Wednesday, July 9, 2014

First Impressions - Running Verse

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Our final First Impression for July comes from Manju Howard who blogs at Share Writing Ideas.  This is the first page of her MG novel, RUNNING VERSE, and do go see what Dianne Salerni thought of this page here.

Running Verse

            When the whistle blows, I dash to the girls’ locker room. I hate wearing the school approved white t-shirt and orange gym shorts. Changing back into my black clothes is a relief.
            Are they watching me? I glance over both shoulders. Five girls gab in the opposite corner.
            I dive into my book bag and pull out a canvas sack. Today’s loot includes a toothbrush, toothpaste and three-pounds of mixed nuts. I twitch like a nervous bunny. The sack slips out of my hand and thuds on the hard floor.
            “Are you okay?”
            I spin around to find the new girl. She hovers so close that I feel her exhale in my face. Taking a step back, the locker door slaps against my side. That hurt.
            “Yeah. Fine,” I reply. We stare at the sack lying between us.
            I yank it off the floor and my not-so-new toothbrush falls out. She looks down at the brush, which slid next to the heel of her shoe. For a second I think she’ll pick it up and hand it to me. But she inches away like the bristles might bite.
            I bend down and stretch out my arm to retrieve the thing that I will never stick in my mouth again. Turning toward the open locker, I toss my sack inside and fling the gross toothbrush on top. Then slam the metal door shut.
            The new girl gasps. She must think I’m crazy. “Sorry. Hi. How are you? Okay?”
            She raises her eyebrows. “I’m Brook – It’s really Brooklyn. But I figure new school, new name. Right? It’s like a do-over. I mean no one here knows me.”
            As I wiggle my socked feet into pre-tied sneakers, my head bobs in agreement.
            Brook continues chatting about her new bedroom, her new house and her dad’s new job.
            The locker room has cleared out. I check the time on my cell phone. I’m late.
             Brook unclips her hair and a zillion beaded braids bounce around her face. Her perfect complexion is a shade darker than my olive skin.
            Leaning toward me, Brook whispers, “What’s in the sack?”
            What should I tell her? Nothing. I’m not sharing my screwed up life with anyone. Okay, remain calm. She seems nice. “I’m Samantha. I’ll see you around.”
            “Sam, what are you hiding?”
            I choke on saliva that magically appears in my mouth.

My thoughts:
Are they watching me? Who are the 'they' referred to? The girls gabbing in the corner? Or someone else?
Today’s loot... I assume Sam stole this stuff, but from who? And why? I want to know more about this. It feels important and knowing a little more about it here might help me connect better with Sam.
"I'm Brook - It's really Brooklyn..." I wonder if Brook would actually give out the rest of the info (beyond her name) or just leave it at the name, assuming she really does want a do-over. If she does want a do-ver, then maybe she would offer the rest of the info later, after she and Sam are better friends. Or, maybe Brook is the sort of person who shares right away; maybe she's hoping to make a friend.
I’m not sharing my screwed up life... And just what kind of a screwed up life does Sam have? I definitely want to know more about that!
I choke on saliva that magically appears in my mouth. The word magically feels off here. Saliva doesn't magically appear; there's a reason for it, either nerves or a taste or something.

My first impression is that while there are some interesting questions raised on this first page, none of it draws me in quite enough. I think the loot is the most interesting of all because it tells us that Sam steals stuff, but not why. I'm not sure if the why should be revealed yet but I think elaborating a little more about the loot would go a long way toward helping the reader connect with Sam. Especially the three pounds of nuts. What's up with that?! My suggestion would be to give us a little more internal dialogue from Sam to show how she's feeling. Is she pleased with her loot? Did she intend to steal those particular items? And if so, what made her choose them? This could reveal a lot about Sam (without necessarily giving things away that need to be revealed a little later) and thus connect the reader to the main character.

Now, what do you guys think? Agree? Disagree? Have any suggestions/comments you care to share?


  1. I agree. Something about the piece is very distant, like people watching from a distance.

  2. It's a good scene. And I hate offering advice, but there are places where it could be more intimate by showing rather than telling. Like stating "I hate wearing the school approved white t-shirt and orange gym shorts." The WHY of that statement is where the voice will be. For instance, a quick tug on the too-tight shorts, or the feel of the polyester against her skin, or the smell of mildew from souring in the washing machine. Whatever it is she hates about that outfit (or whatever else is merely stated in the story) will make for more detailed connection. Ack. Sorry to be picky.

  3. Marcy, thanks for critiquing my first page. I appreciate knowing what needs to edited or rewritten. Alex and L.G., thanks for the comments.
    One day Sam's story will come together.

  4. I really liked it. Love her tough exterior. It caught my attention.

  5. Marcy, your comments are exactly what I was thinking when I read this. I won't repeat, but I agree with all of them!!


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