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For Milk - (Um, nothing to do with milk, really. Please look!)

by hannahjane 

Posted: 22 December 2006
Word Count: 953
Summary: This is the first thing I've ever posted. I'm really just after a general opinion as to whether it's awful or ok. I'm playing with it as the beginning of a novel, but am not sure whether to go with something action-based instead (which has also been written). To be honest I am befuddled. Thanks for looking, I appreciate it!


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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.


I went out, for milk. And I thought all the chewing gum on the ground was God spitting at me.

Thatís kind of when I knew I needed help.

I know, right? It sounds ridiculous! Which is why it was so hard, you know? The bus journey to the doctorsí Ė this is months ago now Ė it took me eight weeks. I was shitting myself, trying to explain face-to-face how I felt, shifting in seat, sweaty palms and that. And Iím not a nervous person, or at least I never used to be.

I tried as best as I could, and this woman kind of sneered and laughed a little, she had clip-on earrings, and she basically made the whole thing sound like I was some lazy kid who couldnít be arsed loading the dishwasher. I had to kind of squint and make sure it wasnít just Mum, but with earrings on.

She sent me home with a prescription for some pills; some, because they donít give you loads. Anyway, I got home, and I swear, I swear to you now, there was a list of possible side effects on the label and it said Ė Iím really not kidding! - it said: suicidal feelings.

Well obviously she was fucking crazy! I opened it up, just to make sure she hadnít stuffed it with Smarties or something.

Maybe youíre thinking the same thing as she did. Typical, sulky adolescent; jeans that are either too baggy or too tight, staying up all night reading The Bell Jar, following adoringly down the Plath Path, buying stick-on pearls online; all choked up with love and misty-eyed by gas. (Oh! What it is to be mad! To drown sorrows in alcopop bottles!).

But it really isnít like that. Actually, I suppose it is a little bit, but you know, I feel shit. And I donít even have any Nirvana posters in my room or anything.

So I didnít take the pills. I probably couldnít have anyway.

Like, before the doctors, an overdose seemed perfect, except Iím crap at taking tablets and I donít think itís possible to kill yourself with Calpol. Although this one time, I was a little over-enthusiastic with a Tunes cherry lozenge and kind of choked on it and I thought Yes! This is it! but it wasnít.

I love the smell of nail varnish remover, so I did think of that for a while.

Iím too squeamish to cut, paper ones make me feint. And besides, when the time came Ė after the doctors Ė I found I liked my veins too much. And if you fail, well, you might as well have SUICIDE DOLL or ~EMO~ tattooed right there.

I thought of the easiest way the other day; the Lazy Girlís Guide to Suicide. But the shame of being found dead with a Tesco bag on my head. I donít want to be so some Shameful Death of the Week on a topical news panel quiz-show. Like when people choke on dicks or are mowed down by zimmer frames and shit.

Oh, and once I tried to jump when the Countdown clock went off, but I could never get it right. Like kids sitting in a field; daises: He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not.

And Iíve tried to make things better. Iíve tried so hard to sort myself out and that. Like, seriously, so fucking hard, you know? So fucking hard.

Iíve written diaries, on and off. Iíve spent days, feelings entwined in Smiths riffs. Then listening to Gabrielle Ė Rise, and all of this stuff, Magic, and none of it worked. Not even this tear-jerker compilation, the kind they advertise in between Corrie and sell at Asda.

And I know it sounds silly, but what else can you do? Thereís nothing else I can do.

And killing yourself because of you know, whatever, something everyday, of course itís ridiculous. Like Oh Iíll Just Top Myself Because I Missed That Programme Iíd Circled in Red Biro in the Guide, but when you feel so shit all the timeÖ

Like, I know itís supposed to be some showy performance, gurgling dying groans into the microphone, kids fumbling at the bottom of the curtains, colouring in names on gravestones.

And I know itís not like that really. Iím not stupid, I donít think that Iíll be greeted at some roped off red carpet entry with a stamp on my hand or anything. I know thereís nothing.

