Friday, July 04, 2008

New Beginning 524

He didn’t mean to leave. It just ended up that way. At the time he woulda said he only wanted to scare his folks a bit. You know, yella little, slam the door, and give ‘em something to think on. At least that’s what Billy would say today if you asked him. But you can’t ask him, of course, 'cause Billy McClure is gone.

Oh he’ll be back. He always comes back. And usually he tell you the silliest stories when he does. Some of ‘em are scary too. Some sad. I don’t like the sad ones much. And I really don’t like the ones where there’s kissin’. In fact, I told him if he caught anymore of those kissin’ stories, why he could just keep ‘em to hisself. Billy says he goes swimmin’ in a think pond. His Momma says he goes off to the Devil. I think he just finds himself a tree and climbs up for a little get-a-way.

Mebbe he's up that tree right now. I dunno. That's the thing with Billy McClure -- no one ever knows where he goes or when he'll be back. So leave yer message after the tone.


Opening: Wendy.....Continuation: anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

"I see." The voice rattled like a tin full of stones next to Molly-May's ear. "Well, would you tell Billy McClure, when he gets back from the, ah, think pond, that I'd like to see him in my office. And tell him if he hasn't got the Powerpoints ready, he'd better have a really good story for me."


My Momma says he goes alla way into town. She seen him there one day, when she was gettin' her govmint check. She said he went into this place called the liberry. I never been but I hear it's got books and things. Momma says there ain't no point in readin' cause that don't get no work done. And then she said, "You near fourteen, girl, 'bout time you went into town and started workin'."

Billy's lucky. He gots his tree to hide in. Me, I gotta go to Pittsburgh.


Julie Weathers said...

Aside from a few typos, I have a hard time finding fault with this.

It interests me, which might not mean a lot. You certainly make me wonder what's going to happen and I want to get to know the characters better.

Good job.

Khazar, good one. I love it.

Dave Fragments said...

I am not fond of speaking directly to the reader as in (a) "At least that’s what Billy would say today if you asked him." and (b) "And usually he tell you the silliest stories when he does."

It isn't a construction I enjoy reading. It's the writer's equivalent of a stage person breaking the proscenium and that seldom works in stage productions. Besides, I have an innate hatred of authority and anytime someone says "you gotta do this" I usually respond "no."

In the context of this opening, I think that the first occurrence has to stay. I can't think of any other way to lead up to the "'cause Billy McClure is gone." which is a dramatic beat. This is a speech (a bit of a monologue). So read it aloud to make it work. Read it to your dog or cat and listen to your voice.

Now as to the second occurrence of "you gotta"... I would rather hear the speaker say something like
And when he does, he tells stories to anyone who listens. Silly stories. And scary stories. And kissin' stories. I really don't like the ones with kissin'.
I think that preserves your voice and intent. I don't think you want the reader involved with the "you" ...

This opening is interesting because the "hook" or dramatic beat or whatever it is called, is right there at the end of the first paragraph. And then it builds to a second revelation at the end of the second paragraph.

It's an intriguing opening. I would read more. A nice voice. Is the speaker a child? And is Billy McClure a twenty-something? I like that those facts are held back a bit for the reader to discover.

Scott from Oregon said...

These first person accounts are always a bit tricky because your character has to be readily accepted within the mind of the reader.

I am not sure yet, if I want to spend much time with a rather ignorant sounding hick telling me about Billy.

But that said, I identified quite quickly just what kind of story teller this is, and now the choice is mine...

I prefer first person for this reason.

All in all, aside from the few typos, I "got" your character. Now will the story be good? Only the words will tell...

Kiersten White said...

I think this would be a difficult voice to maintain. I'm always very critical when reading things like this. Why would the "g" be on the end of something, but dropped on kissin' and swimmin'?

It's hard to maintain unless you are very comfortable with the voice; any shifts toward being more formal are easy to pick up on, and the narrator loses the authenticity you are trying for.

That being said, wow, Wendy, you always try very challenging things! First present tense, now first person with a strong colloquial voice. You go, girl. This sounds like it has a lot of potential, and I think if it was for a short story, you could pull off the voice for that long.

Dave Fragments said...

I've bunmped into this before:

Why do some people assume that dropping "g" from the end of certain words indicates stupidity and/or retardation and/or speaker is an ignorant goofball and/or a hick, hillbilly?

Just asking.

Evil Editor said...

Theyuh's more 'n' droppin' g's heah. Theyuh's "think on," "woulda," "hisself," "'em," etc.

Clearly the narrator, hick or not, is from Milledgeville, GA.

Whether those who drop g's at times always drop them I can't say. This person uses hisself once and himself once. He says "those kissin' stories" when you might expect him to say "them kissin' stories." I might expect "Billy'd say" instead of "Billy would say."

'course if they've had some schoolin they mighta broke some bad habits 'n' still got a ways to go.

writtenwyrdd said...

This doesn't grab me. It probably is a fine opening, but this type of dancing around the topic opening just bores me, which is a matter of personal preference. I'd like some action and less chattiness.

Julie Weathers said...

All right. I'm not going to do the voice thing.

No need giving anyone ideas about my intelligence or lack thereof.

Evil Editor said...

If you don't do it we'll think you're an arrogant snob.

Kiersten White said...

