THIS DIARY BELONGS TO: Stormy Marks
November 17 1996
Dear Diary. This is the first time I've written in one of these things. I'm not much of a writer, but I want to try and make this good.
Today is my birthday. My sister Mysty gave me a blouse and my little sister Amber gave me this diary to write in. Mysty is 15 and Amber is 12. I'm 18 now. Mom and Mike gave me a big cake and Mike said I'm a woman now and Mom got mad at him. Mikes a jerk. They fight a lot since we've been out here. I don't like California.
When Mom and Mike said we were going to California I thought we'd be like on the beach or something, instead of in the middle of nowhere. Well we didn't go near the beach at all, except a couple times when we had to drive for hours to get there.
Now we live in a apartment in this city called Riverside. There's nothing to do here. It's hot and smoggy all the time. We haven't gone to school here yet cause we've only been in these apartments a month and mom says we'll wait till next year. I don't think I'll go.
Mom doesn't like it when I say that. She thinks if I don't graduate I'll end up working in Dairy Queen pregnant to some gas station grease monkey, or on drugs or some other big, dirty embarrassment, just like my brother, Skid.
Mike said I can work with him at the garage and I said I don't know nothing about being a mechanic. So Mike said don't worry, there's nothing to it, come upstairs and he'll show me how to loosen a couple of nuts. Now Mom's really mad at him. But the cake was good.
October 14, 2002
Dear Diary. Well this is the second time I've written in one of these things. Mom says if I don't go back to school I might never graduate fifth grade and get a job at Dairy Queen. Mike said there were other ways for a woman like me to make a living. Mom got mad at him as usual. Anyway, I want to work at Hooters like Mysty 'cos the tips are better there. Mike said it's not the tips that are better. Hes such a jerk.
September 14, 2010 (Like I said, I'm not much of a writer.)
Dear Diary. Mom's being thrown out of the latest rest home I dumped her in. Can't blame them; the only thing that comes out of her mouth are screaming obscenities. She's been like that since she had her stroke, way back in 2003. That was just after she found out that Mike and me had run off together.
Well, gotta run. I'm home-schooling the twins, so I better make sure they're learning whatever.
Opening: --Khazar-khum.....Continuation: Anon./Paul Penna
This Diary Belongs to Michael Dukakis
November 17th, 1996
It's such a relief to be out here with the 'California family' for the winter. Don't get me wrong-- Kitty is a wonderful woman, but sometimes that disappointed look in her eyes just gets to be too much...
One trouble with the diary format is that it's hard to put things in any order other than chronological, but you still might want to have her start the whole diary when something interesting happens and have her fill us in on California and the family in a later entry. Just because she got the diary on her birthday doesn't mean she has to start writing in it that day.
Also, the diary is sure to have lots of boring stuff in it, so either Stormy will have to be very selective, or the author will have to edit it down to just the good stuff.
A diary is theoretically read only by its author, so she probably wouldn't be identifying who Amber and Mysty are. She knows they're her sisters.
This sounds to me more like the 15 or 12 year old than the 18 year old.
Perhaps Stormy can have more attitude. For instance:
When Mom and Mike said we were going to California I thought we'd be like on the beach, not in some hellhole in the middle of nowhere, hours from the nearest fucking beach. Yes, Mom, I said the F word, but you can't do shit about it without admitting you were reading my diary. Which, if you are, you might wanna know Mike showed me his wang last night. He's not only a jerk, his wang is dinky.
As you see, a little attitude gets us through the parts when nothing's going on.
The language of that diary entry is way younger than 18, unless your character was brain damaged as a child.
I don't have a problem with diary format per se; but you need to make it interesting. Podkayne of Mars by Heinlein is one of the best I've read in that format, and it's MG/YA. Might be worth a look for you. The Princess Diaries books by Meg Cabot have diary, email and text messaging in them, and it works well.
If the issue is something related to school, you should have your character going to school, or about to, and confessing her worries about whatever the problem is.
However, depending upon what the actual story is about, you could get more mileage by saying she's starting the diary because she wants to record the events that have already happened for posterity. Or because she's afraid she's going to die and she wants to leave a record.
Those are the sorts of opening statements that will tell readers something interesting is about to be relayed.
What they said. This is not working.
In the next sentence, some more interesting narrator had better reveal him- or herself, because I've had all I can take of Stormy Marks.
Stormy, Mysty, and Amber? These girls are doomed to be either strippers or secretly the heirs to a mystical otherworld kingdom presently ruled by a tyrannical usurper. If the latter, it will be a trilogy.
Author, I like diary format, so I'd probably pick this up. But unless Stormy is developmentally delayed, she doesn't convince as an 18 year old, and the situation with Mike and her mother fighting feels near to cliche. Can you begin with something that matters to Stormy, rather than generalised discontent?
