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A Time When It All Went Wrong

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Welcome to the Bull Pen!  

This place has been set aside for new writers to practise their craft. The purpose is to provide an area for story samples to be posted for comment. The intention is that others will provide constructive criticism to allow new writers to improve.

This is such a great idea! I'm a (fairly) new writer who'd like comments about what I write. The instructions don't say how short (or long) a sample can be. So, if my sample is too long, I'm sure you'll tell me. There are a couple of minor sexual references, but I think they're necessary for the story, and there's no "action" in this sample at all.

So, with a desire for feedback, and without explicit direction about size, here's a fairly long sample from a new story I'm writing. I think it's just about enough of a sample that you can imagine where the story's going. I have a lot more written. But it's far from finished.

Constructive feedback will be very valuable. And appreciated. Or just an "I like it" or "I don't like it" with the reason(s) why will be fine, too.

Colin Kelly

A Time When It All Went Wrong

I had a dream my life would be

So different from this hell I'm living,

So different now from what it seemed...

Now life has killed the dream I dreamed...

I couldn?t take the bus, not when I was crying, so I walked home from school with tears streaming down my face. I?d never been so sad in my entire life. Everything had turned into a living hell.

Mom and dad were still at work. I went into my bedroom and closed the door, grabbed and clicked on my Zen Micro, then slumped down onto the floor leaning against the side of my bed. I inserted the earbuds and pressed play. There was only one song in this playlist, ?I Dreamed a Dream? from Les Miserables. I?m in the school chorus, and our teacher had decided to use this musical as the basis of our first semester. Oh, we?d never be able to perform it before an audience; the royalties for a performance license were far beyond what any high school could afford. But we could, and did, sing it in class, learning every song, every nuance, every turn of phrase. I had fallen in love with this music, with these lyrics. I knew every song by heart, and didn?t need the score.

There was one song that meant more to me than any other. ?I Dreamed a Dream.? It wasn?t appropriate for a 14 year old gay kid whose life had been shattered beyond recovery. It?s a song sung by a woman, not by a boy. It was about unrequited heterosexual love, not a crushed teenaged boy?s gay love. I leaned my head back against the top edge of the mattress and listened to the song, then joined in, singing along. Les Miserables. So appropriate. I was miserable. It all fit so perfectly. So sadly.

My tears flowed and were unstoppable, the song repeated automatically, and I sang along, taking special meaning from the words.

There was a time when men were kind,

And their voices were soft,

And their words inviting.

There was a time when love was blind,

And the world was a song,

And the song was exciting.

There was a time when it all went wrong...

My bedroom door opened. Mom was home, she had heard me singing, the lyrics broken by sobs, the tears soaking my shirt and they slid off my face. She must have thought I was practicing. But when she looked into my bedroom she saw me sitting on the floor, slumped against the side of my bed, crying. The next thing I knew she was sitting on the floor next to me, her arm wrapped around my shoulders, asking me what was wrong. I looked at her, then buried my face in her shoulder and cried and cried. She kept stroking my face, trying to wipe away the tears, but as she wiped away the tears, more appeared. It was hopeless, just like my miserable life.

Eventually I stopped crying. No matter how sad, how miserable, someone is, at some point they stop crying. Eventually.

?What?s the matter, Tony? Please tell me. Why are you crying, why are you so sad??

?Oh, mama!? ?Mama?, my name for my mother dredged up from when I was a little boy. ?I?ve lost him. I won?t ever get him back.?

?Tony, Tony, please tell me what you mean. Who have you lost? Tell your mama, and I?ll try to help you fix whatever?s wrong.?

?It will never be fixed.?

?Just tell me everything. Even if it can?t be fixed, it will help for you to tell me what?s wrong, why you?re so sad.?

So I started telling my mother the story of my life. Not everything, of course. Just the past few months, since the start of my freshman year in high school. Some of my story she already knew. But now she was going to hear all of it, including the personal, private things I?d never, ever tell her otherwise. Otherwise. That was the whole point. Otherwise.

----------------------

I dreamed a dream in time gone by,

When hope was high and life, worth living.

