Wednesday, June 08, 2011

New Beginning 862

If farting was an Olympic sport, my dad would get a gold medal. He let long, loud and smelly ones rip all day, every day. I’d hate to meet the person who could beat him.

I usually went to his garage after school. All the mechanics who worked there wore gas-masks. His stink was so strong, it cut across the odor of grease and oil. The deal was that I did homework in his office. But he was too busy to notice that I was really playing on-line games. I was the only one who ever went in there – nobody else would have survived the stench. My nose had gotten used to it after living with him for ten years. Customers had been known to faint when they stepped in to pay their bill.

When I walked in, he was loosening some wheel-nuts. The drill made a loud whzz-whzz, but not loud enough to hide his phhrttt.

“Hey Dad, think of all the money you’d save if you stopped using compressed air and powered your tools with farts instead!” I always said that instead of “hello”.

“I’d get as more mileage if I used your hot air, Mart,” he grinned back.

"I brought someone to meet you," I told him. "He was a guest speaker at school today. May I present Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee."

"Mart told me all about you," Mr. Rogge said, shaking Dad's hand. "That's how I got the idea. We've been trying for years to come up with a new event that Americans might actually be good at."

Opening: anon......Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

So, our audience is boys in the fifth grade. Hey, whatever gets them to read, right?

I assume this is a short story, possibly even a picture book?

I'm not crazy about "All the mechanics who worked there wore gas-masks." Exaggerating the stench is one thing, but this is over the top. It's okay only if everything is going to be this outlandish.

The tool that loosens and tightens lug nuts is an impact wrench, not a drill. The ones I've heard would drown out the loudest fart, but maybe they make them with mufflers these days.

There's an extra word in the last sentence.

Technically, Dad didn't grin the last sentence. It's not unusual to see this in dialogue, but more accurate would be a period after "Mart" and then a new sentence: He grinned. Or changing "he grinned back" to "he replied, grinning." Even more accurate (and amusing) would be "he replied, farting."

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Or "said." There's nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned "said." It's brief, it's unobtrusive, it gets the job done. I don't know why so many incipient writers think "said" is a four-letter word.

I was willing to let the farts go because I've given up on being the Taste Police-- obviously tastes vary and some people don't have any-- but the gas masks and the fainting got me too. Not believable. Both mechanics and customers would seek another shop.

And "Dad grinned back" is beyond the pale.

A thought on breaking into the middle grade boys' market: You can't get there without the approval of a great many middle-aged women.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

That was Bedtime Theater, brought to you by Taco Bell: Breakfast of Champions.


none said...

If that's the kid's habitual greeting, it strikes me as being a bit long and contrived. It'd probably have worn down to something shorter over time.

Anonymous said...

"he replied, farting." That made me laugh outloud at work. Wow, I'm mature.
That said, it really rubbed me the wrong way to read "he grinned back." I used to do that all the time too, but now I avoid doing that and my writing is stronger.
I agree with Buffy about the kid's greeting. It's too long and kind of annoyed me just thinking about someone saying that to me every single time they saw me.

Anonymous said...

Okay, fwiw, my sons would love this.

And fwiw, if they caught me at the right time, tired, juggling everything, wanting some peace and quiet, I'd probably let them get it. You know, even all middle-agey as I am.

But you MUST take EE's suggestion on "he replied, farting."

Good luck with this. Make sure we see the query!

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Actually, middle-aged is probably the wrong term. There are plenty of 20-and-30-something women involved in the process too.

But my own experience has been that of all the people a middle grade author has to please-- editors, assistants, agents, their assistants, publishers (meaning the job description not the company), marketing people, B and N buyers (meaning the people who decide what B and N will carry), reviewers, award committee chairs and members, librarians, shoppers--

Well, now and then you'll meet a man. Now and then. Among all of the above people, during the publication, etc of my books, I've personally met three men.

It does affect what gets acquired. Undoubtedly there are women who will be all over Walter the Farting Dad.

But taste is going to be a factor. The writer is undoubtedly aware of that.

vkw said...

I have nothing useful to add other than the gasmasks and fainting lines made me roll my eyes. Then I wondered how the kid was able to play internet games right in front of dad. I don't care how busy the dad is, he's bound to look up at least occassionally.

I'll add that I think a book like this would have to get past a few women who wouldn't find this story the least bit amusing. (A friend and I were discussing last week our biggest turnoffs and on top of the list was making fart jokes.)

But then all this musing doesn't explain how Walter the Farting Dog was published and has an entire series. And, from what I understand, is quite the famous dog amongst the youngsters.

