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Author Topic: A Good Mother  (Read 896 times)
JustinB
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« on: February 10, 2018, 06:03:23 PM »

Hello! Right now I'm on my fourth round of revisions and want to see if I can get any feedback on those oh-so-important first five pages. In advance, thank you for reading and for any potential advice or commentary.



The last nail shimmered under the blinding lights as Diana applied the final coat of water-resistance. The clock swung down to the five, signaling the end of a work day and the start of a different kind of work night. “Does that work for you?”
 
  “Yes, I think that should look good enough for the wedding...I mean I’m not too worried about it anyway because it’s my brother’s wedding, and of course I already told you about his future wife. Ugh. They’re lucky I’m even going after what she said to me,” Shiane, a regular at Vicky’s Nail Salon, complained.
 
  “You might have already told me this, but what did she say?”
 
  “Oh, that I was too protective of my little brother, that it was weird how close I was to him and that I needed to back off. I mean, yeah we’re close because we’re close in age and I care about him and I don’t want him to be screwed over by that...lady.”
   
 Diana chuckled, trying to imagine what word Shiane had really wanted to say.
   
 “I’m sorry. I’m being too personal and I know you probably want to get home to see your kids.”
 
  “No, no you’re fine. Lately work has been like a vacation for me anyway what with two almost-teenagers and their hormonal swings. And it’s just me taking care of them and sometimes I don’t feel like I can do it on my own and I’m not good enough. Do you ever get that feeling?”
 
  “I mean...yeah.”
 
  “No, never mind, I’m just complaining, and you’re here to get your nails done. Thanks for coming in, and sorry you had to hear my life story,” Diana forced a smile, wishing she had someone to talk to who actually cared about her struggles.
 
  “Thanks Diana. You did a fabulous job on my nails, I might just have to find an occasion I care about to showcase them.”
 
  “You might just have to…” Diana grimaced, her teeth clenched.
   
 Shiane bent down, grabbing her large yellow purse to swing over her shoulder before strutting away. The smile on Diana’s face faded, turning into a half-annoyed, half-upset, expression. She had to be nice to customers. And customers weren’t horrible; it was just sometimes they were unbearably naive. They didn’t have real struggles. They just liked to complain, even though they had nothing to complain about.
 
  Sighing, Diana set down the nail brush, reminding herself not to throw it for there were still customers and coworkers in the shop. Keep up the false front, and everything will be okay. Keep up the false front, and maybe it will seem like you have a grip on your life. On your kids’ lives.
 
  She inched up from the curved white chair, noticing how her back cracked with every motion.
 
  Roger glanced up from his work area. “Done for today Diana?”
 
  “Yeah. I gotta get home to make dinner, help the kids with their homework, the usual stuff.”
 
  “Well that sounds exciting. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
 
  “See you Roger. Oh, and don't forget that Patty is coming in tomorrow, she made an appointment earlier today.”
   
 “And I’m guessing you want me to take her?”
 
  “Yes...don’t you like the way she bites her nails while you’re trying to paint them? Or the way she criticizes every paint job you do? She’s a good tipper, you can take her.”
 
   “I guess I have to, Diana. Have a nice night.”
 
   “As if,” Diana snorted, picking up her handbag before hurrying out of the salon. The easy part of her day was over. The hard part, well it hadn’t just begun because it never ended.
                    ***
    A small boy skipped out of school, dodging the gigantic uniformed teachers, and fellow frantic students who were also eager to get home. “Lily!” he waved through the swarm of faces.
 
  Lily, lost among the crowd despite her abnormally tall height, searched the school yard for her younger brother. “Kyle? Where are you?”
 
   “I’m over here!” Kyle, not seeing his height as a disadvantage, climbed a rusty light pole in order to be visible.     

Lily spotted her brother, a small figure hanging from a decaying pole like a monkey hanging from a banana tree. “Get down from there you dork!”
 
  “If you say so,” Kyle replied before jumping off the pole and into the crowd of terrorized children.
 
   “Kyle!”
 
  “Ahhhhhh!” Kyle flew through the air before landing on a group of fifth graders. They tumbled down, creating a massive domino effect throughout the crowded schoolyard.
 
  “Kyle, you idiot!” Lily exclaimed from the comfort of being far enough away to avoid being a domino.
 