I dreamed that love would never die,

I dreamed that God would be forgiving.

Then I was young and unafraid,

And dreams were made and used and wasted.

There was no ransom to be paid,

No song unsung, no wine, untasted.

It was the first day of my first year in high school. I was excited, looking forward to new adventures. I loved going to school, unlike some of my friends from middle school. I was a good student, and my studies came easily. Teachers liked me, and even though I was one of the ?smart? kids, other kids seemed to like me. Maybe because I was friendly, and funny, and helpful if anyone was having a problem in one of my classes.

I?d gone to Carver Middle School, the 6th through 8th grades. Now I was going to Wilson High School. Most of the kids I knew from Carver were going to Lehman High. The school district decided what high school you?d go to based on where you lived, not what middle school you?d gone to. Most of my friends were going to Lehman, and that was a bummer, but because I was friendly and outgoing I figured I?d make friends at Wilson. Lehman is a good school. But Wilson has a better reputation. The best things about going to Wilson were it was academically the highest rated school in the city, it was the largest with over 2,800 kids in 9th through 12th grades, and it had the best football team. And I could take the 105 bus from the bus stop a half block from my house directly to school.

I went to homeroom, then to English, American History and Government, and Chorus. I liked all three classes, especially Chorus. That?s where I was introduced to Les Miz, as Mr. Emmonds our teacher called it. I?d never heard the musical ?Les Miserables? before. On that first day, after all of the first-day paperwork and sorting out, we got to listen to about 20 minutes of Les Miz.

It was a revelation! I?d never heard anything like this music before in my life. I was totally captivated by it, as only a 13-year-old could be. I hummed one of the tunes over and over as I walked to the cafeteria for lunch.

?Hey, Todd!?

I looked up as I handed the cashier my lunch ticket, and she punched it and gave it back to me. It was apparent that the boy about 5 feet ahead of me, who?d just gone through the line, wasn?t talking to me. But he seemed to be looking directly at me, with a grin on his face. I picked up my tray and looked around to see where I could sit to eat my lunch. There were some empty chairs a couple of tables away, so I started walking in that direction.

?Hey, Todd, what?s your problem, didn?t you see me? Can?t you hear me??

It was that boy again. He was taller than I was by 2 or 3 inches, with soft blond hair and a huge grin on his face. He?d walked up to me where I was standing, and put his arm around my shoulders and started to guide me to another table.

?Uh, do I know you? My name isn?t Todd.?

He stopped and looked at me.

?What kind of game you playing? One of your jokes? C?mon, let?s have lunch.?

He was bigger and stronger than I was, and he guided me, no, dragged me to a table in the back corner of the cafeteria.

?Hey, guys!?

The kids facing us across the table looked up and their expressions changed, to shock, maybe, or to confusion, or some of each.

?What!? My ?guide? sounded confused, probably because of the reaction of the kids who were staring at me.

A boy sitting directly in front of me, facing the other way, apparently curious to see what was causing the excitement, turned around and looked up me. I almost dropped my tray. I was looking into a mirror. I was looking at me. Sitting at this table, in this cafeteria, in this high school, was someone who looked exactly like the kid I saw every time I looked in a mirror. His hair was the same color as mine, kind of a dirty blond and just a little curly. His complexion, the color of his skin, was exactly the same as mine. He had freckles on his cheeks but none on his nose, just like me. His eyes were the same color as mine, a greenish blue. His nose was the same size and shape as mine, kind of small and, IMO, cute. His teeth were real white and straight, just like mine. His ears stuck out from his head a little too far, just like mine. His chin had a dimple right in the middle, just like mine. His lips were kind of pouty, just like mine.

He broke off staring at me, and looked at the boy who had been my ?guide?.

?OK, Brian, what are you trying to pull??

I assumed that ?Brian? was the name of my ?guide?.

?What? who? but?? Brian kept looking back and forth between me and Todd. ?I don?t??

?Jeez, Brian, how?d you get someone all dressed up to look like me? This goes way beyond the practical jokes you played at Edison.?

?This isn?t a joke, Todd! I saw you, uh, him, in the lunch line. I thought he was you.? Brian turned and pointed and looked at me, and ?Todd? stood up and stared at me.

