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erusson
December 24th, 2012, 02:43 PM
Go to page 2 of this thread for redraft

This is a 2nd draft of the first 500 words of my NaNoWriMo novel and I'd really appreciate any feedback. The story becomes much more fantasy-genred by the end of the chapter, but I'm worried that this first bit is maybe a little too ordinary-world to set it up? Or maybe it doesn't matter at this point. Any constructive criticism would be greatly appreciated!


The school rose ahead into the murky sky as Madison brushed away the raindrops streaking her face. She was jogging, her bag jigging against her back and making her shoulder ache. As she neared the gates, she heard the bell ring in the distance.
Fortuna Secondary School, ironically, had been built to accommodate all of the unlucky, underprivileged kids in Headcorn, where Madison lived, and its surrounding areas. It was one long concrete block, grey and unwelcoming, like a high-security prison complex, and the security cameras whirred as they followed Madison through the entrance.
She wasn't often late, but she had dawdled today because she'd thought Chloe was going to drive her. When her sister had told that she was too busy, it had all turned into one giant rush for Madison. That was why she now found herself squelching down the corridor in soaking wet knee-length socks that kept falling down to her ankles. Stooping to wrench them back up as she reached the classroom door, Madison braced herself.
To her surprise, there were no jeers at her mismatched socks, or at her knotted hair, or at the way she wore her skirt long. She glanced around and found the reason for this at once: her English teacher, Mr. Smith, was introducing a new girl to the class.
'There you are,' he said, raising his eyebrows. 'Find a seat, quickly. As I was just about to tell you all, we have a new student joining us. This is - sorry, what does it say here...?'
'A - Apple,' stammered the girl.
There were snickers from the back of the room, and a loud, carrying hiss: 'Apple? What sort of a name is that?'
'Settle down,' said Mr. Smith, with a quelling look at Becky Sharp, who smirked and slouched back in her seat. Madison scurried to the empty row of tables in front of her, and felt the plastic chair bulge as Becky put her feet against it. 'Apple's come here from Australia, and I want everyone to be very nice to her.' His tone was weary as he said it, and his eyes flickered to the row of girls behind Madison. 'Now, Apple, there's a spare seat next to the girl who's just come in. Why don't you sit next to her? And here's a copy of Hamlet. Everyone else, take yours out, and we'll get started on Act Two...'
Madison didn't understand why anyone would be starting school at this time of year - they were halfway through, and just about to take their Mock Exams - but she moved her seat aside for Apple anyway.
She hadn't really looked at this new girl as she had come in, so preoccupied had she been with not doing anything to draw Becky 's attention to her, but now that they were in such close proximity she saw that Apple had an unusual curvature of the spine, her frumpy, maroon school jumper straining to accommodate an oddly shaped and overlarge back.

After a few suggestions about viewpoint, I've put the first part of this into first person. I'm not sure what I think. It's probably made it more YA-friendly, but I'm not sure I like the style as much. What does everyone think?


The school rose ahead into the murky sky as I brushed away the raindrops streaking my face. I was jogging, my bag jigging against my back and making my shoulder ache. As I neared the gates, the bell rang in the distance.
Fortuna Secondary School was built to accommodate all the unlucky, underprivileged kids in Headcorn. (That's where I live.) It's one long concrete block, grey and unwelcoming, like a high-security prison complex, and I could hear the security cameras whirring as they followed me through the entrance.
I wasn't normally late, but it was just one of those mornings. That was why I ended up squelching down the corridor in soaking wet knee-length socks that kept falling down to my ankles. I wrenched them back up as I got to my classroom and braced myself.

empresstheresa
December 26th, 2012, 12:05 AM
First of all, this would read better if it was narrated in the first person voice of Madison. More information can be gotten out more quickly that way without requiring the reader to abstract it from descriptions of the surroundings.

But a book also has to be fun in some way. This is not fun---------

She hadn't really looked at this new girl as she had come in, so preoccupied had she been with not doing anything to draw Becky 's attention to her, but now that they were in such close proximity she saw that Apple had an unusual curvature of the spine, her frumpy, maroon school jumper straining to accommodate an oddly shaped and overlarge back.

