I

I

A Chapter by Jane

Laura had never thought of lying to her father, as she did so now, sitting in a car driving to nowhere. The window framed different shades of dark, neon, passing trees and graveyards. She didn’t remember which way they turned, which song blasted from her player, or the expression on her father’s face when he was asking, “what were you doing all this time?” 


Her dad was driving. Very slowly she gathered her thoughts, then lost them again, like a clumsy child trying to pick up balls. “rehearsal ran longer,” she shrugged. 


Alex’s face swam into view. 

Just minutes ago. Alex in the changing room, asking her what was it again that she wanted to say? What was it? Couldn’t he figure it out? It was the fourteenth of February and everyone had left, there was no other reason she would have stayed. Alone with him. Trying to tell him something.


Why couldn’t he figure it out? Now she was debating within herself. Either he is an excellent actor or he genuinely did not know. Everyone in the cast knew, though. She had “spilled the tea” one time during rehearsal. Sofia had her do it. She regretted it because it made the feeling solid, and instead of being a lingering question it now had a form, a voice, a direction: 


She had to tell him. 


Alex. 


Alex in the hall way, saying he likes her too as if it meant nothing to him. He wasn’t blushing. Wasn’t even looking away. Just said it like he was having a cup of coffee, and waving “have a nice day” - “you too”. But she told him again, and this time he understood. He was thinking now, but smiling. That’s a good sign. They were outside the front door now, Alex had opened it. The icy wind seemed to push them closer. She could see Alex’s face entirely in the light of the doorway, she could feel him next to her. And he was smiling. Her dad’s car parked in front. She was reluctant. 


Finally she walked down the steps. Finally he waved goodbye. 


Alex had not given a reply. 


But it was enough. The snow, the walk, the romance of it all; even just for a second, and in her own head. She would repeat it over and over on the way back home, and dad, who just flew thousands of miles from China to see her, got almost no excitement from his daughter, who left her heart somewhere in the snow, at the front door where the boy in the blue coat waved goodbye. 

Again and again and again. 



© 2019 Jane


My Review

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Featured Review

Okay, take a deep breath, this is going to sting a bit. Just bear in mind that what I'm about to say is no reflection on your writing or your talent, only the result of a misunderstanding we all make, which is that we think we learned to write in school. We didn't, not as a fiction writer views that act. What all those reports and essays we were assigned did was to make us proficient at writing reports and essays.

The result is that with the best of intentions, and a strong desire to write fiction that a reader will love, you used what you've been taught, in the way you've been taught, just as pretty much every hopeful writer does, when they turn to recording their stories—myself included. And of course, if we use nonfiction techniques, what we write bears a striking resemblance to...nonfiction.

You don't see it as you read your own work, because you know the details before you look at the first page, and automatically fill in the necessary, but not included, details. A reader can't. You automatically fill in the emotion the people in the story are feeling. And of most importance, instead of living the story with the protagonist as our avatar, we read ABOUT the story, often in overview and synopsis.

Which would you rather do, learn that the protagonist in a horror story feels terror, or be made to be afraid to turn out the lights in your own house? Learn that the protagonist in a romance has fallen in love, or be made to fall in love, with that same person, for the same reasons?

Look at the opening lines as a reader, who knows only what the words suggest to them, based on their experience, not yours, nor your intent for how it be taken:

• Laura had never thought of lying to her father, as she did so now,

So you tell the reader that Laura, someone we know nothing about, is going to lie to her father, who has not been introduced, about something unknown. And she does this in a car that's driving to "nowhere?" That's a report. It's data that's meaningless without context, and you provide none.

Where are we? Dunno. Where are we coming from? Dunno. Why do we have no destination? Dunno. How old is she? Dunno. Why are they in the car? Dunno. Why is she going to lie? Dunno. What's her relationship with her father. You don't give a hint. And that does not change as we progress. She knows what's going onm. Daddy knows too. Even Alex knows. But who did you write this for, and why don't they have the information needed to provide context? Fair is fair. Readers give you of their time, so give them something that makes sense to them, as it's read, in return.
And in the words of E.L Doctorow, “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it’s raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” No way in hell can the writing skills you were given in school do that.

