Wednesday, May 12

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, May 12, 2010 25 comments
Today's fest is hosted by the Alliterative Allomorph and our fun, fun theme is internal conflict!

This piece is from my second book in progress, so it's basically a cleaned-up rough draft. (In revision, I need to thin out some figures of speech, or so my CPs say.)

I don't think this needs much explanation; it's the second scene in the first chapter. My MC is 17-yo Dani, an arty New Yorker who lost her British dad in a car crash two years prior; her widowed mother is an MFA student. Poppa is her maternal grandfather, Theo, her boyfriend.


My hands start shaking so bad I can barely hold the paper scrap where I scrawled the hospital’s number. For all I know, Poppa will be dead in minutes if they don’t operate. But without Mum’s approval, they legally can’t.

I cannot believe my mother would leave Theo and me alone in the condo. She’s usually checking on us every ten minutes like clockwork, bugging us with incessant questions or roping Theo into chores like opening jars or pulling things off high shelves. She seems to have this bizarre fear that Theo and I are going to rip each other’s clothes off at any moment and make me the next teen pregnancy statistic. Yeah, right. That’s as likely as my being drafted as a linebacker for the Giants.

Mum can’t have gone far—probably just to the little market on Columbus to pick up dinner ingredients. Surely she’ll be back any minute. I should call the front desk, ask the guard if he saw her go out. Theo could hold down the fort while I look for her.

Gosh, I can just picture her standing in line at Rico’s, looking for all the world like a bohemian free spirit in her snug t-shirt, paint-spattered jeans, strappy sandals, gobs of gypsy jewelry, hair in long, loose layers. She’ll glance up from her basket of Thai basil and coconut milk, see my face and just know. Know that I’m about to hurl a bomb at her. Know that trouble’s found her yet again, like it always does.

How can I tell her? How? Especially after what happened to Dad.

I just wish I could make this all go away. In days we’re headed to Paris to spend golden mornings on the banks of the Seine, painting side-by-side on matching easels. The hot afternoons we’ll while away in the Louvre, communing with the masters. We’ll finally meet some of my mother’s long-lost French relatives. We’ll wear goofy hats and stuff ourselves with pastries and sleep well for a change. We’ll have time to just hang out, have fun, really talk. Create and dream. Pray and meditate. Rest. Finally heal. Six months we’ve been planning this, down to the daily café stops, a different one each day.

I see the hospital number in my hand again, and my mouth goes as dry as a day-old croissant. Poppa could have massive bleeding on the brain right now. I know exactly what that means—pressure building like floodwaters behind a levee, flattening everything. Cells, synapses, ganglion crushed, dying, dead.

My grand Paris dream starts to pull away, a face in a taxi window. Off toward Midtown. Off to find a more worthy recipient. Then a homeless drug addict steps in front of my metaphorical taxi and it stops. The coked-up guy stands there, fists on hips, chin jutted out, dark eyes flashing, as if daring the driver to flatten him in his frayed cords and Nietzsche T-shirt. He winks at me and scratches his head, which is suddenly bald. In a blink, the stoner philosopher I only vaguely remember transforms into the flannel-shirted craftsman I’ve come to love: Mum’s little brother, my uncle formerly known as DJ.

Of course. If there’s anyone who can make the Poppa problem disappear, it’s the prodigal son.

I carry the phone to my bedroom, hit #4 on speed dial.


  1. Great job Laurel. I like the flow of her thoughts and how she finds a choice she is comfortable with. I also like how you set things up and give background info without if feeling like a dump.

  2. I like the dilemma here, along with most of the writing. Your readers are right, the figures of speech don't really work, except possibly for the one describing the bleeding. There are also a couple of moments where you can't seem to decide between the character's voice and a more neutral one. Other than that, great.

  3. Beautiful writing Laurel. The taxi portion left me a little confused. I wasn't sure what was real, and the taxi reference seemed to come out of nowhere. But I love the thoughts of Paris though and watching their plans all melt. Beautiful.

    And also, if you want it, I left you an award over at my blog. :)

  4. This is great, Laurel. I like her slow lead up to her more stable thoughts at the end of the scene. Although I got a little confused about what was actually going on, I loved your people descriptions - it really helps to picture your characters. I think a little more vivid action in this scene will help pick it up nicely! Thanks for participating! :)

  5. The reality of death, and the way it interrupts life plans, is so difficult for the young to accept. "The Poppa problem"; vividly put.

    Lot of character building here; backstory and current dilemma expertly woven together.

    Well done.


  6. Who is on speed dial #4? I'm so curious!

    and, bravo for sharing your work. that takes courage. it was lovely.

  7. I really really really enjoyed this. If it's a WIP and part of an upcoming novel, you've found a fan in me. You have a lovely way of expressing emotions.

    It's so incomplete...I feel like we should know more about the character though.

  8. I had the same problem with the taxi part, but other that, it was interesting.

    And I'm always wondering whose #4 on the speed dial!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! I'm officially a follower of yours ;-)


  9. Really enjoyed this! Like everyone else, I want to know what's behind speed dial 4!

  10. I love the way you've portrayed her anguish here, and the sense of family we get from just a few paragraphs of text. I think this could be even more gripping and pace-y if you had her moving a little more and moving along little faster instead of keeping this static.

