Oct 8, 2009

AM I WORTH IT - sample pages Brand New - Trying a different Chapter

Click here to search through the prior sample pages and queries.

*Special note- I'm trying something different. This is actually my second chapter. It might be a better starting place???? I am struggling with this more than any other part of the novel. Any first chapter experts out there that have some advice I'd love to hear it.

"Mr. Anderson! I was worried you weren't coming." The frantic history teacher Mr. Epstein spoke loudly as I walked into his classroom a few minutes late.

I nodded mumbling a sorry and slipped into the desk closest to the door.

"Anyway," he continued, "I was just telling everyone that I think we have a real chance to win the state competition and maybe even the national competition this year. Last year we just missed qualifying to nationals, but the team is stronger than ever." He nodded toward me.

Six heads turned in my direction. The last thing I wanted was to be singled out – although most valuable member of the 'geek squad' had to be the worst title in high school.

It could be good – maybe a goal I would work toward.

"Alex, I'd like you to take Dan and Claire through last year's state questions from the card box. The rest of you can do the same with the other box. Try to finish as many as you can." Mr. Epstein rubbed his hands together, oozing with excitement.

Alex Jenkins waved at me – I recognized him from my German class. Geek wasn't a strong enough word for this guy, but he was seemed decent enough.

But he shared my love of Star Wars.

I walked over to his side of the room and noticed a girl with light brown wavy hair and . . . well let's just say she didn't fit in here. I couldn't remember ever seeing her before.

I had at least one class with everyone else on the team.

"I don't think we've met? I'm Claire Ramsey." She stuck out her hand.

I shook it politely.

"Dan Anderson," I said. Then I sat down in one of the desks next to Alex and she did the same.

"I'm going to get the cards." Alex got up to walk over to Mr. Epstein.

"Just so you know," Claire whispered, leaning in close to me, letting me smell her perfume, "I'm only here because Mr. Epstein is my brother in-law and my father practically forced him to let me on the team to help with my college applications. We've never had seven players before, usually it's just three backups, not four." She rolled her eyes.

I scooted my desk away from her a little and leaned back crossing my arms to my chest.

"Too much for your reputation?" I looked her over curiously.

"God no! Nothing like that, I'm not a snob!"

She sounded a little offended, which surprised me, and girls didn't surprise me very often. They were even more predictable than shrinks.

"But I'm not smart enough to actually make the team. I was just giving you a warning before we go head-to-head today."

"Sorry, it's a natural reaction- years of being called a dweeb are bound to leave some scarring," I looked right into her eyes- a really unusual shade of green. Green eyes have always fascinated me. Mostly because of the genetic improbability.

She raised her eyebrows as Alex returned with our box of cards.

"Years of being a dweeb, huh?" Her tone left me hanging.

"What's that supposed to mean?" I was a little offended myself that she wouldn't stop talking to me, and looking at me.

This was already more words than I had spoken to any student in over two months.

Damn, I was slipping!

"Nothing," she said quickly, her cheeks blushing a little, "I think Alex is ready to quiz us," she turned her eyes on him and he pulled the first card out of the box.

"What is the only novel Harper Lee has ever written?" Alex asked.

Claire looked at me and I sighed thinking I better live up to my reputation. Things were so different now.

"To Kill a Mocking Bird," I answered and Alex nodded.

"What is the native language of Brazil?" Alex asked.

I gave Claire a minute to answer.

"Portuguese," I said when Claire made it obvious she wasn't going to speak up.

"Nice!" Alex said, "Against what opposing team did Babe Ruth hit his first home run?"

"The Yankees," I said.

Alex looked excited and started firing at rapid speed.

"What is the most common element in the human body?"

"Oxygen." I made the mistake of looking at Claire while I answered.

For some reason I didn't tone it down for her. I usually made intentional pauses or missed a few on purpose. I think I was trying to scare her off- nobody likes a freak.

"What illness accounted for more than forty percent of U.S. casualties during World War I?"

"Influenza."

The rest of the practice went the same – Claire never opened her mouth once and I started to feel guilty about making her look stupid.

I was the first one out the door when Epstein dismissed us and I hurried down the hall toward the front doors. I heard footsteps following behind and then Claire was there at my side.

"You were really good." She turned her smile on me.

Her face was interesting, so full of secrets and depth – I couldn't help wanting to know more about her. But that was asking for trouble and it was pleasure I didn't deserve.

