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Linnea Sinclair
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Her flight finally lurched to stop.  She was still damp from the torrential downpour she got caught in trying to get to the airport.  The last thing she wanted to do was get in an Uber and head in the opposite direction of home, in yet another storm.  She was tempted to change her destination but the rain had started and there was no overhang.  Oh my god.

Wet and riding in the back of the compact sedan Taryn wiped her wet hair off her face.  Her beautiful leather pumps that had seemed like not such a terrible idea were for all intents, ruined.  As the sheets of rain started dumping on the little car as it made its way over the Coronado bridge, the flip flops she  kept in her suitcase didn’t seem like a great alternative either.  Roxie better be damned glad to see her, and make her forget the haggard day she had.  When the car pulled up to a tiny corner bar, it looked tired like any other neighborhood bar, definitely not tony or beachy.  She got out on the street side to avoid the huge puddle at the curb, then jumped the puddle in the ruined heels and throwing her suitcase with the leap.  This pedicure is long since trashed.

Hi Joanna,

I love the premise, the set-up, the use of weather and setting to ramp up tension in this opening. What works less successfully are craft and grammar issues. Overall problem one: You start in past tense. You switch in the middle to present tense. You can do that in experimental fiction (maybe, and only with great skill) but not in commercial genre fiction.

This –> Her flight finally lurched to stop.  She was still damp  <– is written in past tense. Lurched, was…

This –>he approaches, ….She says nothing….He pauses a moment, <– is present tense.

Past tense would be… he approached, she said, he paused.

If you’re unclear on past versus present (and all the other messy tense stuff), let me know and I’ll post some links to terrific and helpful articles.

If you’re unsure of whether to USE past or present, that’s a tougher question to answer. It depends on genre, style, character voice, your voice, and skill.

There are also clarity issues throughout the piece which is, as I said, full of good stuff simply awaiting a clean-up so this fun story can shine. Clarity issues can happen in many ways. Most often they happen (and I speak from decades of writing them!) during rewrites, when parts of sentences are merged. They also happen when you’re trying to get too much into one sentence (and I again speak from decades of doing exactly that). In our MINDS, we know what we want to say, we can SEE the action or the scene clearly. However, our danged fingers don’t always cooperate. 🙂 Let’s take this line by line:

Her flight finally lurched to stop.

<– This is fine. And I love lurched, because we all get shoved forward a bit when the jet finally connects to the rampway, don’t we? Sometimes it’s a gentle nudge, sometimes it’s a WHAM. The problem is, other than that lovely and universal experience, we’re in a white room. Corporate jet, commercial airline, red-eye, time of day? We don’t know. Is she aisle seat or window, back of plane or first class, has it been a long flight or just a puddle-jumper? We don’t know. We don’t need an answer to all those things, but we need something to anchor us.

Her flight finally lurched to stop. The rustle and clatter of the other passengers around her was punctuated by the ubiquitous click-click of seatbelts unsnapping. Taryn did her good aisle-seat duty and joined the un-snappers, the rose quickly before the family of five, including the screaming baby, could block her exit. Not that she didn’t sympathize. The downpour in Chicago had soaked her to the skin. Her jeans and long-sleeved hoodie were still clammy and even uncomfortably moist in areas. Yep, this must be what three hours in a wet-diaper felt like…

Okay, totally riffing here above, but at least we get some kind of visual, some kind of time and place for her and the story. I also used setting–and unnamed generic people/baby around the MC are part of the setting–to bring in her wet-clothing issue (which, yes, the reader needs to know because of the bar scene later, so this is how we set it up.)

My only problem with my own on-the-fly (pardon the pun: fly/jet) is that in three hours, her clothes would have dried. So you need to inform the reader that this was a short flight. She also, BTW, in wet clothing would have been chilled to the bone because of the usual internal temp of planes.

Because there was no visual in the opening, no time/place, I had to go  back and re-read to get a sense of where she was because the whole Uber thing comes up so quickly and it’s paired with “changed her destination.” Is she… still on the plane? Is she at the airport counter booking another flight? Is she asking the Uber driver to take her home? Where was the no overhang located? It’s all very white room, all in her recounting (and not even in personal thoughts except for the Oh my God.

Craft note: There’s a difference between god and God. God in our culture is a specific name that refers to Yahweh, Adonai Eloheim, the Judeo-Christian-Islamic deity. The lower case ‘god’ is a generic term, ie: Mortimer considered himself the football god of Smalltown High.

…but the rain had started and there was no overhang.  Oh my god.

