Monday, May 7, 2012

first impressions - The Game Warden's Daughter

Our third and final first impression for the month of May comes from Terry Lynn Johnson, the author of DOGSLED DREAMS (available now) and the upcoming ICE DOGS (next year). You can find her here.  This is the first page of her MG Adventure, THE GAME WARDEN"S DAUGHTER. My comments are in purple and please visit Dianne's blog, In High Spirits to see what she thought about this piece. 

           Grandpa was the one who found me on the day Dad went missing. Of course it was Grandpa. No one else in my family really knows where I go. Is this important? That her grandfather seems to know her best? If so keep this, if not, I might start with the next paragraph.

            The day had started with me hanging high over the water from a spindly sapling, trying to get Dig's line untangled. Again. For a genius, the boy cannot fish for his life. He catches rocks, stumps, trees, my ear — actually, let's not talk about the ear incident. lol. Yes, some events are best forgotten.

            "If this branch breaks, I'm doomed." Note to self: never say that again when I'm dangling over an ice-cold brook trout creek. Doomed seems like an odd word choice for an MG student, imho. What about this: Looking down over an ice-cold brook trout creek I remember thinking, "If this branch breaks I am so gonna be sorry."

            Next thing you know, I'm falling, my life is flashing — all eleven years of it. I'm short, squat, frizzy-haired and loud. It's not a pretty thing to watch, so thank god (God should be capitalized, right?) it was a quick drop. And then I plunged into Prawn Creek.

            The water was just slightly warmer than solid ice, so that was good because it softened the landing.(I had to read this sentence a few times as I wasn't sure whether the creek had actually started to freeze or were we strictly speaking of water temperature. I think you cut it and get right to the dunking.) My head went under and water rushed over my ears, frigid and stabby. Panicked, I kicked for the surface, gulping a noisy breath when I came up.

            "Kiera, you have to get out of the water!" Dig hopped up and down. "You'll get hypothermia."

            I mentioned Dig was a genius, sort of why I hang around him. I'm hoping maybe some of that will rub off on me. But geniuses can actually be annoying.

             Grabbing at roots and rocks, I scrambled out, water streaming off me. The autumn breeze smacked me in the face and I began to shiver.

            "You have to take your wet clothes off," Dig said, without a hint of recognizing that might be awkward. We’re both in sixth grade, but he’s a typical brainiac - advanced in some ways, but so behind in others.

 "In the time it will take us to get home, the conduction may drop your core temperature below 35 degrees."

            "Seriously, could you be any more freaky?" I was alarmed at how quickly my fingers were losing feeling. Dig was right, of course.

            There was an emergency space blanket in the saddlebag of my quad. (what's a quad? A four-wheeeler? And how come she's so well-prepared. This seems a bit unusual in an eleven year old) I peeled out of my sopping clothes, then wrapped myself in the blanket. It was silver. And crinkly.

            Dig offered his coat, but since he's sized like a twig, I couldn't even fit both arms in it and still drive the quad. Which I had to do because Dig is horrifyingly incapable of driving it without putting everyone's life at risk. Trust me on that point.

            So I ended up wearing the jacket like a cape with it flapping out behind me as we sped down the trail back home. Did I mention I was draped in a silver blanket? Wearing my helmet with star stickers? And that's where we met Grandpa Morris coming toward us on his quad.

            "Curses. I'm so busted." My niece is 12 and she would never say 'curses.' Neither would my nephew who's 11. But I can totally hear either of them saying, "I'm so busted..."

Aside from the places I've already marked the one thing that would make this first page better - imho - is to get closer to an eleven year old girl's voice. This sounds more like an adult reliving and telling about something that happened when she was eleven, not like a girl telling it within weeks of the event. I think if the author can nail the voice down this will be an awesome MG read. But I also have to say I read very little MG so I may not be the best judge of what works and what doesn't. 

What did you guys think? Was there something you really liked? Any suggestions for the author on how to make it better?


  1. thank you very much for taking the time, Marcy. This feature is so generous of you guys!

  2. I write MG so I know how difficult capturing that voice is - in fact that is what I'm working to improve on my WIP right now. I agree with Marcy, maybe work on that. However, I love the humor, and the alliteration, among other things TerryLynn!

  3. Omitting the first paragraph, and jumping right in with the second is a super idea. Makes what is already a strong piece even stronger.

  4. I love the humor and the 'To Kill a Mockingbird'-type approach. Know this isn't the subject matter but you're hovering around the movie's background voice (not easy to do so big applause here) that so enchants. I'd jump in with the second paragraph and nail the voice a bit more. You've got a winner here!

  5. But they might say curses if they watch family guy.

  6. Wow, I love how you critique first pages. This sample was so good. I like how they author starts right in the heart of things, but give enough details that we are getting to know the characters too. Thanks for sharing.


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