Sunday, June 17, 2007

New Beginning 295

“Mom, there’s nothing to do in this tiny town,” I said for the third time that day. I plopped my head in my hands and stared as Mom chopped up vegetables for dinner. I let out a long, loud sigh.

Mom didn’t even look up. She decapitated the celery stalks in one quick thunk and said, “Christopher, there’s a lot to do in Midfield. Even more now than when I grew up here. You just have to look around.”

“But Mommm. This town is so smalll. And I don’t know aaanybodyyy.”

She paused from mutilating a helpless pile of carrots and looked up. It was working! She had that same worried look on her face as she did last month when I ate eight pieces of fried chicken and threw up all night. Maybe now she’d let us move back to the city.

"Christopher," Mom said wearily. "Do you remember your sister, Sadie? No, of course you don't, you would have been too young."

"I have a sister?"

"She used to talk a lot, just like you. It was 'Mommmm' this and 'Mommmm' that."

"How come I didn't know--"

"The last thing I remember her saying was, 'Helllppp! Agghhhhhh!' as I chopped her up, just like this eggplant." She sliced the eggplant in half with one stroke for emphasis.


"Go play, honey. Dinner'll be ready soon."

Opening: Spooge26.....Continuation: Pacatrue


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations

"Christopher, we're not moving back and that's final. The police are still looking for us. And it's good that you don't know anybody - we're not going to be here that long."

She continued her vegetable massacre. "Besides, Midfield is a nice little town. And once I get the hang of these new knives, it's going to be a lot more fun. I'll teach these backwater bumpkins not to invite *me* to the high school Prom!"

--Kate Thornton

"You know me," said my friend Ben, looking down at his shoes. Sorry, I mouthed. Ben was from Midfield. I hadn't meant to hurt his feelings.

"Get the turkey," Mom said after a moment. Apparently she had decided I wasn't that sick.

"Fine," I said. Ben followed me out to the backyard.

"At least back in the city I got some decent cooking," I said.

"What do you mean?" Ben asked. He gently stroked our cow's neck as I grabbed a hen.

"Ben," I said. "Do you know what she's going to do with this bird? In a few minutes, no human being will be able to recognize it had once been a turkey."

"Gosh!" said Ben, clearly fascinated. "No wonder you threw up after her chicken!"

"Yeah," I answered sardonically. "You should see what this woman does to prepare a hamburger."


writtenwyrdd said...

paca, that continuation is priceless!

Author, this has a nice voice and I liked it. Something needs to happen soon, though, or the whiney kid is going to make me close the book.

Anonymous said...

Like the Mom, like the kid. Very believable dialogue. I'm guessing the kid is going to come up with a plan to ensure a move back to the city and that makes me want to read more. Assuming this is YA. No nits, no run-ons, no errors! Can't wait to read the query.

Pac -- diabolically cleaver cont.

Marissa Doyle said...

What Writtenwyrd said. Except that I have to repeat that the continuation was delightfully evil.

I'd say this is probably more Middle-Grade than YA. Yes? No?

Dave Fragments said...

This opening reads so strange to me. It reads like a whining girl and yet the character is a boy. I'm guessing he's about 10 or 11 because that's the perfect age for whining and doing stupid things like eating yourself into a high-fat, throwing up binge. Think of the movie Stand By Me and you'll understand.

I'm guessing that's also the reason for the odd kitchen descriptions - decapitation and mutilation. This kid is really, really bored.

The last line sets up a disturbing manipulation. The kid wants to go back to the city and he believes that if he bugs his mother enough, she'll relent. Now that either sets up a runaway or a country adventure.

All the words preceeding that last sentence are wasted descriptions. The author can simply say:
"Christopher hated the country and wanted to move back to the city." with the same effect.

I guess I'm saying that the opening isn't justifying itself within a plotline. Perhaps I'm reading too much in to it, or not giving the writer a chance to establish style. Establising style is boring, even in good literary fiction.

Obviously, Christopher is going to get into an adventure, what will that be? Ghosts, aliens, transformers? Animal husbandry? Poaching? Bear baiting? Hogzilla? Matricide?

Chris Eldin said...

A children's writer! Hooray!
I liked the voice and thought the writing was pretty good. And I'm guessing this is MG, unless Christopher befriends a troubled teenager and they go hitchhiking around the country commiting petty crimes ....hey, wait. That's MY YA. Sorry.

Anyway, back to you. I don't think you can open your book with a kid whining and a mom chopping vegetables. I am going to guess that you have less than a minute to capture an editor's attention, and you don't want to blow it. This opening is showing us an ordinary scene in what is so far an ordinary family. People don't buy books to read about their own boring (or depressing) lives. Ramp up the excitement.