This isn't working. My first thought was the writing was way too young for someone who is 18 years of age. This is more equivalent to maybe a junior high age child. You may have done this on purpose to try to convey she is illiterate but immature writing/subject matter is not equivalent to being unable to read and write.
If this was your purpose - make her more mature with more spelling and grammar errors.
My second thought was why would an 18 year old be going to high school? She should be in the middle of her senior year by now and rarely does anyone sit out their senior year and plan on going back.
A mother that says, "don't worry about school this year," doesn't usually care if the child finishes school or not. Her mother is probably saying something like - "get a job already" or giving her literature on where to get her GED.
I just finished reading, The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V.S. Redick (what a name, I decided that is how he got published, actually it's pretty good). Anyway, in a number of chapters he conveys information through diaries and letters written by different characters.
I think it worked for him. You may want to read his book.
If I was writing this, I would start out as a narrative where something interesting happens and then introduce the MC's feelings about the problem/event/catalyst in the diary.
Normally, diaries are really boring. I've started a few and re-read things a year or so later. Then I get depressed on how boring my life is.
You've captured how boring life is with this opening, but that's not what you are going for.
EE's was much better.
Author here. Great continuations. You pretty much caught where she's headed for, until she runs away.
This is 'Dinosaur Diaries', where she eventually hatches dinosaurs in her kitchen.
A few notes: Attempts to give her too much attitude met with real disapproval by agents/editors. I was asked by one editor to 'tone it down' to what you see as she wanted it for her YA line. Naturally she changed positions and when that happens the new editor isn't always willing to keep the previous books.
More extreme grammar/spelling errors annoyed editors and agents alike, so again I toned it down. Personally I preferred the more 'creative' spelling, but too many times I was told it was 'confusing' and had to go. Grrrr.
At this time I've been asked to revise & return it to an editor, so your ideas have given me some things to work with. With luck it'll finally be one of EE's success stories.
Huh. I used to read these diary stories by the bushel. Now...
Most of the diaries-style stories I've seen have been aimed at middle-school (or younger) girls. So, I think an 18-year-old might be a stretch. Also, speaking as someone who's not too far past 18, that's not how an 18-year-old would write.
I dunno. It's not horrifying, but it's not interesting and I feel like I've outgrown the style.
Look out for some of those typos: Mike[']s, [M]om.
K-K, have you thought of an alternative to the ol' daily diary? Stream of consciousness? Or maybe a diary, but with some helpful use of abbreviation? Bridget Jones's diary had these "alcohol units" and "nicotine units" that defined her preoccupations and her mundane struggles with minimal verbiage.
First as a caveat, I know K-K.
I think I see the problem. Anyone reading this site is unlikely to have been hanging out with the Stormys, Ambers, and Mystys of their high school. This level of immaturity and ignorance is common even in young adults.
On the other hand, someone like Stormy probably doesn't read or buy many books.
So, do you raise the literacy of the character to be more like people the reader would know or risk alienating the reader (and editors) by staying closer to the subject?
do you raise the literacy of the character to be more like people the reader would know or risk alienating the reader (and editors) by staying closer to the subject?
Huck Finn was illiterate but somehow he told a readable story. Chief Broom (One Flew Over the Cuckkoo's Nest) was probably not well read but he too could express himself in an interesting way. You can probably think of more examples.
The trouble with Stormy is that she expresses herself in a dull way -- she might even be a dull character. If she's not a dull character, K-K may have to let her write what's on her mind instead of making her "want to try and make this good."
I love the idea of hatching dinosaurs in the kitchen, though.
To me it's not increasing the mc's the literacy level, it is a matter of raising her maturity or lowering her age.
If she's going to end up hatching dino eggs in her kitchen (and succeed) I think she needs to come across a little sharper with or without schooling.
If there is interest from editors, you are doing very well. I'd go with his Evilness myself. Just exchange "dino eggs" for "wang" and make the other changes of course.
Khazar, is this meant to be a hi-lo (reluctant reader) book?
If the narrator ends up raising dinosaurs, you might want to front-load a few hints about dinos and strangeness, maybe through the youngest sister? Otherwise the story looks as if it's heading straight into Afterschool Special Problem-of-the-Week territory.
"More extreme grammar/spelling errors annoyed editors and agents alike, so again I toned it down."
That would annoy me too.
Lots of authors create authentic characters who are uneducated without relying on spelling and grammar errors. In my opinion doing so is a short cut, even if it is a journal.
I agree that this voice is too young for 18-unless you're able to establish a reason for it.
Would making the events more recent and using better grammar offset by texting idioms address the language issue?
As to Stormy's maturity/sophistication, she is/will be a high school dropout and thus not an average 18-year old, except in LA. Still, what specifically seems immature?
A third point is, yes, you want to avoid the afternoon special syndrome. They make you want to turn off the TV and do your homework.
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