Wednesday, June 6, 2012

first impressions - The Desiree

Our last submission for this month comes from Pk Hrezo, whom you might remember from previous first impressions. This is the first page of her YA magical realism, THE DESIREE. My comments are in purple and when you get a moment, head over to Dianne Salerni's blog, In High Spirits, and see what she thought.

In the not so distant future ….

            It’s hard to believe I’m standing in front of it again, after all these years. The same scarlet script still forms the words, The Desiree, and adorns the old theatre entrance with a promise of elegance. My chest swells. For me, it goes much deeper than a slice of cinema decadence. I know the secrets she holds. Secrets I never understood until just before Stevie left. There's a lot hinted at in this paragraph. Secrets, a shared love of cinema, and someone named Stevie who wouldn't be named of he/she wasn't important. But I wonder if a little more about our narrator might be added here as well, something to connect us (the readers) to him/her.
The once white lightbulbs encircling the marquee are now caked with dust, the empty space inside, bereft of words. Directly below it, drawn black shades hide a deserted box office booth, its windows greasy with city grime. None of it shines like it should—like it did when I was a child. But that will be fixed.  This seems like a lot of description to start out with for a YA book.
            “Daddy, aren’t we going in?” Chantal asks, hugging her chest. Her iridescent purse is hooked over her right arm in the same fashion all the young (younger than what? Our narrator? I still don't know anything about about him/her - although I'm getting a male vibe.) girls wear these days, camouflaged by its  reflection of her yellow vinyl dress.
            I stoop to her eye level and brush a ginger curl from her cherub face. “Patience, butterfly. I needed a good look at her from the outside, too. I’ll bet we can have it polished in no time, don’t you think? Did you notice the gilt framework around the box office booth—it’s the original artistry from 1931. Impressive, really. She left it in much better condition than I’d hoped. Not that I ever doubted she would. ”
            Chantal’s big hazel eyes glaze over in boredom. “I’m tired of standing here. You said I could climb to the projector room, and get popcorn.”
            A glossy silver and white shuttle pulls to the curb behind us in a swoosh of air, stopping a few yards away. Its doors open like giant mechanical lips and a slew of passengers step off the streamlined machine. (Interesting. At first I had no real sense of time/era but now feel like we're far into the future.) They (I know you mean the passengers but I'd like it clarified here or, you could reword to: People scattered, none of them interested...) scatter toward the other buildings, none of them interested in an old downtown theatre dwarfed between the sleek modern buildings of the time. The intel-ogram advertisement from the side of the shuttle hones in on us, zoomed ing right up to our faces, her image grinning like a game show hostess. Wait, who's image?!

My gut feeling tells me that if some of the description was cut and more about the narrator shown/told, this would be a killer first page because there is a mystery here (who's Stevie? Who is 'she'? Why is the theatre so important? And what secrets?!). I just need a character to make me care more.

I hope this helps but as always, my opinions are just that. Author knows best, I like to say. And with that I welcome your comments on PK's piece here. What did you think of it? Am I being too critical or are YA readers more patient than I think they are? 


  1. Thanks, Marcy! That's a huge help! I tried something really different with this story, in that I used a frame--a narrator who's present only at the very first part of the chapter and at the very end...for a purpose of course. But the challenges are in how much to disclose upfront without confusing reader when I shift to the actual story.

    I appreciate your suggestions!! :)

  2. I already commented at Dianne's, but I caught a couple different things here.

    First, I really agree the narrator's character needs to be clarified sooner. I assumed it was a woman/teen girl at first, and when she mentioned her chest swelling, I was like - huh? It sounded odd (because he's a dude, obviously).

    Then, should "cherub face" be "cherubic face?" Cherub is a noun, and while a noun-noun construction sometimes can work as an adjective, I did stumble over it in this instance.

  3. I see and agree with the points made above, but I also want to say that this came across as nicely literary and refreshingly unrushed. Beautiful imagery. I got a "The Last Picture Show" vibe :)

  4. Great comments, Marcy. I agree with your suggestions. I made comments on Dianne's as well.

    This opening is truly different and intriguing. It has great potential, I think. Well done, PK.

  5. in the first paragraph, give us a jarring contrast, right now its a pleasant secret, a fond memory, is it supposed to be? and i thought the narrator was a girl before i realized it was the dad from the flowery description. lots of beautiful visions of a cherished theater in need of some love! maybe put a little edge of regret? or guilt? remorse? a hint of future revelation...

    and the last paragraph is my favorite! i can just see the lady in the ad zooming out to grab your attention! might even move that to the top!

    great opening! hope that helps! just mho!

  6. Thanks so much, everyone! Great feedback! "chest swelling" That made me chuckle.

  7. I'm thinking about this one, the mystery, it seemed a happy thing in the first paragraph, but at the end I wasn't sure. I liked not realizing how old the theatre was in the beginning, but not knowing the MC confused me. Also, curious that the POV is a dad since this is YA. That said, I'm excited to read more. 1st pages are so dang hard to get right!

  8. While I agree with your comments about the narrator and description, I think the latter does a good job at setting the atmosphere of the scene--and that seems to be an important factor to the story, at least from this page.

  9. I agree with your comments about the narrator, but I feel like the description is needed due to the feel of scene . . .as long as we keep getting hints of the narrator and the mysterious secrets. However is it YA if the narrator is an adult? Or is this going to time travel into a YA, or is the character younger than I think "he" is?


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