"Thanks." I looked at the ground and sped up my pace. "See you tomorrow." I headed through the door and let it shut before she could follow. I felt like such an ass. But it was better this way.

"Hey Steve," I said quietly, when I walked in the door to my uncle's house.

He was sitting at the kitchen table with a stack of papers and a red pen.

"How was practice? I heard the team's looking strong this year. I thought about stopping in to see for myself."

"I thought you were running detention?" Steve is my German teacher. It's his third year teaching.

Oddly enough he's only nine years older than me. That's always seemed so strange. He's halfway between peer and parent- but he's cool. I couldn't pick a better person to live with.

"Yeah, I was stuck with detention. Is pizza alright for dinner? I'm totally beat," he asked.

"Sounds good." I sat down at the table and took the first few papers off the stack and started marking the first test.

"How was your session with Dr. Stevens?" he asked tentatively, when we were eating pizza in front of the T.V. watching Monday night football.

"Don't you mean the Dr. Phil wannabe? Do I really need to keep seeing him?" I was hoping he might understand.

He looked at me more serious now. "Do you need to keep seeing him?"

"It's not like it changes anything."

"Your parents want you to. It was part of the agreement. But if you won't really talk to him, it seems like a waste of money. Of course they don't care, they just want to say they're doing something." His voice was filled with a bitter edge, very rare for Steve.

He had issues with wasting money. It wasn't easy living on a teacher's salary in the north suburbs of Chicago.

"I'll talk to them again." He didn't sound very hopeful that he could make any more progress than I had.

"Thanks anyway."

"If you don't mind me asking, do you really like the trivia bowl team? It just seems so different for you. And you're not playing basketball?" He immediately looked worried he might have gone too deep.

"That's sort-of the goal."

"I understand you're avoiding certain crowds, it's just that you aren't being yourself. Doesn't that bother you?"

This was the most he'd ever tried to get out of me and if I was going to talk to anyone it would probably be Steve, but I didn't want to talk. What if he made me doubt my decision, tried to make me feel less guilty?

"I'll make the most of it, I promise. In fact I was planning on taking the team out for a beer on Friday night. I thought we could hit the clubs maybe pick up a few college girls."

He laughed probably visualizing Alex Jenkins in his Dark Vader costume – that I knew he secretly had hanging in his closet- slam dancing with a cocktail in one hand.

"Claire Ramsey's on the team this year, isn't she?"

"Yeah, but not on merit." I immediately felt guilty betraying her secret. But Steve was a teacher I'm sure he already knew this.

"She's a nice girl." He gave me a look that added to my guilt.

"I wouldn't know, she hardly spoke a word." I grabbed my books and headed to my room, turned on the computer to write my essay on Hamlet-it would take less than thirty minutes.

I woke up to the same nightmare. My eyes flew open, my breathing heavy, it was still dark. I turned my head to look at the clock and groaned when I saw it was only four in the morning.

I used to be able to sleep in till noon, of course I was out partying until two or three. I picked up another book to read and stayed in bed until five, not wanting Steve to think something was wrong with me – that's the last thing I needed.

I turned on the computer to check the weather and groaned again when I saw it was only sixteen degrees. I've been running every morning since I moved to Chicago in June. But fuck that! I'm not training for a winter marathon.

It would have to be the school field house today and possibly several months.

I walked in the empty field house at six and started my run, with my IPOD turned up as loud as it would go. It's really strange how much I love running now because I used to hate it.

I did three sports all three years of high school- football, basketball, and baseball – very stereotypical jock. The most we ever had to run all at once was two or three miles. I clocked in at least six to eight miles every day now, of course I wasn't playing any sports.

I focused on the music, something loud with a good beat. The rhythm of my feet hitting the track – a steady consistent pace, calmed me better than any therapy session. It was the most peace I would have all day.

I continued lap after lap allowing my surroundings- the red padded walls, to melt and spin in front of me like bloody water swirling down the drain of the bathroom sink. I jumped when I felt a cold hand on my cheek pulling one of the head phones out of my ear.

"Dan," It was Claire in her P.E. uniform jogging next to me.

I focused my eyes taking notice of my surroundings and realized about thirty kids in uniform were sharing the track with me.

"Fuck! Did I miss this first period?" I asked her frantically and she laughed.

"Don't worry, it's early bird P.E.- before school at 6:45." She smiled at my confusion, "Are you really that out of it when you run?" Her speed picked up to match mine.

