Internet Star updated 5/23

1. “You need a gimmick”

The video ended, and Geneva felt her life was ending with it. All she wanted to do was play it again right away, but Naomi was waiting. It was Naomi who had shared the video, TimTom’s latest, and she was hanging online, awaiting her friend’s reaction.

Geneva lay back on her pillow and clicked to Skype. “Oh my God! I am so in love with TimTom!”

“I know,” Naomi said. “He’s pretty amazing.”

“He’s everything,” Geneva said. “I think he’s my absolute favorite YouTube star right now.”

Naomi paused. “Well, I’m not sure I’d go that far.”

“Naomi! You just said he’s amazing.”

“I know, and he is,” her friend agreed. “But do you like him more than, say, BadassBranford?”

And here we go again, thought Geneva. It was going to be another one of their patented silly conversations, the kind that might go on forever and accomplish nothing but somehow made life with Naomi so much fun. Thursday they had spent over two hours Skyping about comic book movies; God, we’re such total geeks! But it was hilarious…and she’d discovered that for some bizarre reason her friend actually liked the DC universe more than the Marvel one. She’d always known Nay loved Wonder Woman, so in some way she understood, but really? Overall? No way!X-Men, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy? And don’t even start about Deadpool! What did DC have? Aquaman? Yeesh.

“Well, Branford’s really funny,” Geneva allowed.

“Just ‘funny’?” Naomi said. “His editing alone may be the best on the net.”

“Sure, he’s good at some tech stuff, but he’s just not as talented as TimTom. Plus TimTom’s way cuter. I could watch him forever. ”

Naomi paused thoughtfully, assessing her friend’s position. “Well, I’ll certainly give you the cute thing. But you really think he’s the most talented?”

“Of course! Don’t you?”

Naomi was not about to lose a second consecutive argument. Besides, she had an agenda and she needed to find a way to swing the conversation to where she wanted it to go. There was a reason she’d sent that video, and it wasn’t just her friend’s love of TimTom.

“OK,” she said, “devil’s advocate here: he sings really well and all, and he’s undeniably good looking, but why hide behind the split personality gimmick?”

Geneva was taken aback. She’d never heard her friend diss TimTom before. “Hey, I thought you liked him!”

“Oh, I do, I do. I’m just surprised that he’s your absolute fav, that’s all. What about AcaManics? They’re completely awesome in their singing, and their videos are brilliant and creative and funny too. And you turned me onto them.”

AcaManics were actually one of Geneva’s favorite music groups; she’d even seen them live on tour a few months back when they came to town as an opening for Kelly Clarkson, who was pretty great herself. And Kenny, the super gay member of the group whose voice was a higher soprano than Callie, their one female singer, was so cuddly she wanted to take him home.

“OK,” she admitted, “maybe I’m over-reacting. AcaManics are probably better.”

“Wow, did I just win? That was way too easy. But you weren’t over-reacting, Girl,” replied Naomi. “You were reacting with hormones instead of synapses.”

They both laughed, and they both knew she was right. TimTom was not only hot as a YouTube artist with his quirky videos that featured his tenor Tim half dueting and comically fighting with his baritone Tom half; as both of them acknowledged, he was undeniably “hot” as a teen sensation as well.

“Yeah, well,” Geneva said, “you wouldn’t kick him out of bed either.”

“Hey: gay here!”

“Oh. Right. Sorry,” Geneva said, chastising herself for the momentary lapse. But Naomi just laughed.

“Kidding! I may be gay but I’m not blind. I just acknowledged his good looks, right? Of course I’d hold onto him, if for no other reason than to call you up and get you to my house as quickly as possible!”

After they had calmed down from that one, Geneva asked, “Well who is your favorite?”

“My favorite Youtuber?”

“No, your favorite porn star. What have we been talking about?”

“Oh," Naomi replied. "Well, my favorite porn star is Peter McLongdick.”

“Cute." Geneva raised her eyebrow. "Anyway, I’d think your favorite would be his sister…”

“True, but guys’ names are more fun. Brenda Bigboob just doesn’t have, you know, the same zazz. As for my favorite Youtuber…” She hesitated. She thought she was out of the conversation when she won the argument, but of course Genny would turn it around. It was a favorite tactic on both sides, and one of the things that made their long conversations so much fun. Agendas will need to wait, she thought. Choosing a favorite from all of the Youtubers she watched regularly, though, was hard. “I guess it would be a tie between AndyReid and Kalana.”

AndyReid was a very popular artist who made videos featuring pop music that he had rearranged into multi-part a capella harmonies, sung by multiple boxed versions of himself. Some of the “Andys” beatboxed; some of them sang the various choral parts. Sometimes he costumed his various “selves” and made the entire video into a sort of choral dramatic presentation of the song’s story. Always, however, the singing itself, in Andy’s pitch perfect voice, carried the video and made it work.