I happen to love accents, Julie. Who wants boring standard mid-west newscaster American? There's nothing interesting about it.

Give me Southern, Texan, New Jersey, anything as long as it's fun to listen to. The only thing someone who judges based on accent is revealing is their own intelligence.

Do the voice thing.

Anonymous said...

On the bottom side of Ohio you find a funny mix of North and South in the language, especially in the children's voices that are less refined. I was aiming for a "Huck Finn" type of innocence. The girl is about 8 and the boy is 10.

Interesting catch on the language changes EE. They are purposeful and indicative of a people caught between two very different historic and cultural traditions. However, in trying to be consistent I think I have created a bit of a caricature in my characters. I'll need to work on that.

Khazar-khum, I liked your ending and you are certainly on the right track with Billy. However, he does go off to the place where stories come from, and it isn't the local library. ;)

Thanks again for your insights. I found something in almost every comment that will improve the story in consequential ways. You guys are the bomb!

Julie Weathers said...

"If you don't do it we'll think you're an arrogant snob."

*cries* You're so mean.

"I happen to love accents, Julie. Who wants boring standard mid-west newscaster American? There's nothing interesting about it."

Trust me, Loretta Lynn on tranquilizers isn't that interesting.

talpianna said...

Wendy, there's no consistency in the use of the terminal a. Sometimes it's for "have" (or the dialect version "of");"yella" seems to be simply a misprint for "yell a," not a dialecticism (is that a word?).

I have no objections to the dialect, but you're competing with Mark Twain and Manly Wade Wellman here, so you have to be careful.

talpianna said...

Incidentally, people, the Post link under the yellow Preview box now works.

Shona Snowden said...

I like this.

Is that helpful? :-)

Julie Weathers said...

I do some accents in Paladin, but they are scattered. A steady dose of them might grate on people terribly.

Diana Gabaldon, who does the Outlander books, said once to pick your battles so to speak. Choose things that are important and be consistent.

This came after a discussion of my Cajun cowboys in Dancing Horses. I decided to focus on some things that demonstrated the Cajun dialect without driving the readers insane. Then I made sure I remained true to it throughout. There were some things that changed depending on their level of excitement also. When the twins were fighting with each other they usually slipped into the Cajun French.

Doing a strong dialect throughout an entire book isn't easy for the writer or the reader.

fairyhedgehog said...

I like this voice and I enjoyed reading this. My only quibble is that as I started to read I thought the POV was close third person. I thought I was getting into the head of the person who was leaving. I think it's because the first sentence gives you Billy's motivation.

So the sentence: "At least that’s what Billy would say today if you asked him" jarred on me because I was suddenly whisked out of his head.

I must admit I didn't notice inconsistencies in the dialect but then I'm not familiar with the different varities of US accents.

Whirlochre said...

I'm in the Like camp overall. Billy sounds interesting and I want to know who the narrator is.

The main problem is sustaining the voice, for all the reasons given — consistency of slang and the Tire The Reader factor.

Is the whole book like this or just the odd chapter? If it's just the odd chapter I'm sure you can make it work, but a whole book of this voice would be a slog.

Brenda said...

Texans are big "g" droppers. Sometimes not intentionally, and sometimes hugely so.

Just sayin'.

I couldn't finish a novel written like this, but that's a personal preference.

Stacy said...

I personally don't think I could read something in this voice for very long. The story would have to really wow me for me to tolerate it. But I don't find much structurally wrong, other than what's already been pointed out.

Dave Fragments said...

I am still puzzled by these responses about dialects and voice. This morning I remember the opening of Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities from '87. It is not an easy opening for any book, let alone a biting satire of the legal system.

“And then say what? Say, ‘Forget you’re hungry, forget you got shot inna back by some racist cop—Chuck was here? Chuck come up to Harlem—‘”
“No I’ll tell you what—“
“ ‘Chuck come up to Harlem and—‘ “
“I’ll tell you what—“
“Say, ‘Chuck come up to Harlem and gonna take care of business for the black community’?”
That does it.
It’s one of those ungodly contralto cackles somewhere out there in the audience. It’s a sound from down deep, from under so many lavish layers, he knows exactly what she must look like. Two hundred pounds, if she’s an ounce! Built like an oil burner! The cackle sets of the men. They erupt with those belly sounds he hates so much.
They go, “Hehhehheh . . . unnnnhhhh-hunhhh . . . That’s right . . . Tell ‘im, bro … Yo . . . “
Chuck! The Insolent—he’s right there, right there in the front—he just called him a Charlie! Chuck is short for Charlie, and Charlie is the old code name for a down-home white bigot.

186 words

Robin S. said...

Hi Wendy,

Just found the time to read this through, including comments.

I'm not averse to g dropping, as I come from g-dropping country myself, and I still drop them when I'm with people I'm comfortable with.

I've been working on ways to bring that tone and accent into writing without taking it too far to kill off potential readers.

It's a tricky ride - and I think this may be 'that much too much', although the story has a good start, as I want to know where Billy's been off to.

And hey, EE, you don't strike me as a Flannery O'Connor fan. But I am, although I'm not nuts about the Christian subtext.

Kiersten White said...

Oh, I'm with you there, Robin. "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" is one of my favorites.

Bernita said...

Very neat in creating curiosity. I like it.
But couldn't stand to read an entire book using the accent/dialect.