This week's entry had an interesting opening from Wikipedia. I couldn't wait to see what Ms. Shreditor said about it.
Thank you to Jane and Ms. Shreditor for their time and effort. As always, it is much appreciated. See you next week!
A Little Hair of the Dog
by Jane McBride
“Hair of the dog is a colloquial expression…predominantly used to refer to alcohol that is consumed with the aim of lessening the effects of a hangover. The expression originally referred to a method of treatment of a rabid dog bite by placing hair from the dog in the bite wound…it is a popular belief that a few hairs of the dog that bit you applied to the wound will prevent evil consequences. Applied to drinks, it means if overnight you have indulged too freely, take a glass of the same wine within 24 hours to soothe the nerves…” -Wikipedia
I opened the door and we walked into an apparently empty bedroom. Our noses were immediately assaulted by one of Mother Nature’s most imaginative, yet horrible, smells.
Kell said, “Sheesh, was that you?”
Indignant, I said, “Why, yes Kell, I have SUCH bad intestinal gas that the worst of the farts have taken to going on ahead of me to save time.”
“Wha--” she started to say, but I didn’t get to hear the rest. The true source of the smell was literally upon us. I couldn’t have been more surprised when the most enormous dog I had ever seen charged out of the closet, reared like a stallion and placed its front paws squarely on Kell’s shoulders.
“You always blame me for everything,” I whined, as she staggered under the dog’s weight and tried to keep her balance.
“C‘mon, get him off me!”
“Oh, he seems friendly enough,” I offered lamely, while hovering anxiously near the duo. I had never had a dog of my own, and was a little baffled over the best course of action.
Ms. Shreditor's Comments
I like that this story begins with a hard sensory hit (i.e., the stench of the dog). The reader immediately wonders what’s causing the smell, and the story answers that question in short order. During my first read-through, I wondered if perhaps the charging dog should be moved to the beginning of the story, but the unexplained smell at the beginning also creates a certain element of suspense.
The dialogue is concise and snappy, as dialogue generally should be. It’s economical. In most cases, after all, you want your characters to sound like actual talking people and not Shakespearean soliloquies. Watch closely for extra words that might be weighing it down. For instance, I think “bad gas” flows much more naturally than “bad intestinal gas.” “Intestinal” is implied contextually, so I think you gain more by losing it than keeping it.
Is there a way to introduce the main character’s name sooner? Knowing Kell’s name without knowing the narrator’s name makes this first page feel a tad off balance.
Julie sent a note along with this week’s submission explaining that the story opens with an epigraph from Wikipedia because the main character is a Wikipedia addict. I think that this device can work, as I’ve seen similar ones in other YA novels. I seem to remember reading one wherein the heroine was obsessed with phobias, so chapters often opened with definitions of various phobias. Long story short, this can work if it’s made clear early enough in the book that the heroine is a Wikipedia junkie AND if there are Wikipedia epigraphs in chapter openers throughout. Otherwise, the one accompanying Chapter 1 might feel a little gratuitous and out of place.
If this is a stand-alone Wikipedia excerpt that will appear on a front-matter page before Chapter 1, consider that an editor might be reluctant to run it in such a high-visibility location regardless of the character’s Wikipedia addiction. 1) Wikipedia is not an independently verifiable source, and 2) Wikipedia text changes constantly because they’re essentially open-source documents. So consider that today’s Wikipedia copy could be tomorrow’s cache.