?I don?t believe it. You do look exactly like me. Except my name?s Tony. Tony McKinley. Your name?s Todd??

?I don?t believe it, either. Uh, yeah, I?m Todd. Todd Anderson. Jeez. I can?t believe it. Shit, we?re even wearing almost the same clothes! Jeez, it?s like I?m looking into a mirror!?

I looked down and saw he was right. We both were wearing blue shirts, mine was just a little darker than his, khaki pants, and brown Rockports and tan socks. I started to laugh.

?Maybe we?re twins, separated at birth.?

?Uh, well, how old are you Tony, and when?s your birthday??

?I?m 13, my birthday is November 11th. Yours?? By the time I got the sentence out I knew from the shocked, unbelieving expression on Todd?s face that his birthday was the same as mine.

?No shit! There?s no fucking way!? He looked over at Brian. ?You set this up, didn?t you Brian!?

?No, no. How could I have found someone who looks exactly like you??

Todd looked back at me. ?Where?d you go to school??

?Carter. You went to Edison??

?Yeah. Where do you live??

?On Oakmead Court, near Trimble. You??

?Solano Drive, not far from the Old Creek Mall. When?d you move here??

?Been here since 2nd grade. You??

?Last year. 8th grade.?

I just stood looking at him. Brian pulled my tray out of my hands and put it on the table. I guess he thought I might drop everything off of it, which probably would have happened in a few seconds.

Todd kept looking at me. ?I?m about 5-6. How tall are you, Tony??

?Um, I?m not sure. Probably about the same.?

Brian grabbed a tray from in front of one of the guys sitting at the table and shoved the dirty dishes and utensils off. He pushed me so I was standing face to face with Todd, pushed tightly against him, face to face. I liked being pressed up against Todd?s body, breathing in as he exhaled, smelling his scent, staring into his eyes, feeling his heart beat in his chest. I was starting to get turned on. I couldn?t keep pressing against him, he?d feel it if I got a boner. Brian put the tray so it was across both our heads.

?Look, you two?re the exactly same height! What do you weigh, Todd??

?About 125.?

?Tony??

?Uh, about 125, I guess.?

Brian put the tray on the table, and Todd and I pulled back from each other. Just in time, any longer and I would have absolutely gotten a boner, and Todd would have felt it, and I?d have died of embarrassment. Todd was shaking his head.

?I. Do. Not. Fucking. Believe. This. No way, Jose! This can?t be happening!? He was grinning, big time. It looked like he actually liked the idea that we looked like twins. I sure liked the idea!

?Me, too. I agree. No way. But here we are, you and me. Maybe we are twins!? I laughed.

?Yeah. I?ll bet one of our mom?s gonna wonder what her being pregnant for nothing was all about.?

?Huh??

?Look, Tony, if we?re twins, one of our mothers was pregnant with both of us, and the other was pregnant but didn?t have a kid. That?s not possible. But if we were twins it would hafta been that way, right? And it couldn?t have been a mix-up at the hospital, ?cause I don?t have any brothers or sisters.?

?Yeah, I?ve got a sister, but she?s a lot older. She?s a freshman at UC Santa Barbara. Hey, Todd, where were you born??

?Chicago. You??

?Glendale. California. Guess that finally proves that we?re not twins, just look-alikes. Weird. Amazing, but totally weird!?

...

(End of sample)

Copyright © 2006 by Colin Kelly, All Rights Reserved.

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Hi, Colin,

Congratulations! You've got a interesting story developing, and the opening makes it clear that it's not going to be all sweatness and light.

If there's a negative, it's on the occassional word choice. The opening of a story is (to me) critical to get right because that's when readers notice things the quickest (at least that's what happens to me).

I couldn?t take the bus, not when I was crying, so I walked home from school with tears streaming down my face. I?d never been so sad in my entire life. Everything had turned into a living hell.

I read this and my first reaction was "Sad? That's a word that almost no one uses about themselves." Now, you could develop the character so it's an appropriate word, but I'd look at alternatives like "upset" or "depressed" for something that sounds more appropriate for the age of the character, but still providing the same impression. Don't go overboard by using a Thesaurus to use lots of complex words.

