I hope you all had a good vacation. Because it's time for another First Impact Critique, where we take a look at your queries, first pages, back cover copy, etc. You want to make an impact right from the start. We're here to help you do that.

If you'd like to submit your first impact material, send it to Details here.

Remember, anyone who offers their comments this month is eligible for either $10 for Amazon or B&N OR a 20-page critique from me.

This week we have the first page of a YA urban fantasy from Clarissa. My inline comments are to the side, with overall thoughts at the end. As always, this is all just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

First Page
The highlighted bit is a little vague
for me, but okay. I'm curious who
thinks bloodshed is a good thing.

2nd sentence is a bit awkward.
After-hours at the lakefront carnival was a perfect place for bloodshed, especially the kind saddled with revenge. As an assassin of daemonic creatures, Aleera Merrick knew that fun fact all too well considering the shoreline was where she found plenty of her victims and even dumped them in the very handy Lake Michigan. Plus, the high rides and skyscrapers were great stakeout points. 

Isn't a lager a kind of beer?

The longish, awkward sentences are
starting to get to me.
It was past the pier’s midnight closing hour, but teenage lagers in their drunken stumbles were taking forever to leave the grounds. She could hear their hoots and slurred tongues along with the wasted giggles and sloppy kisses of insecure girls. They didn’t see Aleera of course; but the eeriness her mere presence exuded could put more pep in their steps than any vicious canine. She supposed it was wrong, but even after decades of looking like a youngster fresh out of school, abusing her abilities was a habit no rehab could ever break. 

I like these two highlighted lines.
And abuse them she did. Her exhale was the prickly sensations bouncing across their necks. Her intense gray stare burning cracks in their backs was the feeling of a predator on prey. The dark whispers melting from her lips were the voices inside their heads. Like the devilish ones that tell long-face men to kill, kill, kill their loved ones in disgusting ways…but Aleera vowed to never go that far.

And just like that they were gone. 

If she wasn’t careful she could drive folks mad. The extent of her power tugged slyness at her lips. Mundane humans never changed. They would always be so easy to manipulate. It was in their nature; Adam and Eve were proof enough. That’s precisely why she had to protect them from creatures like to her…the untamed ones.

Adam's Thoughts
I don't think I really got into this until the third paragraph. And I think the reason is that there's a lot of thinking and telling here, but the third paragraph is where we really get to see what Aleera can do. And it's awesome and it's creepy.

Not that you can't ever tell. Sometimes that's just what you gotta do. But it'll draw the reader in more if she's doing something, and if we can learn about her through what she does.

I think this is why people say you should start with action. Not because you need exciting openings with explosions, but because we want to do something with the character, rather than read her thoughts.

And it does seem like a fascinating world. Aleera is an intriguing anti-hero, and I'm curious what shakes up her world.

So, what do the rest of you guys think?


Matthew MacNish said...

Before I dig any deeper, I just want to say: awesome title!

Matthew MacNish said...

A couple things that stand out to me on my first read through:

"high rides" as stakeout points? That seems a little off. Do you mean she climbs the ride without actually riding it? Because riding the ride seems like a tough way to surveil someone.

I've never heard "lager" describe a person either. I tried to look it up, but only found beers, or a camp defended by a circular formation of wagons.

"feeling of predator on prey" sounds weird. Which feeling do you mean? When the prey is being stalked, or when the predator has just finally sunk its claws into the prey?

Other than that, there are some moments of great writing here. I agree with Adam that the third paragraph is where this really starts to hit its stride.

I do often wonder about these paranormal protagonists. If the demon/fallen-angel/vamp is hundreds of years old, and just looks like a teenager, is that really YA?

Anyway, labels are for the marketing gurus, and overall I think you've got something good here. You just need to tweak it a little.

Deniz Bevan said...

Good critique, Adam and Matthew. Now I'm wondering about lager too... I like the possibilities in this story though. The untamed ones, ooh!

Sarah Ahiers said...

I do think the telling pulled me out of the narrative some. Especially these lines:

an assassin of daemonic creatures

even after decades of looking like a youngster fresh out of school

I'd rather see interactions with other characters, or action, where this information could fall more naturally as opposed to you just coming out and telling us right away. I think there's enough tension here that you can hold this info away from the readers for awhile. I don't need to know why she's hunting, i just need to know that she is. If that makes sense.

Mandy P.S. said...

I think this is an interesting setup. I'm left wondering what Aleera's story is. Was she born whatever she is or did she become it? So I would probably keep reading further.

However, I agree with Adam that the first few paragraphs were a little awkward.

The sentence "And just like that they were gone" left me a little confused. I didn't know which "they" you were referring to. What are gone? Her whispers? The teenagers?

I like the reference to "untamed ones", though it makes me wonder if Aleera is "tamed" and how she feels about that.

I really think you're setting up a nice dark and creepy vibe. It just needs a little tightening.

KayC said...

I get the lager - as in to lag behind. Perhaps it's 'lagger'?

I felt like the first two paragraphs were too telling. I'd prefer to have her stalking her prey and making these observations as she went.

I agree with Adam's two highlighted sentences in the third paragraph - great imagery. But the rest came across as overdone. It made for heavy reading. Not every sentence needs to have a clever twist.

Some sentences aren't needed at all - for example - 'the extent of her power tugged slyness at her lips' is telling us her power is great. I've already ascertained this and don't need you to spell it out for me.

Overall, I love the concept here and think with a bit of tweaking you could have a great story.

Matthew MacNish said...

Oh wow. I bet it is lagger. Can't believe I didn't think of that.