Monday, April 25, 2011

First Page Shooter #3

Word Count: approx 60,000 words
Genre: YA

Original
Killing someone's easier than you think. All it takes is decision, aim, and follow through. Like basketball, only you shouldn't expect people to leap to their feet and cheer if you hit the free throw.

The whole thing's a done deal in a matter of seconds.

Revenge, on the other hand, and I mean real, calculated, make-him-sorry-he-was ever-born vengeance, takes time and planning and patience. You have to smile when you want to scream. You have to look your target in the eye when you'd rather claw his eyes out. And you have to ignore the slow spreading burn in your gut until it turns to ice, and sets your resolve so completely, you can't turn away without splintering.

Do it right, and their blood will be on their own hands. Just another tragic teen suicide that ends up buried on the back of page three and gets a memorial sheet in the school annual. Lots of flowers and stuffed animals and card collages stuck to the door. Pretty words and puffy, red-rimmed eyes from people who will question "why", but don't actually look hard enough to find out.

No matter how messy it gets, or how much blood's involved, suicide's a clean kill. And any hunter can tell you that clean kills are what you want. Though any scenario that ends with Brooks Walden in a mangled heap works for me.

*******


With Suzie's Critique

Killing someone's easier than you think. All it takes is decision, aim, and follow through. Like basketball, only you shouldn't expect people to leap to their feet and cheer if you hit the free throw.

Wow. This first line totally makes me sit up and pay attention. It's short, concise, and a little shocking. In just one line, I'm interested in the character, and I'm also wondering a little about myself--would killing someone be easier than I'd think. (Morbid, I know).


While I like the decision, aim, follow through aspect of the basketball comparison, I'm a little thrown by it. The transition wasn't quite what I expected.  I think it works, but contingent on the character. If this character plays or really likes basketball it works. If not...then maybe not.  In other words if basketball is somehow important to the story, then I like it, if it's just there for comparison's sake, there might be a better comparison to have. Or we might not need a comparison at all. I can tell after reading the next few paragraphs, our narrator has definitely thought things through. I'd believe it without a comparison.

The whole thing's a done deal in a matter of seconds.

Love this line! It's powerful, and it's a little scary.

Revenge, on the other hand, and I mean real, calculated, make-him-sorry-he-was ever-born vengeance, takes time and planning and patience. You have to smile when you want to scream. You have to look your target in the eye when you'd rather claw his eyes out. And you have to ignore the slow spreading burn in your gut until it turns to ice, and sets your resolve so completely, you can't turn away without splintering.

I was interested before, but this is the paragraph that really gets me. This is paragraph where the voice stands up off the page. It also implies some great details about the character(s) and the conflict. Our speaker for instance is probably a girl (guys don't typically claw each other's eyes out) and she's about to tell us a revenge story--revenge on a boy (make him sorry he was ever born). She's smart, tough, calculating, and maybe a little crazy--but I want to follow her and find out what this guy did and how this revenge plan goes.

Do it right, and their blood will be on their own hands. Just another tragic teen suicide that ends up buried on the back of page three and gets with a memorial sheet in the school annual. Lots of flowers and stuffed animals and card collages stuck to the door. Pretty words and puffy, red-rimmed eyes from people who will question "why", but don't actually look hard enough to find out.

The bitterness here! Our character definitely has a backstory, and I want to know what happened to her to make her this jaded. I crossed out a few words to just tighten the sentences, and crossed out the last "will" to match the tense of the rest of the sentence and most of the paragraph.

No matter how messy it gets, or how much blood's involved, suicide's a clean kill. And any hunter can tell you that clean kills are what you want. Though any scenario that ends with Brooks Walden in a mangled heap works for me.

If this was the last line on a page, I would definitely turn to the next page and read more. I love that we have a name to our target--and potentially our antagonist. And of course I love that his name is Brooks. (All Brooks' are a little evil, right?) But the image of this guy in a mangled heap has definitely caught my interest. Again, the comparison to a hunter works, but I'm wondering if "hunting" Brooks Walden is going to come up consistently, and I think it works best if that's the case. But again, I think it could actually be taken out, just "And clean kills are what you want" gets the point across.


