Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Beginning 722

I’m twelve. I’m a boy. My life is simple. I’m not in puberty yet, although the girls I go to school with are growing tits. I don’t care about that. I’d rather build models and fly my radio controlled airplanes. Do you know you can build a model of Billy Bishop’s Sopwith Camel and drive it into the Red Baron’s biplane for $15.98? Big money. My paper route pays for the models I love to crash.

My Dad had to deliver groceries when he was a kid. Dad says he was always tired as a teenager. He was riding around delivering groceries. I get to crash planes.

My life changed last week. My Mom, she teaches. I don’t know what is in her head, she has allergies. Well my Mom, she brought this thing home. Wizend face, taped ears for crying out loud, taped tail, my God. Marmaduke is a Boxer. This piece of misery, body parts loped off - three that I could count, well that was my new dog. I was afraid to touch him.

So I gave him a piece of my sandwich. PBJ are my favorite, but I like bratwurst too. That one was PBJ. The peanut butter stuck to his mouth and he slobbered all over the carpet, gross, slimy mouth like when Aunty Miriam kisses me at Thanksgiving. But Aunty Miriam doesn't like PBJ so I guess she always slobbers. Aunty Miriam was Dad's sister and she worked in the post office. She told me most of her job was about licking stamps, so I guess slobbering was kind of useful for her, really, but she never put the stamps straight 'cause she only had one eye, but that wasn't totally my fault, everyone said so. Anyway, I think I'm going to like it here at Longthorne Junior High. Any questions?

Good one. Yes, it's true, I'm twelve and I
seriously don't care about tits.

Opening: Bibi.....Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

Lopped, not loped.

You compare dad's delivering groceries with your crashing planes. The relevant comparison is with your paper route. Your planes can be compared with whatever dad spent his money on. If the point is that you have a more leisurely life, you can say dad spent his earnings on clothes or school supplies while you get to crash planes.

Ellie said...

Also, "wizened," not "wizend." And I'm not sure how many twelve-year-olds would use that word, regardless of their opinions re: tits.

The part with being afraid to touch the new dog has promise, but overall the opening doesn't work for me. The voice doesn't sound like a twelve-year-old at all. First of all, no twelve-year-old says their life is simple. Life is rough, or at least complicated, at that age. It only seems simple later when you're looking back as an adult. Also, I can believe a kid that age having that phony "I know about sex because we had that unit in Health" blase attitude towards girls, or a kid that age being one of those eager-to-please-adults dorks who's always "Know what? Know what?" But not the same kid.

The story may be quite good, but you're hinging all the interest of this opening in the voice. And the voice doesn't work.

Christina said...

I agree, the voice isn't working for me either--he doesn't sound twelve--he sounds older. And the sentences are a little too simple. You need to strike a better balance there. Hope that helps!

Dave Fragments said...

I don't like this as an opening. If I were you, I would begin with the line about the father doing something with his newspaper money. Then move to the parallel of the kid's newspaper route and crashing model planes. After that, I would make a big deal of the angst he's going through with the new dog.

BTW - Marmaduke is the name of a boxer in a comic strip. A huge, slobbering dog with body parts lopped off. What were his ears? Sacrifice to the cat gods? A tail sacrificed to the some unknown hidden sacrificial rite that does something silly. What's a 12 year old to do with a droopy faced dog like this? Sheesh, I'm ready to go through puberty and find girls. Why do I have to make this adjustment? I just want to crash my 37 cent Sopwith Camel like snoopy and in retribution from some errant Dog idol, Marmaduke shows up, drooling on my lap. It couldn't have a sivilized name like Rex or King or Poochie. No. It's got a big name like Mar-Ma-Duke.

At least that's my idea.

Anonymous said...

I have a twelve year old and I actually thought this sounded younger than a twelve year old would sound. Much younger. Twelve year olds can put together coherent thoughts--not so disjointed and choppy.

John said...

The voice worked pretty well for me, aside from "wizen(e)d." And I could see a 12-year-old boy saying his life is simple. Not a typical comment, but possible, especially if he sees people around him whose lives are really messed up. Also, regarding the simple life and the tits, he may or may not be telling the truth, even to himself.

The last para felt a little jumbled. The sentence about Mom being a teacher seemed unnecessary there. That fact could be brought in later. The sentence about Mom's allergies tripped me up. I think it would be clearer if it came after mention of her bringing the dog home.

I'd read on.

Matthew said...

I disagree with the people that say he doesn't sound like a twelve year old. Maturity has as much to do with circumstance and influence as it does with age.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Apologies for hijacking, Bibi, but has anyone else lost EE's Google feed? Google won't even recognize the url to add a sub. Seems coincidental to EE adding word ver, but that alone shouldn't have done it ...

christina said...

oops I meant to say in my earlier post that he sounds younger, not older--sorry. So that's why I think the choppier simpler sentences might not work.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I'm sorry, the voice isn't working for me either. It's just too dry for my taste - I like the details you choose (crashing model airplanes, the bound ears and tail), but I'm not getting any kind of emotional read on the character.

