Monday, October 15, 2012

The Haunted Writing Clinic: First Page

Hello fellow Minions and Super Villains! Today marks the beginnings of the next stage of our eerie journey with Curiosity Quills: The First Page! My first page actually consists of a prologue, which I have been warned against giving as a "first page" for queries, so I am going to jump right ahead to the first chapter (if you want to see the prologue it is actually already posted on my blog here). So let's get to this, shall we?

Chapter One

The football stadium was still littered with kids when Varrick got there. His chest lifted as he sucked in a breath and suppressed a growl at the same time. This part of his job always frustrated him. He understood that Ariana was seventeen and therefore entitled to a certain amount of angst, but he hated having to deal with it. They had bigger problems to deal with. Of course, she was blissfully ignorant of them.
He scanned the stadium through his dark sunglasses, trying to assess where she would be. A group of girls were running on the track that encircled the grass of the stadium, ponytails bouncing as they chatted with one another. When he noticed the cheerleaders edging the track, he knew where she would be and marched over.
He cocked a brow as the girls began chanting in time with their moves. Sure enough, directly in front of them in the stands stood Ariana with camera in hand, snapping away pictures. She was wearing a dark blazer over a cream top, giving the same curtaining affect her jet black hair lent to the light skin of her face. She noticed him and lowered the camera, revealing a scowl. She sat down on the stands, digging around in her bag for another roll of film as he walked across the bleachers to stand before her. He felt the fear that had allowed him to track her fade, predictably shifting to anger. He glanced to the sky as if to ask for aid in dealing with the teenager and the temper she had inherited from her true mother.
"How'd you find me?" she asked briskly.
Varrick couldn't help but let out a gruff laugh. "You're the only teenager I know that sneaks out of the house to come back to school after hours." He didnt bother to add that her fear of getting caught sneaking out served as a sort of honing beacon for him, allowing him to track her as long as they were on the same world. If she was scared, he would be able to find her. Fortunately for him, Ariana was a goody-two-shoes at heart and always scared of getting busted when she did something wrong. It had caused more than a few false alarms in her teenage years. Her twin sister, on the other hand, was on the opposite end of the spectrum. Zelene was too brave for her own good, rarely feeling real fear even when she was actually in trouble.
Needless to say, being Cyneward to the twins was a bigger job than he had imagined when he was called.
"Well," she said as she zipped her camera bag closed with a little too much force, "maybe I wouldn't have to sneak out if my freak show parents would loosen the reigns just a bit."
"I understand that you're mad at them—“
Her deep set lavender eyes snapped up to his. "They told you? Good. Now maybe you'll understand why I hate them so much."
He sighed, suppressing a groan as he took a seat on the stands beside her. He pulled off his sunglasses, revealing a set of Caribbean blue eyes that were both impatient and understanding at the same time. "Look, Ariana—“
"No," she interrupted, "you look! I have worked my butt off for the past four years so that I could get into a good college. A really good college, Varrick. Like NYU or UCLA. And now they aren't even going to let me apply! How unfair is that! I'm getting ready to turn eighteen and they think they can rule my life once I'm an adult! I hate them!"
He placed a calming hand on her shoulder. "No, you don't."


  1. I love your query and the first page. sets up your story quite well!

    These are just the thoughts of a minion.

    "getting caught sneaking out served" (I would delete sneaking out, seems redundant)

    "If she was scared, he would be able to find her." (Maybe a sentence about how any extreme emotion would give him the ability to track her)

  2. Hi Mara! Fellow minion here.
    Okay so I think the fear as "radio collar signal" idea is super cool. I also like that you start us out in a normalish, non-life threatening scene - I always wonder how any book can maintain the life or death level of excitement if they start out at peak intensity. And I like that she's a photographer-nice artsy sort of girl, my fave type of MC. She also has lavender eyes like my albinistic MC, Opal.
    What I saw as the major issue was the tendency to repeat or express redundant ideas, or to add words that really aren't needed. This tends to slow pace.
    Some examples- dark sunglasses, camera in hand, snapping away pictures (could just say taking photos), her fear of getting caught sneaking out served as a sort of honing beacon for him, allowing him to track her as long as they were on the same world. If she was scared, he would be able to find her (these 2 sentences say pretty much the same thing)
    Also and this is minor but I've heard it complained about by agents - no need to describe eye color right off, and describing both characters' eye color on page 1 is probably not a good idea-we can wait to learn these things.
    And one more even more minor point-reigns s/b reins
    But overall great job! Good luck!

  3. Hi Mara. First thing I'll point out is your first sentence is in the passive voice. I'd highly advice rewording this into the active voice especially since it's your introductory sentence. Also so some action like him pushing past all the kids. This help show his frustration instead of you telling us he's frustrated. In general, take a second look as the word was and whenever possible replace it. This will help you avoid passive voice.

    In the third paragraph, take a look at your use of initial pronouns and try to vary the way you start your sentences. Also try to avoid what I like to call telling words. Curiosity Quills has a post with a short list of words to try and weed out of your ms. That doesn't mean you can ever use them but the old adage show don't tell is always a good rule of thumb. http://curiosityquills.com/weak-words-to-seach-for-while-editing/

    A good start all and all.

    1. Thank you for this advice! I love the idea of him pushing past kids and decided to mesh your idea with the other advice on Varrick. The link you gave might be the inspiration for another round of edits on this MS. :) I posted a new version of the first page and would love to get your thoughts on it.

  4. Good set up. My advice is start with, "How'd you find me?" It sets up the action from the first. Then shuffle the other part later. Good beginning!

    1. I like the idea of starting off with a bit more action, but I decided against working the scene from "How'd you find me?". Mainly because I like being in Varrick's head and getting his POV on Ariana tells the reader a lot more about the situation. I started off with something different that I am toying with in my new draft.

  5. It's so easy to write in passive voice without even realizing it. I've commented on others before and then been called on the carpet for the same thing. Yikes!

    I'm very timid in offering my critiques, but I will say you have a very good beginning first page.

  6. Very interesting. I think you have talent at establishing relationships between characters, something you showcase very well in his passage. That being said, given the way you worded your query, I'm intrigued by your decision to start the novel from Varrick's POV. Obviously you made this choice for a reason, but I wonder whether you might establish more tension by starting from Zelene's perspective?

    I do second Dawna's point about using behavior when possible to show us information about characters, like having Varrick push past some students. One neat scene would be to have some musclehead start to push back, see the look on Varrick's face, and then back off really fast.

    1. It's funny because I had no idea that I was establishing this pattern until after I wrote it, but I usually begin the introductory chapters of each girl with a different character's POV (usually their Cyneward). Getting to see them through another character's eyes is a lot more telling, I think. I LOVE the idea of having Varrick startle some jock and used it in my new draft. Let me know what you think! And thank you for this!

  7. Cool story. I like how the characters act especially the Ariana acts like a real teenager.

  8. Mara,

    My blog was given an award and I am passing it on to you (and ten other blogs).

    Go to whyawrite.com to read about it. You don't have to do anything, but if you want, you can answer the 11 questions on your own blog and recommend another 11 blogs. You can also copy and paste the "Liebster" award from my blog and paste it onto your own.

    That's it. No prize money or anything. Just some "props" for having a nice bog.

    Craig Schmidt

  9. A decent first page, but as others said, the writing is passive and from your query, this story is anything but passive :) There is a bit of redundancy, but I think you can take care of it very quickly and painlessly. Overall, great voice and good start!