Hi bloggy buddies! Today's first page excerpt is a YA contemporary by Ferris Robinson, entitled Move. Please add your helpful feedback below.
Also, THANKS to Medeia Sharif for giving me the Very Inspiring Blog Award last week! Go forth and visit her fun and informative blog HERE.
I have thirty seconds. My thighs are on fire, but I crouch low to the mat and circle him, moving in and out quickly. I shoot in and grab his leg, then explode up through his body. Again. And again.
Sweat streams into my eyes, but I couldn't see him clearly even if he was really there. I watch him, my imaginary opponent, as Three Doors Down blasts Kryptonite around my head. If I go crazy now will you still call me Superman? I check the clock above the door and go again. I'm on my two hundredth shot when I feel a jolt of electricity right behind my elbow. I lose my balance, and stumble in the middle of the take down. I look at my time; 199 take downs in twenty minutes. I failed.
She should have warned me. Made a noise. Stomped her f****** Eskimo boots. Something. She's lucky I didn't jab her in the eyeball.
Erin Abercrombie taps her ear, and I take my ear buds out. I don't know what to say. I should have said something earlier, back last spring when it happened. Her sister OD'ed and woke up dead. Or didn't wake up at all, rather. Heroin. I don't bring it up.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you. I just wanted to let you know I'm here. Didn't want to freak you out if you saw me in the office."
1. Opening Line and Paragraph: good, then fuzzy. The first line is immediately compelling; time restrictions are always a great way to introduce tension in a scene. As the paragraph continued, I found the "him" ambiguous, and wondered if "opponent" would be a more descriptive word to use instead. I also wasn't sure what was going on with the part about exploding up THROUGH the body. It's explained in the second paragraph, but I'm not sure a first paragraph should be this unclear or confusing to the reader. Would it take some of the initial punch away if "imaginary opponent" was used in the first paragraph instead of "him"? I also wasn't sure why he'd need to explode up through the opponent's body again and again…was he adding to the total numbers of takedowns by doing this?
2. Other Unclear Things.
"…When I feel a jolt of electricity right behind my elbow. … She should have warned me. The "she" surprised me when I read it, and I wondered how it related to the jolt of electricity. Does she have electric superpowers? Did she shock him with something? Did she merely zap him with static electricity? Does he feel her presence as a sort of electrical force? It might be nice to have these things explained (without feeling explainy).
3. The swearing: Stomped her f****** Eskimo boots. I asked Ferris if this was how the word would appear in a final version, and he said no; in the manuscript it's spelled out as a full F-bomb. The asterisks were just used for public sensitivities on this blog (which is very considerate of him). Anyway, using this word in a YA book is a controversial topic.
Questions Ferris should ask:
--By using this language, this novel might end up on a controversial list, and parents and others would object and possibly protest it; is that acceptable to him as a writer?
--Does the use of these words add a level of realism to the work that wouldn't otherwise be achieved? How much would it change the story if those words were omitted?
--How many times is this word used throughout the book? Half a dozen, or fifty? Are all those instances necessary to the plot, character development, and story arc? My suggestion would be to make sure the word is crucial to every scene it's used.
4. Three Doors Down and Kryptonite. These words are italicized in the excerpt, but since Three Doors Down is a band…band names are usually just capitalized rather than italicized (though that may vary from publisher to publisher). Since "Kryptonite" is a song, enclose it in quotation marks. CD or album titles are displayed in italics, but songs are enclosed in quotes.
Kudos and Overall Thoughts: This is definitely gritty and realistic in tone, which seems fitting for a contemporary guy story. From the very first page it promises action and fighting and nice terse/tight dialogue. It hints that it will deal with tough topics like heroin usage, or its aftermath. I like how the line about the Eskimo boots fits very naturally into the scene, revealing something about the female character who's being introduced.
What feedback can you add to this critique?
Did you know album titles are italicized, while songs are put in quotation marks?
What's your opinion on using swearing/cursing in young adult literature: does it add more realism--since teens really DO talk that way--or should writers avoid these words and use an approximation of reality instead?
Would you WANT your manuscript to be negatively controversial, banned, or challenged--since doing so garners more public attention?