Friday, August 2, 2013

first impressions - SAVING DANGER


Wow, is it August already? How the heck did that happen? I don't know about you but summer always flies by way too fast. I wish it would be long and horribly drawn out - like winter. Anyway. It is August and the beginning of the month which means it's time for first impressions again, where you submit your first page and Dianne Salerni and I crit it. Today we have the first page of Theresa's MG Contemporary Fantasy, SAVING DANGER. My comments will be in purple and do head over to Dianne's place to see what she thought about this first page. 

 


I stared in disdain at my reflection. The Pepto-Bismol pink confection stared back at me as I tugged one of the many ruffles strangling my gown. The color clashed with the beachy-vibe of the high-ceilinged hotel room. “It looks like a cupcake vomited on me.” Although this is mostly just a brief description of the gown, I've heard it said more than once not to begin in front of a mirror. That said, I like the analogy :)

Grandma Rosa stood next to the mirror. At the same time, she chuckled and stared at me sternly. A magnificent feat. She responded in her faint Italian accent, “It’s not so terrible.”
  
I scowled. “Does she think I’m the same age as Danger?” In a few short hours, Danger would be my stepbrother. I didn’t know whether it would be worse to be stuck with him or (should it be "him AND his plastic mother"?) his plastic (nice description, I get an immediate picture in my mind of someone who wears too much make-up) mother for the rest of my life. “I’m thirteen—not five.”
She sighed. “Your father sure knows how to pick ‘em.” Grandmother pursed her lips, realizing her comment not only bashed Erin, soon-to-be Stepzilla, but also my real mother. “What I mean is—”
“Don’t worry about it, Grandma Rosa.” I ignored the dropping-an-anchor down-my-stomach sensation that always followed the mention of my real mother and forced a fake smile. “If this is what she thinks her junior bridesmaid should look like, I can’t wait to see her gown.” I wished I could wear Grandma Rosa’s head-to-toe black, which resembled my usual uniform. The reference to mourning wasn’t lost on me. “What do you think she’ll say when she sees your dress?”
We didn’t have to wait long to find out. Erin, her head a mountain of curling-iron-created curls peeked into the room—without having the courtesy to knock. Her coif contrasted with her t-shirt in jeans. She’d probably wait until the last minute to change into her gown.

“Lulu—” Her eyes bugged out in a most (did you mean almost?) cartoon-like way. “Mother Rosa, what on earth… it’s a wedding, not a funeral. You’re changing into something more festive, right?”

Grandma gazed down at her dress, as if noticing it for the first time. She placed her fist on her chest. “In the Old Country this is how widows dress.” Is she a widow?

Erin placed her hands on her hips. “You haven’t lived in the ‘Old Country’ since you were a child.”

“I will always be Italian.”
Erin clamped her glossed lips in a grim line, her angry thoughts flickered in her eyes and across her tanned face. This strikes me as odd. Can our narrator actually see/read these thoughts?

Okay, so first I have to say that I am only an occasional reader of MG so all my comments need to be taken with that in mind. That said, a couple of words/phrases struck me as being non-MG (ie, words I wouldn't think a girl of twelve or thirteen would commonly use) : magnificent feat, coif, and festive. Other things struck me as perfect: the dress that looks like cupcake vomit, the plastic step-mother to be, the bugged out eyes. These helps me know and sympathize with the narrator because we've all been forced into clothes we didn't want to wear, and had to to put up with a relative we wished wasn't one. The only thing I might like to see added to this first page was a bit more regarding what happened to the narrator's mom. I love this hint: "I ignored the dropping-an-anchor down-my-stomach sensation that always followed the mention of my real mother and forced a fake smile." But I wonder if there should be more, or something stronger. I say this only because I'm thinking that the younger the audience, the more incentive they need to turn the page. But like I said, I'm not an expert on MG so I will happily bow to wiser minds than mine. 

Thoughts?  

27 comments:

  1. Lovely to see the fabulous Theresa's work here! Yay!

    Is Lulu the 13 year old? Anyway! I thought Lulu (dressed in black with a very mature voice) like Daria (the cartoon Daria - old before her time, never smiled! LOL! Fab cartoon! Although she wasn't all in black per se, just projected a very dark/black sense of humour - I am babbling!). Anyway, part 2! I do like the set up here - the family relationships and tensions feel real - but I do hope Erin doesn't play to the evil stepmother stereotype! I am also most intrigued why the step brother is called Danger.