This is my first impression. I'll re-read it later and I'll let you know if there is anything else I want to say, but overall I think it shows a lot of promise!

Congratulations, too, on being the first post to The Bull Pen -- and a very appropriate one, too!

Graeme :)

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This sample definetly caught my attention and the way it opened and then went into flashback worked well. I'd definetly want to read this story because the idea of two ppl looking that much alike, makes me want to see why.

Very good start to a story.

Codey

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I love what I've seen so far. Not only is it well written, grammatically sound, but it's got an interesting hook with the twin bit. And, above all else, it features one of the very best plays ever written, Les Mis.

(Do you know I own copies of the Les Mis soundtrack in nine different languages. What kind of geek am I, anyway?)

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Forget the crit, just post the rest. please!

I love the premise, it's well written, captivating, and honestly if you want a beta reader you have one ... or just post the rest :p

Camy 8)

ok a wee crit.

It was the first day of my first year in high school. I was excited, looking forward to new adventures. I loved going to school, unlike some of my friends from middle school. I was a good student, and my studies came easily. Teachers liked me, and even though I was one of the ?smart? kids, other kids seemed to like me. Maybe because I was friendly, and funny, and helpful if anyone was having a problem in one of my classes.

would a character describe themselves as funny? That's what their friends are for.

My editor says 'show don't tell' - don't know if she's right but hey, she's an editor.

Also I'd add a 'too' to the end of 'Teachers liked me, and even though I was one of the ?smart? kids, other kids seemed to like me.'

It's really good Colin!

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I own copies of the Les Mis soundtrack in nine different languages. What kind of geek am I, anyway?)

Ok I'd guess English, French, Italian, German, Spanish... and then I'm lost. Oh - and American and Canadian :p

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Wow, thanks guys! I appreciate all of the comments and the suggestions. I'd like to ask a question about the two suggestions, Graeme's and Camy's.

Graeme wrote:

I read this and my first reaction was 'Sad? That's a word that almost no one uses about themselves."

I'm 16 and in high school. I think about myself being sad when I'm sad. I used it at school when a friend died. and my friends said they were sad too. I told my folks that I was sad when a gay friend was told by his father that he either had to stop seeing his boyfriend and go to another high school or move out. (Uhh, I'm not out to my folks, but they aren't homophobic at all, and they said that no father should ever do that to his son.)

Camy wrote:

ok a wee crit... would a character describe themselves as funny? That's what their friends are for.

I think I'm funny. My friends have always told me that they think I'm funny. I'm always joking around, and laugh at anything that I think is funny. Even in class. Two of my teachers have called me a "cutup" and one said that she was using that as a pejorative. lol! (I have an A average, so those teachers put up with me.)

Anyway, I tell people that one of my best features is that I'm funny. Then I do something to prove it!

I could change the sentence to read:

Maybe because I was friendly, and my friends had always told me that I was

But I think this change makes the sentence clumsy.

OK, I'm looking for input. Am I and my friends so weird that we are different than other kids our age in the way we think of ourselves? Should I stop using words that are correct for me and my life but maybe not for others? What do you all think? And thank you for your input!

Colin

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I like it. Better yet, I like the way that you don't make the classic beginner mistakes like hanging adverbs everywhere and trying to see how many variations of said that you can think of.

The best coaches know that when a player is hot, the best coaching is to give them the ball and get out of the way.

:geek: :cat:

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Colin, please feel free to ignore what I said. I'm not 16 and I'm not American. I've already learnt that what passed as the norm for an Australian when I was a teen doesn't correspond to what passes as the norm for an American teenager nowadays. :D

I will admit that I would never use the word "sad" to describe myself, but that's me and that's why it struck me as "odd". This is your story and you've done a great job with it. If you're happy with what you wrote, then that's fine. I certainly wouldn't ask you to change it just because of my opinion. By all means consider what has been said (which you've done) and then decide if you need to make any alterations. You've decided you don't and that's perfectly okay. In all cases, any feedback you get will be suggestions only. The ultimate decider of whether suggestions are appropriate or not is YOU! :)

I'll repeat what I said in my first post: Congratulations!

