Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Inspiration from Pictures

I know a lot of writers collect songs and compile playing lists to inspire them during their writing, but I’m more of a “silence is golden” writer. Now, pictures are a different story. I like to print out pictures and prop them up near my laptop for inspiration.
Melissa Sarno recently shared a picture on her blog that she found inspirational for the setting of her WIP, and Marcy Hatch recently told me how a picture she spotted on somebody else’s blog set off a chain of thought resulting in her newest “toy.”
As for me, I’ve already blogged about how a photograph of a caged grave ended up inspiring a whole novel. I also located a “cast” for that THE CAGED GRAVES while searching Library of Congress historical photographs. My choice of pictures even ended up changing the personalities of my characters.
I’ve got pictures to go along every manuscript. This is a daguerreotype of Robert Cornelius, but to me he’s Hodge, the love interest in one of my stories.
In another manuscript, one of my characters drives this car – an electric Riker Demi-Coach.

And I’m already starting to collect images for my newest project:

What images have inspired YOUR writing?

Monday, November 28, 2011

First Drafts = A Road Trip from Hell

Me: (getting into car with a bunch of strangers) Okay, everyone! I realize we don’t know each other very well, but I’m sure we’ll all become good friends as we go. At least we know where we’re headed. (hands paper to the Main Character, riding shotgun.)
Main Character: What’s this?
Me: An outline. Well, a synopsis. More like notes, really. Guidelines. Hang onto them, okay?
Main Character: Sure. No problem. (shoves paper into a crack between the seats)
Me: (pulling out of the driveway) Here we go!
Love Interest: (taps me on the shoulder) What’s with those two in the back? (points a thumb at the third row where two people with blank features sit)
Me: Oh, those are Minor Characters. I don’t know exactly what they do yet, but they’ll develop along the way.
Love Interest: They give me the creeps. Is one of them supposed to be a rival romantic interest?
Me: Maybe. I haven’t decided yet.
Main Character: (pokes me) Turn here. Turn here.
Me: We’re not supposed to turn here.
Main Character: (grabs the wheel) Trust me! Turn here!
Me: Now we’re off course!
Love Interest: I’m hungry. Pull over at that convenience store.
Me: But we only just started! Geez.
(It takes forever for them all to decide what they want, and they keep changing their minds. I go into the store, buy a big bag of junk food, stand in line behind some slow pokes, and finally return to find somebody new in the car.)
Me: Who’s this?
Love Interest: A new character, I think.
Me: (to New Character) Who the heck are you? You're not in my notes.
New Character: You need me.
Me: For what?
New Character: Not sure, really, but I’m important.
Me: (looking in the car and discovering the Main Character in the driver’s seat) What are you doing?!
Main Character: I’m driving. Get in. (throws the car into drive and I barely make it inside before we peel out of the parking lot)
Me: (hanging onto the dashboard) But you don’t know where you’re going!
Main Character: Let’s face it. Neither did you.
Minor Characters: (rummaging through bag) You didn’t get what we asked for. None of this is right. (throwing Cheetos at my head) You don’t know why we’re in the story, and you didn’t get our orders right.
Me: (to Main Character) Hey! Don’t turn there! We can’t go that way! GPS says the road ends up ahead!
Main Character: You probably need to update your GPS. Relax. We’ll be fine.
Love Interest: (to New Character) Wanna make out?
New Character: You bet!
Me: Hey, you two! Cut it out! That’s not supposed to happen!
Main Character: (turning around to look in the backseat) Hell, yeah! If anybody gets to make out, it ought to be me!
Minor Characters: (pointing straight ahead and shouting around mouthfuls of Fritos) Look out!
(A shocked silence falls over the car.)
Me: We’re in a ditch.
Main Character: Um, yeah. Kind of.
Love Interest: (straightens shirt, looks at me, worried) But you can get us out of here, right?
Me: Oh, now I’m in charge again? Okay, everybody out and PUSH!
(And that’s just the first day …)

Friday, November 25, 2011


1. I am thankful that my lovely and talented daughter enjoyed her opportunity to perform live before television cameras in the Dunkin Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade at the Philadelphia Art Museum.
2. I am thankful the neighbors’ dogs didn’t eat me when I went over to feed them on Thanksgiving Day.

