View Full Version : "Letters to the Author" scene 1 (mild profanity)

September 15th, 2014, 08:25 AM
Brian, I thought. Briiiiiiian. Perk up! Eyes open!
I blinked my eyes several times after staring off dead into space for so long, and cracked my neck. I was sitting in yet another American literature class. Some nonsense about literary foils today. As if I didn’t know what those were. I’m in a 300-level English class, in a pretty damn decent university. I think we all can say what a foil is. You learn about that in tenth grade. Are you for real, Prof? Seriously dude?
I sighed. The energy level in the class was nil. The professor droned on lifelessly, teaching the same lesson he had taught every year for probably, I’d wager, around twenty years. I glanced around the room. A buff blond guy wearing more New York Giants licensed apparel than an actual New York Giant was cleaning his nails with his pencil. Gross. A cute hipster girl with most-likely-fake glasses was on her laptop, much too intensely to be taking notes on something so basic that was covered in the pre-requisite course. I looked slightly behind me. Diagonally behind me was a girl (I think? Who knew under that mass of a sweatshirt?) who flat-out wore her pajamas to class. At least I looked like I cared more than she did. At least I bothered putting on real pants. I was shocked that she wasn’t wearing slippers while she was at it! I suddenly felt a hell of a lot better about myself, and having had totally spaced out during the first half of the lecture.
Pajama girl was intensely focused on her notebook. She was drawing something. It was- interesting. Circular, patterned, almost paisley-like. It was… pretty. I always envied people who knew how to draw, so I kind of watched her doodle on her pad until she looked up and made eye contact with me awkwardly. I quickly looked down, and probably would have blushed if I was paler.
Focus, Brian. You actually need this class for your major. Grad schools will actually look at your grade for this. Even if this one class is absolute crud.
I tuned into the professor. He was introducing the next story that we’d be reading in the class, so I actually opened up my notebook for once. The book was written by some dude named H. L. Weisel. It was a satire of the Greek gods, talking about if they could control modern society, commenting on what modern American society would be like if they were actually real, and how American society has devolved from the epitome of Greek democracy, while still resembling it socially. This description immediately piqued my interest. This professor had some good taste. And I didn’t even own this book yet! Greek gods micro-managing modern-day urban hustle-and-bustle? Smiting people for every single thing wrong with America nowadays? If this author didn’t include Dionysus in this book, I swear…
Naturally, I looked around at the classroom. Football bro was still fixated on his nail beds. Still gross. Hipster girl was actually not typing profusely, and peeked her flamboyantly-made-up face around her Macbook screen, to look at the professor. Apparently she was interested in the book too, and had to put Instagram on hold for a few… Pajama girl was still drawing, but looked up occasionally, nodding, and smiling, and resuming her drawing. I looked down at her notebook, somewhat creepily I admit, and saw that she was drawing some strange lizard-like creature within the paisley. It looked almost like some sort of “tribal” tattoo design. Maybe she was a tattoo designer? For all I knew, she could have full sleeves under her stained hoodie and calf tattoos under those flannel pants. I started to wonder what else she looked like under- No. This is English class, Brian. Don’t be a goddamn perv bro.
“I want you all to have this book for Thursday, and read up up the end of chapter two,” said the professor, “I think you all will find it enjoyable. It’s not a dense read. I found it pretty funny!”
Was I expecting a funny read, per se? No. But I believed the old guy when he said it was an enjoyable book. I packed up my books and turned around. Pajama girl was still doodling, this time quickly, itching to finish up her sketch before the whole class rushed out and the next class started in fifteen minutes. I inched towards her desk.
“Hey…” I said. She looked up briefly and continued drawing. “I… I really like your drawing! I wish I could draw. You’re lucky.”
“Oh, yeah I guess.” She looked kind of annoyed that I was interrupting her drawing. “I mostly just draw so I can stay awake during class. If I don’t draw, I just… zonk out.”
“But don’t you have to take notes?”
“Nah. Notes? They… distract me… I guess you could say.” She refused to look up from her trippy lizard drawing.
“How… do you remember stuff then?”
“I just… do. I dunno. I get stuff. And if it’s not important enough to remember, then hell, whatever, it doesn’t get remembered I guess! I always remember the important things.” She looked up. “And sometimes, even the cool little details.”
She put a little teardrop-shaped eye on the lizard’s face and shut her notebook, and shoved it into her messenger bag.
“I guess I’m Cathy.”
“I guess I’m Brian, then.” I looked at her flannel pants. “So… Slept in late today?”
“It’s a long story.” She sighed and gave a slight chuckle. “So… Have class after this?”
“Nah, I got an hour free. I was gonna get my copy of the new required reading.”
“Mind if I go with you to the bookstore? I mean, I obviously have to get the book, but my travel mug broke this morning, and one of the reasons why I look like utter shit today is because my only mug broke, and I couldn’t make my coffee in my dorm. And I was running too damn late to buy coffee on the opposite side of the campus with my overpriced meal points! So now, I have to buy a goddamn mug.”
She looked pissed. That one dude was right when he said, “Hell hath no fury like woman scorned.” Or rather, in this case, woman deprived of coffee. She seemed nice, but the look on her face spoke volumes. The bags under her eyes matched her ensemble perfectly- she’d fit in at any Nirvana concert, to say the least! Her thin lips were slightly pouted and lopsided due to sheer exhaustion, and her eyelids drooping slightly, with her dark eyebrows tensed on her pale forehead. Her hair was pulled messily into some sort of ponytail-bun hybrid that said “Please don’t talk to me, I seriously just want to sleep.” Yet here I was, talking to this poor, coffee-deprived soul.
“Let’s go get our books, that mug, and most importantly, your coffee.”
She slurred her words slightly, “Emphasis on the coffee!”

(AN: I know that this is not very telling of my plot. But this just sets the scene. It sets the characters. It sets an environment. And this isn't even four pages. But this is going to end up being a thriller/horror story, and I like it when the horror sets in much like ketchup pours out of a glass bottle: slowly, and then, all at once.

Criticism very much wanted. Harsh is good.

Note, the tone is very casual. I did this on purpose. This is being told through the eyes of a college-age boy. He talks in slang. He's not all that pretentious. He doesn't know who William Congreve is. He just knows the "Woman Scorned" quote and thought that "one dude's" quote would be cleverly applied here. I did this all so you can see how his speech and thought patterns change as his psychological state changes slowly, and later, quickly, over the course of the novel. I've never written something in a tone this casual though, or from a male POV, so like... how did that go?)

Seedy M.
September 15th, 2014, 02:36 PM
Quite well done. It has me interested in reading more. Your style is good. Your are descriptive enough to accomplish the aim, but not so much it starts one to skipping over anything. The tone is right-on. The reader wonders what is to become of the relationship between Cathy and Brian or if there will ever be any further relationship.
In other words, the style and tone are where they should be to make the reader turn the page. That's what it's about.

September 15th, 2014, 03:52 PM
Some things I noticed:

1) With first-person, the narrative can be stronger if you avoid using italics for some thoughts and have them as just part of the normal prose. Else, it feels like the narrator is using two voices for one character, which works for some things, but not, IMO, with the long rant at the start' Gross' does benefit from it, on the other hand.
2) The lack of the teacher's presence in the narrative gives the impression that the character isn't paying attention to him, which works well. Yet, the character's dramatic attitude towards the teacher numbs this effect somewhat. If the teacher isn't important, a stronger sense of his absence will help the excitement of the scene; there will be a clash between a mundane environment and an interesting and important set of characters.
3) You don't have to say every direction the character looks; that's implied from where they're looking. The repetition of 'behind' at one point makes the tone amateurish.
4) Do a Ctrl-F search for the word 'actually' and remove them all. They add nothing to the narrative.
5) Cathy's voice sounds interesting until Brian uses the exact same voice. Don't give them both lots of ellipses; even if they are speaking in a similar way, and even with the useful parallels of dialogue you've formed, they need to have some more identity. In fact, I wouldn't use as many ellipses anyway.
6) The tone and description of Cathy are good; they centre around her condition, making her come alive even though she's a tired wreck. Within that, the physical details flow more smoothly.
7) 'Not telling for your plot' is good for an opening; you don't have, and you often don't want, to rush the reader into the character's main plight. Give them something interesting (a girl who wears her pajamas to school) and a conflict (she's out of place, but Brian is reaching her - so who is Brian, and where will this go?).

I'd leave this and carry on with the story; you'll know what seeds to sow at the start once you've grown the whole plant on page, but until then this intro won't be completed, because it won't have an ending, or a journey, to compare itself to.

September 15th, 2014, 06:00 PM
Thank you two!

Like I said, this is far from my usual, so I was actually quite scared posting this, haha.

I will remove some of the "actually"s.

I'll have Brian be more extraverted and bubbly while talking to Cathy later on and less awkward. Show that he's really a true extravert here. Since his decline in outgoingness will be a major factor in the plot.

I'll try removing the professor *even more*. Lol.

So many thank you's!

Seedy M.
September 15th, 2014, 06:34 PM
Be careful. I think the professor is presented about right. Brian was basically ignoring the prof until the mention of Weisel. That seemed a natural kind of thing I went through in university. A droning, boring lecture, then mention of an interest changed my reaction to the lecture and to the lector.
I would agree about "actually" unless it was to give a Valley Girl slant. That wouldn't be noticed until later. If that mentality is to be employed, add "like" and "you know" plus other terms of the characterization, but they are much too easily overused. Take care with those, also.

September 15th, 2014, 11:54 PM
True about the prof.

And I did reread it and it sounded a bit too repetitive I guess? But otherwise I'm happy with it!