But Iím no good at asking for help. Even with things like the fucking Telewest box which never works and physics homework and stuff like that. Iím just shit at it all.

And the only help I find asking myself forÖ

Well, they say that God moves in mysterious ways donít they? Except I reckon itís life that moves in mysterious ways, itís just that when it gets into shit, God scrambles into the driving seat.

Which is the same with me, and I feel fucking stupid saying it, but you know, Iíve done a bit of praying to bathroom spotlights, my hands together like some God lightning conductor.

Or Iím kid-scribbling messages to Him on Paint: GOD PLEASE HELP!!!!!

But he never listens, because Iím crap and I only ever visit churches in foreign countries and Iíve used up all my prayers looking for lost keys when Iím late and computer crashes.

I realised, I swapped God in the heart for an iPod in the breast pocket and I just thought Fuck.

I just thought Fuck. Because if He doesnít love me, if heís spitting at me, then all Iíve got is the mother, and thatís when I knew I was really fucked.






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Comments by other Members



Lammi at 06:48 on 23 December 2006  Report this post
I loved this, actually. It's 7am, I was woken by the postman and it doesn't seem worth going back to sleep but no one's up so I thought I'd turn on the computer and then I find this, and am really lost for a little while in this girl's head! Also I haven't got my glasses so I keep having to stop and peer at the screen; apologies for any typos, therefore.

So, to be more specific: I like the style, I could read more of this narrator quite happily. The humour's nice and mad (though be careful it doesn't tip over into plain jaunty, which would be wrong. I think you get near to this when she's talking about suicide options).

Occasionally you use loose commas, eg "...and this woman kind of sneered and laughed a little, she had clip-on earrings, and she basically..." Technically that should be a full stop after little, but if you're after a very colloquial feel, especially if it's a rambling confessional tone, you can get away with this construction now and again.

Repetition of 'kind of' - this may be the narrator's verbal tic and as such you could use it more than once. But not very close together, and you still need to ration yourself or it will become annoying.

When she says she tried to jump at the end of the countdwn clock - where does she try to jump? That's not clear. Is she in the process of hanging herself in the living room or something?

Typo: faint, not feint.

Normally I'm a fan of vigorous paragraphing - I think it's under-used as a device - but here the section where she's considering suicide options is too chopped-up, imo. The line, for example, about loving the smell of nail varnish just looks self-conscious on its own. I appreciate you're going for a jerky and disjointed effect in between these little gushes of confession, but even so I think you overdo it there. Short paragraphs can draw your reader in, but then why not give them something a bit more substantial in the middle? Then you can revert to little paragraphs again to add emphasis to the lines at the end? I appreciate that's a personal decision, though. Paragraphs are an inexact science.

I think now, having had her thoughts plus the hint that something cataclysmic has occurred, that it's time for something to happen, for your plot to start moving. Maybe that's exactly what you're going to do in your next paragraph anyway.

But there were some great lines all the way through, and your opening and closing ones were very strong.

PS We know all about EMOs in this house!

Luisa at 08:16 on 23 December 2006  Report this post
I agree with everything Lammi has said! You've really captured the MC's voice here and there are some funny lines. I particularly liked:

I feel shit. And I donít even have any Nirvana posters in my room or anything.


I donít think itís possible to kill yourself with Calpol


I think it could well be the beginning of a novel, and I'm intrigued. I want to find out why she feels so alone, and what her mother is really like. I agree with Lammi that the plot should get moving soon, but I thought this was a good start.

Luisa

Flashy at 08:18 on 23 December 2006  Report this post
If i'd commented here first, i'd have basically said the same as the previous commentor, but rather badly and less helpfully..ahem!

Very amusing and attention grabbing first line, i like your style , but i think the piece could be improved on, made more fluid , i felt we were re visiting the same part of the theme too much, rather than it naturally progressing.

But it was enjoyable, and definitely has merit.

xx
Alan

hannahjane at 12:02 on 23 December 2006  Report this post
Hi everyone,

Thanks so much for your replies! This is the first time I've ever had any sort of feedback on my writing, apart from housepoints and stuff back in the day at school. :-p

So I really appreciate your taking the time to have a look and a comment.