"I guess I am today." I wiped sweat from my face with the bottom of my t-shirt.

"Hey Ramsey?" Jason Elliot came up behind Claire and poked her in the side.

I didn't know him personally, but from what I've heard he was the senior star of the basketball team and on his way to the University of Illinois next year with a scholarship.

We didn't have any classes together, but that's only because I was in all the 'smartest' classes now and he fell more in to the 'smart' category – along with Claire.

"Who's your friend?" He nodded toward me.

"This is Dan, he's a senior too. We're on the trivia team together, except Dan's actually going to play where as I am going to sit and look pretty." She laughed again.

I loved her laugh, it was so real. Everything about her was real.

"I'm sure you'll be great at that," Jason joked, looking her over.

I thought she seemed a little uncomfortable being checked out – not that I hadn't done the same.

But at least I was discrete enough to wait until she wasn't looking before checking out her long and very sexy legs, among other outstanding qualities.

Claire was a pretty tall girl, maybe five six or five seven – I'm six one, so I've always liked taller girls.

"Are you on the wrestling team, Dan?" Jason peeled his eyes from Claire to look at me.

I needed to get out of this conversation and away from this girl.

"God no!" I shook my head, "Just watching my weight, I used to be a fat ass- over three hundred pounds." I looked him straight in the eye.

His eyes widened. "No shit!"

Claire looked down at the track, smiling. She guessed I was joking.

"How did you lose that much weight?" He sounded truly amazed.

"Jenny Craig." I ran ahead, away from both of them.

9 comments:

Julie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gj said...

You've set yourself a huge challenge by having a bored, depressed protagonist. If he doesn't have a goal, doesn't have anything he cares about, then why should we care about anything for him? Start where he has a goal, even if it's a teeny-weeny one, and make sure he really cares about it, not just "oh, well, maybe that would be nice."

The protagonist's goal -- and the antagonist opposing it -- is what gives structure (and tension) to a scene. It's what makes us keep reading: is he going to get what he wants, and/or how is he going to get it?

It doesn't have to be a big, save-the-world kind of goal, and it doesn't even have to be a goal that we share. He just has to have one, and care about it, so we'll care about it. (And, preferably, a positive goal -- negative ones are very, very hard to pull off.)

Without that goal, both scenes you've posted are just infodumps or chitchat -- events/information that you want the reader to know, but the reader doesn't care about. Because the protagonist doesn't care. It's just stuff happening, which is different from fiction structure, a/k/a a scene.

This second scene has some potential goals hinted at, but either I'm reading in more than is actually there, or you're being too coy with them, so there's no clear indication that the protagonist cares about those goals. I'm guessing from what I recall of the query, that the fact that the protagonist has a class with everyone on the team is intentional and part of a goal he has. But you're not letting the reader in on that goal, so there's no tension.

As someone who's studied fiction a lot, I could probably go through the scene and tick off the bits of information you wanted the reader to know by the end of the scene -- introducing various characters, and that the protagonist is smart, etc. A reader isn't going to care that you want her to know this information; she's just going to think, "nothing important is happening; nothing matters to the character or to me."

You've avoided the usual trap of telling instead of showing these things, but you've fallen into the other trap of showing boring, seemingly pointless events/conversations. There's gotta be conflict, which means a protagonist with a goal that he cares about for an identifiable reason, and someone opposing that goal.

You've got some annoyances for the protagonist -- the teacher singling him out, etc. -- but nothing that bothers him, nothing that stops him (or slows him) from doing what he wants to do. Because he doesn't have anything he wants to do, as far as the reader can tell.

Fiction, unlike real life, has structure. In each scene, the protagonist has a goal, he does something to accomplish it, and someone else (one person, the scene's antagonist) opposes the goal. At the end of the scene, the protagonist has either accomplished or -- better -- failed to accomplish the initial goal, so that now he has to adjust his goal and work harder.

You might want to take a look at either Deb Dixon's Goal, Motivation & Conflict, or Jack Bickham's Scene & Structure. They each approach conflict a little differently, and some writers prefer one over the other, so it's just a matter of which one works for you. Conflict is one of the hardest things for writers to really get a handle on, but it's one of the major keys to a publishable manuscript.

Donna Hole said...

Give me another day or two Julie. I took a few days off from everything, but I'm working on the critique. If you're still interested.