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Colin, pay no attention to what I say. I'm English, and as such genetically repressed. I'd never describe myself as funny because it's the way I am.

You asked for feedback, and it's all I could find ... and because I would have written it differently doesn't mean you have to change a thing - as should be obvious, I really like what I've read.

As James Savik says 'when a player is hot, the best coaching is to give them the ball and get out of the way.'

Camy 8)

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Colin,

A very fine effort.

I have an edited version of your story that makes some suggestions and a few wording changes. It is probably too long to post here, but if you send me your email address to vwl1999 [at] lycos.com, I can send you a red-line Word version that will show all my suggested changes--and they aren't many, given the quality of your work.

vwl

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VWL wrote:

I have an edited version of your story that makes some suggestions and a few wording changes. It is probably too long to post here, but if you send me your email address to vwl1999 [at] lycos.com, I can send you a red-line Word version that will show all my suggested changes--and they aren't many, given the quality of your work.

I'm colinkelly [at] xemaps.com -- thanks!

Colin

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This sample definetly caught my attention and the way it opened and then went into flashback worked well. I'd definetly want to read this story because the idea of two ppl looking that much alike, makes me want to see why.

I totally agree with Codey!!! I am only a "reader" and am rather fussy about what I read but, I definetly like what you have done with it so far. =D>

Can't wait for the rest!!

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I own copies of the Les Mis soundtrack in nine different languages. What kind of geek am I, anyway?)

Ok I'd guess English, French, Italian, German, Spanish... and then I'm lost. Oh - and American and Canadian :P

and Swedish, Dutch, Japanese (two versions).

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I'm 16 and in high school. I think about myself being sad when I'm sad. I used it at school when a friend died. and my friends said they were sad too. I told my folks that I was sad when a gay friend was told by his father that he either

Not trying to invalidate your feelings because YOU know them but I don't think is the best turn of phrase. Being sad when someone dies is normal. Maybe you're empathizing, feeling for, hurting for, etc, in the second case but I'm not sure that's actual sadness you're feeling. It might be confusing to some -- maybe it's an age thing. This isn't a criticism but something to ponder.

Camy wrote:

ok a wee crit... would a character describe themselves as funny? That's what their friends are for.

Sorry, Camy, but I would describe myself as funny if you asked. I'm with Mr. Author here.

OK, I'm looking for input. Am I and my friends so weird that we are different than other kids our age in the way we think of ourselves? Should I stop using words that are correct for me and my life but maybe not for others? What do you all think? And thank you for your input!

You're a great writer. Do what you want. But if a word is causing this much confusion, you probably picked the wrong word. Whether or not you think it's accurate is irrelevant. If your readers don't understand you, it needs to be fixed. I learned that the hard way and listen a lot more closely to intelligent criticism from my editor/proofer now.

I still can't believe you're 16 :)

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This is really good! If you decide to post more, I'll definitely follow it.

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Ele Civil wrote:

This is really good! If you decide to post more, I'll definitely follow it.

Wow! Thank you! I love your story Laika, and I'm flattered (now there's a word that's not usually used by teens!) by your complement.

Colin

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Colin,

I tried to reply in the thread originally, but Very Bad Things were happening to my computer and web connection, and...my computer ate my homework?

Your story starts out very well. I'd love to see what happens next. -- You kept my attention throughout, and that is a welcome sign.

I'm even curious about what's going on with the "twins separated at birth" idea. Hmm, adoption, swapped babies, less legit stuff, or even clones? -- Or you've done another take on it. -- In any case, don't tell us, let us keep guessing, it's more fun.

I liked the characters. They act like real people, instead of cardboard, and they act their age and in character.

Please keep it up, and I see several others feel the same.

-----

On whether a character would describe himself as feeling sad (etc.). He's going to be aware of it, to one degree or other. If he's honest or direct enough to say so (at least internally) so much the better.

