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First Page: YA Paranormal Romance

Welcome to First Page Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously.

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As Cindy turns the car sharply around the corner, the force presses me against the window.  The speed demon can’t seem to slow down during curves.  It is fortunate for me that she likes to drive.  In the past three months, I am over the initial fun of stealing cars and quick getaways.  We pass the Johnsons store and the row of fast food restaurants a third time before taking a sharp right on main street.  The window feels cool as gravity plasters my cheek against it. We see no zombies and that means this time, we stop for gas.  Avoiding the slow ass zombies is easy, but the hard part is getting the damn gas out of the pumps.  What all movies fail to put in reality is that you must pay to pump.  Without that stupid credit card swipe, you may as well lie down with bottles of ketchup and mustard as the zombies approach.

 “It’s your turn.”

“Crap, I know.”

Slowing the car, she turns the wheel as the vehicle glides smoothly to a stop by the pumps.  I look out of my side of the car, cranking my neck to ensure this half of the area shows no approaching doom.  As I look to Cindy and receive her nod, I start chanting, “Go away, come again some other day.”  It is the old school rhyme about rain I butcher to repeat just the seven words.  Oddly, I find it comforting like when my little sis would bring her pillow everywhere when she was a toddler.  Cindy says the chanting is our good luck charm with ten gas tank refills, the car trunk full of gas station snacks, and no attacks.  At the fifth repeat of my rhyme, I grip the cold metal of my aluminum bat from its resting spot on floorboard and open my door.  I scoot out of my seat and stand with my back against the small car I borrowed from Missouri.  My hands feel good tightening its grip around the bat as my rhyme fills the quiet air.  I stop, but only for a minute to listen for any sounds of shuffling feet.  Cindy, for all her crazy driving and her ideas of life now, is standing very still and should be listening too.

“What are you waiting for kid?”

Turning around I let my eyes glair at her before I walk over to the curb.  Glancing left, then right and now a three-sixty turn, my smile shows her we are good.  Noticeably the older woman relaxes her shoulders as she pulls her ‘emergency only’ credit card and swipes it through the pump.  I am not old enough to have multiple cards or even credit.  All I lived off the first two months of the new world is my debit card that had a healthy college fund cushion. The second fill up, after rescuing Cindy a month ago, brought my first decline.

This mini-mart is an open layout, makes my chanting turn into giggles.  A quick look and I see no movement.  Another odd fact about real zombies, they always keep moving by shuffling their feet.  I don’t know why that is since this is not a movie and I have no flashback scene to fill me in.  The automatic door opens as I step close, which will allow any zombies to walk away if they shuffle in the right direction.  A non-automatic door means anyone that died three months ago is now stuck inside.  A cold chill comes across me as I remember experiences in storerooms as a warning to keep my ass in the open.  The minimart is full of windows, leaving me with a clear view in and out of the store.  Walking to a window on the right, I peek in to see no bodies.  I skip over to the left side to confirm the same. My body turns for another three-sixty look to confirm the only movement is Cindy.  No excuses, time to go in.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

28 Comments

  1. Kate Sherwood
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 06:34:06

    You’ve got some nice details and the beginnings of an interesting voice for the piece. But you really need to work on the mechanics. An occasional punctuation or spelling error is understandable, but you have WAY too many. They interfere with my ability to read smoothly, and jar me away from your story.

    I think you’re also throwing a LOT at your readers in this page. It feels sort of frenetic, as if you’re trying to cram in every damn thing as quickly as possible. I know writers are advised to start with action, but this feels like too much. You’ve got back story, action, imagery, technical details, narrator’s commentary, characterization, etc. Ease off a bit, and try to work it all in more subtly, I’d say.

