1. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Does this sound strange?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by doggiedude, Apr 14, 2016.

    I'm looking for a way to describe a group of street urchins in a futuristic dystopia. This is what I came up with.

    It was a motley assortment of the city’s preteen-underbelly. Most of the kids had no masks, some had no shoes, one girl even needed to wear Haava’s jacket because she was sitting in the apartment wearing only shorts and an ill-fitting bra.

    There's just something about preteen-underbelly that makes me think pedophile which is not the thought I was going for.
     
  2. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    Yeah, preteen-underbelly makes it seem a bit odd. Particularly when you refer to a preteen girl's bra a bit later (do preteens wear bras? I'm not really an expert here). Removing the hyphen does a little bit to help, but I'd just refer to the "city's underbelly" and fit the "preteen" bit in somewhere else.

    I like that it immediately tells you that "masks" are something that is expected in this society, though.

    One thing; is the girl already wearing Haava's jacket as we enter the scene, or does he hand her his jacket because she's not wearing much? It reads like the former, but how do we know it's his jacket rather than her own, and how do we know that's why she was wearing it (presumably she'd have done up the jacket so you couldn't see the bra underneath anyway)?
     
  3. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    It's a context thing. Haava is the POV character's wife. They both had just arrived at the condemned building to find the children squatting in there.
     
  4. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    In which case, you might want to clarify that they found her in her underwear and his wife handed the jacket over. As is, it sounds like she was wearing it when they found her, and if that is the case they shouldn't know what she's wearing underneath it.
     
  5. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    How old are these kids supposed to be? Preteen to me feels like you're saying about 9 or 10 and if that's the case then 'child' is just fine. If they're older then 'adolescent' is what you're looking for, even if they are on the young end of that.

    Also, unless you have boobs a bra isn't really clothing. Think about a slim guy wearing a bra. It'd just hang open over his chest with two gaping holes in it. It's as useful as clothing as wrapping a belt around your chest. I can imagine a street kid (who is maybe 14/15?) making do with something stolen or donated that fits badly; a close enough fit might be more comfortable than going without, but a kid wearing something adult sized that doesn't offer warmth or comfort or anything? Nah. A crop top? Perhaps. Even a sports bra; something that's more closed and is tight and stretchy enough that a younger kid might confuse it for clothing (since it would come down her stomach) but I think just bra alone is the wrong word here. It just feels like... Why is that a bra? Can't she just have a torn vest? A cyberpunk netted top?
     
  6. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Like I said it's a context thing. If you read from the beginning of the chapter it would be more clear. This paragraph is at the end of the chapter.
    I think I used bra because I originally had her wearing nothing on the top half of her body then changed it later because I didn't like the image it invoked.
    The kids range from about 9 to maybe 15.
    I was getting sick of using the words ... kids, teens, & children in the chapter and was seeking a different description.
     
  7. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    Not having access to the earlier paragraphs it's difficult to draw the full context. As it is, if it read 'the city's subculture of budding wretches', it'd say the same to me but be without any awkwardness.
     
  8. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Okay... maybe I'm wrong & people need more context. Here's the scene from the two adults getting to the building. The universe is dystopian, the air is filled with pollution, and the city is undergoing a flood. Haava & Jalil are trying to find some of the street kids that come to their classes. (Jalil & Malak are the same person. Malak is an alias that the students know him by, Jalil is his real name.)
    --------------


    They continued along the street and as they reached the condemned apartment building rain started to drizzle down. The building had no working airlock system and the front door had been broken in. They shook and wrung out their clothes trying to remove some of the water as they went inside. Before they were ready to move on Jalil pulled out his flashlight and then they started walking along the front corridor.

    He said, “Do you know which apartments they’ve been using?”

    Haava said, “Most of the children that come to us all stay in one apartment or that’s what they’ve told me. I’ve only dropped them off at the front in the past.”

    Jalil had never been inside here either.

    Haava continued, “They’ve told me that the lower floors go to the older kids. The younger you are the more you get pushed into walking up to the higher floors.”

    The building was at least ten stories from what Jalil judged and searching the whole place would be time-consuming. They began walking up the first flight of stairs, water dripping from their clothes, shoes squishing as they moved.

    He said, “I wish you hadn’t been bluffing about having a gun, we could use one now.

    “I wasn’t bluffing. My dad always kept a gun in his office.”

    They both stopped climbing the stairs and she pulled out a small pistol from her jacket.

    “Did it get wet?”

    “A little, it might still be okay. Do you want to hold the gun?”