.......dhole

Julie said...

yes of course! I put a different short opening on my blog today as well. I'm trying to hit it from every angle and see if something sticks!

Donna Hole said...

Hi Julie, and thanks for being so patient in waiting for my critique. I’m hoping you’ve had a lot more timely and influential feedback than mine.

I’d like to start by saying I like this chapter as a beginning. I like it because there is a lot of subtlety to it, but it accomplishes the purpose of a first chapter. That being introduction of main character, setting, tone and POV.

Let me see (without referring to prior submissions) if I got the main gist of this introductory chapter correct. Main character: Dan Anderson; setting: contemporary high school (need the name of the school and the town); and tone and POV: first person narrative, slightly cynical.

Your introduction to the plot, the central conflict, is evident but appropriately subtle, for the most part. After reading your blog, and some of the prior comments, I’m going to be very disagreeable here. I do not think you need state an obvious goal for Dan. I’m referring to the line “It could be good - maybe a goal I would work towards.” It’s too blatant, too contrived, stated flat out like that. One of your critique’s stated that your plot was too coy. I don’t agree with that sentiment; but I think the confusion arises between the “subtlety” in the introduction of the central conflict and the direct “goal” statement.

I personally like the subtlety. (I write women’s fiction and am not well read in YA, so keep that in mind when giving weight to this critique.) You have written it strongly enough for the reader (me) to know there is something out-of-character about Dan in the “smart club” trivia bowl, yet his intelligence shows it is not out of his skills range.

This conflict in Dan really comes out in the conversation with his Uncle Steve at home. I like how you make Dan squirm under Steve’s very concerned but not intrusive questioning of his social and emotional progress. I like the connection Dan feels to Steve coupled with the need to stay emotionally distant. That is building character for both individuals, but allowing for future confidences without lengthy explanations to the reader how that sudden closeness fits in Dan’s world.

In short (because this comments section is extremely limiting), I think you’ve set up Dan’s world (in the present) very well. I really like this chapter as a beginning, because it not only tells me (the reader) about Dan now, but gives glimpses of a much more complicated past and obstacles to be resolved.

Your strongest storyline involves the conversation between Dan and his uncle Steve. The weakest is in the first few couple pages. I think your beginning - though it’s the right beginning - is weak because you have the possibility of offending one portion or the other of your target audience.

What I mean here is: you have a highly intelligent main character who is brilliant, top of his class grade wise-if he chooses- who thinks his (now) choice of academic achievement is the lowest of the low in school prestige. Your “geek” population isn’t going to read past the first page because your main character finds being in the trivia bowl the worst possible punishment he could inflict on himself; and the rest of your teenaged audience won’t read it because the main character doesn’t believe in the merit of the goal he has set himself.

I think your query letter can state that Dan believes he is committing “social suicide” by joining the trivia bowl, but I don’t think you can actually have Dan state that flat out in the opening without losing your audience right off the bat. It’s like having a newspaper headline reading “Popular Jock joins honor roll students to prove he doesn’t deserve to live among decent human beings.”

And, based on my own association with high schoolers (I had four teenagers of my own at one time in my house, and all their assorted friends), trivia is a popular and fashionable fad. Trivia bowl is the new spelling bee? Debate team?

Donna Hole said...

So, having your main character state (or think) what he is doing is the worst form of social suicide, kills his credibility as a sympathetic character. For me anyways. I think comments like “geek squad had to be the worst title in high school” and “geek wasn’t a strong enough word for this guy” is counter productive to Dan’s character development. I’d leave out all such comments/thoughts from Dan (except, maybe, in the presence of his shrink, where he can be honest not only with himself, but with another person.) His “secret intelligence” is also a secret from Dan himself, given his former jock status.

Clair’s statements that it’s not her thing is ok, because the author is not building that strong audience connection to her yet. In fact, that she is there only to mark a block on a college application is acceptable, but she would not be there if she did not have some potential for academics, and thus the mutual connection to Dan‘s circumstance is vital to his attraction to her. She is not - though a main character - a POV character, and growth is expected of her if she is to remain a central character in Dan’s life.

