Thursday, August 7, 2014

Are You Hooked? #1

TITLE: Family Album
GENRE: Literary Fiction

She had to go. My mother was already gone. She didn’t really have a place in my memory since she passed when I was barely two years old. My grandmother was here in full force. So this new woman Dad brought home did not fit into the life we had. And I had hoped he’d see that sooner rather than later.

What adults failed to comprehend was that children do not like change. We don’t like it. There’s a reason we eat the same things over and over. A reason for the routine that settles us. Change is problematic and I had every reason to be concerned once Amy entered our home.

Grandma Jenkins held court over the dinner table. My older brother and our guest on one side of the oval table. My dad at the other head and me on one side alone. Grandma spoke of my parents wedding, specifically the music, in particular a guy named Sylvester.

“Joel was, I don’t really know what you were doing but you and Mikayla were having fun out there. Your father strut his stuff on the floor. His hips going in and out his arms the other way to that song Mika loved. You make me feel,” her voice went a bit higher than the deeper tone she had emphasizing the southernisms I’d heard about.


  1. I like the emotional set up in this opening. Sets the tone for the story well. I was a little confused with the first two sentences and had to read them a few times to understand that the original "She" was this new woman in the dad's life. It might work better to just be straightforward from the start and say "This new woman Dad brought home had to go. My mother was already gone, though she didn't really..." Or something like that to make it clearer. Good luck!

  2. Intriguing! The language is beautiful without being ostentatious. Plus you set the tone well in a few sentences. My only problem is it's not 250 words. Where's the rest of it?

  3. I like the premise of the story, but this reads more like an essay than a story. I'd prefer to read dialog or description to start off.

  4. I like the voice. The narrator’s anger comes across well.

    The sentences seem a little choppy and I got a little lost in the pronouns. It’s only toward the end of the sample that all the “shes” start to make sense.

    I’m not sure a two year old would have any memory of her mother. The oldest memory I have only goes back to about three and half.

    Best of luck with it!

  5. I like the title, which fits the genre and writing well. In the first paragraph, the pronoun she is a bit muddled since there are three different "she" people: mother, grandmother, new woman. The first line might be more dynamic if the she was named, giving some context. Or, if you keep "she had to go," the next line should follow up with who "she" is, rather than skipping around to other subjects. This is more organization of the lines. The mom and g'ma lines can be moved down into their own paragraph so it's a little more clear.

    As for "the new woman not fitting into the life we had," who is "we" and what is their life like? I think replacing those with specifics will really draw in the reader. "My brother and I" and "our routine as XYZ" something like that.

    Is the protagonist a child? And why is the change prolematic? Maybe these concepts can be shown more through the scene rather than narrative explaining, which might make the direction of the story a little more clear.

  6. Was I hooked? No. The problem for me is I can't find the thread to grab hold of. It feels too jumpy for me, both in the first paragraph where you introduce the idea of this person--who could be anyone from that opening line--to Mom to grandma then, finally, to the subject, and in the overall. I sort of lose track of this Amy person when we hit the dinner table.

    I do like the image of this kid alone on one side of the dinner table alone. It conjures the idea of being at odds with the family, and I wonder if that carries all the way through the story.

  7. Okay, that's weird. When I read it this morning, I only saw the first paragraph. I'm glad I finally get to see the entire page.

    While I like the first paragraph, seeing the whole page, I think it should be cut and that you should start with the second paragraph because it delivers a bigger punch. The first paragraph doesn't add anything that won't be detailed later.

  8. I had lots of questions. WHo was the first 'she?' I didn't know until you told me in sentence three. Perhaps state it clearly in the first sentence.

    Paragraph two takes us out of the story as the narrator addresses the reader. It also had me questioning who your narrator was. The genre is adult fiction, she speaks like an adult, but her words suggest she's a child. Does this mean the story has already happened, and now the adult narrator is reminiscing? Or is she actually supposed to be a child? I'd suggest cutting the parg completely. It's not story.

    Parg 3 lets us know who is present. It doesn't tell us anything about any of them. It then goes on to tell us about Sylvester, a character who isn't there, and who seems like he won't be part of the overall story.

    Parg 4 - I don't know who Joel is, and again, I had to read several times. I'm assuming Joel is Dad and Mikayla was Mom. When Grandma says 'your father,' is she talking to the kids about Dad, or is she talking to Dad and referring to his father?

    My thought is that this probably isn't the place to start. Either that, or start here and let us see the family dynamics. Why is the narrator sitting by herself? How is she treating the new girlfriend? How does the new girlfriend feel in this group? Does she fit in? Is it awkward? Perhaps intersperse some of that during Grandma's story so we feel like we're there, and we can get to know the characters.

    Overall, it feels like the narrator is giving us backstory, and then, in that backstory, Grandma is going back even further, and except for her storytelling, no one has done or said anything in four pargs.