Sunday, February 3, 2008

How the story begins...

Can determine whether someone will read on or not.

I submitted the beginning of Scary Mary to Flogging the Quill for dissection. Ray was kind enough to give me a thorough read and crit. I have to say, of the many reviewers I've read, Ray has the best balance of the negative and the positive.

I've written at least twenty different beginnings for Scary Mary since I conceived this story. I am getting really sick of looking at the first lines. I've submitted different versions now to three online forums. Evil Editor, Hatrack, and now Flogging the Quill. Let's see what I can glean from all three shall we? And if the post suddenly stops with incoherent gibberish, it means my head has exploded.

First Evil Editor, they thought I flipped POV too much and told instead of showed.

I pared it down to basic dialogue and action.

Hatrack thought I didn't establish the POV soon enough and the second version...Well everybody preferred the first after taking a gander at the second, it seems. They didn't like it being a dialogue only opening b/c they didn't get a sense of POV, especially as they rightly assumed, Mary is the POV character, though now I'm beginning to even question that. Can you tell I grapple with POV?

I tried to get Mary down as the POV character but I felt like I couldn't do that by starting with snappy dialogue so I turned back the clock and had the story open several moments earlier. Now at Flogging the Quill, Ray found a lot of problems with that opening. The commenters say they think the story really begins later in my beginning, somewhere a long where my first Hatrack beginning began.

I'm beginning to think I should've stuck with the original Hatrack opening, or something close to it. I'm also wondering if I should nix Mrs. Brown. She seems to muddy the waters a great deal and doesn't really contribute anything except the fact of her existence. The reason I added her was to get the supernatural into the story earlier and maybe lay a little mythos groundwork. I still want to do that, but...No, my head hasn't exploded yet.

Okay, here's the possible new beginning:

Mary's knee bounced. She'd been called to the guidance office on the first day of school. She hadn't done anything to warrant a summons. Mr. Landa was being 'proactive'. He thought he could stop trouble before it happened. It hadn't worked last year. She wished he'd give up.

"Well, did you have a nice summer, Mary?"

She shrugged and looked around. “I guess."

"Do anything special?" He'd crossed his hands and leaned forward with an attentive slant like he really wanted to know. That was a joke. He never believed anything she said.

"Not really."

"What'd you do?"

"Talked to ghosts and worked on my tan.”

Mr. Landa looked over his glasses at her. Her skin was pearly white. “Well…I’m glad you had an enjoyable summer. I called you in today because I wanted to touch base with you on a few things.”

"And you had to do this on the first day of school?"

From behind Mr. Landa, the third occupant of the room spoke up. Only he didn't know someone else was there. She hadn't been lying, she could talk to ghosts, and they could talk to her.

“Mary, I’m so sorry. I tried to stop him from summoning you. I hid his pass pad. Made all of his pens leak. I even banged his knees with the desk drawers. I can’t believe he had the office secretary call you over the P.A. system. Whatever happened to student confidentiality?”

Mrs. Brown haunted Mr. Landa’s desk. It had been her desk when she’d been alive. Mr. Landa didn’t know his desk was haunted. He just thought the desk was a 'vexing piece of junk'. Mary flashed a quick smile toward the corner of the desk where Mrs. Brown’s voice emanated. She couldn't see Mrs. Brown. That wasn't part of her gift. She didn't get visual only audio from the dead.

And for now, that's all I'm going to do with it. I cannot believe I am once again fiddling with the first lines again, but they are important. I just feel like I may have worked them over so much all I see is black and blue.


Gia said...

I liked Mrs. Brown. Don't nix her. She was a really nice little touch. When I read about her, i didn't think she was important to the story, but I liked the detail anyway.

naru said...

yeah, i like her too, was a little sad when the desk was replaced :(.

S.A. Hunter said...

Naru, I imagine Mrs. Brown and her desk has found a new home in a nice office somewhere.