    I’m also not sure about your zombie world. I’m always a bit leery about critiquing world-building based on such a short excerpt; maybe you’ve got all this explained somewhere else. But it seems like the world’s under full-scale zombie attack, so I don’t really understand how the electricity is still working and the computers necessary for credit card transactions are online. I don’t see why a trunk-full of snacks would prove their credit card still worked – if they’re okay about taking cars, why wouldn’t they just take the snacks, too? And I don’t understand why the characters are ‘stealing’ cars – why not just take one and keep it, and would that really be stealing anyway, given the state of the world? As I said, you may have explanations for all this somewhere else, but with two separate comments about how this is ‘real life’ not a movie, I think you’re setting yourself up for people to expect some serious realism.

    You’re also kind of killing some of the suspense by saying “avoiding the slow-ass zombies is easy”. If the zombies aren’t dangerous, I’ve just lost a good chunk of my interest in the book.

    I’d recommend that you try to simplify, and really focus on maximum clarity and effectiveness for each sentence. Don’t try to cram too much into one page! And absolutely address the punctuation and spelling. Good luck with it!

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  2. Tamara Hogan
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 09:20:26

    I agree with all of Kate’s points. The other thing that struck me has to do with the point of view work.

    I perceive an odd sense of distance, of age, in the POV work that seems at odds with youth and YA. Despite the age cue of “What are you waiting for, kid?” I find the voice of the POV character to be quite adult. For me, at least part of this perception is because the POV character doesn’t seem to use contractions, even when she’s thinking: “I am” is used rather than “I’m”, “It is” rather than “it’s.” Her language and her observations seem quite formal to me. I wouldn’t have known that this was supposed to be a YA Paranormal without reading the blog heading. And that’s an issue that needs to be addressed during revisions.

    One of the benefits of writing in first person POV is that we, as writers, can provide the reader with intimate insight into a character’s physical reactions and emotions. How does she feel about what she’s about to do? What’s her body doing? Is her heart about to pound out of her chest? Do her fingers tingle around the bat? Is she sick to her stomach? the physical and emotional reactions you choose will help flesh out her (youthful) characterization, and ramp up the tension.

    Thanks for sharing this, and best of luck!

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  3. Tara Lynx
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 10:01:00

    In addition to what has already been said, Tamara’s comment made me realize something: we have no idea if they POV character is male or female. I read the whole page assuming he was a guy (couldn’t tell you why, it just struck me that way), but Tamara clearly read her as female. Maybe you could add a sentence early on where Cindy addresses him/her by name?

    I love this line: I don’t know why that is since this is not a movie and I have no flashback scene to fill me in.

    Thank you, and best of luck!

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  4. Lori
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 10:14:22

    It reads like a female retelling of Zombieland which just happens to be one of my favorite movies. Too similar for my comfort.

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  5. Author
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 11:54:24

    Well the female (giggled when looking in the minimart) MC is 19…not sure about the ‘An occasional punctuation or spelling error is understandable, but you have WAY too many’ since each word is spelled correctly. I caught a word used incorrectly, glair instead of glare. Besides this, what are the spelling mistakes? I’m not sure where you picked up about buying the snacks, only the realism that gas is locked unless you prepay or swipe a card. They are just taking snacks and not purchasing it. Same for the vehicle, they take/steal them.

    This was only three months after the majority of the world dropped dead before rising as zombies. If I leave my computer on for three months, it will keep working. I worked at an office where we performed a credit card transaction every other month and it still worked each time. The fact that the computers are working 3 months later is a realistic expectation. As to the power staying on, nuclear power can go 500 days between refueling. Hydropower in theory would never run out of a supply of the water.

    To the point about rushing into things, yes thank you, I can see that. I think I’ll back the story up 60+ miles to help ease the story into action and the info. Updating a line to be something like “Avoiding the zombies is not as hard as getting the damn gas out of the pumps”. That should help keep the ‘why bother reading’ out of the equation.

    The MC being 19 is on the verge of adulthood. Yes, she’s over the age of 18, yet there are still parts of her that automatically acts as her parents want her to act. One of the hardest parts about the book for me is if it is YA or Adult since the character is on the fence age wise.

