I walk into homeroom. Mrs. Jasper’s sitting at her desk, smiling and watching the morning announcements. Half the class’s attention is on the announcer, my best friend Brandon, the rest speak amongst themselves. I look for my boyfriend’s familiar face in the four seats back in the third row, but he’s not there.
The moment I notice his absence my phone vibrates in my pocket. I fish it out and a little envelope sits happily on the screen. I tap the screen. The message opens:
SiSi, i kno that this is pretty shitty but i dont think we can see each other anymore. im in a different homeroom now.
I sit there, floored. Just speechless. My eyes flutter open and close until the world swirls around me and…
“Sithandra? Where you at?” Travis tapped my shoulder.
It took me a moment to get my bearings, but there I stood in front of my locker. It was 8:27 and homeroom began in less than five minutes. Travis, my boyfriend, stared at me looking just fine. No guilt. No remorse. I swear I don’t know what threw my hand across his cheek.
Like in movie slow-mo I saw his head twist to the side and smack against my locker door and...
"Excuse me?" The voice was distant, muffled; I snapped out of my daydream.
"Excuse me, Miss?" Distant, but more distinct. I glanced at the clock. Okay, he'd been on hold long enough. I adjusted my headset and adopted my work accent. "I am very sorry sir, but I am not finding any record of the transaction you are asking about. Please can you be giving me again your thirty-seven digit account number?"
Damn, I love this job.
Opening: Xiexie.....Continuation: Anon.
If the morning announcements are going on, then Sithandra's clearly late for homeroom, but Mrs. Jasper's too busy smiling at the kid reading the announcements to notice either the tardiness or the half a class who are talking instead of listening. Why should Sithandra be concerned that her boyfriend's absent, because maybe *he's* just late?
The text message reads as though he's in a different homeroom *and therefore* they cannot see each other anymore.
The hook is that something happens and then it hasn't happened. But I have no interest in these people it's happening (or not) to.
Don't try too hard to be current with your teen slang. Chances are it will be outdated by the time the book is in stores, and anyway teenagers will see right through it.
Not sure why anon. thinks the italicized portion happened; it seems clear it's a daydream (until proven otherwise).
Not sure what is meant by "in the four seats back in the third row."
He always sits in one of the four seats back in the third row?
If he has a specific assigned seat, either delete "in the" or change to "in the fourth seat . . . "
No need to describe her boyfriend's face as "familiar."
No need to say both "flutter" and "open and close."
I guess if it's a daydream it doesn't have to be logical, but still, if T had been moved into a different homeroom, wouldn't she know it? And if you were walking in late to homeroom, would you pull out your cell phone? Why not have her get the imagined text message while she's outside homeroom waiting to greet T before going in?
It wasn't clear to me that the italicised portion was a daydream; not even after I read through the whole thing.
Italics are put to so many purposes. Heck, I recently had a submission in GUD slush that was *all* in italics.
You've got a lot of detail, none of which really tells us anything about Sithandra except that she's a high school girl with a boyfriend and cell phone. If you have to open with a dream sequence, this is your chance to really take us inside your main character's head. Be creative! Brandon sings the announcements in a lovely Irish tenor! Travis breaks up with her by carrier pigeon! The entire football team shows up to laugh at her! Sithandra doesn't faint, she explodes in a nuclear firebomb! If this daydream is her nightmare, really show us what she's afraid of.
Also - do people still have homerooms? Maybe it was just my high school, but I never had a homeroom in my life.
I think it was a vision of the future, not a daydream.
I wasn't sure why the first part was in italics--was it something the narrator was writing or reading or (since it doesn't make a lot of sense) a dream? By the end of the section, I'd concluded it was a vision of what happens in a day or two because she smacked her boyfriend.
Though, re-reading it, it does sound more like Travis is saying they can't see each other because of the home room change (which isn't his fault, so why does he feel bad?), instead of that he somehow convinced the school to change his homeroom as a way to break up with her.
So now I really don't have any clue what the italics part is.
Since it's never specified, I assumed these kids were in Middle School/Jr. High: old enough to have lockers and boyfriends/girlfriends but still young enough to have home rooms. However, most people are assuming they're in high school, so you may need to make this clearer.
It certainly wasn't my arm; I'd know that much despite all the booze and that handful of pills I'd swiped from Granma's cupboard last night.