I disagree with the author of Walt that it is self-evident that farting is hilarious, however, I think this book could get published.

iago said...

It's entirely possible that it isn't about whether farting is funny or not, it's about whether the writing is funny or not...

Dave Fragments said...

Aside from all of the indignation about farting, this is a case of more isn't better.

I don't know if this opens a novel or a short story. I can imagine that unless it's kin to MARRIED WITH CHILDREN or SOUTH PARK, that farting isn't the main plot element and doesn't define the end of the story.

So rip out half of it. Literally, cut half and replace that half with something that creates a link to the stories climax in the reader's mind. People get ugly when I say cut in half but in this case, it would improve things.

Let us suppose that this is a ghost story and the narrator is standing at his father's grave much like Hamlet seeking his father's ghost:

If farting was an Olympic sport, my dad would get a gold medal. I worked at his garage after school. The mechanics wore gasmasks but his stink cut through the odor of grease and oil. I didn't care. I was really playing on-line games and Dad didn't notice.
Strange what we remember at funerals.
If he was loosening some wheel-nuts when I walked in, he tried to hide his phhrtt with the drill's whzz-whzz but I always heard it.
He's still with me. I looked at his ghost standing beside me.
“Hey Dad, think of all the money you’d save if you stopped using compressed air and powered your tools with farts instead!” I would say.
“I’d get as more mileage if I used your hot air, Mart. It wasn't the thieving junkies who killed me,” his ghost said.

MNot Shakespeare but far more intersting than the original. Plus it's only 140 words which is not long enough for the reader to say "What the hell is this?"

So edit, edit, edit and bring the point or the lesson or the hint of what happens later in the story to the opening.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Aha! After reading these comments, odds are that Evil Editor is indeed Evil Editrix.

Notwithstanding the drill vs wrench oops (even I know the diff there) and that greeting being way too much of a mouthful, we do have to remember this is a 10-YEAR-OLD boy narrating for an audience of like-minded 10-year-olds. Of course he's going to exaggerate. Of course people will be fainting in his version. Duh. *eyeroll*.

So, you guys think it should read:

My dad owns a garage where I go after school to do my homework. I use the computer in his office because no one else goes in there. Today when I walked in, Dad was loosening some wheel nuts.

I waved at him. "Hey Dad."

He waved back. "Hey Mart."

I'd rather be playing online games with my friends, but since Dad could walk into his office any time, I wrote an essay for English, did some research for History and solved a few math problems.

Then it was time to go. "Boy, am I ready for dinner. Let's pick up a pizza on the way home, how about?" Dad always knew how to find just the right way to show how much he cared.

If you were a 10-yo boy, would YOU read that? Maybe there's a reason 10-yo boys don't read.

And for the record, I (female) personally would never have wanted to read this at any age. But for its market, I'm thinking it has the right subject and at least has some of the right voice. I don't think it's a question of taste but of market. In business, there's a big difference.

Also, the kid has a GOOD relationship with his dad. ARC doesn't want Dad grinning back and Dave wants him dead. Seems a kid's author these days can't please anyone -- apparently least of all the intended audience.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Vkw, yeah, it could get published, all other things being equal. (That is, if the manuscript is actually of publishable quality-- farts aside.)

The thing is, when a book goes through the roof like the aforementioned flatulent canine, publishers don't necessarily know why it happened.

I can see a lot of people in publishing saying "farts have been done," unaware that to adoring fart-fans, farts can never have been done enough.

/cannot believe we are having this discussion

Iago-- yes.

Dave F-- also yes. This thing needs serious rewriting. Farts aside.

iago said...

If farting was an Olympic sport...

By the way, I believe it should be "were" rather than "was"...

Evil Editor said...

Whaddaya mean I'm Evil Editix? I didn't complain about the exaggeration of the stench, or the fainting. I complained about the gas masks, partly because it's declared that no one ever goes into the office because of the stench, yet if everyone in the place wears gas masks, the stench in the office wouldn't be an issue. (I assume it's the other mechanics being referred to when it's stated that no one ever goes in the office, because it's later stated that customers go in the office to pay their bills.) Ten-year-old boys may laugh at fart jokes, but some are bright enough to catch contradictions.

Some may even know that gas mask filters need to be replaced every 4 to 8 hours, at a cost of about $90 each, and thus wouldn't be cost effective. So nyaah.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Aha! After reading these comments, odds are that Evil Editor is indeed Evil Editrix.

Phoenix, I thot I was the only one who harbored that suspicion!

