Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Beginning 737

At 8:34 AM, Eastern Standard Time, Mother entered the clinic, shivering in the cold. It was the seventeenth of January, 1994.

At 11:00 AM, one of her friends picked her up and drove her home, where she told her mother she was sick and didn't mention how she got home from school.

Darcie was born June 18, 1994, at 2:59 AM. She never remembered much about her early childhood, except that she and Mother lived with Grandmother and Grandfather. Grandmother loved her more than anything in the world except, perhaps, Mother and Grandfather. Grandmother spent hours playing with Darcie, and always took care of her when Mother was away. Mother was often away, either at college or with friends. When she was home, she was nice to Darcie, but she never seemed to care quite as much as Grandmother did.

When Darcie was seven years old, she and Mother moved in with Mother's boyfriend. He ignored Darcie, except to complain about her. Darcie didn't like him at all.

At 9:56 PM, Eastern Standard Time, Darcie stabbed the boyfriend with a kitchen knife and then turned the knife on Mother. It was July 16, 2001. Darcie's grandparents are here to take Darcie "back home where she belongs," but I have explained we are required to keep her in custody until her arraignment.

Detective Smith paused to take a sip of coffee. A seven year old tried as an adult, he thought. If this doesn't put me on top of the nonfiction bestseller list, nothing will.

Opening: Rachel.....Continuation: Stacy


fairyhedgehog said...

The reference to "Mother" had me thinking this was written in first person, so I was surprised when it turned out to be third person.

I wasn't sure why we needed to know about the clinic, or what had happened there. Darcie was born six months later, so it was a bit late for a pregnancy test.

I was also puzzled that Mother didn't tell Grandmother about the clinic visit, and yet Grandmother sounds very supportive.

Evil Editor said...

There's something confusing about the first two paragraphs. It's in Darcie's POV, but Darcie isn't born yet? If Darcie learned these facts from her grandmother or mother, it's odd that she knows the times so precisely and even more odd that she's including the precise times in telling the story.

The third paragraph has too many people with nothing happening. We don't know who to care about yet, or what's important. I'd start with the 4th paragraph. And then use the 1st sentence of the continuation.

150 said...

I'm with the hedgehog.

fairyhedgehog said...

(I forgot to say, nice continuation!)

Dave Fragments said...

As I read this the first time, the first and second paragraph sounded to me like a visit to an abortion clinic. But that impression was mistaken. Then paragraph three and I got truly confused, sorted out the players and realized the clinic must be an In Vitro clinic or quite possibly some government clinic that does experimental sci-fi things to create kids with bizarre powers.

It's a fatherless birth, for reasons as yet unknown -- father could be dead or deadbeat or alien seed, son of Satan, who knows. At this point, I am open to anything I'm so eager to find out information.

But that's me. I hear black helicopters landing in the back yard on rainy days.

However, Now we get a less than affectionate mom in paragraph 3 and in paragraph 4 a uncaring stepfather, further speculation is we are raising the next Charlie Manson or Idi Amin, a lonely, isolated loner?

Please, give me something solid to hang my hat on. I am so lost.

_*rachel*_ said...

It's flash fiction.

Technically, there's an extra return/section break after the first two paragraphs. They're separate from the rest and are wrapped up later.

I'm experimenting with what we do in my crit group (which hasn't seen this piece): keeping my mouth shut until most everybody has had their say. I'll be back.

Matt said...

The time and date stuff made me feel like I was watching an episode of Law & Order or 24.

What was presented here was dry, but I get the feeling that's just to set us up for a big bang (like in the continuation).

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuation:

He would leave the house at 7:45 AM punctually, returning between 6:35 and 7:20 PM, depending on traffic. That was during the working week, of course. On weekends and holidays, he would sometimes lie in bed as late as 9:22 AM.

Darcie never knew when he went to bed, because Mother made sure she observed her own bedtime, which was 8:30 PM and no later. She estimated, though, that he stayed up at least two hours later than she did, so she penciled that in, with a note that it was subject to later confirmation. Sometimes, it was hard to keep track of this stuff, but Darcie knew that attention to detail counted, and she was going to earn that Junior G-Man badge if it bloody killed her.

--Steve Wright

Anonymous said...

Please stop saying Mother and Grandmother and Grandfather. It makes my head hurt.

Jeb said...

There must be a better way to convey to the reader that the main character (this had better be the main character)had an unhappy childhood. Unless the circumstances of the unwed birth are vital to the plot, you could leave it all out and get on with the plot.

It's unclear whether this is supposed to be a child's voice or an adult remembering their childhood. The differences are subtle but crucial.

_*rachel*_ said...

OK, everybody, thanks for your help! This was one of my best pieces at the high school level, but it's been a while and it definitely needed more work to submit anywhere.

I'm hoping that, at 650ish words, people can deal with the odd style.

fairyhedgehog--Good point about "Mother." I tried to clear that up in this revision. Does the same thing happen with Grandmother, and does the fact that the title is "Darcie's Mother" help at all?

Since the spacing seemed to be a bit ambiguous in the initial posting, I tried making the section break more obvious. Tell me if it's too obvious.

I made some big cuts, especially at the beginning. How's this?
At 8:34 AM, Eastern Standard Time, Ginger entered the clinic, shivering in the cold. It was the seventeenth of January, 1994.