However, I think the phrase “Geek isn’t a strong . .” works if you put a period at the end (. . For this guy) and delete “but he seemed a nice enough guy. My rewrite suggestion is: Geek wasn’t a strong enough word for Alex. But he shared my love of Star wars, and that was enough to get me involved in this ridiculous exercise. This builds character for both Alex and Dan, and allows for an intimate connection (unreasoning trust) later in the novel - if the situation arises. (I’m seeing possibly in the near future Dan’s trivia teammates playing a pivotal/supporting role in Dan’s catharsis, and this is an innocuous introduction to that link.)

In all your previous critiques - including my own - the major issue you are having is in creating sympathy (empathy) for Dan and his story. Why should the reader care about a popular jock who now decides to punish himself by joining the ranks of the highly intelligent? I don’t know how society worked in your high school, but in my generation (I’m 47) we stayed away from, but envied the honor roll students. From what I’m seeing in my own children, these highly intelligent students are not just honor roll, but “advanced placement” students. “Geek” is not necessarily social suicide in today’s highly technological society. They have their place in social structure, as surely as Goths have replaced “burn outs”.

What I’m seeing in this novel is not that Dan Anderson is striving to be an outcast in the high school hierarchy, but that his perceptions of himself have altered. And, not by his choice.

The angst you are lacking might be that it was not his choice to exercise his academic skills as opposed to his athletic skills. Is there even a possibility that he was conflicted even before the “rape” of the girl?

Consider, from my POV. Dan is seriously intelligent, and athletic. He’s the quarterback of his high school football team (team captain as well?). This, apparently, makes his parents happy as well. A good scenario: rising high school football star gets caught drinking, using drugs, and involved in a date rape. Yep, end of prospective, approved career for the only son of a failed college football father. Leaving said intelligent son with an alternative; a not unsatisfactory (to Dan anyways) option to explore his more academic side. (Get real, his uncle is a history teacher who totally gets him.)

I think you need to lose Dan’s arrogance in the first chapter (this one). Don’t portray him as being above all this academic achievement. Obviously he fits in this world. When Dan talks to his shrink, he can be conflicted, upset at all the athletic potential he lost, as he believes that is what everyone expects of him. And maybe, he always thought that was what he wanted also, not just what his dad expected.

Donna Hole said...

But in his introduction, if he thinks this trivia bowl quest is worthless/selfish, so will your audience. Let him try to fit in. Instead of answering every question correctly and showing off (he says he doesn’t want to be singled out) have him defer to Claire several times and ask her to think about the answers he thinks everyone should know, and maybe even snatch the cards from Alex so he (Alex) has a chance to show off his skills also.

So, you can relax on his perceptions sometimes, and focus on the other characters, as long as you stay in your POV. Which, I might add, you do very well. Your POV character does not have to be the focus of every scene. We (the reader audience) know Dan is the POV character because the story is written from his POV. The problem is in the voice of the other characters. You focus so strongly on Dan, the other characters are washed out. I know you don’t mean for that to happen with Claire, as your query makes her a significant character in Dan’s journey of self discovery.

For instance: the section that begins “I scooted my desk away . .” and ends “This was already more words than . .” has lots of confusion about who is speaking because you put Dan as the focus of every interaction. “Too much for your reputation? Is clearly Claire’s comment, but is muddled by Dan’s sentiments of “I looked her over curiously.” Put Dan’s thoughts at the beginning of the next comment from him “God no!” Or, leave the tag out entirely.

If your character makes a comment, or action (shrug, lift of eyebrows, movement of any sort) that is their response. Their “comment”. Put a hard return and start the next character response. Like:

I scooted my desk away from her a little and leaned back, crossing my arms to my chest.

“Too much for your reputation?”

I looked her over curiously, then replied; “God No? Nothing like that. I’m not a snob!”

“Sorry; it’s a natural reaction.” She sounded a little offended, which surprised me. Girls didn’t surprise me very often; they were even more predictable than shrinks. “Years of being called a dweeb are bound to leave some scarring.” (This “shows” the reader the in-between realm: too bright for popular cliques, to dumb for highly intelligent - advanced placement.)

Next paragraph is his reaction: I looked right into her eyes . .

And then, in the next paragraph, her response to his staring: She raised her eyebrows as Alex returned with our box of cards.

Then start with: Her tone left me hanging, so I asked; “Years of being a dweeb?”

What I’m getting at is you can’t use his POV in her response, because it confuses who is actually speaking. If she talks, he should not “think” a response in the same sequence. The dialogue between Dan and Steve is better, but still has some of the same speaker confusion. I’d advise checking that throughout the novel. You don’t always need a tag after a dialogue if the speaker has a clear voice.