3. I am thankful for the health of my family.
4. I am thankful for the giant stack of papers I have to grade this weekend.

4. I am thankful to have a good job in an economy where not everybody is that lucky.
5. I am thankful I had a little time to myself for writing.
6. I am thankful for all my friends and the wonderful people I’ve met through blogging.
I hope you all had a peaceful Thanksgiving holiday, and for those of you in countries that do not celebrate this holiday, I hope you had a thoroughly enjoyable Thursday!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Too Much?

The other night, I dreamed I went skiing. That’s not unusual, especially with winter coming on. I love to ski!

Unfortunately, the skiing conditions (in my dream) were poor – soft mushy snow and not a lot of it. That’s not unusual either. Oddly enough, I dream more about bad conditions than good ones. I can only assume skiing in my sleep is beyond my skill level.

Then something new happened. I took out my phone to Tweet about the lack of snow.

Yup, I dreamed about Tweeting. That’s a first.

Have you ever dreamed about Twitter? How about Facebook? Blogger?

I suppose it was only a matter of time.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Does Your MC Need a Character Arc?

I’m sure you all know by now I’m a hopeless Pantster. Outlines just don’t work for me. I can write ‘em, but I don’t stick to them.

However, as I was brainstorming my next writing project (or what I hope will become my next writing project) I felt the need to plan something out ahead of time. I’ve had two Shiny New Ideas come to nothing recently, thanks to lack of a significant story arc, and when I stumbled upon THIS site, I thought, “Now here’s the tool for me!”

The title of the article is Outline Your Novel in 30 Minutes – but ignore that. I didn’t time myself, and this doesn’t produce an outline anyway. However, I thought the series of questions presented here was a good way to map out a story arc for the MC in a proposed novel.

It also occurred to me this approach might be useful to writers in the middle of a NaNo project – if you’re stuck and unsure where to go – or if you want to test the overall strength of what you’ve written so far.

I gave it a try, and although it didn’t provide me with all the plot details I need to get started, it did give me a good sense of who my MC is, what she wants, and what stands in her way.

Now, I just need to research everything else. Back to my bizarre Google searches: portals to Hell, Nazca lines, Krakatau, petroglyphs, Algonquian legends, alien abduction, ice caves …
Yeah, I’m all over the map.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gina Review: Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island

My daughter Gina is here today with a review of GHOST DOG OF ROANOKE ISLAND, which she received for review from the author, C. K. Volnek.

The Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island is about a boy named Jack who lives on present day Roanoke Island with his dad. Rumor is there is a horrible monster that’s been running around. And Jack’s found it. The monster would’ve killed him except for a strange dog coming and fending the monster off.

Jack meets a Native American named Manny who knows all about the monster. He calls it the Witiku and says it’s from ancient times when English colonists were arriving. This is the thing that destroyed the people of Roanoke Island. Manny says Jack must be the one to kill the Witiku but first, Manny shows him visions of the Witiku and how it was created. The dog is legendary too and has been fighting off the monster since it was created. Can Jack defeat the Witiku? Or will it finish off Roanoke Island for the second time?

I would recommend this book to people who like to read books about magic. Anyone who knows the history of Roanoke Island would appreciate how cleverly it is worked into the story. However, the initial change between no magic and the magical visions was confusing to me. Manny throws a piece of wood in the fire and then he and Jack appear somewhere else. Up to that point, I thought the story could have been realistic fiction. Other than that one point, I thought this was a great book and a creative solution to the Roanoke mystery!

Thanks, Gina! I just want to add that I teach the Roanoke mystery in history class every year to my fifth grade students (in fact, Gina was in my history class last year for this unit!), and this is one solution to the mystery I never covered!