I'm quite shocked by the positive reaction to be honest! I've been sitting on these 1000 words or so for months now, and maybe seeing the response I should have been a bit more courageous and put it out there sooner.

I agree with all the points made. The commas are a bit all over the place and there are some typos & sentence structure errors. For instance, some of the shorter paragraphs didn't start off that short (!), I cut them last minute before posting this because I didn't really expect anything positive to come of it, so I chopped and changed a bit before posting without properly editing. (Oh and yes; I was trying to give the piece a colliquial style - a certain chatty, teenage way of speaking really - but some of the comma splicing isn't really a part of that - they're just lazy mistakes).

I will definitely go back and sort out some minor erros and try to bulk out a few paragraphs or combine some, and make it flow more. I do think it could be improved upon, and I'll hopefully now address some of the other things that I wouldn't have even noticed myself.

Thanks so much to each of you, I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. I'll try and rework this extract a little bit and then maybe post what I've written next?

That's if I survive a last minute Christmas shopping trip I'm about to embark on....the wildebeest stampede scene in the Lion King springs to mind...






Mojo at 13:17 on 23 December 2006  Report this post
Hannahjane

I've been 'missing in action' for a while as far as WW is concerned, and haven't commented on or even read any work for several months (I won't bore you with the reasons, which have nothing to do with WW itself), but to come back and read this and find myself slammed into the head of this narrator has reminded me of not only why I joined this site, but why I started to write in the first place. I loved it, and if it was the opening to a novel, I assure you I'd be reading on, anxious to know who the narrator is why they feel that way.

I also agree with others that there's a touch too much flippancy in places. While I love present-tense as it is so immediate and emotive, I do feel that this sounds more like someone who has recovered from the traumas and is looking back with a tongue-in-cheek attitude to the emotions of the past. Does that make sense? It's just that, although I know little about teenagers, never having had kids, I was one myself back in the mists of time, and I recall having very little sense of humour about the things that made me feel bad/vaguely suicidal - in my case my dad and the other kids at school. Much as I could write about it now and inject some humour, it just wasn't funny at the time (and I didn't take the tablets the doctor gave me, either!) Having said that, it's the light tone of your narrator that I find compelling.

Please carry on with this - there's immense promise here.

Julie

<Added>

Apologies for the remark about present tense - it's a testament to the power of this piece, that it lived with me to the point that it occured to me the day after I made these comments that - er - it isn't actually IN present tense, strictly speaking. I can only attribute the mistake to my dodgy short-term memory. Sorry.

Julie

Account Closed at 17:36 on 23 December 2006  Report this post
I thought this was an amazing piece of writing - really excellent. If it's the beginning of a novel, I'd certainly read on, although I think, with a little tweaking, it would also work as a stand-alone piece. I loved the wit and humour, which on the one hand never flagged and on the other never became tiring for the reader. Personally, I disagree that it's too flippant in places - I think the apparent flippancy makes the depression and suicidal feelings of this wonderful, vibrant and intelligent teenager all the more cutting and poignant - especially when you follow it with lines such as

Thereís nothing else I can do

and
I know thereís nothing

and
So fucking hard.

-and others - which I found pretty gut-wrenching. I think what makes these more direct expressions of despair work particularly well is how they follow on rhythmically from what's gone before (if that makes sense??)

As Julie says, this shows immense promise and I look forward to reading more,
Poppy xxx

Account Closed at 20:30 on 23 December 2006  Report this post
I started off reading this thinking that I'd stop after a couple of sentences but found myself compelled to the end.

It's a very engaging voice, one that I could happily spend some time with. Laughed out loud at the 'shame of being found dead with a Tesco bag' image - nice touch.

If I was to offer advice on anything it'd be to ask you to not spend ages going over and over material - sometimes, in my experience, it's better to just wade right in - edit as you go along, but don't tie yourself up in knots for days on end because of a sentence or two - I don't think it's good for you or the book. (This is just my advice and please - please - feel free to ignore it if the way you write suits you fine.)

