Sunday, July 22, 2012

First 250 Words Smash! #3

Most Wonderful Author: M.A.B. || Writers of Yore
Most Evil Critique Master: Sarah
Working Title: Wayfarer

“What exactly did you say to her?”  
I glance up to find Jed hovering at my shoulder, an air of near palpable nervousness hanging off of him. “Nothing of any great importance,” I admit and turn back to my workbook. “What did you get for problem number four? I got x equals seven but Mart is insisting that— Ah...”  
Jed snatches the workbook from my hands and promptly sits on it. He takes his time to settle into the chair in front of me, then turns and folds his hands on top of my desk. “Cameron.” I know he is serious because he never calls me by my full name. “What did you say to Marlene?”
My fingers drum against the surface of my desk and wait to see if he'll give me back my workbook. When he doesn't, I sigh and roll my eyes. “I told her to leave you alone.” 
“She says you threatened her.” 
I scoff, taking the time to inspect my nails. “I did no such thing. I just told her that if she didn't stop spreading nasty rumors about you, then she may or may not end up in the nurse's office with a bloody nose.” 
Jed groans and buries his face in his arms. “Rin! You're a girl! Girls don't threaten to punch other girls in the nose!” 
“I didn't say I'd punch her in the nose. I just said that she'd end up with a bloody one. [...]”

Strong Points
HAH. I loved the ‘I didn’t threaten her, I just threatened her.’ And I like that we see straightaway what sort of character Rin is, and that you used dialogue to show that she’s in fact a ‘she’ and what sort of character she is. So far, I like her wit, and I like her attitude. She don’t take no one’s bull.

Jed is also a strong character, and I love that I already have mixed feelings about him. He SITS on her WORKBOOK. I mean, come on. He’s also a character that says he ain’t takin’ no bull, and the sparks between him and Cameron are strong. The ‘Girls don’t threaten to punch other girls in the nose!’ part is also a clear hint at his character (and also what gives me my mixed feelings—which is a good thing, of course).

Some Tips
I see nothing wrong with starting a book with dialogue, although I’ve heard others very passionately preach against it. I think it can be a great tool to engage in conflict, which is what an opening should always do.

But! With my first read, I did get confused. My second read was much better, because then I went, “Oh, okay, now I see what’s happening here.” I had to think about what was causing me this issue, and it took me a while longer to apply my thoughts cohesively, but here’s what I came up with:

Dialogue with minor stage direction moves fast. Very fast. Opening a story at the speed of light is good, but you introduce five different names, and names are something that the reader knows they have to keep track of. I grasped that Jed was one of the main speakers, but because Cameron is also Rin while I’m trying to remember both Mart and Marlene (two ‘M’ names), I feel like I’m caught in a bit of a whirlwind.

Now, I had Victoria read this, and she didn’t have a problem like I did. She’s also a whole lot better at memorizing things than I am (she can pinpoint what scene happened in what chapter of my own stories when I…can’t), and this is probably why she’s a lot faster at reading too. So, not everyone will have my problem.

For readers like me, I’d recommend you either forgo Mart entirely for now and also save the ‘Cameron/Rin’ differentiating until later, OR slow down the pacing of your dialogue by adding little points of description that key in to our setting without taking away from the conversation (and I’m more keen on the latter). All I know so far is Jed and Cameron, modern names, a chair, a desk, and a workbook that is now Jed’s seat cushion. Judging by what I have, I have to assume that this is a modern day YA (young adult) contemporary novel set in high school.

Would I Keep Reading?

I’d keep reading because I enjoy Cameron and Jed’s dynamic. It feels very natural and organic, it’s very easy to fall into, and I want to know what their relationship is. I also want to know what kinds of mean things Marlene is spreading.

My advice is that you can afford to slow things down just a bit, let your reader absorb what’s going on and take a little more time to allow your intro to soak into your readers’ brains. I stopped reading a very popular YA series for the same exact reason: too many characters at once and vague descriptions all bogged down the action/premise (which was a really awesome premise too). I got a few pages in to see if it would get better, and it didn’t, so I’d at least give this the same benefit.

Hope this helps! Good luck ♥

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