    As to Zombieland, Dawn of the Dead, Resident Evil, etc, I assure you this book is not just zombie bashing and ass kicking. I’ve also already changed it a bit around to lessen the facts that were written only within the first chapter. I have a nice plot twist that keeps this from being another typical zombie story, and I appreciate everyone’s feedback, and hope I don’t sound too defensive.

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  6. Amanda Jeanette
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 11:59:28

    I would like to agree with what’s already been said and add:

    I feel like I wanted to be introduced to the narrator — even if just for a moment — before Cindy. This would’ve landed me nicely in their head and let me know this was told in first person. I flailed to orient myself for half a moment.

    I really feel like throughout this page we can be deeper in the narrator’s head, let their voice influence your diction and syntax — your style, basically. I’ve got their thoughts, but I feel like the character has been aged up 10 years to tell them to me instead of getting it as they tell it.

    All that said, I would read on. Your characters are round enough and interesting that I am invested in them. There is enough tension in this opening scene that I do want to know how it goes.

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  7. Kit Forbes
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 14:14:35

    I’m with Tamara. This has a very distanced, telling feel to it, especially when you use “as” and phrasing like “I let my eyes glare” or “My hands feel good”. The eyes and hands don’t have a mind of their own to feel or act independently.

    If you haven’t come across this article on the differences between adult & YA it might be useful.

    YA vs Adult

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  8. Daisy
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 14:23:31

    It’s an interesting premise and I love post-apocalypse stories, but I had the same issues with the world-building as the poster above. The hardware would still function for some time, yes, but without the human infrastructure behind it it’ll quickly become useless (just as an airport will shut down without pilots and air traffic controllers and everyone else, even if the planes themselves are still sitting pristine on the runway).

    There’s a great book called The World Without Us, about what would happen if the whole human race just vanished; a lot of it translates well to “what if the zombie apocalypse happened”, especially this part:

    ‘without people, the electricity wouldn’t last a day. Someone in control must decide where the power’s coming from, whether to open or close turbines, et cetera. With no human in the system, it doesn’t work.’

    Even with nuclear or hydroelectric power, before very long a lack of maintenance will cause dams to burst or reactors to melt down.

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  9. Author
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 15:02:03

    Sorry maybe I should remind everyone this is a fictional piece of work with zombies walking the earth.

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  10. Ros
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 15:27:27

    @Author: I just wanted to remind you that:

    Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously.

    If you didn’t want your work critiqued, maybe you shouldn’t have submitted it. If you did, then you need to start reading the critiques and taking them seriously. Getting defensive won’t help improve your writing.

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  11. Stephanie Dray
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 15:32:39

    My two cents, which are worth what you paid for them.

    First, I think it’s smart that you mention zombies in the very first paragraph. I’m a big believer in setting reader expectations and the rules of your world immediately. Because you do this, I don’t think you need to have any fears that people will misunderstand the genre you’re writing.

    It’s also a nice choice to start out with action. You put the reader right into the thick of things. That’s great. The only downside to that is because I don’t know your characters yet, I don’t really care if they get eaten by zombies. I may be alone in that feeling, however.

    If I were writing this story, I’d include some dialog tags because as a reader, I don’t know your characters yet or how they speak, so I’d want some clues as to who is who.

    I echo the other critiques in that I want you to zoom in on the character before worrying too much about whether a character is turning right or left. On the other hand, I’m not a young adult and my taste might differ.

    Good luck with this piece!

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  12. Berinn Rae
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 15:51:17

    I don’t have any additional crits to add. This can be a fun story, and I wish the author the best. One thing for the author to consider… if your protag is 19, rather than YA consider labeling it as NA (New Adult), which focuses specifically on that age group – it sets expectations a little better. Best wishes, and thanks for sharing.

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  13. Courtney Milan
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 15:52:40

    @Author: Most of the visitors to the site read fiction and are aware of how it operates.

    ReplyReply

  14. Isobel Carr
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 15:53:52

    “It’s fiction”is is not an excuse for poor/sloppy world building. Books like WORLD WAR Z and FEED are good examples of zombie apocalypse done well.

