i am writing

Unique: Story of a Girl

In the Summer of 2013 I spent a month deep in the writing of a novel. I hammered away as I locked myself in a marina in Mexico and produced over 54,000 words. It was bliss. My main character was the coolest kid ever, and I loved her as if she were my daughter.

And then I had some friends read it. The major critique could be summed up with the most basic writing feedback ever:

Show me, don’t tell me.

I was guilty of writing this with the ever-knowing voice that can dive deep in the psyche of just about everybody’s head.

The novel was intended as a YA. I think the magic of literature for a young audience is in how it’s often written in first person giving the reader a sense of really being the hero of the story.

Initially in the first 400 words I told the readers our hero was doomed to die, but I didn’t tell them how I planned on killing her. That was the suspense – how. I bring you back the very first short part that launched me in this writing frenzy, and I have two questions for you at the end. Actually, as I re-write the chapters I intend on stealing Rich’s technique and testing each one out on you with questions before writing the next chapter. You don’t know Rich? Check him out, he’s an amazing writer!

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Meet Unique

Unique was a regular girl. Her eyes were as brown as her hair in a bland-beige kind of way. It wasn’t that people actively ignored her, they just didn’t notice her. They say apples don’t fall far from the tree. They don’t know what they’re talking about. Blanche, Unique’s unique mother was voted most likely to stand out in a crowd of stander-outers.

Unique knew beyond being pre-destined to wearing braces due to an excessive overbite that her destiny was grand. Unique was going places, she was going to leave her mark. This feeling became clear on the night of Sunday May 22 1983. It was just a regular Sunday night during a routine family dinner feasting on Chinese take-out. Stuffed on sweet & sour chicken and garlic spare ribs, each picked a fortune cookie. They broke them in half and started reading their fortunes aloud.

going places

Unique carefully removed her small piece of paper, flattened it and glanced down. She swallowed the words and crumpled the fortune. She buried the crumpled piece of paper in the bottom of the front pocket of her Levi’s. She was goose-bumped over the words. Her family shared their fortunes but nobody took note that Unique never shared hers. It was, after all, a routine night.

She washed the dishes, set them to dry, and cleaned the kitchen while the family retreated to the living room to watch the Sunday Night NBC Movie. Such was the routine. Unique quietly made her way to her bedroom after a quick stop in the bathroom. She closed her door and went to bed.

After a series of bizarre dreams she never woke up.

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  1. What do you think? A first-person re-write? Or just review the whole thing and take away the godsallknowingvoice? Ok, so here we don’t see the inside thinking of the other characters, you’ll have to trust me on this one. But does this seem to require a first person narrative or remain in 3rd?
  2. Should I tell the readers off the bat she will die? Actually, because of the way I chose to kill her, I had to change this section and remove the line about her never waking up. But I’m pretty sure I alerted the readers ahead of time of her demise. If you were to read this, would you rather not know she dies?
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8 thoughts on “Unique: Story of a Girl”

  1. As a typical observer, I do like the way you handled the introduction. The stage is set, now you can get into the characters involved – literally. Follow Unique to her room, morph the narrator gradually from the observer to the actor

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  2. Don’t hate me. First I”m thrilled you’ve reconnected with her. She’s yours. In every single way you birthed her. You know how I feel about POV….write the beginning/intro twice. In first person and in third. Determine how much your third person will know. Get the piece (examples) as tight as you can……(tight, tight, tight) She goose-bumped … .not she was goose-bumped. Learn to dislike the word was. It’s a mammoth task to do an entire novel rewrite in first or third, so get one tiny part out of the way in both voices. If you feel you can get your reader to believe that you’re in Unique’s head (and you do a third person ‘all knowing unique’ then one might ask, why isn’t it first person? But third will afford you a foray into a little freedom on the all-knowing front. Then again, first person will force you to show how everyone else interacts with her. Bottom line, you won’t know if first or third works until you’ve written two versions, so write the same two pages in each pov….first and third….it’s way less work than to go back later. It’s hard to choose from reading only one version.

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  3. I like the fact that you know she’s going to die. Putting the ending at the start of the story really works well in a lot of books, think To Kill a Mockingbird. A lot of people with still be shocked that she actually dies at the end. I went to see 500 Days of Summer with my friend and, even though they tell you the ending right at the start of the film, she was genuinely surprised at the end. I say keep going the way you are 🙂

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  4. Alrighty, then. I second what marbleswickarthur said. That’s great advice. But if you *really* want me to answer your questions 1 and 2…

    My gut tells me to go with first-person with this story. Give the reader UNIQUE’S story of Unique; all she sees and does and thinks and feels – and her perceptions of others – sans the omniscience. In keeping with marbleswickarthur’s advice, you may get through a chapter or two of this and decide that your story needs that omniscient voice. Time will tell.

    With regard to question number 2 – I love knowing that she’s doomed. It colors everything the reader reads from that point on, and I think it can make the narrative really intense, because knowing something of her fate, the reader can get more invested in the how’s and why’s of it (that thing that just happened must have something to do with her untimely end…).

    Now, go forth and reconnect! And when you’re done, how’d you like to read “Buck Mope Catches The Westbound?” 🙂

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  5. Alrighty, then. I second what marbleswickarthur said. That’s great advice. But if you *really* want me to answer your questions 1 and 2…

    My gut tells me to go with first-person with this story. Give the reader UNIQUE’S story of Unique; all she sees and does and thinks and feels – and her perceptions of others, sans the omniscience. In keeping with marbleswickarthur’s advice, you may get through a chapter or two of this and decide that your story needs that omniscient voice. Time will tell.

    With regard to question number 2 – I love knowing that she’s doomed. It colors everything the reader reads from that point on, and I think it can make the narrative really intense, because knowing something of her fate, the reader can get more invested in the how’s and why’s of it (that thing that just happened must have something to do with her untimely end…).

    Now, go forth and reconnect! And when you’re done, how’d you like to read “Buck Mope Catches The Westbound?” 🙂

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