You can buy GHOST DOG OF ROANOKE ISLAND through Muse It Up Publishing or Amazon, and you can visit C.K. Volnek's website here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Where Do You Begin?

When starting a new project, where do you begin?
I usually start with an inspiration, which eventually leads me to a starting point. My inspiration for WE HEAR THE DEAD was the life of Maggie Fox, and I knew I’d discovered my starting point when I sat down one day and wrote Maggie’s confession, followed quickly by Kate’s rebuttal, and I knew where I wanted to take the story.
THE CAGED GRAVES was obviously inspired by the actual graves in Catawissa, Pennsylvania, but I didn’t have my starting point until I took my fifth grade class on a field trip to Camp Tockwagh in Maryland. I looked out over the swampland they call Hidden Lake and suddenly knew my story started in a place just like this one.

One manuscript was inspired by my husband saying, “You should write a story about Nikola Tesla.” But it was a strange experience my husband had during a job interview that gave me my starting point. Another manuscript was inspired by a group of 19th century researchers and the tragic death of one of them. My starting point? A photograph of a historic home outside Philadelphia. I looked at this picture and said to myself, “This is the house. This is the first glimpse she gets of her new life.” She referred to my protagonist, a girl dredged out of an asylum and brought to live with these researchers.
But what do you do when you have a starting point that shows up first, without an inspiration preceding it? Take the following, for instance:
When Aunt Eggletine suggested, for perhaps the tenth time this month, that all their problems might be solved if her niece would only consider marrying her fourth cousin, Ardeth hurled a breakfast roll at her head.
Unannounced airborne missiles had become quite frequent in the last half a year, and Eggletine Meriwether ducked this one without spilling a drop of her tea. “Really, Ardeth!” she said. “For someone who doesn’t know where her next meal is coming from, you are quite reckless in your use of pastry.”
Yes, that’s what I’ve got. A beginning with no real story yet. Perhaps this beginning IS my inspiration. Or perhaps it’s just a Shiny New Idea which will soon prove itself to be not so shiny after all. For now, all I can do is figure out what brought Ardeth to the point of hurling breakfast rolls at her aunt and where the story might go from here ...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Open Minds: An Interview with Susan Kaye Quinn

When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.

Earlier this month, Susan Kaye Quinn launched her new book OPEN MINDS with a fabulously successful online Launch Party. Today, I bring you an interview with Susan from a writer's perspective.

1. What was the inspiration for Open Minds?

It all started as a 1st paragraph contest on Nathan Bransford’s blog. I didn’t have a “catchy” first paragraph for any of my current stories, so I decided to write a paragraph for a story that didn’t exist! I had been playing around with a story idea about a boy who was a touch empath (he could sense feelings by touch), but I wasn’t sure that would work. The night before the contest was due, I was drifting off to sleep when the image of a girl sitting in a classroom full of mindreaders popped into my head. Only she couldn’t read minds and she was painfully isolated, an outcast. I jumped out of bed and wrote the paragraph. A few weeks later, I still couldn’t get the image out of my head, and I knew I had to write Kira’s story. (BTW, I didn’t win the contest!)

2. In Open Minds, everyone except Kira can read minds. How does a society survive if everyone’s inner (and possibly unpleasant) thoughts are open for inspection?

Great question! It certainly transforms everything from social niceties (there aren’t many) to political structures (there are now honest politicians) to architecture (keeping everyone separated enough to not read your neighbor’s thoughts). But the initial time of change was one of great turmoil, as you might imagine. When I was researching the story, I actually googled “what would happen if everyone read minds” and found a thread where the discussion was evenly split between people that believed the world would end, and those that thought it would bring peace on earth. In Kira’s world, truth is something everyone takes for granted, as well as knowing all the unpleasant thoughts of their neighbors. The rumor mill is a force of nature unto itself. But society survives and adapts, as humans are wont to do.

