Tuesday, May 26, 2009

#18 1000 Words

TITLE: Apple of Discord
GENRE: YA/MG



On the way to the funeral Mom said, “The strange thing is, although we were inseparable through school, I haven’t even thought much about her since graduation day. Here we were, living in the same town all this time.” Later, as Victoria watched her slowly approach the coffin—just like in the movies where the weeping widow clutches a hankie to cover her distorted crying mouth and dripping nose, except Mom’s wasn’t a hankie it was a wadded up cluster of toilet paper—she wondered if the tears were real. They were technically real, but were they tears of sadness or regret? Victoria would have laughed if her insides weren’t tied in knots.

Victoria had only been to a few funerals, but it shocked her to see people giggling. You never see a person laugh at a funeral on film—it just doesn’t fit the dramatic sensibility. In the movies, everyone had appropriately teary eyes and slightly red noses. Maybe they were trying to cheer up the bereaved, but it struck her as a little tacky. Maybe they just didn’t know the dead woman very well. Or maybe they just came to be seen. But right there, during the wake, only moments after she was bawling over her friend, her Mom was laughing with a small group of women. Victoria’s cheeks burned. Adjusting her velvet scarf to hide her face a bit, she tried to back away gracefully so as not to attract any attention, but she might as well have been waving a flag. Mrs. Manning called her over. All she could do was flee.

She just didn’t understand this woman who claimed to be her mother. How could she turn her back on her friends! How could she live for years—Years!—in the same town as an old friend and lose contact? How could she…

Suddenly, the reason her innards were twisted revealed itself to her like death dropping his awful cloak.

Could this happen to me? Pushing through the crowd of black mothball-smelling suits she thrust myself out the funeral parlor’s doors. She was blasted by the sudden cold and the realization.

Could this happen to me?

Is that what happens to friends in the end? They just go their separate ways and die off alone, one by one?

Images of her friends swirled through her head. Kira Williams, with her rough edges and uncanny insight; Rose Finan with her gushing sweetness; and Maggie Kavanagh the most brilliant girl at Bethany Middle School. These were her best friends—now and forever! They became friends in the beginning of this school year when some jerks pulled a bunch of pranks on them. They ruined Victoria’s hair, destroyed Maggie’s food drive, nearly got Kira kicked out of school, and kidnapped Rose—but that’s a story for another time. These pranks forged their friendship in fire. They would never stop being friends! Never!

Mom’s voice echoed in her head again—“…we just lost touch.” Could friendship really be this fragile? She couldn’t imagine anything coming between her and her friends. Not EPIC, not graduation, nothing!

EPIC was the ultra-exclusive group of popular girls. Ella, Payton, Ivy, and Chloe created the idiotic label by putting together the first initials of their names. Victoria gagged every time she thought of it. They were popular because they were perfect—perfect faces, perfect bodies, perfect families—and they used their popularity to get whatever they wanted. They weren’t afraid to crush others in the process. But they were friends. They were inseparable.

Would EPIC just drift away and stop talking to each other after school? She just couldn’t imagine it. They would probably all go to the same college—Harvard or something—and be stuck with each other. She couldn’t fathom EPIC not being EPIC anymore. Or even the Ambitious Girls—they had been friends for years already. How could people just stop being friends?

Kira called them the “Ambitious Girls” because they were in awe of EPIC. They swarmed around the popular girls like mosquitoes, showing them their new outfits for approval, buying them treats at lunch, which EPIC would never eat, lest they spoil their perfect figures. Everyone knew that EPIC secretly loved the attention, so while they would swat the Ambitious Girls down, they’d do it gently. The goal of every Ambitious Girl was to become a part of EPIC, and everyone knew that would never happen. Ever. No one would ever break into EPIC’s group. It was like one of those hidden beauty geek girl vs. popular girls movies, except without the makeover and the happy ending. In the past, a few girls here and there had been taken in by EPIC, and then chewed up and spit out like nasty old gum. But no one ever really became their true friend. The Ambitious Girls were forced to stick together. Would they just fall apart too?

Puffy eyelids threatened to swallow her green eyes, and her caramel skin somehow looked pale. She forced herself to stare into the swirling snow, refusing to let any more tears fall.

“We all went away to different colleges and the letters and calls between us just fizzled out,” Mom had said. But Mom never had a friendship like hers. They were bonded together by hardships.

Victoria pulled her fingers through her cropped chocolate colored hair. Last fall it had been long and crazy, until someone had put glue and dye into her hairspray, turning her hair an awful sticky green. It looked like a stalk of broccoli sticking out of her head. Devastated when she practically had to shave her head, the girls had helped her through it. Now that her hair was growing out, it actually looked better. The curls seemed much more cooperative than they used to be. The cold got to be too much, and she could only stand outside pouting for so long before Mom would get worried and cause a scene.

17 comments:

Jessie17 said...