  Moments later, Kyle emerged from the pile of kids on top of him. “I’m okay.”
 
  “I didn’t ask,” Lily said matter-of-factly.
 
  Around him, kids began to stand up, clearly agitated. An older boy pushed through the crowd to face Kyle. “What the hell was that for?”
 
   “I’m sorry...I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”
 
   “That’s good you didn’t. Because I do.”
   
 The older boy grabbed Kyle by the neck, as kids around him started a death chant, their fists pounding in the air. Kyle whimpered, begging to be spared.
   
 “I’m going to teach you a lesson. And it’s going to be a lesson in how to not be a little punk. Do you understand?”
   
 “Yes...yes please let me go.”
 
  “Not a fat chance you punk. I just scraped my knee on the concrete because you decided to act like a moron. And now you’ll pay.”
 
   “No...no please….” Kyle cried, tears winding down his concrete-scraped cheeks.
 
  “Okay, I’ll pay. How much?” Lily shoved through the audience.
 
  “Back off...little girl,” the bully mocked.
 
  “I asked, how much do you want me to pay?”
 
   The bully smirked, considering this new offer involving cold hard cash. “Fifty dollars and this loser stays alive.”
 
   “No,” Lily said defiantly.
 
   “What the hell did you just say?” the bully threw Kyle to the ground as he scurried away.
 
   “I said...NO!”
 
  And with that Lily had the teachers’ attentions as they made their way through the kids to see what was going on.
 
  “Now, I’m going to make this nice and simple. Give me fifty dollars, or I’ll tell the teacher that you were choking my brother. And you’ll be suspended...or even expelled.”
   
 “You dirty little…”
 
  “Hurry, the teachers are coming.”
   
 The bully reached into his dirty jean pocket to reveal a stuffed leather wallet. He carefully counted out fifty dollars before handing it to Lily.
   
 “Thank you very much. Nice doing business with you.”
 
   “Don’t mention it. I mean it or you’re next.”
 
  “Oh, I doubt you have enough money for whatever is next.”
 
  “We’ll see,” the bully grunted, turning away.
 
  Kyle got up, limping over to his sister. Amazed by her bravery, he let out, “Wow...nicely done.”
 
  “Shut up. I didn’t do it for you. I did it for the money.”
 
  “Can’t you just pretend to be nice for one second?”

    “Can’t you just pretend to not be an idiot for one second? What you did was stupid. And you’re lucky I’m not telling mom...she would kill you, literally.”
   
 “You mean it? You won’t tell mom?”

    “I mean it. Besides, I’m not sharing my money with her.”
 
  Lily fanned her money against her face, feeling triumphant and embarrassed by her stupid brother at the same time. “Let’s go, the bus is about to leave.”
 
   The two siblings raced to the yellow bus before it departed for their home.
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« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2018, 08:12:09 AM »

Overall, this is great. I am especially drawn in by the schoolyard drama and the relationship between the siblings. I can see two minor points for improvement.


   “I’m over here!” Kyle, not seeing his height as a disadvantage, climbed a rusty light pole in order to be visible.     

Lily spotted her brother, a small figure hanging from a decaying pole like a monkey hanging from a banana tree. “Get down from there you dork!”
 
  “If you say so,” Kyle replied before jumping off the pole and into the crowd of terrorized children.
 
   “Kyle!”
 
  “Ahhhhhh!” Kyle flew through the air before landing on a group of fifth graders. They tumbled down, creating a massive domino effect throughout the crowded schoolyard.

When Lily says "Kyle!" in the middle of this, it breaks up the flow of the action. Or maybe the "before jumping off the pole and into the terrorized crowd" is premature? Then redundant? It just seems a bit awkward, and I love the action so much that I want it to be sharp and clean.

Then at the end, Lily fans herself with the money, but isn't the teacher coming? Shouldn't Lily be hiding the money? Perhaps she could raise a victorious fist, with the money hidden inside? Or mention that her back is to the teacher?

Awesome beginning. Good luck!
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JustinB
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« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2018, 06:03:46 PM »

Thank you so much for your feedback! Revised version:


The last nail shimmered under the blinding lights as Diana applied the final coat of water-resistance. The clock swung down to the five, signaling the end of a work day and the start of a different kind of work night. “Does that work for you?”
 