3. What, exactly, is a mindjacker?

A mindjacker can jack into your head and control your thoughts, emotions, and even tamper with your memories. Anything your brain controls (which is basically everything), a mindjacker can mess with. You can imagine having one of these living next door might be a bit problematic.

4. Which character in Open Minds was the most fun to write about?

Simon. In every book, I have a favorite character, which is probably wrong, but I can’t help it. He has great internal conflict and he’s the bad boy (I have a bit of a weakness for those). But mostly he was fun to write because he brings out all of Kira’s hopes and dreams and flaws.

5. Any surprises for you while writing this story – plot twists you didn’t plan, characters who took the wheel and hijacked your outline?

This entire book was a surprise! I pantsed it from the beginning, starting out with just that paragraph about a room full of mindreaders and not a lot more (certainly not an outline). Here’s an excerpt from my notes as I was writing the novel during NaNo two years ago, where I discover there are mindjackers in the story:

Whoa! This story is about mind control! Uh, duh. Well, the persuasive kind to get Kira to join their "cult" - isolate, get them dependent, make them allied with you (us against the world) and then BAM! lower the boom, ask them to do the deed.

Yeah, I talk to myself in my notes. And I kinda ramble, too, apparently. But I truly didn’t know the story was about mindjacking when I started writing it.

6. Open Minds is the first book in a planned trilogy. When can we expect to see future installments?

I plan to release CLOSED HEARTS in 2012 - in May, if all goes according to plan, later if it doesn’t. I have CLOSED HEARTS and Book 3 all outlined and planned out (unlike OPEN MINDS) and I’m drafting CLOSED HEARTS right now, for NaNo 2011.

7. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

It's an amazing feeling to be writing the second book while people are reading the first! It's inspirational and all kinds of cool. So, if you read OPEN MINDS, write a review or drop me a tweet (@susankayequinn) and let me know what you think!

Sue, thanks so much for the interview and good luck with your NaNo writing of CLOSED HEARTS! (Is that an awesome follow-up title to OPEN MINDS or what?) You can find Sue at her website.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Today is THE day to help Jessica Bell's debut, STRING BRIDGE, hit the bestseller list on Amazon, and receive the all-original soundtrack, Melody Hill: On the Other Side, written and performed by the author herself, for free!

All you have to do is purchase the book today (paperback, or eBook), November 11th, and then email the receipt to:


She will then email you a link to download the album at no extra cost!

To purchase the paperback:

To purchase the eBook:

To listen to samples of the soundtrack, visit iTunes.

If you are not familiar with String Bridge, check out the book trailer:

Rave Reviews for String Bridge:

Jessica Bell’s STRING BRIDGE strummed the fret of my
veins, thrummed my blood into a mad rush, played me taut until the final page,
yet with echoes still reverberating. A rhythmic debut with metrical tones of
heavied dark, fleeting prisms of light, and finally, a burst of joy—just as
with any good song, my hopeful heartbeat kept tempo with Bell’s narrative.
~ Kathryn Magendie, author of Sweetie and Publishing Editor of Rose & Thorn Journal

“Poet and
musician Jessica Bell's debut novel String Bridge is a rich exploration of desire, guilt, and the
difficult balancing act of the modern woman. The writing is lyrical throughout,
seamlessly integrating setting, character and plot in a musical structure that
allows the reader to identify with Melody's growing insecurity as her world
begins to unravel …
String Bridge is
a powerful debut from a promising writer, full of music, metaphor, and just a
hint of magic.” ~ Magdalena Ball, author of Repulsion
and Sleep Before Evening

Jessica Bell is a brilliant writer
of great skill and depth. She doesn't pull back from the difficult
scenes, from conflict, pain, intensity. She puts it all out there, no holds
barred, no holding back. She knows how to craft a scene, how to develop
character, how to create suspense. This is an absolutely brilliant debut novel.
I look forward to reading her
next novel, and next and next.”
~ Karen Jones
Gowen, author of Farm Girl, Uncut Diamonds and House of Diamonds

Connect with Jessica:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Holy Crap! That's Jerry Spinelli!