How about this-----------

I hadn't really looked at this new girl but after settling in I noticed she didn't give a glance in my direction, and we sat next to each other! Was she a snob?
Then I noticed a kind of deadness in her eyes. They stared straight ahead. After a while I got it. She was blind.

Kyle R
December 26th, 2012, 02:15 AM
I liked it. And contrary to EmpressTheresa's suggestion, I rather enjoyed the third person narration here. I suppose it really comes down to personal preference--some readers prefer one way over the other.

You get things off and running quick, and there's a flurry of characters introduced here (Madison, Chloe, Mr. Smith, Beck Sharp, Apple), but you handle it well, and I'm curious to see where things go from here, especially with Apple the hunchback and the Prison-like school. I say, keep going with it! :encouragement:

empresstheresa
December 26th, 2012, 02:52 AM
And contrary to EmpressTheresa's suggestion, I rather enjoyed the third person narration here.

In considering any suggestion, you must consider two things:

--- what does the idea gain for the story?
--- what does the idea lose for the story?

I can't imagine Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird not being told in the first person voice of Scout. It would lose so much. Although the story's main theme is racial prejudice, the real interest of the story is the affect, if any, of all the things happening to Scout. It is through her young eyes that we see everything. Take away Scout's first person narration and the story would read like a newspaper story.

On the other hand, first person narration necessarily leaves out scenes, situations, and dialogue that the narrator could not have seen. In the case of To Kill a Mockingbird this is no problem. Scout sees nearly everything and is told about what she doesn't see. But in some stories involving groups of people working independently and out of sight of each other such as a spy novel or political intrigue story, no one person could know everything, and the omniscient narrator is needed.

You have to balance the two considerations.

In the case of your story, involving a young person with a physical handicap, I'd think everything important could be seen by the first person narrator and you'd get that personal involvement effect.

popsprocket
December 26th, 2012, 03:41 AM
But don't forget that 3rd person can be very intimate and is not necessarily told from the point of view of an external narrator who has no access to what characters are thinking/feeling. It's really about which one you can make work better. Personally, I don't enjoy reading first person and think that third person fits here just fine. That said, a lot of YA these days comes out in first person, so you may want to consider it just in a 'knowing your market' kind of way. Having read this you could go either way. I don't think you'll have any issues continuing in third person.

Other than the style, this is tidily written but there are a few mistakes that you could pick up with a quick read-through (a typo and a missing word).

You seem to suffer from using far too many commas. Consider coming at this from another angle and trying to break up your sentences more and make sure each one is focused on one thing in particular.

I'm curious as to why anything about this school is ironic, and you should probably fill the reader in because right now it just looks like you don't know what ironic means. What's ironic about a school for underprivileged children in a low socio-economic area being more like a concrete prison than anything else?

Jeko
December 26th, 2012, 04:57 PM
Keep it in third person. Changing perspective is like changing your blood type - there's no point doing it.

It reads quite well. You have a good command of the situation. I'm sure with further drafting, you'll be able to make it all feel more natural. At the moment it feels like a half-finished picture. Not all the shapes look right, and the colours aren't all coming together.

The final paragraph was my favourite. Some of the best writing I've read in this subforum.

That you're starting your fantasy book in an ordinary way is good, as it'll lead to a nice sense of juxtaposition to emphasize how fantastical the story becomes. Many of the best fantasy stories begin looking normal, but use stranger characters or situations to hint at the fantastic nature of the whole story.

Good luck with this. It's off to a great start.

Cadence.

erusson
December 27th, 2012, 02:30 PM
Thanks to everyone for helping me!
I will have a rewrite in the first person and see how it reads, if I like it I will keep it and maybe repost to see people's opinions. I don't think I moved from Madison's viewpoint to anyone else's in the rest of the story so first person would probably work really well.
Thanks for the suggestion empresstheresa but your changes are a little too opposite my style of writing! I will definitely mess about with that bit and try and make it more interesting though, especially as I've just noticed that the whole paragraph is just one long sentence. Also, she isn't blind! The "hunchback" situation isn't necessarily what you think. ;)


You seem to suffer from using far too many commas. Consider coming at this from another angle and trying to break up your sentences more and make sure each one is focused on one thing in particular. I think you're right. My sentence structure has never been much good really. I'll have a mess about with that too :) And it's ironic because it's for unlucky kids but it's called Fortuna. But I'll probably get rid of that anyway, it being an adverb and all!