My last comment involves the climax of this chapter. Clearly, to me, it is after Dan’s comment “I wouldn’t know . .” The next line “I woke up to the same nightmare . .” is the start of a different scene, and thus should be the start of a new chapter. Each chapter needs to have an introduction, plot, and climax of its own that either further develops a character, or moves along the overall plot, and when it’s specific purpose is met (climaxed) a new chapter should begin.

I read somewhere - oh so long ago I don’t remember to cite - that each chapter needs to accomplish at least three specific goals to further either plot of character development. This initial chapter goes a long way to accomplishing those goals, though I’m not entirely sure what they are. It is a good beginning. I think there are some spots you could do some character building - especially with Claire, because I remember from your previously posted query she is a major influence in Dan’s life.

Donna Hole said...

As in; instead of Dan “saying” she “didn’t fit in here” he could explain how he knows. Like: she looked like every other cheerleader wanna-be he’d met as a former football quarterback with a $90 hair cut and filled nails and etc . .” And then: but I knew the polished look could hide an intelligence she was ashamed of - she was here, afterall, and wouldn’t be if she couldn’t compete. I resolved to test her.

And later, when Steve is questioning whether Dan really wants to be in the Trivia Bowl, Dan could have a flashback to his athletic life, and the questions he’d always had about what he really wanted, as opposed to what everyone expected of him.

But all in all, a good first chapter. I like where it starts, and the subtle hints it suggests. I tend to think YA readers are like any other adult readers: some things catch their eye, some things don’t. Just write your story, keeping in mind it is for YA, and know their reading tastes vary as much as adults. Just because the genre is YA doesn’t mean it has to be condescending, or sexual. It just has to be geared toward the issues YA face; and I think you have a good concept for that in this novel.

Pace, tone, POV is very consistent. You have good paragraph transitions, which lead me to believe your chapter transitions are equally well crafted. This chapter (aside from the recommended split) flows well from one concept to another. I didn’t mention any technical errors because they are so few, and minor, you will catch them in revision, or an editor will prior to publishing. These are not things you should worry about now. Plot - scene and storyline - and character development are your main concerns for revision.

At least, from my limited perspective. I hope this helps.

Julie said...

Donna - this was so helpful!

I can absolutly tone down the geek thing simply by saying he would be avoiding the partying crowds and these guys are too busy studying.

If Dan were just your typical top of the class student he wouldn't be ashamed.

But he's not - he's a genius with an IQ of 176 (this is started in later chapters). He picked up a book and could read at 3 years old.

I won't several research papers on gifted education/ highly giften children in college and original planned to pursue a masters in Gifted ED. Most of my papers touched on the difficulties of being different. The social aspect of skipping ahead.

The problem is Dan's parents weren't supportive of his unique mind - they were freaked out by it. So you hit it right on when you guessed he had issues even before the incident at the party.

Dan decided early in his life to pretend he was normal - dumb himself down a bit so he could fit in.

So in other words the biggest change for him is he's much more out in the open than he was.

I can explain that better in the opening but it is a theme throughout the book and explained in detail.

I think you misread Claire a little (which means I might need to clarify for everyone).

The teacher in charge is her brother in-law. Claire's dad wanted her to add something to her college application so he let her be an extra back-up player that wasn't really needed.

Claire is a smart girl but not in the trivia way. She's a ballet dancer who loves to read, she's probably the top quater of her class or maybe the top of the second quater.

She is also the kindest girl ever and she is very good at reading people. She likes Dan right away and she sees that he is conflicted. She knows he's hiding something and she knows he's really sad and depressed.

As far as Dan's reaction to Claire - he just thinks she's really pretty. I actually pictured her to look different than the other popular girls - maybe more elgant, natural. Someone who radiates happyness like a bright glowing light.

She's the exact opposite of Dan right now and that's his battle. He scoots away from her initially because he doesn't want to reward himself in anyway.

I love your idea about a sports flash back. Even though Dan had to hide his intelligent side he really did enjoy sports and misses it sometimes. It challeneged him in the same way that calculus would challenge even a top student but was very easy for him.

You've given me a lot to think about. So far I haven't really gotten a lot of similiar critisism on anything relating to this book. I'm starting to think it could be a good thing - I've got them talking and debating (Esecially my first query- that spun a lot of people into a debate).

I'm going to continue to work on revisions.