-----

About weird friends, weird selves -- Hmm, you're talking to people who think it's just fine to think up imaginary friends in their heads, make up stories for them, and write down the stories. Plus, we have good vocabularies. -- So our opinions may be biased. ;)

Seriously, though, you're smart enough to have unusual friends and a different personal outlook. See how much better it sounds when you put it that way? -- No problem, I'd much rather know someone who is different.

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blue,

I think that was a first class reply, very helpful and encouraging.

:icon8:

Sorry to hear about the homework, did the computer go down before or after it ate it? :icon1:

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I may be able to rescue some more data from two hard drives that went belly-up. It's dicey. Fortunately, I had backed up most things the week before, so at most, I lost a week's worth of data, plus email and IM archives and music, which, foolishly, I hadn't backed up in a while. (Bad mistake, and I *know* better.) -- I haven't given up on recovering it yet. -- However, I didn't lose too much in project files, work-wise.

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Fascinating story, and I'm anxiously waiting to read more. It is a very easy read, with only one jarring note (to me). Sadly, at times I get snared by sentence structure, or spelling; leaving me twitching frantically, trying to get lose to continue reading the story.

The one that caught me was "the tears soaking my shirt and they slid off my face." Maybe 'sliding off my face' would be better, but that still wouln't get the image of a teflon slippery face, to which nothing sticks, not even tears, out of my mind.

Please feel free to ignore my comment, as I couldn't write a story if my life depended on it. And I'm not just saying that. I have NO creativity whatsoever. Hell, I'm almost proud of it. (Talk about a coping strategy huh?)

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Treb wrote:

The one that caught me was "the tears soaking my shirt and they slid off my face." Maybe 'sliding off my face' would be better, but that still wouln't get the image of a teflon slippery face, to which nothing sticks, not even tears, out of my mind.

I agree, this sentence is clumsy. Here's how I've rewritten it: "...the tears running down my face, soaking my shirt."

Colin

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Very nice. Thank-you.

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I personally didn't like the open. To me, this smacks of wallowing in self-pity (not that I don't do that myself from time to time). I would shorten the open to get to the point, make the writing tighter, and lose the flab, maybe just have him think about what's happened on the walk home from school. I would also avoid something as vague as "sad" in the mother's dialog. To me, that's not how people talk. A real mother would ask, "what's wrong? Why are you crying? Is there anything I can do to help?"

But I like the idea: new kid in school discovers he has a virtual clone, on his first day in 9th grade. I could see several directions this could go, anywhere from "twins separated at birth" (assuming one or both are adopted), to "evil twin," where they each have radically-different personalities, one good, the other... not so good. On the other hand, each of these ideas is a cliche. Maybe it'd be more realistic to explore what it would be like if both were just regular kids, neither saints nor axe murderers. Maybe one is gay, maybe both, or maybe their sexuality is in shades of gray. Could go in several interesting directions.

I did see one factual issue that jumped out at me: 9th graders in the U.S. are generally 15, not 13, unless your lead character jumped ahead a few grades. Students are typically around 18 in 12th grade, and six in 1st grade, so you can work it out from there. (You mention earlier that the character is 14, so now I'm confused. He should be 15, only he's 13 when he first heard "Les Miz," but he's 14 when he listens to his MP3 player. Factual things like this make me crazy.)

My last comment is to consider using metaphor and allusion to express how things look and feel. Don't just feel "sad." Feel like the world is ending, or that everything is covered with rain, or that you could barely see because your eyes were brimming with tears. OK, all of those are cliches, but you see the point. Try to find a way to express description or emotion in a way that's not quite as direct. Actors refer to this problem when they perform a part that's written "too on the nose," too perfunctory or bland. They look for subtleties and nuances that give their roles depth, usually through dialog and action.

And ditch the title. Again, to me, it's too on the nose. I would go for something more poetic, or at least more eye-catching. I think titles are very important, and you have to figure this is what's going to initially grab the reader (beyond a sexy cover illo).

Good starting idea. I really look forward to seeing where you take this.

