quote:"We're meeting Ted and Celia at Shing Wah's," Grace said.
Alex's grip on his phone tightened. "I thought we were going to Churro's?"
"I know. I'm sorry, but Ted said this place is really great, and, well, I like Chinese." Her voice had taken on a decidedly pouty tone. Alex kneaded the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut tight. Chinese. Anything but Chinese. Hell, he'd even choke down a platterful of that detestable Indian Curry that Grace was so fond of. Just not Chinese.
"Look, honey," he said. "I really don't want to do Chinese. Okay? Call Celia back..."
"And tell her what, Alex?"
[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited April 19, 2006).]
"Alex kneaded the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes.... "
But I'm beginning to get bored over the length of the discussion about what to have for dinner. Although tension is building, I can't find a reason to care about the characters and their decision about Chinese food. I'd like more information in the opening paragraphs besides the choice of restaurant.
It might be OK after the 1st 13, but at this point, I'm irritated at both Grace and Alex. I don't know them yet, and I really don't care to listen to a petty argument over dinner. If Alex has an allergy to something common in Chinese food, we might have a reason to put up with it, but I'd need to be informed of that somehow.
Posts: 160 | Registered: Feb 2006
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I'll read, but I do suggest you get the first 13 ready. As in: if we're supposed to like Alex, make him less petty and selfish; if not, well . . . I was going to say make him extremely awful, but this kind of awful is merely annoying. I dislike him. Lord, Alex, it's only dinner. If you don't like it, eat some cereal at home before you go and then just get a drink.
I kinda like Alex--he has an interesting voice. Actually, at this point I'm more put off by Grace. She seems controlling, so far and not too supportive--why would she set up Chinese without asking him first?
It looks as though you have plenty of readers, but you can add me to the list if you need another. email@example.com
Okay, I'm intrigued to know what Ted has against China/Chinese food. I have a couple of issues, though:
1 - As has been mentioned, Grace is obnoxious - unnecessarily so, I think. If she can be made less irritating, Alex's sinophobia will stand out more (which, I assume, is the idea).
2 - Ah, poor Indian Curry, forever standing in the shadow of his celebrated brother Tim. Yeah, miscaps. And I think you might do well to make him 'rather eat a platter of' something else; if he dislikes all Asian cuisines, that takes the spotlight off of what I assume is an intriguing story about his Chinese issues.
There seems to be a bit of hostility towards this opening. Honestly, my only problem with it was the dialogue opening. While I've seen dialogue openings work, the dialogue has to stand alone. In this case, I don't have any idea what ths significance of meeting Ted and Carla at Shank Wells is. In fact, Alex begins tightening his grip in telephones and rubbing his nose before I understand what the significance is for him -- making those motions seem strange on the first read. It's just out of order, I think.
As to conflict, I'm find with this although it should probably go someplace else pretty soon. I don't like Grace. I mean, it's pretty simple. You meet new people, go out to dinner, they suggest Chinese food, you say, "Sorry, Alex doesn't like Chinese." and you pick something else. Maybe there's more to it than that, but as of right now that's the assumption I'm working on and so I don't like Grace.
Setting. To understand Alex's reaction to this conversation, we really need to know where he is right now. It also helps if you can at least mention the problem with Chinese (like, a lot of people don't like MSG for various reasons, and it's used very heavily in some places). But mainly I'm missing the setting for this conversation.
Some conversations are purely informative, the context doesn't change what must be said. This is not such a conversation, Alex is reacting to various immediate elements of his environment, but we have no clue what those elements are.
Hmmm... interesting. I didn't perceive environment to matter at all, whether he was at his desk at work, in his car, at home, or on a park bench. I felt he was reacting completely to Grace and the conversation.
Posts: 160 | Registered: Feb 2006
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However, if that is the case, then we need to see that Alex is fine, happy, doesn't have a care in the world...until Grace calls him and starts talking about eating Chinese food with Ted and Celia. We need to establish that his setting has nothing to do with his reaction.
Posts: 8322 | Registered: Aug 1999
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quote:We need to establish that his setting has nothing to do with his reaction.
I think it would make it a very different scene entirely. The opening starts with Grace saying something, and the very next thing that happens is Alex tightening his grip on the phone. That seems very much cuase and effect to me. After that, it is all conversation and reaction.
