Tuesday, March 06, 2007

New Beginning 235

Kathryn couldn't stop staring at herself in mirrors these days. Studying the colour of her eyes, the slope of her nose and the shape of her lips consumed her attention every time she used a bathroom, rode the elevator to Dr. Harkman's office or tried on clothes at the mall with Marice.

Was that the exact shade of blue as her father's eyes? Would her nose look just like Mom's if it didn't have that funny hump from the hockey incident in grade four? Weren't her lips the same delicate M shape under her nose as her grandmother's? How could she be adopted?

In a show of truly insensitive planning, her parents had sprung the news on her sixteenth birthday, deeming her old enough to know the truth now that she was old enough to drive. The promise of lessons, the emerald birthstone earrings, and the new sketchbook all diminished into the background like her biology project, paling in importance before the news that her family was not her own.

"You are SUCH a drip," Marice said when Kathryn told her. "You should be playing this for all it's worth! A crappy pair of earrings? After they've scarred you for life? It's gonna take at least a matching emerald tennis bracelet to console you. And a BMW, the second you get your license."

Kathryn hadn't thought about that. Nor had she caught on to the fact that now she wouldn't inherit her mother's enormous butt, or her grandmother's hammer toes, or Dad's receding hairline.

Maybe this being adopted stuff wasn't so bad after all.

Opening: Starstruck.....Continuation: Marissa Doyle


Dave Fragments said...

This is a good opening. It builds from just plain vanity to what is always a crisis - the news that a child is adopted. It's very effective in introducing the character, Kathryn, and her family situation.

I'm not sure of the audience. This is higher level writing and that implies the audience is adult or nearly adult. That's not a criticism. I read this closely and I want to know the rest of the story not because the opening is vague or semi-fantastic, but because the opening is compelling in human terms.

Also, the continuation is good, BTW.

Brenda said...

Very close to my heart, being an adopted chick. My greatest fear as an adopted teenager was that I'd end up unknowingly dating a half-brother. I looked for my features in the eyes and lips (my dominant features) of every new guy I met. It was a nightmare sometimes. If a guy had my odd eye color, I'd be like, "Your parents native to this area? How old are they?" (I knew my birthmother's age.) I got some mighty odd looks sometimes.

However, I've always known I'm adopted. Always. I don't remember being "told". So in that regard, I can't fathom what it'd be like to find out as a teenager. Another little note: Why 16? Unless it's an open adoption and they have information on the mother/parents, that's downright cruel. You can't access non-identifying information from the state until you're EIGHTEEN(in Texas, anyway, and assuming they have a decent amount of non-identifying information to even GIVE you until you finally out-manipulate the chick in Austin and get her to slip up, but I'll shut up because that's my own nightmare). So, unless the laws differ where you are, and unless her parents have a buttload of information on the biological mother (parents), their planning absolutely makes no sense to happen at sixteen. She'd have to wait around for two years and as adoptive parents, they'd know that information because they'd be told about it upfront during the process.

I could go on and on. I'll stop.

Anonymous said...

Me no likey, which means nothing. V95

Robin S. said...

If this is for a younger audience, it might work. But it's not for me.

Adoption can be a poignant subject-I have a cousin who had some problems, and I know that there are parts to his story that are very moving.

There may be in this as well -I just don't feel the beginning of them with the opening.

shaded-lily said...

I'm not qualified to speak on the topic itself. I'm just wondering why the story begins where it does, rather than with the birthday revelation, which would be more dramatic. I do like the mirror thing, but I'm not sure it belongs at the beginning of the story, in place of a really juicy scene that we get to hear about only in brief summary. Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

"her parents had sprung the news on her sixteenth birthday, deeming her old enough to know the truth now that she was old enough to drive."

Good, because a freaked out, enraged, depressed 16-year-old who barely knows how to drive is such an asset to the roadways.

I think this would pack more punch with fewer examples in every paragraph: one not three places she looks at herself; one or two facial features; one not three gifts.

That said, this is a pretty good way to do the "Here's what the heroine looks like" ploy.

Anonymous said...

The first paragraph is good, but I got a little lost in paragraph 2. Is she comparing eyes and nose to her adoptive parents or imagining what her biological parents' features look like? Because the lips sentence is so clear that she's talking about comparing to an adoptive grandmother, the first two sentences really threw me as to intent.

The third paragraph is very distancing, all past-tense telling and no showing. It might be a lot more effective to play that scene out in a flashback. Something like having Kathryn coming home breathless and excited from a day out celebrating with friends and wearing her new earrings. Then her parents sitting her down for a "last birthday surprise" (telling her on her birthday, though? that's kind of stretching credulity).

As it is, my eyes kind of glazed over there. Also not sure what "lessons" you mean. If driving lessons, don't most kids take driver's ed at 15 so they can get their license on their 16th birthday? Emerald birthstones are for May, so Kathryn would have had a couple of chances in school to take drivers lessons already. Or are these some other lessons?

I like the mechanics of your writing. Now it just needs a little polish to make the story more accessible to this reader.

Anonymous said...

I've seen "protagonist checks herself out in a mirror" on more than one list of opening scenes agents/editors are sick & tired of. It's usually right after "protagonist is dreaming" and just before "protagonist answers the phone". So you might want to start with something else. Like the birthday party from Hell.

Dave Fragments said...

Good, because a freaked out, enraged, depressed 16-year-old who barely knows how to drive is such an asset to the roadways.

That's a litle too cynical for my taste.

Brenda said...

She's dead on with the mirror thing, so for me, that was the most believable part of what's posted here. You stare and stare and wonder who you look like. Since I look very little like my biological mother, I still catch myself staring and wondering if I look like my father, and how much, and if he saw me, would he recognize those features and simply KNOW. It's a very odd feeling to attempt to capture in words.

Anonymous said...

This beginning pulled me right in. I'd definitely keep reading. Liked it... really liked it.

Robin S. said...

"I still catch myself staring and wondering if I look like my father, and how much, and if he saw me, would he recognize those features and simply KNOW" --
"It's a very odd feeling to attempt to capture in words" --

Brenda - I think you just did capture the feeling, really well, in words.

Rei said...

Para 1: Character looks at self in the mirror.

Para 2: Character keeps observing self.

Para 3: Backstory, backstory, backstory.

Sorry, but I'm not being captivated here. Heck, I'm not even being given setting -- just character description and backstory. Hopefully it picks up soon.

McKoala said...

I thought it was well written, but also wasn't sure of genre - YA or not? Also first two paras seemed to be from her POV, then the third seemed to retreat from that, which threw me a bit.

Neat continuation!

Bernita said...

Competent beginning.
Have been trying to analyze why it didn't grab me at all.
Perhaps because I cannot relate to her situation and because it sounds so bloody depressing.

writtenwyrdd said...

I am always bothered by the "staring at self in mirror to give a description for the reader" beginning--no matter how relevant the action may be. I think you can begin elsewhere and have a more gripping start that doesn't feel so contrived.

This didn't really grab me but I'd have given it a paragraph or two more.