At 11:00 AM, one of her friends picked her up and drove her home, where she told her mother she was sick and didn’t mention how she got home from school.
[section break]
[section break]
Darcie was born June 18, 1994, at 2:59 AM. While Ginger, her mother, finished high school, Grandmother quit her job to raise Darcy.
When Darcie was seven years old, Ginger moved across the city to live with her boyfriend, taking Darcie with her. Darcie, slow to find friends her own age, soon became the constant companion of the old man in the apartment nearby. He showed her how to do science experiments, explained what electrons did, and showed her how cells worked. Darcie loved looking at cells with his microscope, and was fascinated when he explained anything at all about them.

He moved to a nursing home when Darcie was 13, and died when she was 14.

At Peregrine High School the next year, Darcie spent hours after school under the watchful eye of the Advanced Biology teacher, studying the workings of cells. In her junior year, she took three science classes.

Tom Bridgeland said...

Read both versions, still not quite sure what the hook is. Is Darcie some sort of experiment, or the result of a teen fling? Was mom's clinic visit to confirm pregnancy?

Sarah Laurenson said...

So, is this an alternate story? Ginger had an abortion, OR she had Darcie and this is what Darcie's life turned out to be?

It seems almost like one of those Sliding Doors type of things only the MC dies at the beginning of the first half which makes that type of thing very difficult.

So generally - I'm really confused.

_*rachel*_ said...

You've got it right, Sarah.

Here's what I need to know:

Are you too confused to read the rest (400 more words)

Does the -Or.- work?

Should I rephrase Grandmother the way I rephrased Mother?

Thanks for your help.

Stephen Prosapio said...

It's 12:04 as I begin this. If it's 12:11 or 12:12 when I'm finished, I'll be happy.


I'll go insane reading and rereading this.

Hey Rachel. I wasn't around for the original and didn't read it on purpose so that I'd read the new version with fresh eyes.

I needed Sarah's comments about "Sliding Doors" (good flick) by the way to realize this was that kind of thing. I thought it was an either or opening. I read it twice.

It just seems like you're trying to do too much here and if you've only got 650 words, that's even more of a reason to conserve words and times. This you know, I know. But for an opening it's not really hooking....but if it's that short I'd prolly read through it anyway. But I don't know that it's working the way you think it is.

I'm done. 12:08.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hi Rachel: This is kind of confusing to me set up like this. I normally wouldn't presume to comment on structural changes except that this is short flash. Perhaps do the set up of Darcie's life first (I'm assuming she makes some big breakthrough in medical science?) and then circle back to the fact that none of this happened because she was aborted instead? Maybe that would make it less confusing and leave the reader with the punch at the end? Although flash is hard and the way this is setting up, it's sounding just a bit heavy-handed in its message - maybe a little too blatant and message-y? Or perhaps I'm just old and jaded... ;o)

Sarah Laurenson said...

I'm with Phoenix on the heavy handed message feeling. I would probably not read on because I would not want to read either a pro or anti abortion story that pushes this hard. Mostly because there is no way to know if she cures cancer or becomes a serial killer prior to the abortion decision and that type of story line doesn't interest me.

As for the structure of it, I still think this doesn't work. Either you come right out and say she had the abortion in the first part or you risk confusing too many readers.

Maybe, just maybe, it would work after that. It seems like you're trying to be too mysterious and yet trying too hard to get the overall message across. I know. Weird paradox.

_*rachel*_ said...

Format-wise, what if I pull the section at the beginning to the end? I've currently got the biography part sandwiched.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Here's what I think needs to be questioned:

Does story 1 stand alone?
Does story 2 stand alone?

Personally I think the answer is no on both parts.

Story 1 has several issues: 1. The MC isn't mentioned which makes it look like Ginger is the MC; and 2. It's 3 sentences long.

Story 2 has one major issue: without story 1's tie-in, it's not compelling.

So switching the order leaves you with the longer story first, but why would someone want to read it? It's got some interesting things in there, but it's really a chronological list.

Flash is a very hard task master.

And this is all my opinion - which I will point to my previous post as a caveat.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Ooh, ooh. Maybe if you reverse tell it. Start with the accomplished adult MC and work back through the bits and pieces that got her there. In such a short piece, that could set up enough intrigue with the reader that they'll stay with it till the punch when you switch to the alternate ending.

Of course, this is predicated on what market you're trying to reach. I honestly don't think a general market would approach this kind of piece (not because of the topic but because it just feels too message-y IMO), but since you also write for a faith-based market, it just might work. I only wish there were a more subtle way of handling it. But mine is merely one opinion. In the end, go with your gut.

Rachel said...

I like that idea, Phoenix! If it works, I'll let you know.

That's a good point about the faith-based markets. I generally prefer more secular places because I want what I write to be accessible to a more general audience. I've currently got a few secular places flagged, but I've also got a feeling this place might be interested. They don't do too much fiction and they certainly don't pay, but I like them.

Thanks, all! Whether the backwards idea works or not, you've helped me trim away a lot of the gristle.

_*rachel*_ said...

Sorry, the link didn't work. This place:

Phoenix Sullivan said...

And that link, Rachel, is why knowing your market trumps casual reader input all the time. ;o)