He's talking about his parents - that's a perfect time to give us a sense of who he is and how he relates to his family. Is he a brat? Is he dutiful? Does he think his parents are boring? Or weird? Or cool?

Xiexie said...

I'm trying to pinpoint how this doesn't work for me. I don't think there are any huge markers which make this not tic; however, I do find that the voice sounds quite bored. Though, that may be what you're going for.

fairyhedgehog said...

I'd be inclined to start with My life changed last week, and miss out the bit in that paragraph about the teaching and the allergies.

You could drop the earlier information in later, a bit at a time.

I found being told I'm a boy felt distancing and I couldn't imagine one of my sons at age 12 saying I'm not in puberty yet. I can more easily imagine them sniggering about bodily functions, although I can't remember at what age they went from "wee wee", "poo" and "willy" to more adult versions of the same words.

Eric said...

Agreed. This doesn't sound like a twelve-year-old; it sounds like an adult trying to write like a twelve-year-old.

The giveaway for me is when he starts talking about things that he says he isn't thinking about. It might work as a narrator saying "Twelve-year-old Billy didn't think much about girls, since he hadn't hit puberty yet." It does not sound authentic at all for Billy himself to point this out unasked. If he's not thinking about it, he wouldn't write about it, nor would he think that he should be thinking about it.

I do think if a kid had learned the word "wizened" he would be proud of his vocabulary and use it. (Kids actually do like big words.) The choppy, sprawling sentences, though, sound too affected-- again, like an adult thinking, "Kids ramble a lot and use simple sentences..."

My suggestion: Cut the first two paragraphs entirely and start with "My life changed last week..." A much better hook, less rambling, and the voice seems to get it together a bit more when he's talking about the dog.

Also, study some good books where the author does achieve a convincing preteen narrator voice-- Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary come to mind.

Stacy said...

For me, the continuation nailed the main issue I had with this opening: the narrator is rambling a bit.

I agree he wouldn't use the word "wizened," either. That struck me as odd.

batgirl said...

The voice didn't work for me. It could be a 12 yr old boy, maybe, but it sounds younger, unless he's ADD. The detail about the cost of the models and the names is the most believable part.
Maybe if he told us his name, rather than 'I'm a boy'? That's usually the first thing a child tells you.
It wasn't clear to me whether this is meant to be spoken or written. If it's written, the spelling errors like 'wizend' and 'loped' would make sense.
Also, what's the date on this? The referents (Marmaduke comic, Billy Bishop, paper routes) have an old-fashioned feel to them (yes, I know Marmaduke is still running, but do kids read it?)

PicardyRose said...

Little detail: Billy Bishop didn't fly a Sopwith Camel. He flew a Nieuport and an S.E.5a.

Dave Fragments said...

But as Marmaduke is a dog, so is Snoopy. He flies a Sopwith Camel in his dreams of being a WW1 ace. The Charlie Brown cartoon also fits the older, previous era feeling.

_*rachel*_ said...

No problem with "wizened," I think. I was 12 or so when "ostentatious" became my new favorite word. Now it's a toss between that and "onomatopeoia."

The style here didn't bug me too much. Maybe make it a little less choppy at the beginning.

Marie Simas said...

Hey, I liked this-- and I'm a tough one to please. I like the part about the tits, too-- but it immediately made me think this kid is a budding queer, so maybe take that out.

And I don't think it sounds too young. I was as smart as shit when I was 12. I could always figure out when the teachers were lying and who they were fucking. Smart kids just spend their days bored and irritated by the dumbshits that surround them.

Anonymous said...

I’m twelve. I’m a boy. My life is simple. I'd build models and fly my radio controlled airplanes.

I believe the kid above has a simple life. I might even believe he thinks 15.00 is a lot of money. (though its a hard sell at twelve.)

I don't believe this is the character speaking: "I’m not in puberty yet, although the girls I go to school with are growing tits. I don’t care about that." I think this is the author using words like "tits" trying to shock people into reading more.

Characters can ramble, but there has to be an iota of connection. His mother teaching has no connection to what's in her head, which is unconnected to her allergies. The allergies might be connected to the dog, but since you hold back bringing home a dog was her "crazy" act, its just random information. Since I don't know what this "thing" is, I don't know what your taking about by "wizened face etc." And I'm going to agree with most readers. For this voice, I don't buy wizened. Since I still don't know that Marmaduke is a dog, when you say Boxer, I thought you meant a human boxer- and because everything so far is unrelated, I wouldn't put it past you to throw a "boxer" into the mix.

Also the beginning sets up the reader to expect a book about model airplanes and newspaper routes.

none said...

If the kid doesn't care about the tits--and I certainly don't care about them--why are they in there at all? Kids don't usually prattle about what they're NOT interested in.

Also, I've known many modelmakers, but not one who deliberately damaged their creations.