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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

First Lines Critiques: Day 2!

Critiquing Song of the Day: "Straight Lines" by Silverchair

It's time to take another look at your awesome first lines! Last week, we requested and you all came through big time! Please Note: You can STILL critique for Day 1--I'm sure the authors would love more feedback. :)

Brief overview: we're posting some first lines entries from a few of our brave followers, and you all help them out by giving them feedback (which you guys rock at, by the way).

We mentioned this yesterday, but we're known for repeating ourselves. Here are some questions to ask yourself when critiquing:

1. Does the opening shock you?
2. Does the opening pull you in and make you want to read more?
3. Is the voice apparent?
4. Do you have an idea of the pending conflict?
5. Do you get a sense of the setting?

Anything else that you can help them out with would be great. Remember, you don't HAVE to answer all of these questions. Heck, you don't even have to comment on each of the entries, but it sure would be nice. :) Here's our next 4 submissions:

Title: Untitled
Genre: New Adult
Author's Name: Alicia Gregoire
First Lines: I was late for the first day of freshman orientation, but as far as I was concerned, it was justified. My best friend, my confidant, the sole person who understood the betrayal I had felt when I discovered my ex with someone else, had left me that morning for the army. The understatement of the year would be to say that I handled his departure poorly.

Title: Cursed
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Author's Name: Amie Kaufman
First Lines: Samuel was already running when the miller's shed exploded. The wind whistled behind him and he closed his eyes as it overtook him, lifting him off his feet. For a brief moment, he soared.

Title: The Way Things Fall Apart
Genre: YA Contemporary
Author's Name: Danielle Bunner
First Lines: It all started when the cold came. Fast, brittle, unexpected. That first morning in late October when it snowed on the way to school and I stopped walking to watch it all fall around me.

Title: Untitled
Genre: Fantasy
Author's Name: Alex Mullarky
First Lines: Even in the dark I could tell it was there. It is the black shape in the sky that blots out the stars.


Alicia Gregoire said...

Cursed: Talk about starting right in the middle of things! I love every sentence in this opening: the action, the variation, the fact there's an explosion. I would so read more. Like, now.

The Way Things Fall Apart: I'm curious about what "it" is and whether the "it" is fast, brittle, and unexpected or if that's the cold. The last sentence is hard to read, you might want to tighten it up.

Untitled fantasy: I really want to know what this black shape is. Is this the entire first paragraph? Because I want more there.

Tracey Neithercott said...

All of these are great.

Untitled #1: I want to read more!

Cursed: Really exciting! First, M in Miller's should be capitalized (I know, probably a mistake from typing this into the email but I figured I'd point it out anyhow). Second, in the phrase "as it overtook him" I can't tell if "it" is the wind or if "it" is the shed explosion.

The Way Things Fall Apart: More, please! I want to know what started when the cold came. Also, beautiful imagery.

Untitled #2: I'd read on to find out what it is. But the second sentence switches tenses ("it was there" to "it is.")

Sophia Richardson said...

Untitled NA: This opening is a bit tell-y without the voice to make the telling pop excluding the last sentence with the 'understatement of the year'. I'm also not certain what this story is going to be about unless the friend in the army is going to get wounded/killed and the protagonist has to deal with that loss. Maybe start in the middle of the action with her rushing into orientation but thinking about how they were lucky she turned up at all rather than looking back on the fact that she was late?

Cursed: I wouldn't change a thing. We're immediately dropped into action, there's a mystery (dude, why did the miller's shed explode?) and I'm solidly in Samuel's head, flying through the air. I like 'the wind whistled' for the alliteration and the onomatopoeia. This is stellar all-round.

The Way Things Fall Apart: This could be personal but I don't love coy openings like this. I'd like to know up-front what terrible thing is going to occur if you're going to mention it, otherwise just show whatever 'it' is that happens happening. The voice feels a little literary for contemporary YA but if you have an introspective/intelligent protag. it could fit. From the title I'm guessing there's going to be some element of loss so again, the lyrical voice could well fit.

Untitled 2: Despite what I said for Cursed about coy openings (why are narrators so keen to withold information at the start of their story, they should lay some fancy cards on the table?) I am curious about the black shape. I'm hoping in the next few lines we get more info. than it being called 'it'. I really love the rhythm of the second sentence.

I hope my critiques don't come across as too hard-assed, I'm striking for honesty and clarity though I am by no means an expert-- I'm just trying to help a brotha/sista out.
- Sophia.

J.L. Campbell said...

Here's my take:-

Title: Untitled
The first line does arouse curiosity and it seems that the MC is facing some major drama. Setting is okay as I drew a generic picture from ‘freshman orientation’. I sense this one will have a lot of internal conflict since the boyfriend has gone away.

Title: Cursed
This opening raises a lot of questions. Was Samuel the one who caused the explosion and why? What happens after he lands? I wanna know.

Title: The Way Things Fall Apart
The first line raises the question of what ‘it’ is and why ‘it’ started. The lines also makes me wonder what was so fascinating about the snow that the character actually stopped to watch it falling.

Title: Untitled
Hmm…I get the sense of something other-worldy that would blot out the stars. The first line has a scary feel to it and make me ask the question of what’s in the dark?

Alex Mullarky said...

Hey, that wasn't as scary as I thought it would be :) everyone was very nice!

Heather said...

Untitled: This has a bit of a literary flare to it. I enjoyed it.

Cursed: This sucked me in from the first sentence and blew me away. Well done! I would definitely keep reading.

The Way Things Fall Apart: I'm intrigued and want to know more! That makes for a great beginning.

Untitled Fantasy: You have piqued my interest for sure! However just a tiny thing; in the first sentence you say 'it WAS there' and in the second you say 'it IS the..' A bit of a presence change but it's very minor.

Good job every one!

Amie Kaufman said...

I really liked this. I particularly heard the voice in the last line: "The understatement of the year would be to say that I handled his departure poorly." I immediately want to know what that means. What happened? My only piece of feedback would be that perhaps instead of listing the qualities of the best friend who has departed, could the narrator leave some of this to be discovered later? Instead, we could head inside her a little more, see how she (he?) feels about what's happened? Like s/he swallowed a bowling ball? Numb? Teary?

The Way Things Fall Apart:
I know I like this because the phrase 'when the cold came' caused my mind to start popping possibilities. I'm already imagining anything from the start of winter to the onset of the next ice age. It also summons an image straight away--even though I don't know what the narrator looks like, I know s/he is school age, and I can imagine a figure stopping to watch the snow fall.

There's a tense change that others have pointed out, but that's an easy fix. I really like this--it gives me a shiver, and makes me wonder just what 'it' is. I'd definitely read on to find out.