The final paragraph was my favourite. Some of the best writing I've read in this subforum. Thank you!


there's a flurry of characters introduced here (Madison, Chloe, Mr. Smith, Beck Sharp, Apple) Do you think I should cut down on them? I do introduce Chloe properly later on in this chapter, so I could probably get rid of the mentions of her. x

empresstheresa
December 27th, 2012, 04:20 PM
The "hunchback" situation isn't necessarily what you think. :wink:

I hope so because it's a real downer.
There's a reason movies about hunchbacks aren't made. They would bomb.
It's the same with quadruple amputees and matters of that nature. You cannot sell people what they don't want. Never mind about sensitivity to the handicapped. Tell it to the crowds as they walk by the screening room of that movie to go into the Rambo VIII movie.

lasm
December 27th, 2012, 04:33 PM
Poor Quasimodo.

Jeko
December 27th, 2012, 04:34 PM
Again, I would like to stress that changing the point of view is the last thing you want to do for your story. Whatever perspective you started your story in, keep it that way, or you'll never achieve the strength of tone and connectivity that you want in a story.

And having whole paragraphs as single sentences is not a bad thing. If it reads well, it's written well.

And handicapped characters are great. A physical flaw can be used to indirectly flesh out the more personal flaws of the characters you present. There is a reason why movies about hunchbacks aren't made, but frankly, you're not making a movie.:D

erusson
December 27th, 2012, 04:44 PM
I wouldn't say all movies about people with disabilities etc bomb - look at Rain Man!


Again, I would like to stress that changing the point of view is the last thing you want to do for your story. Whatever perspective you started your story in, keep it that way, or you'll never achieve the strength of tone and connectivity that you want in a story. I think I probably will keep it in third person as I'm not sure about the style of the new opening (the bit in first person). I feel first person brings out her character more but it also feels a bit forced.

Terry D
December 27th, 2012, 04:44 PM
I hope so because it's a real downer.
There's a reason movies about hunchbacks aren't made. They would bomb.
It's the same with quadruple amputees and matters of that nature. You cannot sell people what they don't want. Never mind about sensitivity to the handicapped. Tell it to the crowds as they walk by the screening room of that movie to go into the Rambo VIII movie.

I don't agree with that at all. There have been many excellent (and popular) books and movies about severely handicapped characters: Born on the Fourth of July, Coming Home, Forrest Gump (mental and physical handicaps), The Elephant Man, Charly (from the story Flowers for Algernon), and, of course, at least four very popular versions of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. These are just the ones that came to mind without any searching. I'm sure there are many more. Not every main character has to be perfect.

Jeko
December 27th, 2012, 04:46 PM
forced

Noticing this is a good sign. Never try to force a style other than your own, and don't even try to force your own - let it come naturally. It doesn't matter if you write badly, so long as you're writing how you write.

Foxee
December 27th, 2012, 04:50 PM
I don't agree with that at all. There have been many excellent (and popular) books and movies about severely handicapped characters: Born on the Fourth of July, Coming Home, Forrest Gump (mental and physical handicaps), The Elephant Man, Charly (from the story Flowers for Algernon), and, of course, at least four very popular versions of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. These are just the ones that came to mind without any searching. I'm sure there are many more. Not every main character has to be perfect.
I'd agree with this and add that writing a subject that's deeper than pop culture may require a better effort and as much creativity and good storytelling as you can bring to it but you'd do that anyway, right? Any idea is a challenge of varying degree, don't back off of this but figure out how to really make it good. :)

erusson
December 27th, 2012, 04:51 PM
Any idea is a challenge of varying degree, don't back off of this but figure out how to really make it good. Not sure if you were talking to me when you wrote this - if so, thanks for the advice but as I said the handicap isn't necessarily what you think. Ooh the suspense.

