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 black comedy. 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
As I stared at the two little blue lines, my grandpa’s words from a few months before echoed in my head. Doped up and pregnant.

I think adrenaline is produced in the
brain. And it actually enhances your
The memory is a blur thanks to the massive dose of adrenaline my heart shot out when I asked to live with him while working at his competitor’s restaurant. I only remember snippets of conversation and images, like the half deer carcass over his shoulder.

No granddaughter of mine

The cleaver, gleaming in the afternoon sun as he lifted it above his head.

Forty years I’ve run this resort. I know what goes on.

His grey eyes boring into me from over his half moon glasses.

You’ll end up doped up and pregnant, just like all those other poor innocent small town girls

The cleaver again, this time coming down between ribs with a heavy thunk.

Looking at those blue lines,
I could feel adrenaline clouding my thoughts again. Two lines, I thought. Two beings, one body. Me and my baby. My fetus. My... embryo? Whatever. Two. One too many to prove my grandfather wrong.

I'm having trouble parsing this

I like the end line.
I sat down on my creaky twin bed, standard issue in the 50s motel now home to Bear Claw Brewhouse employees, and lit up the joint my roommate rolled for me. If I was going to fail, I was going to fail all the way.

Adam's Thoughts
There's a lot of good stuff here. There's some nice voice and a so-far-compelling character. I like how you intertwined her grandfather's words with his actions in the flashback. This feels like a good start to me.

Be careful you don't over-explain why you're doing things. You don't need to explain that her memory is blurred and in snippets in order to introduce that particular flashback. Most of the time, you can just jump into it. Keep things tight and snappy.

And I know the adrenaline thing is really nitpicky, but that's the kind of thing that can either gain or lose the reader's trust. You have to have the reader's trust, and it starts with the small details. You don't have to research every little thing (I mean, I do, but I'm slow and obsessive), but do get good critique partners who can catch this kind of thing. It's one thing we nerds are good at :-)

How do the rest of you feel about this opening?


Steve MC said...

Really like the title, and the images of the grandfather that describe him well.

I'd cut "Doped up and pregnant" from the first paragraph and let the story reveal what he said and how it connects to now.

I'd also cut the adrenaline line 'cause it's awkward. Might be better to say something like, "The memory is a blur thanks to the rack of beer it'd taken to get up my nerve to ask him..."

And if 50s means 1950s, it should be '50s.

Daniel Smith said...

I like the title too but I had trouble parsing it. I think it's because the symmetry is off: Lost-and-Found is 3 syllables, and at-the are 2 syllables in the middle, but Bear-Claw-Brewhouse is 4. 3-2-4 is unbalanced. Say, "Lost and Found at the Bear Brewhouse" out loud. 3-2-3. Or even, "Lost and Found at the Bear County Brewhouse" 3-2-3-2. If you can tweak the title to one of these patterns (balanced or even-numbered), it will be more memorable.

The clause Adam is having trouble parsing is correct for how we say it in the south but in writing, it's missing "the" or "which is" at the beginning to indicate it is a clause. I believe 'independent clause' is the correct language arts term. If I were writing that sentence I would have used hyphens before and after instead of commas because it interrupts the beginning and ending of the sentence it's embedded within but it's a clunky structure.

That sentence has another problem too: You're attempting to overlap two thoughts connected with the motel but the sentence structure cannot overlap. Your bed is in a "room" in the '50s motel while the "motel" as a whole refers to the residence of the employees. It's a subtle jump that most people can follow, but it doesn't logically follow.

For clarity and logic, you should separate these two thoughts. As a general rule, go from global to specific. How about...

"The '50s motel was now home to all Bear Claw Brewhouse employees. I sat down on my creaky twin bed and lit up the joint my roommate rolled for me. If I was going to fail, I was going to fail all the way."

Global to specific, the motel to you in your room.

Bottom line: It's subtly compelling and leaves me wanting to read a little further.

Matthew MacNish said...

No author?

Adam Heine said...

The author wishes to remain anonymous.

Matthew MacNish said...

Got it. I only have one question - what are these blue lines? I would read on just to find that out, but you better get to it soon.

Otherwise, all nits have been picked.

MattyDub said...

Adrenaline is produced by the adrenal glands. FYI.

K Callard said...

Matthew MacNish, the blue lines are the ones on the pregnancy test. I had to read it 3 or 4 times before I realized what it was.

Author, I like what you're trying to do, but found it a bit hard to follow with Grandpa's italicized words and the action flashbacks, and then right back into the present.

It just seemed a bit convoluted.

Good luck.

KayC said...

I got a great visual swapping between the grandfather's actions and words. Being a country gal, I could really see the deer over his shoulder and the cleaver thudding into the wooden block.

I think if you set the scene the initial scene correctly (and I liked maine's version of the opening - with an addiction of your choice) you don't need 'I only remember snippets of the conversation' - you've already told us the memory was a blur, you don't need to reinforce it.

I scratched my head with the blue lines too - so you might need to make that clearer. You can probably do away with the first reference to the blue lines all together (repetition again) and just make the second reference clearer.

For me, I also found too many references to two, baby, fetus, embryo, whatever, two. I got the idea after the first couple. I did like the 'one too many to prove my grandfather wrong'

Daniel's take on your last paragraph was much smoother.

Overall, I like the voice in this and think, with a little tweaking, it has the potential to be great.