Wednesday, February 24, 2010

12 Talkin' Heads

TITLE: Greta
GENRE: Mainstream fiction

Setting: Local deli, two women, as the older women tries to convey to the younger one her mother is not the evil person that she appears to be.

Rosa reached over and took Greta’s chin in her hand, turning her face towards her.

“My dear Greta, please don’t think that I am picking on you or trying to make you upset.” She peered into Greta’s face, her eyes full of concern.

Greta nodded again. “I know,” she whispered. She felt vulnerable and exposed under Rosa’s worried scrutiny.

Rosa put her hand back on the table and sat back in her chair.

“When Lillian was your age,” Rosa began, “she was already married with a young child that she was raising all by herself. Your father was gone, my son was gone, and there was only you and Lillian. I felt sorry for her.”

Greta looked at Rosa in surprise. She couldn’t imagine anyone feeling sympathetic toward Lillian.

“What, I can’t feel sorry for her?” Rosa laughed. “Lillian was very different than she is now.”

Greta was dubious as she waited for Rosa to continue.

“Oh, she always had that haughty look, like telling the world, ‘look at me, I am all put together.’ But that was not who she was, not really.”

Rosa leaned back in the chair.

“Do you remember the story about how Lillian’s parents died?” she asked.

Greta nodded. “Some of it.”

“Well, when Lillian was a little girl, she was quite happy. She was an only child and she had all of her parents’ attention, especially her father. Her father doted on her …”

Rosa scrutinized Greta, an eyebrow raised.

“Pretty much the way your father doted on you.”


  1. I think you create a believable scene.

    There are a couple of spots where you can show and not tell. Instead of telling us she feels vulnerable and exposed, maybe have her body do something that conveys it instead. And instead of Greta being dubious, let her body language show it. Raised eyebrow? Folded arms?

    I was curious to hear more, so it got my interest.

  2. I liked the ideas behind this scene, but I felt confused and distracted by how many times Greta and Rosa's proper names were used.

    "Your father was gone, my son was gone..." makes me wonder if Rosa is Greta's grandmother. If so, maybe you could replace their proper names with terms of endearment or pronouns, i.e., "She felt vulnerable and exposed under [her grandmother's] worried scrutiny." Or, "She couldn't imagine anyone feeling sympathetic toward [her mother]."

    I like the story line and would enjoy reading more.

  3. This worked over all, but I think you can tighten it in some places. In the beginning you use "that" in dialogue. I would take it out.

    "Greta was dubious...". Don't tell us she was dubious. Show us. How could the reader see that? From a facial expression? From body language? From her inner thoughts (you can always use italics to show someone's thoughts).

    Just a style thing, but toward the end, you end a line of dialogue with "she asked." I would delete that. With the question mark, the reader knows she asked something. I think extra words like "she asked" or "he said" just bog the reader down with extra words. If something is implied, leave it out. If you really need to show who said what because it's not clear, then you can use "he said", etc.

  4. I thought Rosa's dialogue worked well, and I even got a sense of who Lillian was, but I didn't get anything from Greta. She was a name on the page. (perhaps that's simply because of this small snippet?)

    Rosa is conveying what you want her to convey. What's missing, I think, is whether or not Greta is getting it. Perhaps include some dialogue on her part that gives an indication of who she is, what she's thinking, feeling? Is she getting it or not?

  5. I have to say that dropping into this scene made me want to read the rest of the story. !st thing I want to know is why Greta's mother is referred to as Lillian instead of mother.

    I agree that the use of the proper names is a bit confusing and keeps me at a distance from the story.

    Good job.

  6. There is an interesting dynamic between the two women in the scene, and I'd like to know more about them. I agree with the above criticism that I have a good idea who Rosa is in this scene, but Greta's personality and character traits are really a big question mark at this point. "Your father was gone, my son was gone..." is a little murky, and doesn't sound like something that someone would say in real life. Other than that, it's a pretty strong scene. Good job.

  7. I think the trouble with this scene is that you break up the dialogue with these one sentence physical descriptions--especially toward the end. Keep them in the paragraph, with the speaker who is doing the leaning back or the scrutinizing and use the actions as your tags-- it might cut down on some of the extra naming. It felt very distant to me, but I wanted to be closer to connect with Greta.

  8. I did feel understanding in this dialogue, but like others have said, only from Rosa. Greta only has two lines, a total of five words, so it is more monologue of Rosa. Good job, though. I'd enjoy reading more!

  9. I have a different feeling about this than most of the other commenters. It seems that we're gaining a greater understanding of Lillian than either Rosa or Greta. I'm not sure whether that's supposed to benefit Greta or just the reader. I get the impression that Greta doesn't particularly care for Lillian, or wants to care at this point.

  10. Thanks to all of you for your very helpful comments and suggestions!