Friday, January 23, 2009

First Pages: MG / The Carnie's Conspiracy

Silas Poisson was the most dangerous man in Muldable City.
Most children will see "poisson" and be reminded of poison; however I am reminded of fish. Deliberate?
His wardrobe being all in hues of magenta was not generally seen as funny.
Awkward grammar.
It trivialized the (reputed) blood on his hands into a lolly-colored joke. Why couldn't he wear red, like any other self-respecting villain?
I'm having a bit of a hard time getting a handle on the voice here. "Trivialized" doesn't seem to synch with "lolly-colored".
Poisson was not actually a self-respecting villain.
That's better.
He did not consider himself a villain at all, and self-respect was for the boring. Like his arch-nemesis, Alan Birch, librarian and treasurer of the Friends' Trust.
"Treasurer of the Friends' Trust" feels like it's taking this in an unexpectedly cutesy direction--to my ear, anyway. Could the trust have a slightly less sunshiny (and perhaps funnier) name?
They were always very polite to each other. Poisson would return a book he'd come to regard as quite his own, until, with a nasty shock, he discovered a library stamp in the front. When Alan calculated the late fee, Poisson would be grieved and appalled. Getting out his little book of cheques, he would offer an advance on the next time.
Why is Poisson referred to by his last name, but Alan by his first?
“Mr. Poisson,” the librarian would say, “we at the city library desire to believe in the best in humanity. I sincerely hope you will remember to return—” glancing at the book under Poisson's arm, “'Deaths of the Eminent: a Case Study in Fame Homicide' within the month. I can't ignore my principle of hoping for the best by accepting an advance on possible late fees. With regrets.”
Nice. But I'd reconsider the last two sentences. Maybe cut them (and indicate in the paragraph above that Alan declines)? They make this speech a little less punchy.
Poisson would smile, tilting his head in a gesture of apology, and write the cheque out for the large sum on Alan's receipt, but no more. Anyone observing may have admired how the mild-mannered librarian, young and pale behind his glasses, stood up to the dark and impressive man of a (reputed) history of infamous if not famous homicide. Perhaps Alan's belief of the best in humanity really included Poisson. Perhaps it was just hard to take a man seriously when he wore candy-cane striped pajamas to the city library.
There's an awful lot of "would" going around here. Think about making this a more concrete scene-- the "would"s make this a generalization, and rob it of its immediacy--and thus some of its humor.

This is promising, and I'd turn the page.

This manuscript looks like it probably needs a detailed line edit, but it could be the kind of editing an editor would be willing to take on. With a good revision, though, this might become something editors would fight over. Depends on the rest of the story, of course.


plumbelieve said...

This first page sounds intriguing and I, too, am inclined to turn the had me with candycane striped pajamas. EA, your insight about the awkward grammar has motivated me to review my MS line by line again to make the words flow better. In my limited experience, I find that when I am faced with an awkward sentence, the best solution is to rewrite it using the simplest language possible.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Love the PJ's.

This style is harder for me to get into, especially broken up by EA's wonderful commentary. I think if I were reading it as a whole piece, I'd be inclined to read on.

Really love the PJ's at the library when he's supposedly a homicidal maniac.

Sheila said...

I love starting with a villain, they are so much fun. And this one sounds great. I love that his arch-nemesis is the librarian.

But don't all villains wear black? Since when do they wear red? If that's something unique to your world, you might want to write, "couldn't he wear red like every other villain in Muldable city."

Well done.

Anonymous said...

Sheila said, "don't all villains wear black?" I was actually thinking this too. You could easily fix that with something like, "a self-respecting villain would wear Devil-red, not magenta."

This reminds me that I still owe the City of Cincinnati $32.75. But I live in Cleveland now... think I could send the check by mail??

Anonymous said...

Ever notice on blogs that when blog host, either EA or the former Miss Snark, or Query Shark, etc., like something, every one of the commentors follow, extolling hearty praise?

It's a pack mentality.

I wish the piece and its author much luck of course, no harping on my end, but if EA had not given it a thumbs up by saying "editors might fight over it," I betcha the comments would start nitpicking it to death (along the lines of lolly-colored, is that even a word? Would? Everyone knows not to put would in there!) In reality it had no less flaws than the previous entries. Just an observation.

