HH Com Rd 2 - #24 (201/197)

Hook here

My cousin Wayne and I are on our way to our grandpa's house when we hear the yelling.

"Hey cutie. What's a sexy girl like you doing with that chink?"

It's best to ignore them. Sticks and stones and all that. I try to will Wayne along, to not make eye contact. I love my cousin, but he's got the survival skills of a lemming at full moon.

"I'm talking to you! Ching chong! No speakse Inglish?"

Wayne stops, and I can practically feel the tension humming through him. Not again.

When you're the only white girl in a Chinese family, out of place doesn't even begin to describe it. Most of the time, it doesn't really register, you know? You're so used to them that they're just sort of there.

But of course, other people don't see it that way. And that's how it always starts.

"Don't," I hiss to Wayne, trying to pull him along. "Just ignore those idiots. C'mon. We're almost at gung gung's house." Gung gung is what you call your mother's dad in Cantonese.

"I bet the bitch is only with that nerd for his money."

Wayne stops and turns around. Oh please, let's just go.

But it's no use. He may look like your typical nerd, but he's got this chivalrous side that makes him think he could be my knight in plaid shirt armour.

We stop and I take stock of the inevitable.

The yeller is your typical redneck hotshot, a rich white kid dressed in gangsta attire. He's got spiky blond hair and this gross pimple right in the middle of his chin. His cronies are all smoking and laughing.

"Ooh, watch out," Pimple Boy says, pretending to cower away from Wayne, who's going red in the face. "Chink thinks he's Bruce Lee!"

This prompts more laughter from the group as well as some Bruce Lee-type howling. Because you see, Wayne's an el primo nerd, from his tucked-in plaid shirt to his oversized glasses. He's lanky and quiet and smart. But he's also my cousin. And if there's one thing that will get him riled up (seriously, there probably is only one thing), it's someone dissing his family.

"Leave my cousin alone," he says, his voice really calm and mature. Too bad this sort of thing never works on bullies.

"Dude," the leader of the doofus gang says, almost doubling over in fits of hysterical laughter. "You need to get your glasses checked, man."

Weirdos calling us names doesn't really bother me so much. I mean, I get it all the time when I'm out with any of my cousins. Comes with the territory of being the White Girl in the Wong family.

Yeah, I don't think it's that funny either. My friends Fazza and Charlie think it's absolutely hilarious.

"Don't call her names," Wayne goes on, completely talking over the idiot's head.

"Or what? You're gonna lay your badass kung fu moves on us?"

More Bruce Lee howling from the doofus crew. I roll my eyes and step forward.

Wayne's two years older than me, but he's lanky and Chinese, whereas I'm white and freckled and a bit on the, errh, healthy side, thanks to a fondness for all things dairy. I reckon I've got about ten… five kilos on Wayne.

Which still brings me up a head short of the leader of the gang. But damn it, they're not gonna shove my favourite cousin around on my shift!

"For your information," I tell Pimple Boy in my best prissy private school voice, "Wayne's my cousin, not my boyfriend. But even if he wasn't, he would make a much better boyfriend than a loser like you!"

I stab a finger in his chest for emphasis and he takes a step back, looking baffled. Uh-oh. That might not have been the brightest thing to do. While his cronies hoot with laughter, jock-boy looks like his head is about to explode.

"Oh yeah," he says. Clearly he's the king of the witty repartee.

"Well, maybe you just need a real man to cure you of your yellow fever."

He grabs his package in an unmistakable gesture. Oh, gross.

Meanwhile, one of the other guys walks over to Wayne and shoves him.

"Yo Chink. Show us your karate moves."

Major eye-roll alert.

"Bruce Lee did kung fu, dumbass," one of the other idiots tells the shover.

"You're the dumbass," shover replies, shoving Wayne again.

"Hey," Wayne says, pushing his glasses back up his nose.

You're saying some things twice, which drives me crazy. It's one of the hardest things to copy edit for, so if 750 words has four instances, I'd be terrified of what I'd find in 50 pages.

I liked the comic touch in your hook, I think you've got a good idea, but you've got to whip the writing into shape before I'm going to ask for pages.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this.

McKoala said...

I liked it too. Great tone, something's happening, back story is sliding in without smacking me in the face. I'm reading on!

Georgiana said...

I enjoyed it also. I wanted to keep reading.

Anonymous said...

I thought this was good. Agree that some things were overstated, but it looks like it could be fun.

Kit Whitfield said...

Do you absolutely need present tense? Just asking. Along with the very short paragraphs, it makes this a little staccato.

The writing could be smoothed a bit. Having said that, it's a good strong opening, with an interesting set up and a likeable heroine (as long as her problems with racism get presented as different from, but not automatically worse than, those of her family - if her problems are made worse because she's the heroine, you're bound to have some readers assume you think they're more important because she's white, and then there will be yelling and arguing). It certainly engaged my attention. Get a sharp-eyed friend to read it before you send it round, and you may have something here.

Mark said...

I search for repetitive phrases, or assertions with the find and replace feature on Word using one common term.

writtenwyrdd said...

I liked the first version of this I read--was that on EE's blog? I think you have lengthened the dialog and thereby removed a lot of the impact. We don't need to know a lot of details, and we especially don't need to have the character describe herself and her cousin in overwhelming detail right at the beginning.

I really like your voice and I definitely would want to read more of this story. But perhaps you might chart this piece, see what info you've imparted and where... because you do keep repeating yourself. The details are bogging down the forward momentum you start with.

