Our Masterpieces...Err, Our Novels

Thursday, March 17, 2011

First Lines Critiques: Last Day!

Critiquing Song of the Day: "Between the Lines" by Sara Bareilles

Okay, we're a little sad. We had such a good time helping out our fellow writers this week. In case you've missed it, last week we asked some of you to submit your first few lines of your WIPs, and we offered an open forum to receive some awesome feedback. Click here to check out Day 1's submissions, and here for Day 2.

We know you know the rules, but we're a bit anal (insert 13-year-old boy snicker). 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?

Again, you do NOT have to answer all of these questions--they're just to get the ball rolling. By the way, thank you SO MUCH for all of you brave souls who were willing to put your work out there, and thanks TONS to our followers for chiming in with help.

Now, for the last time, here are the submissions:

Title: Freakhouse
Genre: Middle Grade
Author's Name: Lisa-Marie
First Lines: "Of course you know, the place is haunted," the real estate agent said with a big, dorky grin. The tag pinned to his bright blue blazer read George Finkle. A funny sounding name for a funny looking guy: short, not a lot of hair, and has what my dad used to call a “beer belly”.

Title: Between Shades of Gray
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Author's Name: Amy Thomas
First Lines: People are selfish. It’s a basic truth, just like the sky is blue or the grass is green. People are selfish, cruel and weak; and I must do everything in my power not give in to the weakness.

Title: Distraction
Genre: Women's Fiction
Author's Name: Anonymous
First Lines: They lay coiled together like two serpents, spent by their passion. Justine’s lashes lowered once, twice, and she shifted to stay awake. Xavier stirred behind her and a hand crept over her hip and covered her breast.

*BTW, are you a fan of flash fiction? Then swing by here and my group blog, Paper Hangover, tomorrow for Flash Fiction Friday. Tomorrow's topic: "In 300 words or less, write a story beginning with the cliche, 'Another One Bites the Dust.'" Just post it on your blog and leave the link on Paper Hangover's comments! :)


Sophia Richardson said...

Freakhouse: Before I got to the dialogue tag I wondered if there was meant to be a comma before you know but that's just me being anal. Starting with dialogue is sometimes frowned upon, but the narrator's voice pointing out the big dorky grin and the mystery/conflict of a haunted house gives you a pass. And the voice continues in the next two lines so I'd keep reading. I hope after finding out more about the estate agent we'll get back to the house. From the title I'm guessing it's important so you get the conflict right in the first line.

Between Shades of Gray: I love the immediate voice in the punchy first line. After the next two, I want to know what weakness the protag. must resist specifically-- I assume this will be the main interior/exterior conflict, overcoming her (I'm not sure why I'm assuming it's a her) weaknesses.

Distraction: I love the imagery and rhythm of the first line, though after this big picture shot I hope we'll slip into one of their heads, and we do. I'm not certain of the conflict (besides trying to stay awake for a second round, ahem) but I'd read on to find out more about these two. Perhaps because of the intimacy of the situation I feel like I should know more about them-- are they married, a couple, lovers who shouldn't be?

Thanks for doing this Pam and thanks to all the brave people who submitted! I'm in crappy first draft mode so it was good for me to flex my critiquing muscles, though of course it's easy to be harsh on ourselves; I hope I wasn't too rough on you guys.
- Sophia.

Holly Dodson said...


Your punctuation in the first line should look like this, "Of course, you know the place is haunted,"

I think your dialogue opening works here because of the conflict it sets up, but I'd be careful about too much description right off the bat.

Between Shades of Gray:

Watch your repetition of words. It takes some of the punch out of your opener. (And the title-- http://www.betweenshadesofgray.com/ is a debut novel this year)


That's a steamy start! The only thing is, my first thought was, "Is this really women's fic?" Granted, I know pretty much nothing about the genre.

WordLuster said...

Freakhouse: I, too, was thrown off with the dialogue starting out the story.. but I do like the humor that the narrator seems to have already.

Distraction: Definitely visual and graphic. I guess I might be a little too biased to YA at this point, though, cause I'm a little.. what to say.. shocked by that being the opening lines. Maybe that's a good, thing, though. They definitely caught my attention.

Shades of Gray: Is mine. Thanks for the comments, so far. I really appreciate the input. And I have since changed the title lol. I've been whipping back and forth between a few lately and when I submitted the lines I compulsively changed it to Between Shades of Gray which is pretty silly seeing as how I've been trying desperately to get my hands on a copy of the arc for that book. :-P Oops.

Alicia Gregoire said...

Freakhouse: I'm curious to see what the next bit of dialogue is. In the final sentence, get rid of the word "has" to make it flow better.

Between Shades of Gray: I had a problem with most of the beginning; it felt like the narrator was whining. You brought me back though with "and I must do everything in my power not give in to the weakness."

Distraction: I agree with Holly when she said steamy. The description of the two of them like serpents was great.