JenDom at 10:17 on 26 December 2006  Report this post
Hey!

Happy Boxing Day.

I loved your first line. It grabbed me. Maybe go easy on the commas but that's got to do with re-writes and re-edits etc etc.

The concept is what matters to me. You capture the voice of a very confused and very lively potential suicide clinging to her precious young life wonderfully. I am hoping that if this is a novel we will get to know her mother - the seeming root of all her angst. I think there is potential here for a deeper understanding and exploration of the relationship between the narrator and her mother. It'll be interesting to see how you will sustain this fast and vibrant pace throughout as I presume the story would solely be from the narrator's point of view. This makes the narrator's personality and characterisation very important for me as I always seek a connection between myself and the hero/heroine of the story if I am to emphathise and read on. That's why I think this is a great start to a novel. There is infinite scope for the narrator to develop in greater depth.


All the best.

Jen


hannahjane at 14:34 on 27 December 2006  Report this post
Hi everyone again.

Thanks a lot once more for all your comments; the points made are invaluable. This is a very quick post so apologies in advance for poor typing and probable rambling errors.


Julie - Hi, thanks for your response! That was wonderful to read!
Thank you. I understand about the over-flippant tone, I've thought it myself which is why it's taken me so long to show other people this little bit of work because I was convinced it was rubbish. However, it's difficult trying to find the line between over-flippant and the thing that compels people to read on (as you point out!). Also, your point about depression & suicidal feelings not being funny at the time is a very interesting one. I agree completely, but what I've tried to do is make the narrator here (her name is Alix), use humour as a tool to coping. Does that make sense? I know that some people use humour and funniness as a way of coping with the very serious stuff ie. nervous laughter, and I think it's perhaps a lot easier to make a joke about say, feeling suicidal or having cancer or a death... something traumatic, than fully absorbing it and perhaps breaking down. That, I suppose, is the reason Alix is so flippant, because it is a coping mechanism. But I agree with what you are saying, and it is tough trying to find a balance. Thanks so much for everything you said! I really appreciate it.

Oh, and don't worry about the tense thing! It's confusing because she's looking back a lot, but it will move into present tense properly. No worries.


Poppy - Hi Poppy. Thanks a lot for all you've said, it's comforting to know that you would read on! That means a lot, and is encouraging. Thanks especially for your comments on the humour, as I've explained above I do hope it emphasises Alix's character, and I was thrilled that you recognised her as "wonderful, vibrant and intelligent"! That's great, I do hope there's some juxtaposition between Alix's normal character and the depression she's suffering/her feelings, and I'm glad you enjoyed the flippancy!


Sammy - Hiya, I'm glad the piece managed to hold on to you. Again, that's very encouraging; I just have to make sure the rest doesn't let go of you I suppose (!). Pleased you liked the Tesco bag image, I like putting everyday things into my writing, I do it quite a lot. Everything else you said I entirely agree with, and thank you for! I won't ignore you at all, although unfortunately I've been tying myself up in knots for months now just over these 1000 words or so, so at the minute I resemble a cat's cradle I think. It's very good advice, I shall try to follow it. Thanks again!


Jen - Hello! Thank you for your comment about the first line, I've read it over so many times it's engraved on my frontal lobe in a way but I'm chuffed it still has an effect to other people reading it! I'm hopefully sorting out the commas etc now; editing this piece and what follows at the mo. Again, it's encouraging to know you would read on. :-) It's surprising me how many people have grasped this character just from this piece, it's a strange (but very pleasing) feeling. You have Alix down I think. I hope I take her in a satisfactory direction. Yes, there will be some exploration of the mother-daughter bond, and I see this one as very difficult. Also though, the reason I mentioned the mother, is because I suppose I wanted to draw attention to the absence of the father. I don't mean a specific absence in a way, or reasons etc, just in the sentence "all I've got is the mother". I wanted it to raise questions about her mother, but also why she hasn't got the father? Or at least, in that sentence, whatever follows. Does that make sense? Also, 'the mother' implies a certain distance I think, as opposed to 'my mum' or whatever. So, yes, I will be exploring that relationship, thanks for picking up on it!