  11. I love the quiet sense of pain you weave in through here and I love the description you have. Really excellent. :)

  12. Laurel, I love this and the flow of your language. You've mangaged to let us know so much in such a short space. I'm already worried about the grandfather, the missing mother and the trip to Paris that could be a balm but may never happen. I love the line about the dream pulling away like a face in a taxi window, but I got lost right after that, not knowing how she was seeing the homeless guy who morphed into her uncle. I assumed the speed dial was her uncle, though. Wonderful, lovely work.

  13. Wow - great job of making me feel her tension and stress! Great scene :)

  14. Well done, you. Lovely writing, flow and character description. I, too, was a little confused by the taxi after the Paris dream faded into the distance. But I'm dying to know how anyone can "make the Poppa problem disappear."

  15. Her voice is perfect. Love, love, love this!

  16. Charity: thanks. Trying to make this a stand-alone story is challenging. There's a lot of backstory clumped here, but I'm glad it flowed ok for you.

    Stu: hmm. My CPs also mentioned voice issues. I'll be on the lookout for that in revision.

    Janet: Dani's thought process is a bit complex and weird and I probably need to slow down that section for clarity. And thanks for the award!

    AA: Thanks for hosting! Action might help, though I suspect the issue is rushing the scene end, when more clarity of her thought process is needed.

    Donna: Thanks. This little scene is trying to do a lot of work, and perhaps too fast, but I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  17. Great job of making that teen selfishness work. She worried about her grandfather, but in the, me, me. Classic teenager!

  18. Tess: Hmm. Dani's mental process obviously needs some clarity. #4 is the uncle, her mother's brother. This is the first I've tossed a rough out there, but everyone has been pretty kind about it.

    Jaycee: I think I need to do more work on voice in this so you're feeling the character's personality more. Though perhaps the out-of-context-ness of presenting a scene from the middle of a chapter is what's giving the "incomplete" feeling, since it's not meant to be a stand-alone piece.

    Justine: thanks for coming by and following. I'm seeing a theme here; the ending is unclear and rushed. Dani's thoughts morphing from her disappearing dream to taxis to her uncle need some work apparently. #4 is the uncle; Poppa is his father, too.

    Talli: I've got some pacing and clarity issues to fix for sure. Dani's solution to the Poppa problem is to call Poppa's other kid--the "prodigal son" uncle who had just come to mind.

    Sangu: This is tucked between two action scenes, so for pacing and scene variety, I needed some reflection and back story. A downside of using excerpts instead of short stories in these fests is not being able to show how the scene fits in the larger work.

  19. Sarahjayne: Thanks so much. It's the first time I've tossed out a rough for public viewing.

    Tricia: Yes! You somehow managed to follow that odd thought process correctly. I don't like overly long passages of character thought when I read, which probably led me to rush this too much.

    Jemi: the problems and dilemmas are pretty thick in this. Glad you enjoyed it.

    VR: the scene end needs some clarity. The uncle is also Poppa's kid. Dani's hope is that he also has medical power of attorney like her mother does and can approve the needed surgery.

    Tina: You're too sweet. Knowing someone else loves Dani makes me 10x more determined to fix what ails the scene.

    Tara: Thanks. You got it. She likes to think her motives are 100% noble--sparing Mum pain, for example. But yes, the selfish thing is definitely lurking there.

  20. You packed a lot of information in there, so we get several threads. And you left me hanging with so many questions. Good job!

    Yesterday, I participated in the Internal Dialogue Blog Fest too.

  21. The voice of this piece worked for me. Dani's thoughts and observations are consistant of a 17 year old who's maturer beyond her years due to tragedies in her life, but none-the-less a 17 year old. It flowed very well. I tripped over 'we'll while away' but like the alliteration. Nice work!

  22. Well done. I can't offer any other critiques beyond what other's have said. I want to know more. Where's the mom? Has something bad happened to her?

    Nice work.

  23. Laurel how could I have possibly missed you yesterday!!!

    I think everyone else pretty much said it all however just to repeat them so you know it's true here are my thoughts...

    The voice was wonderful, and as always you write beautifullly. I have several questions but I can't say that's a bad thing because as a reader I'd continue to read to find out what happens!

  24. Theresa: Thanks. I was having computer troubles on fest day and went to look up the links Thursday and they were gone! I'll try to come by and check out your scene.

    Lynn: Thanks so much. Nailing the voice still feels difficult, as this is a sequel and I'm trying, as you say, to mature an existing character.

    Lola: Oh good, I've got you worried! :-) That means the tension is working. I'll be posting more scenes from this book in future fests. Stay tuned.

    Jen: I signed up late-ish for the fest and had trouble commenting on other participants' posts due to some blogger weirdness.

    Thanks for your kind words. Glad to have piqued your curiousity.

  25. I really like how you've nailed your character, she's responsible with her boyfriend, but really wants her vacation without interruptions from death or anything else. I like her solution, although I don't know that it will magically fix her problems like she hopes it will.

    However, I hope that this character isn't all about "classic teen selfishness" because I don't think all teens are really geared that way, or even all adults. I've known teens who were given the option of going on a ski vacation instead of going to be with a dying loved one, and they chose to be with a dying loved one.