Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Feedback #3

Okay, you (may or may not) know the RULES.

Apparently three or four of you do. But just in case, here they are again.

There are only 3: (If you want more details, read this blog post here: otherwise, just follow along.

I would like the following feedback (and will offer the same to you if you post an excerpt for me to read in the comments):

1.  If it is the first few paragraphs of a novel – today it is NOT, so skip to 2. – tell me if it "hooks" you enough to make you want to keep reading, or not. If yes, why? If no, why not?

2.  What works for you, draws you into the piece (if it does) and why?

3.  What doesn’t work for you (if something doesn't) and why?

If you would like the same feedback, please post your brief excerpt at the end of your comment (and tell me what it is -- e.g. opening to a novel, short story, poem, etc...). Please post no more than 3 -5 paragraphs, 5 if they're short, 3 if they are long. If there's more, I will only read the first 3 -5. If the comment gets too long, feel free to reply in two separate comments. If you are a student from a particular class, please identify yourself as such. If not, let me know how you found me.

Today, I am posting another piece from my WIP (Work In Progress) In Sight of Stars (upper YA, 16+). It's from p. 67-68. It is severely unedited, but still up for grabs. Hope you enjoy.

She reaches the gleaming, silver, art deco entrance ahead of me, stands huffing, her head tilted way back, eyes cast up toward its eerie pink glow.

“It’s awesome, Klee, really. Can you believe I’ve never been here?”

The line to the observation deck isn’t long. I guess the city’s too cold and, with the holidays long over, it’s mostly New Yorkers left, who don’t tend to frequent the building. We wait for our turn to board the elevators to the promenade on the 86th floor, which is where you can go outside.

If you’ve never been on the observation deck of the empire state building, you really should go. I’m telling you, eighty-six floors up in the air is way different than thirty or even forty.

When we step outside, the wind blasts our faces. A mist hovers, shrouds the dusky sky. The city sparkles below like some hazy, drugged up Oz.

“You know those are clouds?” I say to Sarah. “We’re as high here as the clouds.”

“It’s amazing. I can’t believe I’ve lived an hour from the city my whole life and never been up here. That my parents never took me here.”

“Most New Yorkers don’t,” I say. “Especially not the city ones. It's here, so we take it for granted. Like it’s some place that only tourists go. Same with the Statue of Liberty. But my father, he used to take me up all the time. The city through the mist, how it forms those lights and halos? Well, it always reminded him of a Van Gogh painting.”

“Well, whatever. It's just awesome,” she says.

There’s a waist-high wall all around, and above that, an enclosure made of diamond-shaped bars that lead to vertical steel bars that curve above our heads, but don't obstruct the view. Above that, it’s open to the sky. The truth is it feels like if you wanted to, you could easily squeeze out between the bars.

There are at least two dozen other people up here with us. Sarah takes my hand, and pulls me around, following the curve of the wall, trailing her fingers along the grates and wedging us between bodies to look out at things.

Each several steps reveal a completely different view of the city. On two sides, the city is dense with buildings as far as you can see, the north-south avenues weaving between them, heavy with traffic, white streamers of headlights filing in one direction, fiery orange processions trailing off in the other. On the east-west sides, the buildings give way to the water, the Hudson and New Jersey, to the west, and the East River and Staten Island and Brooklyn on the east.

When we reach the east side, Sarah stops and leans against the metal grates and tips her head way back so that her hair slips through the grates and flies loose in the air. Her eyes are open, glued to the sky.

“My head is in the clouds, Klee,” she says, but it’s hard to hear her words in the wind. I move close to her so I’m pressed against her thighs. “You should do this. Put your head back. There’s nothing above us. It feels like we’re in heaven.”

I move beside her and tilt my head back and watch the illuminated mist swirl by. It's disconcerting as it moves, feels as if the whole building sways along with it. I close my eyes against it, but then open them again. Suddenly, I wish the grates would give way and release us both, send us sailing into the cold night sky. Like Icarus falling from the sun.




  1. This is simply gorgeous, Gae. The imagery makes me feel like I've been to the Empire State Building, even though I've never been to NYC in my life. I also like the way the characters are portrayed. They feel real, but it doesn't feel the least bit schmaltzy.

