Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Talking Heads #15

TITLE: A Million Tiny Shards (WIP)
GENRE: Commercial Fiction

WIP: Jimmy is waiting for his daughter to tell him something that's making her uncomfortable.

The front door banged open and Jimmy frowned. "Tate! How many times do I have to tell you to quit slamming that damn door open? You've already paid to have the wall fixed once."

"Sorry, Mr. Hanson. Did you tell 'em yet, Glads?"

"No. I was waiting for you."

Jimmy waited, wondering what in the world was going on. His daughter wasn't the nervous type, so it must be especially bad. Listening to the rustle of clothing, he figured his daughter and her boyfriend were sitting on the couch across from his recliner.

"Okay. Well, this is the hard part then," Tate said. Jimmy barely resisted the urge to strangle the young man so he'd get to the point faster. "Well, uhm, Gladys and I got a surprise at the doctor the other day. She went for her annual appointment and I offered to take her." Tate cleared his throat as Jimmy started to sweat. "Uhm, well, it appears that all of our carefulness didn't have quite the intended result. Uhm, Mr. Hanson—"

"Dad, I'm pregnant!" Gladys blurted out.

Jimmy stared in the direction of his daughter's voice, mouth hanging open. His chest heaved with every breath, his hands balled into fists. He stood up, starting to pace, no clue how to handle the current situation. On the one hand, he'd be a hypocrite to be angry: he'd been a dad at fifteen. But he'd also taught her better and hoped she'd had more sense.

"Gladys, I—I don't even know what to say," he muttered, sinking into his chair. He rubbed his hands over his face. "Oh f***."

"It wasn't planned, dad. It was a surprise to me, too. I only found out because I was super late with my period. The doctor said that was normal. But then Tate told her we were, you know, doing…it, and she did a test right away. I'm sorry, dad."

"Oh f***, Gladys. F***, f***, f***. I raised you better than this." He pulled in a deep breath, counting to ten. His heart threatened to leap from his chest, it was beating so hard. "I know I was a dad at fifteen, Gladys, but I thought we'd talked about this. I mean, kids your age have sex all the time, but I didn't want to be a grandpa at thirty!"


  1. The dialogue felt slightly mechanical. Perhaps it was my interpretation of the tension I think you were going for. Otherwise it was believable, especially Gladys and Tate. I bought the fact that they're teenagers.

    I'd change last sentence to read, "...but I don't want to be ..." I think it makes his feelings more immediate, in the moment.

  2. I like the characterizations, and it certainly is a tense situation. The daughter seems very comfortable with her father. I feel like the bulky paragraphs water down the tension, though.

    You could strip out a little of the narrative and condense down to fewer but more poignant actions to relate the tone. Some repetition could be cut. Frex, the narrator tells us he was a dad at fifteen, and then Jimmy repeats that to Gladys, so one of those could be removed.

  3. A verse tense situation that I don't envy Gladys or Tate being in. That being said, I didn't get that they were teens until I did the math at the end. Their dialogue does not read that young. Tate, as the assumed father-to-be, is extremely mature about telling her father he's sleeping with his daughter and that he went to her annual. Granted, we're not familiar with your characters or story, and are just inferring from this small section, but I don't see a 15 year old boy (I'm assuming age based on Glady's age; God help him if he's older with that young a girl. I'd shoot him.) would do this without being nervous or scared or showing obviously signs of bluffing emotion. If Tate is taking charge of telling the dad, I'd expect more signs of emotion from him, less natural confidence.

    Side note: 15 year olds don't general go for annual exams, unless their sexually active. Just how long have they been having sex?

    Of course, this is all just my opinion and I could be reading the characters wrong from such a small segment of story.

  4. Is Jimmy blind? He's looking in his daughter's direction, and the sounds are what he noticed.

    But I'd wonder if a Dad that is this close to his daughter to know that she's nervous and that she's that serious with her boyfriend...wouldn't he suspect this news? Just about every parent of teens have this conversation in their heads before they ever get the news.

    Also thought it weird that the teenage boy took the girl to her "annual exam". More like 20-30 something behavior.

    Agree that the description and hemming/hawing could be trimmed.

    I like the moral dilemma of "how can I judge when I did the same thing". Would be interested in this really shown (not told).

  5. I think you have an interesting moral dilemma here as well.
    I didn't think the characters sounded like teenagers though. Tate and Gladys give too much away. I think in a conflict like this, they'd reveal less details or be more reluctant to tell the Dad. Besides, he doesn't seem like the kind of character that would make you want to open up.
    Minor things: I would avoid using characters' names in dialogue. People don't use each other's names in dialogue and it contributes to the jilted sound of the dialogue.
    I also think you can pare down the dialogue more. Less is more and take out preposition, like "out" is not needed in the dialogue about slamming the door.
    This may be just my personal preference, but I think expletives come off stronger in novels, so you might want to pare that down as well.
    Good luck!

  6. I like the situation you created here. There's opportunity for a lot of tension.

    If my teenage daughter and her boyfriend said they needed to talk to me about something, pregnancy would be the first thing on my mind. I wonder why it didn't occur to this dad sooner, why he wasn't freaking out just waiting for them to say it, jittery or something. I also agree, teenagers don't usually go in for annual check-ups, let alone schedule appts themselves. ;) If a teenager thought she was pregnant, I'd think she'd just go to grocery store and buy a pregnancy test. And I also thought this bit was strange dialog from the dad: "I mean, kids your age have sex all the time..." Not only is that a very general (and naive) statement, but the timing is just strange. She's pregnant. He should be in panic mode, second guessing his lax approach to his teenager's sexual activity, not justifying why it's ok because "everyone" is doing it.

    Still, I feel the connection your characters have to each other, and that's the hardest part to capture, so well done!

  7. I found it strange that dad didn't immediately suspect this news when his daughter asked to speak to him. I would have thought this would have been high on his list, especially given his own background.

    Tate sounds very calm and articulate for a teen.

    The other thing that bothered me was the final line, '...I didn't want to be a grandpa at thirty.' That seems very self-centered. He's taken his daughter's situation and turned it into something about himself. That seems very selfish. If that's his character, then it fits. That line made me instantly dislike him.

    However, if he really cares about his daughter, wouldn't he be more worried about her future, and the future of the baby? Wouldn't he wonder what kind of life they would have?