HomeWritersLiterary AgentsEditorsPublishersResourcesDiscussion
Forum Login | Join the discussion
+ Reply to Thread
Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 13
  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Posts
    15

    First-page crit please

    I'm currently battling with my YA query in the Literary Agents forum. A member there suggested I post my the first page of my MS here for critique, so here goes nothing:

    I am one in a million, a lottery winner before I was born. I have complete hetrochromia. You know, one eye green, the other blue. The world doesn’t look any different to me, but I look different to the world, which sucks, because I like anonymity.
    Am I lucky? Dad would say so, but he has a habit of sticking to the positives.
    He’s the President.
    #
    The chopper would have been quicker, I thought.
    The white buds in my ears hummed and thudded with music as scenery flashed by. We’d moved out of the city, beyond its concrete grip, and were now travelling up the highway as stray fingers of sun poked their way through the first clouds of the day.
    “Kat?”
    Derrick was your usual Secret Service stiff. He was sociable enough, though I imagined babysitting some bratty seventeen-year-old probably wasn’t the sort of gig he’d joined the service for.
    I’d been ‘in character’ for two weeks, but it was still weird hearing my new name out loud.
    I lifted my head from the window. My hair was twisted and matted flat from resting against it. I scrolled down the volume and threw my eyes up into the rear-view.
    “I said, I think this was for the best,” came the words of wisdom from the front. I was acutely aware of the tense.
    “You can start new here, make your dad proud.”
    My bodyguard, my buddy. That was new. I didn’t respond.
    Rain sheeted across the window beside me. Distant color glanced off it.
    I recalled my last discussion with my father. He’d been at his desk, an aide by his side, as always. He was signing papers, his hand looping and twirling on autopilot as he spoke. He didn’t make eye contact.
    “If you’d of been just a little more restrained. Why do you always have to resort to,” he paused here for added impact, “violence?”
    Ten years of karate lessons probably have something to do with it.
    Violence, or ‘the incident’, as they called it, was the entire reason most of my earthly belongings filled the trunk. It was my “third strike.”



  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    688

    Re: First-page crit please

    It's funny, I happened to be reading along similar lines today. I think your passage needs to cut some words to eliminate clutter. It only distracts from the reading. Since you have the luxury of first person, personality is often your best friend.

    I am one in a million, a lottery winner before I was born. -- should probably be a semi colon --I have complete hetrochromia. You know, -- could do without 'You know'--one eye green, the other blue. The world doesn’t look any different to me, but I look different to the world, which sucks, [s]because[/s] I like anonymity.
    Am I lucky? Dad would say so, but he has a habit of sticking to the positives.-- You might want to eliminate that question. It could be: Dad would say I'm lucky, but he has a habit of sticking to false positives; he's the president --
    He’s the President.
    #
    The chopper would have been quicker, I thought. -- Everything before the comma needs to be in italics --
    The white buds in my ears hummed and thudded with music as scenery flashed by. ---You could probably eliminate some clutter here. Maybe: The white buds in my ears blared music as the world passed by -- We’d moved out of the city, beyond its concrete grip, and were now travelling up the highway as stray fingers of sun poked their way through the first clouds of the day. --Could be: We'd moved beyond the concrete grip of the city along the highway as stray fingers of sunlight poked through the clouds. --
    “Kat?”
    Derrick was your usual Secret Service stiff. He was sociable enough, though I imagined babysitting some bratty seventeen-year-old probably wasn’t the sort of gig he’d joined the service for. -- try: Darrick was your everyday -- run of the mil-- secret service member. Sociable, but I imagine babysitting some seventeen year old brat probably wasn't something in his job description. -- Adds more personality.

    I’d been ‘in character’ for two weeks, but it was still weird hearing my new name out loud. -- but my new name still sounded strange coming out of my mouth --
    I lifted my head from the window. My hair was twisted and matted flat from resting against it.-- I lifted my head and caught the reflection of my frizzled hair in the window.-- I scrolled down the volume and threw my eyes up into the rear-view. -- Great, now she's blind? You might want to try: My thumb scrolled down the volume and my glance shot to the rear --
    “I said, I think this was for the best,” came the words of wisdom from the front. I was acutely aware of the tense. -- came the voice from the front of the chopper --
    “You can start new here, make your dad proud.” -- "Go on, Make your dad proud!" Maybe? --
    My bodyguard, my buddy. That was new. I didn’t respond. -- This was new from Darrick, I didn't know what to say.--
    Rain sheeted across the window beside me. Distant color glanced off it. -- Rain warped the world beyond the window abstracting it into a series of distant colors --
    I recalled my last discussion with my father. He’d been at his desk, an aide by his side, as always. He was signing papers, his hand looping and twirling on autopilot as he spoke. He didn’t make eye contact. -- Some of this could be combined? I recalled my last conversation with my father as he was sitting behind his great oak desk with his constant aide by his side. His hand was on autopilot as he never made eye contact.--
    “If you’d of been just a little more restrained. Why do you always have to resort to,” he paused here for added impact, “violence?” -- Could you possibly not resort to -- ", the words lodged in his throat, "violence?"
    Ten years of karate lessons probably have something to do with it. -- "Perhaps we should have taken piano lessons when you were younger?" "We?" He looked up, "You know what I mean sweetheart." A little chance to let dialog work for you in fiction. Just a thought.
    Violence, or ‘the incident’, as they called it, was the entire reason most of my earthly belongings filled the trunk. It was my “third strike.” --Three strikes-- two across his jaw -- and I was out. Everything i owned in a suitcase."

