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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

First Chapter - Deadly Art


Okay, so this is a bit of a rush job because I'm having internet troubles and I'm not sure how long it will last. Here's the first two pages of Shellah's manuscript with some of my comments. I will add more (along with more info regarding this first page) as soon as I can, but I wanted to get this much up before I lose service again. As always your thoughts, dear reader, are welcome.


First day of school, well the first day for us teachers. (fragment) It always starts with a staff meeting. You know (comma) where all the teachers come together not just to get oriented for the coming year but to gossip about everyone else and what they did that summer. 
Did I do anything that summer? No. It was my same boring routine. All I did was stay home and work on my art. I did not go on any trips or do anything new. Just wake up, do some art, read and maybe watch TV. Maybe if I had a close friend or even a boyfriend, I might have the motivation to do something else. As it is, I don’t. So talking about my summer was something I wanted to avoid.
 I walked into the classroom where we were to have the meeting, holding the new (what happened to the old one?!) classroom hamster in a metal cage. The cute black and white hamster had his nose going. His nostrils were expanding at such a fast rate I thought he might pass out. I should have taken him to the classroom before I came to the meeting, but I would have been late and would have had to walk in front of everyone. Not wanting to do that I decided to take him with me to the meeting. I’m curious as to why doesn’t the narrator want to walk in front of everyone? If she's a teacher then she's used to being in front of a bunch of people, right?
I noticed all the same teachers from last year. They were huddled together in their cliques. The chatter was loud. So loud, no one noticed when I came through the door. This invisibility relieved me because I would not need to talk immediately. I wanted to dodge the other teachers, but then who am I kidding, everyone knew me and would just ignore me. The ones I really needed to avoid were the ones that were new. The ones that did not know what I was like. They were the ones that most likely would try to talk to me.
The classroom had those long tables set up for all the teachers to sit at. Someone had set them up in several rows facing the front desk. I wanted to find one that was in the back and not near the nosy people. But in my weaving through the standing teachers and trying not to bump the hamster too much, a new one approached me. Crap. Now I was going to have to talk. I was not nervous. I was not shy. I was not a recluse. I just wanted to not put on my mask. What mask? The mask that looked like the person I was talking too. The one that let me be an actor. The first social rule I learned growing up was how to mimic people.
This teacher looked nice, and most of them were. He was tall and nervous. His upper lip was glinting under the unflattering light. Even though the light was unflattering, it did not downplay the beauty of his eyes. The A crisp blue that betrayed his uneasiness.
“Hi,” He said with a shy smile not quite as big as it normally could be. If she hasn’t met him before how would she know how big his smile could normally be?
I put my new mask on and said, “Hi,” and gave him his smile back.
“Cute.” He said
“What?”
The shock must have been showing on my face because he stammered and said, “Uh... the hamster.” To make me understand even more, he pointed to the hamster.
Looking down at the little guy I said, “Oh yeah. Right.”
We stood there for a couple seconds not saying anything. He was glancing around the room when his eyes jumped back to me.

***

My thoughts: I'm okay with with sentence fragments as long as they're used sparingly, but I don't think I'd start my first page with one.  I do wonder (second paragraph) why our narrator is uncomfortable being alone. This is a good insight into our narrator - makes me curious about what's come before. I'm also a little confused by the paragraph about putting on masks. The narrator says she's not shy, not a recluse, and not nervous, but if she doesn't want to talk to anyone then she's odd in some way. I want to know and understand more about this.

4 comments:

dolorah said...

This character is full of conflicts. And there is lots of "new" in the same old setting. Same old teachers from last year, except the new ones; a new hamster; same meeting schedule in a new year. Is this character supposed to start off depressive, and part of her arc is to become sympathetic through her story? I'm a bit concerned as to why she wants to avoid everyone, but is willing to put on some sort of "mask" to appear normal.

This first page does have the reader asking many questions about the character.

Huntress said...