    Jalil took the weapon, checked the safety and the bullets. Satisfied, they continued up the graffiti filled stairs. When they reached the fourth floor one of the nearby apartment doors slammed shut making the two of them jump.

    Haava could see Jalil looking over at her in the dim light and said, “You think it’s one of ours?”

    “Does it matter? We should try to convince as many as we can to start going to the shelters.”

    She nodded and they left the stairway and went over to the freshly closed door. They both pulled their masks down to their chins.

    Jalil knocked on it and said, “Hello? Anyone in there?”

    He coughed in the vile air while they waited a few seconds.

    Getting no response Haava tried, “Hello? We’re here to help anyone that needs to get to safety.”

    Jalil added, “We’re not from the police.”

    A few more seconds went by before the door was opened a crack. Jalil had to shine his light down and through the sliver of open doorway to see a small boy he didn’t recognize.

    Haava squatted down to the boy’s level and asked, “What’s your name?”

    The boy responded, “Firat”

    “Well Firat, we’re here to help you and your friends get to safety. Is there anyone else in there with you?

    The boy let the door open some more and Jalil figured he was no more than ten-years-old. His hair was long and stringy, clothes were torn and ragged and there was the beginning of a sunsore on his very sunburned face.

    Firat said, “I’m the only one in here. The only kids left are on the eighth floor.”

    He spoke in a voice that was hard to hear.

    Then the boy blurted out, “I wasn’t stealing nothing.”

    Jalil tried to sound unthreatening but his coughing didn’t help.

    He said, “We didn’t think you were stealing. Could you show us where the other children are? We may know some of them.”

    Haava said, “Do you know Tulay?”

    The boy’s eyes brightened at this and said, “Yes! Tulay! She doesn’t live here anymore but she comes every week. Sometimes with food!”

    Haava said, “Well, we are her friends.”

    The boy darted out of the apartment passed them and started dashing up the stairs with amazing speed. When he got to the top of the landing he stopped and turned back and waved for them to follow.

    Firat said, “Come on!”

    The boy was impatient with Jalil and Haava as they climbed the stairs. They kept needing to stop to catch their breath while Firat was running up the stairs ahead of them. When Firat would notice they had stopped he would walk back down to where they rested. Jalil couldn’t believe how easily the boy managed without a mask. The dust particles in the air were a visible swarm around them and Jalil could still smell the stench of sewer in the air. He wondered what they used for a bathroom in this place.

    When they made it to the eighth floor Firat ran to a nearby apartment door and knocked with a pattern that was obviously meant to be a secret code. As they approached the door it opened a crack for a moment then wider.

    They heard, “Firat! We told you not to come back without your contribution.”

    Noticing the flashlight Jalil was holding, the girl poked her head out of the doorway and spotted Jalil and Haava.

    She quickly shut the door and they heard from the other side, “Why did you bring people to us? You know the rules!”

    Haava removed her mask and in a voice loud enough to be heard through the door said, “Pinar?”

    Good. Haava must have recognized her.

    The door opened again and the girl said, “Who is that?”

    “Haava and Malak”

    The door swung wide again. Jalil turned the light so it would illuminate Haava’s face. Pinar came running out and said, “Haava! What are you doing here?” Then in a softer voice, “Who’s that with you?”

    “It’s my husband Malak. We came to get any of you that needed help out of here.”

    Two more heads poked out of the door. Then a few more.

    There had been seven children in the apartment, five of them were known to the adults. It seems the rest of the people in the building had left over the past week, either intentionally looking for safety or leaving on an errand and never returning. The kids had already run out of food, and their portable air filtration system for the apartment had little power left in its cells. Firat had been sent to look in some of the empty apartments for more supplies. It took little encouragement to get all of the kids to follow them back to the hovervan. It was a motley assortment of the city’s preteen-underbelly. Most of the kids had no masks, some had no shoes, one girl even needed to wear Haava’s jacket because she was sitting in the apartment wearing only shorts and an ill-fitting bra.
     
  9. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    It doesn't appear so awkward to me in the wider context. Juvenile although less specific could maybe be swapped with preteen?
     
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  10. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    Don't change anything other than removing the hyphen in preteen-underbelly. It is all great. The imagery is perfect and preteen underbelly is a fantastically evocative and original phrase. Keep it. The bra thing too. Its great: shocking, gritty, real, and somewhat depressing.
     
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  11. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    thanks all
     
  12. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    Upon rereading, you might make the above change to add clarity. I'm not certain it is necessary, though.
     

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