Friday, November 7, 2014

Fall 1st Page Blog Hop - SYNTHESIS

With the idea that you can never get too much feedback, here's another great opportunity for first page critiques, put together by the very generous Michelle Hauck. Check out her post for the full details - Michelle4Laughs. Basically it's a blog hop where everyone posts their first page and then offers a critique on several of the other participants. Let the games begin:

YA Scifi

SYNTHESIS

I weave through the crowd, a blonde speck of determination in a sea of indifference. A dog-walker and his tangle of mutts blocks my path, a businessman on a phone cuts me off. Even the sidewalks in L.A. have traffic jams. Stupid cracked radiator—no way I’ll make it in time.

I leap over a yapping Pomeranian, spin around a parking meter, but force myself not to run—can’t look sweaty teaching pampered rich kids how to multiply.

Of course, if I hadn’t quit gymnastics, Mom wouldn’t force me to pick up extra tutoring shifts to pay for the car repairs. She gave some speech about learning self-reliance, but I know it’s punishment for deviating from her perfect plan for my life. Control issues much?

The glass storefront with the Haverstein Academy’s faux-Ivy-League logo looms before me. Smile, Emily, only two more years ‘til college and freedom.

A honk and squeal make me turn toward the street where a shiny chrome grill and two headlights hop the curb and barrel at me like a charging beast. On instinct, I do a back handspring, like from one of my old floor routines. My hands slam into the rough concrete, the car hurtles past my toes. I push off, still spinning, a blur of black metal in front of me. The car slams into the building in an explosion of glass and noise. The blast and my momentum throw me to the ground, breath whooshing from my lungs. What the hell just happened?

***

Let me know what you think, even if you're not in the #Fall1stHop

33 comments:

  1. I liked your character's voice, and how you showed, not told, her backstory. However, I just wasn't "wowed." Maybe start with the car accident and yank me in, instead of gently easing me into the swing of things?

    Good entry!

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    1. Thanks for the feedback! It's always hard to balance starting people with action and throwing them blind into the chaos.

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  2. Yes, I liked the snarky attitude of the MC! The only thing I didn't like was the backspring. I don't think even a gymnast would do that in that situation. Maybe you could say she threw herself out of the way, reaching her hands out, and somehow that turns into a cartwheel?

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    1. Thanks! I'm glad you like the snark - I don't want to overdo it because her attitude gets changed pretty quickly by what happens next. She loses the snark when things get serious, but I think in an appropriate way.

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  3. I like the snarky voice, and don't mind the backspring... it shows her gymnastic talent, and an inkling of why mom would be disappointed that she quit gymnastics. I want to keep reading.

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    1. Thanks - the relationship with Mom is definitely a big thing. And she was really good at gymnastics.

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  4. You already have my critique on this in the P1 Blitz.

    ;-)

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    1. :) I've been seeing/crtitting so many openings in so many different place that they're starting to blur! I'll be looking forward to your. Thanks!

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  5. I've seen this before in PitchSlam, and it's improved.

    A few minor comments - the first two paragraphs both start with "I". Consider rewriting one of them. And I'm really not sure about the third paragraph. Do we need to interrupt the action with the backstory? I feel like it's better to just get to what's going to happen. I'd almost rather hear a line from Mom's speech ringing in the MC's head instead of being told the MC quit gymnastics. We'll still see the gymnastics move coming up, and you may have more mystery if we don't know right away that the MC quit gymnastics. Personally, it tends to bug me when there's no indication of the MC's name or gender early on, but presumably, if I picked this up in a bookstore and read the back cover, that would tell me.

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    1. Glad to know it's getting better. Thanks for the feedback :)

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  6. hi there,
    I'm not overly fond of the first line It doesn't sound like something most people would think of themselves? I also don't think its all that strong a first line, it sounds a little generic.

    but I'm loving the second line:
    "A dog-walker and his tangle of mutts blocks my path.."
    this has so much imagery in so few words, I'd start with this, skip the bit about the businessman & his phone (or add it later maybe) and go straight to leaping over the Pomeranian, (maybe knock into the businessman?)

    It's a more active rather than a passive start and you can give details about your MC through the action of the dog-walker, the dogs and even other people around.

    Over all I like the general voice and a little bit of tightening and different word selection, (this is just a personal thing but) I'm not fond of words like "looms"& you've got the makings of a great start :)

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    1. Thanks - I'm playing with the first sentence and where to start. Your input really helps.

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  7. I like the voice and the description of the LA sidewalk. You did a good job of a showing where your character was geographically and her age based on her having two more years before college. I don't think the first line is much of a hook, but you have me curious as to what is next

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    1. Well, the goal is to make the reader what to know what's next, so I'm glad you do :) I'm going work on that first line though. Thanks!

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  8. Like the voice and the set up but some of the info in the beginning could be parsed out later. Get into the car chasing her down. It's gripping and the strongest writing on the page. Good job.

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    1. Glad you liked the car crash. The rest of the chapter is all action like that. Thanks!

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  9. Good voice. I like the dodging around things. The sidewalk. The sense of place. The leaping over the pomeranian. The end is good with a nice strong hook. I wonder if we could lose the backstory in the middle bit. If you feel like the stuff with the mom is vital I'd have some internal dialogue that hits that home. Some nasty hurtful thing her mom said that can stick in her craw and make her feel even worse. Like where you have her talk to herself, which, BTW, is one of my very favorite devices.

