Wednesday, May 4, 2016

First Impressions - Evergreen

Welcome again to First Impressions, whereby we (Dianne Salerni, Krystalyn Drown, and yours truly) critique someone's first page. For our second submission this month we have the first page of Christy Hintz's YA contemporary, EVERGREEN.



Everything looks perfect.  Strings of red lights drape across the ceiling and dangle from the center of the gymnasium, cloaking all the dancers in crimson. 
            Everything sounds perfect.  The music is upbeat, the bass a perfect volume, not that crass loud overbearing beat that makes everyone's ears bleed and heart hurt.  Not like last week's prom at East High--which naturally I crashed to be sure I didn't overlook any details.  Nope, my prom is nothing like that.  Everyone is laughing and having a good time.  I circulate, smiling at my classmates, nodding at their dress and accessory choices.  The food table is topped off.  The chaperons are keeping their distance.
            I approach a girl standing at the foot of the bleachers. I tap her bare, brown shoulder.  "Where have you been?"
            She's wearing a strapless, short black dress, one electric blue heel and one emerald green heel.  Her nails are each painted a different color of the rainbow, and today her eyes are a natural brown.  A thick strand of her black hair matches the electric blue shoe.
            "Bathroom."  She turns toward me.  "I sat on the seat and everything."
            "Ew."  I fumble through my purse.
            "What are you looking for?"
            "Sanitizer." I hand her a bottle.
            She doesn't take it, but asks, "And what, pray tell, shall I do with it?"
            I steer her toward the hall.  "Spread it on the back of your thighs."
            She ducks out from under my hands and moves back toward the dance floor, laughing.  "You really are crazy.  Remind me again why I love you."
            "Why wouldn't you?"  I put the sanitizer under her nose for one last try.
            She shakes her head and I return it to my purse with a huff.
            "I promise to wear sweats to sleep in later.  My germ-covered legs won't touch anything in your house."
            "What about our toilet seats?" I watch as a girl in a mermaid dress takes the last water bottle from the refreshment table.
            "Man.  I'll shower when I get there. Okay?"
            "Fine." I gesture to the transformed gymnasium. "It's all fantastic, right?"
            "Beyond."
            Ms. Fulton, the only teacher not charmed by my straight A+ average and over-abundance of extra-curriculars is glaring at me from ten feet away like something's gone amok.  All the other teachers patted my back and congratulated me on successfully orchestrating the prom-week festivities, parade, and dance.  Not her.
 ***
  My thoughts: I admit I'm a little confused. I thought at first the narrator was a guy, but then the purse indicated it was a girl, who apparently arranges proms? And then the girl who sat on the toilet seat...why isn't she named? Like so: "I approach a girl Sue standing at the foot of the bleachers. I tap her bare, brown shoulder.  "Where have you been?" It seems they're friends, or perhaps something more? I wasn't sure. Either way, one doesn't think of one's friends as a girl, or a boy, we name them in our mind. And then there's Mrs. Fulton, who is glaring at our straight A+ narrator...why? And why is our our narrator a straight A+ over-achiever? At the same time I am also curious. Are these two more than friends? Is there some secret reason why Mrs. Fulton apparently dislikes our narrator? And again, why is our narrator such an over-achiever, so obsessed with perfection?
  Overall I think there are some intriguing elements here, but I didn't quite feel as engaged with the narrator as I would like. She seems too perfect, or maybe just too obsessed with perfection. A flaw or some worry on her part might help that.

   Readers, what are your thoughts on this first page? Any helpful comments/suggestions? And do go visit Dianne and Krystalyn to see their critique of this first page. Interested in having your first page critiqued? All the info is on my sidebar, top/left under First Impressions. 

   Have a fabulous week :)





30 comments:

  1. Our narrator has some OCD tendencies doesn't she?
    And yes, I think I want some back story. Straight A students are NOT generally viewed with suspicion by the teachers. Is the fault with Ms Fulton or our narrator. And her friend/lover?
    I think it needs quite a bit more fleshing out...

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    1. Wow. I totally missed that. But if so, shouldn't she worry more? Be less confident?

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  2. I'm thinking the narrator has OCD. I actually felt quite in scene in this, and my only negative is I agree with Marcie, we need to know the friend's name, right up front. Easy enough to write: "I approach Suzy at the foot of the bleachers..." That implies that Suzy is a friend, and the reader is still seeing everything directly through the narrator's eyes. This piece intrigued me enough to keep reading.

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    1. There are definitely some intriguing elements, like Mrs. Fulton. What's her problem?