Wet and riding in the back of the compact sedan Taryn wiped her wet hair off her face.  Her beautiful leather pumps that had seemed like not such a terrible idea were for all intents, ruined.  As the sheets of rain started dumping on the little car as it made its way over the Coronado bridge, the flip flops she  kept in her suitcase didn’t seem like a great alternative either.

But… wait a minute. It’s already raining where there was no overhang. Now the rain is starting while on the bridge. Was the overhang at the departing airport?

And her shoes are wet and she’s thinking about changing into her flip flops. Is her suitcase next to her or in the trunk? If it’s in the trunk, how can she change her shoes while in the Uber?

When the car pulled up to a tiny corner bar, it looked tired like any other neighborhood bar, definitely not tony or beachy.

Grammar and clarity: As written, “it” refers to the car. The car is the subject of the sentence.  IE: When the car pulled into the parking lot, it hit a pothole and lurched sideways. When the car pulled into the parking lot, it was out of gas.

Better: The car pulled up to the tiny corner bar.  The red-roofed building looked like a typical tired neighborhood bar, definitely not tony or beachy.

Best (don’t TELL us it’s tired-looking, SHOW us)

The car bounced through the rutted parking lot towards the bar–a one-story white brick building with a green neon sign over the door that seemed to say Joe’s Tavern, except several letters were dark, so it read Jo ‘s Tav  n.

… Or however you see it, because we don’t. There is no such thing as a typical neighborhood bar that evokes the identical image to all readers. Even if there were (things like Coca-Cola bottles or a hen’s egg are such things), we’re in Taryn’s head so we need to experience those things through HER mind and past experiences.

Now, here’s the other issue. If we were to add setting to everything so far in those first few paragraphs, the opening would to likely too long with unimportant description and issues. This is where we need to decide WHERE the story starts. Does it start at the departing airport, on the plane, at the arrival airport, at the baggage claim of the arrival airport, when she gets into the Uber and it’s raining, while she’s in the Uber crossing the bridge in the rain, or as the Uber pulls up to the bar?

That’s something you need to decide. And it’s not easy. Most writers have two or more versions of a opening because, yeppers, we’re really not sure if we’re at the baggage claim or in an Uber pulling up to a bar.

She thanked the driver, and rolled into the front door.  It was not well lit, but there were large tv screens illuminating the place and it was loud.

As written, “the front door” = It was not well lit. Plus, the verb “she rolled” seems odd. It usually implies, well, rolling. I don’t think she did a tuck and drop and roll. Do you mean she…charged through the front door, roller-bag in tow? If she rolled INTO the front door, she collided with it. Ouch. 🙂

 Her eyes moved quickly to take it all in.  Lots of men, young, military types, a few women working there, and maybe a girlfriend or wanna-be girlfriend here or there but not much else.  Their eyes said hello from across the room.  He was older than the rest and had a clean face and bright clear eyes.  Their stare lingers until he puts his drink down, says something to the woman behind the bar that seems maybe a bit more than familiar, and walks toward her.

Her GAZE not eyes. Eyes are bodily organs, like livers and spleens. Unless you mean her eyeballs literally were moving rapidly back and forth, but that’s kind of physically disorienting.

Clarity: Lots of men, young, military types, a few women working there, and maybe a girlfriend or wanna-be girlfriend here or there but not much else.  Their eyes said hello from across the room.

As written, //Their eyes// refers to the men, women and girlfriends. Do you mean that the military men, the working women, and the girlfriends were all eyeing one another?

 He was older than the rest and had a clean face and bright clear eyes.  Their stare lingers until he puts his drink down, says something to the woman behind the bar that seems maybe a bit more than familiar, and walks toward her.

He was… is past tense. Their stare lingers … is present tense. It’s unclear who “their stare” is. I’m assuming it’s Taryn and this “older” guy but that’s not what you wrote.

And that’s the whole problem. I think I know what you’re envisioning. That’s not what you’re writing or sharing with your reader, or letting your reader experience. As I said in the beginning, I totally love this set-up: she’s tired, bedraggled, cold and wet (one of the WORST feelings!) and out of her element, and suddenly here’s this… GUY. Something just–well, if not CLICKS, then INTRIGUES her, and it’s unexpected. I totally love this set-up. Now you just need to craft it in a manner worthy to your awesome story and characters.

Sure, you can try it in first person–given all the sensory stuff going on, it would be fun. But be sure you have a solid grasp of grammar or first person can get equally as confusing.

//Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//
www.linneasinclair.com

  • This reply was modified 3 months, 4 weeks ago by Linnea Sinclair. Reason: finger farts and I know I missed some--did I mention I hate hubby's keyboard?
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