• Alex in the changing room, asking her what was it again that she wanted to say?

This sentence has no subject that's meaningful to the reader. A paragraph ago we were in an unknown car for unknown reason, and there was no Alex. But now, for no reason a reader can tell, the narrator is talking about a "changing room, and "Alex," who could be pretty much anything to her, is asking her "again," about something we didn't hear him ask the first time.

See the problem? You have knowledge and intent when you read this. You know the story. The reader? They don't know what century they're in, what country they're in, or what's being talked about.

Here's the deal: Because your teachers have never mentioned that fiction requires an entirely different approach, or that you were being taught only nonfiction writing skills to make you useful to an employer, you made the same mistake everyone makes, and assumed that the writing skills you own are useful for all forms of writing. They're not.
The skills they gave you are designed to inform. The narrator explains, personally, and focuses in matters of fact.

But the goal of fiction is to provide the reader with the emotional experience of living the story in the moment, not learning about the events that make it up. So to write fiction, you need to learn the skills of the fiction writer. Fiction is emotion, not fact-based. And it's written in a character-centric, not fact-based way. The reader wants to literally become the protagonist, and experience the story in real-time, from within the protagonist's "now."

Why is that necessary, and what can it do for your writing? Try this article: https://jaygreenstein.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/the-grumpy-writing-coach-8/

In fact, you might want to dig around among the other articles there, on writing. They'll give you an idea of what you're missing, and why you need it.

In the end, though, you need to pick up a copy of Debra Dixon's, GMC Goal Motivation & Conflict. It's a really good basic book on the nuts and bolts issues of writing fiction that sings to the reader.

This wasn't great news, or what you were hoping to hear, I know. But on the other hand, it is what you absolutely need to know if you're to take the enthusiasm for writing that you have, and the perseverance that had you doing this much work on a story you care about, and amplify what talent you have by training it, so it has useful tools to work with.

It's not an easy task, because you'll be learning a set of skills as big, and complex, as what you already learned in school. But they're the tools of the working writer. And if you hope to please people who have been reading nothing but professionally written and produced fiction since they began reading, you need to know the tricks the pros know.

So dig in, and while you do, hang in there, and keep-on-writing.

Jay Greenstein
https://jaygreenstein.wordpress.com/category/the-craft-of-writing/



Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Jane

1 Year Ago

Thank you for the review! I honestly did not think much about the techniques when I was writing this.. read more



Reviews

Hey Jane
I see that you're trying to establish a basic context with this first chapter and get the reader hooked. Although the story gains some momentum and direction midway through, the beginning and the content until then is rather vague and confusing. It's not clear what's happening with Laura now. The episode with Alex is obviously a thing of past, and there is that element of an innocent, high-school romance about it. All that is pretty clear, and I must say that the last paragraph is really well-written, according to me.

But there is too much vagueness in the beginning. I understand that things will probably get clear in the next chapters, but I'm a little clueless about this first chapter. I shall read the next ones, but I hope you see what I'm getting at here. :)

Posted 12 Months Ago


Okay, take a deep breath, this is going to sting a bit. Just bear in mind that what I'm about to say is no reflection on your writing or your talent, only the result of a misunderstanding we all make, which is that we think we learned to write in school. We didn't, not as a fiction writer views that act. What all those reports and essays we were assigned did was to make us proficient at writing reports and essays.

The result is that with the best of intentions, and a strong desire to write fiction that a reader will love, you used what you've been taught, in the way you've been taught, just as pretty much every hopeful writer does, when they turn to recording their stories—myself included. And of course, if we use nonfiction techniques, what we write bears a striking resemblance to...nonfiction.

You don't see it as you read your own work, because you know the details before you look at the first page, and automatically fill in the necessary, but not included, details. A reader can't. You automatically fill in the emotion the people in the story are feeling. And of most importance, instead of living the story with the protagonist as our avatar, we read ABOUT the story, often in overview and synopsis.

