Wednesday, June 24, 2009

First Pages: YA / French Braid

As I run the silver-backed brush through my hair, I study the large gray eyes reflected in my mirror. They are somber now, veiled with fog, as though they have seen a hundred years instead of just nineteen. My face is young, but my eyes are old.
Too many adjectives.
This afternoon, I’ll attend the dress rehearsal of my father’s latest play.
And she's already a drama queen.
We’ll sit side by side in the empty theatre, and instead of watching the actors he’ll be glancing at me, brows knitted, as though wondering who I am, and where his little girl has gone. I will nod and smile and complement his direction, then speak of other unimportant things. Later, he’ll grin and present me with some small gift, as though a sketch pad or stick of charcoal will somehow bridge this gulf between us. He doesn’t understand. I do not try to explain. I am still my father’s daughter, but I’m not a child any longer.

I remember the day that everything began to change.
There are some nice touches here, but it's feeling overwritten to me. And the 'day everything changed' thing is overused--I'd suggest losing that.


ABH said...

To me, the 1st paragraph doesn't sound like anything a 19 year old would think while looking at herself in the mirror. An outside observer might say her eyes are "veiled with fog" to imply that her thoughts and emotions are hidden. I'm trying to imagine why she might say this about her own eyes, and all I can come up with is cataracts.

Maybe you're being really sophisticated here and part of her character is that she creates drama around herself to avoid showing/facing her true feelings.

Otherwise, it might be a better opening if you just cut the first paragraph. The interaction between father and daughter feels real and poignant, and does a better job conveying the emotional impact of whatever happened to the MC.

You've succeeded in making me want to know what that was.

P.S.: You want "compliment."

Buffra said...

I think the middle two paragraphs are the heart of your beginning. The bit about her at the mirror isn't needed and doesn't really help give any clue about your main character.

You could start with "this afternoon" and take out "the day everything changed" -- don't bother with the set up, just move into the story from there.

Anna Claire said...

I agree with ABH--cut the first paragraph. It's been done to death anyway, opening a scene with a person describing her looks in a mirror.

The stuff with the dad is interesting and makes me start to care about the narrator. I'd definitely want to read on. I think that's where your story starts.

A P Mullaly said...

I'm surprised there was no comment regarding the dreaded open with the protaganist looking into the mirror. My main complaint is do you really want to know anything about someone who spends that much time looking into a mirror and describing themself?

"Not I," said the fly.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Nothing for me in this first page feels immediate. It also doesn't feel like the "voice" of young adult, but of someone much older.(?)

MCs describing themselves while looking in a mirror is a cliche in YA, so you might want to avoid that and instead slip in her description elsewhere.

Also, I agree with ABH, in the wording seems a bit off. "Large grey eyes, veiled with fog?" "I will not and smile and compliment his direction..." This is just my opinion, but I don't know any teens that talk or think like this -- which leads me to believe this is historical fiction(?)

Also, instead of telling us what the MC "thinks" is going to happen later on with her dad, it might help to put us directly in the theater so we can witness the uncomfortable shit between her and her dad.

Emily Kokie said...

I agree with many that this isn't a very effective opening in that, despite some really lovely bits, there are sections that feel over-written and the voice doesn't pull me in.

But I will say the emotion at the heart of it is a very YA emotion - especially that sense of watching your parents watch you, and knowing they don't really see you. And the distance I feel in this description could work, with an immediate YA voice.

The disconnect though is that, as drafted, I don't feel that the voice is one of a teen, even of an adolescent, despite the very adolescent emotion.

So, I would take the emotional heart of this and rework the voice for a more immediate YA voice.

Good luck.

Nancy Coffelt said...

The author is good at descriptions, absolutely. And I think that's a good thing. However, there's a lot of telling here. I'd like to be more engaged as a reader through dialogue or action.

I think that could be added in without much fuss.

SammyStewart said...

The MC annoys me. It's possible for a protagonist to be pretentious and interesting...Artemis Fowl, for instance, or maybe Scarlet O'Hara. This girl sounds like the voice of a literary analyst, and a self-centered one at that. The writing is lyrical enough, but the voice needs work.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Pretty much ditto what's been said. I'd really love to see the theater scene in action. I think you can get a lot out of it if you make it more immediate.

I'm intrigued despite the issues and would read a little more to see if it picked up, but it would have to do that really soon.

Lindsey Carmichael said...

Thanks to everyone for your feedback. Clearly I need to do some more work here, but it's good to know there's something underneath worth working on!

Charlotte said...

Please, please, compliment his direction rather than complementing it - I think Daddy might get offended otherwise.
Sorry Lindsey, you hit right on my pet peeve!

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't she just open with: Gosh I am gorgeous, when did that happen?