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    1. Thanks for all the specifics. The mom stuff is definitely vital, though it may be hard to tell from just the first 250. Their relationship, in many ways, drives all the action. (though Mom is actually one of the good guys. Emily just doesn't always get along with her.)

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    1. Thanks - always great to get some positivity :)

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  11. I actually really like the first line, though the second line is better in terms of being active and whatnot. But I think you've got plenty of feedback on that already.

    It was very hard for me to find something to nitpick on this, but the "explosion of glass and noise" stuck out to me. Explosions are by nature very loud, so I think the noise bit is redundant. I really like the explosion image, though, so maybe you could change it to something like "an explosion of glass and metal"?

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    1. Thanks - I'm torn on the first line myself. In reality, I don't think it's as big a thing as people make it out to be, but us writers stress over it endlessly. And nitpicks are always helpful :)

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    2. I don't think it is, either. Like I said, I really like it. And I can sympathize with the stress - I've been stressing over my whole darn book for close to a decade now. :)

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  12. I do like how you describe - it's never dull and it paints a good picture in my mind! I also like how the back story is told through what's happening in the moment and through a good main character's voice!

    The only thing is that, despite the fact that your MC is doing something, I find it slow for a beginning. I'd try starting more around the accident, and then maybe add later that she was going to tutor and all that information - but start where you're going to hook the readers, and in my opinion, that's when the accident happens.

    Hope this helps!
    Good luck!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words. It's taken a lot of time and practice to get voice into my writing, so I'm glad to hear that it's working to some degree.

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  13. How did I miss this! I blame the snow!

    I really love your sense of place and the feel of the action. And that's a lot from me because I tend to glaze over action.

    I can tell you're trying to get somewhere, not just the MC to her class, but you the author get us to the point of starting your story which tells me that the backstory pieces are a bit too heavy handed.

    I don't have great ways for you to improve this, but it might help to interweave a bit more. Snarky comment about mom here, physical roadblock there. Back and forth so we see she's distracted but get the info that's necessary to make the car accident matter. Or, you know, something. ;)

    Hope this is of any help at all (or even makes the least bit of sense)! Best of luck!

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    1. It does help. I know I need the 'backstory' for many reasons, so I have no plans to cut it. But working it in seamlessly is the challenge and maybe breaking it up like you say will help. I'll keep working at it. Thanks :)

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  14. So much great feedback and I've made revisions based on what everyone has said. But I'm not going to post them because I know I have even more feedback coming in from different places. So I'm holding off until all votes have been counted. Everyone's been really helpful and I'm excited that, even though I really liked my opening as it was, I now think it's going to be even better. Thanks!

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  15. There's a strong character coming through here and the description is very good. That aside, I'm sorry to have to say it but this is all over the place. It jumps from idea to idea like a bee buzzing among flowers. There's no linear flow. First I thought the narrator was running to work because their car had just broken down. Then it seems the car has been broken down for a while. So they always have to walk? It's not the radiator making them late? Then some backstory is dumped in about gymnastics. Then a car accident appears out of nowhere.

    A lot of this could be fixed by putting the backstory in a rational order, if it's to be included at all. Or just start with the car accident--that seems to be the inciting incident, and everything that goes before isn't as exciting.

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    1. Thanks for the comments. I think her thoughts are a little scattered - she is a sixteen year old girl late for work. The car accident is what drives the rest of the scene and gives her focus. But without that back story, you wouldn't get any sense of who she was before it happened, so there would be no change. I think you'd see more of that if the piece continued.

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  16. Nice voice. And I love the action and the question we're left with at the end of the page. I'd like more of a clue as to why she quit gymnastics. Was she just tired of it? Wanted simply to piss off her mom? Had she never liked it in the first place?

    I like the first line, but the problem with it is that it's how someone else would describe something they see, "a blonde speck of determination in a sea of indifference," rather than how someone (especially a 1st person narrator) would probably describe themselves within a situation.

    But I do like this girl. Best of luck with her and her story! :)

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    1. The reason she quit gymnastics is kinda complicated/vague and a large part of her character. So it does get explained, but I spread it out so it does all get dumped on the reader up front. And thanks for the thoughts on the first line - some love it, some hate it. Thanks!

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  17. Hi Blair,

    Nice, action-oriented writing that also lets us in on the MCs feelings. I think the first sentence would be better served coming from a 3rd person POV but since this is 1st, I'd try to start inside her head like the rest of your writing. One thing that tripped me up was that in the first para. she complains about the cracked radiator which I took to mean, it just happened. Then, later down you imply that she had to get a job to help pay for the car repairs which I assume refer to the cracked radiator--but in this case would have had to happen some time ago. Maybe I'm reading it wrong but just wanted to let you know how my brain interpreted it. :) I also don't know what a 'faux-Ivy-league logo' would look like so it's hard to visualize that. Then, the whole doing a back-handspring on instinct doesn't ring true to me as a former life-long gymnast myself. More likely, she would do a dive roll to the side. That is an instinct that a gymnast would have.

    Having a gymnast as a MC has me hooked! And I like how you get in her head right away and we are left going, phew! She's ok but what just happened?

    Good luck. And thank you for your comments on my first page!
    Shari

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