Also, the speech is a bit awkward in spots and sounds rather adult and not like a kid. For example, "a rich white kid dressed in gangsta attire" would sound better as "a rich white kid, dressed all gangsta."

Nubbin said...

Author, I agree with therepition criticism. You mention they are cousins several times. Once, maybe twice, is all that's needed.

I had a few problems with dialog --

"Hey, cutie" and "What's a sexy girl like you.." sound to me more like a middle age jerk than a teenage jerk.

'"Don't," I hissed.' The word "don't" does not produce a hissing sound.

'"We're almost at gung gung's house"' sounds gratuitous. I know you want to tell us about gung gung, but in convo the MC would just say "we're almost there." Or how about, "gung gung's waiting"?

I also had a problem with your description of the bully as gangsta because you describe him as a jock later. In my book those are very different chracters.

One other nitpick. Your great line "white girl in the Wong family" is diluted because you led up to it with so much information about cousins. Try moving the line closer to the front and following with the cousin explanation (and less of it).

Good luck.

Dave said...

Repeats are hard and time consuming to find and eliminate.
I took some time to find them. Number each of the thirty-five lines sequentially.

First, let me ask this question, How long does this confrontation take? Two minutes? One minute? Thirty minutes? And hour of posturing? This reads as a long, long, long prelude to a fight.
The answer determines the pace of the dialog. Dialog separated by lots of description has no pace. Snappy and witty repartee isn’t separated from the original statement by lots of time. If you want to establish your (as yet unnamed) main character as a kick ass girl who takes no guff and tolerates no fools, then do so in the first five pages rather than 10 or 15. That’s all you need. Get the fight over with because we know that she’s going to beat their asses. Where I come from, calling someone chink (line 2) or ching chong (line 4) or calling the girl a bitch would result, not in indignation, but a nearly immediate fight.

1. We are going to Grandpa’s house. Lines 1, 8
You say this twice. Once you establish that they are walking on the street, you don’t need to repeat this.

2. “White Girl in the Wong family” Lines 5, 6, 18, 23 (white/chinese), 28,
You take great pains to tell us that she is white and he is Chinese and they are related. It’s said too many times. If you use the catch phrase, then depend on your reader to remember it. In fact, if she says it when standing over the defeated gang that, would establish it forever in the reader’s mind.

3A. Physical descriptions of Wayne. Lines 35, 23, 15, 11, 3 (lemming, great line)
Wayne is over described. We only need to know that he is a nerd wearing a plaid shirt and glasses. Once is enough, not five times. If he can defend himself, then why are you describing him as a nerd. Could he be a mental nerd and a physical fighter? And in line 35 why does he push his glasses back up? NERD alert, nerd alert!
You invest many words in describing Wayne and precious few in describing the protagonist of your story. I suggest that you describe Wayne with precious few words too.

3B. In line 14, what behavior by Wayne possibly merits the insult “Ooh, watch out, Chink thinks he's Bruce Lee!" – Breathing? Immobility? You don’t say.

4. They stop and turn twice. Lines 12 and 10.
This is the same action described twice. Line 12 is completely unnecessary. Just the fact that the characters stop means they want a fight. Why don’t you have the gang stand in front of them? If they just walked away, then nothing would happen.

5. Bruce Lee mentions. Line 14, 15, 22, 23
A cheap way to invoke movement and behavior. You can write better than this. I’m guessing that they are doing bad imitations of every cheesy Kung-Fu movie that they watched on Saturday afternoon. Describe those actions and don’t invoke Bruce Lee.

6. shoves by un-named gang member – three times and four uses of the word.
Oooh, they shove Wayne three times and you use the words shove, shove, shover, and shoving over and over. Boring.

7. Pimple Boy and leader of the doofus gang – 13, 14, 17, 25,
(then he steps aside and let’s an undescribed gang member shove Wayne)

8. Jock Boy is mentioned once and forgotten in line 26
But the shover is unnamed. So there are four gang members to two delicate, young innocents? Either name all the gang members and then use the names consistently. Or simply refer to them as #1, #2, etc… You’re starting to confuse the reader.

9. Who are Fazza and Charlie and why do I care? Line 19
I’m confused. If they are gang members, then why should we know their names? If they are other family members, it’s the wrong place to introduce them because it’s slowing down the action.

10. internal inconsistency – lines 15 and 16. Wayne is riled and the next line he’s calm. Wayne is trying to stay calm, but isn’t.

11. Stupid line 34. You have one of the gang members calling Kung Fu Karate and the other gang member correcting him with dumbass. And they don’t get angry at each other? Why? Now if Pimple-boy or Jock-Boy taunts Wayne about being Bruce Lee (the only mention, I hope in that Lee is a person and not a movement or gesture) then maybe that dialog would make sense.

Anonymous said...

i enjoyed this.

Twill said...

Only one of Dave's comments I would quibble with. I could easily see a gang of boys picking on each other for getting a trivial macho fact wrong - it's what guys do.

Anonymous said...

this is pretty damn good. AND original. Like it a lot. here's what you do: write the whole book, put it aside for two months, come back to it and prune your first 5-7 chapters ruthlessly. Works for pretty much everyone every time.

Anonymous said...

That last poster gave you the best advice. I liked it a lot and think it has potential. It felt original.

Crystal Charee said...

Oh, yeah. I remember the hook. Great writing in the hook. Not as entertaining in the pages. Mostly the repeating yourself. You don't have to beat us over the head with everything. Most of us have read books before, we can understand subtlety and wait for detail.

So just polish it, but nice voice and absolutely fantastic premise. Very unique.