Thanks for everyone's comments, I'll be reposting this later with changes so would be great if you could all come back and talk to me again :)

One thing I'm worried about is the use of "jogging" and "jigging" so close to each other. x

Foxee
December 27th, 2012, 05:15 PM
Not sure if you were talking to me when you wrote this - if so, thanks for the advice but as I said the handicap isn't necessarily what you think. Ooh the suspense.
Yes, I'm speaking to you, it's your thread. ;) There's no 'but' about it. The first thing anyone reading this will think is 'hunchback' and so right off the bat you are working with the perception of a handicap, which is exactly what you're telling me. So, yes, this is what I mean! If that expectation would cause people to put the book down (it doesn't have to, that's the point of what we're saying here) then the answer isn't to say "oops, readers will think it's a handicap and that won't work" it's "People think it's a handicap, good, now...I'm going to work that."

So I'd say you've already got the right attitude. :)

erusson
December 27th, 2012, 05:19 PM
Yes, I'm speaking to you, it's your thread. ;) There's no 'but' about it. The first thing anyone reading this will think is 'hunchback' and so right off the bat you are working with the perception of a handicap, which is exactly what you're telling me. So, yes, this is what I mean! If that expectation would cause people to put the book down (it doesn't have to, that's the point of what we're saying here) then the answer isn't to say "oops, readers will think it's a handicap and that won't work" it's "People think it's a handicap, good, now...I'm going to work that."

So I'd say you've already got the right attitude. :)

Ah ok great, I was worried that my "reveal" later on might not work since people seem to think this is going down a different route than it actually is. But I guess that's a good thing!

erusson
December 27th, 2012, 05:45 PM
Here's my 3rd draft (or the second one that you guys have seen). I've tried to make the sentences less wordy and get to the point a little quicker, but now I'm worried that I'm maybe doing too much telling over showing. What do people think?


The school rose ahead into the murky sky as Madison jogged towards it, her bag thumping up and down as if someone was punching her over and over again in the back. Her cheeks puffed as she neared the gates. The bell was already ringing in the distance.
Fortuna Secondary School had been built to accommodate all of the unlucky, underprivileged kids in Headcorn, where Madison lived. It was one long concrete block, grey and unwelcoming, like a high-security prison complex. Madison could hear the security cameras whirring as they followed her through the gates.
She wasn't often late, but it had been one of those mornings, and judging by the raindrops streaking her face, it wasn't about to get much better. She was soon squelching down the corridor in soaking socks that kept falling down to her ankles. Stooping to wrench them back up to her knees as she reached the classroom door, Madison braced herself.
To her surprise, there were no jeers at her mismatched socks, or her knotted hair, or the way she wore her skirt long. She glanced around and found the reason: Mr. Smith was introducing a new girl to the class.
'There you are,' he said, raising his eyebrows. 'Find a seat, quickly. As I was just about to tell you all, we have a new student joining us. This is - sorry, what does it say here...?'
'A - Apple,' stammered the girl.
There were snickers from the back of the room, and a loud, carrying hiss: 'Apple? What sort of a name is that?'
'Settle down,' said Mr. Smith, with a quelling look at Becky Sharp, who smirked and slouched back in her seat. Madison scurried to an empty row of tables, and felt the plastic chair bulge as Becky put her feet against its back. 'Apple's come here from Australia, and I want everyone to be very nice to her.' He sounded weary as he said it, and his eyes flickered to the row of girls behind Madison. 'Now, Apple, there's a spare seat next to the girl who's just come in. Why don't you sit next to her? And I'll find you a copy of Hamlet...'
Madison didn't understand why anyone would be starting school when they were supposed to start their Mock Exams next week, but she moved her seat aside for Apple anyway.
She hadn't really looked at this new girl as she had come in. She'd been too preoccupied with not slipping up in the scramble to her seat or doing anything else that might draw Becky's attention. Now that they were so close together, though, she saw that Apple had an unusual curvature of the spine, her frumpy, maroon school jumper straining to accommodate an oddly shaped and overlarge back.

popsprocket
December 28th, 2012, 12:26 AM
The first thing anyone reading this will think is 'hunchback' [...]

Haha, I think this means I've been reading too much YA because 'angel' is the first thing I thought. It never even crossed my mind that something posted in the YA section would tackle a handicap like that.

PS... she's an angel, isn't she?

erusson
December 28th, 2012, 02:22 PM
PS... she's an angel, isn't she?

