Friday, November 1, 2013

FIrst Page Critique

Our TEEN FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE is 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 Ryan Burt, and here is the first page from his YA fiction BODYGUARDING EVIL

A thin line of drool is dripping from a foot long tusk and almost falls on my head.  I hate drool.  I guess no one really likes it, but this slobber is even worse than what people imagine when they think of saliva.  It is thicker and closer to slime with a green hue to it.  As horrible as the drool is the drooler is worse.  Imagine an ugly hairy walrus but instead of the tusks pointing down they point up.  Then put this hairy ugly walrus head on top of a giant seven foot man.  The drool is falling off this ugly walrus face because it is mad.  Luckily for me I am not the object of this madness.  I am just a measly little assistant.  I am no more than a gopher.

What is a little assistant doing next to a salivating walrus headed giant?  I am with the person Mr. Ugly is growling at.  My boss used to be a bounty hunter.  He was paid to hunt down anything weird or unusual that needed to be brought before the Alternate Human Tribunal or AHT.  The governing body of all Alternate Humans.  Alternate Humans is the politically correct term for anything supernatural.  Ugly walrus head is an Alternate Human. I am not sure what type but I am sure he is one.  Vampires, ghosts, werewolves, zombies and the like are all Alternate Human life forms.  I helped him hunt, track and sometimes kill these Alternate Humans.

And here's what our teens had to say… 

RANDI: That first line is gonna divide your audience super quick. Some people will get grossed out, but it works so you want to keep reading, which is the purpose, I suppose.  I'm dying to know more! Starting off with a creature is a sure way to get me interested. 

MADISON: I felt that the idea behind the story was pretty good and original, but it wasn't executed very well. It reads a little too much like a textbook. I was interested until the fifth sentence or so, and then all the talk about drool sort of put me off. I feel like the author could have said what they did in a wittier, shorter way.  

I can definitely hear a lot of voice in the author's writing, I just want to know more about the situation without them TELLING me. I want to be showed the scene, if that makes sense. I would read a couple more pages, but if it continued the way it did in the first page, I'm not sure if I would read on after that. Which is a shame, because the idea is really interesting and grabbing. 

LEXIE: While I love the concept of "Alternate Humans" and a bounty-hunter-assistant narrator, I can't say this first page grabbed me.  It's far, far too tell-y, and by that I mean essentially the entire thing is telling.  There's no showing whatsoever.  Obviously a little telling is necessary in any story at some point, but a first page of solid info-dump is not usually how you want to start.  Also, while it seems like you were going for a chatty, nonchalant sort of voice, her description of the monster just makes the scene very anti-climatic.  I'd recommend just showing us the scene with this monster, how it plays out, and letting the Alternate Human background unfold as the scene progresses.  Show us that he works for the Alternate Human governing body through their dialogue, through his actions, even through later interactions with the tribunal itself.  We as the audience don't need to know everything right off the bat; that ruins the mystery.   I think you've got a solid concept here, but you just need to work on drawing in the readers. 

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

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