Good morning, I can't wait any longer ... yesterday I wrote nearly 4,000 words and am so excited to share the first scene of the new book with you!! I'd like to chat about a few things at the end, so I hope you'll post a comment with your thoughts.
Misfortune Cookie (with a great tagline that we still need to decide on :-))
'Yarrow nudens?' The squat old woman at my elbow screeches again.
‘I'm sorry, I still don't understand.’ My pleading look to the Chinese girl sharing my table elicits a hearty smirk as she pretends to ignore me. I wonder if the word for bitch is hard to pronounce in Cantonese.
'Yarrow nudens yarrow nudens!’ She’s bobbing up and down with the effort of her exclamations.
‘No, no thanks.’ What the hell are yarrow nudens?
'No yarrow nudens?' she murmurs in a tiny voice. Clearly I’ve hurt her with my refusal.
‘No,’ I say again, ‘just the soup please.’ The last time I let a waitress bully me into an order I was served what looked like brains on a plate. Discretion is the better part of dining in Asia.
She strides to the kitchen to make sure the cook adds a little extra, off-menu flavour to my order. I can hear her in there, shouting in what sounds like tortured cat.
… There aren’t any noodles in my noodle soup. Not a one. Only three sad won tons and a mass of yellowish-pink meat floating in broth. The broth is delicious, if meagre. The meat is as repulsive as it is plentiful – greasy and gamey and unquestionably domesticated. I’ve just slurped Whiskers from my spoon.
The squat old shrew redoubles her efforts, this time to make a grab for my bowl. There’s at least an inch of broth left. I’m still hungry. I’ve made my peace with the pet issue, and I’m not giving it up. She’s surprisingly strong for a septuagenarian, but desperation to finish my sad supper gives me the upper hand. She tugs. I tug harder. If forks were the cultural norm here I promise I’d use one now in soup-defence. ‘No!’ I scowl, ‘I want to finish this.’
She gives up the fight in a fit of muttering. It’s hard to be dignified with the entire restaurant now staring at me. By “entire restaurant” I mean the five other tables, arranged close enough for the diners to inspect each other’s pores. Mustering an upper lip that would have made the Queen proud during the Blitz, I sip my last two mouthfuls and go to the counter to pay. Waiting for the change, my eye falls again on the sparse English menu …
Not yarrow nudens. And the waitress wasn’t trying to steal my dinner. She was just trying to give me some yellow noodles in my soup.
Welcome to Hong Kong Hannah.
* * * * *
First, how's that for an opening scene? Does it engage and make you want to read on? For those of you who don't yet know Hannah, do you get a sense of her personality?
Second, I'd like your advice about writing dialog for a Chinese character. Later on there will be a tailor, Mr Chang, who will make Hannah's clothes. Mr Chang is very hard for Hannah to understand because of his Chinese accent. So my question is, should I write him with a Chinese accent, as I did the waitress above, or is that a little bit racist? It's something I've been thinking about lately because a friend of mine, DJ Connell, got a lot of criticism about her book, Sherry Cracker Gets Normal, when she wrote a Chinese character with a strong accent. But then again, Single in the City was all about misunderstandings between Hannah and the English characters she came across. Her efforts to understand the new world she's in now, in Hong Kong, are integral to the plot. So should Mr Chang speak as Hannah hears him?