Your writing is good--is there a twist or something dramatic about to happen soon? Can you open with that? I thought the dialogue was very realistic, too.

Good luck!


Anonymous said...

I think you've done a good job of showing Mom's frustration by her vegetable massacre. I'd be careful not to let your kid sound too whiny. I assume this is middle grade or ya and the kid is the main character. Whiny main characters are hard to get attached to. The kid does sound very believable, and so far I like the kid. Just make sure the kid is active and not just whiny.

none said...

You could, Dave, but that would be telling, not showing, and telling switches off readers faster than a polar bear can bite you on your tattoo.

It seems to me that the kid is punching Mom's buttons. They're sneaky that way.

Beth said...

Ummm. This strikes me as possibly the wrong place to begin. By the time we reach the fourth paragraph, I'm feeling kinda whiny and looking for a way out. And there's a pretty abrupt transition from Mom turning an experienced deaf ear to the whines, and Mom suddenly looking worried because he moans that he doesn't know anybody. I couldn't see any reason for the change.

All in all, for me, this is a blah opening. I think you want more pizzaz, particularly in a kids' book. Think about your first few chapters. What's the first event that puts the story in motion? The event that changes everything from status quo to things-will-never-be-the-same-again? Try starting there, or as close to it as possible.

Robin S. said...

Liked the opening - the whining kid sounds are familiar.

And really liked the continuation, for the same reason.

Happy Father's Day, pacatrue.

McKoala said...

Boys can whine.

Nice violence to the veggies. I thought that the whiny voice may have been a little overdone, mostly because this is coming from the kid's POV and I don't think a kid would think that they spoke like that - unless they were laying it on thick for some devious reason and this lacked the build up for that knowing tone. I guess that's kind of a detail, though.

I think this is an OK place to begin if this discussion precipitates some action - Mom sends him off on some daft mission that ends in trouble or arranges a playdate with the kid next door who likes to play with knives or some such.

McKoala said...

Liked all the continuations, you bloodthirsty bunch.

Bernita said...

Nice, clean writing.
A kid whining "there's nothing to dooo" is a pedestrian stereotype.
A kid who's eagerly doing things is more interesting.

Unknown said...

oh i loved the continuations! all of them.

this is middle grade and the boy doesn't whine anymore after this scene. his mom does send him on a type of treasure hunt to keep him busy all summer (but he doesn't know she's behind it).

thanks for all the comments! i think i might tone down his whining since it's the only place he does it and i don't want to give the reader the impression they'd have to suffer through that for the whole book.

Chris Eldin said...

Hi Spoog,
I was so happy to see your writing here. I think MGs are the true home for children's writing.

I think you have a nice way of writing, which I've already said. I also don't think you should open with this scene.

I would open with the kid on the treasure hunt, AND, the decision to go on the treasure hunt is HIS, not mom's. Wherever possible, when you're doing your final edits, look for places where grown-ups interject themselves, then kindly remove them. Let the children initiate actions and realizations.

Good luck!


ver: odqle-what the kid finds on his treasure hunt

Unknown said...

you're right that the decision to go on the hunt is his, but his mom set up the clues as a way to send him all over town and see the things there are to do there.

the hunt is his along with his friend samantha. the story is really about their developing friendship and fun along the way as they unravel the clues and search for the treasure.

the treasure in the end is something the dad made for christopher -- also a fun thing for him to do over the summer.

i'll look for a place to start the story closer to the actual start of the hunt. maybe when he finds the first clue in the attic?

thanks for your help!

Anonymous said...

Wherever possible, when you're doing your final edits, look for places where grown-ups interject themselves, then kindly remove them.

That's really good advice, tokoda. Thanks!

Beth said...

maybe when he finds the first clue in the attic?

I like that idea. Go for it.

Unknown said...

i don't agree that all grown-up interactions should be excluded from childrens' stories, though.

kids interact with grown-ups in real life so they shouldn't be excluded from stories as invaders to the story.

i do agree that kids should be the ones solving the problems for themselves, not having the answers handed to them by grown-ups.

in this story, mom and dad are present in normal ways that kids would interact with their parents, and as a bonding thing for christopher at the end.

but the treasure hunt clues and adventures along the way are purely him and samantha.

just IMHO. i know others disagree.

takoda and others, thanks for the advice!

Chris Eldin said...

Hi Spooge,
Your book sounds really fun! I can't wait to hear more about it!

I didn't mean to remove grown-ups from your story. Sorry for that confusion! I meant what you said--to let decisions and character growth come from within the child (not explained by a grown-up, etc.)