Friday, October 7, 2011

First Impressions #25

Our third and final First Impression for the month of October is a YA Urban Fantasy called KNIGHTS OF AVALON by Melissa Barlow.

A fencing champion destined for the Olympics, a martial arts prodigy, an organizer for Habitat for Humanity. Someone was murdering the brightest, most brilliant teens in New Jersey. Now in the middle of the night, the persistent ringing of my cell phone broke me out of my sleep.

I scrambled to get my bearings in the darkness. I was in my bedroom, the Bruce Lee posters on the walls told me that much. Through bleary eyes, I could see the alarm clock shining 3:11 back at me. I froze, shaking off the last remnants of sleep. Why would someone be calling at 3am? I peered at the phone, trying to place the number. Then I took a deep breath and picked up. “Hello?”

“Hi, Justine. I’m sorry to be calling so late.” I immediately recognized the shaky voice on the other end of the line, it was my best friend’s Mom, Mrs. Martinez, but I had never heard her sound like this. “Gwen’s not with you, is she?”

My mouth dropped, the question a punch to the gut. Three in the morning on a school night. A murderer on the loose, cutting down the best kids in the state. And Gwen? She was the most incredible person I had ever met. She had an inner light, a compassion that shone like a beacon, and now she was missing.

“No,” I said, my mind racing with possibilities, each one more horrible than the last. “Why would she be?” I was jumping to conclusions, I told myself, even as my pulse pounded. I had to hear Mrs. Martinez out, let her explain what was going on. But Gwen was a straight A student. She was going to be a heart surgeon and work for Doctors Without Borders one day. There had always been something different about her. She was like the other victims. Special.

Okay, wow. This is an opening that grabs your attention!

I like Justine’s voice. It’s got a sharp, clean feel to it, and I can connect with it. Now, I have no problem with your character using sentence fragments to emphasize her points – I do it all the time. But if you’re going to open the story with a sentence fragment, I suggest restructuring the first paragraph so that readers know it’s done on purpose. How about a list?

A fencing champion destined for the Olympics.
A martial arts prodigy.
An organizer for Habitat for Humanity.


Someone was murdering the brightest, most brilliant teens in New Jersey. Now in the middle of the night, the persistent ringing of my cell phone broke me out of my sleep.

The only other comment I have is that you have two comma splices:

I was in my bedroom, the Bruce Lee posters on the walls told me that much.

I immediately recognized the shaky voice on the other end of the line, it was my best friend’s Mom, Mrs. Martinez, but I had never heard her sound like this
.

For the first one, you could use a semi-colon in place of the comma. But on the second one, I think it would look better if you just used a period and started a new sentence after the word “line.”

Other than that, I have no suggestions! I would definitely turn the page to learn more. I’m kind of disappointed the sample ended here!

Be sure to head over to Mainewords to read Marcy’s critique of this passage, and pop over to say hello to Melissa at her blog, Surviving Writing a Book.

13 comments:

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  2. Hi, Dianne! I'm here from Katie's Bloffee party. :)

    Melissa's book sounds fascinating! The opening caught my attention, too. Hope everything works out well for her!

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  3. Great start to the story! I'd definitely keep reading.

    Question Dianne about the semi colon thing. I just recently heard from another writer that we're not supposed to use semi colons in books. It made me wonder if I needed to go through my ms and remove the ones I've used. I'm guessing since you suggested using one (I like them) that that statement is incorrect?

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  4. Donna, I knew Pluto was thrown out of the Solar System planets, but I hadn't heard about the semi-colon being ousted from the punctuation line-up! I'd say that's just somebody's opinion, based on frequent incorrect usage.

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  5. I like this story. I agree that the biggest problem is the formatting. You've got five essentially identical paragraphs here, but the weight of the phrases and ideas are not equal.

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  6. This is a grabber of an opening -- good! Dianne already pounced on the comma splices, so I'll just add my applause for a job well done. :)

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  7. Thanks all for the kind words and feedback!

    Will fix the comma splices (embarrassed that I still do that).

    Dianne, I really like your suggestion on how to format the opening and will make that change too.

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  8. I like this a lot, especially if yo go for the short punchy sentence in the beginning. My suggestions is that there's a fair amount of repetition going on here that can be deleted, especially in the last two paragraphs.

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  9. Terrific. No dipping the toes in the water here; it dives right in for a great start. (I LIKE semi-colons.)

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  10. It's an interesting concept. But the opening doesn't work for me. Maybe it's my personal preference, but the thought process doesn't seem logical.
    If the person is asleep, why talk about the murders? I know there is a connection to the phone ringing in the night, but it has this predictive quality. It's written in first person but our narrator is acting like she's omniscient. She obviously knows what the phone call in the night is about before she even picks up the phone, does she even need to get out of bed to solve the murders? For a second I thought I was reading a blurb than a first page. It's a nice line but more suited for the back of the book.

    It would be more logical if the thought process is in line with the actions of the protagonist. She's asleep, she doesn't talk about the murder until she picks up the phone. That's when you can feel her emotional distress and then she brings up the pass murders.

    When I was reading, I thought she was a boy until her name is mentioned. I thought she was someone older by the way she describe things and how detach she seems. I wouldn't have thought she was a teen unless it was specifically spelled out.

    I like the idea behind it but maybe the above suggestions is a personal preference. Best of luck though!

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  11. *are just a personal preference. Gah, I still haven't had my morning tea.

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