Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Teen First Page Critique!

It's time for our Teen First Page Critique, a monthly feature here at YA Confidential that lets you get feedback on your manuscript from your target audience: real teen readers.

This month's brave volunteer is Marcia Wells. Here is the first page of her story, THE CUPID QUOTA.

Most people don’t worry about the state of love in the world today. They go about their busy lives, never stressing about divorce rates or marriage rates or people-don’t-believe-in-love-anymore rates, and they’re lucky.

Because it’s killing me.

Introductions. I am Cupid, Goddess of love and daughter of Venus and Mars. You know me as a fat baby boy with wings, flitting about with a bow and arrows and piercing unsuspecting lovers’ hearts. Which is ridiculous. Who gives a toddler a weapon?

Yes, I’m a girl. It was my mother who told everyone I was male. She cut my hair short and dressed me in boy clothes to protect me from certain groping Gods. But in the end it didn’t matter. They all died. Even her. Once the mortals stopped believing in us, the life force of the Roman Gods drained away; their spirits drifted to the Afterworld like stars fading from the night sky.

Everyone except me.

“It is time, My Lady,” Claudius says, interrupting my thoughts. He takes my hand and leads me to the Great Hall, its golden beauty silent and still. I seldom come here. Too many memories.

What has kept me alive all these years while Olympus crumbles in ruin around me? The answer is simple. Commercialism.

Every time people buy a Valentine’s Day gift or doodle hearts in their notebooks or place a statue of a naked boy Cupid in their backyards—the kind where the water in the fountain is his pee— that is what feeds my life force. Hallmark cards and tinkling blocks of stone. Disturbing.

Here’s what some our spies and analysts had to say…

GRACIE: I love this concept - Cupid as a girl. I love uniqueness. This is definitely good, when I'm interested by the first page. The voice of the MC is definitely there although I kind of feel like it could be even stronger, which would then help to bring out the authentic teen voice that is so close to being really solid. Also I'd say almost always use contractions when writing in a teen voice, so I'd advise you to change the "I am" to "I'm". Other than those couple things, awesome and I would definitely read on!!

LEXIE: I'm a bit mixed on this. On the one hand, I think it's an absolutely fantastic concept, I love the writing--both the flow and tone of it--and I would most certainly read more. But on the other hand, it's very, very tell-y. That's my only big critique, really. I love everything else about this, but the entire first page is just one big block of telling, and while it's entertaining, you don't want to start off with telling. You want to start off with showing. You want to draw the reader into your world, not clap them over the head with a boatload of information. I really love the premise and tone of this, but I think you might want to consider working that information in more gradually.

RIV: These pages were really interesting, and I was really divided over them. First, I was curious. Then the "Cupid is a girl" bit got me mad, and then I cooled off long enough to do some fact-checking. If there's one thing that can turn me off a book, it's getting your facts (or, in this case, myths) wrong do to ignorance. For example, if you had called Cupid Greek, I probably would have stopped right where I was.

Anyways, this page got me very curious. The voice is pretty good, as well. I just hope those centuries of fame don't make our narrator arrogant and infuriating.
(Also, loved the peeing fountain bit.)

REBECCA: It’s definitely authentic which I appreciate and I am intrigued but it isn’t exactly grabbing... I would probably read more but at the moment I’m not exactly sold.

CHIHUAHUA ZERO: Despite the more "quirky" style used, I would continue on to at least see what plot the concept leads to. The narrative isn't anchored into the little "scene" that is introduced in the first few pages, possibly burying the hook, but Cupid has an entertaining enough of a voice to do the job.

As for authentic, Cupid's voice does have a mix of formality (The answer is simple.) and causality (Hallmark cards and tinkling blocks of stone. Disturbing), but considering she has been around for a long time, that's expected.

I'm probably wrong, but I doubt dressing Cupid in boys clothes wouldn't stop...never mind. I only know a little bit about Greek mythology's tangled love web.

ERICA: I really loved this! I was so intrigued by this first page and I really would be curious to see where the story will go from here.I thought this was a really nice balance of inspiring questions and sarcasm, which I always love!

Hope this helps, Marcia! And I hope this feedback is insightful for our readers as well! HUGE thank yous to our SPIES and ANALYSTS and to Marcia! I know how scary it can be to put your work out there. Thank you for sharing this with all of us!

We'll be doing another call for first pages week in a few weeks. Stay tuned!


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