At this point in the story, I don't see how environment is relevant. Unless of course it is, and that the change of grip was related to driving in busy traffic. Otherwise, it would be unnecessary information for this opening. I would assume the conversation to end shortly, and then we can learn about the environment as it becomes relevant. *shrug*
The environment establishes the context out of which he is reacting in this manner, which is critical to forming our opinion of the character.
The fact that Alex is planning on going out with Clare at all indicates that he usually wouldn't find the entire notion appalling. The conversation indicates that it isn't unusual for her to feel like Chinese. That means that we need to look for something else that is unusual, but it isn't presented in the text.
"That means that we need to look for something else that is unusual, but it isn't presented in the text."
I agree. IMO, the missing element appears to be why Alex is so resistant to Chinese (a point brought up by others if I recall, as well as myself). Unless he lives above an Asian restaurant in a bad neighborhood lacking rats and other pests, environment doesn't seem to be the missing element. It could be, but doesn't seem it.
I think if the story clarified why Alex doesn't like Chinese (or doesn't want to go this time), it wouldn't need to change significantly. A single line about an allergy, etc., would resolve the missing element.
Of course, no story is meant for every reader. I may read a revised version and think it was an excellent story, while you may still ask "But where is he while talking on the phone!?"
This story reminds me of a drama class I took in college. One of the points the prof made was that no one ever says what they actually mean. For example- "I hate Chinese" could mean "I hate your insufferable friends and hope they suffer a gruesome death." Or a character could say "I hate Chinese" and mean "I hate Chinese but I love you so dearly I will suffer through it, just so long as you understand I am suffering." The actor's role is to show which meaning it has. The problem with this scene is that we don't have an actor, just a line. Or atleast, that is how I am perceiving it.
Posts: 303 | Registered: Mar 2006
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Hey Dakota, I just read the piece and Alex seems like a bit of a sad-sack to me, overly and inexplicably negative, like there is no possibility that anything will ever cheer him up. I will write more when I get home from work. I think I must not have printed the last page where we find out what is in the fortune cookie...
Posts: 1678 | Registered: Aug 2004
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Please read the introduction of my post and stop discussing this setting issue here. It's having no impact whatsoever. I am merely looking for reader's perceptions of Alex based on (get this--and I quote) "the first couple thousand words", NOT based on my first thirteen lines. This is to assist me in building my character only. I did NOT ask for advice or critique based on the first thirteen.
I swear. Sometimes you folks are WAY too hung up on the first thirteen lines anyway.
I will say that it seems I've succeeded in that you're so darned interested in knowing why Alex doesn't want to go to a Chinese restaurant that you'd probably read past the first thirteen to find out. That's enough for me.
However, I WILL take your advice on setting under consideration, though, it isn't, IMO, relevant. Will THAT make you quit?
Hey, Hoptoad. I don't remember if this is my first offering since BC. I THINK it is here. I have sent a story or two through my group--now defunct because we're all too busy to stop and blow our noses, let alone write anything. I look anxiously forward to hearing the rest of what you have to say. Have a great day. Say hi to the family for me.
[This message has been edited by djvdakota (edited April 24, 2006).]
God, I swore I'd never come here again, and now I see this place has got worse. *sigh*. I created this account because I cannot bear to see this recklessly uninformed critical process happen to yet another person.
Look, chum, listen to me. You've an excellent sense of descriptive rhythm and dialogue. The descriptions confer emotional and physical progression of the scene, and they have a naturalistic resonance that enhances their power to affect reader. You could always improve, but then most people could always improve.
One thing, the last 'blah blah, Alex'. Remove the Alex, don't reset the conversation by suddenly having characters address each other by name.
Otherwise, find an honest friend or a member of your family and ask them to read your stuff; everybody here is oversensitised to the first thirteen lines of everything, and proud of it +D. Anyways, you seem talented, sorry I don't have the time to read it because I am naturalism's biggest fan =) Good luck, keep writing.
I normally wouldn't want to read farther just because it's a dialog opening (rather than a vignette), and a really banal one at that. Lack of a setting plays into that. I care more about the discussion of whether you need setting in the opening (which is a boring topic, even for me) than about the conversation Alex is having with Grace.
However, I tend to trust you (though I have no idea whether that's just because you've been around long enough for me to forget when you first arrived), so I don't object to scanning the first couple of thousand for a character impression. On the other hand, you can always tell me to watch episode 00 of Suzumiya Haruhi no Yutsu again, that just does not ever get old.
I didn't like Alex much at first but by the end was very interested in finding out his story. I will email the rest of the comments, although I would like to post them here too. Do you mind 'spoiler' comments being posted here?