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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Scary Mary - first 13

   
Author Topic: Scary Mary - first 13
Hunter
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I'm still struggling with the whole concept of the hook, and I think the only way that I'll understand better is by throwing up a piece of my work for you guys to comment on.

It's a complete piece - YA supernatural fantasy. I'd love to read your comments on my first 13. (If you're willing to read more, tell me what to send you.)

----------------------------------------------------

“Well Mary, what did you do this summer?”

“The usual. Cavorted with demons. Swore my soul to the devil.”

Mr. Landa took off his glasses to rub his eyes. The gesture made Mary smirk. It was only five minutes into the session, possibly a new record.

“Well…I’m glad you had a productive summer. I called you in today because I wanted to touch base with you on a few things.”

“And you couldn’t wait until after the first day of school to do this?”

Mr. Landa gave her a wry smile. “I did wait. It’s second period. I thought about calling you out of first.”

Mary slouched down further in her chair and began picking at her nails. Mr. Landa put his glasses back on and flipped open Mary’s

EDITED VERSION BELOW.

[This message has been edited by Hunter (edited April 13, 2007).]


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WetherbyOwl
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I like it, too bad the first 13 stop right there, I could feel the beginings of a great scene. I assume that Mary is talkting to a guidence counsler of sorts, and that she an he do not really get along. It's good, I like it a lot.

P.S. Forgive my spelling...

P.P.S. If i wasn't so busy, I'd read it all. As it is, I think I could squeeze in the first chapter. Just let me know what kind of crituqe you are looking for.

[This message has been edited by WetherbyOwl (edited February 20, 2007).]


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wbriggs
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I think I will like this -- I like the relationship dynamic.

There are some things you can do from the beginning for clarity. In particular, let us know in the first paragraph whose POV it is.

You might also give us more of her internal thoughts -- I think they'll be a real draw.


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Survivor
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This scene could work as an all dialogue piece, but I have a feeling that most of the story is going to be in Mary's POV, so why not start there?
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RMatthewWare
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What hooked me was the flippant attitude of Mary's towards cavorting with demons and swearing one's soul to the devil. She says it casually, but I'm guessing that's really what she was up to (I hope anyway).

I'd be willing to read the first chapter if you sent it to me.

Matt


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pixydust
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I second wbriggs and Survivor. We're lacking a really important ingredient to make this work. POV.
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Hunter
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Thank you all for your comments. I've emailed those that offered to read the first chapter.

If anyone else would like to chime in, please feel free.

Oh and sorry Kathleen, I swear it was 13 when I was looking at it on my computer, but I may have had a setting that was off. I'll be more careful in the future.

--Stephanie

[This message has been edited by Hunter (edited February 23, 2007).]


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Omakase
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The only thing that temporarily threw me off was the comment that "it was only five minutes into the session"

This led me to think she was at the psychiatrist, which was refuted almost immediately, but you might want to rephrase that.

Nice opening.


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priscillabgoo
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I'm not sure I have anything significant to add to the comments, but I do read a decent amount of young adult fantasy. I would be happy to check out your story and give you feedback.

Nicole


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Hunter
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Thanks, Nicole. I've emailed the first chapter to you.

--Stephanie


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Hunter
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This is a new opening I'm working on for Scary Mary. For those who read the first chapter, or just the beginning above, I've inserted a new character. I'd like to know if this new opening makes sense. I think the POV is more firmly established, but tell me if I'm wrong.

Also I think the first paragraph may have some problems. Rewording suggestions would be appreciated. I know the general suggestion is to name a character when first mentioned (I've made the suggestion myself), but having it be, "Mr. Landa had called..." seems too formal to me. What do you think?

Thanks!

------------------------------------------------------------
He’d called her out of class on the first day of school. Everyone already thought she was crazy, but having to see the guidance counselor on the first day of school had to be one step away from certifiable. Mary was not crazy. She just heard voices. Nothing crazy about that.

It wasn’t like she told anyone about the voices. She’d certainly never told Mr. Landa about them. If she did, she’d start by telling him about Mrs. Brown.

“Mary, I’m sorry. I tried to stop him, but he was determined. I mean, you should see his shins. They have to be black and blue.”

Mrs. Brown haunted Mr. Landa’s desk. She was a former school nurse. It had been her desk when she’d been alive.

[This message has been edited by Hunter (edited April 13, 2007).]


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KayTi
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Couldn't you just do:

Mr. Landa called her out of class the first day of school.

(do you need the "had called" for any specific timing reason?)

I agree that first paragraph is problematic, not sure I can improve but I'll put some ideas here.

Mr. Landa called Mary (no need to be cute and not name the MC in the first line too...) out of class the first day of school. People already thought she was crazy. Being called in to the guidance counselor on the first day of school pretty much sealed that up.

What was so crazy about hearing voices? Mary wasn't stupid enough to actually *tell* anyone about them. I mean, if she were going to, she'd start with Mrs. Brown, who right now was hovering behind Mr. Landa wringing her hands. She spoke, but of course Mary was the only one to hear her.

"Mary, I'm sorry. I tried to stop him, but he was determined. I kicked his shins a lot and tried to trip him, he *should* be black and blue. Being non-corporeal is a real pain in the ass sometimes."