Also my final thoughts have more to do with what comes next. Because these first 250 words are totally me.  I kind of love them--okay, I do love them--but the biggest thing this author has to be careful of is the likability of the protagonist.  If this story is about getting revenge on Brooks Walden and making him wish he was dead --or worse--our protagonist is a little bit of an anti hero. The author is going to be flirting with a fine line when it comes to likability. If our protagonist's motives for vengeance aren't severe enough, we aren't going to want to follow her.  In other words, Brooks has to be just plain awful, in order for us to root for the right person--at least in the beginning.


As an agent, I would totally without hesitation request this manuscript based on these pages. As a reader and book buyer, I would definitely turn the page.

71 comments:

S. Kyle Davis said...

Umm... yeah. What she said. Just... wow.

Josh said...

Very nicely done. Keep this series going! It's good to see so much talent and inspires up-and-comers like myself to step up our game.

Lenore said...

Love it!

Lynn(e) said...

yea, hi. i want to read this novel. this sounds awesome.

i loved the basketball compairison. (and i can't spell, sorry!)

Patty Blount said...

By the second paragraph, I was suffering sentence envy. This is awesome.

CNHolmberg said...

Yeah, this is a great first page!

J.S. Wood said...

The opening line hooked me and I'd buy it, just to see where it goes. The voice is great. I already dislike Brooks and I'm hoping he gets his. I want to know what he did to the MC and am imagining all sorts of bad things.

Jeff King said...

I'm in... Plus I want to find out how this person became such a good killer; right there you have an intriguing story. I can't wait to find out what this dude did, and how he gets it in the end.

Hopefully she doesn’t fall in love with the boy and ends up with him rather than killing him. That ending would suck.

If that book was on the self, and I read that opening page, it would be sold.

Jodi R. said...

FTW! I would buy this too. It's so well crafted and established that I completely trust the concerns Suzie mentions will be addressed beautifully.

I was a bit concerned after reading the clean version that it would be torn apart - I really didn't want it to be!

Well done author. Lovely critique Suzie. Thank you!

Jodi R.

Zan Marie said...

Wow. This is good and I usually don't like second POV, but this works. Lovely tension and the hook (or hook shot ; ) is really well set already. Yes, I'd turn the page.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Wow, Suzie! Thank you so much. :-)

I have question about the basketball analogy. It's a habit she picked up from her dad, who makes (sometimes not-so-great) sports analogies.

I had thought of putting in an aside along the lines of: "You can blame my dad for the cheesy sports analogies; they're his native tongue." But I was afraid the tone shift would wreck the opening.

Do you think, in that case, it would be better to ditch her use of it and bump the "done deal" sentence up to directly after the opening one?

KO: The Insect Collector said...

Woot! Great to see an example of what works!

The REALLY Real Curious Crow said...

SO want to read it! Great work!

skwilliams said...

I agree that this is excellent writing and the author definitely has a great voice, but I'm a little too freaked out to want to read more. Maybe it's because of all the suicides in the news that are a result of bullying, but I'm picturing the character as getting her revenge by making Brooks life a living hell, and I just can't like a character who would deliberately make anyone hate himself enough to want to end his life. I guess I'm just not into anti-heroes?

lac582 said...

I don't read a lot of YA, but I liked this. As far as the basketball comment, in my personal opinion I don't think it needs to be 'explained' at the point of usage, as long as it's something true to character as the story develops. I agree with your instinct about the tone.

S.P. Bowers said...

Knew it was your entry Josin! Excellent beginning.

gabe-lindsey said...

Great first page! I knew right away this was Josin's because I've been stalking, oops I mean following, her around the internet. Awesome job!

Jodi R. said...

Also - glad to know everyone else has been stalking this blog, just waiting for the next one to go up!

Question - is this second POV, as someone noted above? I missed that if it was.

Jodi R.

Miranda White said...

Ooo, I've wanted to read this since the query appeared on Query Shark, but now I want to read it even more!

Good luck, Josin! :)

Josin L. McQuein said...

@ Jodi R -

Dinah's intro is in 2nd because she's addressing the reader. It transitions into 1st at the "Though any scenario..." point.

Melinda said...

I don't think this is second POV...it appears to be first person to me. Sure she uses the word "you" but that's just the way she talks. It's not a direct "You do this, you do that" as it would be in second.

At least...that's my take on it.

To the author...well done!

Bryce Daniels said...

Great job, Josin! I'm not a YA fan, but this makes me wanna buy a ticket to the concert!

Elizabeth May said...

Josin, is this yours? I'm in awe! It's bloody amazing!

lac582 said...