Kalana’s work made use of multiple versions of herself as well, but the structure changed from one video to the next. She was a mimic, capable of making herself sound like practically any female artist and quite a few male ones. She had two main kinds of videos: the first involved her, in elaborate costumes and sets, singing a popular song split among 20 or so “artists,” shifting smoothly from one set and costume to the next as a new artist picked up a new set of lines; the second had her using the boxed screen structure that AndyReid used and having many cartoon, fictional, or real personalities in the boxes doing essentially the same thing.

Geneva replied, “Well it’s easy to see why you can’t choose between them. Both great, and so similar. I kind of like Kalana better.”

Aha! An opening! Naomi thought, and she pounced on it.

“Of course you do,” she said.

Geneva was puzzled. “What does that mean?”

“Just that you’re probably attracted to all of the Disney stuff and the other cartoon characters she does.”

Something about that sounded like an insult to Geneva. “So? Why does it matter that I like them? I mean I like TimTom too, and not in a childlike way.”

Naomi shook her head. “I didn’t mean anything. I think it’s cute how much you still like to hang onto your childhood. Marla Houston couldn’t wait to throw hers out the window.”

“Marla Houston? That slut? She’s slept with half the junior class. Why bring her up?”

“Because she’s probably the only one in the class who’s as small as you, except Jori, and Jori’s a dwarf.”

This time Geneva did feel insulted. “So because I’m smaller than other girls I should, what, assert my adulthood by dressing like Marla Fucking Houston?”

Naomi knew it had been risky to mention Marla, but it was necessary. “Hey, hey, I’m sorry. I really wasn’t trying to be insulting, but I can’t seem to say right things tonight. You know I love you, right? I mean you’re my BFF. I would never want to hurt you.”

Geneva paused a moment and then said, quietly, “I know.”

“So, OK, then. All I was saying is that you still openly like that stuff. A lot of us do. Hell, Miley Cyrus made a video in a onesie sucking on a pacifier holding a teddy bear. Cuteness is in. I just meant that it also probably shows a bit of personal strength when someone who is cute and quite a bit smaller than her classmates does it.”

“I don’t suck on pacifiers.”

“You know what I mean.”

It was time to slow down and see where the conversation went naturally, Naomi decided.

Geneva, for her part, was through being angry at her friend. She shifted her position on her bed so she was more comfortable, and then said, “Well being short and “cute,” as you say, isn’t exactly helping me in life, you know.”

Naomi looked confused. “What do you mean?”

“I’ve told you this before. Boys don’t really take me seriously, as much as I want them to.”

“Right,” Naomi said. “You said they always seem to treat you like a little sister or something.”

“At least it feels that way. Maybe I’m just imagining it because of my size and general lack of breasts. But I know what I’m not imagining, and that’s the parts in the musicals: I’m the best singer in the class—you know I won that competition—and a good dancer, but I never get anything other than chorus parts. They can’t see me as a lead.”

“Yeah, that sucks.”

“It does. I wish there was something I could do about it.”

Annnnd…Naomi thought, we come to the moment we’ve all been waiting for. She let herself appear pensive for a minute and then said, “What about your own YouTube videos? How are they doing?”

“About as well as any girl-with-guitar videos do. Which is to say I get some likes and some good comments, but I’m no Kalana.”

“Yeah. You need a gimmick."

This time it was Geneva who was confused. “Didn’t you just say gimmicks are stupid?”

"They are, but they work. People like Kalana make millions, you know.”

Geneva stopped. “Wait. Millions?”

“Hell, yeah. You didn’t know that? YouTube is a freaking printing press for money. You know that idiot girl who yelled at the audience of that talk show last month?”

“The one you can’t even decipher because her accent is so awful?”

“Yeah, that one," Naomi said. "I read she’s monetized that one stupid line she said to the tune of a million dollars.”

Geneva was shocked. “Are you kidding me? That total moron who can hardly speak a complete sentence? A millionaire?”

Naomi shrugged. “That’s YouTube.”

“Wow,” Geneva said. “Well that just sucks." She was quiet for a moment: life was just unfair. “Anyway” she said after a bit. "I need to go. I still have homework, and Mrs Stiles doesn’t like late papers.”

“OK. Take care.”

“See you tomorrow. And thanks for sharing the TimTom.”

“No prob. Love you!”

“Love you too! Bye!”