  “Yes, I think that should look good enough for the wedding...I mean I’m not too worried about it anyway because it’s my brother’s wedding, and of course I already told you about his future wife. Ugh. They’re lucky I’m even going after what she said to me,” Shiane, a regular at Vicky’s Nail Salon, complained.
 
  “You might have already told me this, but what did she say?”
 
  “Oh, that I was too protective of my little brother, that it was weird how close I was to him and that I needed to back off. I mean, yeah we’re close because we’re close in age and I care about him and I don’t want him to be screwed over by that...lady.”
   
 Diana chuckled, trying to imagine what word Shiane had really wanted to say.
   
 “I’m sorry. I’m being too personal and I know you probably want to get home to see your kids.”
 
  “No, no you’re fine. Lately work has been like a vacation for me anyway what with two almost-teenagers and their hormonal swings. And it’s just me taking care of them and sometimes I don’t feel like I can do it on my own and I’m not good enough. Do you ever get that feeling?”
 
  “I mean...yeah.”
 
  “No, never mind, I’m just complaining, and you’re here to get your nails done. Thanks for coming in, and sorry you had to hear my life story,” Diana forced a smile, wishing she had someone to talk to who actually cared about her struggles.
 
  “Thanks Diana. You did a fabulous job on my nails, I might just have to find an occasion I care about to showcase them.”
 
  “You might just have to…” Diana grimaced, her teeth clenched.
   
 Shiane bent down, grabbing her large yellow purse to swing over her shoulder before strutting away. The smile on Diana’s face faded, turning into a half-annoyed, half-upset, expression. She had to be nice to customers. And customers weren’t horrible; it was just sometimes they were unbearably naive. They didn’t have real struggles. They just liked to complain, even though they had nothing to complain about.
 
  Sighing, Diana set down the nail brush, reminding herself not to throw it for there were still customers and coworkers in the shop. Keep up the false front, and everything will be okay. Keep up the false front, and maybe it will seem like you have a grip on your life. On your kids’ lives.
 
  She inched up from the curved white chair, noticing how her back cracked with every motion.
 
  Roger glanced up from his work area. “Done for today Diana?”
 
  “Yeah. I gotta get home to make dinner, help the kids with their homework, the usual stuff.”
 
  “Well that sounds exciting. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
 
  “See you Roger. Oh, and don't forget that Patty is coming in tomorrow, she made an appointment earlier today.”
   
 “And I’m guessing you want me to take her?”
 
  “Yes...don’t you like the way she bites her nails while you’re trying to paint them? Or the way she criticizes every paint job you do? She’s a good tipper, you can take her.”
 
   “I guess I have to, Diana. Have a nice night.”
 
   “As if,” Diana snorted, picking up her handbag before hurrying out of the salon. The easy part of her day was over. The hard part, well it hadn’t just begun because it never ended.
                    ***
    A small boy skipped out of school, dodging the gigantic uniformed teachers, and fellow frantic students who were also eager to get home. “Lily!” he waved through the swarm of faces.
 
  Lily, lost among the crowd despite her abnormally tall height, searched the school yard for her younger brother. “Kyle? Where are you?”
 
   “I’m over here!” Kyle, not seeing his height as a disadvantage, climbed a rusty light pole in order to be visible.     

Lily spotted her brother, a small figure hanging from a decaying pole like a monkey hanging from a banana tree. “Get down from there you dork!”
 
  “If you say so,” Kyle replied before jumping off the pole and into the crowd of terrorized children. “Ahhhhhh!” He flew through the air before landing on a group of fifth graders. They tumbled down, creating a massive domino effect throughout the crowded schoolyard.
 
  “Kyle, you idiot!” Lily exclaimed from the comfort of being far enough away to avoid being a domino.
 
  Moments later, Kyle emerged from the pile of kids on top of him. “I’m okay.”
 
  “I didn’t ask,” Lily said matter-of-factly.
 
  Around him, kids began to stand up, clearly agitated. An older boy pushed through the crowd to face Kyle. “What the hell was that for?”
 
   “I’m sorry...I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”
 
   “That’s good you didn’t. Because I do.”
   
 The older boy grabbed Kyle by the neck, as kids around him started a death chant, their fists pounding in the air. Kyle whimpered, begging to be spared.
   