I wish I could say this grabbed me because I really like the title, but it falls a little flat for me. You harp a lot on the friendship and Victoria not being like her mom. Your audience will get it without being told over and over. And there's a lot of background up front about EPIC and the Abitious girls. It was sort of overload for me. I wasn't connected enough to Victoria to want to know about the other girls yet. That's probably the main thing I would change - help you're reader relate to Victoria first before anything else.

Cynthia said...

The first paragraph started well, but fell for me with the sentence beginning with "Later..." As a reader I wanted something inbetween the car ride and already being at the funeral. Perhaps if you put just a little bit of Victoria's character before she's at the funeral it would have worked better for me. I've been editing my ms as well and it's a lot more fun than I ever thought it would be. Good luck!

The Screaming Guppy said...

This confused me. --> “Victoria would have laughed if her insides weren’t tied in knots.”

Because of the next paragraph, where Victoria is made because her mom is laughing…but she wants to laugh?


“Suddenly, the reason her innards were twisted revealed itself to her like death dropping his awful cloak.” <-- This is very melodramatic to me.

“Not EPIC, not graduation, nothing!” <-- Ok, so you drop this line. Then you go on to make it sound like Victoria doesn’t like these girls in EPIC. Yet…why would this be the thing that she thinks of or cares about right now? Then you go on to talk about another group of girls Victoria isn’t a part of. Shouldn’t she be thinking about her friends and what will happen to them? Not all this stuff about other girls and clicks?

“Puffy eyelids threatened to swallow her green eyes, and her caramel skin somehow looked pale. She forced herself to stare into the swirling snow, refusing to let any more tears fall.” <-- The description of her face like this takes me out of her head. She wouldn’t think of herself in these terms, and we spend the whole of this section inside her head and emotions.

“ “We all went away to different colleges and the letters and calls between us just fizzled out,” Mom had said. But Mom never had a friendship like hers. They were bonded together by hardships.” <-- Ok, this could work – if you hadn’t spent three paragraphs talking about friendships that don’t involve Victoria.

“Victoria pulled her fingers through her cropped chocolate colored hair. Last fall it had been long and crazy, until someone had put glue and dye into her hairspray, turning her hair an awful sticky green. It looked like a stalk of broccoli sticking out of her head. Devastated when she practically had to shave her head, the girls had helped her through it. Now that her hair was growing out, it actually looked better. The curls seemed much more cooperative than they used to be. The cold got to be too much, and she could only stand outside pouting for so long before Mom would get worried and cause a scene.” <-- Again with the removal of the MC’s head to describe how she looks in too much detail (in my opinion). Also, I feel like this doesn’t continue with the thoughts of the rest of the chapter. It jars me out the reading at the end.

Overall, this isn’t working for me. But, I’m not your target audience at all. Regardless, this seems a little over the top emotion wise. I understand this is supposed to be a middle schooler, but it still just seems very melodramatic to me. Again, this could very well be a taste thing on my part.

My biggest gripe, aside from taste issues, is the time spent on girls who aren’t Victoria’s friends in a section of inner turmoil about the fear of losing friendships over time, like her mother did.

pebbleintx said...

Not hooked, this paragraph really confused me.

Could this happen to me? Pushing through the crowd of black mothball-smelling suits she thrust myself out the funeral parlor’s doors. She was blasted by the sudden cold and the realization.

"she trust myself out the funeral parlor's doors." ????

Anonymous said...

Too much of this is past tense. I think that's why many are having trouble with interest.

Try to see if you can cut some description yet still convey the same feeling.

Is the hair color incident important to the story. If not, don't go into the history.

Anonymous said...

I started but couldn't see the point.
Really what you are describing here is a dilemma. The moment when she realises mortality. That means that all of the stuff before this is where the hook should be. It's almost like starting with a shadow and then describing who it belongs to if you get my meaning?
It's very long-winded. I think you really need to go to the library and pick out as many books as you can and study that first opening.

Here are a couple:
Daphne de Maurier's Rebecca...

"Last night I dreamed I went to Manderlay again." - this is inferring some foreboding. Both the author (and subsequently Alfred Hitchcock) hit the foreboding nail on the head. And why Hictchcock stuck pretty close to the original story.

A second good example is the beginning of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."
This sentence establishes a motive for the ensuing activities as a mother struggles to overcome obstacles to get her daughters married - and it's consequences. We glimpse into the glass ball to get a taste of what is to come. It sets the mood, and when you think of it, a novel written all those many many decades ago, the more good writing changes, the more good writing stays the same.
I have no problem with the first sentence here - but it is totally unrelated to it's purpose - which is her dilemma. Therefore you should start with the action and weave the detail through it. The beginning is really:

on the realisation of her dilemma.

Hope this helps. Good luck.

Susanne said...

Sorry, not hooked. This just goes on without really doing anything. It should be cut down to about a tenth the length. The reason I think I'm not hooked, length aside, is that I don't see the issue or conflict. Is this about her problems with her mother? Problems with school and/or the various cliques? Cut it down and perhaps that will move it along. Good luck.

macaronipants said...