    I think it is an interesting start, but IMHO, it needs more 'voice', some other others may disagree strongly.Feel free to ignore.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    688

    Re: First-page crit please

    *and he never made eye contact.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    689

    Re: First-page crit please

    Jason,

    First, I like the voice.

    I agree with some of Author's comments. Disagree with others---

    I think you're fine if you keep "you know." It appears to me that's part of your protag's voice. If it isn't, then I agree with Author.

    I'm not sure you should delete "because." If you do strike it, the comma needs to be replaced by different punctuation, depending on how you elect to make the change.

    I disagree with the comment about italics. Someone else may jump in an point out I'm fulla, but I believe you use italics if you don't use "I thought" at the end. If you do use it, italics aren't necessary. If I'm right, your real choice is whether you like showing thoughts in italics as opposed to using tag lines.

    Your paragraph about Derrick seems to me to be fine as it stands.

    I agree with Author about Kat "threw my eyes up into the rear-view. (My first reaction was to wonder if they bounced back to her or caromed off somewhere else in the vehicle.) I disagree with Author's suggestion, though. For this reader it's stronger and clearer if you say something like "I turned/scrolled down the volume and glanced up into the rear-view.

    Author believes Kat is in a chopper. Isn't she in a car/humvee/limo? Mebbe I'm misreading.

    My comments on your excerpt are in CAPS. Not yelling at you, just makin' 'em easy to see.

    I am one in a million, a lottery winner before I was born. I have complete hetrochromia. THIS IS A NIT, BUT I DON'T SEE HOW HAVING HETROCHROMIA MAKES ON A LOTTERY WINNER. ONE IN A MILLION, SURE. LOTTER WINNER SEEMS TOTALLY OUT OF CONTEXT. IT IMPLIES SOMETHING THAT DOES NOT APPLY TO HAVING ONE GREEN AND ONE BLUE EYE. You know, one eye green, the other blue. The world doesn’t look any different to me, but I look different to the world, CONSIDER IT INSTEAD OF THE WORLD. YOUR READER KNOWS WHAT YOU'RE REFERRING TO BECAUSE YOU TOLD US EARLIER IN THE SENTENCE. which sucks, because I like anonymity.
    Am I lucky? Dad would say so, but he has a habit of sticking to the positives.
    He’s the President. I'M NOT SURE THIS IS THE STRONGEST FIRST COUPLE PARAGRAPHS YOU CAN COME UP WITH. OTOH, I WOULD KEEP READING.
    #
    The chopper would have been quicker, I thought. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS THOUGHT? THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO REVEAL A LITTLE MORE TO YOUR READER. THIS IS QUICK AND DIRTY, INTENDED TO TRIGGER YOUR OWN IDEAS. I WAS OFF TO REFORM SCHOOL. THE PRESIDENT'S DAUGHTER! THEY COULD HAVE HANDED ME OFF QUICKER IF WE'D TAKEN A CHOPPER. SURELY MY DAD COULD AT LEAST HAVE DONE THAT. BUT NO, I'M IN THE BACK SEAT OF A BLACK SECRET SERVICE (NAME OF VEHICLE.).
    The white buds in my ears hummed and thudded with music as scenery flashed by. We’d moved CONSIDER PASSED/DRIVEN INSTEAD OF MOVED. IT BUMPED ME SLIGHTLY. NIT. out of the city, beyond its concrete grip, GRIP DOESN'T SEEM TO ME TO BE THE WORD YOU WANT. and were now travelling up the highway as stray fingers of sun poked their way DELETE THEIR WAY through the first clouds of the day.
    “Kat?”
    Derrick was your usual Secret Service stiff. He was sociable enough, though I imagined babysitting some CONSIDER A INSTEAD OF SOME. bratty seventeen-year-old probably wasn’t the sort of gig he’d joined the service for.
    I’d been ‘in character’ for two weeks, but it was still weird hearing my new name out loud. I DON'T HAVE THE FAINTEST IDEA WHAT THIS MEANS. MEBBE I'M HAVING SOME KIND OF BRAIN MALFUNCTION, THOUGH.
    I lifted my head from the window. My hair was twisted and matted flat from resting against it. I UNDERSTAND MATTED, BUT NOT TWISTED. MEBBE ONE OF OUR FEMALE MEMBERS WILL WEIGH IN HERE AND POINT OUT I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE HELL I'M TALKING ABOUT. I scrolled down the volume and threw my eyes up into the rear-view. I STILL WONDER IF HER EYES BOUNCED RIGHT BACK TO HER OR IF THEY'RE BOUNCING AROUND IN THE VEHICLE. AS AN ASIDE, THIS IS WHAT I WAS TAUGHT WAS "STUPID BODY LANGUAGE."
    “I said, I think this was for the best,” came the words of wisdom from the front. I was acutely aware of the tense. I'M NOT SURE WHAT THIS SENTENCE IS INTENDED TO CONVEY.
    “You can start new here, make your dad proud.”
    My bodyguard, my buddy. That was new. I didn’t respond. THIS IS ANOTHER CASE WHERE YOU CAN SHOW YOUR READER A LITTLE MORE. ALSO AN OPPORTUNITY TO USE KAT'S VOICE/STATE OF MIND A BIT MORE. QUICK AND DIRTY---MY BODYGUARD. SUDDENLY MY BUDDY. NOT LIKELY. I STARED OUT THE WINDOW.
    Rain sheeted across the window beside me. DELETE BESIDE ME. Distant color glanced off it. THIS BUMPS ME SLIGHTLY, BUT MEBBE I'M JUST IN CRITIQUE MODE AND BEING TOO PICKY.
    I recalled my last discussion with my father. He’d been at his desk, an aide by his side, as always. He was signing papers, his hand looping and twirling on autopilot as he spoke. He didn’t make eye contact.
    “If you’d of been just a little more restrained. I ALWAYS HOPE THE GUY SITTING IN THE OVAL OFFICE DOESN'T SAY "IF YOU'D OF BEEN...Why do you always have to resort to,” he paused here for added impact, “violence?”
    Ten years of karate lessons probably have CONSIDER HAD INSTEAD OF HAVE something to do with it.
    Violence, or ‘the incident’, as they called it, CONSIDER ADDING DETAIL HERE. SOMETHING LIKE "VIOLENCE, OR 'THE INCIDENT', AS THEY CALLED IT HAD MY FACE ON EVERY NEWSPAPER ON THE PLANET. was the entire reason most of my earthly belongings filled the trunk. It was my “third strike.”