 “I’m going to teach you a lesson. And it’s going to be a lesson in how to not be a little punk. Do you understand?”
   
 “Yes...yes please let me go.”
 
  “Not a fat chance you punk. I just scraped my knee on the concrete because you decided to act like a moron. And now you’ll pay.”
 
   “No...no please….” Kyle cried, tears winding down his concrete-scraped cheeks.
 
  “Okay, I’ll pay. How much?” Lily shoved through the audience.
 
  “Back off...little girl,” the bully mocked.
 
  “I asked, how much do you want me to pay?”
 
   The bully smirked, considering this new offer involving cold hard cash. “Fifty dollars and this loser stays alive.”
 
   “No,” Lily said defiantly.
 
   “What the hell did you just say?” the bully threw Kyle to the ground as he scurried away.
 
   “I said...NO!”
 
  And with that Lily had the teachers’ attentions as they made their way through the kids to see what was going on.
 
  “Now, I’m going to make this nice and simple. Give me fifty dollars, or I’ll tell the teacher that you were choking my brother. And you’ll be suspended...or even expelled.”
   
 “You dirty little…”
 
  “Hurry, the teachers are coming.”
   
 The bully reached into his dirty jean pocket to reveal a stuffed leather wallet. He carefully counted out fifty dollars before handing it to Lily.
   
 “Thank you very much. Nice doing business with you.”
 
   “Don’t mention it. I mean it or you’re next.”
 
  “Oh, I doubt you have enough money for whatever is next.”
 
  “We’ll see,” the bully grunted, turning away.
 
  Kyle got up, limping over to his sister. Amazed by her bravery, he let out, “Wow...nicely done.”
 
  “Shut up. I didn’t do it for you. I did it for the money.”
 
  “Can’t you just pretend to be nice for one second?”

    “Can’t you just pretend to not be an idiot for one second? What you did was stupid. And you’re lucky I’m not telling mom...she would kill you, literally.”
   
 “You mean it? You won’t tell mom?”

    “I mean it. Besides, I’m not sharing my money with her.”
 
    Lily pounded the air with her fist, her cash tucked safely inside her palm. “Let’s go, the bus is about to leave.”
 
   The two siblings raced to the yellow bus before it departed for their home.
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« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2018, 06:53:57 AM »

This is such a great beginning. You have clearly established personalities, and laid the groundwork for whatever might happen next.
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katD
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« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2018, 08:14:24 PM »

The opening pages have a lot going for them. What I enjoyed most was that I could feel Diane's sense of resolve juxtaposed against a kind of isolation and fatigue. You've managed to say a lot about her through dialogue and inner voice.

One thing you might consider working on is scene setting. When I started reading this, I thought the POV character had just hammered a nail into the hull of a ship and was applying a waterproof coating. That probably seems silly, but I don't get my nails done, so the inside of a nail salon is foreign territory to me. I'd love to see, smell, hear and feel the texture of what it feels like to be Diane in this place at this time. Has the odor soaked into her skin? Does she associate the smell of fingernail polish with art, and beauty? Or does it increase the tedium of what she's doing? When she's holding the client's hand to apply the paint, does she notice or care if the hand is warn and callused or soft and strong? Does she think about the lives of the women she works for? Or does she simply think of hands as nothing more than hands? There is no right answer--but the details of these opening pages tell us so much about who your POV character is.

Character is revealed by the details your character finds important enough to notice.

I hope you find this helpful!
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JustinB
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« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2018, 10:57:05 AM »

Thank you so much for your advice!
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Pineapplejuice
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« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2018, 06:57:52 AM »

Hello! Right now I'm on my fourth round of revisions and want to see if I can get any feedback on those oh-so-important first five pages. In advance, thank you for reading and for any potential advice or commentary.



The last fingernail shimmered under the blinding lights as Diana applied the final coat of water-resistant nail polish. The clock swung down to the five, signaling the end of a work day and the start of a different kind of work night. “Does that work for you?” ( too many 'works's ) Said Diana.
 
  “Yes, I think that should look good enough for the wedding...'  Shiane, a regular at Vicky’s Nail Salon, complained. 'I mean I’m not too worried about it anyway because it’s my brother’s wedding, and of course I already told you about his future wife. Ugh. They’re lucky I’m even going after what she said to me,” Shiane, a regular at Vicky’s Nail Salon, complained.
 
