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  1. #1
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    An Excerpt - Please review if inclined

    Hello!

    I am posting a snippet of my current WIP to see what you all think. I am trying to present a clear voice for a young adult mystery. Please let me know your thoughts on the intro.

    Thanks for your time.

    Pamela


    Chapter 1

    As I looked out the dirty window of my dad’s old pick-up truck, I thought about journeys. They were funny things, journeys. I’d been on many of them, some long, some short, some good and some bad. However, before today, I'd never taken any kind of journey with my dad that I could remember. As he drove me through Boulder, I glanced at his moving mouth and thought that I should have been paying better attention. After all, this was the first real conversation I’d had with my father since maybe the age of six. Instead I studied my hands, red and cracked from the dry Colorado air. There was no denying it, I still held a grudge. My eyes drifted out the window to brown slabs of iron rising in jagged, flat shapes in front of tree-dotted mountains; I suddenly remembered the slabs were called Flatirons and finally got why.

    He continued, trying to explain why he left me so many years ago, and I continued to pretend not to care. My face twitched a little as he implied that his leaving was my mother’s idea. I knew, for sure, that wasn’t the case. I had heard her endless cries through thin walls for years after he left, interrupting what little sleep I was able to get, and I still flinched at the memory of her dead eyes each morning as I readied myself for the drudgery of middle school.

    When my mother died last spring, I had no other choice than to come live with my dad until I turned 18, in a little over twenty months; 609 days to be exact. I’d served 76 days so far leaving 533 left to go. It was to be just a blimp on my journey through life. Once 18, I planned to take the insurance money my mom left me and go to college back in Texas. I missed wet air. The air was too thin here; I could barely breathe. People looked at me like I was crazy whenever I mentioned it, but I’d gone through six large bottles of lotion in the past two-and-a-half months. How people put up with flaky skin and constant static electricity for longer than a ski vacation was a mystery to me. There was something to be said for humidity.

    Since the day he left us, I’d had little contact with my father. My mother’s bitterness towards him remained intact until her death. Death…my mind still struggled to process the word in connection with my mom, and I wondered how long it would take before I got used to her being gone.

    Again, I looked over at my dad, his hand nervously tapping the wheel, and saw his thin lips continue to move rapidly. He was probably as uncomfortable as I was about the topic. He looked different these days – older – his dark brown hair and beard were now spattered with coarser, silver strands. I looked at him and thought – how foreign this man seemed than the one my mother described over the years. Of course, I knew he wasn’t perfect when they were married, I still remembered stifling cries many nights listening to them trade insults; however, now, he was practically a saint.

    His large hands now gripped the black wheel tightly and I couldn’t decide which was worse - the old, dependably bad dad, or this new, almost perfect, version.



  2. #2
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Re: An Excerpt - Please review if inclined

    There’s a lot that rings false. The MC’s been with Dad for 76 days, and this is the first conversation? And the first journey of any kind? Don’t think so. Apparently, the MC hasn’t seen Dad for many years, yet says “He looked different these days – older…”, as if they’d been seeing each other regularly and the MC was comparing his appearance now to that of years past. Also, I doubt there’s anything this man could do to make the MC view him as “practically a saint” in the short span of 76 days.

    Get out of the MC’s head. You clutter up the scene and ramble with that internal monologue. Close the MC’s skull and put a padlock on it, then write the dialog and action between the Dad and MC. You could reveal the same information better through dialog and action.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Keith .'s Avatar
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    Re: An Excerpt - Please review if inclined

    I second John's first paragraph. Pick up Sol Stein's On Writing and pay attention to the sections on credibility and continuity.

    You have a nice YA voice that IMO has real potential.

    I disagree with John's notion of staying completely out of the MC's head. This is part of what makes your voice authentic-particularly in a YA written in 1st person. That said, he's right that your prose is very loose and many of your MC's thoughts go on for a sentence too long. Moreover, be careful about drifting into tangents. The YA and MG mind drifts big-time, so I can see you thinking you should write it that way. But you must stay focused on issues that move the plot and keep your internal monologue related to the business at hand.

    By the third graph, I think you're giving too much info too soon and my eyes started to glaze over. Work this info into the story at a slower pace and keep things moving. My opinion. Luck.
    km
    ________________________________________________

    People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent.
    - Bob Dylan

  4. #4
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    Re: An Excerpt - Please review if inclined

    My eyes drifted
    I suddenly remembered
    My face twitched
    I still flinched
    I readied myself
    I could barely breathe
    my mind still struggled
    hand nervously tapping
    thin lips continue to move
    I still remembered
    hands now gripped

    Do you see the problem? Entirely too much of this stuff in such a short section.