Yup. I’m not proud of it, but that’s what I said when I discovered Mr. Spinelli standing behind me at a book event last Friday night. Luckily, he didn’t hear me – or if he did, he was classy enough to pretend he didn’t.

For a chronic wallflower like myself, author events are both terrifying and exhilarating. Terrifying first – the anxiety building for days in advance. Exhilarating afterwards.

When I arrived at the Local Author and Illustrator night at Children’s Book World in Haverford this past Friday, I was happy to see many faces I knew from events like PAYA and the Week of Writing at Drexel Hill University. I chatted with Jennifer Hubbard (The Secret Year), April Lindner (Jane), Susan Shaw (Tunnel Vision), A.S. King (Please Ignore Vera Dietz), K.M. Walton (Cracked), and met illustrator E.B. Lewis (The Negro Speaks of Rivers).

So, we're all standing shoulder to shoulder in this crowded but charming book store. I’m talking to K.M. Walton about her upcoming release, and she mentions she wants to get a book signed by HIM before he leaves -- and looks over my shoulder. That’s when I turn my head and discover the friendly and cheerful gray-haired gentleman signing books right behind me. I look at his name tag – and blurt out the title of this blog post.

Way to play it cool, Dianne.

Anyway, I scrambled to buy a book and get in line to meet him. He was sweet. I babbled incoherently. He continued to be sweet. And I spent the rest of the evening grinning from ear to ear, with his signed book under my arm – planning how to play it much more cool on Monday when I casually tell my students I have a signed Jerry Spinelli book for our classroom library.

Monday, November 7, 2011

First Impressions #28

Our final First Impression for this month comes from Jerri George. This is the first page of SEADUCED, a generational saga set in the 1950’s to 70’s in Cape Cod and Miami Beach. Jerri says it’s loosely based on her parents’ experiences – something I find rather alarming, considering the direction this scene takes!!!
'Come on and rock...around...the clock tonight', urged Bill Haley and his Comets, once the DJ finished extolling the song's virtues as one of the hottest summer sounds of the mid-fifties. It was evening in Miami, but the mercury still registered above 80. The burgundy leather seats in the Packard were slick with perspiration and although there was a slight breeze, it was balmy. As they drove away from the ocean the humidity increased but no matter how unbearable the heat or enticing the melody on this night…one thing was certain…Cliff and Dahlia were taking Liz into the Everglades to end her miserable life!
Tonight, her involvement in their otherwise ordinary lives would end. Cliff had formulated the plan and Dutch, a nickname Cliff had called his wife since the day they met, was in full agreement. He had never meant for the situation to become this complicated but now...with letters coming to their house on a weekly basis, her showing up at the door unannounced, and threats she made about making their secret public...they had to make it stop!
Cliff drove with the car windows rolled all the way down hoping for any relief from the sweltering night. Always the sharp dresser, he was sorry he’d chosen to wear his favorite khaki slacks instead of shorts. His feet were sticky and swollen in saddle-brown leather loafers sans socks. The matching belt produced an uncomfortable tightness around his waist. Or was that simply his anxiety peaking? Liz was squeezed between them in the center of the sedan’s front seat. Her slim black skirt hiked up her thighs as she curled to find room for her heels. Her light turquoise blouse was buttoned loosely and fell open at the top edge showing her ample chest. She was clever to reveal just enough to appear welcoming. The clatter of her bangle bracelets annoyed Dutch to no end.
How appropriate, Dutch thought. That's where the harlot would be most comfortable …between them, in the middle, destroying her life and their marriage!
This is a riveting way to start the novel! Are Cliff and Dutch are really going to kill Liz and dump her body in the Everglades? However, I’m not crazy about starting with the lyrics and a description of the DJ’s plug for the song, although it does firmly set the time frame for us. Maybe I’d like it better if you actually included the DJ’s banter, and if Cliff found the perkiness of both the song and the DJ a jarring contrast to their grim mission. (Liz, however, could sing along, blissfully unaware of her danger.)
I don’t think you need the first sentence of the second paragraph: Tonight, her involvement in their otherwise ordinary lives would end. That is obvious enough without saying it. I also wasn’t happy with this sentence: He had never meant for the situation to become this complicated but now...with letters coming to their house on a weekly basis, her showing up at the door unannounced, and threats she made about making their secret public...they had to make it stop! The phrases in the list are not grammatically parallel. One starts with a preposition, another with a gerund phrase, and the third with a noun. Restructuring the list with parallel constructions would make a smoother feel.
I love the description of Liz, but at the end of this paragraph be careful, because it switches from Cliff’s POV to Dutch’s. (You could say Cliff knew the clatter of the bracelets would annoy his wife.)
Well, I’m hooked by the situation – and I’m seriously wondering how Jerri’s parents are involved in this. Please tell me they're not Cliff and Dutch?!?!
Jerri is currently looking for a critique partner, so if you found this page interesting and you’d like to read more, please contact her through her Facebook page. Also, be sure and stop by Mainewords to see Marcy’s critique as well.

