View Full Version : Chapter 1 - The Dinner (Minor Language)

April 14th, 2012, 02:43 PM
Chapter 1 – The Dinner

“So Nathan, are you thinking of going to University?” Ugh, why did he have to talk to me? I hate eating dinner with girlfriend’s families, such a pain. I never know what to say. I’m always afraid to speak because I have nothing in common with these people and my certain brand of comedy would be met very negatively here. I always have to wear the boring social mask of dull teenager who actually enjoys talking about weather and traffic and university.
“Yes,” I say, trying my hardest to sound enthusiastic when really I’m just waiting for him to get distracted and leave me alone. The food is nice though, very well cooked. I think I should tell her mum but it’d be too awkward, I hate giving compliments because I always sound so sarcastic.
“Oh,” her Dad replies. “Which one?”
Jesus, this guy does not let up. Please Stan barrage me with more questions. No I’ll tell you what, why don’t you just open up my head and examine my brain if you’re that bloody interested? I’m here for your daughter, I don’t care about you.
“The local one,” I reply sensing myself starting to sound bored. That’s always been my problem, I find it very difficult to fake emotions so when I get asked boring questions like ‘how was the weather?’ or ‘how was traffic?’ or ‘what university am I going to?’ it makes me want to cry.
“Ah,” he says.
“Yep,” I reply. Awkward.
He turns and starts talking to Sandra – his wife. I immediately zone out and enjoy the food which is – as I said before- fantastic. Not as good as my Dad’s brand of Michelin Star cooking but pretty damn close. I take a quick glance around the room, it’s the normal set up. Very nice dining room, much nicer than mine at home; Rosie’s family is much richer than mine, much richer: relative to her I am a lowly peasant, which is kind of kinky if you think about it. I’m just a little peasant boy playing with the rich girl trying to be accepted at the palace but I’m still wearing my raggedy slippers and the dirt from the days spent toiling the fields is still fresh on my nails. Is that kinky or just plain weird? I don’t even know anymore.
I carry on gazing around the room. Her mum – Sandra – is a tall woman who isn’t fat but ... curvy, okay no she’s a chubby gal. Her Dad – Stan – is a bald biker man with a magnificently grown goatee; I want to grow one but Rosie says she doesn’t like facial hair and says if I grow one she’ll stop shaving an area on her body that I prefer smooth so I guess my face is staying clean for the time being. Next to her Dad sits Rosie’s sister – Charlotte – a skinny pale girl who looks a lot like Rosie (extremely beautiful, I’m punching above my weight here). And then there’s me, the odd one out, the refuge of an alcoholic family trying to fit in with a normal functioning family who go on family outings every few weeks and eat dinner together – quite a change.
At my house dinner usually consists of my tipsy Dad cooking a magnificent meal (the only thing I can’t fault about him is his cooking) while my extremely drunk Mother (if she can even be called that) begs for more alcohol while my two brothers and I ignore the both of them. We then get our food, go to our respective rooms and eat it in privacy the way a 21st century family should. This family bonding stuff makes me nervous. It’s extremely strange; it’s like they actually enjoy each other’s company. I feel like I’m sat in the company of an alien race whose culture is different to mine in every way and they come from a weird planet where families get on and have fun together. I bet on the same planet marriage is a good thing and no one ever gets mentally ill (that’d be my mummy again).
I zone back in and try to get a grip on the conversation but I soon lose interest. The food smells amazing though, really beautiful and tastes even better. I really should compliment her cooking but I feel too uncomfortable. I’m sure it’d go down great, much better than me sitting here like a petulant child waiting to be acknowledged but I am really not the suave compliment-her-parents type; it just isn’t me. If you want awkward conversation and half hearted responses to questions which you find interesting but for my part I couldn’t care less about, then I’m your man. Wait ... is someone saying my name? That definitely sounds like I’m being spoken to. Yep that’s the third time, should probably speak now. Jesus, am I ill? Did I just forget to speak?
“Yeah?” I say promptly (sort of).
Rosie looks annoyed – great. “Dad was just asking if you’re into motorbikes.”
“No,” I reply, much more bluntly than I intended. Maybe I can save myself. Lie? Too late. He scoffs and shovels a massive fork full of meat into his mouth and turns away from me. Rosie looks very annoyed now. I’m sensing that it won’t matter if I grow a goatee soon. I should make an effort. I’m going in for the compliment.
