Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July Secret Agent #24

TITLE: Bitter Like Orange Peel
GENRE: Literary Women's Fiction

His head is ripped off. In that photograph. Of him. Kit spots it buried among four years worth of undergraduate essays; the photo she stole from her half-sister Ivy, and misplaced in an effort to keep safe.

She drags her bottom dresser drawer out too far. The stiff wood clunks as it slips out of its casing and hits the floor with a thud. Sitting cross-legged and naked on the hot itchy carpet, she stares at the photograph--at five-year-old Ivy's carefree grin and trusting arms wrapped around her father's knees. A drop of sweat tickles Kit's crotch. She scratches herself and wipes her wet fingers on the carpet beside her thigh as she stares at her father's hand placed delicately on the top of Ivy's head, and Ivy's sideways and upward glance toward his non-existent face. Kit touches the top of her own head, trying to imagine what his touch may have felt like, what it would have been like to be Ivy those twenty-five years ago, before she was even born.

She stands. Her knees crack. They've cracked ever since she fell off her bicycle when she was six and the rubber seat ruptured her hymen. She rubs her left hand on her thigh to dislodge the tiny beige pebbles that have embedded themselves into her palm. Stupid new garden path. She leans the photo against her bedside lamp, where her four-year old self drew a wobbly shape of a rainbow with blue biro onto the cream parchment. It's still there.

27 comments:

  1. I like this one because it's a good mix of description, action, and introspection. It sets up some decent amount of backstory, without telling it via a bunch of exposition.

    Well done.

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  2. I love how descriptive you are. I felt as if I was staring at the picture with her. I'm very curious to why his head is ripped off.

    Though I've never been one to read Literary fiction this definitely has me interested! :)

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  3. I really like this. There are some great lines here: "She drags her bottom dresser drawer out too far. The stiff wood clunks as it slips out of its casing and hits the floor with a thud."
    and "She rubs her left hand on her thigh to dislodge the tiny beige pebbles that have embedded themselves into her palm."

    The language builds to establish the tone of the work, gives us the necessary details to pull the reader in, and also hints at the sinister relationship. The word choice here is working on a number of levels. We get a great sense of character, setting and tension right away. Great job.

    A few thoughts: I would love to see the first line include the recognition of "him" as the father. This comes in the next paragraph, but I don't see any reason to withhold the info. Because the writing is good, sentences that could be tightened stand out. This one is a bit unclear and could be refined: "Kit touches the top of her own head, trying to imagine what his touch may have felt like, what it would have been like to be Ivy those twenty-five years ago, before she was even born." I understand what it is saying, but I had to read it twice to figure out "before she was even born" was referring to.

    The title is good too, very intriguing.
    Good luck with this!

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  4. I LOVE the opening line of this piece. It compels me to keep reading...and once inside the sample, I can say yes, yes I AM hooked. The details are amazing, and bring to life the scene, but more importantly, the character. I'm also a big fan of the title - this alone would intrigue me. Good work!

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  5. Fantastic opening - pulled me in right away. There's a lot of detail here to ground me in the scene, although I might suggest paring it back ever so slightly. I love the short sentences.

    Very powerful.

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  6. I enjoyed this! The first line grabbed me, and the descriptive imagery and vivid characterizations hooked me over and over through to the sample's end. I thought these lines were effective: "A drop of sweat tickles Kit's crotch." and "...she fell off her bicycle when she was six and the rubber seat ruptured her hymen." They set a tone that promises an intimate ride alongside this already interesting character. And that's a ride I'd willingly embark on!

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  7. You have a beautiful way with words :-)

    The first paragraph in particular. Hooked!

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  9. Much food for thought here. I like that different folks might read a different "back story" into this vignette. It also reads like a poem. I can almost smell the stuffiness of the room and the sadness of this girl seems a thick and heavy thing.

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  10. wow, very vivid. I agree with the above- a lot said in so little time and you can't help but be intrigued by Ivy and her past. Bravo!

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  11. Like others have said, this is a powerful piece and one that had me hooked from the very first sentence. It's not easy to get me caring about a character in just 250 words, but you've done it here.
    Karen

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  12. Love the title, very intriguing. Most of the comments I would like to say or suggest have already been written. I was hooked into the emotion of the POV.

    It leaves me wanting to know more.

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  13. I agree with everyone that the first sentence hooks you by compelling you to read to find out who the man is and why his head is ripped off. I also agree you incorporated great physical description of the setting and Kit. It's easy to visualize the excerpt.

    The reason behind why Kit felt it necessary to keep the photo safe from Ivy peaked my interest. My guess is Ivy ripped the picture out of anger towards their father. I'm also curious about why Kit is naked going through the desk(?) drawer of essays, and what happened after Kit was born that changed the father. It seems he held back his affection from her. Two paragraphs in and I want to continue reading!