...She might be something along those lines. She might not be. Take your pick. ;) I'll post the rest of the chapter at some point, I'm just trying to redraft a page at a time at the moment. Xx

Foxee
December 28th, 2012, 03:40 PM
I just pulled up WF as my 12-year-old daughter was lingering by the computer so I had her read the OP. Just wanted to let you know that she said she loved it. I asked if there was anything that seemed off or didn't belong and she said no. I think she just wants to read more.

So there's some authentic 12-year-old feedback!

empresstheresa
December 28th, 2012, 06:09 PM
Post 9....

Poor Quasimodo.

Poor 12-14 year olds if they watch Quasimodo whipped on the wheel, or the gypsy girl in the torture chamber.

There's some differences between a literary work about fifteenth century France involving several social issues, not just the hunchback,
and a present day story of a hunchback in your classroom.

So she's an angel? Point? To root out kids's negative responses?

erusson
December 28th, 2012, 06:48 PM
So she's an angel? Point? To root out kids's negative responses? As you can see from the title of the thread, this is in the fantasy/adventure genre. I don't imagine you'll have read the Percy Jackson books, but the author of those books does a similar thing to what I'm doing, e.g. the teacher in the wheelchair in Percy Jackson is actually a centaur, but "mortals" see him as disabled instead because they can't see the magic.


I just pulled up WF as my 12-year-old daughter was lingering by the computer so I had her read the OP. Just wanted to let you know that she said she loved it. I asked if there was anything that seemed off or didn't belong and she said no. I think she just wants to read more.

So there's some authentic 12-year-old feedback! Ah brilliant! I'm glad she enjoyed it :) maybe I'll send it to her when I'm done, after all, I need to test it out before I send it to any publishers! Which draft of it did she read? xx

Foxee
December 28th, 2012, 07:09 PM
She read whatever draft was up this morning. All smiles. Keep it up!

lasm
December 28th, 2012, 07:29 PM
Hi erusson, your third draft looks quite good, a lot tighter than the first and I think your choice of 3rd person POV is fine. I wonder if you might move "The bell was already ringing in the distance" to the first line, as this immediately gives the idea of someone late to school, and makes it clear right away why she's running.

To her surprise, there were no jeers at her mismatched socks, or her knotted hair, or the way she wore her skirt long.
This confused me a little-- I think because you'd just been talking about her socks being wet. Maybe she should notice they're mismatched when she pulls them up. So she's usually badly dressed/groomed, the other kids make fun of her daily? Might be interesting to introduce that idea earlier. Like she's running towards school and at the same time really dreading walking into this room full of enemies.

I had a little trouble with your similes, thought getting punched in the back was a little too extreme to compare with the feeling of running with a heavy backpack. Also the school can look like a prison, but not a prison complex unless there's more than one building.

Wondered about your choice of "Becky Sharp" for a name, especially for the mean girl. I actually like referencing characters from other books, and do it often (usually I modify the name somewhat, or use only the first or last rather than both), but I think since this character seems possibly close to the very famous Vanity Fair character, it's maybe a little too obvious.

Sorry, I know you've already revised a bunch and here I am coming in with more comments-- feel free to reject. :)

popsprocket
December 28th, 2012, 11:40 PM
So she's an angel? Point? To root out kids's negative responses?

Angels are one of the popular mythologies going around in YA now. They've lasted quite a while, actually.

empresstheresa
December 29th, 2012, 04:58 AM
Angels are one of the popular mythologies going around in YA now. They've lasted quite a while, actually.

Putting an angel into the story in such a way as to have the angel mix with people is very tricky.

Most people understand that an angel would not lead people to do bad things. But if an angel is in the story mixing in with people, it's almost inevitable that by its mere presence people will do bad things. That's how people are.

Clarence, the angel in It's a Wonderful Life, didn't mix with people, but only with George.

Jeko
December 29th, 2012, 06:26 PM
Separating YA fiction and 'literary works' will only make you unable to write either.

erusson
December 29th, 2012, 07:59 PM
GUYS GUYS GUYS. Please don't assume she's an angel so far! As I said, she's something along those lines. You can probs guess what from that. ;)


Wondered about your choice of "Becky Sharp" for a name, especially for the mean girl. I actually like referencing characters from other books, and do it often (usually I modify the name somewhat, or use only the first or last rather than both), but I think since this character seems possibly close to the very famous Vanity Fair character, it's maybe a little too obvious.

