Dianne Salerni author Dianne Salerni author Dianne Salerni books Dianne Salerni blog Dianne Salerni Appearances Dianne Salerni contact Dianne Salerni teachers
Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | First Impressions #2

First Impressions #2

Today is the second installment of my new monthly feature – First Impressions. Marcy Hatch of Mainewords and I will be giving feedback on the first page of a YA Paranormal WIP by Carolin Seidenkranz, whom you can find at her blog, A Little Bit of Everything.

Carolin opens with this paragraph:

Dried mud tugged on her skin as she flexed her cold fingers. Brown coated both of her hands, dulling the vibrant purple on her fingernails. As she lifted her head, pain exploded in her temple and all the way into her jaw. She groaned and let her head drop back into the cool earth.

Immediately I get a vivid and compelling picture of someone in great trouble, although I don’t know yet what happened to her. The “vibrant purple on her fingernails” suggests nail polish, and therefore a modern time period. This passage is followed by a description of her surroundings and her growing sense of where she is. I really liked this tantalizing bit of information:

The overwhelming scent of smoke filled her nostrils. It took her a moment to realize that it came from her hair and that little bits of ashes had caught in it.

There’s been some sort of fire, and I get the feeling our character has passed out after escaping it. Just an editing note here: That last sentence uses the word “it” three times, to reference three different things. I’d rephrase a bit.

Next, the girl staggers to her feet with difficulty, and we realize she is still in great danger:

She steadied herself on her feet after the third try.
Shouts rang out from behind her.
“Elle est vivante!”
“Kill her.”
“Ne la laisse pas sortir!”
“Bring her back.”
Showing that she was alive might not have been one of her best laid plans.

I was immediately intrigued by the use of two languages. Where is she? I wondered. It could be Canada, I suppose – but the mix of languages definitely caught my attention. Who are these people? Why are they chasing/hunting her? Why do they want to kill her – and what was on fire?

I would replace the word “showing” in the last line with something stronger, such as “revealing.” Also, my rudimentary French suggests that the sequence of shouts actually says:

She’s alive.
Kill her.
Don’t let her get away.
Bring her back.

When translated, it’s a bit simplistic, and Carolin might want to whet our interest with something more mysterious – something more complex and puzzling. On the other hand, the words are certainly threatening enough, and if these people are running and shouting, they’re not going to waste breath on a lot of words. So, maybe it’s better the way it is.

Overall, the first page grabs my attention. A girl in danger – being chased by bilingual people who want her dead – a fire – These things raise a lot of questions in my mind. Is she a witch? Were they trying to burn her at the stake? In modern day Canada? I know some of my conclusions are probably wrong, but I would definitely want to keep reading to find out more!

Be sure to stop by Mainewords to see Marcy’s first impression of Carolin’s work!

As of today, there is 1 more spot for First Impressions open in April! (Edited Saturday, 3/5/11) Paste your first page into an email to dksalerni@gmail.com with First Impressions in the subject line — then hit SEND before you have second thoughts! 😀

11 Responses to First Impressions #2

  1. salarsenッ says:

    I agree. I liked the way it opened up. Very descriptive.

  2. I’m intrigued.

    Oh, and French isn’t spoken throughout Canada. Mostly Quebec. And if there’s both English and French, then even more likely it’s Montreal. 😉

  3. Cool. Again I like your take and I am totally intrigued by the duel languages! Cool new feature!

  4. Orlando says:

    The idea of the mud, pain, danger of death, and burning; all these things intrigued me to want to read more and find out what’s going on. It is very descriptive and entertaining.

    I read a post you left on Writers’ Ally that reminded me of myself. So, I looked up your blog and enjoyed it very much. Good to meet you.

  5. Linda G. says:

    Intriguing first page! It would make me keep reading.

    Good suggestions, too. 🙂

  6. Carolin says:

    Thank you for the comments, everyone. 😀 They’re muchly appreciated!

    Also, thank you for the great critique, Dianne. Hee!

  7. Carolin says:

    Oh yes, as Dianne reminded me and as you’ve all been puzzling over the setting…

    It’s actually a forest in France. The people yelling at her (four of them) are witch hunters – both of English and French origin, which is why they speak in two different languages. =) In the next paragraphs the surroundings become clearer and what happened with the fire gets revealed! 😉

  8. I would definitely keep reading too:) You have a lot of levels and intrigue without bogging down the reader. Splendid!

  9. Lenny Lee* says:

    hi miss dianne! wow you sure know how to look at everything real close and you give really good suggestions. youre a really good critiquer. when get not scared of you im gonna send you the first page of one of my wips. ha ha.
    …hugs from lenny
    ps miss carolins book sounds really exciting

  10. Oh, France. That makes sense. 😀

  11. Excellent!! Beautiful, visual descriptions. And I love the dual languages – mysterious! Excellent suggestions, D!