Tuesday, April 23, 2013

SeCrit Tuesday: NA Contemporary

First off, thanks to everyone who submitted their first 250 words for SeCrits this week. It's always so difficult to choose one, and the way I personally go about it varies. Most of the time, I read through each entry twice—once to get a gist of the story, and a second time to see if any ideas pop into my mind. It's also tough because while there are a ton I love (including a YA murder mystery), if I feel like they don't need that much work I have to leave them in the Secret Life inbox graveyard. *sniffs* 

This Tuesday's entry caught my eye because it's interesting, yet also something that could still use a little tweaking. So here it is, the first 250 words of a NA Contemporary. (Crit is in orange, per usual.)

Kate dropped the overloaded clothes basket on the floor with a thump and scanned her new dorm room. [A sense of scene here would be nice. What does this place look like? You don't have to go into a ton of detail; even just a quick description of the chipped paint and crooked bunk beds would help. Maybe her roommate's stuff is already there—sans roommate. That way we can get the sense that it's move-in day without having to tell us it's move-in day (see below).]   She heaved in and out, trying to catch her breath after carrying her last load of belongings up eight flights of stairs. [If you tell us about the room and the roommate's stuff, we don't need the heaving in and out sentence.] It was move-in day and she had grown annoyed with jockeying for a spot in one of two elevators and decided she could make it eight floors. [You can take out the part about specifically telling us it's move-in day if you shift some things around above :)]

She’d been assigned to room 808 of Summit Hall. The dorms consisted of two-bedroom suites with a main living area flanked by two smaller bedrooms. While she’d have her own bedroom and share the living space with a roommate, unfortunately she’d be sharing the bathroom down the hall with twenty other students. [Something about this paragraph is a little dry. These are the kind of details that are important, but they don't have to be told to us. Maybe Kate could shift through her roommate's stuff a little bit and find something weird in there, and then she can panic at the idea that she's going to have to share a microscopic space with a weirdo. OR Kate could poke her head in the bathroom and think something to herself like, "Not impressed." These are just suggestions, but overall, we need more showing, less telling.]

She glanced at the two bedroom doors, contemplating which room she'd take, when she heard shouting down the hall. [Move-in day is pretty loud, yeah? Especially since she had to fight for a spot in one of the two elevators. There's probably lots of shouting. What makes this shouting distinctive?]

"Hey. You dropped something!" It was a male voice. And then its tall, dark haired, blue eyed owner appeared in her doorway. He was holding her favorite gray t-shirt. "You dropped this." He held it out to her while trying to catch his breath. [Is he annoyed? Genuinely happy to help? Is there a weird expression on his face that gives away he isn't telling her about everything she dropped yet? Even just adding something like "with a smile" will help clear that up.]

She quickly grabbed the shirt. "Thanks." 

"Yea... you dropped something else," he replied, looking down the hallway. [Once again, I need a hint about what he's thinking. Is he smirking like he thinks it's funny? Or biting his lip because he's embarrassed for her? etc.]

She raised her eyebrows in response, wondering why he hadn't bothered to pick that up too. She leaned out the door to look down the hall, where she saw a pile of fuchsia on the floor in front of the door to the stairwell. And then she gasped as realization hit her. [Let's make this a touch more embarrassing, shall we? Yeah, it's embarrassing Hot Guy saw her bra, but what if it's in the middle of the hall and there are a ton of people stepping around it (being move-in day and all that)? Just a thought.]

It was her bra. [Haha, love! Poor Kate.]

There you have it, folks! What do you guys think? Suggestions/thoughts and welcome in the comments below.

2 secret replies:

  1. Your opening would be stronger if you showed more than told. Maybe have Kate drop the laundry basket, bend over to catch her breath, rub her sore legs... consider how fit she'll be after a year of climbing eight flights if the elevators are always as busy as on moving day. I don't think we need to know NOW that she's sharing a bathroom, but some details of her new home wouldn't hurt. This is where she'll be living for the next year. I imagine she's trying to take it all in against the chaos in the hallway behind her.

    Your introduction of the male character (whom I like) might have more impact if you rearranged it a little...

    "Hey." Tall, dark, and handsome peering into her room, holding out t-shirt. "You dropped something."


    "Um, you dropped something else..." He smiles a shy, slightly embarrassed smile, as from behind his back he pulls Kate's oldest, dingiest bra. (Honestly, who cares if the entire campus sees your nice, brightly colored bra? But that thing you should have thrown out ages ago... in the hands of a hottie... How will she ever look him in the eye?)

    Lastly, consider whether or not you want him trying to catch his breath. Personally, I think you'd up Kate's discomfort if he is calm and collected and breathing easily, while she's huffing,puffing, probably a little red in the face, with her hair a mess, and now this hot guy has seen her nastiest bra...

    You're off to a great start. This has the potential to be an absolutely, adorable first meeting - just don't be afraid to make it REALLY hard for Kate!

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great job for putting your work out there for critique! And I'm so exciting about seeing more NA fiction around!

    I agree with the critique-er that there needs to be more showing and less telling. Specifically, make sure that any details you include are significant and are doing more than one thing. Like the critique-er said, if you were to describe the roommate's pile of belongings, this would not only let us know that Kate is in a dorm, but it would also tell us about the roommate and how Kate perceives things (ex. if Kate is really turned off by her roommate's Hello Kitty alarm clock and hot pink comforter, we'll know that she's definitely not the cutesy type and is maybe a little judge-y). Let us know how Kate feels about this situation. Does she feel emancipated? Is she terrified? We would much rather know this than the layout of the dorm or the bathroom situation.

    I also think that Hot Guy needs to be made a little more unique. Tall with dark hair and blue eyes is kind of a boring description. Is he sweaty from moving things? Scrawny? Muscular? Wearing a Goodwill Phish t-shirt? Give us just one little super unique detail that makes him less of a cardboard Hot Guy cutout. He could also use some interesting dialogue that either turns Kate off (sarcasm, mockery) or makes her more embarrassed (humble, blushing, charmingly funny).

    I love the end with the pink bra. SO embarrassing and such a great moment to start off Kate's college experience. The more unique and polished you make this scene, the more that moment will pay off. Great job!!!