Today, join us for a peek into the life of the cutest family ever! Take it away, Brave Author:
We all have secrets. Josh prefers to keep his hidden, especially from his wife. Josh Benson is a 35 year old family man, devoted father, and loving husband. He has no idea his life will shatter in the next 24 hours.
Josh is scrolling through cell phone photos. He stops at one in particular. It’s from his first date with Lauren. He looks fit and his blue eyes are staring into Lauren’s without a hint of deception. Things change. This photo was taken nine years ago.
He hears little footsteps scurrying across the hardwood floor. Sean and Cooper come running into the living room and jump on the couch like it’s a trampoline.
“Mommy, Daddy, can we watch tv?” It’s a Saturday morning so this excitement is expected.
Lauren says, “Yes, but you need to quit breaking the couch. I’ve told you a hundred times.”
“Fine Mommy, we’ll stop.” The things kids say just to watch television.
Josh clicks a button on the remote control and asks the boys what show they want to watch.
They both respond at the exact same time as if they’re the Backstreet Boys. “Sesame Street!”
Josh looks at his two greatest accomplishments and just smiles. He loves them more than life itself.
After the kids find out the number of the day, they consume some snacks like Joey Chestnut in a hot dog eating competition.
Josh says, “Okay boys, guess what today is?”
“Family day!” Everyone cheers. Josh and Lauren are taking the boys to the Philadelphia Zoo for the first time.
“Who’s ready for the zoo? Who wants to see a lion?”
Cooper starts roaring as loudly as he can. He’s 3 years old so this is appropriate behavior.
The boys are adorable, as in they’re so perfectly good looking, you would think Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston had kids in their prime and out came Sean and Cooper.
Sean, their 5 year old, is full of life and never stops. He’s like the Energizer bunny. He says, “I’ll be right back, Daddy!”
He plays a quick game of frogger to avoid the never-ending amount of toys scattered across the living room floor. Once he finds the right bin, he puts on his favorite costume. He dresses up in a black mask, puffed out chest, gold utility belt, and a long black cape. He hustles to the kitchen table and taps Josh’s shoulder.
Before rushing into the meat of this submission, let’s address the piece’s first word: We. “We” is a huge word, and its implications are several.
- “We” implies a rare, first-person, plural narrator.
- Who is included in this we? Does it include all humans? Is it a Greek-style chorus of Josh’s friends and family? Perhaps an alien tribunal?
- Hearing this particular “we,” I’m immediately put in mind of Rod Serling’s opening and closing monologues on the original Twilight Zone television series. Serling’s monologues had an intimate, confidential, we’re all in this together, feel. He seemed to be addressing each listener across a table set with crystal ashtrays and chilled cocktails.
- A story with a first-person, plural narrator is definitely akin to second-person narration, which uses “you” handily. As in, “You may be reading this thinking, ‘Oh! The author is going to kill off that darling little puppy!’ But you would be wrong. We all know I’m way smarter than that.”
“We,” as intimate as it sounds, here leads us into a scene over which we hover as though we’re watching images sent back to us via drone. An opening scene sets the tone of the entire novel–and while there are plenty of clues that we’re dealing with a happy family and proud father, there is no other tension except Josh’s slight frustration with Elmo repeating himself.( My sympathies, I’ve been an Elmo prisoner.)
All this is to say, please give us some small, physical signs of John’s frustrations. Is he always the perfect, fun dad? Or is he occasionally grouchy and overly-protective.
Josh pulling out an old photo of him and his bride is a bit cliché.
Given the title, and the tale’s dire, first paragraph prediction, I’m going to assume that it’s the two adorable children who are the “They” who are soon gone? With those assumptions, the story will clearly be a thriller. Except…there’s a whole lot of cuteness to navigate that serves to make me wonder if that’s really going to be true.
Thinking about dialogue:
““Mommy, Daddy, can we watch tv?” It’s a Saturday morning so this excitement is expected.” –Who is talking here? Both of them? It would be weird and truly scary to have them say this simultaneously.
““Fine Mommy, we’ll stop.” The things kids say just to watch television.” –“Fine, Mommy, we’ll stop.” sounds a bit Stepford-child-ish. And, again, is it both children saying this?
“The things kids say just to watch television.” Is this Josh’s thought? Again, it feels like an intrusive narrator’s words, rather than those of a character.
All that said, I love the children’s presence, and the intense family feeling here.
Please keep in mind that an opening scene needn’t be saccharine to imply general happiness. If this is, indeed, a thriller, put in more tension, less Elmo.
Set to, dear readers! I’ve left plenty of open territory for other criticismsl