Which would you rather do, learn that the protagonist in a horror story feels terror, or be made to be afraid to turn out the lights in your own house? Learn that the protagonist in a romance has fallen in love, or be made to fall in love, with that same person, for the same reasons?

Look at the opening lines as a reader, who knows only what the words suggest to them, based on their experience, not yours, nor your intent for how it be taken:

• Laura had never thought of lying to her father, as she did so now,

So you tell the reader that Laura, someone we know nothing about, is going to lie to her father, who has not been introduced, about something unknown. And she does this in a car that's driving to "nowhere?" That's a report. It's data that's meaningless without context, and you provide none.

Where are we? Dunno. Where are we coming from? Dunno. Why do we have no destination? Dunno. How old is she? Dunno. Why are they in the car? Dunno. Why is she going to lie? Dunno. What's her relationship with her father. You don't give a hint. And that does not change as we progress. She knows what's going onm. Daddy knows too. Even Alex knows. But who did you write this for, and why don't they have the information needed to provide context? Fair is fair. Readers give you of their time, so give them something that makes sense to them, as it's read, in return.
And in the words of E.L Doctorow, “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it’s raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” No way in hell can the writing skills you were given in school do that.

• Alex in the changing room, asking her what was it again that she wanted to say?

This sentence has no subject that's meaningful to the reader. A paragraph ago we were in an unknown car for unknown reason, and there was no Alex. But now, for no reason a reader can tell, the narrator is talking about a "changing room, and "Alex," who could be pretty much anything to her, is asking her "again," about something we didn't hear him ask the first time.

See the problem? You have knowledge and intent when you read this. You know the story. The reader? They don't know what century they're in, what country they're in, or what's being talked about.

Here's the deal: Because your teachers have never mentioned that fiction requires an entirely different approach, or that you were being taught only nonfiction writing skills to make you useful to an employer, you made the same mistake everyone makes, and assumed that the writing skills you own are useful for all forms of writing. They're not.
The skills they gave you are designed to inform. The narrator explains, personally, and focuses in matters of fact.

But the goal of fiction is to provide the reader with the emotional experience of living the story in the moment, not learning about the events that make it up. So to write fiction, you need to learn the skills of the fiction writer. Fiction is emotion, not fact-based. And it's written in a character-centric, not fact-based way. The reader wants to literally become the protagonist, and experience the story in real-time, from within the protagonist's "now."

Why is that necessary, and what can it do for your writing? Try this article: https://jaygreenstein.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/the-grumpy-writing-coach-8/

In fact, you might want to dig around among the other articles there, on writing. They'll give you an idea of what you're missing, and why you need it.

In the end, though, you need to pick up a copy of Debra Dixon's, GMC Goal Motivation & Conflict. It's a really good basic book on the nuts and bolts issues of writing fiction that sings to the reader.

This wasn't great news, or what you were hoping to hear, I know. But on the other hand, it is what you absolutely need to know if you're to take the enthusiasm for writing that you have, and the perseverance that had you doing this much work on a story you care about, and amplify what talent you have by training it, so it has useful tools to work with.

It's not an easy task, because you'll be learning a set of skills as big, and complex, as what you already learned in school. But they're the tools of the working writer. And if you hope to please people who have been reading nothing but professionally written and produced fiction since they began reading, you need to know the tricks the pros know.

So dig in, and while you do, hang in there, and keep-on-writing.

Jay Greenstein
https://jaygreenstein.wordpress.com/category/the-craft-of-writing/



Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Jane

1 Year Ago

Thank you for the review! I honestly did not think much about the techniques when I was writing this.. read more

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Added on March 3, 2019
Last Updated on March 8, 2019
Tags: highschool, bio, disillusion, girlproblems, depression, innocent, school, firstlove, crush, class, hair, teen, modernity, gender, love, romance, goodbye, leave, change, parting, grief, beginning, end

Laura

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Author

Jane
Jane

Toronto, Ontario, Canada



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