And it will be interesting to see how I sustain the pace and vibrancy! You're right. It will be very interesting ie. I will no doubt struggle to! You've touched on something with the pov. I've toyed with so many different ideas regarding narrators and from whose pov I will tell this story, and I came to something a couple of months or so ago...I'm not sure it will work and I'm pretty sure it's unorthodox (probably for good reason), and it does sound hideous from the outset. I was thinking of having Alix narrate in first person as we've seen, and the antagonist of the story, narrate in second (because there are two main characters). I'm thinking this is unusual, and may not work (I'd appreciate feedback if I post later on, because I'm really rather clueless!).

There is good reason for this though (the second person pov). I won't go into it now though. Thanks for your comments Jen, I really value what you've said and especially about developing the narrator and building depth, I hope I can do this well. Very pleased you can feel a connection! :-D


Again to reiterate, because I've never shown work to anybody before, it is surprising how everyone has picked up on the character and understands her. This means a lot to me and is encouraging. At the mo, I'm editing this extract and the follow-up which I've also had written for a wee while, taking into account what Lammi, Luisa & Alan said, and now the other opinions.

I did want to address some of the earlier things said as well actually, which I didn't before in my earlier post but at the moment I'm unable to access the internet on my laptop so am hanging out in a shifty cafť without much time left...

So perhaps another time. I should have something else to post soon, when I'm back home.

Thanks again, hope everyone is feasting on Christmas chocs xxx

PS. Sorry for the essay!



Gulliver at 14:45 on 28 December 2006  Report this post
hannahjane,

I agree with you in your summary. I think you should go with an action-based opening. I like your MC. She has a good voice. But I would prefer to see her doing rather than commenting. This is a bit too introspective for my tastes.

Sappholit at 17:02 on 10 January 2007  Report this post
Oh, I thought I'd responded to this before Xmas, but now I've read through the posts, it seems I haven't. I must have intended to, and then got waylaid.

Anyway, nothing to add, just that I thought it was great - a really engaging voice and a great opening.

hannahjane at 15:19 on 13 January 2007  Report this post
Hi, thanks a lot for your comments Gulliver and Sappholit, I really apprciate you both taking the time to read it, and comment! :-) Gulliver, I do agree that it's a bit introspective, I'm still trying to work it out (see below!).

I just fished out a different version of this as a beginning which I will post, because unlike this one, I have a lot more writing which follows up the other version.

However, the other one is the same in that it is as rough as a badger's bum, but I just want to see if it's ok, before I clean it up. Anyway, I won't ramble on about it here, but it'd be great if anyone that's commented here could take a look at this other version of it, to compare etc. Even though the other is still quite loose.

Thanks again, take care all!

crowspark at 16:47 on 13 January 2007  Report this post
This is a great read Hannahjane.

Like others I was hooked at once. Loved the voice. An engaging read. Full of energy, funny and sad.

Loved the idea of God spitting.

Welcome to Writewords!

Best
Bill

Cholero at 17:00 on 13 January 2007  Report this post
Hannah

Loved it. Remarkable. Accomplished, deft, funny, sad, original, dishing out to Suicide exactly the note it deserves.

I found I liked my veins too much.
-I laughed

Iíve done a bit of praying to bathroom spotlights
-ah, and the water going cold, and noisy whenever you move...

Because if He doesnít love me, if heís spitting at me, then all Iíve got is the mother, and thatís when I knew I was really fucked.
-a coup de grace of a line, aptly enough.

Miniature pick, just a taste thing for sure, I thought Plath path was slightly... something. Tripped on it, anyway (a slaughterable darling?). Might be wrong.

Great writing, entirely engaging, bright, alive, made me sit up.

Best

Pete




Parhelion at 11:49 on 26 August 2007  Report this post
Liked this too!


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