Friday, November 11, 2016

On The Block #14 - THE PUSH 11:10 AM EST

TITLE: The Push
GENRE: Adult Upmarket

Cuckolded and laid off, a thirty-year-old guy with "dad body" transforms into an Olympic skeleton athlete, and may become the first competitor representing Mexico to win a medal at the Winter Games – never mind that he doesn’t speak Spanish, and grew up near the Canadian border.

Nobody believes this story I tell.  It’s not like there’s a Wikipedia entry for Eddie Martin.  I remain his only authorized biographer, though I’ve goddamn earned that right.

I think it’s best to start with Eddie’s eleven-year-old self.  The fall of 1983, two days before he made headlines in the U.S. and in Canada.  That moment found him sitting on the floor outside his bedroom, his knees to his chest.  Holding his breath.

It was that time in American history when tin vents could shepherd a conversation through a household, and the late-hour words of his foster mother reached him through a grate in the baseboard.  “But what am I supposed to do?” she said, her voice haunted from travel through the ductwork. “Drop them off at a fire station?”

To his knowledge, Mrs. Martin had no friends but she was talking with someone she knew.
“Yes, that’s a better idea.”  There’d been a pause for the inhalation of cigarette smoke.  “Yes, tomorrow, like we agreed. It will just be us.”

Thoughts of banishment twisted for Eddie’s attention, poking at his belly.  He was perfectly aware the Martins hadn’t made the short list for a parenting award, but he was fed and he was clothed.  There was one other foster kid at school, a boy with middle-aged eyes they called McPickle, who never deviated from long-sleeved outfits, even on hotter days.  One day the other boys held him down and sheared him of his shirt.  Later, much later in life, Eddie would place what he saw as cigarette burns.


  1. Intriguing and unique pitch. I love these stories. I would replace "Cuckolded" though.
    Your writing is really polished, but I struggled with the first chapter. I found it disjointing to jump from the biographer's voice and then get into Eddie's head. It feels like you're starting in backstory. This is obviously an important part of the story, but it might be better in a flashback later on.
    I really liked - "There was one other foster kid at school, a boy with middle-aged eyes". Great description.

  2. Not sure what a skeleton athlete is but I like the log line!
    Why isn't there a Wikipedia entry if this guy made headlines and also the narrator wrote a biography of him. I was really taken into the story when you said "best to start with Eddie's 11yo self." What would have worked better for me would be: "No one believes my story. But I've goddamned earned the right to talk about Eddie Martin's life. Maybe it's best I start with Eddie at 11 years old.
    Also, can't we still hear conversations through vents? I'd also prefer simpler verbs to "shepherd" and "sheared".
    Sounds like a great story. You've set the tone for a character who has a fighter inside himself and I feel sympathy for him already.

  3. The logline sounds interesting, but I thought the excerpt didn't work. The logline promises a story about a guy who changes himself enough to become an Olympic athlete, then we start with another guy telling the MC's story. Nothing wrong with that except it's a shift from what I was expecting.

    But then we shift again, from narrator to adult Eddie, from adult Eddie to child Eddie, and before we learn about Eddie as adult or child, we have to shift gears again to another foster child. There's no focus on one person or one event, so it feels like the story hasn't started, and I don't know who it is I should care about. Adult Eddie? Young Eddie? The foster child? Perhaps just start with whoever it is you'll be starting with, and do away with the preamble, that way, the reader has someone to identify with.

  4. I’d cut the first paragraph - it’s indulgent and doesn’t draw in the reader.

    The rest needs to reflect the vocabulary and thought process of an 11-year-old. “haunted from travel through the ductwork” is overdone. “To his knowledge” is clunky here. Thoughts of banishment don’t twist for attention, and if they do, they don’t poke a belly. Words and phrases that are awkward and/or don’t ring true for an 11-year:
    middle-aged eyes
    never deviated from long-sleeved outfits (a kid would say “always wore long sleeves”)
    sheared him of his shirt

    I get it that adult Eddie is recounting this, and you’re trying to show that he’s a misfit and awkward and uses odd phrasing, but you can establish that later or differently. Here, this is too much.

    And none of this suggests the direction this book is taking. Without your description, I'd think this was going to be a creepy story about a loner misfit who does something dire, sort of a Stephen King THE DEAD ZONE thing.

  5. I am really intrigued, yet also confused. The logline promises me a story about an adult out-of-shape guy, whose wife left him for another man, who is going to transform himself into an Olympic athlete.

    There's no hint about his prior life as a foster kid or a rough childhood, which is fine, except the story we're dropped into concerns a kid. And honestly, since the logline doesn't include a name, I'm not really sure we're reading about the Olympic guy yet.

    Perhaps consider adding his name to the logline so we immediately know whose story this is, especially since you've reached so far back in time.

    I'm curious about the foster mom's use of the words "Drop them off at the fire station" because it implies there are at least two kids. Eddie's sibling(s)? And I'm assuming he/she/they are they really young since there's only one other foster kid at school and it doesn't sound like he's connected to that kid.

    Is that other foster kid (the one with middle aged eyes) going to figure into the story in any significant way? If not, we're heading off into his story here with the information about cigarette burns, and I'm not sure if that's necessary or useful to the story at this point. Perhaps it is, if there is going to be a connection later in the book, but right now it's just a question I have.

    I'm also really curious about the biographer since he earned the right to tell this story. Makes me wonder if he was there in the house during Eddie's early years or who he is.

    I do like the flow of the story and your word choice. I just wonder if the story might work better if it starts with him as an adult and these paragraphs show up as backstory later. Just an idea....

  6. Logline: Nice, but I had to look up skeleton athlete to understand what that meant. I recommend just saying bobsled, more people will connect with that and the juxtaposition to Mexico will stand out. The word cuckolded seems old fashioned for how the story reads, IMO.

    Except: The first few lines had me on the sidelines, my interest wasn't piqued, but the rest was nice and I quite like it.

  7. I agree with most of the previous comments. I'm intrigued by the concept (though I think you could imbue your logline with more of a sense of conflict; just because he's not Mexican doesn't mean he can't represent Mexico). My main concern, though, is the biographer. I simply don't think you need him/her, unless they're integral to the story, or Eddie dies. I'd rather get Eddie's story through Eddie, to remove any sense of distance from the subject. There were also some word choices that threw me, which Sara already mentioned. (I'll add "sheared" him of his shirt and "placed" as cigarette burns, neither of which sound right in those contexts.) It seems a little bit like you're trying to be descriptive with these verbs, but it comes off as awkward and distracting instead. Sometimes it's better to stick to simple.

  8. There is a great voice waiting to erupt here, with more editing and hard-nosed readers who help cut through the chaff. Keep rewriting and moving forward. I can see the "dad body". Good luck polishing and publishing.