The two girls logged off their Skype session. Naomi was certain she had piqued her friend’s interest in her videos once more. Her channel had been dormant for several months, with nothing new added, and all Naomi ever heard from Genny were these complaints about being overlooked. And it was true: the girl had so much talent, and she was terrifically underappreciated at the school. It was shameful. Naomi had been her friend since elementary school. Back then, when everyone was her size, Geneva had indeed received the majority of the leads in anything the school put on. (Naomi smiled remembering the production of Annie they both were in, the one during which they had first met. Naomi had been one of the anonymous orphans; Genny had, of course, been Annie.) But then middle school came and everyone else started to grow, and soon the parts were handed out to other girls, girls who had taken second and third leads before, girls who were objectively not as strong as Geneva, but who looked the part better.

And for years now Naomi, as Genny’s best friend, had listened to her growing bitterness about her lot in the Bensington High School drama world. Ever since the Freshman Play, Geneva Whitmore had been relegated to the background, where both of them knew she didn’t belong. And when she won that blind voice competition last spring, they both saw it as almost a kind of “Fuck You” to the teachers and directors and fellow actors who had not believed in Genny. And they both had thought things would change. Of course, they didn’t: this year’s casts came and went, and Genny once again was where she’d always been.

Naomi, however, believed she had finally come up with a way to get her friend’s talent out to the masses and let her voice be heard. And if she could make them both some money in the process, all the better. If she played her cards right, Genny would see it as a good idea as well, even though there were a few things about the idea that she might have to work through first.

Geneva rolled off of her bed and headed to her desk with her laptop. She’d tried doing her homework lying down many times; it didn’t work. Lying down was internet play time; sitting up made it work time. She opened her online English folder to find the assignment. Not too hard; that shouldn’t take long, she thought, and started typing. But for once the bed/desk separation wasn’t helping her. The conversation with Naomi kept replaying in her mind, and she found herself staring for long intervals at the blank screen instead of writing about Oedipus.

Damn it.

She couldn’t fight it, and she didn’t feel like lying down again, so she let herself violate the sacred desk space and clicked YouTube open once again. She looked up the moron girl (which, amazingly, she found when she typed in “moron girl on Dr. Bill show”) and watched the video of her interview. She was there with someone else—her mother?—and Dr. Bill was asking her something about her life. Why was this girl even on the show in the first place? She mumbled something unintelligible in that absurd accent of hers, and someone in the audience responded to it. And then she turned to them and said the line that kept getting replayed, the one that sounded like “Meshew ousside n saydat agin.”

She’s getting a million dollars for that? Life was really unfair.

Geneva clicked to her own home page and called up one of her videos. 397 likes: not bad, certainly, but it wasn’t going to make her a star. Probably all people who knew her at school.

She let herself scroll down the comments section. Predictable. Mostly her friends saying how much they loved it. A few trolls sexualizing her; she skipped those. A bunch from people she didn’t seem to know who just enjoyed the video and wanted to say so; that was nice. But there was another group that interested her. It wasn’t a large group, certainly, only maybe six or seven comments scattered throughout the thread, but they were there, and when she double-checked she found they were all from different accounts. They weren’t trolls; in fact, they were complimentary about her playing and singing. What stuck out in these posts was that each of them seemed to assume that she was a whole lot younger than her 17 years.

“You are absolutely amazing for someone so young,” one read. “You’re going to be a star when you grow up.”

Another, in a similar vein, said, “Geneva is such a pretty name, and you have such a pretty voice. I hope to hear more from you when you get to high school.”

The others were like these. And when she checked her other videos she found, on each one, similar comments. Some were from the same users, but others were from new ones. In all cases the commenters loved her but thought she was a little girl with a huge talent. It wasn’t the first time people had made that mistake, but it got her thinking.

“You need a gimmick,” Naomi said. Well, that would definitely be a gimmick, but she had no idea if it would work, or if she even had the guts to try it.

1 Like

Re: Internet Star

2. Are you out of your mind?

“You want to what?” Naomi said, staring at her friend in astonishment, her lower jaw refusing to reconnect the halves of her mouth into a single unit.

They were sitting at Starbucks sipping Lattes. Naomi had been a bit surprised when Geneva had asked to go to this one, as no one came to this Starbucks, but now she understood. The fact that no one came here was precisely why they were here. This was not a conversation Genny wanted overheard.

“Genny, are you out of your mind?”

Her friend just smiled and took another sip. “I don’t think so. Maybe? But consider it: You said I needed to find a gimmick if I want to make it big on YouTube. And you also commented about my size and ‘cuteness.’”

Naomi shook her head. That was not where she though Genny would take this. “Yeah, but I didn’t mean—”

“Wait,” Geneva said. “Look at this.” She opened her laptop and called up one of her videos, already scrolled to a section of the comments where two of the strange remarks were visible.