“Sandra this dinner is-”
“Rosie how’s college?” Stan chimes in.
Oh my god. That was not okay. He just blatantly interrupted me. And no one is reacting; everyone just looks at Stan as he asks Rosie the question and pretends that I had never spoken. I look at Rosie disbelief but she doesn’t even meet my gaze, she just stares at her bald egg of a father as he prattles on about something that no one in any universe, discovered or undiscovered, should even remotely care about. Oh, you drive motorbikes? Yeah, no one cares. You’re nearly dead anyway. Jesus. I suppress the anger I feel welling inside me (I have anger problems, bad ones, inherited from my mum) and carry on eating the delicious meal. This guy is seriously lucky that his daughter is this sexy or I’d do something crazy (well probably not but that’s what people say to sound cool, right?) I’m joking but the truth is I’ve only been in a few fights in my life – around eight I think, won them all though. I’m fairly big so people don’t generally pick fights with me and I’m not the type to start them.
I gaze around the room again and suppress feelings of guilt as Charlotte’s form swims into my view – she is very attractive, not as sexy as Rosie but still worth a second look but I of course do not do that – ha, totally do. She rises and picks up her plate as I stare at her and I realise that dinner is over – thank god for that. I rise and pick mine up and awkwardly thank Sandra for the meal which any normal human would be able to say was nice without sounding like a sarcastic ass, but not me, I’m mister can’t-not-sound-sarcastic-when-giving-compliments man. She takes the compliment well and tells me I’m welcome and that she’s happy to cook for me anytime. Oh really Sandra? I have a feeling you’d be eating your words if I showed up at 3am on a Monday begging to the point of tears for steak and chips.
I help clean up the plates and dishes with the ladies as I do every time – well I say every time but I’ve only eaten here twice and only known Rosie for a month. Is it normal to have eaten with a family twice after only having gone out with the girl for a week? God knows. Rosie does seem different to other girls though, maybe she can be the one to puncture the wall of coldness I’ve built around myself to blot out all emotion, or maybe not, only time will tell. Either way I can always dump her.
After about ten years of my parents constantly abusing alcohol I learned to suppress my emotions and now it’s gotten to the point where I don’t care about anything. I never feel sad which probably isn’t healthy because I never feel happy either. I’m just constantly numb. Which is fine, I’m used to it. It allows me to judge situations more objectively because I don’t have any silly emotions getting in the way. I just look at the facts, weigh the options and make my decision.
After all the dishes are washed Rosie and I go up to her room and lie on the bed together. After several seconds she talks.
“So, that was ... I’m glad you enjoyed the dinner.”
Jesus, that bad? “Yeah, it was nice, cheers.”
She pauses for a second. “You were uncomfortable weren’t you?”
“A bit yeah,” I say in a high pitched voice to make her laugh.
She laughs and I embrace her, kissing her passionately. She pulls away after a few seconds and asks me a question.
“Nathan,” she says sweetly. “How are things at home?”
Oh no, we’ve been going out for a week love. Back off. Calm down. Relax. Jesus.
“Good,” I say. “You?”
“Yeah, good.”
“Great,” I say. “TV?”
“Sure,” she sighs. Great, no more awkward conversation.
I walk across her annoyingly large room and pick up the TV remote and turn it on. Nothing but static. I start flicking through the channels but every time I do I get the same result. Nothing. Radio silence. Well not silence but that annoying buzzing noise you get when you aren’t tuned in, it’s like why does that noise even exist? It’s such a pain, just an annoying buzz. It’s like bee’s, just shut up, stop buzzing around and have a rest, Jesus. We don’t need that much honey you annoying little-
An image flashes up on the screen. A man, no – a corpse. No – a man dressed as a corpse? He stands in full frame, half his face torn off, blood and insides falling out of one side. His mouth opening and closing slowly. Groaning softly. He’s staring at the ground so we can’t see his eyes.
“What the-” Rosie begins to say.
He looks up violently and screams a primal howl that causes Rosie and me to jump back quickly in irrational fear. That’s it. After a few more seconds the image flickers and fades and the TV tunes itself in and some cooking programme turns on. They’re cooking steak which is my favourite but all I can see as they chop up the luscious meat is the dripping red bits of flesh that dangled from that man’s disfigured face.
After a few seconds of silently watching the programme, getting more and more disgusted every second it’s on, I turn to Rosie.
“What the hell was that?”

