Thursday, October 13, 2011

Staying Creative: Get Feedback

This is from "The Mirror," a story I started when I was fourteen. It's never been finished, and it starts to really suck about thirty pages in. I'm currently giving it a brutal rewrite; entire scenes and some story facts are different.

Here are a couple of scenes from near the beginning. Let me know what you think? Feedback is important for staying creative, and I can't get it on my own XD


“All right, class,” droned Mr. Burkwheeler, reaching into his pocket for a much-used handkerchief. His nasally, deadpan voice almost made me hate English, my favorite subject. “Before you go to lunch…” He made an actual honking sound as he blew his nose. There was even some harmony involved; tenor from the right nostril, bass from the left. It was truly disgusting. “I have one more thing of which to remind you.”

A unanimous groan rippled through the class. Mr. Burkwheeler’s “one things” took longer than your mom giving you a lecture on keeping your room clean. “As I’m sure you all remember, the essay on Walt Whitman’s early life is due tomorrow.” Frantic gasps, whispers, and note-takings broke out in the classroom. Apparently we had not all remembered. “Spelling and punctuation will count, as usual, and I am expecting better essays than last time.” He peered sourly over his classes and pursed his lips. “Remember, class: words are the most wonderful gift given to us by the gods. They preserve priceless memories over years, decades, centuries, and millennia. Timeless thoughts and dreams of respected persons kept gracefully and artfully by the mere pen and ink of our ancestors. The beauty of…”

I pretty much tuned out. I agreed and everything, words were great, but did he have to say the same thing after every class? English was right before lunch. Every single eleventh grader in the room was dying to run screaming into the cafeteria.

Five minutes later, Mr. Burkwheeler finally dismissed us. All twenty-six kids shot out of their seats as if bitten on the butt and rand like mad out into the hallway. I was no exception.

“Berserkwheeler ought to save his breath on the Wonders of Words spiel,” said my best friend Jenna. She shoved her English book into her locker. “Any one of us could probably recite it for him at this point.”

“True that,” I agreed. “So have you decided who you’re asking to the Flip Flop dance?”

Flip Flop dance: girls ask guys.

Jenna grinned. “Cameron Jordan,” she said, giving a determined nod. I gave Jenna a thumbs up. She’d been eyeing the guy all year; I guessed she finally felt serious enough to make a move. Personally, I didn’t see anything in the guy (he had two first names, for heaven’s sake), but that didn’t bother Jen. She was weird about boys anyway, always setting up rules and requirements that she thought would help her meet her match quicker. I thought she complicated things, but then again, I had no experience to speak from.

Jenna shut her locker with a bang and we started for the cafeteria. “So who are you gonna ask?”
I bunched my lips to the side and pretended to think hard. “Gee, let’s see…um, Darren.” Jenna grinned.

“You two are going strong, I see.” She tried to contain herself, but a squeal found its way out. She was such a romantic. I rolled my eyes.

“Whatever you want to tell yourself, Jen,” I said. Darren and I went together to every bring-a-date function, and it was nothing—about as romantic as going with a cantaloupe. We went together because we were best friends, and it gave him an excuse to turn down the stalker-type girls who were always after him.

“You must be starting to feel something towards him,” Jenna said. “Or else you’d ask someone else. You know plenty of other guys. For heaven’s sake, we hang around with the best-looking bunch in Jefferson high.”

I snorted. “You know as well as I do they only put up with us—at least me¬—because of Darren.”
“Hey, being baby BFFs with the most popular guy in school was bound to come in handy sooner or later,” Jenna said with a wink. I snickered.

“Yeah, okay, Jen. I’m asking Darren, and there’s nothing romantic about it.”

“Do you even hear yourself?” Jenna asked, looking pointedly unconvinced as we waltzed into the cafeteria. We sat with the poplar kids and soon became absorbed in another typical lunch break.


I cleared my throat as I neared Darren’s house. He was shooting baskets in the driveway. My dog, Brandy, was tugging at her leash, but I had business to take care of.

How should I ask him? I wondered. We were always elaborate and crazy with our date requests, each time the ordeal became something bigger and sillier. Everyone loved it, which was good because we mostly did it to amuse people. Everyone knew it was a joke to us. For the winter formal, Darren had taped massive pieces of poster board to the hallway floor at school, the first one saying “Will,” the second saying “you,” and eventually asking “Will you go to the dance with me?”

I’ll figure out the public display later, I decided, looping Brandy’s lease around the mailbox.

“Hey, Dare!”

Darren caught the basketball as it bounced off the backboard without looking. He smiled the butter-melting smile and motioned me over with a jerk of his head. “Hey, P. What’s up?” He was the only person who could call me “P” without images of urine leaping to mind.

I shrugged and smiled as I walked up the driveway. “Nothing new. Walking Brandy, thinking of ways to ask you to the dance.”

Darren wiped his forehead with the hem of his T-shirt, revealing rock hard abs. “Awesome, awesome. Any good ideas?”

“A few,” I lied. In truth, I sucked at the whole cute-creative thing. Darren was better at it, which was embarrassing. Girls were supposed to be good with that stuff.

“Ha,” Darren said. He started dribbling the basketball. “I bet you don’t. Out of ideas and the girl only has to do the asking once or twice a year.” He winked and threw the ball into the hoop with a neat swish.

“Oh shut up,” I said, feeling a smile at my lips. “I’ll think of something twice as good as your cheap poster board thing.” The basketball bounced lazily towards me. I picked it up and took a shot, which I made.

“Nice,” Darren said, catching the rebound and executing a layup.

“So how’s baseball practice been?” I asked, switching sports. “Didn’t what’s-his-name-the-pitcher fracture his wrist yesterday?”

“Parker? Yeah, which sucks because we’re playing Western in three days and he’s the only decent alternate we’ve got.”

“Tough break,” I said. “Oh, ha. Pun.” Darren good-naturedly rolled his eyes and made a bank shot.

“I’ve got to finish walking Brandy,” I said, walking backwards down the driveway. “See you later. Oh, by the way don’t forget your mom’s birthday is Friday.”

Darren looked at me with such an expression of genuine shock that I cracked up. The basketball bounced back from the basket and smacked him in the chest. He grunted and caught it. “Right. That’s right.”

“And do not get a Starbucks card,” I said, raising an eyebrow. “After year five I think the element of surprise is somewhat lacking.”

Darren made a face at me and motioned for me to hit the road. I stuck my tongue out finished walking Brandy.



  1. I like it. I heard someone say once that first time authors usually hit the cutesy-witty banter too hard in the first novel. I don't think you did that, but you might be getting close. Overall it was well written though. I like how you can intersperse dialogue with descriptions of what's happening. When I write dialogue there is a bit of description but eventually it just turns into dialogue only, almost like a movie script. You have nice little detail moments like "I bunched my lips to the side," realizing the pun after she said it, and the P nickname. I wish I knew where the story was going.

  2. I totally get what you mean; I've never thought about it before, but now that I do, I agree. I'll have to watch out for that.

    I used to have a problem with that too, too much talking, not enough physical context.

    I may end up posting more of the story, but first I need to actually write it. It's one of those things I always want to do, but then I sit down at the computer and just...don't.

    Oh. Today I'm supposed to Not Give Up. How appropriate. How ironic.

    Maybe I'll go write then...