TITLE: PLAY FOR PANIC
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy
I never thought of myself as a musical prodigy until I lost my ability to play piano. I could blame Panic. Or Aquamarine. Or even my own Mom. She’s the one who moved us from Manhattan to this sleepy town of Whitehall.
“The city is too full of temptations,” Mom had said, “with more dangers lurking on the streets than subway rats beneath.”
Turns out, Mom hand-delivered me to a city-grade danger hidden among small-town lemonade stands like a naughty secret.
But I can’t worry about that now. It’s my first day of freshman year at my new school - and my main concern is where to pick up the darn school bus.
Am I early? Where is everyone?
It’s not the kind of street corner I’m used to. Rather than the systematic grid of cement that maps the city, dotted with stations clearly marked ‘Bus Stop,’ here I have to guess. At the corner of Wheeler and Skene, the sorry pad of cement crumbles into the street like a poorly constructed wheelchair ramp. Beneath my black Ugg is a long and crooked crack, a witch’s finger, sprouting weeds and hairy caterpillars. I exhale, and the sound is startling – echoing off Skene Mountain and reverberating over the canal. I scan the empty street, sucking in cool air that seems thinner here somehow, and already carries the scent of newly fallen leaves. We’re ‘just a stone’s-throw from Vermont,’ Mom likes to say – an attempt at romance, I guess.
I felt my interest starting to pick up in the final paragraph. Your descriptions are lovely, and I start to get a nice sense of the setting.ReplyDelete
The beginning is a little disjointed for me. We go from the comment about your protagonist losing her ability to play piano, to her mum's comments about the city, to her first day at school. I wonder if a lot of this information could actually be threaded in a little later and if there is a specific incident you could start things off with. I get the sense something's about to happen, and if that's the case, maybe could be a good jumping off point?
Anyway, hope I've been of some help. Best of luck!
I agree with umeboshi: disjointed and has the feeling of something to come. Maybe consider a different starting point? I was recently (like yesterday) given that same advice and my knee-jerk reaction was NO! This is where it needs to start. but then, I looked at what they were suggesting, tried it out in a separate file, and LOVED it. It's a hard suggestion to hear, harder to accept (yeah, I did a FB rant and had to delete it), difficult to follow (I rewrote it 5 different ways yesterday and only 1 follows the suggestion made), but so rewarding.ReplyDelete
That said, if you decide to keep the beginning as is, here are the lines I found problematic. I'm breaking it down line by line, so this post will seem SUPER long, but I hope my suggestions/insights [inside the brackets] help.
I never thought of myself as a musical prodigy until I lost my ability to play piano. [I like this and don’t at the same time. It makes me question why she lost her ability to play piano. But I’m not sure someone would think of themselves as a prodigy after losing a talent.]
I could blame Panic. Or Aquamarine. [assuming these are people, nicknamed people, or people with really cruel parents]
Turns out, Mom hand-delivered me to a city-grade danger hidden among small-town lemonade stands like a naughty secret. [this was confusing to me and my daughter who read this selection with me. I got it after reading it a couple times and understand what you were trying to get at, but think it’s worded awkwardly.]
But I can’t worry about that now. It’s my first day of freshman year at my new school - and my main concern is where to pick up the darn school bus. [needs to be reworded here. She is NOT going to pick up the bus. It’s way too heavy. “and my main concern is where to catch the darn bus.”]
Am I early? Where is everyone? [with her already having to wonder where to catch the bus, I don’t think these internal thoughts help the story or the reader get to know the MC any better. You could eliminate and not lose any value to the story.]
At the corner of Wheeler and Skene, the sorry pad of cement crumbles into the street like a poorly constructed wheelchair ramp. [I just didn’t like this imagery myself and felt it unnecessary except to give more to the setting, which you have enough of already. And I have no idea where the streets are in relation to anything, so naming them now is no help for me to 'see' anything.]
Beneath my black Ugg is a long and crooked crack, a witch’s finger [???], sprouting weeds and hairy caterpillars. [the witch’s finger really threw me. Is there actually a finger under her shoe? Why would she step on that? Where I live, we do get lots of caterpillars and avoiding them is sometimes difficult, so I can accept that. Just not the finger.]