“Read these two comments, Nay. There are lots more just like them.”

Naomi took a moment to read the remarks and then looked up at her friend, who was intentionally sitting with the most adorable, innocent expression she could muster. All Naomi could do was burst out laughing.

“Is it that ridiculous?” Geneva asked.

Still laughing, Naomi nodded. “It’s pretty ridiculous, Genny. I mean these comments are one thing, and your size is one thing, but you’re talking about putting yourself on YouTube pretending to be a child.”

“Why not? Some of these guys already think I am. And pretending to be a child who can sing like me and dance or play guitar in videos might be just the way to get known.”

“You can’t do that!” Naomi said firmly. “It’s…it’s fraud. Or if it’s not, it should be.”

They sat quietly for a couple of minutes sipping their drinks while Geneva thought about what Naomi had said. Could it really be fraud just to pretend to be a kid? Putting it that way made the answer pretty clear.

“Shit,” she said. “I thought I had an answer.”

“That’s not the answer,” said Naomi. This was getting very uncomfortable.

Geneva nodded. “You’re right.” Then she added, “damn it.”

Again they were silent, with Geneva’s disappointment clouding the table. It was pretty obvious that she had wanted this conversation to take a different path. Now she found herself, as always, on the outside looking in, and the only sound was the occasional clinking of cups against the table.

As for Naomi, the whole thing had been a shocker. Genny wanting to pretend to be a little girl? She wondered if she had somehow triggered this and if she needed to take charge of the situation and defuse it. After a few minutes, she broke the silence. “Don’t you think it would have been pretty embarrassing?

Geneva nodded. “I guess so. I mean I wasn’t really thinking about that, just the possibility of becoming famous and making money from my singing. You know how frustrated I’ve been about not getting any recognition.”

“You won that Junior Class Honors Award.”

“Yeah. And it helped feed my ego. I guess it will look good on a college app, but I need something to make me feel better about my talents right now, not in college. I guess I could try out for things outside of school, but how little would I look then? I’d be compared to the real world, not the high school world. I’d be lucky if I could get the little kid roles.”

Naomi reached across the table and took her friend’s hand. “I knew you were feeling bad, but I had no clue it was like this. I never would have started that conversation last night if I knew it would lead to—”

Geneva shook her off. “This isn’t about that. Well, not all of it. You just lit a fire under some things that had been simmering on their own for a long time. And when you told me how much money people make on YouTube…”

“You’re really fixating on that.”

“Hell, I don’t know why everyone isn’t fixating on that.”

Naomi nodded. “OK, you may have a point. But to humiliate yourself? You’d be totally recognizable, and people like Lara Miranda would have a fucking field day.”

“Who cares what she says?” asked Geneva. “I don’t live my life worrying about Lara Miranda.”

“I thought you did. Didn’t you just complain last night about not getting leads? Well she’s the one getting a lot of them.”

“So you want to go on YouTube dressed like a middle schooler everyone still knows is you, and you think this is going to help somehow?”

“Maybe,” she said. Then, reconsidering, “I guess not. Anyway, I don’t think I’d have felt humiliated at all.”

Naomi was silent for a moment, trying to figure out her best path. “What do you mean? You’re 17 and you’d have been appearing as like a pre-teen.”

Geneva shrugged. “So?”

“So how can that not embarrass you?”

“Naomi, look at me. I mean seriously. We joke about it all the time, but imagine my life. How many times a week do you think I hear comments about my size? How many times do you think I hear someone mistake me for someone a lot younger? Do you think those YouTube comments were the very first time? I didn’t expect them, but they didn’t exactly shock me either. I get this shit all the time.”

This was a side of Genny she had never seen anything of before. And she thought she knew her friend well. But then she had parts of her life Genny had never seen as well; she guessed everyone did. “I had no idea.”

“That’s because there’s nothing I can do about it, like there’s nothing you can do about being gay. It’s just a fact about my life, so I deal. What good would it do to complain? I long ago got over the embarrassment of being seen occasionally as a pre-teen. I just roll with it. Hell, I’ve been known to play along sometimes.”

Naomi studied her friend. “What do you mean?”

“Well, for a simple example, Mom and I went to a restaurant last weekend, and the hostess offered me a lollipop and a children’s menu. Mom was about to say something, but I was feeling silly, and I happen to like lollipops, so I took them and we went to our table.”

“You ordered off the children’s menu?”

“What can I say? I like chicken nuggets.”

“How did your mom react?”

“Oh she just laughed. It wasn’t the first time and it surely won’t be the last.”

Genny plays little girl and her mom lets her, Naomi thought. It seemed so…unlikely. But it didn’t change the facts at hand right now.