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  15. Author
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 16:04:18

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  16. vanessa jaye
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 16:13:14

    “I appreciate everyone’s feedback, and hope I don’t sound too defensive.”

    Unfortunately,you are coming across somewhat so. I know you just want to clarify some of what you feel are misconceptions re the feedback you’re getting, but remember it really is just that: Feedback & opinions. Right, wrong, or indifferent. No corrections necessary. Really. We aren’t your crit partners. But like all good critique relationships, take what works for you, leave the rest or put it aside to mull over later.

    As for your piece, I like it. Thought it ended at a really good point–I would definitely be flipping the page to see what happens when she enters the store. But, I do agree with Tamara, that the MC felt distanced. Could be the formality/lack of contractions and phrasing as she mentioned. Using Cindy’s line–
    “What are you waiting for kid?”–as an example, you could phrase the question in a more colloquial way that would color her personality a bit more:

    “Hey what’re ya waiting, today would be nice.”

    “Hey [MC's name], chop-chop.”

    Aside from that, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the world-building details (they felt well intergrated to the narrative, rather than info-dump)but I’m the type of reader who will prettymuch go along for the ride as long as I’m caught up in the story, so a lot of details that may trip up others just slip right past me.

    Good luck with this!

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  17. Lynne Connolly
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 17:09:55

    There are quite a few grammar and spelling errors in the short piece.
    “Johnsons” should be “Johnson’s.”

    “main street” should be “Main Street.”

    “We see no zombies and that means this time, we stop for gas” – there shouldn’t be a comma here.

    “slow ass” should be “slow-ass”

    “Oddly, I find it comforting like when my little sis would bring her pillow everywhere when she was a toddler” should have a comma after “comforting” and “bring” would be better as “take.”

    “I grip the cold metal of my aluminum bat from its resting spot on floorboard” should have a “the” before “floorboard.”

    “is standing very still and should be listening too.
    “What are you waiting for kid?”"
    There should be a comma before “too,” and another comment before “kid.”

    “Turning around I let my eyes glair at her” – should be of course “glare,” but as well as that, you are using what is known as “disembodied body parts.” Too many of those and your main characters read like zombies.

    “my smile shows her we are good. Noticeably the older woman relaxes her shoulders” The first part reads like a pov switch, though it isn’t, it does give pause. “the older woman” is a switch to omniscient pov.

    “All I lived off the first two months of the new world is my debit card” – “is” should be “was” – tenses shouldn’t be mixed.

    “This mini-mart is an open layout, makes my chanting turn into giggles.” is a bit of a run-on sentence. Adding “because” at the start or making it two sentences would improve it.

    “I don’t know why that is since this is not a movie” should have a comma before “since.”

    “Walking to a window on the right, I peek in to see no bodies.” “to” should probably be “and.”

    I hope some of those at least help, and they might be one reason that the piece doesn’t flow. Also look at your contractions. Read the piece aloud and listen back to it. That’s especially useful when writing in the first person.

    There is no sense of immediacy or danger here, and I think one of the reasons is that you are “telling” not “showing.” Everything is stated rather than experienced.

    The point of writing in the present tense is to give a sense of immediacy, but this doesn’t really do that. I don’t really mind not knowing what the mc looks like, but her sex might be handy to know, so the mental picture can begin to form.

    You have to make the reader care enough to read on, give some reason, and this doesn’t really do it for me. It does, by the way, read very YA to me. Ymmv on that, though.

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  18. Tess
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 17:45:03

    I’ve heard people in all age ranges of both genders giggle (with varying degrees of creepiness), so that word isn’t pulling the character-identification weight you think it is.

    Also keep in mind when readers pick up your book, you don’t get an opportunity to explain your intent to them. These are real readers trying to tell you your intent isn’t showing up on the page, which is the only place that matters.

    Revise. Don’t explain.

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  19. Bets Davies
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 20:18:21

    Hey–don’t feel attacked, author. If you are putting things up for critique, we’re just trying to help. Don’t explain to us because if it isn’t already there, we don’t know, and it doesn’t matter if you do. I was always taught to keep my mouth shut while getting critiques except for clarifying questions and questions about things you wanted addressed that didn’t catch up. Then ignore us later if you don’t agree.

