Thursday, March 9, 2017

Talkin' Heads (SSF) #6

TITLE: Finding Darwin
GENRE: Adult Urban Fantasy

The burritos were cold by the time we made it home. Harvey disappeared upstairs while I weighed the pros and cons of the microwave versus the oven. The gentle patter of footsteps behind me on the stairs preceded Yolanda’s voice.

           “Took you boys long enough,” Yolanda said. “The fur ball said you were playing with a zombie?”

            “Yeah.” I turned to greet her. “We got the text on the way—what are you doing?”

            “What?” She wrinkled her nose at the burritos.

            “You’re naked.”

            “I have panties on.”

            “Uhh…not sure those little wisps of thread count.”

            “You complaining?”

            “No, never,” I laughed. With a body that would prompt fits of jealous rage from the Crazy Girl dancers and a gorgeous shock of ginger colored hair, I sometimes forgot Yolanda wasn’t human. “What do you think about the zombie?”

            “You’ve dealt with zombies before.” She grabbed a banana from a basket on the counter. “Was there something special about this one?”

            “Special enough to make a trip to see our friends at the Blue Lake,” I said, trying not to be distracted by a half-naked redhead eating a banana in my kitchen. “This zombie was smart.”

            “No such thing,” she said automatically.

            “Rent-a-dead are smart.” Harvey jumped up on the table next to the burritos.

            “Ugh,” she replied. “Granted, those things are smarter than the average, but any zombie is a fluke of nature. Whether it’s the body’s own soul or another one that found its way in, zombies would struggle in a battle of wits with an earthworm.”

            “Unless someone is making smart zombies,” I said, the thought jumping from my mouth before my brain registered what I was saying.

            Both my friends gave me a hard look.

           “That’s a bold claim, Boss. I thought we were talking rent-a-dead, not raise the dead!”


  1. I think the second half of this piece is stronger than the first.

    Part of it may be because there was no little blurb telling us about this entry, so I had to read it a few times to understand that the MC was a dude, so I'm not sure how much more grounded I would have been with some info. But the very first few lines of dialogue confused me.

    The gentle patter of footsteps behind me on the stairs preceded Yolanda’s voice.

    “Took you boys long enough,” Yolanda said. “The fur ball said you were playing with a zombie?”

    Because we know Yolanda is going to speak, due to the "preceeded her voice" bit, the "Yolanda said" tag just feel superfluous and clunky. I'd rather see the tag and lose the "preceeded her voice" bit. Especially because this is first person, so we should be deep in his POV. He wouldn't know those footsteps would preceed her voice unless he could see the future because she hasn't spoken yet.

    “Yeah.” I turned to greet her. “We got the text on the way—what are you doing?”

    This didn't quite work for me because he says yeah. Then turns to greet her. Where he would presumably see that she's topless. But then he keeps speaking for a bit before he's interrupted by the idea of her topless.

    This would work if either the action of him turning to greet her took place right where the interruption is, so

    “Yeah. We got the text on the way," I turned to greet her. "and—what are you doing?”

    Or if you change the action so it takes place while he's speaking:

    “Yeah,” I said, turning to greet her. “We got the text on the way—what are you doing?”

    Last, the next line confused me as well:

    “What?” She wrinkled her nose at the burritos.

    Because he asks her a What question, and she follows it up with another what question, which is confusing because it doesn't give us any information, it's just there as exchange. And then because her action is her wrinkling her nose at the burritos it makes it seem like she's questioning them. This one would probably work better with some added info"

    "What do you mean what am I doing?" She caught a whiff of the burritos and wrinkled her nose.

    Hope this helps!

    1. God, how many times can I spell precede wrong? Turns out at least 3.

    2. Thank you, Sarah. Your comments are spot on. Apologies for the confusion at first. This is my first ever submission on MSFV and I misinterpreted the "setup" and how to do it. One of the reasons I chose this particular piece was because this is the first time the reader meets Yolanda and you all have helped a great deal in cleaning it up to where I want. Thanks a ton.

  2. I think you've managed to provide a fair bit of exposition and world-building here without it feeling like an info-dump. I do agree with the previous commenter that some of the timing and positioning of the dialogue is a little confusing. Also, the sentence that begins "With a body" has a misplaced modifier -- it starts out with a long phrase that should refer to Yolanda, but the subject of the sentence turns out to be the narrator. So unless the narrator also has a body that would prompt fits of jealous rage from dancing girls, you'll need to fix that. ;)

    Good luck!

    1. You know, even long before posting this, I couldn't figure out why that sentence felt off and you finally exposed it. Thank you!

  3. Hi, I had my whole note typed out here, but it didn't survive preview I'll try again. I'm using my iPad, so not the best tool for critiquing,

    I thought the dialogue was natural and included a nice mix of speech and action tags. I could feel some sexual tension in the banter between the protagonist and Yolanda, though I'm not sure she's interested in him...that she was eating a banana naked in the kitchen and being very blasé about it was amusing.

    I'd agree with the other comments about the timing of him noticing she's naked and making the most of that moment through emphasis:

    "Yeah, we got the text on the way." I turned to greet her. "Uh...why are you naked?"

    And then I'd move her smelling the burrito to later. She can inspect the burritos, wrinkle her nose, and then choose a banana. That would be a natural series of actions.

    I like that Yolanda physically touches the environment, but I'd really like to see your protagonist do so too...lean back against the cool, granite counter...or something similar. Forging that connection helps characters feel more real and avoids setting feeling hazy.

    I hope this helps! These are just little tweaks. No big problems here by any means.



  4. I don't think you need to mention that the footsteps procede Yolanda's voice because we learn who speaks in the dialogue.

    I think the MC should mention the text before he turns and are shocked by Yolanda's level of apparel.

    I don't understand why the MC asks Yolanda what she thinks about the zombie. She wasn't there when they "played" with it.

    Is Harvey the fur ball? I picture Harvey as a cat since he jumps up on the table. I guess this wouldn't be an issue if I read this in context.

    The MC's thoughts about Yolanda doesn't sound like a friend's thoughts.

    Other than that you did a great job. The dialogue is natural, and I don't have trouble with who says what.

    Good luck!

  5. I like that we get a good sense of your world and characters in such a short amount of text. My biggest critique would be in the awkwardness of some of your dialoge tags. For example, I personally got caught up on Yolanda wrinkling her nose at the burritos. It interrupted the flow of their conversation and I had to read it twice to see what you mean. Also, not a fan of "she said automatically." That feels to me like we're jumping heads a bit-- how does MC know she's saying it automatically?

    Tiny nitpick, but did Harvey jump up on the table as in he's standing or is he sitting on it?

    Finally, curious as to why MC calls them "friends" at the end when he's been sizing Yolanda up in a less-than-friend-like way this whole time.

    All in all intrigued! I think you did a good job with communicating necessary info about your world, characters, and plot within a relatively easy dialogue. Best of luck to you!!

  6. Thanks, Maggie. Most of your questions/curiosity would have been answered if I would have provided a better lede. I misinterpreted the submission rules, but the choice of 'friends' despite the 'sizing up' is purposeful. :) Thanks for reading and the comments.

  7. Overall, I thought this worked, and everything I would have commented on has already been said by others. My only questions were on who your characters were. I thought the mc was a man, Harvey was a talking cat, although he could be a man, too, and yolanda was female. You tell us she isn't human, but you don't say what she is. If it's not said previous to this, you might want to make it known, either by saying it, or getting it across through description.