Sorry, I know you've already revised a bunch and here I am coming in with more comments-- feel free to reject. :) I was hoping for more comments! Appreciate any advice anyone can give me. You've given me some great advice in your post as well.

Becky Sharp, yeah ... I was very embarrassed the other day when I found out that I'd accidentally named her after such a famous character, and somehow I'd never heard of her (I guess because I've never read Vanity Fair). I actually named her after someone from my school. I'm very sad about the fact that I'll most likely have to change it :(

Jeko
December 29th, 2012, 09:21 PM
Don't change the name. Use it. Use the fact she's from Vanity Fair. Don't change the name of a character once you've become so accustomed to them being who they are.

erusson
December 30th, 2012, 07:13 PM
Don't change the name. Use it. Use the fact she's from Vanity Fair. Don't change the name of a character once you've become so accustomed to them being who they are.

I do love the name! But obviously MY Becky isn't "from" Vanity Fair, so I don't think I'll feel right keeping it that way. I think she definitely needs to be a Becky, so I need to either find a similar surname or, as you say, keep it as it is and hope no one shoots me down ;)

summergenevieve
June 9th, 2013, 08:57 PM
Overall it's a good openeing and the flow of your dialogue is impressive. Well done. :)

theatregeeksu
November 1st, 2013, 01:15 AM
Really nice style! Great for YA. I think it is perfectly fine for a beginning of a fantasy book, so put all of those worries aside. I don't quoite understand what is ironic about how the school was built, and I think "the way she wore her skirt long" is a bit awkward. I don't quite get a good mental picture of what the skirt actually looks like or what is weird about it: is it just a long skirt? Otherwise it sounds great and please post more when you are farther along!

The_D_is_silent
December 24th, 2013, 04:30 PM
I wouldn't worry about first person or third person. Just keep it consistent. Your style is good. Just write more, flesh out your scenes. No use writing parts of scenes.

yaythisisavailable
December 30th, 2013, 06:00 AM
I liked it, and I think that your age range is about right. Although, I don't much like the word "jigging" in the first paragraph. It sounds awkward, and I doubt 12-14 year old children will know what it means. You have great details regarding Madison, but I agree with aforementioned posts, you should definitely put it into first person. Unless you are planning on writing 3rd person omniscient, it is the best option. Good work!

LadyGrumps
December 17th, 2014, 03:21 AM
I'm really liking this start! I haven't read the rest of the comments, but I'm enjoying the fact that you get a feeling for the tenseness of highschool, and some hints about Madison's normal behaviour ("She wasn't often late...") and the introduction to what could possibly be one of the antagonists (Becky)

So, I'm enjoying it :D

thebookdesigncompany
January 24th, 2015, 12:15 AM
Great scene setting! I could really visualise the school. I prefer the first person narration.

Didier2nd
May 30th, 2015, 08:40 PM
The most recent re-write is really tight and well written. Be careful about revising too much more or you might lose the fluidity.

Anari
May 31st, 2015, 06:28 AM
I have thoroughly enjoyed what you have written. Wondering what the hump really is has my imagination running wild. Can't wait to find out. If you're kind enough to tell.

Evocraft RPG
November 27th, 2015, 08:43 PM
Erusson, you can write a story about anything and make it interesting (including handicapped people.) A question you may want to ask yourself is, "why do I care about this?" or "why am I invested in this story?" You say that you're worried the book is a little too ordinary, but why does a scene set in the mundane world have to be boring? I understand that you are writing fantasy (btw, I am predominately a fantasy writer as well) so you want to enter into otherworldly dimensions. There are ways to integrate the fantastical into clues in your ordinary world. Think about Harry Potter, and how the scenes with Muggles have hints and strange occurences that build up to a greater understanding later.

You are the best compass for revising your own work. Pay attention to how you feel in a scene. If you feel bored, you know you'll have to change something. If you love it, then polish what you love about it, and make it stand it out even more. Good luck.

paryno
December 8th, 2015, 05:30 PM
I definitely like the 3rd draft the best. You are a great writer and kept my attention. Very interesting story :)