meter entries in 12 hours. Blew up the web.

Dave Fragments said...

If you haven't been over there, Miss Snark decided to run another Crapometer. AFter the last one received 110 plus query letters with a first page ot two, she decided to read HOOKS of up to 250 words to pick those that she would read the first three or four pages.

Well, she got over 600 hooks. She's only got through the first 185 tonight. She had to use her dog's email to reply because G-mail only let her send out 300 emails the first day.

I think it kinda got out of hand.

As Adams said - The best laid plans of mice...
As the old bromide - In for a penny, in for sixteen tons...
AS John Stewart said the other night - The new assistant Secretary General of the UN is named Doodle Von Taintstain

Evil Editor said...

Perhaps those whose hooks don't get their pages critiqued, will send their first 150 to EE. With 600 openings, we should get some good New Beginnings.

Anonymous said...

I worked Dave's dialogue into my story about Nixon and Kissinger on their secret diplomatic mission to China. Dave, I hope you don't mind my plagiarizing your words. Let me know if you want a writing credit other than "Dave".

Kissinger: "Hey cutie. What's a sexy girl like you doing with that chink?"

Nixon: "Henry, what's the matter with you? That's no way to talk to Chairman Mao and his companion! If you're going to flirt, clean it up a little!"

Ron Ziegler: "Yeah. Besides, you're really not getting to the point, you're just heckling them."

Kissinger: "Okay, you're right. Check this out, I'll make a pass at that Foreign Minister's wife. See those two that are getting up to leave? Here goes."

Kissinger strolled quickly past a table full of Chinese officials, easily catching up with the Foreign Minister. Nixon and Ziegler followed separately, but both were within earshot within seconds.

Kissinger: "hey baby, Us white guys are more of a man than that that chink you're walking with. Leave doggy-dick for a real man with a big dick who knows how to use it."

Mao: "That's it! Enough insults! Go back home, we're not normalizing relations. Forget it!"

Dave Fragments said...

Oh Anonymous, that's despicable!

Anonymous said...

Loved the continuation.

I liked the idea of the opening. Too tired to do more thinking about it tho'. sorry.

good luck

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark got inundated, in part I think, because she set up her Happy Hooker COM for mid-December and NaNoWriMo ended November 30. The HH COM was widely discussed in the wrimo forums.

EE, if you want to be inundated too, just drop a quick line in the NaNoWriMo marketing thread or life after nano thread. I mean, they had something like 12,000 people finish novels this year!

If you want me to do it, just say so. I'll be happy to spread the word.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure what Hawkowl means by this:
I expect a child growing up in a chinese family to sound like a Chinese family.

What assumptions is this based on?
What if the Chinese family is a third generation family living in California, whose predecessors came over for the railroad?

They wouldn't speak in odd idioms, probably wouldn't have kitchen Gods (as Amy Tan made all white people believe that her experience was the norm).

It think you have to respect whatever voice the character has and not put your presumptions across her.

As for the voice --she sounds not white but very contemporary, almost "valley girl." Thus, it goes to reason that she's a reflection of her family's inflections.

Overall, the writer will have to avoid stereotyping on either side. She'll have to watch her language so that it doesn't devolve into a bunch of valley girl explanations and asides. Other than that, nice sentence length variation, nice clean use of language.

HawkOwl said...

Oh, I absolutely don't have to respect the character's voice and spare her my... presumptions? I don't think that's the word you're looking for. Anyway, she's a character in a (potential) book. I can disrespect the skanky ho all I want.

Why do I assume the Chinese family is culturally Chinese as well as genetically Chinese? Because there's no point mentioning it otherwise. Chinese culture is a plot point all by itself. Looking Chinese isn't.

Besides, I'm right. :)

Kiki said...

Thanks for all the feedback, everybody. this was definitely an interesting experience.

For those of you who were wondering, yes, it's supposed to be YA, and (hopefully) funny and sweet.

The cultural clash is definitely an issue throughout the book, and a major part of the heroine's inner conflict.

I envision this project somewhere between Meg Cabot and Kim Wong Keltner tone- and topic-wise.

Thanks, everybody. You've given me lots to think about.