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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | First Impression #24

First Impression #24

Our second First Impression for October is Michael DiGesu’s THE BLINDED GARDENER. It’s an edgy Y/A Contemporary about a seventeen-year-old boy abused by his Marine father.


One moment I’m my Dad’s personal punching bag, and the next, well, I’m a pawn in his maniacal master plan. That is, until Danny stepped into the picture and discovered my secret.

Dad forced me to move across the country, and once again, I found myself at a new school, the third in two years. It sucked having a dad in the military.

The warning bell rang for first period. The halls cleared with the slamming of doors. As I wandered about searching for my classroom, I heard someone approach me from behind. I turned and saw a blonde guy walking up the center of the hallway. Long bangs fell over his eyes as he loped past me with a kind of natural ease.

How blind is this guy? Didn’t he see me standing here, fiddling with this useless map.

“Hey, dude. Could you tell me how to get to room 305?”

A slight curl formed on his lips as he faced me. He tossed his head. Platinum fringe shifted to the side and revealed freakish blue eyes that glanced toward me, unfocused.

Holy shit! Is he blind? Stoned is more like it.

“I’m heading that way.” His deep voice held a trace of a southern accent. He turned and continued his long strides.

I envied his height: well over six feet and me just an average dude.

“You better move. Connors loses it when you’re late.”

I rushed to catch up to him. His hand overshot the rickety metal banister. On the second swipe, he made contact and climbed the stairs.

I really like the opening sentence – especially the alliteration! One moment I’m my Dad’s personal punching bag, and the next, well, I’m a pawn in his maniacal master plan. But I think the shift to Danny in the second sentence happens too soon for me as a reader. I want to hear more about the MC’s father and himself. Not a whole page worth, mind you — but another sentence or two, so that we get a feel for the MC and his dad before a third character is mentioned.

If the opening is expanded, the sentence introducing Danny can stand on its own, in a separate paragraph (possibly with a new transition.)
Then Danny stepped into the picture and discovered my secret.

The next paragraph could use some grounding in place and time, because we’re shifting from general, introductory statements about the MC’s life into a specific scene. Perhaps something like:
In the spring of my senior year, Dad forced me to move across the country from Oregon to Maine, and once again, I found myself at a new school, the third in twenty-four months. (I’m making up the details, but you see what I mean.)
At that point, I think we’re completely ready to dive into the scene where the MC meets the blond boy with the freakish eyes who appears to be stoned – and who I’m guessing is Danny. I think this part is great and plants the reader directly in the MC’s world.
One last note: The first sentence is in present tense; the rest is in past tense. That might be deliberate, as the narrator moves from a general reflection about his life to the past events he wants to relate. In that case, it might be beneficial to set that first sentence (and any additional ones that get added) apart from the rest of the text – maybe in italics, with a space break before the next paragraph? What do the rest of you think?
Thanks, Michael, for sharing your first page with us! Be sure and take a look at Marcy’s critique at Mainewords, and Michael can be found at his blog, In Time

12 Responses to First Impression #24

  1. Sarah says:

    I really like this beginning, except, you know what I’d love? If the first two paragraphs were deleted entirely. When I first started reading, I was thinking “uh oh, this is a lot of telling” (vs. showing). BUT–that wasn’t an issue at all with the rest of the sample! I would much rather be shown the situation than told it. Let it unfold through the first chapter; weave it through the narrative rather than giving me a big chunk of hugely significant info right at the beginning. Show me things like the discomfort this kid feels as someone in the hall bumps against his bruised ribs, or his flinch when some kids who are horsing around swing their arms too close to his face, or his flash of terror (or rage) when he hears a voice/tone that sounds like his father’s. Trust that I, the reader, will figure it out with hints and bits that I can put together myself and be totally intrigued by. This beginning (and story) has so much potential! Good luck!

  2. I don’t have a problem with the opening introspection/exposition/backstory, but it would definitely need a section break before switching into the actual scene.

    Also, I don’t understand why “Danny” is up there at the very beginning. Is that a chapter title? Because it makes me think of a POV character being named, you know, to indicate who’s telling the story in this chapter?

    Otherwise this is great, and Dianne’s thoughts are spot on for me.

  3. J.C. Martin says:

    I love this opener! Agree with Matthew though that I’m not sure of the title “Danny” at the top. Michael, great work!

  4. KrysteyBelle says:

    I’m intrigued by the blonde boy, but to me it feels like starting with being lost in a new school is a fairly common opening. Why not shake it up a bit? For example, in Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton, Nick moves to town and meets Silla, not at school, but in a cemetery. This gives a new twist in the beginning, plus it sets the tone for the rest of the book. Would something like that work for you, having their meeting take place in a more organic setting?

  5. Lydia Kang says:

    It is definitely intriguing! I agree with the comments above–more showing, and the Danny part confused me a bit.

  6. I wold delete the second paragraph but keep the first one. It gives a little tease about what’s to come but isn’t as telling as the second paragraph is.

  7. This is a terrific beginning. Like some others have commented, I’d omit the second paragraph. The first is strong, but the second contains throw-away information that can be infused later. Perhaps a transitional sentence or two could be added before jumping into the (well-told) tale of what appears to be the first meeting.

    Also, Dianne, the new background for your blog is great. Much easier to read.

  8. Thank Dianne,

    I really like your crit. You’re right about different pov’s of the readers. Some like this and some like that.

    Overall the reader seems intrigued and that’s a good thing. I’m glad I peeked their interest. Now the fun begins with the fine tuning.

    THANK YOU EVERYONE for all your suggestions, likes, and dislikes.

    I do have a section break in my ms. I guess it got lost when I sent it. It seems the second paragraph is the least favored. I can see you point so the “telling” aspect.

    Ah, now the fun begins to polish this diamond in the rough.

  9. Pk Hrezo says:

    I’ve read this before a few times and each time it gets better. Bravo, Michael!
    I really like your feedback, Dianne. Very useful!!

  10. I also felt the students discomfort. It felt teen. Dianne helped make it tighter, but it was a strong beginning already.

  11. Glad I found your blog! Also, nice job with comments for Michael. I read this back when he first wrote BG and love to see the transformation it has gone through!

    Great job, Michael!

  12. Thanks Theresa,

    I appreciate your comment.

    Hey, Christy,

    You were there from the beginning. I’m glad you like the transformation.