“How does it make you feel to do that?” she asked.

“Actually, when I’m with my Mom and I do it, it’s a fun game. I like it when the waitresses think I’m like in sixth or seventh grade or something. It’s like, for a while, years of responsibility are lifted.”

“How about when people make a mistake elsewhere?”

She took another long sip of her latte, and it occurred to Naomi that it was an odd thing to be doing while talking about pretending to be a little girl. “Whatever. No harm, no foul.”

“But you understand why you can’t do this thing, right?”

Geneva looked down. “Yeah,” she said. “No, I get it. I hadn’t thought of it before, but I can’t make money pretending to be something I’m not.”

Geneva stared at her drink, and Naomi’s mind rushed around to places she had never really contemplated before. This was uncharted territory, but something told her it was worth a try.

“Genny?”

Her friend looked up.

“What if I said I might have an idea?”

Geneva’s eyes opened wide, and her face followed them, her expression an invitation. “I’d say tell me what it is already!”

“You might think it’s weird.”

“I just suggested pretending to be a pre-teen. I think weird is in my wheelhouse.”

“OK then,” Naomi said. “But please remember that I’m offering this as a professional suggestion only, not as something I think about you personally.”

“O…K,” Geneva said slowly. “That’s a bit foreboding.”

“No, it’s nothing bad. I think. Oh hell, I’ll just spit it out: I’m thinking of a variation of what you were suggesting earlier.”

“But we can’t do that; it’s fraud.”

Naomi shook her head. “It’s only fraud if you’re pretending to be something you’re not. I’m not going to suggest that. In this suggestion, no one knows you’re Geneva—you use some other stage name—but you are still 17 years old.”

“But?”

“But you are dressed and perform as a little girl.”

This time it was Geneva shaking her head. “Don’t you think I thought about that? I mean those comments thought I was young with no outfits at all! But I just didn’t think me dressed in middle school-ish clothing was much of a gimmick.”

“I totally agree,” Naomi said.

Geneva was completely confused. “But I thought you said—”

Naomi gently put her finger to her mouth and whispered, “Shhh.” Geneva was quiet, stunned a bit by such a command from her friend, who went on, “I said you would be openly 17. I did not say you’d be dressed as a middle schooler.”

“OK, now I am hopelessly lost,” Geneva said. “First you say you’re offering a variation of my plan, but now you’re not?”

“I am. You would not be dressed as a middle schooler. You’d be dressed a lot younger.”

Geneva was silent. After a long moment, she asked, “How young?”

Naomi shrugged. “Negotiable. I was thinking maybe three or four?”

“WHAT?” Geneva said so loudly it was almost a yell, actually standing up in her shock. But Naomi had expected that reaction, so she remained perfectly calm.

“Take it easy, Genny. Sit back down and don’t make a scene. We’re just talking here, remember?”

With several deep breaths, Geneva sat back down. Then, in a harsh whisper, she asked her friend, “Are you nuts? Three or four?”

“Let me explain, OK?” Naomi kept her voice calm and her eyes locked on her friend’s eyes as she spoke. “I told you: I’m not in any way saying that you look or act that young in real life. That would be idiotic and way incorrect.”

“Damn right.”

So…what I am suggesting is that by playing a character who is little more than a baby, you would be creating an obvious parody that no one could reasonably expect to be real and therefore can’t be fraudulent. And as a gimmick, a baby singer is pretty high concept, I think.”

Naomi watched as Geneva turned that over in her mind.

“Doesn’t it make sense, Genny?” she asked.

Geneva nodded, reluctantly. “I wish to hell it didn’t,” she said, and resumed drinking her latte.

Re: Internet Star 4/6

I’ve been waiting for someone to write a story around this concept for a while now. So far I’ve only seen one other story do it and this looks like it will be far better than that one. I’m not quite sucked in yet but I love your other stories enough that I’m still excited for this one.

Re: Internet Star 4/6

Good premise and lead-in so far. You did a good job of introducing Geneva’s character gradually, without just using a paragraph of expository description. That said, I think it’s a mistake to have Geneva and Naomi talk about other Youtubers in the opening, even if it adds verisimilitude. Instead, have them talking about Geneva’s channel and lack of success, which leads directly into the story.

You lose readers with every sentence before a hint about main conflict pokes its nose out. Here that’s ‘Geneva considers an unconventional approach to upping her pageviews’. I’ll admit I had to plow through the first four pages before it got really interesting.

Re: Internet Star 4/6

[QUOTE=donbiki;68632]Good premise and lead-in so far. You did a good job of introducing Geneva’s character gradually, without just using a paragraph of expository description. That said, I think it’s a mistake to have Geneva and Naomi talk about other Youtubers in the opening, even if it adds verisimilitude. Instead, have them talking about Geneva’s channel and lack of success, which leads directly into the story.

