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Jay McWalter, C.I.D

by Jwjwoodhouse 

Posted: 18 November 2009
Word Count: 1287
Related Works: in Limbo, in London • 

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My name is Jay McWalter. I have something very important to tell you but I donít have much time. Why I donít have much time isnít important. Everything will become clear, in the end, if I manage to finish explaining beforeÖwell, before I have to go.
If your parents bought you this book, or your teacher, or any other adult for that matter, then the first part of my plan has worked. It means that this document is in your hands, and hopefully in other peopleís hands your age too. It is important that my message reaches the public, important that people know about what Iím about to tell you. Weíve got to stick together, fight for the right cause, battle against the evil that always somehow manages to worm its way into the adult world. It lurks everywhere, and mostly where you least expect it. Remember that.
We have a chance, an opportunity to end it all, but only if weíre careful, if we donít get found out. The cause I fight for must go on long after Iím not able to help anymore, which is soon. Otherwise things will get very messy.
Iím not important in the grand scheme of things. But the organization I work for, and the things they do, are very, very important indeed. I hope youíll understand more clearly when you turn over to the next page.

So long for now, and probably forever. I wish you good luck.

Signed,
Jay McWalter,
C.I.D (Childrenís Investigation Department)

***

So, like I said, I have to be quick. But to explain properly Iíll have to start at the beginning, five years ago. It feels weird to say that. Five years ago. Picture yourself five years ago. What were you doing? Doesnít it seem so long ago? Nowadays I hardly know any of the friends I had before all of this started. The way I am has completely changed. Iím different now. Five years changes you a lot. Especially the five years Iíve had.
Back then I was just a normal kid. Iíd always been ďjust normalĒ Jay. I was your average run of the mill kid. Except that Iíd never been to a mill, or run around one. Back then I always seemed to be in the middle of everything. But it wasnít in the middle in a good way, like being in the mix of all the exciting stuff, at the centre of attention. That wouldíve been amazing! It was more like being squashed in the middle by everything else that was happening around me. There was always a little part of me (Iím not sure which part) that wanted to be one of those kids who everyone looked up to. But that was never going to happen, Iím too short. I was always pretty jealous of kids would come in to school and talk about how amazing their weekend was. Like how their Dadís had flown them to Paris for the weekend and theyíd circled the Eiffel Tower in a private helicopter. Or how theyíd been to the latest England game and sat in a luxury box sipping orange juice watching all the big players strut their stuff on the neatly mown grass of Wembley Stadium. I never got to do any of that stuff. My family didnít really have the money. I mean, donít get me wrong, we werenít poor by any stretch of the imagination. Its just that my school is in quite a posh area of London and my family are nowhere near posh. The closest they get to the Queen is seeing her on the copper coins we save in a big glass jar in the lounge.
It was just a series of lucky circumstances that I managed to get into Balham House, the private school I go to in Chelsea. Mostly itís full of rich kids who donít really care too much about school and education because they know that for the rest of their lives they can sponge bucket loads of dosh from ďMummy and Daddy.Ē Sometimes I think it really isnít fair. In Clapham, where I live, there are loads of schools with normal kids who have normal lives who never get the opportunity to get flown to Paris and prance around in designer labels like Gucci and Ralph Lauren. And trust me, the kids who live near me are way smarter than most of the Toffs at Balham House. How unfair is that?
You might be thinking I sound ungrateful that I go to such a nice school. Honestly, Iím not. The facilities are amazing (heated swimming pool and a Wii fitness centre) and so are a lot of the teachers. But my Dad, who literally came to this country with just the shirt on his back (I think he mustíve had some trousers as well) really wanted me to have the opportunity he never had to get a good start in life. As it turns out, the start I got from Balham House was rocket propelled. I donít think he bargained for who Iíd meet there. At least Iíve been clever enough for him never to guess what Iíve really been doing all these years when I shouldíve been in school.
So Iíve explained a bit about my Dad. Maybe I should fill you in a bit more. Heís not from Great Britain. Heís from a long, long way away. By birth heís Nigerian, which is a country smack bam in the middle of Africa. He came here thirty years ago to go to University to study law. Then he met my Mum and never went back. Back then my Mum was a fashion model, so I can kind of guess the reason why Dad didnít want to go home. Mum was modelling at a little boutique store on the Kingís Road, this posh bit of London when my Dad walked past the shop. Apparently my Mum saw him and ran out of the store (she can be a bit ditzy) to talk to him because she thought he was so handsome. Yuck. They both say it was love at first sight. They say it a lot because they know it makes me cringe.
My parents had three children. Iím the middle of the three. Onjay my brother is grown up; heís ten years older. Vanessa, my sister is eight years younger. I guess thatís another area of my life where Iím pretty much in the middle, and not just between my brother and sister in age. My Dad is Nigerian and my Mumís Welsh so Iím a big mix of the two. Iíve got milky coffee coloured skin (the posh kids in school would call it latte because they think theyíre more grown up than they actually are), big brown eyes and tangly, curly hair that I have to keep short otherwise it turns into a big seventies disco afro. The weird thing is, in lots of ways I look like my dad, but Iím small like my Mum and everybody says that even though Iíve got different features, Iíve got ďthe lookĒ of my Mum. Whatever that means.
When I started at Balham some of the kids gave me weird looks, as if theyíd never seen anyone like me before even though they obviously had. Itís pathetic really, but I just flat out ignored them and soon enough I found a group of friends who I really liked. I would go into detail about them because they were all really nice guys but to be honest, thereís not much point because I need to stop waffling and get to the important stuff. Like I said, I donít have much time.






