Friday, May 4, 2012

First Impressions: LOVESENSE


Our second First Impressions post for May comes from Robin Hall, and it’s a YA magical realism story with a working title of LOVESENSE.

Some people can smell an artesian cheese and know to the minute how old it is, how it was made, and when it will spoil. I’m not one of those people. But give me a photo of a couple, and I can tell you those very same things. I’ll know how they’ve aged—if they’re a month-old cheddar, or a block of aged parmesan—and when the relationship will go sour. I’d much rather look at those pictures and see what the rest of the world sees: two people in love. But I’m not that lucky.
That’s why I often regret my part-time job as the ice cream/photo counter girl at Alfred’s Drug Store. But in a town as small as Sparrow, a seventeen-year-old doesn’t have a lot of options. Worse than the uniforms, with their straight-legged pants (awful for my curvy legs) and the Peter Pan-collared shirts with their attached red vests, are the photos I print on my Saturday morning shifts.
Right now I’m tapping my trainers against the photo processor and trying to make three-hundred prints of Mary Brighton and her fiancé without seeing their smiling faces. It’s hard to find a good place to look. Watching the empty store is depressing now that a Rite Aid opened in Hickory, so I’m taking advantage of our windows and checking out the Little League game across the street. Not that I can see much for all the trees, but then, that’s one thing I love about living in the foothills of the Appalachians. Green is everywhere. 


This sounds like an interesting premise – a girl who can sense the nature/quality of love in other people’s relationships.  I can see how that would be an awkward thing to know about people, especially when you can’t tell them you know, and I also imagine it might sour you on love itself. When you look at people “in love” and know exactly how long it’s going to last (or not), what kind of expectations would you have for your own romance?
Now, I’m not the kind of person who thinks you should jam everything about your premise on the first page, or even in the first chapter.  I like to see things unfold a little at a time.  That said, however, I do wish this first page focused more on the engagement photo she’s trying not to look at and less on her uniform or what she sees out the window.  It doesn’t have to reveal what she knows about Mary Brighton and her fiancé this early, but I’d like the scene as a whole to focus on those photos shooting out of the machine. I know she’s trying to avoid looking at them, but they should loom large and tempting in the passage.
There are also a couple phrases I would suggest tweaking.  The word aged appears twice in the fourth sentence; I would swap one with a synonym. Also, the phrase my part-time job as the ice cream/photo counter girl at Alfred’s Drug Store tripped me up. I had to stop and read it a couple times.  Ice cream/photo counter is a strange combination, but even if you have a reason for pairing those two services, the sentence might be re-worked a little bit for a smoother feel.
Thanks for sharing your page, Robin!  I hope this was helpful. You can read Marcy Hatch’s critique of the same page at Mainewords, and please say hello to Robin at her blog.

16 comments:

  1. Hi, Robin! This does sound like an interesting premise. I can see how it could cause tons of trouble at times I agree with Dianne, especially about the photo. I'd love to understand a little more intimately. Draw me into how it makes her feel, not to much but just enough.

    I did want to mention that you have created an interesting voice. Try and tap into that a little more. ;D

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  2. I don't have much more to add. It sounds like a cool premise. I'd like a little more showing than telling. But just a shade more. Dianne's suggestion for that is great. I do like the set up here. It's intrigued me enough to keep reading. :)

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  3. I agree--cool premise! (Nice title, too, btw.) I'd keep reading.

    As usual, Dianne has made some great suggestions. Can't go wrong listening to her. :)

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  4. I believe you mean artisan cheese, no? Artesian is like a well, I think. I'll go look it up. BRB.

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  5. Otherwise, I agree with others. This all felt a bit jumbled to me. I like the underlying premise, and I get that a small town might have to combine selling things like ice cream and photo development at the same counter, but I felt like you're trying to cover too much on the first page.

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  6. I like the premise a lot too, and I can already tell I like the narrator, but I agree--needs more showing than telling, and a closer POV.
    For example:
    "I tap my trainers against the photo processor. God, it's hard to make 300 prints of Mary Brighton and her fiance without seeing their smiling faces."

    Good luck!

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  7. Thanks guys! All these eyes on my 1st page are really helpful.

    Dianne-your suggestions on the photo-explaining the looking/not looking overwhelming feeling better (I have it on page 2-will be adjusting shortly) Thrilled you like the premise.

    SA-super sweet, glad you like the premise and voice!

    Stina and Lydia-I'm always working on the showing vs. telling:)

    Linda-glad you like my title, I love it;) For a long time it was boring-NanNo The Girl Who Could See.

    Matthew-I'll look into artesian or artisan, thanks

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  8. Love the premise. And I'm selfishly trying to understand what magical realism is (I know there are a million definitions and books written but I'm still dumb) so this is helpful. I agree with the others, I want to know what it feels like to be in that moment and see the photo and know the place, rather than be told in the first two paragraphs about her abilities, her town, and job. Paragraph 3 is where things get going for me :)

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  9. I agree with the others about this being an interesting premise, but I must admit, I was initially put off a teensy bit by the smelly cheese comparison. (Foo-foo cheeses always smell like stinky feet to me.) And I can't help but wonder if a seventeen-year-old small town girl would know enough about artisan cheeses to make that comparison.

    I disagree with the need to share more about the photo on the first page of your work. You've already planted the seed of curiosity, making your reader wonder what it is she sees in that picture, so that curiosity is likely to make those readers turn the page. It would make ME turn the page, anyway.

    Nice job.

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  10. Yep, awesome feedback here already. The voice is great and I'd slow it down just a hair cuz its a lot all at once. I think you hold off on the uniform too--even tho the description is adorable. The cheese descriptions threw me off a little too, may need some more thought there. But all in all it
    Sounds super fun! I'm doing a magical realism YA right now too and if you want to exchange for beta reads email me! :)

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  11. Melissa, I didn't know what magical realism was until I'd finished my story and asked my CP:)

    Susan-thanks for you comments, here and on Marci's blog. I m wondering if I need to rethink the whole cheese thing. Seems it threw a lot of people off and it's not essential to the story.

    PK Hzero-I would love to exchange with you for beta reads when I've polished my novel more-THanks!

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  12. I LOVE this. And I like how it starts with the cheese thing. Very clever. I had the same thoughts as Dianne--how will this affect her expectations for her own love life? And great voice too. Nice job.

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  13. Very interesting thoughts from Dianne and everyone. Good suggestions to try and be in the moment more. But having said all of that, I LOVE THIS BEGINNING! Very nice voice and an excellent premise. Great gob, Robin!

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  14. Interesting start...I enjoyed listening to her thoughts, but I wondered what the story would be about. Would she find something out about someone via the pictures? Would it be a mystery? Was it going to be a romance? I really like her voice. Although we don't know her name yet.

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  15. Excellent critique of the first page.

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  16. I loved the premise to this! How interesting! I agree with the critique suggesting you focus a bit more on avoiding the pictures. It would actually build a bit of suspense even, make the reader want to find out what she's avoiding and why. Maybe she catches enough of a glimpse to reveal their story, and that's how we find out she even has the gift/curse. ;)
    I will say, the uniform description had me smiling, and gave a great sense of voice. I personally didn't mind the ice cream/photo counter girl thing; for me, it painted a quick picture of the mishmash type job she held in the small town. You could, however, probably say it a bit smoother to avoid tripping up your reader. Anything that pulls the reader from the book has to go. Overall, great writing! Can't wait to read it once it's done!
    BTW, Dianne - glad to have found your site. I love this first-page thing!

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