(And truly, good luck to the author.)

Sarah Laurenson said...

Ever notice how people who are afraid to stand behind their opinions sign on as Anonymous?

I see little to gain from not telling the author my opinion. I wish for the other authors who frequent this site to give me their honest opinion as well.

And I still love the PJ's.

Anonymous said...

I sign on as an anon because I don't have a blog and my name is common enough that I've seen other bloggers use it.

And your quote: "... I see little to gain from not telling the author my opinion..." just proved my point.

I'm for telling the author an honest opinion. I'm making the honest observation that there is a pack mentality (of commentors) with each "yea" or "nay" nod given by blog hosts. Go on Query Shark, look for it, if you can't see the pattern, then I apologize.

Sheila said...

I'll grant you that I am sometimes influenced by others' opinions, especially if they point something out that I didn't notice in my own reading.


I also think it's likely that many submissions are really bad or really good, and it's not so much a herd mentality, but rather people having the same opinion.

My entry was recently skewered on another blog. Did I think the 20-odd people were lemmings, following the administrators lead? No, they were correct.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Your point?
every one of the commentors follow

Sorry, but I don't see how what I said proved your point. I am not part of any pack mentality but I am part of the above quote.

To me, painting with an extremely broad brush seems more like a waste of effort than a real stab at making a point.

And I have been on those other sites and read comments from people who frequently disagree with the host. They did not get struck by lightning. Nor did their comments get deleted by an irate host.

I also know that repeating the nits that EA has already pointed out is generally not considered good critique etiquette. If I have nothing to add in the way of nits, I'm happy to limit my comments to what works for me.

The stereotype of the fawning masses doesn't fly in my book, though I will randomly grovel in EA's direction for her amusement. She truly deserves it for what she does in helping us advance our craft and write better books.

Anonymous said...

I agree that this is an intriguing manuscript. Though the actual quality of the writing bothers me more than it seems to bother EA. Possibly the author is trying too hard?

Why I like it:

1. The originality of the characters. Original is hard.

2. The hints that the characters are different or more complex than they seem.

3. It's funny, though the delivery is off sometimes.

4. The voice isn't quite there yet, but it's also distinctive. Maybe the author needs to get it clear in his/her head what s/he's going for.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:24:

I am finding it a bit odd that you discussed "pack-mentality" with regard to this particular blog entry. Only four people commented before you, and none of them were bobble-head reponses. Two of them gave suggestions for change and the first discussed the awkward grammar content. They all indicate that they like the first page, perhaps, but what's wrong with that? We should encourage our fellow writers.

Sarah, I see nothing wrong with anonymous postings. Many of us choose to remain anonymous because of our own writing careers and privacy issues. Frankly, I find it irritating that others automatically dismiss anonymous posters simply because they are anonymous (I'm not saying you do that; it's a general comment). Yes, some of the anonymous posters are trolls, but there are plenty of Blogger-members who post hateful or pointless comments, as well.

BuffySquirrel said...

You don't have to have a blog to post from a blogger account--you don't even need to have a public profile. And if your name isn't distinctive, make up one that is!

Or don't :). But personally I find it hard to tell the anonymous anonymati (now there's a mouthful!) apart, and I suspect one anon is often blamed for another's 'crime'. If you don't want to put your name to your words, that's fine by me (obviously!) but a name would help you distinguish yourself from all the other anon's.

I agree with your point insofar as I think it is sometimes difficult for some people to go against the blog owner, or against the tide of comments. But I don't think we should dismiss comments agreeing with the owner on that basis. Maybe treat them with a little extra caution :).

I thought this piece seemed fun, although my knowledge of this market is thin to non-existent. Love the name "Silas Poisson". Also, the mild conversation over the Murder book. lol

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ed-Anon and Anonymati!

I always get into the voice and flow after a bit of writing. And then have a real slog to get the beginning up to par...I'll keep at it!

Thanks for the encouragement, but even more the critique.

(Black for villains. Yes, I knew that! Of course...)