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Chapter 1: Corrie

Wednesday, August 27

Corrie let her last box drop onto the floor with a thump, then looked around, vaguely disappointed by the rather beat-up wooden furniture and the plain, white walls. This was definitely the weirdest school she'd applied to, so she'd hoped for something more interesting. Then again, what had she expected? Unless they let the magic majors decorate the walls of every dorm--which wasn't likely--she had no reason to expect anything other than the usual dorm fare. She would have to buy some posters when she got a chance. At least she could open the blinds over her bed (which she did) and brighten the room a bit. Then she looked down at the box she'd just dropped and winced, guiltily hoping she hadn't packed anything breakable in it; she hadn't labeled any of her boxes. To make sure, she opened it up and sighed with relief to see that it contained pillows and sheets, cushioning the slightly fragile digital camera and phone that she'd packed with them. Well, first things first, right? She located the phone jack behind her desk and plugged it in. She picked up the receiver, was pleased to hear a dial tone, and dialed a very familiar number.

"Hi, Mom! See, I promised I'd call as soon as I got my phone hooked up. No, I'm sure I don't need help. I don't have that much stuff. I'll tell you if I need you, promise! Bye, Mom. I love you." She hung up the phone, sighing in exasperation but smiling. It was true, though; if she hadn't talked to her mom, she would probably be pretty unhappy her first day away at college. But then she wasn't really alone. She had a roommate. And as she turned around, she saw a girl who was presumably that roommate: short, pudgy, plain, with curly brown hair, and just setting down a large box on the unclaimed bed.

The other girl grinned sympathetically. "Helicopter mom?"

Corrie laughed. "We're really close. She just doesn't like me going so far away. All of twenty miles!" She stood up, adroitly avoiding the box of books she'd stashed behind her chair. "I'm Corrie."

"Hi, I'm Edith, and I guess I'm your roommate," the girl said.

They'd gotten information over the summer about each other, but neither had bothered to contact the other. Edith sounded like the right name to Corrie, but it didn't fit the pleasant girl in front of her. She didn't look dowdy or old-fashioned at all, which was what Corrie had pictured. "Mind if I call you Edie?" she asked.

Edith looked surprised and positively delighted. "Sure! I've never had a nickname before."

Corrie laughed. "You'll never forget me, then!"

Edie leaned against her bed, looking suddenly uncomfortable. Corrie tilted her head to the side, sensing that the other girl had something important to say and willing her to spit it out. After a frown, Edie spoke again. "I should tell you, I'm a lesbian, so if that makes you uncomfortable, you should probably do something about it now."

Corrie breathed a sigh of relief. That was not a big deal at all. "Why would that make me uncomfortable?"

Edie shrugged, smiling a little again. "Well, some people are."

"Hey, as long as you remember I'm straight, it's not a problem to me," Corrie said.

Edie's shy smile broadened into a grin, picking up Corrie's playful mood. "Does that mean no friendly roommate sex?"

"Not without permission!"

"Seriously," said Edie, shy again, "what if I, uh, bring a girl over?"

Corrie shrugged. "No different than if I bring a boy over. And while we're on the topic, I guess we should have a signal or something." Though she could hardly believe this was what they were discussing the first time they met. Better than leaving it too long and being surprised, though. And they were being honest with each other: that set a good precedent.

"I don't expect it to happen anytime soon."

"Me neither," Corrie replied. "But I guess a sock on the doorknob will do?"

"Sounds obvious enough," said Edie, nodding. "As long as I can find somewhere else to be!"

A lanky boy appeared in the doorway, most of his form obscured by a tall box. "Hey, Edith, where do you want me to put this?"

Edie turned toward him, looking a little startled. "Just stick it at the foot of the bed." She turned back to Corrie. "I better go get the rest of my stuff out of the car."

"Sure. I may as well start unpacking." She looked around at the piled boxes with a sigh. She didn't really want to start working on all this stuff, but she'd never get it done if she didn't start now. Well, she had her priorities. She picked up the folding bookcase she'd leaned against the foot of her bed and began to unfold the shelves. The room would feel more like home once she'd gotten some of her books set up.

"I hope we can fit all our stuff in this room!" said Edie as she left. Corrie laughed and opened the first box of books.

Comments

Interesting Dynamics

Man, I wish my room-mate had been that cool when I'd come out to her. ^^;;

This sounds interesting, and the dynamics between the two had me smiling. I love the subtlety of the sock on the doorknob, too. Seems so quirky and them (at least, as far as I know them, from one chapter). ^^

Quirky?

I thought that was common practice! Shows what I know.

