Friday, May 01, 2009

New Beginning 633

If Ana had seen how I got my nickname we could have been friends. She might have thought I did the wrong thing, but she would have understood why I did it. Or maybe if Ana had been there she would have stopped Bruce with her eyes and her voice, the way I tried to and couldn’t, and I wouldn’t have gotten that name.

Of course, if I had minded my own business and left Bruce alone I wouldn’t have gotten that name either. But if I had been that kind of person I wouldn’t have cared about being Ana’s friend. And I wouldn’t have learned anything from that week of summer camp except how to steer a canoe and identify sensitive fern.

I was proud, then, of being someone who tried to put things right. I wouldn’t be able to vote for five more years, but I bombarded the President, our Congressmen and the editor of the local paper with letters.

I picked Allison out as a kindred spirit as soon as she arrived at camp. Her mother’s car was newer than ours but its bumper was crammed with stickers from groups like Greenpeace and Doctors Without Borders.

But just as Allison got out of the car, clutching her organic hemp backpack, Bruce sauntered by, grinning.

"Hey, Seal-clubber," he said.

Allison looked at me with horror, and hurried after her mom. I glared at Bruce.

He shrugged. "You still don't like that nickname? How about I change it to BJ?"


Opening: Joanna.....Continuation: Batgirl

22 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:


If Ana had known how my club got its fame, she might have joined. She might have thought we were stupid, but she would have liked what we did. Or maybe if Ana had joined she would have egged Bruce the camp director’s house with her eyes and her voice, the way I tried to and couldn’t, and my club wouldn’t have gotten that fame.

I knew Allison would join my club as soon as she arrived at camp. Her mother’s back car was newer than ours but its back was full of eggs.

--In honor of Easter, _*Rachel*_


But when Bruce tried to get Allison--my Allison--alone in the dark, where he could do Lord only knows what sort of horrible, masculine, perverted, domineering things to her, I had no choice.

I had to kill him.

And that is why I am called the Summer Camp Slayer.

--khazar-khum


It just felt right, out there at Camp Lake Wilderness, learning to commune with nature and survive in the wild, taking full advantage of nature's newable resources, fishing, hunting. We became a camp legend -- Little Liberal Allie and Louise the Disemboweller. Pity about poor old Bruce, though.

--anon.


If only Ana had been in the car, instead of Allison. If only I could have met Ana that summer.

Or the next summer, when Allison and Bruce did it for the first time, leaving me to complete our leaf collection alone. Ana would have shamed them with her voice and her words.

But while Allison would be my nemesis throughout those awkward growing years, I was never to meet Ana.

--Batgirl

Evil Editor said...

I think this goes on too long without telling us what you're talking about. If the nickname is something cool like The Counselor Killer or The Camp Hooker, we'll wait around to hear the story. But nothing here grabs our attention. If you don't reveal the nickname, why should we care where it came from?

Adam Heine said...

I agree with EE. I think you need to explain what you're talking about at the beginning of the second paragraph at the latest (my opinion).

Also, is Allison supposed to be Ana and you forgot to change the name? Or is it a new character being introduced? If the former, fix it. If the latter, then it's just more unnecessary information getting in the way of what we want to know (i.e. what is her nickname and what happened to Bruce?).

Sarah Laurenson said...

I agree. Takes too long to get to the point. And we haven't even gotten to it yet. I don't have that much patience.

Joanna said...

OK, got it. Thanks all.

The nickname in question is 'Torture Lady.' I thought if that was stated without describing the incident that led to it readers would probably lose any sympathy with and interest in the MC. Any thoughts?

Allison and Ana are different. Ana doesn't arrive at camp until after the incident with Bruce. I see that I need to tighten this up.

Evil Editor said...

Exactly the opposite. I'm now much more interested in her.

Hanne said...

Me too! "They called me Torture Lady" would make a great opening line :)

Joanna said...

That's good to know. Umm...would it then disappoint you severely to find that nothing gruesome happens?

Joanna said...

I forgot to say: great continuations! Thanks!

Evil Editor said...

Not if the story of how she got her nickname is hilarious.

wendy said...

I like this line a lot: "I was proud, then, of being someone who tried to put things right."

As E.B. White (I think) said, one must always "be obscure clearly." Your writing left me a bit confused (but then I'm having a bit of trouble concentrating today). If I'm lost in space please forgive me.

Isn't this about children at camp? If so should her nickname be Torture Girl instead?

Also too wordy. Take a hatchet to this one.

These are all nitpics. Overall I think you've got a very interesting story here. I'd read on.

_*Rachel*_ said...

Torture Lady is your hook. I mean, what kid is going to pick up a book about summer camp memories when she could have one about Torture Lady?

Even if you're starting a new section when you talk about Allison, it sounds off. You've got us interested in Ana, so tell us about Ana.

Joanna said...

Thanks again for all the advice. I've tried a hasty rewrite--is this any better?
----
I wanted to make a name for myself at summer camp. I succeeded, in a way, but Torture Lady wasn’t the name I’d had in mind.

I wanted to make a friend, and I did. My bunkmate Allison and I picked each other out before I confronted Bruce and got my nickname. But Ana arrived at camp a day late, and the nickname spoiled any chance I might have had of being friends with her. And it was Ana’s friendship that I wanted desperately.

I wished afterward that I had left Bruce alone. But I was proud, then, of being someone who tried to put things right.