Friday, November 4, 2011

First Impressions #27

Our second First Impressions for the month of November is a YA Fantasy coming to us from Emily Casey entitled THE FAIRY TALE TRAP.
Mom lied. This isn’t anything like home.
My old room wasn’t crowded with packing boxes, or ribbons of peeled-off tape. A full-length mirror leans against the back wall, still wrapped in brown paper. I’ll never unwrap it. Mom knows I hate mirrors. The bare mattress, with its smug little machine-sewn squiggles, mocks me from the corner. I’m unlivable, it says. You’ll never get to sleep.
It looks like a packing store puked all over somebody else’s bedroom. No teenage girl should have to live like this.
I shove another half-unpacked box to the wall, leaving a path in the new carpet. Frustration gets the better of me. I lie flat on my back and press the inside of my elbow over my eyes. I can’t look at this place any more. It’s not a bedroom. It’s a storage closet. Complete with the stinging fumes of fresh paint.
“Mom, I need help!”
I shout as pathetically as I can. Even without looking, I know as soon as Mom steps into the room. My whole body tenses up and the same thought keeps shooting across the room at her: You did this.
“What’s wrong, Ivy?” Mom’s voice sounds run-down. Moving always makes her tired. You’d think she’d learn.
“I can’t find my pictures,” I say without uncovering my eyes. Mom can always tell how upset I am by looking at my eyes, and I really don’t want to talk about it.
“You mean the one of Dad?”
I hate it when she reads my mind.
“It’s probably in one of these boxes.”
My trophies from track and cross-country click together as she rifles through the box labeled ‘MISC’. The box I’ve searched through eight times already.
“I already looked there.” I can’t keep the anger out of my voice. Does she think I haven’t checked it yet? I almost snap at her again, but I manage to keep my mouth shut. I really don’t want to yell at her. I just want my picture.
The shuffling of random objects stops. Mom wipes her hands on her jeans, making a light zipping sound. “He’ll be back in three weeks.”
“Three and a half.” And that’s if he’s not killed or captured. The nightmares can get bad sometimes.
First, I have to say that Ivy reminds me of my own teenage daughter, falling completely apart and dissolving into a puddle of goo over some small frustration. Her tone, her attitude, the way she blames her mother … yup, I've lived it!
I love the line: It looks like a packing store puked all over somebody else’s bedroom. I can feel her frustration, and I can picture the scene. Based on the last sentences of this excerpt, I’m guessing her father is a soldier stationed overseas -- although this is a fantasy, so it could be something completely different and unexpected. (Especially since Emily's contribution to my Six Word Summary challenge was: Teenager gets trapped in fairy tale.)
I really have only one point that bothers me, and that’s the second sentence. This isn’t anything like home. Since Ivy’s later statements imply she and her mother have moved frequently (Moving always makes her tired. You’d think she’d learn.), I wonder what she means by home. Does she mean “the last place she lived?” If you move all the time, is any place home? I guess I’m wondering if she’s missing the place she came from, or if she’s sick of starting over in new places. If she moves frequently, perhaps the line should read something like: This place isn't any more a home than the last place we lived -- or the one before that.
Emily, thanks for sharing your first page with us! Marcy Hatch over at Mainewords will also be critiquing this page – and Emily can be found on Twitter.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Giveaway Winners and First Impressions #26