"Ow! What was that for?" Travis yelped.
"You were gonna dump me!"
"Psycho biyatch," he growled, then snaked an arm around me, pulling me against his chest before kissing me.
I pulled back first, unwinding my arms from about his neck. Dang those arms, always doing things on their own. Best see Dr. Frank about it a.s.a.p.
Travis tilted his head, looked at my eyes. "Say, did you take a red pill or a blue one?"
Mrs. Jasper knew, though. I stared from the remote in her hand to the phone in mine. She pushed another button and Travis reached into his locker, pulled out an apple, and moving kind of jerkily – it was creepy, to be honest – stepped over to hand it to her. My handprint throbbed red on his face.
Mrs. Jasper cracked an evil grin. "Aren't you looking forward to this school year, kids?"
I think it was a vision of the future, not a daydream.
... ooooh, yeah. *smacks self on forehead*
Is switching tenses a problem? I'm asking because it might be and I don't know.
My school had a no cell phones/ipods/misc. electronic devices policy during school hours. A teacher who saw her would take her phone away and her parent(s) would have to come to school to get it back.
Is that a little... long and coherent... for a text? I've never texted, but it sounds a little off.
I'm betting Sithranda's precognitive, which makes this a whole lot more interesting, but should probably be hinted at sooner.
Why isn't Brandon, her "best friend," her boyfriend?
That last sentence is disconnected. I know you mean it to be, but what about "I swear I don't know why I slapped him."
I agree with anon #1 that it sounds like she's late to class. I'm not so sure the text reads that way--I like what you have--but you could say "I changed homerooms."
Are Sithranda or her parents immigrants? I don't know many WASPs who would name their kid that.
Oooh. I thought the italics represented a scene in the near past.
Eh, uh, what? Since when are American WASPs not immigrants (or the descendants thereof)?
Switching tenses isn't a problem if it's clearly delineated and serves a particular purpose in the narrative. Some readers (like me) like tenses to be as consistent as possible throughout. I tend to get tripped up by narratives that change tenses within paragraphs.
I didn't get any of this. Sorry I can't be more helpful than that.
After reading these comments, I think I know why so many people out there tell an author not to start a story with a dream. Although, I thought it was more of a premonition than a dream.
If it was a premonition, I think the transition from future to present needs to be a bit smoother. Like maybe for a split second before she hits him, she wonders what the heck the image was.
Or maybe she shouldn't hit him when she's done with the vision and just have her confused. Unless she knows she has this ability. In that case, she should say something that hints at that fact as she hits him. Like "Break up with me through text, will you?"
In High School Musical, they had homeroom and surreptitiously checked their cell phones (though got detention for it). That's not an indication that these things happen in the real world, but middle grade kids may believe they do. However, see my previous comment re: trying to be current with teen culture.
The only thing I found for Sithandra is that it's from Aeon Flux. The cartoon was old enough (91-92) and pop culture enough that Sithandra's parents may have named her after it I suppose. Otherwise, it's a weird name for anybody.
I thought the italics were a daydream, though it seemed weird to me that it caused her to be really out of it. A vision of the future makes more sense, but isn't obvious from this excerpt.
About the weirdest name I know is Kaushun (like caution); everybody else has more normal names, like Chelsie, Ashley, Sarah, and Rachel. I'm in a college town with the highest percentage of internationals in the state, and I've noticed that some either change or Americanize their names. If Sithandra is a foreign name, do most people call her SiSi?
I googled "Sithandra;" it's from a SF movie called Aeon Flux (2005). There are a few Myspace, etc. profiles out there, but I'm not sure if they're related to the movie. All in all, Sithandra either is or sounds like it was made up in the near past.
Made-up names are mostly found in SFF. If this isn't SFF, the name may be a problem. If the name is just obscure or foreign, I hope you have a reason for it. Naming characters is like naming your children, and you have to be careful. (Even with initials--my dad's initials are GAS, so my middle name starts with a consonant.)
Actually, the history is quite interesting...
I agree. Only simple western names belong in literature. Less syllables the better. And none of those awkward east-European names with their deficit of vowels.
Perhaps you could call her Frank?
Oh.... Well. Was it you, Ril, or was it Xiexie? Or another minion?
Unless somebody got ideas.