  “You might have already told me this, but what did she say?” ( Needs something physical to keep us grounded ) Diana screwed the lid on the water resistant polish.
 
  “Oh, that I was too protective of my little brother," Shiane huffed, rolling her eyes ",that it was weird how close I was to him and that I needed to back off. I mean, yeah we’re close because we’re close in age and I care about him and I don’t want him to be screwed over by that...lady.”
   
 Diana chuckled, trying to imagine what word Shiane had really wanted to say.
   
 “I’m sorry. I’m being too personal and I know you probably want to get home to see your kids.”
 
  “No, no you’re fine. Lately work has been like a vacation for me anyway what with two almost-teenagers and their hormonal swings. And it’s just me taking care of them and sometimes I don’t feel like I can do it on my own and I’m not good enough. Do you ever get that feeling?”
 
  “I mean...yeah.” ( Needs something here. Need to have a clue as to what Shian is feeling, to know as reader, if Diana is right in to be self discriminatory when she next speaks. )
 
  “No, Never mind, I’m just complaining, and you’re here to get your nails done. Thanks for coming in, and sorry you had to hear my life story,” Diana forced a smile, wishing she had someone to talk to who actually cared about her struggles.
 
  “Thanks Diana." Said Shiane, holding her hands out infront of her, and beaming. "You did a fabulous job on my nails, I might just have to find an occasion I care about to showcase them.”
 
  “You might just have to…” Diana grimaced, her teeth clenched. ( Confused why she is clenching teeth. Need a thought from Diana )
   
 Shiane bent down, grabbing her large yellow purse to swing over her shoulder before strutting away. The smile on Diana’s face faded, turning into a half-annoyed, half-upset,( find a more apt word, these are both too vague and similiar )  expression. She had to be nice to customers. And customers weren’t horrible; it was just sometimes they were unbearably naive. They didn’t have real struggles. They just liked to complain, even though they had nothing to complain about.
 
  Sighing, Diana set down the nail brush, reminding herself not to throw it for there were still customers and coworkers in the shop. Keep up the false front, and everything will be okay. Keep up the false front, and maybe it will seem like you have a grip on your life. On your kids’ lives.
 
  She inched up from the curved white chair, noticing how her back cracked with every motion.
 
  Roger glanced up from his work area. “Done for today Diana?”
 
  “Yeah. I gotta get home to make dinner, help the kids with their homework, the usual stuff.” Add something.
 
  “Well that sounds exciting. I’ll see you tomorrow.” ( He murmured, distracted. He turned back to the phone and lifted the receiver. About to do orders. )
 
 Diana spun on her heels as she grabbed the door handle, remembering.   
 “See you Roger. Oh, and don't forget that Patty is coming in tomorrow, she made an appointment earlier today.”
   
 “And I’m guessing you want me to take her?” He held the receiver mid air and raised his eyebrows, an amused spark in his eyes.
 
  “Yes...don’t you like the way she bites her nails while you’re trying to paint them? Or the way she criticizes every paint job you do? She’s a good tipper, you can take her.”
 
   “I guess I have to, Diana.' He sighed, 'Have a nice night.”
 
   “As if,” Diana snorted, picking up her handbag before hurrying out of the salon. The easy part of her day was over. The hard part, well it hadn’t just begun because it never ended.
                    ***
 


I really enjoyed that. I do want to second KatD because I pictured a nail on a window sill for some reason. And I'd rather you say 'fingernail' rather than 'nail' and add 'over the nailpolish' to last waterproof coating...as not all of us ( and I'm female ) understand there is such a practice as applying waterproof coating to fingernails.

I think you need a tiny bit more description and diaglogue tags with the customer etc because I wasn't sure what she was meaning with her words. Or what Diana was thinking. Ie; Diana didn't tell her her 'life story', only reciprocated the open convo, which for most of these female chat situations in a professional setting such as beauty, isn't going to be a problem. I understand if it's showcases her low -self esteem but I'd just add a bit more. I'll think on it to see if I can explain it better or come up with an example.

Great pace.  Smiley
« Last Edit: March 06, 2018, 07:12:54 AM by Pineapplejuice » Logged
JustinB
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« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2018, 11:18:32 AM »

Thanks pineapplejuice!
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