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  3. Yeah, I was confused as well. Thought it was a dude. Needs a little toning down if they are both girls and just friends. Agree with your other suggestions, Marcy.

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    1. I thought the narrator was male at first as well.

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  4. I'm confused at the whole toilet seat saga. I probably wouldn't have read any further to be honest. I also think there is a bit too much description of colours going on. From this page, I can't see what the story is actually about - except loo seats and sanitizer. Hmmm.

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    1. Yes, it was a bit confusing, unless our narrator is also obsessed with cleanliness which goes along with perfection...

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  5. I agree with the other comments. Great job, Marcy, as always...

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  6. Some fabulous character set up here. My issues is the hook. I want more conflict on the first page. There's a hint of one in the teacher/student relationship of the last paragraph, but I'm looking to feel compelled. I want to come away asking a question, feeling a strong empathy, or with my jaw dangling. What is it you want us to be thinking at the end of the first page, Christy?

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    1. That's a good question, Crystal!

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  7. I knew it was a girl from the beginning. Guys don't care about things looking perfect. The excerpt held my attention all the way through. It felt fresh and not cliche. Technically, it's very good (though I'd get rid of the 3rd "perfect" in the beginning). My only concern is that the MC isn't very sympathetic. She seems a bit selfish and shallow. Maybe that's your intention, but you might want a save-the-cat moment to increase her likeability if you want readers to spend an entire book with her. Good luck!

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    1. I thought maybe he was gay, until the purse. And yes, I want to feel sympathetic toward this character!

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  8. Really? Everyone wants all that in the first page? Perhaps I'm confused too. There's mystery already, and a hook, and lots of things to be learned, lots of "Aha!" moments for page two, and page three...
    What page one did for me was want me to turn to page two to see if there were answers to my questions. Seems like a good start!

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    1. This is definitely an excellent start! The comments are only suggestions, subjective opinions which the author is free to take or leave. The hope is that everything we say will help the author make this first page perfect.

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  9. Not a YA so nothing grabbed me from this one page!

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    1. Hey, we all like different stuff!

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  10. I was confused about the whole toilet episode; I don't really see the purpose of it. The thing that bugs me is the line: 'the bass a perfect volume, not that crass loud overbearing beat that makes everyone's ears bleed and heart hurt.' I find it hard to believe that a teenager would actually think that. Its more what a parent would think. The louder, the better ;)

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    1. I think the toilet episode was meant to emphasize a point. And yes, I agree with you about the music. Most teens want it loud. Even I want it loud at times!

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  11. Thanks for posting my first page and for the critique! I appreciate your time and comments. :) I learned a lot today about reader perspective and a need for clarity in my writing so there's not so much confusion about my characters. Christy

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    1. Christy, I hope the comments helped and thank you so much for submitting your first page. If you want to revise and submit again, we would love to crit this again!

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  12. Since Christy has already swooped in to read the other comments, she may not return to see this one, but I'll add my two cents, anyway.

    The dispassionate way the narrator approaches "the girl" standing by the bleachers belies their obvious relationship. It would make more sense to me if the narrator has a positive reaction to seeing her, calls her by name, and immediately seeks her reassurance about how perfect the prom is... before the whole bathroom conversation. "The girl" says something about loving the narrator... and the narrator refers to OUR bathroom... and at first glance, they seem to be living together. Which is a tad strange for high school students, now that I think about it. Maybe they're just having a sleepover? But no... it seems like more than that. It seems to me as though they're lovers. Therein may lie the animosity on the part of the one teacher? Either because of her disapproval of the girls'relationship, or maybe because she has unrequited romantic feelings towards one of them?

    I don't know, but I do think this is a promising beginning.

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    1. Excellent thoughts, and thanks for chiming in :)

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  13. Congratulations to Christy for bravely submitting to open critique.

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  14. there's a wholla lotta colours in there!

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    1. Ok, so I'm a bit late getting over here, but I've been late everywhere, lol! Christy's first page sets the tone as being a light YA, fun story. Unlike some of the other readers, I knew right away the narrator was a girl. Most guys just aren't going to fuss over everything "looking perfect" or nod their heads to classmates over their "dress and accessory choices." But I do agree with Marcy's comments and suggestions. Using the phrase "a girl" instead of simply naming her puts distance between them as if they were strangers. What grabbed me the most was Ms. Fulton. I definitely want to know more about her and what her deal is. Thanks for sharing your first page Christy, you're braver than I am, and with a few adjustments, you'll have a great opening story. :)

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