The melancholy promise of a storm hung over Frederica's head as she trudged uphill to her house. Two weeks ago it was 80 degrees, and now we have the sludge at the bottom of a dish drain for a sky. She shook her head in disgust but she was, after all, reconciled by now to the fact SoCal always had a few false starts before it could actually commit itself to a season. Fickle, indecisive, wishy washy SoCal weather. Tonight on the news they'd be interviewing a pack of indignant tourists from the rest of the States who'd believed the Hollywood hype of SoCal's perpetual sunshine and come a runnin' for their spring break.
Freddy skirted a puddle to avoid the agony of walking home in soggy Converses. Her headphone was sliding out. She tucked it into the shell of her ear more securely.
The news was already on when Frederica plopped onto her sofa with a bottle of Coors and a bag of corn chips.
"…and I’m here with Scott Madsen, a Senior at Duke, who just arrived for Spring Break. Scott, you chose SoCal after consulting a travel agent. How much did your agent tell you about Callidia Beach?”
“I mean, did they warn you about our lousy, unpredictable weather? Or the fact that you can’t smoke in any of our over-priced, watered-down bars? Were you warned about the ocean rip-tides, or the shark attacks?”
“Perhaps they mentioned that the only girls in town during spring are from out of town, and they whore around as much as the guys, and the locals call this Chlamydia Beach?”
“Well, I’m here with my girl--”
“Keep an eye on her, Scott. Chances are she’ll put out for the local news producer; they all do. This is Frederica Gillard for News 12 at Chlamydia Beach.”
Frederica sighed, reached for the newspaper, and turned to the help wanted ads.
Opening: Moth.....Continuation: ril
I have the feeling that there are two more characters in this book... Joe Btfsplk from Lil Abner and Mr. Mxyzptlk from Superman.
Freddie sounds unlucky and the weather is absolutely dreadful. I need a pick me up. I hope the story brightens and the sky parts to reveal a sunny outcome.
Interesting imagery and developing atmosphere.
Some sentences/images are too long for an opening paragraph. Generally speaking, shorter sentences work in your favour at this point, allowing the reader to feel like they're making progress right from Word 1, even if the story itself isn't traveling.
'the sludge at the bottom of a dish drain' is an example of both issues above: good image, but too long. Can you express the same sentiment in a more rhythmic phrase?
Contradiction AND repetition alert: she shook her head in disgust but 6 words later she's 'reconciled by now'. The 'dish drain' image imediately prior adequately conveys her disgust with the sky; that phrase telling us how she feels is redundant.
Apparent pov wavering: 'she' is in a middle-distance third-person but 'we' implies first-person, right inside her head (could be in italics) or the author talking directly to the reader. Decide if you're telling this strictly from inside her head, and phrase accordingly.
There's also verbiage that could be trimmed, but I have to go trim verbena in a flowerbed right now.
"The melancholy promise of a storm hung over Frederica's head as she trudged uphill to her house."
This opening sentence suggests a strong narrative voice. Then you turn it on its head immediately with the use of "we".
I like the sludge on the bottom of the dishdrain sky, but once you go here, you can't go back. Your narrator is now in unusual description territory and it better stay there.
Ask yourself WHO is telling this story?
I couldn't quite tell.
jeb: "Apparent pov wavering: 'she' is in a middle-distance third-person but 'we' implies first-person, right inside her head (could be in italics)" It was. I always italicize thoughts rather than putting "she thought" after every one. I'm guessing my email program or EEs ate the formatting.
Forget the verbena! I want to know what verbiage you would trim. :D
As far as I'm concerned, All of this:
She shook her head in disgust but she was, after all, reconciled by now to the fact SoCal always had a few false starts before it could actually commit itself to a season.  Fickle,  indecisive,  wishy-washy  SoCal weather. Tonight on the news they'd be interviewing a pack of indignant tourists from the rest of the States who'd believed the Hollywood hype of SoCal's perpetual sunshine and come a runnin' for their spring break. 
is simply too much. It's the second telling of "bad weather" and the third, and the fourth additional telling after two great opening images. It says Bad weather is here. Bad weather. And I repeat: awful, miserable, ugly, dreary weather.
What happens in this chapter. I ask that because if her Converse sneakers or her earbuds aren't important to the story, they could be considered excess detail. Unless there is a reason for the reader to learn she has wet shoes, or the headphones are loose, the second paragraph slows the narrative.
Get her to the point where something of consequence happens.
Even if it's "And her house wasn't any better. The inside was dull, dreary and filled with plants touched by Freddie's black thumb. They were the lucky ones. Freddie kept the severed heads in the freezer near the stairs."
Ahhh. Ever those italics are new or I am on drugs. Much better and much clearer...
I remember having a conversation once with someone who claimed internal thoughts, if the POV was held on a single person, didn't need to be italicized.
I said it fooled me everytime. And once again, I was right...
One mention of SoCal in para 1 would get the point across that she lives in SoCal. There's quite a lot of repetition in both paras anyway, none of which seems to hint at story. She's in SoCal and its wet. What's happening?
I'd do some trimming in the first graph.
It's rather like hugging a kitten. The feeling is much more real without extraneous layers between you and the kitten.
Two weeks ago it was 80 degrees, and now it's a dish drain sludge sky.
I'm not sure soggy shoes would be agony.
I would like to see more focus on the mc.