You lose readers with every sentence before a hint about main conflict pokes its nose out. Here that’s ‘Geneva considers an unconventional approach to upping her pageviews’. I’ll admit I had to plow through the first four pages before it got really interesting.[/QUOTE]

Thanks again for the feedback. I’m not sure that I concur this time, though. I do see what you are saying, but the start of the story here is designed to accomplish two specific goals: introduce the girls and the dynamic between them, and show us examples of the gimmickry at work on YouTube, from which we can draw later on when Geneva herself joins the “Girl with a Gimmick” crowd. It isn’t mere verisimilitude that I sought there—though that is a nice benefit—but actual background that seeds the plotline. Diving straight into Geneva’s channel without any other discussion would be, to me, a mistake: the initial action that starts a conflict usually doesn’t come in the first couple of paragraphs; it comes once the reader has properly entered the story. Of course there are plenty of examples either way, but that’s how I felt this one would work best.

Re: Internet Star 4/6

Rereading (or at least re-skimming), I agree that the discussion lays the groundwork for the real conflict. If the main conflict comes too soon, there is a danger that the reader won’t be engaged enough to fully grok it before it goes by.

I suspect it has a good deal to do with what I do and don’t know (and where my own interests lie) going into the story, but I did find the conversation about youtubers to drag on a little long for me. That said, the writing is good enough that I didn’t really have trouble getting through it.

Re: Internet Star 4/6

[QUOTE=ally;68634]Rereading (or at least re-skimming), I agree that the discussion lays the groundwork for the real conflict. If the main conflict comes too soon, there is a danger that the reader won’t be engaged enough to fully grok it before it goes by.

I suspect it has a good deal to do with what I do and don’t know (and where my own interests lie) going into the story, but I did find the conversation about youtubers to drag on a little long for me. That said, the writing is good enough that I didn’t really have trouble getting through it.[/QUOTE]

But that’s the point, isn’t it? What you know about YouTubers. If you don’t bring that specific knowledge to the reading, then the entire premise of the story falls apart. As the writer, I feel I am walking a fine line here between the need to fill in a cultural gap for those who might be unaware and to have a little fun for those who are regulars. That’s why I parodied actual YouTubers.

Re: Internet Star 4/6

In this case, what I know and am interested in has me more struggling to understand and care at all, rather than bored with rehashing what I already know. It’s a fine line indeed, and there will always be those who end up on either end, however you do it.

Re: Internet Star 4/6

OK. I understand. Donbiki’s suggestion was to dive into the conflict. You already agreed with me that this would not be a good idea. What would you​ suggest?

Re: Internet Star 4/13

B This can’t be good[/B]

Geneva was lost in thought. A baby singer. That was so far over the edge that she found she could hardly imagine it, but Naomi was certainly right that it was about as high concept as you could get. There were other girls on YouTube, girls in their twenties, whose personas were pristine, doll-like creatures who could be any age from 13 to 16; she’d seen them. This would just be a comparable age drop, right? But it was such a strange idea.

“I don’t know, Naomi,” she said. “I mean it makes sense in the abstract, as a concept, but I don’t know if I could do it.”

“Oh come on,” said Naomi. “You said it felt good to pretend to be little; well, this is just pretending to be really little.”

Geneva looked carefully at her friend. There was something about Naomi all of a sudden that suggested that she was not revealing absolutely everything about this new plan, and Geneva wanted to know why.

“What exactly are you picturing, Naomi?”

Naomi smiled. “OK. Don’t react.”

This can’t be good.”

“That was a reaction. Now listen: You would wear considerable makeup so we can hide who you are. Your hair would be in pigtails, with maybe a bow. Your clothing would be a really adorable toddler-style dress, ankle socks, and Mary Janes. And you’d be very clearly wearing a diaper along with rhumba panties.”

Geneva startled at that, and Naomi held up her hand. “Of course what you wear would vary from video to video, but that’s the basic vein.”

Geneva counted to ten. “You are nuts.”

“No, I’m being perfectly serious. You could talk to your public in a babyish lisp, maybe, but you’d sing in your totally normal, absolutely glorious 17-year-old voice. And you’d do some kind of signature sign-off at the end that takes it back to your persona. I think you could be a megahit.”

Her eyes closed, Geneva tried to picture it, but every time she got to the costume the internal video went all fuzzy. “Where could you even find clothing like that? I may be small, but I don’t fit into Toddler sizes.”

This was the part that Naomi had dreaded, but she was asking her friend to accept a huge risk, so she felt it was only fair for her to accept one as well. OK, she thought, here goes.