    Take care
    x

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  2. Thanks for the feedback. I write both MG and YA, and I may have veered too YA with the voice here. The protagonist is a big reader and wants to be a writer, so I did want to up her vocabulary. May have to tone it down a bit!

    Hints about the mom get sprinkled in. I'll have to see how others think the story develops as they read further before I know for sure about the mom question.

    You and Dianne have given me good direction. Thank you!

    Old Kitty, I love your reference to Daria. I didn't see it until you said it!

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  3. The girl sounded much older than middle grade to me. I did like the cupcake vomit though. That was funny.

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  4. I like Theresa's image :)

    And if you ask me, Marcy, summer is never short enough and winter never long enough :)

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  5. Yeah, my first reaction to the mirror opening was a bit of a groan. It's usually one of the first things agents complain about when reading the slushpile. But I love the rest of this. Great descriptions that get at the underlying emotions.

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  6. The plastic brought the same image to my mind!

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  7. My thought, the hyphenated words were to many for me. Distracting. As for the mirror, it tells us how the MC was probably feeling.

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  8. Great to see what you're writing, Theresa. I agree with the others that some of the word phrases sound a bit old for a 12 year old. I did get a vivid sense of Grandma Rosa, who I already like. I'm off to see what Dianne thinks.

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  9. Thanks for the feedback. I'm working on the draft now, trying to decide which hyphenated adjectives to keep and which to ditch.

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  10. Ooh, very intriguing opening Theresa! I like the way the tension is subtle - will she clash with her new family? Do they disdain her as much as she criticises them? I'd read on!

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  11. Interesting opening, Theresa! I agree with your comments. I think it feels a little old for MG, but again, I don't read much MG.

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  12. Love cupcake vomit. :) Watch simultaneous statements - 'as' and doing things at the same time. I found the opening highly entertaining.

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  13. Other than your comments, I'd drop the "real" in front of her mother. We know one is going to be a stepmother, I don't think she needs to say the word "real." That said, I'm not a middle grade reader, so maybe it is necessary?

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  14. I like this piece overall, but looking at an image in the mirror may not be your strongest option for giving the story a suck-'em-in start. Good description of the pink cupcake vomit dress, and her disdain for it. Very good characterization of the grandmother, too. Depending on how close Lulu and her grandmother are, Lulu might call her "Nonna", or "Noni", or some other Italian kinda endearment.

    Intriguing start, Theresa! Good luck with it.

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  15. I LOVED the cupcake line, but I think you can do better than starting with the first sentence about the mirror. That might instantly turn of an editor or agent. Some might keep reading. And some might think the rest is riddled with cliches, even if it isn't.

    Great beginning, Theresa. Love the descriptions!

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  16. Thank you everyone for stopping by to comment! I appreciate and I'm pretty sure Theresa does, too :)

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  17. Yes, I do appreciate it. Thank you, everyone!

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  18. I thought she sounded cusp-like. Maybe 13 going on 14 or 15. Some teens are like that. Either way, I was really intrigued! More, please!

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  19. Just a thought, if you re-word to lose the word "reflection", focus on her disgust at the dress and the cupcake vomit line, it will soften the obvious mirror-view beginning.

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  20. Maria, I like that idea. I'm on the fence. Her reflection will be echoed at the end of the chapter and at the end of the book. Because I don't describe her technically I'm not being cliche. But I don't want to make agents put it down after the first line either!

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  21. It's interesting to see how similar Diann and Marcy's thoughts were on this, Theresa! I think that's a good thing - that they're consistent. And I like Marcy's thought about knowing a little more about Lulu's real mother - that is another very interesting question you've dangled for the reader - but I like that it's open-ended here because that makes me want to turn the page to find out what happened to her real mother.

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  22. Well-written excerpt! I've heard to avoid the mirror, mirror as well.

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  23. I commented on Dianne's, but you bring up some good points, Marcy. Theresa's picture is just too cute up there.
    Glad to hear your revisions are going well.... I'm heading down to your next post to see what's up....

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  24. Love the descriptions :) Cupcake vomited and "plastic mother" stood out, but there are other good bits too.

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  25. I agree about the tone - might be a little too YA instead of MG. I also have heard that you shouldn't start with a mirror-reflection, but it didn't bother me. There, now you have a bunch of conflicting opinions. Isn't feedback fun?? :)

    "Ruffles strangling my gown" = AWESOME

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  26. Thanks for the comments, everyone!

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