    I noticed a little typo at the fourth paragraph. The "I've you've never been..." I also just have an observation and not so much a criticism of the final simile. It makes me wonder about the context. Is this trip or are these two doomed in some way? It paints a darker note than the rest of the scene, so I'm just curious. :)

    I'll copy and paste an excerpt in a separate comment, as when I try to do it here, it doesn't seem to want to paste. Grr.

  2. Ooh, thanks for the typo catch, Allison! Fixed!

    As for the final sentence, it's actually a direct reference to something earlier in the book that you can't know out of context, yes, and yes, the book itself has lots of tragedy in it, though it is light and very funny in spots too. Thanks for reading. looking forward to yours!

  3. This is the opening section from my current short, "A Bad Hand." Sort of a psychological horror/thriller. I posted one little bit of this on FB a couple weeks back.


    There’s a lot that comes to mind when I think about that last Canasta game with my wife, but I always end up wondering whether I cut the deck. Maybe if I had, or at least if I could remember, things wouldn’t have ended up the way they did.

    It doesn’t much matter now. I can’t go back and play that hand, no matter how much I wish I could, and every time I try to pull that memory from of my brain, all I can see is Priscilla shuffling those worn out Bicycles in her fancy bridge style that always drove me nuts. It was the sound of those cards flapping together, like a crow rustling its feathers or dead leaves blowing across a cold November road. Pricilla knew I hated it, but she did it anyway because it was part of her “winning ritual.” Fourteen bridge shuffles—always fourteen, because “thirteen was unlucky and fifteen was too many” she used to say, as if seven, ten, or twelve weren’t enough. She just liked to turn the thumbscrews as tight as she could.

    Then she’d slap the whole mess down in front of me to cut it before she handed us each fifteen cards, flicking them out in a blur like someone who’d missed her calling as a Vegas dealer. I can still see the score pen tucked behind her ear, shoulders square, the corner of her mouth tucked into its “winner’s smirk,” revealing a dimple that was never there when she smiled out of happiness or good will. Priscilla never made losing easy.

    After that last bit, my memory switches tracks. I don’t remember cutting the cards because she asked me to get up and stir the beef stew as she shuffled, and by then I was on my sixth beer. I also wasn’t thinking about playing cards anymore. I was thinking about how, if she won the next hand, I was going to kill her.

    You probably wonder whether I’d meant that in a playful way, but it’s no sense lying now. I had murder on my mind for the first time in forty years, and it didn’t trouble me a bit. I danced with the idea of choking her or bashing her skull in like we were Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse.

  4. Allison, this is my favorite thing of yours I have ever read (and that is saying a lot). It's both creepy and funny, your details/descriptions sing. The first line is spot on (this is the opening?). It made me snarf, then overwhelmingly anxious. I simply, honestly, LOVE this.

  5. Thank you! Yeah, that's the beginning. It gets even more absurd/creepy as it goes. I'll send it to you when it's all finished. I've had fun channeling my inner Stephen King. lol

  6. Allison,

    Terrific, IMHO....


    Terrific, IMHO....


  7. Breathless. OMG, Gae, when you're good, your very very very good. This is stunning.

  8. Jody, Randy,

    thank you. I liked the scene in my head. I'm glad it seems to have made it out onto the "page" that way.

  9. Gae, every time I read a section of this WIP I want to read it even more :) And you REALLY need to read John Green's PAPER TOWNS. This section reminds me of a scene in that book.

    Also- I had wondered about the Icarus ref. too, so I'm glad you cleared that up :)

  10. I love it, and I love the Icarus reference. Shows there is some tragedy tucked away in this beautiful scene. :) I really want to read more of this!! Very intriguing!

  11. thanks, all. I'm thinking this ms may be a good one... let's see if I can finish it as well as it has started... Who knows?

  12. I absolutely love this!! The whole thing seems so realistic, like it actually happened, and the Van Gogh reference definitely helped paint a clearer picture of the scenery. Can't wait to read more :)

  13. thanks again, all. Hope you are brave enough to participate with me in the future. :)