I think this night work better if you put the slap first and then reveal the vision as Sithandra remembers it. She won't tell him what she knows or how she knows it. She's only just realizing it or admitting to it herself.
Soooo, XieXie, are you turning the old fake query that Ril linked into a non-fake story?
I know middle schoolers who text in class. I imagine it's pretty easy to do under/inside a desk, especially with 30-40 kids per classroom.
I liked the name.
Rachel, please be careful about how you use words like "normal"; you come across as implying there's something abnormal about names from other cultures. One day someone will jump on you for being racist and you'll wonder why!
However, if Sithandra was invented for Aeon Flux, it will be the property of the author.
I believe you cannot copyright a name...
The "weirdest" name you know? Everyone else has names like...some change or americanize...
Sticking to literature, I guess you're not familiar with the whole Indian lit trend, Jhumpa Lahiri's characters for example, or with Ha Jin's, or Khaled Hosseini's, or Zadie Smith's...wait...wait...all of those AUTHORS have "weird" names. What else do they have in common? Only awards and bestselling bragging rights. Even though their novels are replete with non-Ashely type names.
I think you can if you make it up, Ril, but I may be wrong. Copyright law somewhat perplexing for sqrls.
Just went back and looked. Damn - you have a good memory. I saw in the comments I said it would make a good story- and I stand by what I said - even though I had to reread what I said to know I said it.
Hi xiexie - How are you? Are you still in Vietname?
Well I, too, could be wrong.
And I don't have a good memory -- I have Google.
Even if it's okay to use a name invented for some other work of fiction, if it was invented in 2005, the book should either be set in the future or Sithandra should be no older than four.
I'd keep reading.
I sometimes put down a novel for weird and odd names but usually, it's more of a turkey city lexicon type thing.
In this case, Sithandra would not bother me because the rest of her world is grounded in the ordinary.
The thing that really puts me off a book is something like:
G'Gorvand turned to Plaktie, his third Zarkmate and pointed out the porthole of their cruiser. "The Empire sent glorballs on mooseback to slay the brethren."
And that as an opening just says to me that it's some society I know with an altered vocabulary in outer space to make it exotic.
Sithandra isn't that at all. And considering the names kids get these days, Sithandra is pretty calm and reasonable.
I can't say anything right this week, can I? I hope my fiction doesn't sound this roundabout, xenophobic, and snobbish. If it does, I'm in trouble.
Don't worry Rachel, we know you mean well.
Never mind, Rachel. Once I'm hired as EE's assistant, I won't have as much time for lecturing newbies ;).
Wow long thread! Thanks for the comments.
Robin -- I'm back in the US. I just got back from Ohio though -- some family is moving there, I've been helping. Now I'm back home in DC.
To everyone else: ril got it right, this is from the fake query and now is becoming a non-fake WIP.
To Adam: I'm not trying to be "hip". The text message is a reflection of how I text, and if I really wanted the text to represent this age group it would contain a lot more 1337 (leet) and all CAPS.
Concerns about middleschool/highschool cell phone use: I got away with it when I was in school. So did my friends. Some teachers got on you for it; others didn't, especially during homeroom. There was no real schooling going on during homeroom -- just morning announcements.
About the name Sithandra -- well Aeon Flux does use the name, and I liked it. I have a very English/German name (Kenneth Karl George), but my sisters names are Jute' Kynara Europa(not so strange Europa), Kynetta Luciana Verita, and Nadine Aurolan Wynnie. Most of the names I use aren't "Western American typical" unless they were seen as "Blacker" names.
Clarity for the scene:
(Sithandra and T were at her locker before this vision. She lost something and told him to go on ahead -- she would catch up.) So in her vision, she is expecting him to be there in his seat. He's not. She gets the text. And then we're back to present moment.
Whoo, long post. Did I address everything?
Lovely continuation, Anon!
Buff, you're just full of surprises, aren't ya, girl? Assistant, huh? Hmmmmm.
You saw the ; right Robin? :D
Yeah- just messing with ya, Buff.
If it's at all possible to pull some sense out of my earlier comments.... For one, I keep typing it SithRanda, not SithandRa. SithRanda sounds like it's SF, but SithanRa works. I'll be happy as long as you don't name characters Spock or D'Nairth'i'aa.
See I'd spell D'Nairth'i'aa as D'Nairtheya (hahaha, I like how the name sounds. It's surprisingly euphonius.)
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