    OKAY, TURNING OFF THE CAPS.

    I had lotsa comments. Many were nits.

    Again, I like the voice. I like the premise. A President's daughter with attitude and in trouble. I don't know the first thing about YA, but I suspect this is an uncommon plot. Keith and others know far more about YA than I do. Mebbe they'll offer more comments about the market potential for your tale.

    Bottom line is I like what you're doing. I suspect, though, your MS prolly needs at least one more thorough scrub before you're ready to query.

    Hope this is useful. Feel free to ignore.

    Cur

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    688

    Re: First-page crit please

    @Curmudgeon

    As usual Cur, you're very much on point.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Keith .'s Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    The latex sales division of Vandelay Industries
    Posts
    1,248

    Re: First-page crit please

    What Cur said about the italics/dialogue tag. One or the other, but never both. Since you're in first person, though, I wouldn't do either one.

    The freaking chopper would've been quicker. Hell, I'm a kid and even I knew that.

    Get your reader into your MC's head and keep him there. That ability is what makes first person so powerful, especially in YA and MG.

    Really focus on Cur's comments. I suspect you'll rewrite your opening before it's all said and done (we ALL do!), but the principles and techniques he highlights are gold. Remember, good writing trumps all.

    You have a nice voice but I haven't seen anything to distinguish this story from dozens of others. Rebellious daughter of a rich man/powerful family/mafia don/world leader gets into deep doo-doo. I'm not saying your story isn't unique. It may very well be. But for a debut author especially, you need to make it clear PDQ why your story/character is unique. This goes for a query, as well. Lead with the POTUS's rebellious kid angle, but quickly show what/how you've set yourself apart for the market. Readers fall for good, tight writing about richly drawn characters. So do agents and editors. Luck.
    ________________________________________________

    People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent.
    - Bob Dylan

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    688

    Re: First-page crit please

    I agree keith. Cur has an amazing eye for detail. When I mentioned cliche's I guess I was thinking more about the numerous television movies I've seen with the rebellious teenage president's daughter, but this is definitely a different take.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    584

    Re: First-page crit please

    I too like the voice; it sounds right for seventeen. Checking, I find that Wikipedia spells that word "heterochromia." Also, you might be interested in knowing that Alexander the Great had it; one eye was blue, the other gray. I'm not sure if you'd want to mention it in the story or not. It might fit if your MC was the type to find out who she shared the condition with, otherwise, it'd look out of place. You can find a list here if you're interested.

  9. #9
    Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    81

    Re: First-page crit please

    Good stuff, folks. Jason, you got some gems up there.

    (Just wanted to be a part of this thread.

  10. #10
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Posts
    15

    Re: First-page crit please

    Wow, plenty of gems. One thing I should mention is that there were italics in there, but they didn't show up when I pasted across from Word. I should have used the plain ol' TXT version.

    I will definitely have a hard look at this first page now. Interesting point about Alexander the Great, Joe. I hadn't come across that reference.

    In the interim, if people could swing by my revised query again over in the Literary Agents forum, that'd be excellent.

    Thanks for the comments, everyone.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts