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  1. #1
    Janet Ford

    Book Opening - Opinions?

    This is the opening I've written for my non-fiction novel - "Love You To Pieces". I'd appreciate any responses any of you would be willing to take the time to make.

    For those of you who don't already know, this is a memoir of sorts of my life with my abusive (now deceased) husband. I've started it by introducing him at the point where he had come into my life.

    Mid way through the school year a tall, mysterious, dark haired boy came to our school. He was in the 9th grade, same as me.

    For once, I wasn’t the new kid.
    He was.

    David was slightly cross-eyed in his left eye which made someone with his large, 6’4” frame look rather intimidating especially given the fact he refused to smile and always had such a stern expression on his face.

    Nobody wanted to talk to this quiet stranger. My heart went out to him. I understood what it was like to be the new kid. Oh boy, did I know! I had already attended nine different public schools by the time I had entered high school. It always seemed that my Dad couldn’t make up his mind what type of business he wanted to operate; a propane company, an apartment complex, two different variety stores, an auto parts store and now farming.

    I tried my hardest to convince my best friend Sarah of what it was like being the new kid and not having anyone talk to you.

    “That’s why he looks so unhappy, Sarah. Someone just needs to start talking to him instead of avoiding him all the time. That’s just mean.”

    She spun back towards me and retorted as she waved her arms as if shooing me away. “Go ahead. You go talk to him then, I’m sure not going to. Something about him makes me way too nervous. I’m not going to talk to him.”

    Good grief, I was as shy as they come and she wanted me to approach someone out of the blue like that? A guy? No way!

    “I can’t just go up there and start talking to him by myself. What am I supposed to say?”

    Sarah snickered and offered me five dollars in dare money if I would at least go up and say hello to him in the hallway. “A direct hello. And you have to stand there and wait for him to say it back to you.” She ordered.

    She had me. Now I just had to do it! And come to think of it, Sarah still owes me that five dollars!

  2. #2
    zeplin 44

    Re: Book Opening - Opinions?

    Do you place any value on accuracy?

    Moved 9 times by high school. Isn't that an awful lot of moving? Most military families don't move that much.

    Her father keeps switching businesses because he can't make up his mind which type he likes. This is very doubtful given the wide variety you name in the story, unless her father is a business paragon.

  3. #3
    Janet Ford

    Re: Book Opening - Opinions?

    Yes, I am a stickler for accuracy. I even sat with my Mom over this one to get an accurate count of the times we moved. Each school I went to I had kids as me if my Dad was military. But the reality was that he had such an entruprenurial hunger that he just wanted to try his hand at everything. It started in Montague, Mi with 'Putnam Gas' propane company that my grandma co-owned with him to get him going. When that went belly up a few years later, he just kept trying the self employed way of life. He seemed to just fall into some of them; like the apartment building. He met the owner who was really upset because the winter storms had caused all the water lines to freeze which then even broke all the toilets. (it was an empty building at the time of course). My Dad practically stole the place since the guy wanted to unload it so bad. Dad fixed it up and started renting it out. He learned the hard way not to rent to family when he let his younger sister rent one of them... that's a long story but between that and other things decided it was time to move on.
    He owned 'The Budget Center' in Ludington, Mi (a variety discount store quite similar to the Dollar General type stores today)... the list goes on... but each one could be verified if you wanted to take the time to look.
    Certainly not the norm, that's for sure but I assure you that it is quite accurate. And the way it was stated as ' It always seemed that my Dad couldn’t make up his mind what type of business he wanted to operate' remember is not saying that was why but how I felt when I was young (and resentful I may add).

  4. #4
    Janet Ford

    Re: Book Opening - Opinions?

