Wednesday, January 4, 2012

first impressions - Voices

Our second submission for the month comes from Cindy Schrauben. Here is the first page of her MG novel, VOICES. My comments are in purple and if you want to know what Dianne thought, head of to her blog, In High Spirits.

Synopsis: Callie Williams is trudging through life dealing with the same issues as every other eleven year old girl.  Except for one thing - She just moved to a new town and doesn’t know a soul.  Oh … and there’s the fact that Callie can “hear” others thoughts and can't share it with anyone.  The “new girl” is now infamous for surviving a dodge ball accident on the first day of school in which she is knocked to the gym floor and suffers a concussion.  Waking up with this strange power, Callie must come to terms with the blessings and the curses of “hearing” others’ thoughts. If this isn't going to be included in the actual story I might consider mentioning Callie remembering playing dodge ball.

Chapter One

   Callie could hear heard mumbled voices, but she wasn’t entirely sure where they were coming from.  She held her eyes tightly shut, but the light stung through; its brilliance radiating in streaks and flashes.  Why wouldn’t it stop? She grunted in pain as she shook her head to deny the voices and the light.
   Where was she? What was happening?
   “Momma,” Callie cried as she strained to open her eyes against the blaze. The voices came louder and faster and then…cutting through the haze.
   “She’s awake, someone get the doctor.”
   “Callie, Callie… honey, it’s okay, I’m here.”
   So many voices. So many voices. She recognized them then - her Mother and her sister, but who else? It sounded like a flock of angry birds… voices coming in and out. Shrieking and cooing at the same time. Good metaphor!
   “Callie, Oh, Callie, Thank God you are awake,” her Mother’s voice shrieked with desperation.
   Opening her eyes was a struggle…. (How about, She struggled to open her eyes. That way the passive becomes active.) She was so tired.  Callie clamped her eyes tightly closed again in an attempt to shut it all out. “Why were they all screaming so loudly?  Please, God, make them stop.” (If you use quotations like this it sounds like she's talking to someone but I'm pretty sure these are thoughts. If so they'd be better off in italics, I think.) She thought. She felt a sense of suffocation… like she was being crushed beneath the voices and the light.
   “Is she okay? My God, she looks so pale, but she’s alive.” It was her Mother again. “Will she know who we are; will she ever be the same? I don’t care, she’s alive. My Baby, my Baby!” Her Mother’s voice sounded different now. Like a bad cell phone connection. Flickering... jumping…. like pieces were missing. Cool. I'm getting that some of this mom thinking and some is what she actually says.
  It was then that Callie realized that something was wrong.  Very wrong.  Her Mother was usually very calm and articulate, (big word for an 11yr old. Just sayin…) showing little emotion. What she heard now was a voice spilling over with fear and urgency. Callie felt the warmth of her Mother beside her. A warmth that she hadn’t felt for a very long time; it was both comforting and disconcerting.
  “Where’s the Doctor? Someone, help, get the Doctor.” She knew that voice too … it was her little sister, Emma. Her voice was so loud and sharp. Callie moved. Burying her head in the pillow in an attempt to shut out the voices, but it hurt… it hurt so much.

I thought this was a great depiction of how it would be if you suddenly had the ability to hear thoughts. Not as much fun as you think. Especially in the beginning without any training to filter it all. Excellent beginning.The one thing that might make it better - imho - would be to start with that dodge ball game and show how Callie is feeling being the new girl and then her getting hit. That way, when Callie starts to wake up, the reader is already 100% on her side.


  1. Hi Marci
    This is a great premise Cindy.
    I think Marci's point was great. Starting with the action and the pain would really draw me in. Going with Callie into her strange new world and it feeling like a painful echo.

  2. I agree with Marcy. Starting with a disoriented MC is disorienting for the reader as well. Better to ground the reader in the world first. That said, I like the premise.

  3. While this isn't a new idea (accident followed by extra sensory ability), the voice is good. Starting with the game is a great suggestion--meeting the "normal" Calllie, lots of action, then the accident. End of chapter. Opening chapter 2 would be this one. That would avoid any flashbacks or having to feed in the backstory of the game. This is off to a great start.

  4. Happy New Year! I love your header pix. It's beautiful!

    I like the advice about getting the readers on her side. I have an opening like this and was given the same advice. I can totally relate. I like the premise as well. Very cool.

  5. What a scary place to be when you're an eleven year old girl...the new girl who can now hear voices.

    Very good premise and your suggestions are great to strengthen the read.

  6. Intense! I liked the crit commentary. :)


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