Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mini Are You Hooked #13

TITLE: HALFWAY TO ANYWHERE
GENRE: Literary Fiction

ARI

Tonight was meatloaf. It was quiet and just our forks.

Then Mom said, "I'm going to give her a call later."

Dad said, "Didn't you just talk to her?"

Mom said, "That was two days ago."

Dad didn't answer.

Mom said, "What's your point, Lev?"

Dad said, "These challenges...
well, they're par for the course to adulthood, aren't they? Maybe a little space would help her find her way."

That was about Steffi. I looked at her chair that no one is in it. It is an empty place and just three people now.

Mom said, "I hardly think I'm being overbearing."

Dad said, "I know, hon. I didn't say you were."

Mom said, "I'll just say hello and check in. It's not like I'm demanding to know what color her socks are, or, or, what she had for lunch."

Dad said, "Okay."

Mom said, "There's nothing wrong with being supportive."

Dad said, "Okay, Celie."

I said, "Is Steffi an adult?"

Mom said, "What?"

I said, "Dad said adulthood. Is she an adult?"

Mom said, "In my opinion, eighteen years old is still very much a part of adolescence."

Dad said, "Some would argue adolescence is an art fact."

I said, "What is that?"

Dad said, "It's something people make. Like tools, or-"

Mom made her voice loud and said, "Until Stephanie graduates from college and gets a job, she is not an adult."

I used to be the one in the higher grade, before my extra years.

18 comments:

  1. I was hooked until the last sentence, which I didn't really understand. Extra years? Higher grade?

    Of course, it does make me curious, which would make me want to keep reading as long as it was purposely ambiguous and it was explained fairly soon after this excerpt.

    Also, I get the point, but so many short sentences in a row tend to bother me.

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  2. You don't need at the "said" attributes. It's quite off-putting and hard to read.

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  3. The he said, she said tags need to be removed. It chops the writing to bits to the point I couldn't get into it.

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  4. You've certainly gave me some questions that I'd like answered by reading more. I really wonder what's going on and what's going to happen.

    I do wonder about your choice of the "Mom said" "Dad said" taglines on every line of dialogue. Is this a concious decision that will be made clear to us later on? If not, I think you may want to use fewer taglines as well as add in some more action. What do Mom and Dad look like, what are their facial reactions that they're having during this discussion.

    I'd love to read some more!

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  5. I know you're going for an effect with the "Dad said" and "Mom said" but it interferes with the reading so much that I had to remove the to follow what was going along.

    Remember that non-standard elements are like Sichuan peppercorns, a little goes a long long way, and if put in too much, it'll take the taste right out of your mouth.

    Aside from that, I think I would have liked to have seen the empty chair before the dialog starts. It makes the dialog much more interesting.

    Other than that, it works. As the others have said, the ending is a hook.

    Nit pick: The phrase "these challenges" doesn't feel quite right. I can't tell what it means. If it turns out to just mean that Steffi has been doing things to challenge her family (in a regular adolescent way) then this phrasing doesn't work for me. It gives me this science fiction feel - like there are official "challenges" that Steffi has to go through to read adulthood. (But this is really nitpicking.)

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  6. Do you mean "artifact"? Is the narrator supposed to be naively misunderstanding this?

    "I looked at her chair that no one is in it. It is an empty place and just three people now." The repetition here actually weakened the sentiment for me. Just "I look at her empty chair" would have done it.

    I'm not hooked partly because the topic is only mildly interesting to me and partly because of the distracting overuse of dialog tags that others have mentioned. (And I did also wonder if you were deliberately going for a tone with that, but it's still a bit annoying.)

    Oh, wait, does the narrator have Down's or some other mental handicap? That would explain the repetition, too.

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  7. I thought the story had potential, but the dialogue ping pong match distracted me too much for me to stay focused on the story. Otherwise, I was intrigued and wanted to read more.

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  8. By the end, I was starting to get the idea that the narrator was developmentally disabled in some way. It's an interesting hook, and I wonder if it could be woven in a little earlier. I like the misunderstanding of "artifact" as "art fact."

    I do wonder if the question of whether Mom will call Steffi has enough tension to pull us onward. Maybe the narrator's parents could be discussing her instead, or maybe you can give the narrator a stake in the outcome of this conversation... maybe she's longing to talk to Steffi too.

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  9. The dialogue tags were very distracting. I'd have to say that I'm not hooked by this. I think that you could be more descriptive with the tension surrounding the question of Steffi's adulthood, and why it would matter so much to your narrator.

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  10. If I was to be honest, I got as far as the 3rd Mom said and then passed. I didn't even finish so I can for sure tell you, you did not get me hooked. Sorry.

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  11. Okay. I'm sort-of hooked.
    This character is a bit unusual (which can be a great thing) and I'm curious to find out who he/she is and why they have this kind of (robotic?) voice.
    The 'extra years' comment throws me, but again, I'm curious.
    Good job :)

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  12. Sorry, not hooked. I felt like there was too much dialog right off the bat. I need a little bit of description to feel grounded int he scene. As it stands right now, I don't have any connection with any of the characters.

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  13. I liked the idea of your story, but the "Mom said", "Dad said", "I said" format was a turn off.

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  14. I am mildly hooked. The he said, she said could potentially work, if you added little bits of filler in between.

    I did wonder, however, when reading whether it was a young adult novel or not. The final sentence finally brought enlightenment, but I wonder if it's safe to let your adult reader wonder about the narrator for that long. I might suggest playing with the placement of that sentence and see if it works earlier on.

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  15. Um ... nothing here really makes me care about these characters yet. The staccato writing style and odd "He said, she said" set-up is interesting enough that I would turn the page to see where the author is going with it, but I'm sensing that style might get old quite fast.

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  16. Not hooked--actually I gave up reading after the first few lines, as this isn't really my favourite writing style.

    Dialogue-heavy scenes can work really well, but either the dialogue needs to be very strong/tense, which, to be entirely honest, I don't think this is, or the characters need to be way more established than they are right now. The tense-shifting also threw me off.

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  17. Author here. Thanks so much for your help. Here's a possible revision (243 words). If anyone's still around and you want to let me know whether this reads better (or not), please feel free. THANK YOU!

    ARI

    Tonight was meatloaf. It was quiet and just our forks.

    Then Mom said, “I’m going to give her a call.”

    Dad didn’t answer.

    Mom said, “What?”

    Dad said, “These challenges…well, they’re par for the course to adulthood, don’t you think? Maybe she just needs a little space to find her way.”

    That was about Steffi. I looked at her chair that no one is in it. It is an empty place and just three people now.

    Mom put down her glass and did a sigh. She said, “I hardly think I’m being overbearing.”

    Dad said, “I know, hon. I didn’t say you were.”

    Mom said, “It’s not like I’m demanding to know what color her socks are, or, or, what she had for lunch.”

    Dad said, “Okay, Celie.”

    I said, “Is Steffi an adult?”

    Mom looked at me. She said, “Why
    do you ask?”

    I said, “Dad said adulthood.”

    Mom said, “In my opinion, eighteen years old is still very much a part of adolescence.”

    Dad said, “Some would argue adolescence is an art fact.”

    I didn’t know “art fact.” I said, “What is that?”

    Dad said, “It’s anything made by humans. Like tools, or-”

    Mom made her voice loud and said, “Until Stephanie graduates from college and gets a job, she’s not an adult.”

    I said, “Oh. That’s what I thought too.”

    I used to be the one in the higher grade, before my extra years. Some people didn’t believe that.

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  18. The last paragraph raised story questions for me. The rest can be condensed or even eliminated. I'm not intrigued by a dinner conversation about a person not there.

    But then, it's only one opinion.

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