So was Allison. Her backpack was loaded with buttons from groups like Greenpeace and Doctors Without Borders, and it contained almost as many books as mine. We stacked our desk three deep with fantasy novels and biographies of King, Chavez, Mandela... Her books were mostly new hardcovers, and mine mostly used paperbacks, but they were all stories of heroes, people who made a difference in the world, the kind of people we were going to be.

chelsea said...

It feels like you're summarizing the whole story before you show it, which can kill the surprise. Maybe consider something like:

"I arrived at summer camp with two goals in mind: make a friend and make a name for myself.

The friend part was easy. My bunkmate Allison and I picked each other out the moment we arrived at camp. But the nickname part, well . . . I hadn't planned on being branded the Torture Lady before we'd even sat around a campfire."

Then launch into the story and let us meet Bruce and Ana when the narrator does:

"Allison's backpack was loaded with buttons from groups like Greenpeace and Doctors Without Borders, and it contained almost as many books as mine. We stacked our desk three deep . . ." etc.

I dunno. Just some ideas. I like the introduction of Torture Lady early on, but if you tell us too much of what's going to happen, it's less fun when we see it happen.

Evil Editor said...

I don't like "in a way" in the first paragraph.

I went to summer camp hoping to make a name for myself, and I guess I succeeded--although "Torture Lady" wasn’t the name I had in mind.

The second paragraph is too busy. Get rid of Bruce; we can meet him later. We don't need to know Bruce was involved in the nickname until you get around to telling the story of the nickname.

_*Rachel*_ said...

I wanted to make a name for myself at summer camp. I succeeded, in a way, but Torture Lady wasn’t the name I’d had in mind.[I wanted to make a name for myself at summer camp, but Torture Lady wasn't the name I'd had in mind. Combining the sentences, and the succeeded bit is unneccessary.]

I wanted to make a friend, and I did. [Nice parallel structure.] My bunkmate Allison and I picked each other out before I confronted Bruce and got my nickname. [Sounds a bit awkward. Maybe: Allison and I were BFF bunkmates within an hour. But Ana, with whom? I wanted desperately to be friends, arrived a day late, after the run-in with Bruce earned me my nickname. So much for friendship.] But Ana arrived at camp a day lateand the nickname spoiled any chance I might have had of being friends with her. And it was Ana’s friendship that I wanted desperately.

I wished afterward that I had left Bruce alone. But I was proud, then, of being someone who tried to put things right.

So was Allison. Her backpack was loaded with buttons from groups like Greenpeace and Doctors Without Borders, and it contained [Borders and contained] almost as many books as mine. We stacked our desk three deep with fantasy novels and biographies of King, [I don't like that wording. Maybe: with fantasy and biography: Narnia, King, Frodo, Chavez.] Chavez, Mandela... Her books were mostly new hardcovers, and mine mostly used paperbacks, but they were all stories of heroes, people who made a difference in the world, the kind of people we were going to be.

Just some suggestions. I think I like it better.

Dave F. said...

If it's all about Allison and if Ana and Bruce are colorful characters, secondary characters, then you need to trim.

All of what I took out you can save for later. Also, "desperately" is the last adverb you get to use in this chapter.

I wanted to make a name for myself at summer camp. I succeeded, -- but Torture Lady wasn’t the name I’d had in mind. I wanted Ana’s friendship desperately.
Buttons from groups like Greenpeace and Doctors Without Borders filled Allison's backpack. Instead of lots of fancy clothes, she filled her suitcase with biographies of King, Chavez, Mandela, Ghandi -- all heroes.
Now we have a good hook -- torture lady. We have the main character talking about Allison.

McKoala said...

Ana, Allison, Bruce - so many names, plus the narrator. This, plus the slightly 'I'm avoiding telling you the facts' intro coloured me confused. The tone is nice, though.

writtenwyrdd said...

Not thrilled with Torture Lady as a nickname. It doesn't have the ring of kid cruelty, partly because you use 'lady' in it.

At any rate, I agree with everyone else that this opening does go on too long without saying much. I also didn't like the line, "I was proud, then, of being someone who tried to put things right" because the word 'then' implies your pov character is, at the time of the story telling, no longer proud of being that sort of person. That confused me. Also it does NOT make sense to assume Allison is a kindred spirit because her mother's car has all those bumper stickers. It's not Allison's car.

Joanna said...

Wyrdd...you're right about the bumper stickers; hence the change to backpack buttons in the second draft. You're also right about the implication of "I was proud, then.." The story is largely about the unintended bad effects of the mc's attempts to set things right.

Rachel--I like most of your suggested changes better than my originals. Thanks.

Dave--it's not all about Allison; the MC is shaped about equally over the course of the story by her confrontations with Bruce, her initially easy friendship with Allison and her futile attempts to emulate Ana and to gain her respect. But Allison shows up first.

McK--I'll try leaving Bruce for later. I think Ana still belongs in the beginning, but I'm not sure.

BuffySquirrel said...

I think it's perfectly reasonable for a kid to assume that the stickers on the car reflect the beliefs of the girl travelling in that car. It's what people do.

batgirl said...

I'm another one who likes the rueful 'listen and I'll tell you how' sound of the 'then' sentence. It suggests that something happens to change the narrator's mind, and raises the question of what did happen. Once you've raised that question, though, move out of the reminiscences and into the story.

And I'll also agree that it's a good idea to reveal the nickname while we still remember it's an issue, and drop Bruce until he does something in the story.