==
Random try, maybe it'll give you some ideas. I had a little trouble with the "mary was not crazy/heard voices/that's not crazy" - because really, we all know hearing voices is generally an indication of crazy! So...in the world you're building/where the story takes place, hearing voices isn't crazy. Is that because there are others who hear them? or beacause Mary is deluded (which, after all, makes her crazy.) So, as you can see in my suggestions above, I skipped over that part a bit.

I also didn't get that the ghost tried to stop Mr. Landa by kicking him (hence his shins would be black and blue) until a few readings. Little too subtle for the opening of a ghost character, at least for me.

I really like it. I'm interested in writing for a YA audience too, so I'd love to read more (and swap stories from time to time) if you're interested.


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InarticulateBabbler
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quote:

He’d called her out of class on the first day of school. Everyone already thought she was crazy, but having to see the guidance counselor on the first day of school had to be one step away from certifiable. Mary was not crazy. She just heard voices. [needed?-->Nothing crazy about that. ]

It wasn’t like she told anyone about the voices. She’d certainly never told Mr. Landa about them. If she did, she’d start by telling him about Mrs. Brown.[How old is she? Is this high school?; grammar school?; middle school?]

“Mary, I’m sorry. I tried to stop him, but he[WHO? Who was determined and to WHAT? This shouldn't be a mystery: it's the reason that Mr. Landa called her into his office.] was determined. I mean, you should see his shins. They have to be black and blue.”

Mrs. Brown[A ghost should be introduced earlier] haunted Mr. Landa’s desk. She was a former school nurse. It had been her desk when she’d been alive


Mary doesn't reveal any emotions, and I don't get enough out her tone to imagine what she's feeling.

One suggested revision:


Mary sat across from her guidance councilor, Mr. Landa, and smoothed her dress. When she was nervous, Mary fanatically removed lint and straightened wrinkles. It was the first day of school and she'd been called to the office already. She hoped the trouble wasn't because of the voices. She never told anyone about the voices. They would think she was crazy. She wasn't crazy: she was psychic. She saw ghosts, like the one that paced behind Landa's desk.

Landa looked over his steepled fingers at Mary. He raised an eyebrow. Mary knew that look. When Landa cocked an eyebrow, it meant lecture. He could save his lectures for someone who cared. Who did he think she was, some 3rd grader? She was a sophomore this year!

He wouldn't be so smug if he knew that Nurse Brown was behind him. Dead or not, Nurse Brown brooked no nonsense. The desk he sat at used to be hers, and she wanted it back. Mary winced at Nurse Brown as she reached across Landa's desk and grabbed his coffee mug.

I entirely eliminated mention of the shin-kicking incident, because I didn't yet know what it was about.

[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited April 13, 2007).]


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arriki
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I must be in the minority. I think the first opening -- the one all in dialogue -- worked beautifully.

I'll take a look at the first chapter, too.


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sleepn247
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I still think the original dialogue drew me far more than the edited version. If I read the first thirteen, I'd at least read the first chapter, if I read the second thirteen, I'd put it down right after the first thirteen lines.
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InarticulateBabbler
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I pretty much liked the first version, too. That's why I didn't comment on the first post. There wasn't much to add. I like the possibilities of the second version, too, but they are much less defined.

The first version showed a lot of her personality.


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Hunter
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Thanks everyone for your comments.

They've given me a lot to think about.

I was trying to be flippant in the first paragraph about being crazy and hearing voices, but that seems to have fallen flat. Would it work better if I tweaked those sentences with something like, "Mary wasn't crazy. No, she thought, I just hear voices. Nothing crazy about that. Mary mentally rolled her eyes."?

Again, thanks everyone for your comments.


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Zero
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scary mary is also the name of a clever cut of Mary Poppins designed to look like a horror flick, if you've not had the fortune of seieng it, youtube it.
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MrsBrown
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I liked the first one! A lot of spunk, and she's obviosly rebelling against visiting the counselor. I think she's quite engaging there. How about in this line:

“The usual. Cavorted with demons. Swore my soul to the devil.”

you could change one of those statements to mention ghosts, but keep it flippant! That statement is the hook for me, and I would like to see it lead into her reality.

Then after that first 13, get into the description of the ghost and her thoughts. Just my 2 cents.


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sesavage
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You got me at "sold my soul to the Devil." Heh. I really prefer the first posting of your 13. It reminds me strongly of Buffy the Vampire Slayer talking to Giles. It's so flippant. It sounds like a story I'd read off the YA shelf. Keep it light and simple.

Edit: Oh, and I'd love to read your first chapter.

[This message has been edited by sesavage (edited May 23, 2007).]


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SimonSays
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Hi Hunter,
The "..swore my soul to the devil" through me out of your story for a second. The reason why is her reply "The usual" to "What did you do this summer" implies that it is a recurring thing. How many times can you swear/sell your soul to the devil?

Now leasing is another matter entirely.

[This message has been edited by SimonSays (edited June 18, 2007).]


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Hunter
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Zero: I have seen the video and really liked it.

MrsBrown: Nice suggestion. I will play around with it.

sesavage: Thank you for the offer, but I need to play around with the story to get it ready for another round of critiques.

SimonSays: I think if I accomplish what MrsBrown suggests that it will fix the logic problem.

Thanks everyone.


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