April 24th, 2012, 04:20 AM
The ending was really intriguing. What the hell was that? Was that part of a show or something more? I think it could do with some cleaning up. A lot of the times I felt myself glazing over bits and pieces because there was just so much description, and a lot of it was repetitive (an example would be Sandra's dinner - he commented that it was delicious 4-5 times). I also think it would make Nathan more interesting if you cut back some of it.

Jesus, this guy does not let up. Please Stan barrage me with more questions. No I’ll tell you what, why don’t you just open up my head and examine my brain if you’re that bloody interested? I’m here for your daughter, I don’t care about you.

Here I feel like you could cut this down to maybe a sentence. Just something to show he's annoyed and pissed. Maybe - Jesus, this guy does not let up. I'm here for your daughter, I don't care about you.

H'e obviously angry and nervous at the same time, but while I got that I also felt he was kind of rambling to himself. Perhaps that's what you meant, though, to make him seem more vulnerable? Also, make sure to format it so that it's easier to read, distinguishing between paragraphs and dialogue. All of the text ran together and that's part of why I kind of spaced out a couple times.

I enjoyed reading this. Like I said, really intriguing. And while he's kind of pissy I'd like to see how his character and his relationship with his gf evolves, he doesn't seem like a bad person. Hope this helps! Cheers!

April 24th, 2012, 02:24 PM
Yeah it helped a lot, cheers!

May 11th, 2012, 04:23 PM
I agree with Wolf, it was hard to read due to it all being in a block. It hurts the eyes eventually or the reader just gives up. However I don't mind Nathan's ramblings because it shows he's not really a talkative person verbally but is often thinking about things. I also liked the ending. I think its a good way to end a chapter because the reader has a link with the MC, they are both wanting to know what just happened, thus reader reads next chapter.

June 15th, 2012, 06:05 PM
I actually loved it. I thought that you had done the rambling on purpose which made it was a very realistic portrayal of your character and very well-done first person. I normally don't like first-person narration, but you did a really good job capturing your character. I loved the parts where he was lying to himself (i.e. "suppress feelings of guilt as Charlotte’s form swims into my view – she is very attractive, not as sexy as Rosie but still worth a second look but I of course do not do that – ha, totally do."

Those were funny and believable. Everyone has done that themselves, so people can relate to it. I agree with Wolf about the repetitiveness - especially about complimenting the food. Also, I was wondering how her parents were very wealthy - if you could find a way to add in what they do it'd help.

Overall, I think this is really good - it's realistic, relateable and interesting. The ending was very intriguing and I'd love to read more!

June 17th, 2012, 05:35 PM
I totally loved that. A great read, and really amusing to hear his snarky little inner thoughts.

"If you want awkward conversation and half hearted responses to questions which you find interesting but for my part I couldn’t care less about, then I’m your man." Haha! The voice was just spot on.

I was intrigued by the end, though not quite sure what happened.... which I think was the point. I guess we'll find out.

July 2nd, 2012, 04:43 AM
The writing itself was done very well. The humor was paced well, and done in a way where the character was realistic and not intentionally trying to be as funny as he was. It seemed that his narration was done to make someone chuckle because it matched his character, but that in itself turned out to add more humor than he intended. (Don't know if that makes sense.) The internal dialogue revealed a lot about him. It matched the actual dialogue of the character, explaining why his words were chosen the way they were.

I can see how lots of people would enjoy this piece. You also chose to present the character in an appropriate way. This guy seems like the type who would curse A LOT, but knowing your audience and knowing that it wouldn't add much in the way of the humor and personality of the piece, you made a very wise decision to not turn away your readers, so great job with that too.

Now, my own personal opinion of the MC himself. I don't like him. If I met him, I wouldn't like him. I don't relate to him in any way. I think back to my days of high school, and you presented him very realistically, which is good, but he is one of the reasons I don't do a lot of reading in the realistic fiction genre. I like reading, but it's so hard to find characters I can actually relate to. The alcoholic/broken family thing is immediately what comes to mind any time someone mentions YA Fiction. Some teen who has a bad home struggles to fit into some piece of society (be it a relationship, another family, a job, etc.) but his upbringing makes it hard. To me, it comes off as cliche' and is the type of guy I try to stay away from, thus, I find it hard to read about his trials.

So to sum up: On a professional level, I feel it's very well done (see above paragraphs for details on what I liked) and I would at least give chapter 2 a chance, but if it was more of the same, I wouldn't read past that. I just don't like the guy and find it hard to care about people like him, and then the plot so far offers nothing I can't read in half (possibly more) of the other YA books out there.

You DID write it well though, and it does have its audience and marketability because of that. :)

I hope my critique helped and gave you some insight. I don't expect you to change it since it seems well developed, so I was merely offering my view point.

July 10th, 2012, 01:57 AM
Gotta love your writing style.
Good work, keep it up :D

bazz cargo
July 11th, 2012, 10:13 PM
Hi Nath,
Good read. You could break up the paragraphs and dialogue with some line spaces. That would make it easier to read.

Nicely judged characterisation. Fluid dialogue. Excellent internal ramblings. Clever twist.

Interesting start. I would read on.

July 11th, 2012, 10:38 PM
I have to admit, the main character is a little whiny. And not in the Holden Caulfield way that's sorta philosophical and bearable (for some). But that doesn't mean I enjoyed this. I was going to chime in and mention that this is a pretty dull way to do a first chapter, but then the ending hit and I was pretty much blown away.

Not bad. Remember that teen lingo has a one-minute expiration date and you'll be all set.