Friday, August 3, 2012

The Manny Journals. Should I finish them?

This is something of a long story, so I'm going to give the highlights. A couple years ago, a friend and I were co-writing a novel together. We had rather different styles, but complementary skill sets (and um, topic sets, in this context) so we were working together. He bailed, after six chapters, for reasons which aren't really that interesting, so I'll not go into them here.

I've hit something of a wall with the Sophie & Marty novel. (Sigh. What's new?) So I dug this out the other day and took a look at it. I have six chapters of a novel that I think is publishable. Leaving the co-author ethics aside (which in my mind aren't too problematic; I'll explain more later), the question is this: Should I put my time into finishing this novel? Would you like to see the rest of this story? Or is it too derivative? (Of what? Well, if you don't know, I won't tell you. Because if you don't recognize what it's derived from, many other people won't either. Right?) 

So, give the first chapter a read. (I know it's not perfect. I may be an editor but I haven't re-edited this.) The question is this: Do you want to read more? 

There is a poll at the bottom of the post. Please vote!!

Chapter 1: The Beginning

I glance at the schedule hanging above the boarding platform. Only five more minutes until the next train. I slump into the hard plastic chair beneath me and scrub my hands through my hair.
It’s not every day that I have to tell my parents that I’m going to take my $200,000 Stanford education and use it to care for some rich family’s children. My parents have always told me that I could do anything I wanted, that they would be happy if I’m happy. I even remember my dad once telling me that he’d be happy if I became a taxi cab driver if that’s what I really wanted to do. Of course, I know he didn’t really mean it, and I suspect that both of my parents have definite ideas about the sort of career they would like me to pursue. To be fair to them, most double majors in history and philosophy don’t choose childcare as a career field.  
The blaring of the train’s electric horn pulls me back to reality. Once the train stops, I mindlessly follow the crowd through the train car’s sliding doors and find a seat.
As soon as we start moving, the chattering in my mind starts back up. I know Mom and Dad fully expect me to do something amazing, to revolutionize the world, maybe even save it. They’ve always had extraordinary expectations for me. Only, I’m not ready for that. I’m barely even ready to face the world. After four years of grueling all-nighters and a senior thesis that really kicked my butt, I’m ready for a break. I feel like I’ve been running the achievement rat race for my entire life. Ever since primary school, my parents have shuffled me among gifted programs, enrichment classes, and leadership seminars. In college almost every decision I made revolved around how participating in one activity or another would affect my résumé. The position as a part-time research associate was a no-brainer; joining the amateur drama club or finding a girlfriend didn’t make the cut.
Unfortunately, I’ve only recently realized that I don’t have to live that way. Now I’m ready to have some fun, reunite with my inner child, and discover who I am. And I’m going to do it on the tab of some rich family with spoiled kids—a family who is so successful that they don’t even have the time to raise their children without hiring someone else to help.
I glance at my watch and see that it’s already 6:00 p.m. My parents won’t be happy that I’m late for dinner, but that will likely be the least of tonight’s disappointments. It’s possible that I’ll be able to convince them of the wisdom of my decision, but I’m not holding my breath. (I could easily suffocate given how stubborn my father is.) My parents’ backgrounds don’t lend themselves to understanding. Both of them come from working class families, and they’re both the only people in their families to have gone on to college. As IT professionals, they both make good money, but I know that they’ve always regretted not being able to provide us with some of the more lavish comforts of our Silicon Valley neighbors. What Mom and Dad fail to understand is that neither my sister nor I have ever wanted these things. As children, we yearned for little more than our parent’s love and attention.
I push these thoughts out of my mind and focus on what I plan on saying tonight. I know I just have to level with Mom and Dad and tell them how I feel. If I’m authentic enough, they might understand. 
A few minutes later, I reach my stop. The train station is only a few blocks from my parents’ house, so the walk there doesn’t take but five minutes. I let myself in and prepare to announce my presence, but Dad is already there, sitting in the foyer chair. “About time,” he barks. His dark eyes narrow and bore into me—about what I expected.
I manage to spare him a smile and incline my head in deference. “Yeah, sorry, you know how the trains run.” Of course he does—and so do I, which is why I should have left fifteen minutes earlier than did. But then, it’s easy to procrastinate leaving when the destination is one I’m dreading. It’s a shame I don’t have a dad who would ignore the 15 minutes and give me a pat on the back for utilizing public transit. He knows the environment is an issue that’s important to me.
“Well,” he says gruffly, “your mother’s setting the table and putting everything out. We should go sit down.” A second later, he adds offhandedly, “Dee’s already here.” Of course he had to mention that; he has always compared my younger sister and me to each other, as if he could spark some sort of competitive spirit that would cause each of us to try to best the other. Fortunately for Dee and me, we’ve only rarely taken his bait.
I walk into the dining room and sit down at our formal, hardwood dinner table. The chairs are beautifully carved but rather uncomfortable. I remain silent as Mother enters and takes her place at the opposite end of the table from Dad, with Dee and me occupying the table’s flanks. We all reach toward one another, grasp hands, and bow our heads. My father begins saying grace, like he always does.
“Oh Lord, bless this food which we are about to eat and let it nourish our hearts and minds and souls, such that we may come to know you better and do your perfect will. We especially ask that you grant your blessings upon Blake and Dee as they embark on new journeys in their lives—Blake with his career and Dee with her university studies. We thank you for the gifts you have given us and that we know you will continue to bestow upon us. All grace is yours, oh mighty Father. We thank you and ask all this in the name of Christ your Son. Amen.”