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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

First chapter - Deadly Arts

Here are the next two pages of Shella's manuscript...

“My name is Deven.” He stuck his hand out for me to shake it.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Mary,” I said as I shook his clammy hand.
“What grade do you teach?” Deven asked.
“I'm teaching fourth grade.” The moisture on his upper lip started to grow, daring him to wipe at it with his finger.
I glanced at the clock and said, “It’s almost time for the meeting to start. I should find a seat. It was nice to meet you.”
Hopefully, he would get the cue and go sit down and leave me to myself.
“Yeah, you too,” Deven replied.
I went to the table in the back and set the hamster cage on it. Deven followed and sat right by me. I sighed and resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to wear a mask (ah, but which mask? Or is there only one?) today even though it was exhausting.
I gave him a reassuring smile. The poor guy was obviously stressed out. I could at least try to be nice. But that was the hard part. I did not feel things the way others do and so sometimes I would say or do something that would come across as mean or rude and upset people. Ah, now this is an interesting tidbit of information!
The first year at the school. I tried hard. I tried to wear my mask every day, all day. But eventually the teachers realized that there was something not quite right about me, and they stopped including me. I became the outsider.
There was one teacher that never gave up though, Juliet. She was an older lady who had been teaching forever and looked like everyone's favorite grandma. She was the only one that still would try to talk to me.
“Mary!” Juliet said. She came over and gave me a hug, one that lasted a second too long. Juliet was the kind of person who could just not help being a mother hen. She knew I was not in the clique, and would try to make up for it. She was always an advocate for those who were outsiders. Even with the students. The shy, troubled, or picked on knew to go to her for help and comfort. When she let go, she said, “How was your summer? Do anything fun?”
There it was, the question I did not want to answer. I just needed to be quick and change the subject. No one wanted to know I did the same thing every day this summer.
“It was good. Juliet have you met Deven yet?” I said and motioned to him with my hand.
“No, how rude of me.” She looked right at him and continued, “My name is Juliet. I have been here forever if you need anything at all just ask OK?” She gave him a giant reassuring smile.
When that smile reached Deven, he instantly relaxed in his chair. That was one of those instances where I was different. It was not possible for me to make people relax. The whole time he was by me he was stiff like a fairy had come and locked him in place. But the second Juliet said hi that spell was broken.
Deven did not get a chance to say anything back to Juliet because Mr. Stock the principle cleared his throat to get everyone's attention. When the majority of the teachers settled down and turned to look at him, he said, “Hello everyone!” He was standing in front of the white board with a clipboard in his hand. “Glad to see everyone is back and smiling.”

My thoughts: Now things are getting interesting, in a subtle way. At first I was a little distracted by the lack of contractions, but now it's part of the narrator's voice, the way she (I'm assuming) talks, thinks. Formally. Impersonally. The only suggestion I might make is to try to tighten those first two pages so that the reader (or an agent/editor) gets to this point a little sooner. But I say might because I kind of liked the introduction to this person. 
Readers, what are your thoughts?

1 comment:

Charity Bradford said...

I agree with Marcy on tightening the first two pages. It takes a long time to get anywhere. Even if a logical step by step play of things is part of your character's thought process, you may want to skip a few steps for the readers sake. There's also some repetition.

Example: "His upper lip was glinting under the unflattering light. Even though the light was unflattering, it did not downplay the beauty of his eyes."

Repetition often makes me feel like I got stuck in a time loop. :)

I'm curious about how this teacher is different and why she's alone all summer. Does she have family?

What genre is this? We are four pages in and I'm not sure what the main conflict is for the book. Is it just that she's different and has to wear a mask every day?