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Hi, I'm Jamie. I'm a writer, reader, and huge TV junkie. I just might post about all three here on this blog. Have a look around. And if you want, drop me an email and tell me what you think. Thanks for visiting!

Monday, October 11, 2010

hook, line & sinker, people!

I’ve joined another blogfest, folks! These are really fun, so head on over to In My Write Mind and join in!

As per the Hook, Line & Sinker Blogfest guidelines, here’s the beginning of a new story I’m working on. Please let me know what you think!

The goal of this blogfest is simple (yeah, right): see if you have established the hook that agents and editors scream about.

So as you’re reading my little excerpt, ask yourself these:

Who is the character I am relating to?
Does he/she have a personality that I crave to read?
Is the world around them set up to compliment the character as they are introduced?
Are there secondary characters to assist the hook along, with conflict or pace?
Lastly: do I love the character? Do I want to read more about him/her?

And P.S....I had to convert to using the Old way of composing in Blogger, so if this post looks/acts funny, my apologies!

So without further ado, here are my first 1k words!

I want to brand the cow’s hide so bad it hurts. I want to push the glowing-red “G” into the heifer’s large black-and-white rump and hear it sizzle and watch it smoke and hear the cow yell in protest. I want to see my Dad smile and be proud of me for once. But I can’t. I hold the branding iron like a knife, cocked and ready to stab, but my arm won’t move; something is holding it against my body, hard and tight and paralyzed. It’s fear. Fear that one day this cow might come back to haunt me for what I want-to-but-can’t do. Fear that afterward I won’t feel any better…and the cow won’t feel any worse. I drop the iron, its clang against the concrete floor of the barn loud in my ears. I’m a failure once again; my Dad won’t be surprised.

The nagging presence of tomorrow eats at my brain, constant and throbbing. Sixteen. The Day. My life changes tomorrow, for better or worse I don’t know. As I pet the cow’s hide instead of burning it, I wonder if the cameras will be here when I go. Of course they will be; they always are. I never get a break. The short, fine hairs on the cow’s rump are rough and standing on end beneath my hand. Guess she’s as scared as me. I want to move around and look her in the face and tell her I’m sorry for what I almost did, but I can’t. I stay next to her jutted-out hip bone and stick-like hind legs, petting her. I’m not cut out for farm work.

“Hanna Elaina, get your ass in here!” I hear Dad yelling from the house even with three-hundred plus yards and a thick rain between us. I’m actually glad it’s raining – it keeps people from lurking on my front lawn. I smack the heifer’s hind end one last time, say “I’m sorry about that”, and leave the barn. I don’t care about getting wet from the rain or muddy from the sludge sliding down our sloped yard; I stay dirty most of the time already. Even at fifteen, I like being outside more than anything else. That’s why I like Clay so much. He’s an outsider, too. And that doesn’t just mean out-of-doors. I feel like an outsider everywhere: at home, at school, at church. It doesn’t matter…if people are around, I don’t wanna be.

I slosh through the rain puddles and mud and open the rickety screen door of the back porch that sounds like a dying cat every time it moves. I stand there a minute and let most of the rain water run from my hair and face and into my clothes before going inside. The stagnant heat slaps me in the face.

“Yes daddy?” I can always sound sweet when I need to; people might call me trashy, but they’ll never call me rude. My Aunt Lucy taught me how to be nice. Before she got herself pregnant and died having my bitch of a cousin, Margret. I’ve never liked her, never could understand how something so mean could come from someone as nice as Lucy. But there Margret was, red-haired and white-skinned and evil. Even at only ten years old, Margret knows how to get what she wants – and that’s always pissed me off. Some would say I’m jealous, but I don’t think I am. I don’t like her – I’ll be the first to admit it – but we have that my-mama-died-having-me thing in common, so I tolerate her. But I did learn from her how to bat my eyes and smile and talk nice until whatever I liked at the time was mine: new bike, new shoes, Clay. If I wanted it, I always found a way to get it.

“You mind telling me why you had that boy in my house?” I watch as my dad’s head nearly grazes the low ceiling of our kitchen, his wispy hair rubbing the mildew-stained tiles like a thinning feather.

“He wasn’t here, Daddy. I swear.” I know my dad is all talk; he might not like Clay and me together, but he won’t do anything about it. Since my mom died, he kinda lets me do what I want…especially now that I’ve learned how to get my way.

“Don’t lie to me, girl. I know you had that boy here. You two screwin’ around?”

“God no, Daddy! No way.” I had to bite my bottom lip to keep from smiling. Clay and I have been having sex for almost a full year now and I love knowing that my dad has no idea. It’s my way of getting back at him for being so hateful to me. And we’ve done it all over the house – even in his bed and we didn’t change the sheets after – and we plan to keep on doing it every chance we get.