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I personally didn't like the open. To me, this smacks of wallowing in self-pity (not that I don't do that myself from time to time). I would shorten the open to get to the point, make the writing tighter, and lose the flab, maybe just have him think about what's happened on the walk home from school. I would also avoid something as vague as "sad" in the mother's dialog. To me, that's not how people talk. A real mother would ask, "what's wrong? Why are you crying? Is there anything I can do to help?"

There's a lot to respond to here!

Tony is wallowing in self-pity. That will be made obvious in future chapters. The first chapter establishes the emotions that Tony is going through.

When I was 14 I didn't cry very often, and sure don't now that I'm 16. When I cry it's because I'm sad about something. My mom recognizes that and asks me what I'm sad about. Last year a kid I knew at school was killed in an accident at home (he fell off a ladder and never regained consciousness). He was a good friend of a lot of us at school, and when we heard about it we got together and cried -- at school, boys as well as girls, in front of other kids. When I got home that day I started crying when I was trying to tell Mom what happened, and she hugged me and asked me what I was sad about. I'll never forget that. So being "sad" isn't, IMO, something strange.

This is the first chapter of what's going to be the longest story that I'll have written so far. I wrote this first chapter to set the basis for the rest of the story.

But I like the idea: new kid in school discovers he has a virtual clone, on his first day in 9th grade. I could see several directions this could go, anywhere from "twins separated at birth" (assuming one or both are adopted), to "evil twin," where they each have radically-different personalities, one good, the other... not so good. On the other hand, each of these ideas is a cliche. Maybe it'd be more realistic to explore what it would be like if both were just regular kids, neither saints nor axe murderers. Maybe one is gay, maybe both, or maybe their sexuality is in shades of gray. Could go in several interesting directions.

Oooo, two of those are right on! :icon13:

I did see one factual issue that jumped out at me: 9th graders in the U.S. are generally 15, not 13, unless your lead character jumped ahead a few grades. Students are typically around 18 in 12th grade, and six in 1st grade, so you can work it out from there. (You mention earlier that the character is 14, so now I'm confused. He should be 15, only he's 13 when he first heard "Les Miz," but he's 14 when he listens to his MP3 player. Factual things like this make me crazy.)

In California if you will be 6 years old by December 5 you can start first grade when you're 5 years old. My birthday is November 21, I started first grade when I was 5. I was 11 when I started 7th grade. I was 13 when I started 9th grade. Now I'm 16 and I'm a senior. I'll be 17 when I graduate from high school, and I'll be 17 when I start my freshman year at UC Berkeley. Assuming I'm accepted! :icon13:

Of the ones I know their birthdays, seven of my friends are 17 now. Eleven are 16, same as me. My boyfriend is a senior, and he's 17, his birthday was August 23, the day after school started this year. My cousin (who lives with us) is a senior, and he's 16, his birthday is November 17, four days before mine. None of my friends are 18 yet. The two who are closest will be 18 in January.

The first chapter is happening when Tony is 14. His birthday and Todd's are November 11, so he started 9th grade at 13 and later in that school year they are both 14. Starting with chapter two, Tony is telling the story from the day he started 9th grade, when he was 13, and met Todd, forward to the time of the first chapter, and then beyond that.

My last comment is to consider using metaphor and allusion to express how things look and feel. Don't just feel "sad." Feel like the world is ending, or that everything is covered with rain, or that you could barely see because your eyes were brimming with tears. OK, all of those are cliches, but you see the point. Try to find a way to express description or emotion in a way that's not quite as direct. Actors refer to this problem when they perform a part that's written "too on the nose," too perfunctory or bland. They look for subtleties and nuances that give their roles depth, usually through dialog and action.

I'll keep this in mind, and talk about your suggestions with my editor.

And ditch the title. Again, to me, it's too on the nose. I would go for something more poetic, or at least more eye-catching. I think titles are very important, and you have to figure this is what's going to initially grab the reader (beyond a sexy cover illo).

This is a working title. Sort of like the name "Longhorn" Microsoft used for the new version of Windows, which is now named "Vista". I'll finalize the title later.

Good starting idea. I really look forward to seeing where you take this.

Thanks! And thanks for your comments and suggestions. Comments and suggestions are VERY important to me! I am only 16, and sure need a lot of advise about what I write! :blush:

Colin

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