I don't care if Dad grins till the top of his head falls off. I object to using it (or damn near anything) as a synonym for "said".

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Oh, another thing, re Phoenix's comment: the problem with that tame opening you posit isn't that it's fart-free, it's that nothing happens in it.

Something has to happen.

Right now we've got farts happening, which begs the question of what the story's about. I think we're all assuming the answer is "farts". Which would be a bit slim if it's a novel.

But if it's not about farts, then the opening page could show something else happening. Dad's murder by the junkie thieves, say.

Evil Editor said...

If farting was an Olympic sport...By the way, I believe it should be "were" rather than "was".

I believe that's irrelevant, as before it could become an Olympic sport it would have to be an Olympic demonstration sport. And even if it got past that stage, most people would consider it more an exhibition than a sport, sort of like they do the ribbon event in rhythmic gymnastics, or ice dancing.

Also, would it be scored based on volume, duration, odor, or all three? I can see scientific equipment being used to score volume and duration, but the stench might require human judges.

Also, would eating franks and beans be considered doping, or would it be standard training? So many issues that I don't think the IOC will want to deal with.

iago said...

Spectacular way to light the Olympic torch, though.

batgirl said...

Farts don't do it for me, but I probably would have shown this one to my son when he was younger.
Let us not forget that some percentage of those women working in the publishing industry have sons and brothers - my own agent has 4 sons.
I'm not going to quibble word choice or grammar for a young narrator, but I thought this could be tightened up a bit and the voice intensified, made more 'boyish'. Also it would be nice if something happened. What makes this day, of all the days at the garage, worth beginning a story at?

Xenith said...

On Tuesday, a middle-aged female friend was showing around a book she'd just bought for her grandson:

That's a picture book, but there's plenty of similar stuff in the older section. I think book publishers and sellers have managed to work out that mid-grade boys and body humour go together like, hmm, teenage girls and h/o/r/s/e/s/ vampires.

But if that is the target audience here, it is much too slow a start.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

I had the dubious pleasure of meeting Walter in New Brunswick on several occasions.He was big, lethargic and stunk up a room like nobody had any business stinking up a room. I swear he'd fart at will. He'd let it rip and with a droll look on his tired face he'd watch to see who cleared out. Walter was a local boy of considerable fame. I'm sure all that gas made him uncomfortable contributing to his odd expression.

kate said...

I was gonna include some hyperlinks to sites for the following books that relied heavily on humor drawn from noisy bodily functions, but blogger couldn't cope.

It seems that some of these middle-aged editrix types were able to put aside their distaste for flatulence and publish some kid’s books based around really poor taste.

So just google the titles if you're interested.

See: "Farticus Maximus" and “sweet farts” and "The Day My Butt Went Psycho" series.. not just one book but an entire series based on methane-powered humor.
Oh, and Roald Dahl's "The BFG" certainly had its fair share of potty humor, very risque when first published.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Boy, next time I want to set people off, I can see a good word to choose is "middle-aged".

I have qualified my comments and the exceptions thereto sufficiently already and won't bother repeating myself. Obviously the damn dog got published.

Huh. Batgirl and I probably have the same agent.

Anonymous said...

Boy, next time I want to set people off, I can see a good word to choose is "middle-aged".

I think, technically, that's two words.

batgirl said...

Alaska, is yours girlishly slender, looks about 18 despite the 4 boys and has background as an editor?

If so, yes.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Yes. That would be our agent.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm- Olympic sports? Why limit the competition to strength and endurance events? Surely there could be some artistic ones (just like ice-skating) - perhaps the athlete's interpretation of Ravel's "Bolero"?
Just a thought.

Dave Fragments said...

Did any of you ever hear the joke that begins with the line:

A Man walks into a bar with a duck under his arm, sets the duck on the bar, orders a boilermaker and says to the bartender: "I can fart the National Anthem."

If you haven't consider yourself lucky. Otherwise, you have my sympathies.

Adele said...

I hope the whole book is about farting. That's what you've led me to believe, as there's so much emphasis on farting in the opening.

If the book is about something else, the opening drags on too long. Shorten the farting images, and then work in others here and there throughout the story.

I avoid stories that I think pander to kids. Strong characters who do interesting things and also fart - fine. Characters who fart just to fart and put farts in the book - no. And I once gave my 10-year-old nephews fake vomit for Christmas. (They loved it. Their Mom still hasn't forgiven me.)

By the way, as an adult I'm just worried that Dad is sick. Somebody letting long, loud and smelly ones go all day long has a serious digestive problem. Just sayin'