Thursday, March 28, 2013

New Beginning 999

A girl with green dreadlocks cut Lina off. It was mass chaos with each individual on their own separate path being pulled by forces unknown. Each path rewarded with it’s own destiny and yet it all looked accidental. Merging carefully into pandemonium of the university cafeteria, Lina considered which path she should take to avoid what looked like an inevitable collision.

Everything felt alien to Lina. Strangers with metal pins decorating their faces, the flaring fire behind the counter, and the cacophony of smells and sounds. “Space, the final frontier,” thought Lina. “Captain Kirk obviously didn’t know about college campuses.” She smiled to herself.

She knew she didn’t belong but she hoped that she could blend in enough to get her lunch without incident. Everything was so foreign and industrial size. The university football stadium would encompass her home town. The university campus residency had a larger population than the 3000 she had come from. There were no warm friendly smiles from people she had grown up with. Lina was out of her element and was overwhelmed. She just wanted to find a quiet corner to take it all in and enjoy a little comfort food.

And then she saw the menu. Sashimi, tofu, wheat grass drinks, gluten-free bread, Jones cola, sustainable berries. Nothing but pretentious New-Age foodie selections. Sugar-free, fatt-free, and taste-free.

She sighed. When she'd last been in college, it had been getting bad; but this? Right about now she'd like her jello and hotdog. Maybe she should have just stayed in the nursing home.

Opening: Angela.....Continuation: Khazar-khum


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

But, of course, that was impossible. The second she sat at the gargantuan table she fell headlong into the cavernous cereal bowl and nearly drowned.

Nearly, because the girl with the green dreadlocks tossed her a vine of hair with which to tug herself to freedom.

Geez, thought Lina, college sucks.

--Veronica Rundell

Evil Editor said...

p1: "cut off" makes me think they're in vehicles. "Chaos" and "pandemonium" aren't both needed. It's not so chaotic that people are constantly colliding, so she probably wouldn't consider a collision inevitable.

P2: strangers with metal pins sounds alien. But the sights, smells and sounds of a cafeteria doesn't strike as something that would feel alien, even to a small-town person. Not crazy about the Star Trek reference or She smiled to herself.

P3. The first and last sentences are okay, but what comes between them has nothing to do with getting lunch. Also, a town of 3000 people wouldn't be the size of a football stadium. I'd expect 50 to 100 people in that space, if they live in houses. Does the town consist of a couple high-rise apartment buildings?

Cut this to two paragraphs, one showing she's overwhelmed by the people going every which way, and one showing she tries to escape by finding a quiet corner in the cafeteria.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Third sentence: "its" not "it's".

Or should I say, it's not "it's".

In analyzing why I wouldn't read further, what I'm coming up with is that a character who's this freaked out by the experience of eating lunch in a cafeteria is probably not someone I'd want to spend a lot of time with. Coming from a small town-- I come from a considerably smaller one-- does not seem like a good enough reason. If she's an actual alien, okay, maybe.

Maybe if you did a bit more showing and less telling, or spent less time on the alienation, it would work better. Something interesting needs to happen.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Also, a town of 3000 people wouldn't be the size of a football stadium. I'd expect 50 to 100 people in that space, if they live in houses. Does the town consist of a couple high-rise apartment buildings?

Funnily, that would be a good description of the town of Whittier, Alaska. One great grey deteriorating Cold War era highrise housing almost the entire town population and, at least when I visited, the post office and store. Depressing as hell, and mind you that's by Alaskan standards.

In fact, it's celebrated in song:

There's really nothing ****tier
Than waking up in Whittier...

(Since I was there, I understand they've built a road to the town, and it may be less depressing now. If so I apologize to any offended Whittierites.)

Anonymous said...

At the end of this excerpt, this is what I know about Lina: she is from a small, unnamed town attending a gigantic unnamed university, holding a tray of generic comfort food. And, she doesn’t want to bump into anyone.

How come dreadlocks are dreadlocks but facial piercings are “metal pins decorating their faces”?

Unknown said...

I don't understand why this scene is so overwhelming for the MC. She applied the university. She should have understood a bit of the scale of the place. This anxiety doesn't seem 'anxious' it seems snarky and feels overblown.