My roommates and I had a little picture we would (theoretically) draw on the whiteboard.

Common practice

A rubber band for the discerning roommate, a sock for the one who needs to be reminded that the really loud buzzing sound is the fire alarm.

Who's the boy?

Good first chapter. I like that you started with action--Corrie moving into the dorm. This provoked a few interesting questions, enough so that I'd turn the page to read chapter two. However, one unanswered question, which I think is more confusing than interesting, is your introduction of the "lanky boy" right before the chapter's end.

In "real" life, I wouldn't let someone who is helping me move come into my room without at least offhandedly mentioning to my new roommate who he is, "Oh, that's just Norbit, my younger brother," or something along those lines. Especially if his entrance "startled" me. Just something to think about.

I do not agree here...

Hmm, as I see it he only startled her because of the moment he showed up and the topic they were talking about at the moment...

and no, I would not necessarily introduce him the moment he shows up -- especially when I am startled -- then the first thing is to get my composure up again and him out of the way -- later on I would tell who it was, or maybe after being asked...

Oh, well, I guess that is just me :)

mjkj

Interesting though

I hadn't thought of it that way. Edie is startled not by her brother's existence, but because she's engaged in conversation and has half-forgotten that her family is there helping her move in. She knew he was coming in, she just didn't expect it at that exact moment. And isn't it obvious from the dialogue that she knows him and expects him to be there? It certainly was to Corrie!

You do have a point, though, and I'll certainly take it into consideration if I ever do serious revisions.

Never assume, show me

These characters live in your head so you know everything about them, whether it be consciously or subconsciously. Don't assume that just because it seems obvious to you (the writer) and your characters, it will be as obvious to your readers.

Remember as the reader, you have to show me.

If it was obvious to Corrie, great, show me with some inner dialogue or physical reaction. But you introduced the "lanky boy" then what? Did he set the box down as instructed or did he toss it at Edie's feet? Was there a look of acknowledgement between Corrie and the boy? Did he walk back out of the room? Is he standing there watching Corrie as she has that last bit of inner dialogue before the end of the chapter? Or does he accompany Edie back down to her car?

He's there for a reason, right? What does his being there add to the scene? I have to be shown this or else I'm wondering what's the point of him even bringing that box up there. Is this to show that perhaps Edie isn't as open about her sexuality as she wants to be? Does it show her relationship with men? Holly talks about conflict all the time. There's definitely potential for some conflict there and conflict moves a story forward and keeps things interesting.

Just my two cents and just trying to help.

True About the Showing

What can seem obvious to an author isn't always so to the reader.

I don't think that bit was too confusing, though. It was obvious the boy knew Edie because he called her by name and it was quite casual. I thought the point of mentioning him was just to show that Edie had friends/family who she got on well with and who didn't mind helping her move so that she didn't come across as completely shy and friendless, and also as a way of calling Edie back to 'reality', reminding her that she can't stand around talking all the time. Hardly a big deal either way :)

Huh...

Looks like the site is having trouble showing who's actually commenting. This post is actually by me (Clare)!

You've definitely given me a lot to think about for future revisions ;) I know I have some trouble with describing things properly, because I often have a strong mental image of the scene and I don't realize it hasn't all come out in my writing.

His being there adds to the scene by getting it to move and showing that Edie has family there helping her move--or, in a more "Chatoyant College is the real world" perspective, he's there because Edie's family is helping her move!

When you say "Holly" do you mean Holly Lisle? I'm pleased that someone has come over here from the comments there, but I would like to point out that I don't read her blog regularly, I just happened to see the "Write a Book with Me" project and thought it was something I should do.

I agree that conflict keeps things interesting, though I don't think it's the only thing that moves a story forward. However, do you think the story would be served by having conflict erupt so early and with such a minor, practically throw-away, character? I don't, but I am interested in your opinion.

Yep, Holly Lisle

Yes, that's the Holly I meant. I read one of your posts on her blog and it was actually your name I found really interesting so I popped over here for a look around. I was excited to see you had full stories online, which is rare, so I decided to check them out.

I'm glad my questions gave you something to think about, that was my only objective. And I agree having the boy there does push the story forward but you replied above you wrote him to show Edie has family there but again I didn't know he was family until you replied to my post.

When I edit, I'm notorious for finding those little nitpicks so it's certainly not personal or even a "big deal," but something to think about.