“I ain’t stupid.” My dad smiles a little and smirks and snatches a beer from the fridge, drinking half of it without stopping. “And don’t use the Lord’s name in vain, young lady.” Another large gulp. I don’t have to stand next to him to smell his alcohol stink. It hangs on him like a flashing neon sign that screams “look at me, I’m a lousy drunk”. I’ve never hated him more, but I’m too scared to tell him that. I’m too scared to do what I want to do: to run away and never come back and forget all about my daddy and my dead mama and the cows that always need milking and brushing and branding.

“I know you two are doing it.” My daddy’s voice again, dirty and gross in my ears like rotten wax. He’s finished off his first beer and already on to his second; I know he’ll be done with a six-pack in less than an hour, just like every other night, and I’ll have to lock myself in my room so he won’t hit me again. I’ve gotten used to it. “You’re a whore just like your mama was.”


  1. I think you've introduced to many characters up front. It feels like backstory. I also wasn't sure where the "sixteen" event fit in with the cow and the ranch. That event might be a good place to focus your start, but it needs to be tighter.

  2. The start is immediate, with the branding. I enjoyed the internal struggle the narrator was faced with and the unanswered questions it posed.

    Here's some quick and dirty suggestions for you...

    1) Cut the telling. All the stuff where the narrator info dumps on the reader about sex with Clay, her Aunt who isn't there, anything that isn't an immediate scene. Show vs. Tell. Weave those info dumps in later via showing them to the reader. You have thousands of words in a novel by which to show me, don't feel it necessary to dump it all in at once. You've got time.

    2) Break up your paragraphs. Big blocks of text are intimidating. Smaller paragraphs will make the reader turn pages faster and seem as if they're buzzing along.

    3) Be careful of punctuation abuse. You've got every form of punctuation known to man out there, most of which could be cut and/or subbed for commas. Commas are simple, but you don't want to overuse them either. When in doubt, trust in the period.

    4) Careful of contradictions. Narrator first says she wants to make her dad proud by branding the cow, then she goes on to tell me how she had sex on his bed, demonstrating that she's doesn't want to make him proud at all. Next she says Dad lets her do whatever, then she goes on to say he beats her. Make sure you're not confusing the reader.

    I think this is a good start. I hope the tips help you, and sorry for getting long winded! There's talent here. Keep at it! :)

  3. Well, you definitely kept my attention :-) Mesmerix made some good comments so I won't add anything except, now that I look at it again, the first sentence is ambiguous. The first time I read it I thought she wanted to hurt the cow. But the second time I read it (knowing what came after) do you mean that her wanting to be able to do it so bad is hurting HER?
    Anyway, good job, well done :-)

  4. Thanks so much for the advice, gang! Great tips all around...and Rachel, I was trying to show how angry Hannah is. Guess it needs a little work!

  5. The start is great, I can almost smell the hot iron. Definite hook, there! I kind of like that fact that you wonder, at first, why she's so intent on doing this, if it's because she's cruel, or if she has a reason.

    I also found it a bit contradictory to have her want her dad's approval first and then be so very contemptuous of him (sex in his bed) later on... I know that many teens probably feel that way but it came across a little weird. Maybe if you add, somewhere up there with the cow, that she doesnt know why she bothers to try to please him at all?

    Other than that, I didn't quite understand the cameras bit. Why would there be cameras?

    Anyhow, nice beginning you've got there, nothing wrong that wouldn't vanish in a thorough edit!


  6. Thanks Tessa! The cameras are explained in the rest of the chapter...that's the drawback to posting just a snippet. I had thought about explaining them, but it is explained a little bit later.

  7. I like the first paragraph oddly enough. It's first person but very different than what I would expect to read. Coming from Wyoming, it interests me, I can relate (never branded but was invited to once) to the main character. The story moves along and there is enough to make me interested though I will second that I'm a little confused about the camera aspect but I am intrigued enough to try and find out.

  8. Everyone else has addressed the mechanics, so I haven't anything to add to that. I like the characters. You've done a great job of showing the dysfunction in this family--dad drinks, daughter has sex all over the place, yet wants to get her dad's attention. This is common in a family with an alcoholic. But depending on who you're writing this book for, and I'm assuming it's for the young adult market, having an easy girl like this may not give her enough morals for your readers to like her and that could be a problem. Her hanging out with a rebel or something (no sex) could still get back at her dad or something. Just something to think about.

    Kudos for posting this, there's a lot to appreciate here and I'm sure it'll shine once you get it perfect! :D

  9. By the end of this I felt more about the main character. but it took me all the way to the end to get there. You have a great voice for her and her age. I agree with too much telling, but also agree there is some great inner struggle, specially around the cow.

  10. Definitely hooked! The start was great, the internal conflict about branding the cow! And it's written really well in the present tense! You have a nice voice going on here. I agree with Mesmerix about the odd contradiction though; she wants to brand the cow to make daddy proud, yet would soil her dad's sheets with her illicit lovemaking?

    All in all I would read more! :)