“I have some,” she said.

Geneva was beginning to think she was lost in a really bonkers dream. What did her best friend just say?

“I said I have some,” Naomi repeated.

“Yeah,” said Geneva. “That’s what I thought you said. I don’t understand.”

Naomi went on. “I’m really trusting you with this, Genny. No one, and I mean no one, knows about this. You are absolutely the first.”

“What are you talking about?”

“There are some people who are like you, who enjoy shedding responsibility by pretending to be younger, but we take it a lot further." She hesitated before going on, as if unsure what her next words should be. “To feel the full release of stress,” she continued, “we need to try to remind ourselves what it was like to be as young as… toddlers… or even babies.”

She waited for some reaction from her friend, but Geneva just stood there as if she had not understood, so Naomi added, "As a group, we’re called Teen Babies.”

Geneva blankly repeated the phrase. “Teen babies.”

“Please don’t judge me, Genny. I’m praying you don’t judge me. It’s just a part of me that I can’t change, like being gay.”

“But you don’t share it.”

“I do…but not in real life.”

Geneva paused to absorb that. “You mean online.”

Naomi nodded. “Yes, There are several communities where I hang out." She found herself suddenly racing as if her life depended on getting an explanation out. "I actually enjoy playing both toddler and caregiver. That’s the one who takes care of the baby; I think that’s why I love babysitting so much, though in all honesty part of me is also jealous of the kids.”

Again the table was silent for an uncomfortably long time, but finally Geneva spoke. “So let me see if I understand all of this, OK?”

Naomi drew a deep breath. “Shoot,” she said.

“You say that you are a Teen Baby.”

“Yes.”

“And that means that sometimes you like to pretend to be as young as a toddler or baby?”

Naomi smiled. Still speaking far too swiftly, she said, “Well, in my case, my ‘Little,’ as we call our younger personas, is three. So I pretend I’m three.”

“But others are different?”

“Sure. Some kids like being infants. Some just regress to first or second grade. It varies.”

Geneva’s expression shifted again and Naomi saw her looking once again into the distance, at nothing in particular. “What is it??

“Oh,” she replied. “Nothing. Just that…infants? I mean they can’t do anything.”

Naomi laughed. “I think that’s the point. They need someone to do everything for them." She realized she was speaking more normally now. Geneva’s questioning must have loosened the knots in her mind. "I don’t really think it’s possible to do that successfully, or at least fully, without a caregiver.”

“Which you also like to be.”

“Right. But I’ve never had the guts to meet someone from this world in person, so it’s a sort of theoretical desire.”

“Of course. But you actually do the rest?”

“Yes. Privately. In my room. And occasionally when no one is home I use the whole house.”

Geneva looked at Naomi more carefully than she ever had before. Maybe she had never really seen her friend before. Surely Naomi was opening herself up in a completely new way that, she thought, might forever alter their relationship. Could she think of her friend the same way now that she knew this?

“How?” she asked.

Naomi paused. Honesty. “I…dress in my baby clothes and diapers, suck on a pacifier, drink from a bottle. Stuff like that.”

It was exactly what Geneva had been thinking. How can we be the same now? How is it even possible?

“Do you…use…the diapers?”

Naomi wasn’t sure she wanted to answer that, but in for a penny, in for a pound. “Sometimes,” she said. “Just wetting, though. I don’t like messing them.”

“No,” Geneva said. “No, that would be, um, messy.”

“Oh, God,” Naomi suddenly said. “You think it’s too weird.”

“No, no!” Geneva protested. “Weird, yes. I’m trying to process. Let me process.”

I’ve gone too far, Naomi thought. She’d always been terrified of anyone finding out for precisely this reason. If anyone could handle it, Genny would be the one, though, and she’d been so sure she’d read the situation and the signs right today. What if I was wrong? I could lose her forever. She didn’t have any fear that Genny would ever tell anyone; she wasn’t that kind of person. But her world without her best friend in it would be so…empty. Why had she even started that stupid YouTube conversation? Damn that TimTom! It was all his fault.

“Nay?”

“Yeah?”

“It really is pretty weird, isn’t it?”

Naomi smiled tentatively. “I guess it is. But is it too weird?”

There was a brief silence, and then Geneva smiled. And then she laughed quietly.

“What?” Naomi asked nervously.

“It’s just that I seem to be learning a whole lot in the last couple of days about things I never knew existed. It’s as if I’ve lived 17 years with blinders on.”

“Maybe you have,” Naomi said, breathing more calmly and realizing only then that she’d been breathing oddly before, some combination of holding her breath and hyperventilation that only she could accomplish.