Yes, I think there should be conflict, even on the first page of a story. The conflict I'm referring to doesn't have to be the big in-your-face kind either. I find my interest most piqued by the kind that seems to simmer just below the surface, just waiting to erupt on the next page, next scene, next chapter, etc.. Why? Because that makes the reader wonder, "Hmm, will this develop into something big? What will happen to [character's name]? What does this mean for [character's name] and the story?" Of course, you don't want to mislead your readers either by hinting at potential conflict then never delivering. I guess it helps to know the overall scheme of your story to find those little hidden gems of conflict.

When the reader is asking themselves a question, then chances are they're going to be interested enough to keep turning the page, and that's what we want them do, right? :-)

Wow!

This is my first time at this site, and I must say Clare your writing is great! I really enjoyed the first chapter and am looking forward to the next. I had no idea people were posting such interesting stories online for the world to read. :) I'm a wannabe-novelist deep down and did NaNoWriMo, but this seems to be a more consistent effort.

Way to go! :D

Welcome, Nathalie!

I'm delighted to see you here, and I'm so glad you're enjoying it! This is definitely a different experience than NaNoWriMo, but while that gave me experience writing a lot at once, this gives me better discipline.

US-UK comparissons

When I was in the UK, everybody had a room to themselves. Bathrooms, kitchens, living rooms, etc were shared but there were no instances where you suddenly found yourself with a room mate. However, in all the US fiction that covers colleges and uni's, people have room mates. I take it that it's common practice over there?

Yes

At the college I went to, and all the colleges that I visited when deciding where to go, roommates are much more common. You can get a room to yourself, but it's extremely rare for freshmen--at my college, you could only get them if you were lucky with the room selection lottery and paid an extra fee, or if you had some medical issue that made it necessary. Having a roommate is the default.

Yet another US-UK comparisson

It's amazing how much you can learn about another culture in fiction. I didn't mention this earlier today because I wasn't sure if it was a US/UK thing or a newer way of doing things. However, I think it still is a US/UK thing.

One of the things that surprised me was that she could just plug a phone in and get a dial tone. From my experience of university, I find that hard to believe. Yes, more and more students can get into rooms already wired up to the university's intranet, but I don't see universities having phone lines wired up ready to be used (as it would mean the university is legally responsible for paying the students' bills, not the student).

In fact, these days I would expect it to be harder. Nowadays, a person would probably need to prove both address and identity to get a service connected (to comply with anti-money laundering laws).[1] I'm not sure if the letter they got telling them where they would be living would count as it's not proof that that's where they're currently living.

Then again, with competitively priced mobile phone contracts, I wouldn't expect many UK students these days to bother with a landline.

[1] The one exception I can think of is if you are moving home and you are having the service disconnected at the old place and connected at the new place. You would have to pass a security check by answering questions that, in theory, only the account holder had the answers to.

Hmm

I can't speak to the technicalities, but as far as I recall, when I went to college we just had to hook up the phones to the jacks in the walls. There must have been some way to notify the Student Housing folks that the phone line would be in use, but you had to do some registration stuff when you arrived on campus to move in, so that may have been it. I don't think I hooked up a phone after my freshman year--I just used my cell phone.

I know there was no proof of identity or address involved. I wonder if we have different anti-money laundering laws or if it's just that the college took care of everything.

Does anyone have more recent experience with phones in US colleges? This is certainly an interesting difference!

Phone points

I had a look at a guide to my old university this evening and it stated that all rooms came with a phone point and a network connection. Given how risk adverse British universities are, I doubt that those phone points would be live (if they were it'll probably be because the last occupant forgot to cancel their contract). However, I'd be interested to hear from a current student.

Something similar:

Now that I think about it, when I lived in one of the "official" university rooms you could get internet and television from outlets in the wall. There was only one company that provided it.
You had to pay for it first to work (the amount was about as much as was paid for my whole family at home; as I was rarely there and wifi and computers are abundant at the university buildings, I didn't take it) AND you had to buy really weird cables, from the one company that supplied the internet and television in the first place.
Also, it was prohibited to set up wifi with the intent to share the internet with roommates (etc). If the company discovers or suspect you've put up wifi, they can come in and take it down!
Which is weird under Dutch law: as soon as the internet enters your house (or even room, for student housing) (more accurately: as soon as it comes out of the wall outlet), it's yours and you can do whatever you want with it.

(I now live in the city center with other students; although we have an expensive internet account, per person it costs about half what the other company would have cost!)

But I was kind of thinking that for on-campus-living, as in the US, you already pay a lot (for access to the buildings, extra security, food in the main halls, electricity, cleaning staff, maintenance etc), as it's "all inclusive". Like in an all inclusive vacation.
Is that right?

Also, perhaps those phones can only be used for internal calls (around campus), not for outside calls?

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