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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | First Impressions: BUTTERMAN (TIME) TRAVEL INC


We are finishing up First Impressions this month with a page from Pk Hrezo. Yay, Pk! We love

having you back! This time, she brings us a YA light sci-fi titled BUTTERMAN (TIME) TRAVEL INC.

When people hear I’m remotely homeschooled in the year 2069, two things happen: first, they pause, wait for me to say I’m joking. When that doesn’t happen, their eyes glaze over with forced courtesy and they smile, nod inwardly, cringe at their social faux pas because if I’m not allowed to attend school centers, then I must be special and they just aired it out in the open. Not special as in gifted intelligence, but the other kind of special—the euphemism for those socially awkward weirdos and cataclysmically disruptive doofuses. Sometimes I play along, stare intensely at them til sweat beads on their foreheads, you know, make them shift in their own clothes while guilt wells up from their core. Always good for a laugh.

Truth is, I’m hardly what you’d consider challenged. Okay, so I’m better online than I am in person—ninety percent of teenage America is too. But contrary to popular (and presumptuous) belief, being homeschooled from remote locations doesn’t always mean you’ve been assigned there from the school board because of social disorders. My isolated northern Alaskan station is by choice—my parents run their business here. And there’s not a soul today who wouldn’t jump at the chance to trade places with me. Mark my words. Take that to the bank, and all that jazz.

My screen flashes with a call and I point to my screen, gesture to answer. Been waiting for this one. VIP customer my parents say. More VIP than usual, which would make him VVIP. In other words, he’s made of money and Mom and Dad want some of it. “Butterman Travel, Incorporated. Hello, Mr. Van Nuys. What can I do for you?”

A silver-haired man with nice skin (rich skin) fills the video screen. Distinguished appearance, but regret taints the twinkle in his eye. I know the type. We get a lot of them. Old farts with more money than life could ever let them spend, desperate to fix some gaffe from their past that either got them punked or punked someone else at some point. And when they’re this close to heaven’s door, time is the one thing they can’t buy.
Unless they come here.
I enjoyed the voice of the MC in the first paragraph – very unique and fun-filled. I thought the voice wavered in the second paragraph, however, especially at the end with phrases like Mark my words. Take that to the bank, and all that jazz. By the end of the second paragraph I was wondering how many people she encountered who didn’t already know who she was and why she was remotely homeschooled, if she lives in an isolated Northern Alaskan station. Who asks? The customers of her parents’ business? Kids she meets online? (And when she says people, does she mean adults, kids, or both?)
I also wondered how remotely homeschooled was different from regular homeschooled and how other teens are educated in 2069, but I figure that’s something to learn later. Not on the first page. Just as an editing note, it should be assigned by the school board, not from the school board.
I’m assuming the gender of the MC is female, but I have no reason to do so. Gender could easily be cleared up on the first page by having the MC say, “Butterman Travel Incorporated. Anna speaking.” (Or Hank, or whatever.)
I also wonder what makes her (or him) so certain there’s not a soul today who wouldn’t jump at the chance to trade places with me. Is the word today significant? As in, a very important event is happening in Northern Alaska today? Or her parents’ business is so thrilling, anybody would want to be a part of it? And how well known is it? Does everybody know about it?
So, other than the end of the second paragraph and the unresolved gender of the MC, I have no objections to this page – but lots of questions. Hopefully my “first impression” of what’s going on will guide Pk in fine-tuning of this page to nudge readers in the direction she wants them to go!
Pk, thanks for sharing your page with us today. You can find Pk at her blog, and don’t forget to check out Marcy’s feedback on Mainewords.
I’ll be back on Thursday, interviewing Mary Waibel, author of the newly released Quest of Hart.

16 Responses to First Impressions: BUTTERMAN (TIME) TRAVEL INC

  1. Pk Hrezo says:

    Thx Dianne! This totally tells me what I need to do. Been so undecided with a rewrite but now it’s all very clear. Yay!

  2. All in all, I really love this. The voice is great, the premise seems great, and this first page has just the right balance of character and action.

    Here are a few nitpicks:

    The em-dash in the second paragraph. Em dashes are usually used to indicate added emphasis, an interruption, or an abrupt change of thought, but this is a statement in agreement with the clause in front of it. I think you might be better served with a “, but …”

    As Dianne points out, the “Mark my words. Take them to the bank, and all that jazz,” does feel like a bit too much. I understand you’re going for voice and characterization here, and maybe your character is kind of that bubbly, over talking kind of character, and if so, that’s fine, but try to keep that to dialog when you can, and if it’s needed in narration, try to build to it.

    “My screen flashes with a call and I point to my screen, gesture to answer.” Has one too many “screens” and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I think maybe you’re missing a conjunction?

    Anyway, those are all minor things. The important thing here is that you’ve set up a very interesting premise, and with all the questions it begs, I would definitely read on.

  3. SA Larsenッ says:

    I, too, enjoyed the MC’s voice in the first paragraph. Dianne and Matt pretty much covered the rest. *Hi, PK!!

  4. I had pretty much the same thoughts when I read this on mainewords earlier. I called the MC a ‘she’ but now that I think of it, it wasn’t really mentioned. Definitely liked the voice, though.

  5. Excellent overview! I pretty much agree with the second paragraph, but overall, it was quick and enjoyable. 🙂

  6. Loved the voice, but I agree with others. The mark my words caught me up.

    Had many of the same questions as Diane, but also wondered about the comment on the first caller’s skin. What does poor skin look like? Do people color their skin? What did that mean?

    Overall, great premise and I’d love to read more.

  7. Pk Hrezo says:

    Thanks so much everyone! Very helpful! 😀

  8. I wondered what remote homeschooling meant in 2069 too. I like the voice here. Dianne’s comments are spot-on.

  9. Glad I stumbled onto this. PK, nice snippet, and interesting critique from Diane.

  10. I love the snappy voice in this piece, but I was a little confused by the “remote schooling in 2069.” At first, I thought it meant she was somehow being schooled from the future. (i.e. 2069) And yes, for some reason I assumed it was a she.

  11. farawayeyes says:

    Interesting comments. Like just about everybody else the things that confuse me, seem to be elements that aren’t really necessary (at least not yet). If they don’t become important later, I would just leave them out. BUT, I love the voice and the basic premise. I’m hooked and would definitely turn the page.

  12. DL Hammons says:

    I agree, lots of questions needing answering after that first page, but its the snappy…high energy voice that would propel me on further in search of the answers. I LIKE! 🙂

  13. This is very lively, Pk, and I like the voice. I generally prefer action right from the start (your third paragraph could be your opening), but your first two paragraphs are so much fun it didn’t bother me.

    I actually pictured a teen boy at first. Not sure why! 🙂 I like Dianne’s suggestion of having the narrator identify himself/herself on the phone. And that’s always one of my nitpicky things: I like to know the MC’s name as soon as possible. First or second paragraph even.

    Dianne and others talked about some of the phrases in the second paragraph (take it to the bank, etc) but the one phrase I found the most jarring was: there’s not a soul today. It sounds way too old for a teen. But all of this is minor, and I would definitely read on.

  14. PK – I love the voice in the first paragraph! This makes me want to pick up the book and keep reading!

  15. Mary Waibel says:

    PK- I love the voice, too. I did picture a girl as the MC, and am now curious if it is a she.

    I agree with Matt on the screen thing- too many too close. Maybe a different word?

    Best of luck, and I would definitely read more!

  16. Linda G. says:

    This opening has me intrigued. I love the voice–it’s fresh and natural. A great start, especially if you tweak the areas Dianne and some of the others mentioned. Good luck with your writing! 🙂