Also, word choice feels off. Why 'university campus residency' instead of the more familiar (and economical) 'dorm'. It feels like you are using ten words when three will do, and that's hurting both voice and pacing.

Many people are upset by crouds, but would a college freshman be hoping to 'blend' or would she be looking to make a friend? It's my experience (as a student and a former college teacher) that people are looking to connect, not disconnect. It's overwhelming in an exciting way--more often than not.

Dave Fragments said...

If this were mine, I'd chop it down to a few sentences like this:

A girl with green dreadlocks and piercings cut in front ot her at the cafeteria. Lina hesitated. The noise, strangers, a flaring grill burning fat, no friendly smiles, overwhelmed.

Everything was industrial size. The university football stadium was larger than her home town. The university campus residency had a larger population than the 3000 she had come from. Hopefully, she could find a quiet corner.

Now this begs for someone to come in and either be very nice or very rude as a following sentence. Something like:
"Out of the way, squint, or we'll all starve."

Or maybe a bad pickup line:
"What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this besides not eating?"

Or possibly:
"I wouldn't have the barbecue if I were you, one of the horses died yesterday."

Something interesting, something outrageous, something to inspire the reader.

none said...

Seems to me it would make more sense, if she's going to think about tv shows or movies, to think about ones related to the experience she's going through. There've been goodness knows how many set on college campuses. She could tag a girl as Buffy or try to separate the jocks from the frat boys or whatever.

As it stands, this is very distancing. You're not inviting the reader into Lina's head but rather describing her from outside.

St0n3henge said...

Constant repetion.

"Everything felt alien to Lina." "Everything was so foreign and industrial size." "Lina was out of her element and was overwhelmed."

In three short paragraphs you state Lina's feeling of alienation explicitly three times, and imply it many more times.

In case you don't believe that this is obnoxious:

Paul drove the pick-up slowly along the dirt road. "Here Rufus! Here boy!" Rob was calling out the window.

Paul was worried. Rufus, their dog, had run away three days ago and hadn't been seen since.

The postal truck pulled up and Mr. Jerney, the mailman, called, "You folks all right?"

Rob shouted, "We're looking for Rufus!"

Mr. Jerney scratched his head. "Your dog? He missing?"

"Yes," Paul said. "He ran away three days ago and we haven't seen him since."

"Is that a fact?" Mr. Jerney said, looking up and down the road. "Well, I'll keep my eyes peeled."

"Thank you, Mr. Jerney," Paul said. "Since he's been missing for three days, we're starting to get a little worried."

The older man smiled sympathetically. "Now, don't you worry son," he said to Rob,"he's bound to come back.
"Well, I'd better be getting along. Got mail to deliver, you know." He waved as he pulled away.

"Mr. Jerney sure is a nice mailman," Rod said.

"He sure is," his father returned. "It's just too bad he hasn't seen Rufus, our dog who's been missing for three days."

Evil Editor said...

It's always nice when authors provide samples of their own mistakes to aid newbies.

Kelsey said...

I don't mind that Lina feels overwhelmed walking into her new college cafeteria--but I agree you should show more, tell less and make it clearer exactly what is frieking her out.

As Veronica pointed out, since she (presumably) chose to attend this college, I'd find it more believable if she wanted to connect with people, but didn't know where to begin (rather than wanting to eat in a quiet corner by herself right off the bat.)

What else differentiates her from the other students than just being from a small town? Did she miss all the get-to-know-you stuff in the first week and now everyone's in their own clique? Does she dress preppy and everyone else is hardcore hippy? I remember the first time I walked into a new school in a new country where I was only beginning to grasp the new language, and that was scary as hell.

Trim the fat, focus, and I also agree with Dave and Alaska that something funny/outrageous happening soon would help. I can sympathize with a character feeling overwhelmed if there's a good reason--but only for a while. They also need to do interesting things.

Anonymous said...

I didn't relate to this character at all, and I went from a rural town of 800 to a University of 35,000. I was often uncomfortable with the size of everything and felt very "other" for the first few weeks, but never to this overwhelming extent.

The repetition of the "alien" theme and her not really describing things in normal language actually did make me think she was an alien or was a human at an alien university, but in the later paragraphs, it seems that's not the case.

It's confusing and much too dramatic for what seems to be a mundane situation.