    I debated saying anything about the third paragraph because it appears no one else had trouble reading it like I did. I'm not entirely sure where the setting is in this paragraph. The reader knows Kit is sitting on carpet, but all of a sudden she is standing up and brushing pebbles off her hands. Was that part of her memory of falling off the bike?

    Then, I was confused by the picture of the rainbow. Is it on the photograph or something all together different, sitting next to the lamp? It felt like it jumped into the scene from nowhere. Then, again, I could be reading it completely wrong.

    Overall a good beginning. It hooks the reader, and as Matthew MacNish said, you provided the reader with a lot of exposition without stepping back or stepping aside from the forward narrative motion. Thanks for sharing!

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  14. Excellent first lines. Hooked me right away. Beautiful details and emotion. Definitely wanting to read more.

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  15. Love this. The opening is vivid, and I'm left wanting to know more.

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  16. Oh my. Excellent title and I'm right there on the scratchy carpet, hot and sticky and sensing something is not quite right with Kit's world.

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  17. I'm with Laura on the confusion in the third paragraph. And while the relationship with the father is intriguing, it just didn't hook me as much as it has everyone else. As the lone dissenter, I still have to say that your descriptions are very vivid and not easily overlooked.

    Good luck!

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  18. I love the vivid imagery--it really lets you see Kit's world through her eyes. The short sentences in the first sentence grabbed my attention right away. I'd be interested in finding out about her relationship with her father, and why his head was ripped off the photo. Intriguing!

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  19. Like others have said, great imagery and really great first sentence. I also had a bit of trouble in paragraph 3. Up until that point, I'd thought we were inside. I had this very detailed picture in my head, and then we were outside all of sudden? But the descriptions were still spot on even there. Also, the part with the sweat on Kit's "crotch" and the sentence about her breaking her "hymen" made me feel a bit uncomfortable. More than a bit actually. But I maybe that was the point. The title and scene obviously seems to be hinting that something's off here. If so, good job b/c it left me squirming, and the prose was smooth and evocative.
    Ninja Girl

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  20. As everyone has already said, this is very nicely written. Beautiful language, great pacing and foreshadowing.

    Just two things stood out to me. I thought you could cut "Of him (3rd sentence) If 'his' head is cut off in that photo, it must be a photo of him. Seems weird to have to say it.

    I also wondered how old Kit is. She came off as a young child to me, and when you mentioned the bike crash, I started over and read again. I'm getting that she's pulling out her own drawer filled with essays, so she'd be mid twenties? But then she says, 'Stupid new garden path,' which sounds much younger. Or is she rememebring what she said when she fell on her bike as a child? That, and the pebbles was confusing. It seems she's remembering the pebbles from the fall when she rubs her hand against her leg, but it's written as though the pebbles are real and in the here and now, so I wasn't positive about what was going on there.

    Still, nicely done!

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  21. I think that this is well written and the details are rich, however I did not understand the first sentence at all. I don't think you need the "Of him." I know it is stylistic but it only confused me more. Obviously it's a photograph "of him" if "his" head is ripped off. Also, I automatically assumed it was a boyfriend, not her father. Also - I wasn't sure if someone had done the ripping or not - maybe "His head had been ripped off." I really liked the way this began, but something there bothered me.

    Also, why is she naked? That was also a bit jarring and confusing. I am sucked in and want to read more, don't get me wrong. But I want to know why she is naked already. Now I'm just a bit confused...

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  22. You definitely have a way with words and have created a striking opening with vivid imagery.

    However, I do hope that there's a reason for so much sexuality up front. If it comes into play during the story, it could work. If it's there just to jar the reader, I'm not a fan.

    And I agree with a couple of comments: that you should strike, "Of him" in the first paragraph and that it's confusing to have Kit wiping pebbles off her palm when she's supposed to be inside, sitting on a carpet.

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  23. wow! All I can say is "More, please!" ;o) I will agree that I was a bit confused by the "garden path" reference--because I thought she was sitting on a carpet, too! Maybe simply adding itals would show that it's a memory thought? I don't know. I do know this is very strong, and I LOVE the title~

    best of luck!

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  24. You drew me in. The writing is tight and the voice is strong. And the first sentence? You got me!

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  25. (author) Thanks for the feedback everyone. I can see how the pebble thing would be confusing here, but I assure you, the next couple of sentences make it clear :o) That's the trouble with only seeing a short excerpt of text because you're unable to comprehend the bigger picture. Also in sending it, my italics went missing :o( But this has been great fun! So thanks a million! :o)

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