What Sarah Hilary suggests for Starkville

Sarah Hilary said…
Hi there. There is so much I love in this story, and it’s been fascinating to see it unravel over the last week or so. Thanks for sharing that process with us.

Right, you asked for a brutal critique? (In fact it doesn’t need one, as I think you already spotted 95% of what needed doing with it as you went along, but here goes…)

I like how you root us in the place and the action, straight up. That Kerry is here where her mother was before her, with Beth to think about and this nebulous idea of escape in the front of her mind. We know she’s feeling a bit trapped, a bit flighty.

Then in comes Carl – great descriptions here and very nice dialogue and tension between them from the off.I’d get rid of “Huh… I feel weird.” I don’t want you warning us that way. I want to feel that slap Kerry feels when she realises who it is. The bit with the burn and the ice was perfect – we side with Carl a little here, he seems a good guy no matter how much he’s changed.

This prefaced Kerry submission for me. If you don’t want to preface that, then maybe you need to change how Carl reacts to the burn?

I wasn’t so sure about the second diner coming in. There’s a paragraph where Kerry starts to reminisce about Reno… I wanted that flashback. That would really give me what I need to judge Carl and Kerry and Beth as a possible family unit. The second diner and his watchful offer of help seemed like a distraction, a tangent – as if you weren’t quite ready to write the flashback just yet and so this guy interrupted it.

I think we need the flashback – some more clues as to how Beth was conceived. Kerry was in love with Carl, right? Was he in love with her? Why’d he leave? Without at least a hint at some of these answers I don’t think the ending quite works because we don’t know enough to guess at what comes next. I like to guess – I don’t need all the answers but I need enough to hazard a decent guess.

The quickfire conversation where Kerry and Carl agree terms for his seeing Beth does work well but I think we need a glimpse more of what’s going through Kerry’s mind. At the start of this she was feeling trapped (at least I read it that way), looking for a way out. Now she’s thinking of staying and letting Carl into Beth’s life. How does this resolve her worries over Beth’s adolescence? Or her desire for a wintery place?

It’s almost all there but it needs a little more layering, a little more resolution, I think.I hope these comments make sense. I’ve enjoyed following the creation of this – you write diner fic so damn well – and it’s been a privilege to be involved. Thanks. S.

Gay Degani said…
WOW! Sarah! Amazing.

Yes yes yes about the Reno scene. It is absolutely key to everything, the lynch pin to the story. That will be fun to write though I have no idea what I’ll say!!!

I wanted more flash backs–I wanted to do what Brenda Miller does in Blessing of the Animals weaving a present story with a past story, but I’m finding it hard to do that. Once I’m into a certain rhythm, I don’t want for anything to jar it.

Perhaps that is exactly what the story needs, that jolt. That may have been my subconsious setting me up. It does that sometimes.

Actually that was the purpose of the driver coming in, a delay tactic not to delay me from writing the Reno scene–I didn’t even know there was going to be a Reno scene (I swear) but to delay Kelly’s having to deal with Carl, to weaken her resolve since she couldn’t go at him right off the bat.

But absolutely I can make a move toward the weaving thing I want by writing that reno scene. I think…well, I’m not going to say what I think yet will happen. I’m going to leave that in the hands of the characters who have finally become their own people.

I added that “weird” line because I wanted the reader to feel comfortable with the idea that she didn’t recognize him immediately. I thought something would tug on her something about him would make her uneasy. I have to think more about this. I know someone who I knew 10 years ago who was strong, outgoing, healthy-seeming though he drank all the time and now looks like someone’s grandfather. That’s what I want to reproduce somehow. Yep this I need to think about. It happens but I want to make sure the reader believes it.

And the ending, you are on the money again. It needs to reflect her original attitude, what she’s thinking, how it works. I’m thinking that maybe this story will need to be a little longer. Perhaps have a scene later after he’s been there awhile and “obeyed” her requests. But I don’t want to tack it on. Hmmmmmm. Maybe if I do the flashback thing write a strong ending will come to me.

Sarah, as usual, you are amazing. Thank you so much and thank you for doing all this publicly. This has been a weird experience for me, but much less angst than I thought it would be. The story developed for me I think because I didn’t let it go, COULDN’T let it go because then I would look like a whuss. (sp). I forced myself to sit down to it everyday and just write not worrying about if it was good or not, just letting it develop. Diner fiction? Is this a sub-genre of restaurant fiction? Is there take-out fiction? You make me smile! Much grass.

2 thoughts on “What Sarah Hilary suggests for Starkville

  1. Sarah Hilary

    “Much grass” is new to me, Gay. I shall add it my list!

    Definitely you have cornered the market in diner-fic. For Brit readers (and watchers of TV and film) the diner is a strange alien setting because we don't have them over here. Some of my favourite scenes in films have taken place in diners, en route to somewhere else. Spooky places, they seem to me. Anything could happen sort of places.

    I forgot to say how much I love the title – Starkville – is it an actual place or did you make it up?

  2. Gay Degani

    “Much Grass” comes out whenever I want to type muchas gracias. My typing is slowly deteriorating so if I can make it easier for me, I do.

    Thanks for the diner info. Funny but I'd forgotten about all the great movies that feature diners: Diner, of course, Five Easy Pieces, … Oh there is that Pretenders music video in what LOKKED like a Brit diner…

    What a great topic for a poll post!!! LOL. You continue to amaze me.

    Starkville I got from the dictionary while doing my daily prompts thing. Flip over the Oxford, run my finger down a column. Always looking for provocative. And there it was Starkville, Mississippi. I looked it up … again… why don't I post this.


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