Friday, May 4, 2012

first impressions - Lovesense

Today we have the first page of Robin Hall's novel, LOVESENSE, a YA-Magical Realism  If you want to know more about Robin (like where she blogs) go here. And if you want to read what Dianne thought about this piece head on over to her blog, In High Spirits. My comments - as always - will be in purple.

Some people can smell an artesian cheese and know to the minute how old it is, how it was made, and when it will spoil. I’m not one of those people. But give me a photo of a couple, and I can tell you those very same things. I’ll know how they’ve aged—if they’re a month-old cheddar, or a block of aged parmesan—and when the relationship will go sour. I’d much rather look at those pictures and see what the rest of the world sees: two people in love. But I’m not that lucky. This first paragraph tells me that the narrator has a gift for looking at pictures and knows a lot about cheese. The next paragraph identifies her as a seventeen year old girl. I can easily buy the girl having the gift of knowing things about couples but not that she knows so much about cheese. The voice feels a little older to me. But that's just my opinion - someone else might have something very different to say.
That’s why I often regret my part-time job as the ice cream/photo counter girl at Alfred’s Drug Store. But in a town as small as Sparrow, a seventeen-year-old doesn’t have a lot of options. Worse than the uniforms, with their straight-legged pants (awful for my curvy legs) and the Peter Pan-collared shirts with their attached red vests, are the photos I print on my Saturday morning shifts.
Right now I’m tapping my trainers (what are trainers?) against the photo processor and trying to make three-hundred prints of Mary Brighton and her fiancé without seeing their smiling faces. It’s hard to find a good place to look. (here is where I would cut with the description and give us something interesting like the narrators thoughts about the couple. Because that's what I'm curious about, not the game across the street.) Watching the empty store is depressing now that a Rite Aid opened in Hickory, so I’m taking advantage of our windows and checking out the Little League game across the street. Not that I can see much for all the trees, but then, that’s one thing I love about living in the foothills of the Appalachians. Green is everywhere.

The only other comment I'll make is that if this is YA I'd cut to the chase quicker and show the reader more about how the narrator can know things about couples, let us in on her thoughts so we see her, understand her, connect with her. I think there's an interesting mystery here but it's buried beneath too much description.
Anyway, that's my opinion, for what it's worth, but do go check out what Dianne's thoughts were because I'll wager they're quite different than mine. And I would love to hear what anyone else thinks about this piece.


  1. My only thought is this must take place a decade ago, because no one prints photos anymore.

  2. Marcy hit on a good topic. You might be able to blend the first two paragraphs to concentrate more on her interesting ability, rather than on the cheese.

  3. Trainers are sneakers, I think. I'm a little worried that cheese doesn't "spoil." It is a growing organism and you can always scrape off the mold and eat what is inside. I like the comparison of cheese, to the talent, but agree, it would help, Robin, if you got to it sooner. Perhaps you want to consider bumping the 3rd paragraph up to the second? Then I'd try for some stronger language in what is now your second paragraph. "Which is why I regret..." could be more powerful, and perhaps isn't something a seventeen-year-old would say.

    All that said, I love the premise of this story!

  4. Interesting observations...:)JP

  5. I already commented at Dianne's, but I think this author must be British. Don't they call tennis shoes trainers?

  6. Wow-this is my first time "out there" having people read my stuff. It's not as painful as I'd imagined.

    For the record I'm from North Carolina:) And yes, trainers are tennis shoes. Good to know it's not the regular term I grew up with in the running world.

    You guys have given me a lot to think about-thanks for your input. I'm mulling over the cheese section right now. (thanks Liza)

    And Alex, my photo store prints 1 hr. photos ordered online, the rest are mailed-is this different than typical-anybody know?

    I detail the couple on the next page, I'll bump that up.

    Thanks Marci for having me!

  7. Very interesting piece here. I'm curious to know more. And I think the perspective/recommendations were right on point. Robin, well done. Marci, you rock!

  8. I already commented over at Dianne's, but after reading your comments, Marcy, I'm prepared to take some of my comments back. I'm not used to reading YA, and now realize the guiding principles behind the genre would make it necessary to "get right to the action" more so than I was recommending by saying there was no hurry to disclose more info about the photos.

    (I didn't know what "trainers" were, either.)

    Most of our local drugstores still print photos.

  9. Hey! Nice job on a very intriguing concept for a book! I would read on def. :)

    The only thing that tripped me up...and it sounds as though you may be working on it already, is the cheese comparison. Have you thought about trying to keep it in the same line as the Photo/arts? "Some people have the ability to pinpoint the age of an oil painting right down to the year of the Cerulean blue." Compare the different relationships playing out in the photos to Polaroids and (whatever the high end photo would be?)
    I really think this is a great piece. Good voice. The MC is believable in her age as I think it would age someone beyond her 17 years to see what she sees in the photos.
    Work on cutting/tightening up descriptions and you've got it!
    Well done!

  10. There's a lot to like in this: the details, especially in the setting. I agree the opening hints at an older voice, though I do like the comparisons. Nice writing.

  11. I really like the premise and the writing is great. I sense a strong voice. You're getting a lot of different opinions on this, so I'd just say go with your gut; there's nothing that's necessarily going to make anyone stop reading, in my opinion. But if I were to add my two cents, I'd say show us her ability before you tell us. Maybe move the portion where she's trying to avoid looking at the picture to the very beginning. Allow the information to unravel a little bit at a time, then perhaps there's a moment where she gets a clear view of the picture and she's sees it all. She declares exactly what kind of relationship they have and exactly when it will go bad. November 26, 2024. A fight over the Thanksgiving Turkey. Couples are always fighting over that brine.

    Anyway, just a thought that I think might add to the intrigue of it all. But I do love the premise and I would definitely read more!


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