Monday, October 17, 2011

First Words Workshop: Edgy YA

To see how the workshop began, read THIS post: An Analysis of First Pages.

Here is this week's 100 word (anonymous) Edgy YA entry:

Carleigh closed the front door, walked inside her apartment, and stopped mid-stride when she recognized the heavy footsteps. Her body tensed, then began to tremble, and the brassy taste of fear filled her mouth. She slid her backpack around, hugged it protectively against her stomach, and became statue-still.

Appearing to concentrate on the bare floor in front of him, a man with a weathered complexion and muttonchops tramped down the hallway. His right hand clutched a Budweiser, left hand a cigarette.

Dean.

Carleigh sucked in a sharp breath and stepped backward. Beneath her foot, a floorboard creaked.


Dean’s head snapped up.

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My comments are in red:

Carleigh closed the front door, walked inside her apartment, and stopped mid-stride when she recognized the heavy footsteps. Her body tensed, then began to tremble, and the brassy taste of fear filled her mouth. She slid her backpack around, hugged it protectively against her stomach, and became statue-still. First, I want to mention how very intriguing this opening is! I can feel her emotions. But I think there are too many things "listed" in a row (closed, walked, stopped etc.) and I want to tighten it up. Also, when you say "her" apartment it makes me stop and wonder if this is a teen or a grown woman. Use of "the" or "their" would make me think she was underage living with her parents (or it just might be my personal taste).

Appearing to concentrate on the bare floor in front of him ( I get why you say "appear" so as to not POV jump, but you could just say eyes focused down), a man with a weathered complexion and muttonchops tramped down the hallway. His right hand clutched a Budweiser, left hand a cigarette.

Dean. AWESOME!

Carleigh sucked in a sharp breath and stepped backward. Beneath her foot, a floorboard creaked.

Dean’s head snapped up. Whoa--who is he (Mom's boyfriend?) and what's gonna happen?

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STINA'S comments are in blue:

This is an intriguing start. Great job showing us Carleigh’s emotions.

There are a number of points that need clearing up so that the reader can visualize the scene. What do you mean by recognized the heavy footsteps? Did she know who they belong to? Or did she hear heavy footsteps? She’s in her apartment, but where are the footsteps coming from? Orientate the reader so she can visualize the scene.


When I read ‘muttonchops’ I thought this is historic, because that’s the only time I’ve heard it described this way. But then he had a Budweiser in his hand, and I realized the story takes place in a region I’m not familiar with, where they normally use the term.


While I like the rest of the beginning, I felt that the first sentence could be stronger. It didn’t hook me enough to keep reading. Plus it sounds like Carleigh would have walked into the door since she just closed it before walking into her apartment. Either have her walk into her apartment and then close the door, or have her close the door then walk farther into the apartment. It’s not a big deal, but it did bug me.


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Possible Rewrite (based on both sets of comments):

 Carleigh stepped inside the apartment and paused mid-stride when she heard his heavy footsteps coming from the kitchen. Her body tensed and the brassy taste of fear filled her mouth. She hugged her backpack protectively against her stomach and became statue-still, despite feeling weak in the knees.

Eyes cast down, a man with a weathered complexion and muttonchops tramped down the hallway. His right hand clutched a Budweiser, left hand a cigarette.

Dean.

Carleigh sucked in a sharp breath and stepped backward. Beneath her foot, a floorboard creaked.

Dean’s head snapped up.


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Two different viewpoints to take or leave. Thanks for this great entry!


Do you want YOUR first 100 words work-shopped? Email me!

17 comments:

Jessica Bell said...

I like this, but can I say, I think the creaking floorboard is a tiny bit clichéd? Sorry ... is it my place to say? *blush*

Christina Lee said...

Totally say it, Jess, YES!

So if author agrees with Jess, then use different wording to get your point across like, "the floor groaned under her foot" or something like that!

Any other suggestions?

Natalie Aguirre said...

I like this but agree with Christina and Stina about the first paragraph. I like Stina's suggested rewrite.

I am intrigued and want to read more.

salarsenッ said...

I really like the way you and Stina critiqued this piece. Gave me some insight into my own writing. And thanks to the writer who allowed you to post this. :)

Matthew MacNish said...

I was definitely confused by the recognition of the footsteps. It made me think there was something distinctive about his gait, like a limp or something. But looking back, I think the author meant to just say that she heard the footsteps, not that there was something particularly recognizable about them.

Yeah. So, sorry to focus on just one little detail, but there's already great advice about the rest of it.

I will say that with some tweaking this is a piece I would continue reading.

Matthew MacNish said...

Oh, and regarding muttonchops, I've lived all over the US, and the problem is not that people wouldn't use that term, the problem is that no self-respecting man would wear his facial hair that way.

But that could be a great bit of characterization. A man who wore his facial hair that like in a modern world, would have to be a very unique person.

Sarah said...

It's so difficult to paint a picture for the reader, so this kind of feedback is invaluable. Nice work, ladies!

Joanne said...

It's interesting seeing the changes a little editing and revising bring about. I definitely prefer the way the rewritten version reads.

Christina Lee said...

Matt, great point about the muttonchops! I could picture the character perfectly when the author used that term!

Slamdunk said...

Nicely done Christina and Stina. Those darn creaky floorboards are a menace--especially when I had just gotten a child to fall asleep and I'd try to sneak out of the child's room.

Sarah Pearson said...

I liked this piece, and definitely would read on. The rewrite has sharpened up that first paragraph immensely. Big thanks to the author!

MG Higgins said...

I like the rewrite; it's much tighter. (In the original second paragraph, I thought there was a POV switch to omniscient.) It's a very intriguing opening. I'd read more!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

That's what I was thinking too, Matt, about the creaking board and the individual's gait.

Lourie said...

Maybe a reference like, "just like in all those scary movies...." something like that. I like this one. :)

Kelly Polark said...

Great passage and excellent suggestions from you two and in the comments!
Long live muttonchops!

Susan Fields said...

Great 100 words, and I love the critiques - what a neat feature!

Pamela Gold said...

Sometimes less is more and in a lot of areas, I would like to have less.