    Kudos to you for trying to do a post-apocolyptic story. They become so complicated as you have to imagine every detail of what isn’t working, what is working, and the ways everyone has learned to cope. The power sources you mentioned made me think this was actually a ways into the future, yes?

    The work you’ve done definitely sets your stage. I do agree you could slow down. You start off with a stolen car, so I think you can afford a little more conversation–your conversation is natural and I think you can play with it more. That way we could get to know your characters a bit more. You had my neck hairs tickling when she was out in the open. I’ll go out on a limb on another part of the slow down and wonder if you could hold off on introducing the zombies. I can see the two of them in this car. Maybe with a description of the burned out or abandoned apartments or streets around them. Are there any other drivers? Creeping up on the gas station. Are the lights still on? Any blood stains around? The tension mounts as they discuss the danger. Only here, or even when she gets out of the car, do you mention the zombies. The description of the landscape should get us abandoned and messed up. All you have to do is mention the zombies. Or just have a mounting feeling of fear and tension until BOOM, zombies arrive. Let it build. Don’t tell us so much as show us their world. That alone will make it feel less crammed, even if it takes up more space.

    I did also feel as if I wasn’t sure if this was a YA novel. On one page, I can’t tell. Though the characters are somewhat distant and I could use more visceral.

    Considering audience might help a little more too. Are you assuming that these readers have seen Night of the Living Dead, Return of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days later and Zombieland like me? Are you writing for zombie fantatic audiences or newbies? I feel as if you have more complications than the zombies that you intend to focus on. Maybe something about the remaining humans or other creatures. I’m not sure yet, but these zombies appear somewhat easy to avoid.

    One last question, when they go for the convenience store, why don’t they pull up next to it so that she doesn’t have to walk so far?

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  20. Abbie
    Oct 02, 2011 @ 08:25:12

    Hey Author. Hang in there. It’s tough putting yourself out there for the world to see, especially when not everyone loves your baby as much as you do.
    My advice is to find a critique group, one where the members aren’t afraid to tell you honestly what works and what doesn’t. Be wary of the support group disguised as a critique group–they only tell you how wonderful your work is and none of us are that wonderful.
    And enter contests. Hearing what anonymous people think about your work is a great way to build a thick skin and learn how to filter through useless comments and helpful ones.
    Keep your chin up and keep writing!

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  21. Jynnipher
    Oct 02, 2011 @ 10:15:31

    Kudos to you for putting yourself out there for more than just your friends to see.

    I agree with Abbie on several points she had, especially with the thick skin. I participated in this First Page feature a few weeks ago and had a complete meltdown from the comments. After I processed them (and cleaned) I was able to really hear what the readers were saying. Writing is a journey and there are many bumps along the way.

    Good luck and keep writing!!

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  22. Heather
    Oct 02, 2011 @ 11:33:47

    Way too defensive author means no go for me. You are not ready to be an author and seriously need to get a thicker skin. The reviewers are trying to help you make a better product.

    Heather

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  23. Anon76
    Oct 02, 2011 @ 12:36:10

    I’m with Abbie, too. Find a good critique group, not one that only provides lip service about how great everything you jot on a page is.

    Putting your work out there for people you don’t know to view is an extremely harrowing experience, but that doesn’t get better once published. In fact, if lucky, it is multiplied to the nth degree based on sales. Everyone has something to say. Good, bad or indifferent.

    Thick skin is formed when you know how to separate the chaff from the wheat. Good feedback rather than slams or bad advice.

    Thing is, this is a first page so I don’t expect the entire story to be resolved in this short a time. What I do see, however, is the story playing out in your mind as if you were directing a movie. You’ve added a few sensory details to try and make up for this. The thing is, I’m still not connected. Everything reads disjointed as the movie in your head is not being properly transfered to the page.

    Again, this is my opinion, so take it or toss it.