Agree with Melinda, this is not second person POV, because the reader is not the point-of-view character. It's first person--we are clearly in someone else's head. The narrator just happens to be using 'you' in the general sense.

suzie townsend said...

@Josin--Based on your explanation, the basketball comparison works. (I admit, I was looking for things to pick apart here). My main concern was that the comparison was the main character's voice and not "the author" stepping in to make a comparison. I love that you have a reason why she makes these comparisons, and I agree, the explanation can come later.

Mike Koch - Protect The Risen said...

I liked it as well, it has a good voice. Can't say much else about the book, but still leaves a person a tad bit curious. Maybe this first passage and the info on the back of the book would be enough to sell it. If it truly is about calculated revenge then I'm game.

Berinn said...

Josin - Freakin' amazing first page. So glad you shared and so glad Suzie critted it.

Stephsco said...

Interesting concept and voice. It's refreshing to know this would get a full request even with some grammatical adjustments; the idea is strong enough. It reads as if it has been edited a few times and tightened up - definitely not a first draft. I'm so glad to see an example of a GOOD submission; on the query sites I feel like it is frequently what the writer has done wrong.

Thank you for the critique, it is helping so many of us in our own writing!

Anne R. Allen said...

I loved this! I'm so glad you did too. I've been in workshops where writers were faulted for not anchoring the reader in a scene with action going on in the first paragraph. Personally, I'd rather be in the protagonist's head like this than bombarded by action and sensory information at the beginning. I'm glad you consider that OK.

Donea Lee said...

Suzie, I agree. There is definitely a shock factor here that would make me want to turn the page and read on. Josin - GREAT job! :)

Angie said...

Love this, Josin! Great job with the voice, and I actually really love the basketball comparison. I like the power of the line that follows in the second paragraph, but it felt a little bit like it broke up the comparison too much and it threw me off. Other than that, I love everything about this. Great job! :)

Matthew MacNish said...

There is nothing quite as useful as a real world example of what works, along with an analysis of WHY.

Also, Josin rules.

RaeLynn Fry said...

I'm sold on this one. Seriously.

Delia Moran said...

Darn it, Josin! I knew it was you. You are killing this thing. Great job.

Beth said...

The first thing I noticed was the voice. It's terrific.

The paragraph about making the kill look like suicide gave me pause. I found my sympathies shifting toward Brooks and away from the MC. At this point she's starting to sound not only obsessed, but evil.

I'd like to know just what Brooks did to inspire such hate. Though even if it's something really, really bad, I'm not sure I could get behind a character bent on premeditated murder. But I'd turn the page, and that's what you want in a reader. Congratulations on a compelling start.

Jodi R. said...

Speaking of premeditated murder masquerading as teen suicide - see the movie "Heathers."

Their victims weren't even really that bad - just popular a-hole types. And yet I had no problem getting behind the main characters (more or less), so I'm sure I'd have no problem getting behind the character getting old Brooks, who sounds like he's really evil!

Josin L. McQuein said...

:-D
"Heathers" actually gets a mention in the MS thanks to one of the MC's friends/co-conspirators.


"So help me, if you start quoting Heathers again, I will leave you here."

"Hey! Do not mock the cinematic classics."

Jodi R. said...

That's soooo very.

Cinematic classic, indeed! Woot!

WriterGirl said...

I would buy this book if it was on the shelves after reading that first page. In fact I'm dying to read it!

earth said...

Beautiful. I read it through without a break and I want to keep reading. You've captured the voice of the MC and hooked me in completely. Really good.

Beth said...

I just realized...this is query #192 on Query Shark, isn't it?

I thought that was one of the best queries I've ever read. Maybe THE best.

Vivian said...

I would absolutely read this book. GREAT opening.

Vivian said...

Love this opening, and I would absolutely read this book (and I never read YA).

Kristy Marie Feltenberger Gillespie said...

Love the basketball analogy- please keep that! I was also relieved that this first page wasn't butchered because it's amazing and I'll definitely buy this book!

Melissa said...

This. Is. Awesome.

Violet Ingram said...

OMG I don't normally comment but I had to after reading this entry. I love it and would buy the book. You'll have to keep us posted so we can rush out and buy it when it becomes available.

Nancy Thompson said...

I love this first page but have a question for you, Suzie. Since we learn what the conflict & story is all on the first page, it reads as a foreshadowing of all the forthcoming events. In this case, is it acceptable to call this chapter one instead of the dreaded prologue which, today, seems so out of fashion. I ask because my own novel, also a revenge story, though for adults, starts out in a similar, if less violent way. And I'm calling it chapter one.

Bane of Anubis said...

What if the free throw shooter's Chris Dudley? :)... The flow and voice are superb, but the couple of opening paragraphs almost make me think she's killed before, which maybe she has...

Love revenge stories and the angle, though definitely want to see some of her motivation soon to justify her hostility.

Donna Weaver said...

Lots to think about.

Josin L. McQuein said...

@Nancy Thompson

This isn't a prologue; it's the first page of Chapter One. The story doesn't have a prologue.

Katherine Tomlinson said...

A fantastic first sentence, a great first paragraph, a terrific query. Accomplished and assured and just riveting. I want to read this book. And anything else the author has written.

C. K. Bryant said...

What a great query letter. I'd read the book.

Sarah Laurenson said...

The voice is amazing - leaps off the page. Excellent job!

Noree Cosper said...

This is amazing. I don't read YA fiction but I would definitely read this. Of course, You hooked me with that query on Queryshark.

arbor16 said...

Yeah, I hope mine is not next!

Jessi Grieser said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J.S. Schley said...

Awesome job, Josin! I recognized this book instantly. Love love love your protag's voice.

Kristi said...

Wow. Great voice.
I agree the only roadblock would be making her justified in feeling this way about Brooks ...

Brooks said...

Great job, Josin! You have a fantastic voice and a compelling opening. All the same, I do wish that everyone here would stop hating on Brooks -- I'm sure he had his reasons.

suzie townsend said...

@Nancy--I think a set up like this (something that might have been a prologue once upon a time) is totally fine as the beginning of chapter one.

The trick with a set up like this (which Josin does really well here) is you want it to be intriguing and concise.

Monika said...

Okay, I want to read this book! When is it coming out?

T.L. Bodine said...

Recognized this from the query immediately :) Definitely looking forward to seeing this get picked up somewhere.

Claire Dawn said...

This snippet is going to have me looking over my shoulder for a long, long time.

Hope this get published soon, because I can't wait to read it.

Jodi R. said...

So I'm curious - this story's a slam dunk as a one page shooter, a slam dunk at query shark - is it on the way to being repped/published? (None of my business, I know, but it's one of those things where I'm saying to myself, "Why the hell ISN'T this published then?"
Jodi R.

Taymalin said...

I'm with you Jodi. I want this book. I love antiheroes, so it's right up my ally, and from the query, I know she has a good enough reason to kill him.

Want!

Marsha Sigman said...

This blows me away.

Now that I've had a few moments to beat back my extreme jealousy, I'm really curious to see who ends up representing Josin.

Jo-Ann said...

Good job!
So, Josin, when are you going to send this off to an agent? I wanna hear about a bidding war for this book. If the pace and tone keeps up, this will sell.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Originally you were going to avoid critting the perfect first 250 words. I'm glad you changed your mind. While I was reading it, all I could think of was: "what the hell is wrong with this?" Phew, nothing.

Good luck, Josin. I, like everyone, am hooked.

Fanfreakingtastic Flower said...

Josin - props to you. I loved the query, and I love this first page. Straight up, I think it's the best sample I've ever read anywhere.

If the rest of the manuscript keeps up with the first page you are definitely sitting pretty.

The Pen and Ink Blog said...

Gives new meaning to the word "arresting".

esss said...

You seem to be more practicable! keep up the good work! This page was exactly what i have been looking for!
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Five Random Things About Suzie

1. I drink so much orange soda, it's probably running through my veins. I've been known to go through a twelve pack of diet sunkist in a day.

2. I'm legitimately nocturnal (or a vampire). I will be so exhausted at two pm that I'm falling asleep standing up - it has happened before, at Six Flags no less - but as soon as the sun goes down I'm wide awake.

3. I have a gorgeous unused $6000 Reem Acra wedding dress hanging in my closet, and it showed up on my doorstep the same day my (now ex) fiance broke up with me. And thank God for that. I wouldn't have wanted to waste that dress on him.

4. Social anxiety plagues me daily. I write a script and practice in front of the mirror when I have to make a phone call, but most people who interact with me have no idea how nervous I am (or perhaps they lie) because I've worked so hard to try to overcome it.

5. I'm actually worried that I will never love my children (when I do have them in the far off future) as much as I love my dogs. I just like animals better than people - they're sweet and innocent and soft and furry - is that so wrong?