Monday, June 15, 2009

First Pages: YA / David

I ran for a lot of reasons. To keep in shape. To win races. To stay out of trouble.
Really? I didn't know a lot of kids growing up who wanted to stay out of trouble.
And sometimes I ran just for the heck of it. Today I followed the path by the river. It had enough inclines and twists to make any cross-country runner happy.
You've got a nice voice...
My feet pounded the ground with a steady thud, recording my progress. My muscles burned in that half pain and half pleasure kind of way that let me know that my body was working like it was supposed to. A well trained biological mechanism. Sweat soaked my shirt even though the wind had kicked up. The warmth of the day changed into a strange cloying humidity that raised the short hairs on the back of my neck.
And now I'm getting a little bored with the running stuff. Maybe a little less of that.
The last leg of the run, I think it was maybe at mile nine or ten, stretched out before me. Most of it was hidden in the trees. My car waited somewhere beyond them to take me home to a silent house. I didn’t pick up my pace.
Just past the dead pine with the stubborn cones still hanging from its branches, I jerked out of my running daze. I stopped, not believing what I saw. A woman lay curled on the ground. My stumbling steps took me closer. Blonde hair hid her face so that I couldn’t tell her age. She wore a pair of dark jeans and my attention fixed on the ugly color of red staining her arms and most of her shirt.
Your voice gets a little less confident when we reach what I assume is a murder scene, but I would turn the page. There's something promising in the flavor of this.


Anonymous said...

I liked it, but I have no idea if the MC is a boy or girl. Also, no indication of the MC age, these are things I'd want to know sooner rather than later.

I can't tell if the MC is horrified or panic-striken or what about seeing the body. "Not believing what I saw" seems like too much of a observant rather than emotional reaction. (since I don't know the sex of the MC, I'm not sure what they would be feeling? A girl would wonder if a killer was out there, and going to be after her?)

Overall great job though. Good luck!

MelissaPEA said...

This seems like a great concept. The opening sentences could be a little grabbier. I think you can cut the whole paragraph that starts with his/her feet pounding and ends with the hairy neck. The beginning of the next paragraph could be tightened to get to that dead body faster. Overall, though, the voice is good and the story is intriguing. Good luck!

Buffra said...

I'm determined to comment on all of these, since I submitted one too and it only seems fair.

But this one has me stumped!

It's not my cup of tea, but there's nothing really wrong with it.

Partly it's the first-person narrative. I'm picky about that. Also, for me, there's too much running and not enough emotional connection with the MC. Clearly there will be trouble or excitement, but I don't care about MC yet, so I'm not that interested.

Maybe in the second paragraph (the running one) a change that includes some of the runner's *thoughts* about trouble or family or...something that could be an emotional hook?

I don't know if it would fit and, as I said, there's nothing really not working, it's just a personal preference, I think!

Good luck.

Sheila said...

I was drawn into this, mostly because I ran cross country in high school. I like the flow, and the bit about the silent house he/she's not anxious to get home to. If you want to drop a hint as to this person's sex, you can have him jogging shirtless, or have her feel the sweat through her jog bra. Just a suggestion.

I think if you came across a bloody body on a path, you wouldn't be thinking about how her hair hid how old she was. You'd be thinking, oh my gosh, is she alive? I don't think you'd notice that she wore dark jeans when there's a blood stain on her shirt. I think you'd be looking around for help or whipping out your cell phone (I run with one, just in case, but I'm a girl). I think there would be more panic. This character's narration seems much too calm.

Overall, I'm hooked and would read on. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks for the feedback, EA. Author, here, and it's like I found out somebody threw me a surprise party -- a couple of days after the fact.

To anonymous: thanks for your comments. The MC is a guy (David), senior in high school, and the son of a deputy sheriff. You find this out in the first chapter.

MelissaPEA: thanks for your suggestions. I have to keep some of the running stuff in there, because the MC is on the track team. It also sets up for later when the villain breaks David's leg. I'll see to tightening the whole thing, though.

Buffra: Thanks for commenting. I know what you mean about first person being tricky. And maybe my hint of trouble at home (not hurrying back to it) was too subtle? As a senior in high school, half of a bachelor household, and the son of a deputy, I thought the touchy-feely kind of thing would be un-realistic.

Thanks all for the read. It's given me much to think about.


ABH said...

To me, the part about wanting to stay out of trouble rings true -- if your MC has been in a lot of trouble and is trying to clean up his/her act. I assumed the MC was male -- I'm not sure why.

I'd cut off the running stuff after "working like it was supposed to."

In "My car waited somewhere beyond them" I'd take out "somewhere," unless your MC really doesn't know exactly where the car is.

"Stubborn cones" throws the voice off. Just "cones" is better.

To me, the MC's disbelief and examination of the scene is a plausible reaction to something surprising and very, very not right. But the order of events seems confused. The MC stops, but then has stumbling steps. Hair hides her face -- but he's wondering about her age, of all things?

I do think the voice conveys personality and it's overall an interesting start.

ABH said...

Now that I think of it, the name "David" may be what made me think the MC was male. Also, forgot to say he comes across as a fairly mature teen.

Emily Kokie said...

I'm having a little trouble commenting here because I can't really pinpoint why it didn't work for me.

I can start with running stuff felt...well, a little too much. I just didn't care. And so without caring I started to skim.

Then the stumbling on the body seemed a little flat - a little like he had (and I am assuming a he) more emotion about running than about maybe finding a dead body.

So, I'm not sure I read on. But it might also just be I'm not the target reader, though realistic YA is generally what I like.

I think upping the emotional resonance would up the tension for me.

good luck.


Buffra said...


I think that you don't have to go too "touchy-feely" to get a little more across about the MC. Maybe even at the very beginning, where he says he runs to stay out of trouble, you could add something about "the son of the town sheriff doesn't get cut any slack"? A few small additions could, perhaps, make the character a bit more accessible.

Again, though, take that with a grain of salt, since I think the style just isn't my preference and that might be OK!