    Best of luck.

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  24. Anon76
    Oct 02, 2011 @ 12:45:49

    In addition…

    A purchasing editor at a house will not take emails full of explanations from you once rejected. No chance to say “read further and it all makes sense.” No, “yeah but…”

    Same with avid readers.

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  25. Becker
    Oct 02, 2011 @ 13:58:21

    Agree with your comments, but I wanted to point out the Chicago Manual of Style recommends dropping the comma before “too” at the end of a sentence. So it would depend on which style manual you’re following.

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  26. SAO
    Oct 03, 2011 @ 00:26:19

    I though the concept and scene interesting, a lot of tightening needed.

    1) I hate unattributed speech. None of your dialogue had attribution. It’s easy to add: “It’s your turn.” Slowing the car she. . . “New Para, “Crap, I know.” I looked out. . .

    2) You have too many awkward or backward sequences. For ex,
    “What are you waiting for kid?” (No attribution)
    Turning around, I let my eyes glair at her (WHO???) before I walk over to the curb. Glancing left, then right and now a three-sixty turn, my smile (is the smile glancing?)shows her (WHO???) we are good. (We don’t see ‘her’, so we don’t know why the glare was changed to a smile.) Noticeably the older woman (Finally, we find out who spoke and what our char is reacting to, but we never learn what made her worthy of smile rather than a glare. This is an opportunity to tell us something about zombies, or maybe just useless detail. )

    The few micro-seconds of confusion before I read on pulls me out the story, rather than completely being in your scene, I’m spending mental energy making sense of it. Look up motivation-reaction units.

    3) You add all sorts of unimportant details that take us away from the tension of entering an enclosed space with possible zombies. The digressions, such as about toddler sisters, college funds, and only ten refills? take us away from the scene.

    4) So do your actions. Thinking about toddler sisters, smiling at strangers, and giggling are not actions that someone facing something scary do. When I’m tense and I’ve only faced things like a kid’s broken leg, my smiles turn into grimaces. Perhaps giggles of nervous relief would work if you’d convinced me of the tension.

    If you want tension, keep the scene focused only on the task, put in the background later.

    5) You need to show us more of what your char sees. “The mini-mart was open layout making my chanting dissolve into giggles.” Again we don’t see anything and have to guess why the giggles. Try something like, “Low shelves meant I could see clear from the abandoned cash register at the front of the store to the dairy cases in the back. No zombies. My chanting dissolved into giggles of relief.” Go to a gas station mini-mart and peer in the windows. What do you see?

    6) You could up the stakes by making getting gas urgent. What do they do if there are zombies in the mini-mart?

    7) Stronger verbs would add to the tension. You write,
    “What are you waiting for kid?” (Kick in the gut presence of some person (why didn’t they see this pulling into the station? If the person is a potential zombie, why get out of the car?) Turning (Not jerking around) around I let (Let???) my eyes glair at her before I walk (come on, why not stroll, meander? dawdle? Or maybe try something more vigorous) over to the curb. Glancing (Note she’s glancing, not scanning or searching) left, then right and now a three-sixty turn (this could be a dance instruction. Do-si-do and now a 360.) No sense what so ever of hyper-alert vigilance because zombies are deadly and this is a risky situation.

    8) You are telling us what your char does. We have to infer the reasons. We aren’t seeing things with her. “I look out of my side of the car, cranking my neck to ensure this half of the area shows no approaching doom.” We should see the old woman. When I pull into a gas station, between the windshield and all the windows in the car, I can see a lot. I don’t even know if it is daylight out. If not, do the streetlights work?

    9)I did notice typos and missing words. This means whatever process you’re using to edit for this stuff isn’t rigorous enough.

    This is a lot of criticism and a lot of it repetitive,
    but I wanted to show where and how you need to tighten. First pages are hard, getting tension down is hard, but if you’re going to be a success, you have to get this right.