I don't think we need to provide a character's motivation for not walking through a puddle.
You're a great writer, Moth, so there's no need to work so hard to prove it.
I quite like this. I don't mind that not a lot is happening as it sets things up vividly. Liked the sludge line.
Not so sure about para 2. And the shell ear sucks.
Julie, the soggy Converses come from personal experience of two mile hikes uphill during an El Nino winter in SoCal. It is agony. Really. Trust me on this. :D
I like your openimg- I know about the weather, I have a clear picture in my mind of the dish drain bottom of a sky (I love that image)- which I read as reflective of Freddy's mood.
And I know Freddy wears Converses and she's slogging along, irritated and a bit mesmerized by her own mood.
So I have the action of her slogging, and I have the picture of where she is, and her mood, and I want to know what she's going to be doing about all of this.
I like it, and I'd read more.
ril- the Chlamydia continuation - so, so good!
"Julie, the soggy Converses come from personal experience of two mile hikes uphill during an El Nino winter in SoCal. It is agony. Really. Trust me on this. :D"
As always, everything is in the eye of the beholder. My first thought was, if this is agony to the mc how much is going to happen?
Anyway, you have a talent for description and it will be fun to see where this goes.
Ril, the California Tourism Board called. They asked that you never visit the state again.
I agree with much of what has been said, particularly by Dave and Scott.
The "we" and "SoCal" seemed stylistically & POV at odds with some of the writing. The writing is good, but it's a bit too much, too soon when essentially you're describing the weather. I'm not a big fan of starting with weather. It's atmosphere, not a character, unless you're Junger or Krakauer.
Given the strong writing and imagery (dish drainy sludge, etc), describing soggy sneakers as "agony" is likewise at odds. True agony means severe awful, bone-crushing pain. As you're using it here, it's relative, humorous, exageration for effect. Which is fine, but when paired with the opening few sentences presents me either with POV whiplash or (worse) a character who thinks that squishy footwear is the worst physical calamity to befall her.
They asked that you never visit the state again.
I'll get right on that.
r.lyle.wolf: "Maybe I just got lucky, but I lived in Southern California for a year and I think it rained twice." I guess so because I've lived here more than 20 years and "rainy" is a pretty perpetual state during winter and early spring. We had one day this year where it was 80 in the morning and then there was hail the size of golfballs by 1pm. Oh and just to assuage your fears about my "typical novel" literally two lines later Freddy almost gets killed. So no, it's not all about the weather.
Oh, and she doesn't try to commit suicide because of her agony over the soggy converses in case anyone was wondering. :)
benwah: Yea, the weather is kind of an important plot point later but maybe I should hook with something else.
Thanks everyone for the praise, the bitch slaps and the helpful critiques. No one tears apart 150 words like the Minions.
Well, moth, I like it the way it is.
As WO says, it "sets things up
And I think of her mood as the hook, becuase I expect something to happen - and- as you said- it does.
The agony of walking home in soggy shoes? What a sheltered life Frederica has led. Wow.
BuffySquirrel: That's kind of the point. She's only fifteen. And by the end of the book a lot worse than soggy shoes has happened to her.
Might be good to get her shortish life span before the readers early. Otherwise, readers may initially picture her as twenty-something, and thus a world-class whiner. Nobody wants to spend 300 pages with a whiner, no matter how atmospheric.
Maybe 'misery' of soggy shoes rather than 'agony'?
Little did she know that no one from SoCal actually called it SoCal. That's how the agents found her.
"Al Qaida," they said, as they cuffed her. "Freaking tourists."
June Gloom, they called it on the news. "Late night and early morning low clouds" was how it was described. June Gloom was better. It fit her mood perfectly. She'd been to, what, forty-seven cattle calls? And no offers. Yet.
Well, that was about to change. Adjusting the earbuds, she listened again to the 'Vizualization Technique' actor droning along. "Visualize your enemy weakened" the voice soothed. She patted her new gun, secure in her bag. This would be the last time they denied her a role.
The melancholy promise of a storm hung over Frederica as she trudged uphill to her house after school. Yesterday it was 80 degrees, and now we have the sludge at the bottom of a dish drain for a sky. With a sigh she pulled the hood of her drama club sweatshirt up to cover her head. Wishy washy SoCal weather- just can’t commit to a season.
The street was wet. Her feet were clammy and cold, trapped in her soggy Converses. She dug her music player out, picked her favorite song and tucked her headphones in. Cranking the volume she closed her eyes and sang quietly.
Freddy opened her eyes. A line of crows held court on the power lines above her. She stared at the mangy birds and tried not to let the impending threat of geometry homework dominate her thoughts.
She looked ahead and gasped so sharply it was almost a scream.
I'm a minimalist, how about:
Yesterday it was 80 degrees, and now we have the sludge at the bottom of a dish drain for a sky. Wishy washy SoCal weather -- just can’t commit to a season. Frederica thought as she trudged home, her feet squishing in her soggy Converses. She pulled the hood of her drama club sweatshirt up to cover her head.
And drop the IPOD and crow stuff in the third paragraph. You want to get to whatever it is that makes her nearly scream. If you are foreshadowing bad things with crows, then make the sky reflect that foreboding image rather than a dish drain. Crows and ravens are harbingers of bad fortune.
I like it almost as is, Moth. It's that 'we' in the first paragraph that's bothering me.
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