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Tone

I'm interested in some feedback on this piece. 

It's first draft and I'm dyslexic, feel free to point out spelling if you wish, but I'm most interested in the tone of it. How it makes you feel. Where you think it might be going. It's the opening for a new WIP, so I'm looking to set the mood quite quickly.

All opinions on anything gratefully received.


I watch the houses whiz by and my eyes flick from one to the next. I was told once not to do that as it will give me a headache, but it hasn’t yet. We’ve been driving a long time, but that could just be because this worker is more boring than most of the others.

Her car is the same as everyone else’s, it has the feeling of beige. I look away from the houses and down to my feet. They dangle in the air because of this stupid child seat she’d made me sit on. Beneath them the typical uncared for mess dotting the floor. A half crushed dried leaf, bits and pieces of various foods, a single bright blue thread snaking its self into a contorted pattern. 

The bag beside me rustles as the car moves. I’ve lost count of the times my things have been stuffed into a bag that, other than for moving me, is only ever used to throw out rubbish. The suitcase I’d started with, one home said was theirs when I was told to leave, and kept it. Since then it’s been the bin bag. The sum total of my life being worthy of being rubbish.

“You’re lucky I was free today or you would have been in real trouble.” She says in a voice like I should be thankful.

I look at her eyes in the mirror as they try and bore into me for appreciation, then go back to looking at the houses going past. Will this be the type of house I’ll be staying in? Probably not, these seem too nice for the kinds of people that take us in.

It’s not long before the car comes to a stop, and she turns round awkwardly to look at me while she talks at me. The angle she’s put herself is making the collar of her shirt dig into the fat of her neck, it’s being absorbed by the folds of her flesh.

I’ve heard most of it before. Try and not get into trouble this time. Be nice to your hosts. Don’t swear. Say thank you, and please. This house has a new part though, this is emergency accommodation, “Because you’re running out of options.” It’s not always me, but it’s always me that gets the blame. The son of the last place had banged his head so hard off the door frame that the blood actually splattered across the wall. He was angry after catching me watch him get dressed, he wanted the baby faggot out of his room. He was twice my size, but I was still blamed for the injuries and the social worker was called to come and collect me. I asked the worker what a faggot was, she just told me it’s a bad word and I shouldn’t say it.

This house doesn’t normally take boys. They have two girls, so they only take girls. Because of the short notice it’s all that’s available, the girls will stay in a room together and I will stay in the smaller of their rooms.

“Hopefully we’ll find you somewhere you don’t want to cause problems soon.”

I look up at the house as we go through the garden gate, normally houses this size are group homes. “Try to look thankful for being here. They are good to have let you stay.” She speaks to the air as we snake down the broken slabs towards the front door. I don’t feel thankful though, I don’t see why this house will be any different. Kids that don’t want me there, parents that are more interested in the cheque they get for hosting me. Maybe they’ll be a dog, I can be friends with the dog.

The two girls inspect me from the safety of a doorway. Their eyes roam over me and my bin bag with no hint of subtlety, pure assessment. The Mum greats me with an uncomfortable smile and welcomes me in an unwelcoming way. The Dad though, the Dad seems nice. Friendly, dressed in sports wear that he apologises for, he didn’t have time to change from his run before I got there. He’s funny, he makes a joke about he couldn’t welcome me properly while in the shower, and punches my shoulder while chuckling.

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Replies (11)
    • I immediately knew it was a child, almost too old for a car seat, and in foster care, but not GOOD foster care (I have SIL who does foster care, so I am familiar with the better kind!). Loved the 'feeling of beige'! 

      I found the story engaging, and the situation set out quite clearly from the start... great beginning! 

      Now to get nit picky, LOL:

      First suggestion: in the 3rd paragraph, I would probably re-order the third sentence:
      When I was told to leave, one home said the suitcase I started with was theirs, and kept it.

       And change the first BEING to ONLY in the same paragraph (last sentence)... too many beings!

      In the 7th paragraph... THIS HOUSE HAS A NEW PART... perhaps THIS LECTURE... would be better? I was thinking they added onto the house when I first read it, LOL. Same paragraph... the sentence that starts "he was angry"... possibly "...AFTER HE CAUGHT ME WATCHING HIM..."