    Would it be better for the book if I were to say 'several times' instead of using the actual number? And then maybe say something of my Dad's entreprenurial hunger vs the actual business's he ran? My Dad is pretty much a book in himself and I really don't want to have to go into wild (boring) ramblings about all his adventures nor do I want the reader to question me as Zeplin points out to me could happen if I don't explain it. I don't want to have to explain it. It would be distracting and other than right here, it has no bearing on my book.

    delete... delete... delete...
    how on earth will I get back up to 42K words when I'm deleting like a mad woman the last few weeks... *grin*

  5. #5
    zeplin 44

    Re: Book Opening - Opinions?

    Sorry, I skipped over the top 2 paragraphs and went to the story. I was reading it as a fiction piece.

    Still, that's a lot of moving and a lot of businesses. I wonder if a reader would find it believable in light of recent events wherein a few writers have been caught representing fiction as non-fiction.

  6. #6
    Anthony Ravenscroft

    Re: Book Opening - Opinions?

    Zeppy, you're off the mark here.

    Nowhere did she say that so many moves for a military family are common, much less the norm. Back in the 1960s, IBM moved its fast-rising executives that much without a blink; it was consider by all parties to be a sign of promotability, of being "a company man." When I was a kid, my granddad was stationed in Germany, Florida, Japan, Hawaii, Korea, & Fort Knox -- to the best of my memory, as he died when I was 12.

    And I know plenty of people who thrash around in small business, certain that they're going to "catch a break" with the next one, where all they're doing is taking their small profits (if any) into a short of shell game that overall isn't as profitable as a savings account.

    But if you've got stats &/or experience as a military brat or sociologist, or development counselor or Chamber rep, please present cogent facts rather than unfounded opinion.

  7. #7
    zeplin 44

    Re: Book Opening - Opinions?

    I could very well be off the mark but I think it is quite unusual for someone in a non-military/government family to have moved this many times and to have operated this many different businesses.

    Usually, a business owner sticks to one type of business because he knows that particular business.

  8. #8
    gulliver h

    Re: Book Opening - Opinions?

    I don't see what the big deal is here. So they moved a lot. To me this is not nearly as concerning as some of the sentence construction and dialogue, which just reads and stilted and odd to me. And there's no real segue either, it just jumps into a scene without warning. So the read overall for me, is really jumpy and strange. That's what I'd focus on first.

  9. #9
    Ray Veen

    Re: Book Opening - Opinions?

    Janet, what year did you live in Montague? I graduated there in '89.

    As for your excerpt, this is just me talking, but I'd like to see something that sets the scene. Are they in a classroom or a crowded hallway? Aside from that, you write well and I'd say you're off to a promising start.

  10. #10
    Janice W-D

    Re: Book Opening - Opinions?

    I'd keep the number of moves in & give a few specific businesses (not all) that your Dad tried out because it's a vital part of your story. From what I've read here and in your other posts, the lack of stability in your home life influenced your decision to befriend, marry & stay with an abusive man. That's true of many women who pick Mr. Wrong. When I was married to my first husband, we moved eight times in four years and he changed jobs every few months.

    Not everyone will relate to your experiences, particularly the handful of folks out there who had a happy childhood, but there are tons of people who are walking in your old shoes & reading your memoir may give them the boost they need to save themselves.

    You might need to start your story a bit earlier, SHOW an argument you had with your mom or dad about how you hated having to start your life over every 15 seconds ... Let the reader get to know you a bit so they'll find it very believable that you'd try to befriend the guy your girlfriend thought was creepy or whatever.

    Ummm, just re-read your post--there's no such thing as a non-fiction novel. Novels are fiction. If you change anything or make anything up totally from scratch, its a novel. Otherwise, you should call the type of book you're writing a memoir--which is nonfiction but you don't call it a nonfiction memoir either, just memoir.

    I rarely do in-depth crits here anymore because I'm currently content editing a 3 book project for a writing acquaintance, in addition to running 2 face-to-face crit groups. I gotta have a break & clear my head or I'll slack off on my own writing projects.

    WritersNet is a great place to get feedback on short pieces, queries, etc. but I'd strongly suggest that you look for a regular critique group. You have lots of options--joining an online or face-to-face group, or forming your own.

    Good luck,

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