Before we get to this month’s First Impressions, I’d like to announce the winners of the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop! Thank you to everyone who entered! Now, a drum roll please …
Congratulations to Kat C, winner of a signed copy of WE HEAR THE DEAD – and also to Candie L and Ashlyn Jai, winners of an original photograph of one of the (soon-to-be) famous CAGED GRAVES of Catawissa, PA . I’ll be contacting you for mailing addresses, or you can email me first at
Today, we’ll be looking at the first page of WAITING FOR APRIL, a paranormal romance by Jaime Loren.
My life is a web of endless days, with periods of silent darkness my only indication that time is still moving. Others sleep. Those unlike me, who age and fall ill – they sleep. The darkness gives them time to recover from the fatigue and hardships the daylight presses upon them. For eight hours of their day they are allowed to forget about their troubles, and enter new worlds where anything can happen. Worlds where they can see and hold loved ones who are no longer with them. Worlds where they can go back in time and change their future.
If I could sleep, I’d dream it was 1729 again, and I’d save April Anne Fletcher.
And I wouldn’t have failed her another thirteen times since.
Every morning I stood in the hallway of Harvard’s Quincy House, waiting to discover if April was still alive. Today – the first day of our summer vacation – was no different. But this morning there was no light spilling out from under her door, nor had she answered when I’d knocked. Considering she could sleep through a severe hailstorm, these observations alone didn’t necessarily strike fear into my heart. No, it was the fact she also had a terrible habit of meeting her maker that sent me racing down four flights of stairs and into the courtyard. I checked my cell phone again. No text messages. No calls. My chest tightened.
I’d only just scrolled to her number when something slammed into my back.
My eye got stuck on the first line, and at first I thought it was a run-on, and then I thought it was just missing a comma, and finally I caught the rhythm of it and read it correctly as written. But since you don’t want your reader doing that much work on your very first line, I’d suggest simplifying it.
In fact, my attention was absolutely riveted by this sentence: If I could sleep, I’d dream it was 1729 again, and I’d save April Anne Fletcher. You may want to consider moving that up and making it the opening line. It would certainly get my attention! How important is that first paragraph really? What if you began with something like:
If I could sleep, I’d dream it was 1729 again, and I’d save April Anne Fletcher.
And I wouldn’t fail to save her thirteen times afterwards, either.
Now, the next thing I’m going to suggest kind of shocks me, because I’ve never done this (and the one time I tried it, I couldn’t stand it). But for some reason, I wanted the paragraphs after the section break to be written in present tense. Maybe it’s because that first paragraph you wrote was in present tense and I was expecting it to continue.
But of course, with just this one glimpse, I don’t know what complications of time are ahead of you. Based on the contrast between the date 1729 and the cell phone – not to mention the hints of immortality in that first paragraph – I’m betting this novel spans huge time gaps and you may be constrained by what tense you use when. Still, I was a little confused by the switch to past tense. Maybe a slightly altered transition would ease us into your past tense narration?
What do my blog readers think?
Jaime, thanks for sharing your first page with us! You definitely have my attention, and can I tell you, I absolutely love the name April Anne Fletcher as our repeatedly dying damsel-in-distress!
Please stop by Mainewords to see Marcy Hatch’s critique of this page, and check out Jaime Loren’s blog, The Lovable Protagonist.