Monday, December 5, 2011

first impressions - finding out

Our second December submission is from Fiona who can be found at her blog or her website. This first page is from her MG /scifi/fantasy. My comments are in purple and go check out what Dianne had to say here.

Chapter 1 – Outside
     I might be dead. If I am, it’s a shame because I didn’t say good-bye to anybody, not Dad (if he even cares anymore) or Mrs. K or anybody.  But I don’t feel anything and I don’t see anything or hear anything, so . . . Doesn’t that mean I’m dead? I like this beginning. It immediately sets up a question that can only be answered by reading on. But I would phrase it this way: Does that mean I'm dead? Because it's usually better to try to put statements in positive form.
     The last thing I remember was running, like I always do when things get too awful.  (Good clue to backstory) And it had been a totally awful, horrible, crappy Friday.  So, when I got home from school, I didn’t eat the snack Mrs. K had left out for me, or take my medicine (another interesting clue), or even change my school uniform.  I just ran outside.  The air felt cool on my face as I raced across our back yard and into the wild maze of bushes and trees that we called the ‘back lot.’ This paragraph tells me a lot about the narrator. I don't know the name of this person yet or the sex but I do know that life is often crappy and running offers some relief, that the narrator takes some kind of medicine (although I don't know yet what for), and that he/she attends a school with a strict dress code. I also get the hint that Mrs. K. may be a surrogate mom/housekeeper type person. That's a lot of information packed into one single short paragraph. 
     It was a good place to be alone, and I made a b-line (should be bee-line) for the secret fort I’d created as a little kid. About four summers ago, when I was just eight, (good. now I've got a better idea of the narrator's age) I’d worked hard cutting back bushes and vines to make a sort of tunnel that led directly to Headquarters.
     The problem was, now it was all overgrown.  I couldn’t even get a few feet down the path without the branches cutting and slashing at me.  Had it really been that long since I was back here to check the place out?  It must have been over a year, at least, since before . . . well . . . before a lot of things. A lot of 'to be' verbs here. I would try to replace with more active verbs wherever possible. Also another nice hint about the backstory.
     I ran back inside and got my pocket knife to cut back some of the bushes. (is the back lot that close? Just asking.) Emmaline was just hanging out in her web in my bedroom window.
     “Her girl,” I whispered to her, “Wanna go for a walk?”Excuse me?! What?! Talking to a spider?! Asking it to go for a walk?!

ok, excuse me while I catch me breath and remind myself this is fiction. Because despite the fact I loved Charlotte's Web I still do NOT like spiders. But I AM very curious what's up with this particular spider. Is it really a friend? Is it going to talk back? Go for a walk? And more importantly, why does the narrator want the spider to go with? I can completely imagine my niece and nephew (who are 9 and 11) being interested in this beginning - as am I :)

What do you guys think?


  1. I liked the opening lines, and yes, curious to know what she does with the spider. I say 'she' as the MC feels like a girl - but I could be wrong. I'm guessing the father is 'absent' by the comment in brackets but am as Mrs K clearly is not her mother, I am wondering where her mother is.

    Agree with your comments on verbs, also, I think that should be 'Hey girl', so I'd recommend spell/grammar check. Also, I read Dianne's feedback and agree too. Penknife may need to replaced with something larger but overall I think language and feel of the story is definitely right for the target market/age group.

    Good luck to Fiona!!

  2. Thank you so much Marcy, and Talei. I might be the queen of passive voice, so greatly appreciate the grammar advice. The MC is a boy and you should find that out on the next page, but I may need to reconsider his voice. And, no, the spider does not speak, but she does play a pivotal role – definitely not a story for arachnophobics.

  3. I thought this was really good. I don't usually gravitate to paranormal but this really hooked me with so many questions. I also thought it was a girl protagonist. Maybe just some tiny hint early on to show the MC is a he would help because once I reread it, it totally works as a he for the voice. :)

  4. Fiona, I thought it was a boy. That was my first impression.

  5. I get the impression this is a young boy, approximately 12 years old since he's returning to a fort built four summers ago when he was eight and I get the impression that something terrible happened a year ago that turned his world into some chaos that's kept him from visiting his secret spot for a very long time. The introduction of Emmaline caught me off guard, but I'd be willing to continue reading to see what happens next.


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