I have to echo what others have said. The funeral feels contrived for the sake of having your MC ponder her friendships. And she doesn't do it in any meaningful way. The beginning needs plot, but you also have to establish what is underneath. What is the driving force that motivates your character through the plot? What inner conflict is she fighting? I get no sense of that here. Pondering the loss of friendships over time isn't a dilemma, it's a realization. Conflict is what drives the story, realizations are destination points along the way. Think in terms of cause and effect. If your mc is thinking about how she might have taken her friends for granted and then realizes how easily those strings can be cut, this is a good realization. But it needs leading up to with behavior showing the reader how your mc takes her friends for granted. Even that isn't enough to drive an entire novel, but it's somewhere to begin.

One thing that helped me was to sit down and read the first chapter of at least fifty books in my genre. I've since read hundreds more. But that first time, I spent a day at the library and took notes on what worked. Study the conventions of your genre. Pick either YA or MG, it can't be both.

JohnO said...

This didn't work for me, but I think it could have ... if you'd separate mom from daughter.

I felt like the scene at the funeral should have stood on its own, almost as a prologue. Then the analysis of middle school should be separate.

Also, some mechanical things. When you start by quoting Mom, I was expecting first-person POV, and then it took a while to understand that Victoria is actually the protagonist.

Also, I'd end the first graf with the quote. That's customary.

"the reason her innards were twisted revealed itself to her like death dropping his awful cloak." I tripped over this phrase.

The analysis of all the girls introduces too many people too fast. Think of it like a play: you're bringing all of these people on stage, and the audience has to figure out who they are. If you bring on one or two, it's easy. If you bring on Kira, Rose, Maggy, Ella, Payton, Ivy, Chloe in addition to Victoria, her mom and Mrs. Manning ... that's a crowded stage.

texcat said...

Not hooked, sorry.

I couldn't get the point. What does Victoria want that might be hard to get? Or why is it sooooo important she not lose whichever friendship she's wanting to keep.

Sometimes, you've just got to get direct with the MC's goal and conflict.

And then watch your writing and grammar--I saw some incorrect verb tenses that confused me a little and sometimes imagery is distracting.

In groups and Outcasts are always of interest to middle school kids, so keep working.

Tricia said...

I interpreted the funeral as a setup for a girl to reminisce her friendships and lead in to her story of high school conflict. Then after reading the other critters it looks as if there are many interpretations and confusements as to the story question.

I think once you apply the suggestions of the above critters it will be less confusing.

Dominique said...

From your first sentence, I think this would be a first-person narration, but then it wasn't. That threw me off.

"Suddenly, the reason her innards were twisted revealed itself to her like death dropping his awful cloak." That struck me as a bit purple and over dramatic.

'Could this happen to me? Pushing through the crowd of black mothball-smelling suits she thrust myself out the funeral parlor’s doors. She was blasted by the sudden cold and the realization.

Could this happen to me?" Redundant

The paragraph about her friends reads a little obvious, like you're desperately trying to tell me about her friends, so I'll recognize them later.

Graduation? How old is she? Should she already have realized that sometimes people grow apart if she's old enough to graduate?

When I read the title, I thought of Greek mythology, and was really psyched. Then I got let down. Is there mythology in this, or is it something else entirely that I can't see coming?

Janine said...

I agree with the others--not hooked yet. Clarifying the central conflict would help. Too much information and so far the situation feels contrived to throw this backstory at us. Some voice/tense/grammar issues. IMO, keep us in scene better. Maybe even bring one of her best friends to the funeral--then you could have a real reason for Victoria to be so worried. She and her friend could even talk about it. Esp. if that is the central conflict; dealing with friendship through changes.

Luc2 said...

There's some stuff that intrigues me, and some good writing, but IMO, a hook is missing. There's a lot of teenage angst, and some info-dumping, but the MC isn't doing much in the form of action or reaction to grab ny attention. It's okay to convey the sense of a character in thought, but action is so much more defining, even in little things.
What I do like is how she is at a age that she still expects/hopes things to be like in the movies. That was well conveyed.

I hope this helps. use what you want, ignore the rest.

Anonymous said...

Ditto on the info-dumping but I like the realization of her own mortality--it's very human. Make it about HER mortality though, not an excuse to tell us about her friends and the popular girls etc.

Cat said...

Hi,

although I liked the voice I wasn't hooked. And that is due to too much backstory. There is an excellent post on this problem by Kristin Nelson over at Pub Rants.

I think the scene would flow much better if you cut the backstory and move it in smaller bits to later scenes.

I hope this helps,
Cat

Cheryl S said...

Comments without reading above

I thought we were off to a promising start with the funeral and was interested in how that would develop, but then it changed to a BFF/girl clique story and I lost interest.

There needed to be a stronger hook than people change and lose contact for me to keep reading.



This clause jarred. Not sure what was meant here
she thrust myself out the funeral parlor’s doors.

Not hooked. sorry