  5. #5
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    Re: An Excerpt - Please review if inclined

    Is this better?

    -----------
    I looked out the dirty window of my dad’s old pick-up truck and thought about journeys. They were funny things, journeys. I’d been on many of them, some long, some short, some good and some bad. I realized then that I'd taken very few journeys with my father.

    He was next to me now, telling me his version of the past, and I knew I should have been paying better attention. This was a rarity – him bringing up the taboo subject. Instead I studied my hands, red and cracked from the dry Colorado air. There was no denying I still held a grudge.

    “It was ultimately your mother’s decision that I leave, Anna. I wanted to stay,” he said. “I wanted to come get you, even before she went down-hill, but she wouldn’t budge. She had full custody.”

    That sounded like her, keeping me out of spite. I turned my attention to brown slabs of iron rising in jagged, flat shapes in front of tree-dotted mountains. He continued talking, and I continued pretending not to care. I suddenly remembered the jagged-edged slabs were called Flatirons and finally got why.

    “When she died, I cried. I’m not sure if you knew that. But I did.”

    Dusty air infiltrated my lungs. The air was too thin here. I could barely breathe. I missed the wet air of Texas. People looked at me like I was crazy whenever I mentioned it, but I’d gone through six large bottles of lotion in the past two-and-a-half months. How people put up with flaky skin and constant static electricity for longer than a ski vacation was a mystery to me. There was something to be said for humidity.

    “Leaving you behind was the biggest mistake of my life. I hope, in time, you'll forgive me.”

    I turned then to look at him, and thought how foreign this man seemed than the one my mother described over the years. His large hands gripped the black wheel and I couldn’t decide which was worse - the old, dependably bad dad, or this new, almost perfect, version.

  6. #6
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    Re: An Excerpt - Please review if inclined

    John Oberon Wrote:
    -------------------------------------------------------
    > There’s a lot that rings false. The MC’s been
    > with Dad for 76 days, and this is the first
    > conversation?

    The excerpt doesn't say "first conversation," it says, "first REAL conversation." To me, at least, that means this is the first time that they've tried to discuss anything serious as compared to shallow, trivial small-talk, or simple discussions such as what to have for dinner.

  7. #7
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    Re: An Excerpt - Please review if inclined

    Thanks.

    That is what I meant. They had avoided the topic of anything serious up till this point.

    What do you think about the rewrite?

  8. #8
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    Re: An Excerpt - Please review if inclined

    The rewrite is much easier to read. However, comparing the two does leave me with one question: was this the first journey with her father or just one of very few. Either is OK, and you don't need to change it because one person here doesn't like it. Remember, going to the market, or on a day's fishing trip isn't a journey unless you're a recluse who almost never leaves home. If your original idea is that this is the first time the two of them were going on a real trip, leave it that way unless you have a good reason to change it.

  9. #9
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    Re: An Excerpt - Please review if inclined

    This last one sounds good to me, Pamela -- for what that's worth.

    Nice to see you zapped "I still remembered stifling cries many nights listening to them trade insults; however, now, he was practically a saint." Maybe it was the saint word. Sounded too Catholic-y to me or something. Doesn't mean much to get that so-called esteemed title these days, anyway; there's gotta be zillions of them by now. To which I say bullbleep, but that's just my opinion.

    I liked this: “When she died, I cried. I’m not sure if you knew that. But I did.”

    It reminded me of my own rather strained relationship with my dad. He wasn't able to show affection very well, but I was really touched the day he said goodbye to me at the train station lo those many years ago. I was on my way to New York to seek whatever it is small-town girls from the Midwest seek in the City of Many Challenges. He didn't look at me when he said, "Pearl at the bank thinks you look like a movie star." I felt like crying. Somehow I knew it was the best way he could show "love." And it was okay.

    *_*

  10. #10
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    Re: An Excerpt - Please review if inclined

    Thank you for sharing that, Kitty. Beautifully written as well.

    Joe Z. - I will think about what you said. Maybe my first instinct was better - about the first REAL conversation. I think that does better convey the heaviness of this particular conversation. Every conversation since she had arrived in CO was surface-level only, nothing this deep.

    Thanks to everyone for sharing their insights. I truly appreciate it.

    One question - how was the voice? I've been working on getting the voice of this sixteen-year-old character right. She's guarded, a little disappointed in life so far - jaded. However, by the end of the book, she is at complete peace. When reading this piece, I know it's short, does the voice resonate? Any advice on voice?

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