      I found the sentence that starts HOPEFULLY confusing, and had to read it a few times to figure it out. Simply fix, I think you probably meant: WON'T instead of DON'T...

      Next paragraph (2nd from bottom) divide the first sentnce in two (at the comma). Last sentence... BE A DOG, I think you meant HAVE A DOG, 😆 

      Final paragraph mom GREETS (not 'greats' - just a typo)... and the father "... makes a joke THAT he couldn't welcome me..."

      Hope that helps, and that you get lots of useful comments...

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      • Thank you so much, this is incredibly detailed and helpful.


        Apologies to your SIL, as I was writing this I had to mentally apologies to the social workers I've know and still know. Unfortunately I wanted a stereotype for this piece. It has made me think that maybe I should do a shout out to them in the acknowledgments.

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      • Pushed for time this morning, just a few first impressions. It's nice - also liked the beige thing - but, protagonist is a young boy? How young? Might be more 'grounded' if you could make the age and gender clearer sooner. Also 'The sum total of my life being worthy of being rubbish.' - being worthy of being? The repetition doesn't quite work, but the thought is good. "Hopefully we’ll find you somewhere you don’t want to cause problems soon." - run-on sentence starting at 'you' - separate them somehow?

        Good luck!

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        • Brilliant observations, thank you I will make the changes.


          I hear you on not revealing the MC's age. I'm wondering if context would help with that. 

          It's a work of stereo perspective. About 10,000 words split into chapters dotted throughout the book. They tell the story of what gave the motivation and belief system to the MC. The remainder of the book is 3rd person and telling his journey to understand and overcome that. 

          In the 1st person part he's 9, in the 3rd person he starts at 15 and gets to around 25/30 I haven't quite figured that out yet. I thought keeping the reveal of the 9 year old slow would add to that process, his age is stated in his second chapter. Drip feeding information somewhat, without stating that both are the same person. 

          That being said, with my context explained, if you find it hard to find the MC through my vagueness, I need to rethink that.

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        • Hi Richard

          I enjoyed this. The situation felt very real and there's some lovely writing such as "in a voice like I should be thankful."  I did find the boy hard to picture. Part of my brain was busy trying to work out how old he might be as he still fitted into a child seat and his feet didn't reach the floor. I felt this lack of a specific age also affected his voice which moved from being very well done and convincing, to sometimes sounding too adult: "Beneath them the typical uncared for mess dotting the floor." "The sum total of my life being worthy ..." 

          I hope this helps. I did like the piece.

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          • Thank you very much.

            I definitely need to add some details about him in as you're the second person to say you struggled to see him.

            Much appreciated 

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            • I was worrying about where and how to add some description and found this place, and cut the rest of the sentence

              I look at her eyes in the mirror as they try and bore into me for appreciation. Looking back to the window I see my reflection. They always say I’m cute when they meet me, smaller than they were expecting. My hair is never just brown, it’s lush, deep, or rich. The women seem to like my eyes, one said they were soulful. When I asked my worker what that meant she said ‘sad.’

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            • Heaps better! I can really see him now, and the description is very emotionally evocative and affecting. It fairly pulls at the heartstrings.

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              • I can't really add much else that hasn't already been said. I do think your edit in the comment you added makes the whole piece fit together a bit better though. It did manage to hook me quite well and I'm interested in what happens to the nameless protagonist, I hope he manages to realise that not all social workers are bad people. I agree with what Jo said in their comment, if you take on board their edits it would feel a lot better to read.

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                • Thank you Calvin. It's not a nice journey for the protagonist, but it ends well.

                  The advice on here has been so helpful and all comments have become changes, and it does read so much better.
                  My sister gave me one too that made me laugh. She said the bag rustling made her think there was a cat in it. So that's changed to the bag beside me rustles with each move of the car.

                  I can see things so clearly in my head I sometimes forget I need to articulate them better.

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                  • Yeah I know what that's like, I do the same thing in my MS. I'm glad that you're finding it all helpful and it's giving you some good ideas.

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