Friday, April 27, 2012

New Beginning 941

Vince looked at me tiredly. I slouched in my chair and looked back as blankly as possible.

“It was a good job, Maus. What was your problem?”

I stared at him, long enough to irritate and not quite long enough to make him repeat himself. Then I said, “Dunno.”

His eyes narrowed, always a danger signal to me. Very levelly, he said, “The problem was that it was legal.”

“It was the manager,” I lied. “He didn’t like me.”

His eyes got even narrower, and he worked his jaw for a minute. If he’d verbalized that expression, he would’ve been saying, I’m not going to punch your face, no matter how much you tempt me to. He looked back down at my file for a moment, long enough to get his temper back under control. Then he told me, “I know the manager. He’s helped a lot of kids with a good job. He's patient, and he likes working with kids.” He met my eyes. “The truth, Maus, is that you don’t want to be helped.”

“The truth," I said, “is he’s all patience and virtue when it comes to Face Lifts and Guess the Plots, but I was two minutes late with his cheese danish. There is no happy ending to that scenario.”

Vince picked up the file with my manuscript and sighed. “I guess we could try self-publishing.”

“Too late.” I buried my head in my hands. “Evil Editor blacklisted me there, too.”

Opening: Rachel Roy.....Continuation: PLaF


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

I eyed him coldly. The left side of my face lifted into a sneer. If I verbalized that expression I would be saying, I'm sneering at you, because I don't like you very much.

Our eyes latched onto each other in a non-verbal battle of wills. Very resolutely, I said, "You think so?"

Vince slouched back in his chair, putting his hand over his face. If he verbalized that expression he would be saying, "This is going to be a very long novel."


Evil Editor said...

I wasn't sure what they were talking about at first, possibly because "job" could refer to something illegal, like a bank job, rather than an actual occupation. Which is reinforced by “The problem was that it was legal.”

Perhaps if it said: “It was a good job, Maus. With a good salary. What was your problem?”

I was more interested when I thought they were talking about a caper, but that's just me. I'm sure Vince and this lazy kid have a good story, although it might be best to get into that story right away instead of starting by talking about a job the kid doesn't have anymore.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Mm. Okay, first, read Stephen King's On Writing, with particular attention to what he says on adverbs. Obviously a rule to which he's willing to grant a Rowling Exception, but you need a lot of boy wizards to qualify for that.

Now, your first two sentences consist of your characters looking at each other. Does not grab. They look at each other three more times. I learned a couple years ago that I could cut 5,000 words off my manuscripts by stopping my characters from looking at each other.

You can show your characters' emotions with fewer sentences and cut to the chase quicker. Let us know what's at stake-- will Maus go back to jail if he doesn't stay at the job?

May I?

Vince the Parole Officer sighed. “It was a good job, Maus. What was your problem?”


His eyes narrowed, always a danger sign. “The problem was that it was legal.”

“It was the manager,” I lied. “He didn’t like me.”

He worked his jaw for a minute, like he was saying, I’m not going to punch your face, no matter how much you tempt me to. “I know the manager. He’s helped a lot of kids. The truth, Maus, is that you don’t want to be helped.”

Dave Fragments said...

I'd open with the dialog and assign it to an exhausted Vince. After that, it is the discussion between the two characters about the failings of one and the disappointment of the other. It's a conversation of silence and stares. You're trying to hard to make the reader see that light a giant movie screen. Let the words hit the page and leave the reader to imagine it.

“It was a good job, Maus. What was your problem?” Vince said. The dark bags around his eyes spoke of exhaustion and surrender. I didn't answer for a long time.
"Dunno," I said. His eyes narrowed.
“It was legal.”
"That's the problem." The weariness in his voice approached despair.
“The manager didn’t like me.” I lied. His face twitched with the effort to control his anger with me.
“The truth, Maus, is that you don’t want to be helped. I know the manager. He’s helped other kids. He's patient. You aren't.” Our eyes met.

After that, I might say something internal to Maus like "Youth against experience. Adults never see the world as growing and changing like youth."

Then I might go to descriptions and illustrate their roles like:
I stood in hoody and sneakers, scrawny compared to his fleshiness, wing tips and button-down, white shirts. My ear buds dangled where his striped tie was tucked into his shirt.

And I think the next sentence should explain their problems. I'm not sure what that problem is and I don't want to guess. There's a lot of tension here and you should use that. Be careful of how much detail you add so you don't dilte the tension. This is the immovable stone of adulthood against the irresistable force of youth.

Anonymous said...

If Maus isn't this Maus, then maybe Maus needs another name...?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Yes, like Anonymaus, I also thought of Art Spiegelman's Maus.

Anonymous said...

"Our eyes met..."

( o)(o )

none said...

It's figurative, Anon 1:33 PM. One day you may figure that out.

Despite the flaws in the writing, I quite liked this. Fewer ly adverbs would help, yes, but I liked the character interactions. Definitely would read on.

Anonymous said...

It's a joke, BuffySquirrel.

Not expecting you to figure that out.

St0n3henge said...

"It's figurative..." I dunno. I always thought the next line after "She tossed her hair," should be, "He tossed it back."

Anyway, author, if you leave out all the staring and emoting and non-verbalizing of expressions, and almost all the -ly adverbs, what do you have? That's your story.

Remember that if you use to many adverbs in a row they start to look like Tom Swifties. "It's well-aged cheddar cheese," Tom said sharply.

Dave Fragments said...

"It's well-aged cheddar cheese," Tom said sharply.

is insufficiently witty.

"It's well-aged cheddar cheese," Tom said sharply as the cheese bit his tongue tastily."

is much more evocative...


St0n3henge said...

It's RARE to be BIT by cheese.

none said...

No, I wouldn't, Anon, because jokes are meant to be funny :).

T.K. Marnell said...

I'm fine with the writing style, but it lacks realism. This kid is way too high up on the self-awareness scale. Have you ever looked at a person--as a teen or otherwise--and thought, "I'm going to slouch and look as blank as possible. And now I'm going to stare at this man long enough to irritate, but not quite long enough to make him repeat myself"? Of course not.

Kids can be annoying, but if they're annoying on purpose, they're much clumsier about it. Maus is probably being annoying because he's thinking something else: "This guy's got funny eyebrows," "Why are adults always assuming it's all my fault?" or "This is so I'm gonna miss American Idol." Also, men who are used to working with troubled teens probably wouldn't get riled up enough to punch one's face just for slouching and messing up a job.

I think it's a perspective mix-up. You're thinking like a third person narrator, but speaking from the teen's POV. From Vince and the reader's perspective, yeah, the kid is irritating as heck. From Maus's perspective, he's not in the wrong, or he knows he's in the wrong and he doesn't give a damn--though he does come across as a weakling. I don't even think narrowed eyes are a "danger signal," and I'm a pansy.

Of course, if Maus is a vampire or a space alien purposely mimicking a human teenager, and he's avoiding jobs so his supernatural powers aren't discovered, that's a different matter. Then you might want to exaggerate the manipulation or hint at his fangs or third eye under his hoodie or something.

none said...

I haven't done that as a teen, but I have known at least one teen who did that sort of thing, yeah. In fact they had quite a range of artificial expressions that were meant to tell you various things. If Maus had their parent, he'd convince ME.

Rachel6 said...

Hahaha, somehow I missed this the last time I checked the blog. Thanks y'all; that was less eviscerating than I had expected. :)

I am a total criminal about adverbs and adjectives...

Evil Editor, this particular job wasn't a caper, but those are Maus' preferred jobs.