I liked the flavor of this. I was immediately engaged in the MC, identifying right away with the mask she wears and her conversation. Good Job!

Huntress said...

The following is my take on this submission. Note: all my crits are enclosed in asterisks.

First day of school. Well, the first day for us teachers. !I worship at the altar of Fragmented Sentences, burn incense, sacrifice small animals...!

It always starts with a staff meeting. You know comma where all the teachers come together not just to get oriented for the coming year but to gossip about everyone else and what they did that summer. !I’d add something in here about coffee, sweet rolls, dingy walls, the smell of the school...something to nail the reader to the scene. A scent, sound, etc!

Did I do anything that summer? No. It was my same boring routine. All I did was stay home and work on my art. I did not go on any trips or do anything new. Just wake up, do some art, read and maybe watch TV. Maybe if I had a close friend or even a boyfriend, I might have the motivation to do something else. As it is, I don’t. So talking about my summer was something I wanted to avoid. !A most excellent paragraph!

I walked into the classroom where we were to have the meeting, holding the new what happened to the old one?! !LOL, Marcy. Yeah, some single word about why it’s a new hamster would be cool. Suggestions: “...holding the latest hamster...” “...holding the classroom hamster—our unwilling participant...! in a metal cage. The cute black and white hamster had his nose going. His nostrils were expanding at such a fast rate I thought he might pass out. I should have taken him to the classroom before I came to the meeting, but I would have been late and would have had to walk in front of everyone. Not wanting to do that I decided to take him with me to the meeting. I’m curious as to why doesn’t the narrator want to walk in front of everyone? If she's a teacher then she's used to being in front of a bunch of people, right? !Actually, IMO, this seems like an excellent character trait. It gives the reader something to latch onto. In fact, I bonded rather quickly...since I hate speaking in front of people too!

Huntress said...


I noticed all the same teachers from last year!Strikethrough-. They were! huddled together in their cliques. The chatter was loud. So loud, no one noticed when I came through the door. This invisibility relieved me because I would not need to talk immediately. I wanted to dodge the other teachers, but then who am I kidding, everyone knew me and would just ignore me. The ones I really needed to avoid were the !Add-new! ones !strikethrough-that were new!. The ones that did not know !add-me! !strikethrough-what I was like!. They were the !repetitive word-ones! that most likely would try to talk to me.

! This needs re-written. Too many words and “set up” is repetitive-The classroom had those long tables set up for all the teachers to sit at. Someone had set them up in several rows facing the front desk. I wanted to find one that was in the back and not near the nosy people. But in my weaving through the standing teachers andtrying not to bump the hamster too much, a new one approached me.! Crap. Now I was going to have to talk. I was not nervous. I was not shy. I was not a recluse. !A little clunky-I just wanted to not put on my mask.!What mask? The mask that looked like the person I was talking too. The one that let me be an actor. The first social rule I learned growing up was how to mimic people. !Suggestion: Crap. Now I had to talk. I wasn’t nervous or shy. Or a recluse. I had to put on the mask, the one I wore when forced to. Like a reflection of the person I was talking to, it let me be an actor, giving them what they wanted. My first rule of social interaction, how to mimic.!

This teacher looked nice, and most of them were. !I would make this one sentence-He was tall and nervous. His upper lip was glinting under the unflattering light.! Even though the light was !repetitive word-unflattering!, it did not downplay the beauty of his eyes. The A crisp blue that betrayed his uneasiness.

“Hi,” He said with a shy smile not quite as big as it normally could be. If she hasn’t met him before how would she know how big his smile could normally be?!good point!

!Love this-I put my new mask on! and said, “Hi,” and gave him his smile back.

“Cute.” He said

“What?”
The shock must have been showing on my face because he stammered and said, “Uh... the hamster.” To make me understand even more, he pointed to the hamster.
Looking down at the little guy I said, “Oh yeah. Right.”
We stood there for a couple seconds not saying anything. He was glancing around the room when his eyes jumped back to me.