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Comments by other Members



SusieL at 20:10 on 18 November 2009  Report this post
Joe, I love the intro to J McW CID, very intriguing, very exciting - but felt that the second part slowed down the pace a bit. The whole chapter is very well written, and I warmed to Jay instantly, but, although the background info about him is interesting, perhaps it would work better being dropped into the story here and there, rather than in one large section? Just a suggestion though; others may have an entirely different opinion.

The whole premise behind this story is a real attention-grabber, and instantly makes the reader want to read on, which is more than half the battle! Looking forward to reading more about Jay.
SusieL



Ben Yezir at 21:45 on 18 November 2009  Report this post
HI Joe,

You start this in a most excellent manner. I am grabbed by the intro, I am intrigued and want to know more. Then you throw it all away.

The next section is just dull. Sorry. You have set up a simply brilliant premise then you dump loads of back story that frankly I don't care about. Why? Because at this point I don't know Jay. You need to crash into the story. You need to pull something up front that proves what Jay has sold up front. I expect danger, thrills and intrigue - so hold the back story, let it drip into the narrative. But get cracking with the story.

Sometimes with a new book the story doesn't really get going until chapter 2 or 3, so maybe in time you will simply dump this section and start later. That would be my advice.

Ben Yezir

Jwjwoodhouse at 22:35 on 18 November 2009  Report this post
Ben and Susie, thank you so much, you are absolutely right. I think that writing this chapter was just me trying to vent the backstory for myself. Obviously the piece is in its raw, early stage and I'm so excited with the idea (because I'm almost sure it can be developed further) that im trying to understand the world that I want to create for Jay. I shall come back soon with a revamped first chapter, having now firmed up some backdrop info for myself, hopefully making the first chapter more edgy. Speak soon!!!

Ben Yezir at 07:38 on 19 November 2009  Report this post
HI Joe,

If you haven't read James M Cain yet, get an anthology of his books. It's liberating stuff and right up Jay McWalter land

Ben Yezir

NicciF at 08:54 on 19 November 2009  Report this post
Hi Joe

I agree with the others about the back story in the 2nd part of this. It might be useful to you at the moment, and for the readers in the future, however, not in its current format.

Sometimes a writer needs to get a few chapers written down, just to get into the "zone". The writing becomes more natural and relaxed as the writer stops thinking "Oh my God I'm writing".

Once you're futher along the process re-visit this and then decide what to dowith it. You might use some of it later, drip-fed into other chapters. The rest will remain useful for you to know as you develop the plot and characters.

It's a great idea and I can totally understand this feeling:

the piece is in its raw, early stage and I'm so excited with the idea (because I'm almost sure it can be developed further)

Don't loose this feeling as when writer's are passionate about their characters etc it really comes across in the quality of their work. If you care about them and the plot it's easier to create characters and plots that the readers care about too.

Looking forward to reading more about Jay and C.I.D.

Just one question - what age is Jay/what is your target reader age? Knowing this will help you to focus your writing and will help us give relevant feedback.

Nicci


Freebird at 12:47 on 19 November 2009  Report this post
The concept of the book being a secret document that parents/teachers have fallen into the trap of buying is just superb. Guaranteed to draw the reader in from the beginning.

And I like the confidential tone, so that the reader feels Jay is addressing them personally.

I'm afraid I have to agree with the others about all the filling-in of information in the next portion. Obviously it does paint a clear picture of Jay, which is vital for you to know as the author, but does it all have to given to the reader in one chunk? After such a fabulous start, I would expect to be immediately plunged into a situation where Jay is in great danger, and that's why he has to go (unless he's desperate for the toilet ; )

So, fantastic start, and as Nicci said, it may well be that you need to write all this stuff down now and then edit it in the next draft. As a first draft, I'd say there's nothing wrong with this at all, but if you were presenting it as something much closer to the finished article, you might have a problem.

I think it was Stephen King who said that the second draft should be at least 10% shorter than the first. I write like you do (though I think I'm changing as I go) in that I get everything down in the first draft because I need to get it out of my head onto the paper. Then I go back and slash bits of out or make them a lot more succinct.

