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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | First Impressions #29

First Impressions #29

As NaNo projects come to a close, a lot of writers are taking a breath and stepping back to look at their new creations. That’s why I’m excited to share this First Impression of FIX YOUR LIFE! by Judy Mintz. This is Judy’s NaNo work, which she describes as magical realism, or possibly outright fantasy.

“Move the bus! Move the bus!”

The crowd had gathered early to see what the crew of the reality show, Fix Your Life!, had done to our house in the week they’d had it under wraps. As the bus revved its engine, the volume increased.

“Move the bus! Move the bus!”

The over-sized bus began to roll lethargically away for the big reveal, and the crowd grew more frenzied. Then, as one, the chant became a collective gasp, followed by a cacophony of dismay.

Dexter, the host of the show, yanked my blindfold off and said, “Ta da!” He danced in front of me like a deranged elf, darting from one side to another so fast that I had trouble taking in what was across the road. Then I saw it. It was the same house we’d moved out of a week ago, but in much, much worse shape.

I whipped around to find the rest of my family, but there was no one else there. Not my family, not a crowd, no one. Even the bus had disappeared.

“Come on! It’s so cool. I know you’re going to love what we’ve done,” Dexter cackled. He grabbed me by the upper arm and dragged me across the street. His grip was unnecessarily tight. I could feel his long fingernails digging into my flesh. I stumbled across, trying to keep my feet heading forward while twisting the rest of me into a pretzel to look behind at the empty lot that had been chock-full of people moments before. Where did they all go?

My foot hit the curb and I would have gone splat if Dexter hadn’t had such a vise-like grip on me. “Watch your step, little lady. Watch your step.”

I’ll start with small editing items. First, I’d avoid putting commas around the title of the show Fix Your Life! because the exclamation point and the comma together look strange. You can probably just drop the words reality show, since that’s implied by the situation.

As for these lines: He danced in front of me like a deranged elf, darting from one side to another so fast that I had trouble taking in what was across the road. Then I saw it. It was the same house we’d moved out of a week ago, but in much, much worse shape. I absolutely LOVE the description of Dexter as a deranged elf! I’d eliminate the word that after the words so fast, and avoid using the word it at the end of one sentence and the beginning of the next.

Moving on to bigger things, I definitely wanted a better description of what the narrator sees when the blindfold comes off – something more than in much, much worse shape. Unless, of course, this is a dream, and from the sudden unexplained disappearance of the crowd, I guess it might be.

When the crowd gasps in dismay, it made me wonder if the story takes place in a dystopian setting, where a television show can wreck your house if they want to, and you can’t do anything about it. That would be an awesomely chilling world! But the subsequent events — the way the crowd and the bus all vanish at once — made me think the main character is dreaming.

If this IS a dream beginning, I’d caution Judy to think it over carefully. Starting with a dream is a device that’s been over-used to the point of becoming a “no-no” for querying writers. I’m not saying you can’t do it (and do it well!) – just be sure your dream beginning is effective enough to make it stand out among others.

And if this isn’t a dream beginning, where did all the people go?!?! What kind of creepy power does Dexter have?! I’m rather hoping this is real, because if it is, Dexter must be one sinister TV host!

Thanks, Judy, for sharing your first page with us! You can find Judy at her blog Everywhere I Go – and don’t forget to stop by Mainewords for Marcy Hatch’s take on this same beginning!

13 Responses to First Impressions #29

  1. salarsenッ says:

    I’m with Dianne on the deranged elf description. That paragraph made me keep reading. My only other comment is inline with one of Dianne’s thought. This does sound like a dream. Although I like the way it’s written, I’m not sure that’s the best way to begin here. If this is reality, then have at it!!

  2. I love this beginning. But it doesn’t strike me as a dream sequence. It’s something more sinister. (and delicious)

    A couple small suggestions: in the first paragraph, I think I’d omit the name of the show altogether. It flows more smoothly without it. Simply calling it a reality show gets the message across to the readers. The show’s title can be added a couple paragraphs later when the host is introduced. Instead of calling him the host of the show, he can be called the host of Fix Your Life. I, too, like the way he is described, but I’m not sure his expression, “Ta da” fits with his character. Sounds a little too whimsical. Maybe “voila” or a more sinister-sounding expression that can echo throughout the book. (Maybe something like, “And we’ve fixed your life!”)

    Bottom line, I’d keep reading. Great job.

  3. That deranged elf description also grabbed me. I love this little snippet, and I’m with Dianne. This would be fun if it was real.

  4. Pk Hrezo says:

    Great analysis, Dianne. This intro interested me to read more cuz I wanna know what’s happening. As long as the rest delivers, I’d say it’s a good first chapter hook!

  5. Fiona Claire says:

    Oh, fun! I despise those let-us-redecorate-your-house reality shows. Why do the people always cry when they see the end result? Yes, please, turn all that crap into magical realism. Only thing that bothers me about this intro is that it starts with dialogue. I really like when a magically realistic story starts off with some riveting visual description. And, yeah, I hope it’s not a dream too.

  6. Linda G. says:

    Great opening scene! Kinda creepy, in that “uh-oh, what’s really happening here?” way. I’d sure keep reading.

  7. I’m in a agreement with everything Dianne said, this is certainly intriguing!

    One thing I tipped over was “darting from one side to another.” I think it should be “darting from one side to the other,” for sake of rhythm and style, not because it’s grammatically or logically incorrect or anything.

    I’d read on, even if this is a dream.

  8. judymintz says:

    Oh my goodness! Your edits were all spot on! Thank you so much! (And now you should chide me for using too many exclamation marks. ) As you know, during NaNoWriMo we don’t edit. I can’t guarantee I would have caught and/or changed all the same things, but I sure will now.

    As for whether or not this is a dream – it is not. The basic plot is that her family has been disappeared and she has to solve clues to get them back. If she can’t do that in time, they’re gone forever. It’s not dystopian, it’s magical.

    Thank you (all) again, so much. What a treat that was.

  9. I love the descriptions. The one thing that jumped out to me was:

    The over-sized bus began to roll lethargically away for the big reveal,

    If the narrator is blindfolded then the narrator can’t see the bus rolling lethargically away.

  10. Judy — I like it even better knowing it’s NOT a dream! I didn’t want to put this in the critique, but I would have been disappointed if it was … being set up for something so creepy and then having the MC wake up.

    If this is for real, the sinister factor has just increased tenfold! Shiver! And the meaning of the show’s title becomes more clear!

  11. Everyone has already said what I would have said, but…I sure wish Dianne had posted more. 🙁 I wanted more, which is a great thing to hear from a reader.

    Nice job!

  12. I like this excerpt, which sucked me into the story. And I agree with Dianne about seeing more of the house that’s been changed. It seems too important to be glossed over.

    Judy, glad to see you’ve plunged into fantasy.

  13. Jaime Loren says:

    I know I’m late to the party, but I agree with everything Dianne said. Taking out ‘that’ and adding some more description about what she’s seeing will add more punch.

    The descriptions you DO have are really funny. I have to admit I was also worried it was a dream, but now that I know it isn’t, it’s even MORE interesting! Great job!