I exhale, and the sound is startling – echoing off Skene Mountain and reverberating over the canal. [that is some really loud breathing. Maybe a little overdone?]
We’re ‘just a stone’s-throw from Vermont,’ Mom likes to say – an attempt at romance, I guess. [not sure how that is an attempt at romance. I understand the desire to explain where the setting is, but at this point, I already know it’s near/in the mountains in a not-heavily-populated area. I’d rather get to what is going to happen to the MC than get more about her setting.]
Hope some of this helps. Best of luck on your journey to publication!
I like the opening line, but agree use of the word prodigy. The above suggestions are spot on and I especially agree with the setting. Beautiful images, but condense them to give more impact. Give us just enough setting to anchor us.ReplyDelete
Get to the action sooner and explain later. Also, hint at some stakes. Foreshadow a little.
I always like the use of peculiar names, it gives an interesting flavor to the story. Do some adjusting and I'm sure you are going to deliver a fantastic story:)
Samantha Jean's critique is spot on. The only thing I could think to add is about the names? Are they names? Before you query try to find out if the agent has said anything about character names--there are some who are very against purposefully odd mornings.ReplyDelete
Also, perhaps try to work more character and less setting into the first few hundred words. Is the main character bitter? Depressed? Resigned? Where are they now so that we can be given a view of where they might be heading at the end of the story? Give us a taste of what sort of character development we're going to get.
Good luck on the next stretch of the publishing journey!
I am late adding my comments but will agree with all of the above. The premise is good but a little more streamlining is necessary. Samantha Jean's comments above are spot on. Read through them again and streamline. Less setting and more about the main characater methinksReplyDelete
I'd love to re-read when you change it up. Good Luck
Whew! Okay! That was rough! LOL...ReplyDelete
But this is exactly what I wanted out of this crit. I knew there was something wrong with my opening - I just wasn't sure what it was exactly.
Here is a revised opening. If anyone's still out there and would like to comment/compare, I would love to hear. Thank you!
When Mom moved us from Manhattan – my heart’s pulse – to her sleepy hometown of Whitehall, I promised myself that would be the last time someone else made decisions for me.
The dreaded day begins in a haze of grey. As I force down some oatmeal, a slight mountain breeze taps a naked tree branch against our kitchen window. A lark perches there, its head flitting left to right, chirping free-style jazz. The oven’s digital clock hums with ferocity. I swallow my oatmeal and the squish roars in my ears. Where’s my vibrant soundtrack of rumbling busses, honking cabs, and screeching subways?
Mom skips into the kitchen in her flannel pajamas, nearly spilling her coffee, chirping like that lark about my first day. But all I hear is: “maroon and white this, and Railroader that…”
And it hits me – before I even set foot in my new school: there’s nothing romantic about attending your mother’s alma mater. Au contraire.
I dig my heels in my black Uggs when Mom offers to walk me to the bus stop.
“Mom, I’ve been on public transportation since birth. Remember? I can find my way anywhere in NYC by subway. By myself.”
“Yes, sweetie. But you’ve never been on a school bus.”
This is true.
“I think can handle the bus stop,” I say thickly. As I pull on my backpack and step into the grey haze, I know the bus stop will be the easiest part of my day. I just didn’t know how true it would turn out to be.
You've done a great job restructuring your opening here! The main conflict is set out right away and you end with a hint of trouble to come. Wonderful!ReplyDelete
A few small things:
I got a little impatient at breakfast. Can you streamline a little more? Maybe "A lark chirps free-style jazz while the oven's digital clock hums with ferocity."
Mom and "skips" seem mis-matched. I think I get the visual image you are trying to convey, but "skips" seems like something a young child does, not a mom (even on a very happy morning).
As someone who has two pairs of Uggs sitting on my landing, I am afraid that using this specific brand may date your writing. I'd hate for the Uggs to have gone the way of Crocs before your book is printed. Can you use a generic description instead of the brand?