9.09.2006

3rd SR Crapometer #99 plus 6

Dear Miss Snark,

What would you do if a half sister you never knew about suddenly showed up in your life? And what if the only person who could explain her existence wasn't able to tell you?

Thirty-three-year-old April Sullivan-LaMonaca must answer these questions in my novel, Permission to Go. April has endured the deaths of her husband and son as well as her mother's descent into Alzheimer's disease. Just when she thinks she can't handle anything else, Maggie Prescott, a famous broadcast journalist 18 years older than April, shows up and claims to be April's half sister.

This discovery forces both women to examine their lives and confront people from the past. Maggie discovers an old love from whom she's kept a 30-year-old secret, while April finds an unexpected ally in Hugh, a resident's husband in the nursing home where April works as activities director and where her mother now resides. Readers of women's fiction will
relate to the struggles between family duty, such as caring for mom, and the desire to find a life that's separate from parents and siblings. (oh yuck, don't tell me how readers will relate. Every novelist in the world has six anecdotes minimum about readers who saw things in the novel they didn't intend. All you can tell me right now is what YOU intend, and I don't care. All I want to know right now is what the story is and whether you can write)

Permission to Go is approximately 94,000 words, and it's my first novel. As a freelance writer for the past four years, I've written for Writer's Digest, The Boston Globe, and corporate websites and publications. I'm also on air at a Boston radio station on the weekends. (So, how's the Big Dig going?)

I'm including the first page per your submission guidelines. I look forward to hearing what you think. (no you don't. You look forward to me falling off my chair with fervent admiration but you're from Boston so you won't actually say that)

Thank you very much for your time.

Best regards,
Hopefully-Not-a Nitwit


Chapter One

"I have the DNA results." Maggie stands in my office doorway in a form-fitting black suit and high heels that I'd break my neck in. She hands me an oversized red envelope. "Here you go."

Like everything else about Maggie Prescott, the envelope is over-the-top. I mean, really--this isn't the fucking Oscars. I toss it on my desk's quickly reproducing paper piles and return to the new resident assessment sheet I've been staring at for the last 20 minutes. (take out everything in green)

"Aren't you going to open it?" she asks.

"No."

"Why not?"

"Why should I?"

"Don't you want to know?"

I shrug. "Why? Are there any surprises?"

"What do you mean?"

"You know what I mean."

"Afraid not. Enlighten me." There's an edge to her normally smooth, broadcast voice.

"Well, you were so sure of what the results were going to be. So." I look up. "Were you surprised?"

Maggie casts me her infamous cool hard gaze that she normally reserves for surly interview subjects. "No. I wasn't surprised at all."

"Well, okay then. What do you want me to do, sister?" My meanness is deliberate, yet part of me feels like complete shit for acting this way. I promised myself, however, that I'd take this tactic. I don't have room in my life for a long-lost half sister. I don't want a reunion. I don't want to share childhood pictures. And while I'm sorry I don't have any explanations for her--like why our mother gave her up for adoption over 50 years ago and chose to tell no one about it--I don't want to turn my life upside down even more by trying to dig up some answers.

Maggie shakes her head. Her shoulder-length blunt cut doesn't move, which gives the residents' Aqua-Net helmets a run for their money. "I don't want you to do anything, April. Just wanted to let you know. That's all."

I stare again at the assessment form, amazed at how English words have somehow transformed into Chinese characters. "Okay. You've let me know. I need to get back to work now."

"Fine. I'm going to see Kate." She pauses. "If that's okay with you."

"Go ahead. I can't stop you."

"Right," she says, while turning on her heels and strutting off. "You can't."

As she walks through the empty activities room toward the exit, her ass swaggers. I wonder if my butt does the same thing, and suddenly my mind descends into the "Does-She" dance. Does she have freckles on her back, like I do? Does she like the way orange juice tastes after brushing her teeth? Does she sneeze in multiples of threes? Does she sing as god-awful as me?
We're not twins, I remind myself, just sisters. HALF sisters. Born 18 years apart from the same mother but different fathers. It's a big difference, but how big, I don't know. And I don't want to know.

Right?





You've got too much tell.
You've got a good concept. With the open records laws lots of people are finding themselves with relatives they never knew they had.

this needs serious pruning and shaping but you've got potential.

Form rejection though, it's not ready to invest time in.

7 comments:

SAND STORM said...

"With the open records laws lots of people are finding themselves with relatives they never knew they had."

I was just discussing this with my brother George Clooney!

Bella Stander said...

Good premise, but there's so little set-up (who ARE these people? I only know because of the query) that I wonder whether this is indeed the first page. Seems more like it's from chapter 2, or even 3.

I've seen shoulders swagger, but not asses.

Janet Black said...

Hey, there's a plot here. And interesting characters with baggage and motives. Not bad. It does need trimming, though. Rework that over-done dialogue. Make it tight and brief, the way people really talk when they're irritated. Good luck.

"I look forward to hearing what you think." (no you don't. You look forward to me falling off my chair with fervent admiration but you're from Boston so you won't actually say that)"
Miss Snark, you're a riot.

McKoala said...

To me this has the opposite problem from so many crapometer entries - it starts too far into the story. Had you considered starting with their meeting? You probably have. Just wanted to say.

the writer speaks... said...

Hi Everyone,

First, Miss Snark--THANK YOU for doing this. (I submitted a thanks yesterday, but I must have been one of the deleted comments...or perhaps you didn't want me to post my true identity, which is why I'm ANON for this comment).

I couldn't pay for this kind of honest, blunt, and completely helpful feedback. The Big Dig sucks; you don't! :)

Bella--I hope you're feeling better! Your observations are interesting...this is actually a revised first page. The novel has been sitting for several months, and I finally went back with a fresh eye after getting tons of feedback from my writer's group and other readers. The biggest issue (for most of them, anyway) seemed to be in the early pages (the last half seems to have the right pacing). So I was trying to duplicate the pacing of the final half, but perhaps I've sacrificed the set-up as a result. The novel is done in five voices, so I'm *hoping* that we get in their heads fast.

My original first page had too much exposition, so I wanted to start with a scene, which leads me to McKoala's comment about starting with the first meeting between the two sisters...in a very, very early version, I did start there, but then scrapped it because it seemed to bog down the action. I was hoping that by going right to the DNA results that we'd move forward faster and I could fill in the necessary backstory. But maybe I need to revisit that. And thanks, Janet, for reading and your comments on the dialogue...I think between Miss Snark and all of you (and a good pair of pruning shears) that I know what I need to do. And there was a great article on flashbacks in my new issue of The Writer (I use waaayy too many in this draft).

Hello, drawing board, I'm back! :)

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

FWIW, I disagreed with Miss Snark about everything she said to take out. That was the stuff I thought made it more than just all dialogue/talking heads. Don't let anyone, even a savvy gal like Miss Snark, step on your storytelling voice.

Radicalfeministpoet said...

Too many bad words in here. I lived in Boston for years before I moved to the UK, and somehow I managed to keep my mouth out of the gutter. Why can't you?

Five voices isn't nearly enough in this day and age. You should switch voiced every page.

Also, no one likes the taste of orange juice after brushing her teeth. That's just perverted.