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  27. infiniteworlds
    Oct 03, 2011 @ 09:09:59

    I agree with whoever said that starting with a mention of Cindy distracts from the MC pov. Calling the driver ‘the speed demon’ made me initially think that maybe she is actually a demon, and it was a tongue in cheek reference. This is listed as paranormal, after all.
    Unlike some people here, I do enjoy a beginning that starts with action. My suggestion is that you go through and cut out anything that bring up the past or tries to explain the situation, and tell just what is happening NOW. So that means cut out the lines about driving and stealing cars, get rid of the slow ass zombies line and all that stuff about paying at the pump. They feel like the character is trying to explain the situation to the reader. A bad thing, especially in the present tense.
    The part about the rhyme is nice though, its something she’s thinking about as she gets ready to get out of the car.
    I am bothered by the paying with a credit card. I’ve only been to a few pumps that require you to pay with a credit card, and they were in big cities. Anywhere else you can pay with cash, so they could just get the gas and be off without paying. But you seemed to think that all gas stations will force you to pay by credit card, so perhaps it’s a regional thing. But then I wonder, why would your MC stay in an area that forces you to use a credit card when she could just head to places where she can just steal the gas?
    The way around this that I can see is if your world is far in the future, and enough things have changed that gas stations would still be running unmanned.
    See, the thing is, even if you have unbelievable elements in your story, that gives you no excuse to slack off in the logic of other elements. Your world still has to work, and for many readers, it has to have good reason to work. You can get away with a certain amount of unexplained things when writing in first person simply because if your MC can’t explain it, you don’t have to. But never, ever say ‘this is a fantasy story, so I can make up whatever unreasonable crap I want.’
    I don’t understand why she grabbed a baseball bat to enter the store. If your enemy is slow and bumbling, but can infect you with something terrible if it touches you, why would you run up to it and whack it with a bat? Why would you risk infection? Why wouldn’t you consider the mission a waste and run the other way? After all, you can run a lot faster. I’m guessing you could be back in the car before it got through the front door. Just a thought.
    My biggest issue with this page is her emotions in this situation. She seems cautious, but little more. See, the thing is, zombies are one of the most horrifying things anyone could ever encounter. Have you ever ran across a dead animal that was rotting, all gruesome and wormy and stinking enough to make you gag? It’s not horrifying, but its chilling and turns your stomach.
    Then think about a funeral, when you go up to the casket and have to look at the dead person lying there. A person who was alive, who laughed and loved and smiled. And now it’s all gone, nothing left but the shell of what they were. Doesn’t it disturb you? It creeps me out.
    Now think about your zombie. A human, dead and decomposing, but still walking. An abomination that once was human, a person that used to have a father and mother and a family, someone who once knew what it was like to love but now knows nothing but the lust to feed on human flesh, driven by the blind need to fill something aching inside. (Have you ever thought about zombie motivations?)
    A zombie is horrific, disgusting, and unnatural. To be bitten is a fate worse than death. So when your character is walking up to the building, not knowing if one is waiting inside, her stomach would be turning. Her heart would be clamped tight, her fear so distinct that it was a frenzy inside her. She would feel like she wanted to scream, to run away, but need and duty would keep her feet moving forward step by step. She would be really freaking out. She might feel sick, if death and rot made her sick. She wouldn’t smile, even to show her partner that she was okay, and she certainly wouldn’t giggle when she saw that the store had an open layout.
    Have you ever come home to find that your front door was open, or even unlocked? What did you do? I know that when this happened to me, I assumed my home had been broken into, and thought that there might be someone lurking in my house. The reality of the situation terrified me. I checked every corner, freaking out that someone with a knife might jump out from behind a door and slit my throat.
    I think that would be closer to her mood, fear that something is hiding inside, that if she turns her back, it’ll get her from behind.
    So then, I guess my biggest piece of advice is to go through the situation in your own mind, relating it to similar things you might have actually been through, and then let that drive your character. Know what she would be thinking and feeling.

    ReplyReply

  28. Anonymous
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 17:08:30

    Centripetal force makes you feel like you are being pushed toward the window during a sharp turn, not gravity.

    ReplyReply

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