“Well, if I’m supposed to take them off now, I’ll need to learn a lot more.”

Naomi looked cautiously at her friend. “So you don’t think I’m strange?”

Of course I think you’re strange. But we’ve already covered the fact that you think I’m kind of strange as well. You seem to think I’m the kind of strange who can join your little party and wear your baby clothes to sing on YouTube. And I think I just might be strange enough to give it a shot. So I guess we’re a couple of odd ducks. Come on, Naomi. Let’s go to your house so you can show me all of this stuff. This odd duck feels like doing some swimming.”

Re: Internet Star 4/13

I’m loving this story so far

Re: Internet Star 4/13

Interesting twist. I like the direction of this story so far. As for quibbles, Naomi’s explanation of ‘teen baby’ is a bit encyclopedic for the scene. I’d expect her to be more awkward, halting, and evasive — like explaining to Mom that her car is impounded, with uncomfortable details spilling out the more questions she asks.

As for the opening. I had a longer post written, but autosave lost it somehow… Here’s the gist of what it said:

To me, the opening reads like a random conversation between teenagers, with no questions, no ‘hook’ to pull me along. Why do I care about which teen likes which Youtuber? What’s the point? At this point, I have no emotional investment in Geneva, so why do I care? Now, in a writer’s group, this is never a problem. Everyone has a soft obligation to read through the opening. But most people who stumble on a story won’t read it unless there’s an immediate pull.

Most stories — and by that I mean 95%~ of published stories — used a pattern I call “The Mystery Breadcrumb Trail” to lead readers into a story. Basically, the writer opens with a line whose meaning is unclear. Then they write some characterization, some scene-setting. Then they start clarifying the opening line, but at the same time drop another unclear reference. The reader keeps reading to get a clearer picture of what’s going on, and before they know it, they’re invested in the story.

Essentially, the Mystery Breadcrumb Trail ‘tricks’ the reader into reading at least the next line, at least the next paragraph; while stealthfully developing its characters and main conflict. Here is a very clear example of the Mystery Breadcrumb Trail.

I’ll note that “The video ended, and Geneva felt her life was ending” is a good first breadcrumb, but it doesn’t lead to more breadcrumbs.

Re: Internet Star 4/13

I’m just gonna say “keep going.”

If you really feel like you want to do some things over, I have an idea about the opening. But I think it’d be a bit rude to just post what I’ve got in my head. It’s not something that would change much anyway, just a thought I had.

For current feedback, it did stumble a little, but the third entry certainly helped.

Also, I’m totally on board with Naomi’s gushing. It’s clear she was desperately trying to explain as fast as she could, hoping that Geneva wouldn’t turn on her before she could get everything out. I can definitely see that happening.

Re: Internet Star 4/13

Donbiki and Vearynope, I added some detail to the section in which Naomi explains “Teen Babies.” I think it will play better now.

Vearynope, maybe PM me about your idea for the opening?

Re: Internet Star Ch 1 updated 4/14

This is getting much more interesting with the latest update.

You might find Vearynope’s suggestions more useful than anything I could come up with, since I think I’m a bit of an outlier here.

Re: Internet Star Ch 1 updated 4/14

The TB explanation flows more naturally now. I think your red additions on p1 are good too, hinting at a hidden ‘agenda’ the reader has to wait to discover. They feel a little grafted on, but don’t beat your head against the wall. Personally, I’m usually over-invested in my openings, and can’t make effective revisions for at least a few months. :slight_smile:

Re: Internet Star Ch 1 updated 4/14

This is the first time I’ve actually read an active literary work (meaning manga and subbed anime don’t count) in over a year. I’ll admit, I like this one. I read through the whole thing before you went back and revised stuff, so I’ll have to reread the new stuff to see how it’s changed… but overall, it was a positive experience and reading it was time well spent.

I’ll hold off on giving actual critique until I’ve read the revisions, since anything I come up with now could be outdated. Not sure how much use I could be right at this moment…

By the way, one more thing that I may have said before… Kerry, your profile pic hits the perfect sweet spot between adorable and awesome. I love it so much that it compelled me to spend half an hour this morning on Google images looking at other pictures of kittens wearing headphones. It almost makes me feel like my username-based profile pic is inadequate…

Re: Internet Star Ch 1 updated 4/14

Thanks, XenonVoid! I’m glad you’re enjoying it (and I’m glad you like my kitty too). :slight_smile:

Re: Internet Star Ch 1 updated 4/14

Kerry, just a heads up, but you might want to rethink the color on your note in the first post. It’s almost impossible to read on the dark themes. :slight_smile:

Re: Internet Star Ch 1 updated 4/14

Changed.:slight_smile: