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This week we have the first page for THE FIRE LOTUS, the YA urban fantasy from Renee Ahdieh, whose query we critiqued last week. My overall thoughts are at the end. As always, this is all just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.
The storm was closing in on the family of five.
|Not sure why this paragraph is|
separated from the previous one.
“Hurry! Wrap everything up!” the mother urged.
|I'm used to YA being 3rd-person|
limited, so this detached viewpoint
“Please, don’t throw away the silverware, Jia!”
“I won’t, Mom!” Jia yelled. Under her breath, she added, “Chill out,”
“Where’s your brother?”
Jia shrugged and started lugging a cooler towards the parking lot. Droplets of rain began to splash on the hot asphalt. Wisps of coiling steam rose in their wake.
|Tolls? The thunder?|
“Quick! Use ‘ominous’ in a sentence!” Jia joked to her sister Minar.
“Such a Nerd Queen. Help me with this friggin’ basket or I will go ominous on you.”
“Yeah, not quite, Mini. It just lacks that sense of impending doom,” Jia said with a chuckle. “By the way, have you seen Daniel?”
“I saw him a few minutes ago; behind that big tree over there. He was still practicing with his bow and arrows.”
Jia sighed and held up her right fist. Minar mirrored the gesture without a word.
One, two, three . . . shoot.
Minar’s rock smashed with triumph into Jia’s scissors.
“Yeah, buddy. I guess fortune does favor the—what was it? The bold?” Minar teased.
|Mirth, even though she lost?|
Mindful of their mother’s ever-watchful gaze, Jia quickly gave her twin the finger before traipsing the distance to the large oak tree.
For me, the main problem I have here is I don't feel connected to Jia at all. I think you did a great job making the scene feel ominous (and I think I like that you even lampshade it in the dialog (warning: TV Tropes link)), and I thought the dialog between Jia and Minar was fun. But I didn't understand why Jia was so flippant about a threatening situation.
For me, part of the problem is understanding what point of view we're in. I'm used to YA being 3rd person limited, meaning we get focused attention on one character's thoughts and feelings. That doesn't mean you have to do it that way, of course, but for me, it's a little jarring that the narrator clearly feels the scene is ominous, but Jia doesn't. I kind of expect one or the other to mention that fact.
For example, if this were 3rd person limited, then we'd see the storm from Jia's point of view. Stuff along the lines of, "In the distance, a grumble of thunder gave a final warning. Jia snorted in reply."
If it were 3rd person omniscient, however, I'd expect the narrator to point out the fact that Jia either didn't know or didn't care about the threat. Something like, "Jia shrugged and started lugging a cooler towards the parking lot, oblivious to the looming storm."
So that's my advice: be aware of what POV you're using and who your narrator is (whether omniscient or in Jia's head). There's a lot of fun writing here, but foundational things like that can lost your reader's trust.
What do the rest of you guys think?