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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Rain on the Dust, YA/MG

   
Author Topic: Rain on the Dust, YA/MG
WouldBe
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I posted an opening for this YA/Upper MG historical long ago when it was a two-track story (two alternating POV characters). I've shortened and simplified the story to one track. Here is the new opening:


A creaky Vietnamese People's Army truck stopped at Mrs. Huang's home. I had just picked up her laundry and watched from Aunt Tuyet's lawn down the lane. The driver spoke to Mrs. Huang, who pointed at me. A passenger wearing sunglasses glared at me, chilling my bones, while Aunt Tuyet watched from her doorstep.

The driver nursed the gas pedal, urging the truck forward. The ragged people on the bed of the truck watched with blank faces. When the truck trundled up to me, I no longer wondered if something was wrong. I was certain of it.

"Are you Tran Thi Mai, the laundry girl?" asked the soldier.

I froze for a moment. "That depends, sir. Are you here to give Mai money?" I hoped my joke would soften whatever blow I was about to receive, but the soldier remained stone-faced.

[This message has been edited by WouldBe (edited October 12, 2010).]


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WouldBe
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Updated the opening a bit, mostly the first paragraph to clarify 'where' everyone is.
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Ethereon
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The last line had some hook for me, because the MC's cheeky answer told be something about her personality and made me start to root for her. I think you could condense the logistical information in the first two paragraphs (where people are standing etc) and add more info specific to the MC, or what the appearance of the truck means to her.
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History
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Apologize for the quick critique of only the first paragraph. I'm between patients. Perhaps more later...

A creaky Vietnamese People's Army truck stopped at Mrs. Huang's home. I had just picked up her laundry and watched from Aunt Tuyet's lawn down the lane. The driver spoke to Mrs. Huang, who pointed at me. A passenger wearing sunglasses glared at me, chilling my bones, while Aunt Tuyet watched from her doorstep.

First sentence a bit stilted with too many adjectives and I am not sure about the apostrophe on "People's". If designating the truck is important, how about: A creaky truck with the yellow star on red field of the Vietnamese Peoples' Army stopped at the home of Mrs. Huang.
I like short first sentences, so perhaps you can provide the national designation of truck and occupants in a separate sentence; and to create tension, start with action verbs. For example: An Army truck skid to a halt in from of the home of Mrs. Huang. On its side was painted the yellow star on red field of the Vietnamese Peoples' Army.

Second sentence: Slightly disorienting as we change perspective to the presumed protagonist. The first sentence should therefore provide this. As written, the first sentence could be the beginning of a story in the third-person. Therefore, the first sentence should clearly establish the perspective, e.g. I saw the Army truck skid to a halt...
In addition, the beginning of the second sentence draws the reader away from the action (Mrs. Huang and the Army truck)begun in the first sentence. How about switching the third and second sentences: The driver spoke to Mrs. Huang, who pointed at me where I watched from Aunt Tuyet's lawn down the lane.

Third sentence could include the laundry but I want to know what she was doing with it... I was washing Mrs. Huang's laundry but stopped. My hands were submerged in the warm water...

Fourth sentence: "chilling my bones" is a cliche and the protagonist could not see the passenger "glaring" if he is wearing dark glasses. Try something in the moment with the same effect. E.g. The tub water was hot but I felt suddenly cold as the passenger in the truck turned to glare at me.

I saw the Army truck skid to a halt in from of the home of Mrs. Huang. On its side was painted the yellow star on red field of the Vietnamese Peoples' Army. The driver spoke to Mrs. Huang, who pointed at me where I watched from Aunt Tuyet's lawn down the lane. I was washing Mrs. Huang's laundry, but stopped. My hands were submerged in the tub of hot water, and I was sweating from my exetion, but I felt a sudden chill as the passenger in the truck turned to glare at me.


Thanks for the opportunity to see your 1st 13.

Dr. Bob

[This message has been edited by History (edited October 12, 2010).]


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Jason R. Peters
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I love the first paragraph, detailed and suspicion-arousing very quickly. Nicely done.

The only thing I would change is that "chilling my bones" sounds strange; I've chilled many things but can't ever recall my bones being chilled. This pulled me briefly out of the story.

However, you couldn't say "chilling me" because of the echo with "glared at me", so my solution is:

"A passenger wearing sunglasses glared, chilling me, while Aunt Tuyet watched from her doorstep."

Watch you don't use too many adjectives. Ragged and blank stand out so close together, so if you can peg a noun that INCLUDES those, you're golden.

The part about joking with a soldier is perplexing, only because soldiers and cops generally don't appreciate smart-alecs. Instead of hoping that the JOKE would ease the situation, your protagonist might hope that his easy/cooperative/friendly manner would make things easier.

Cracking wise to a soldier is how it currently reads, with an expectation that this will generate leniency.

Despite my many recommendations, I thought this was an excellent opening.


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MrsBrown
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I like the tension of the situation, and her attempt to break it. I offered a brownie to a cop once when he caught me speeding--that didn't work either.

This sentence is awkward: "I had just picked up her laundry and watched from Aunt Tuyet's lawn down the lane." Is it important whose lawn she is standing on? Lawn and lane in the same sentence distracted me.

Using History's idea, I would humbly offer the following rough suggestion:
"A creaky Vietnamese People's Army truck stopped at Mrs. Huang's house. I had just picked up her dirty laundry and carried it partway home. When the driver spoke to Mrs. Huang, she pointed at me. A passenger wearing sunglasses glared at me, chilling my bones, while Aunt Tuyet watched from her doorstep nearby."

[This message has been edited by MrsBrown (edited October 13, 2010).]


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