That's why writing a novel is such a slog!! But each part of the process has its joys.

freebird




NMott at 14:45 on 19 November 2009  Report this post
Hi Joe. I'll give my first impressions as I read through it.

If your parents bought you this book, or your teacher, or any other adult for that matter, then the first part of my plan has worked.


This comes across as talking down to them. I would just say 'if you've managed to get hold of a copy of this book' rather than mention adults - I know this 'adult v's child' is a big plot thread in your novel, but this isn't the right place to make that point.

It means that this document is in your hands, and hopefully in other peopleís hands your age too.


Again 'your age too' is also talking down to them. If your character is a child it would be 'our' age, not 'your' age, otherwise it comes across as 'authorial intrusion' ie, the adult author talking to their child readers.

It is important that my message reaches the public, important that people know about what Iím about to tell you. Weíve got to stick together, fight for the right cause, battle against the evil that always somehow manages to worm its way into the adult world.


Getting mixed messages here about who you want this message to get to. You start by aiming it at the children, but now you're talking in general about 'the public', and then specifying a separate entity that is the 'Adult world', which implies children are somehow excluded from it. The choice of words sets the tone, and at this point I feel the tone is slightly too adult-to-child, rather than child-to-child.
I would cut this section down to cut out repetition and concentrate on getting the point across that your character is desperate for children to get hold of copies of this book. I don't think you even need to foreshadow the 'evil adult' angle at this stage, as you've got a whole novel in which to explore that aspect of the plot.

I hope youíll understand more clearly when you turn over to the next page.


Again wrong tone - as though you're trying to force the child to read.

So long for now, and probably forever. I wish you good luck.

Signed,
Jay McWalter,
C.I.D (Childrenís Investigation Department)


- Lol, especially like the CID.


So, like I said, I have to be quick. But to explain properly Iíll have to start at the beginning, five years ago.


You can't be 'quick' but also go back 5yrs, which implies it's going to take time.

Picture yourself five years ago. What were you doing? Doesnít it seem so long ago?


Authorial intrusion again. Lemony Snicket gets away with it in his Series of Unfortunate Events books by making himself a character in the book, but it is difficult to pull off successfully.

Nowadays I hardly know any of the friends I had before all of this started. The way I am has completely changed. Iím different now. Five years changes you a lot. Especially the five years Iíve had.....etc.


There is nothing wrong with repetition, but be aware you are doing it, and try to avoid using the same few words when you do.
I am finding the 'voice' coming through in this section engaging, so I wouldn't change it too much.
Try to keep in the shoes of a child character, though, so as to avoid sounding too adult, eg "sipping orange juice" - any normal kid would be drinking coke or seven up or similar, and definitely not 'sipping' it. And: "neatly mown grass" - not a detail a kid would spot.

Do kids of today still use 'posh', 'toff' and 'dosh'?

You've contradicted oyurself where you describe the posh school, but then say you were elsewhere when you should've been at school, so what's necessary there? You are taking a long time to make the point that he and his family are poor.

So Iíve explained a bit about my Dad. Maybe I should fill you in a bit more. Heís not from Great Britain. ...to talk to him because she thought he was so handsome. Yuck. They both say it was love at first sight. They say it a lot because they know it makes me cringe.
My parents had three children. Iím the middle of the three. Onjay my brother is grown up; heís ten ....my Mumís Welsh so Iím a big mix of the two. Iíve got milky coffee coloured skin


You've got a big chunk of backstory in here which the reader is going to forget two minutes after reading it, so just pull out what is essential at this stage in the story.


(the posh kids in school would call it latte because they think theyíre more grown up than they actually are), big brown eyes and tangly, curly hair that I have to keep short otherwise it turns into a big seventies disco afro. The weird thing is, in lots of ways I look like my dad, but Iím small like my Mum and everybody says that even though Iíve got different features, Iíve got ďthe lookĒ of my Mum. Whatever that means.


This is a better way of getting the point across that he's half black, rather than give all the background about his parents meeting, etc.

When I started at Balham some of the kids gave me weird looks, as if theyíd never seen anyone like me before even though they obviously had. Itís pathetic really, but I just flat out ignored them and soon enough I found a group of friends who I really liked. I would go into detail about them because they were all really nice guys but to be honest, thereís not much point because I need to stop waffling and get to the important stuff. Like I said, I donít have much time.


Again, you're emphasising the point you don't have much time, but at the same time taking time out to go into detail about your character's background. All this delays the start of the plot and is really notes to yourself, the writer, fleshing out your character. As Terry Pratchett says, the first draft is wriitng the story for yourself. Then go back through it and edit out all this story outline, because it's not necessary for the reader to know most of it.

Overall the writing is fine, it's just a matter of being a bit stricter with the old editing pencil to work on the structure of the novel.


- NaomiM


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