Thursday, August 7, 2014

Are You Hooked? #19

TITLE: The Collector
GENRE: Southern Gothic/Horror

Granny Enid didn't want to take me in. The social worker really had to work at her to get her to agree. I thought it was me—maybe she thought I was bad luck or something, seein' how Mama died and all. But it wasn't me; it was just one of those secrets that I didn't know about until later. Granny was right, though. It would've been better if I’d stayed away.

When I first arrived at Granny Enid's, Crankston's Landing was finishin' off the driest summer on record. The white sedan the social worker drove was covered in a thick red film from the Oklahoma dirt that seemed to cover everything that year. A white cat sat on the rail of the porch, and when it stretched out I could see the red-stained fur matted on its underbelly. No matter how much that cat licked and cleaned, the stain never came off.

No one answered the door when I knocked. I looked back at the social worker, sittin' in her air-conditioned car, and she motioned for me to try around back. I clutched the plastic grocery bag that held my spare socks and underwear in my sweaty palm, and I followed the path to a half-rotten gate. The hinges squeaked when I shoved the gate open enough to slip through.

Everything in backyard was dead—the yellowed grass, the withered honeysuckle, the pile of rotting kitchen scraps, and the remains of a tiny kitten left near the trash cans.


  1. I really love the voice here, but make sure it's consistent. Like maybe use "round back" instead of around back."

    There are also some places that the writing could be tightened up. You don't need phrases like "could see" - saw is better, but it's best to just describe the scene. You don't need the filter. You also don't need "seemed to". Describing the dust as covering everything is better.

    "No matter how much that cat licked and cleaned, the stain never came off."

    She just got there. How does she know that?

    I'm hooked, though. Those are fairly minor changes, and I'd keep reading.

  2. What a great voice. The tone and descriptions really sucked me in. I'm not sure of the gender of the MC though. I think somehow adding a hint (maybe in what else is in the grocery bag) would help ground me a bit more. I agree with the comment above about tightening things up some. But overall, very nice.

  3. I agree with the other comments about the voice. I was hooked immediately by that and how the descriptions matched so nicely with the emotion of what's happening. The stain of Oklahoma dirt on the cat's fur is so telling. I love the dark edge! My main suggestion would be to work on the last line. It starts with an ominous phrase about everything in the backyard being dead, and then it descends into a list. This may have to do with where the word count limits cut you off, but if you were to weave this into a visual the way you did with the cat's fur, it would be spectacular.

  4. The details here are terrific, and I think this is a very strong opening.

    I'm just a little concerned about the dialect and whether you really want to use the dropped 'g's at the end of the 'ing' words; it's hard to be consistent with that kind of thing, and I think it might be better to use other ways to show the character's voice.

    I wish I could think of a good example -- the only one that comes to mind that I've read in the past few years is Moon Over Manifest. It's MG, of course, not adult (it was a Newbery winner), but it's just a wonderful book. It's also first person with a folksy voice, but I'm pretty sure she didn't spell any 'ing' words with dropped 'g's, at least not outside of dialogue.

  5. The title and genre certinaly pull me in. I love stories with a gothic edge.

    I'm sure there are many schools of thoughts on the dropped g to show voice, though it's a sticking point for many readers because it slows down the narrative. Perhaps using it in dialogue occasionally works, but within the narrative, I personally find it distracting. You can show voice through unique turns of speech, regional phrasing, and what the character chooses to focus on.

    Organization-wise, this might need some reworking. The start is that granny didn't want to take the character in, then it moves to the observation about the cat, implying the MC had been around awhile, and then MC is knocking at the door. I'm afraid I don't know what is presently happening.

    Perhaps this is a good option to fast forward the scene to where something is happening rather than showing the character arrive a the destination. A more active scene with the social worker, granny, and your MC interacting might express some of these details better.

  6. I also love the voice, but I thought that was because I like reading MG and YA.

    It's a gutsy move to have a child narrating an adult novel. But from the previous comments it looks like it works! :)

  7. Unlike some readers, I am getting the impression that the MC is telling this story from a future vantage point--perhaps as an older person looking back on a certain time in his/her life.

    I agree that the dropped g can be an issue for some people, but I didn't have a problem with it. Maybe because I was reading it as the MC telling the story?

    I agree with the other's about the voice. And I can see how knowing the MC's gender earlier, if possible, might make it easier to identify with the MC.

  8. Hooked! I love the voice in this piece. Plus you have a wonderful hint to what I suspect will be an intriguing story.

  9. I’m a little confused by the timeline. We seem to have a summary statement at the beginning and then go back in time to tell to show the actual exchange into Granny’s care taking place.

    The genre is Southern Gothic/Horror. Unless something drastic is going to happen to change the setting, I’m not sure that fits. I love Oklahoma and all but as a proud son of the Deep South, it ain’t Southern.

    I thought you really nailed the voice of the narrator. It felt very real to me.

    I would dissent from the other commenters. The timeline issues and static observation don’t hook me. However, clearly the other readers were hook, so maybe it’s just me.

  10. The line about how the dirt stained the cat's fur is one of those things I wish I'd written myself. I love the voice here, and while the first paragraph is intriguing, I think the whole piece is stronger without it.

  11. Love it- totally hooked. I have no problem with the timeline, in fact I think it's quite well done. The cat line is debatable-- might want to add something like, "Turns out, no matter how much that cat licked...etc" and yes I agree with possibly using 'round instead of around to keep the accent consistent. I don't mind that I don't know the gender yet-- but I would want to know soon. Really great job. Well written and so intriguing.

  12. Agree with LC and Stephsco -- the voice is great, but I'd get rid of the dropped g's if it's not in dialogue.

  13. Im definitely hooked and I want to know about this secret. Looking forward to more.

  14. I remember seeing this before. I don't remember how, or if, it changed since then, but I remember the dead kitten.

    Anyway--I'm wondering when this story is taking place. Are we looking at an adult narrator telling about her life 30 years ago? 70 years ago? Or is the narrator an older child telling us about when she came a few years ago, or maybe even a few weeks ago? Perhaps make the narrator and his/her age evident early on. Knowing when we are, and who we are will draw the reader in a bit more.

    I wondered why the social worker didn't get out of her car and bring the MC to the door. I'm not saying she has to. I just want to know why she didn't.

    And the whole thing is told. Showing it will give it more life.