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

First Impressions: CURSE CURSE

MichaelI am happy to say that we have a full house for First Impressions in October – 3 authors, 3 first pages! Our first submission comes from Angelo Michaels. It’s upper MG, magical realism, and titled CURSE CURSE.




             I knew the imposter wasn’t my sister.  Genuine or not, her appearance, her mere presence suggested that my sister might’ve still been alive.  There was no explanation in the discovery, no means to an end.  My sister was still missing even though the doppelganger was recovered.

            There were small tells, like Siena pulling on the wrong side of her razor straight black hair or tapping her left foot, instead of right, when annoyed.  I could see right through her because she didn’t have her defensive shield in place—her innate, inanimate ability to control her environment with her commanding personality.  Always the boss since she followed me out of our mother twenty-two minutes after I arrived in the world.  

            Siena was always playing catch up.  Picking up on skills like walking, talking and writing, slightly before me—pushing her way to the front, barreling me over in the process.  It was easy for her because I was the timid, shy introvert.  She spoke for both of us, made the decisions and I just followed along. 

            Surviving in her wake, but never thriving in her shadow.

            Even now, entering adulthood at 18, the sea of time between then and now seems to have been absorbed like a sponge.  Those critical years of discovery, both of body and principle, meld together until they become one journey, one thought. 

            All these years later the pain of losing Siena is still as fresh, the fear still as raw as the night she went missing. 

            The night of our 13th birthday I was scared, petrified at the thought of never seeing Siena again.  Dragging around my half self for the rest of my days, the other half vanished, stolen in the night.  If she was dead than I didn’t want to live.  The world would cease to exist without her in it, but the globe continued to spin in the void so she must’ve been alive, somewhere out there.

            I thought my mother, Genieve Grace, being a psychic, would’ve sensed Siena had been replaced when she returned.  Astrologist is her professional title.  Genieve gives Reading, lays tarot cards and plots star charts.  Her ability stems from a heightened intuition bordering on premonition.  She calls it the Wave because it rolls over her, compressing her thoughts until one trumps the others.

            That’s why when Siena went missing I thought Genieve would’ve been more helpful.  More insightful in locating her and more cognizant, upon Siena’s return, that she wasn’t my sister. 

            I knew it, and not just because she was my twin, but because we’re Witches. 


It seems that the inciting incident of CURSE CURSE is the disappearance of Siena on the night of the twins’ 13th birthday. In my opinion, the book should begin before that incident — so that we briefly get to know both girls before one of them disappears — and the narrative should be firmly grounded in the here and now.

The chapter as it stands now serves as a prologue written from the perspective of Seea’s future. She’s 18, looking back on what happened years ago. There’s a lot of description and back story of the two sisters that really shouldn’t be on the first page (it can be presented later in the story), and all of it comes from a very adult-sounding voice: the 18-year-old Seea. I think that voice is a problem on the opening page of a MG manuscript.

I once took a webinar with an agent in which he discussed what he looked for in the first page of a manuscript. He said he wanted to connect with the character’s voice and get a hint of the coming conflict. The conflict is there, but what’s missing is the voice of the MG protagonist – a timid and shy 13-year-old girl lost in the shadow of her sister.

If, by any chance, this prologue is followed by what happened on the night of their 13th birthday, then I highly suggest cutting this page altogether and starting with the next chapter. But take care with the voice of the narrator, making sure it stays true to a MG girl. Readers, what do you think?

Angelo, thanks for sharing your page with us! You can find Angelo at his author website, and please check out feedback on this page from Marcy and Krystalyn.


9 Responses to First Impressions: CURSE CURSE

  1. That was my thought on Marcy’s site. Start with the disappearance.

  2. Tiana Smith says:

    I agree with Dianne – the voice sounds much too old to be MG. Part of it is the words you use, the rhythm of your sentences, etc. But if you’re going to have her be 18, then that YA bordering on adult.

  3. I already left a comment on Marcy’s blog, but figured I’d check here to see your take on it, Dianne. It’s obvious you write for MG, and I don’t. Your comments make much more sense than mine, especially for this target audience.

    Still? I like the start of this story. So sue me. (I’m not MG!)

  4. Lexa Cain says:

    I was confused by a lot of this. I still don’t get the reference to “recovered” in the first para. There are a few publishers who don’t mind a book starting with inner thoughts and lots of backstory (like Katherine Tegen), but I like books to start in the here and now. With a concrete location and an MC doing something interesting. I also find it off-putting that there seems to be a bracketing story where the MC is actually 18 and remembering her 13th year. This takes all the tension from the story because we already know the MC survived her 13th year. Plus, we’ll feel the young MC isn’t really doing things – she’s just a memory of a past time.

    Also, if Siena was “always” playing catch up, that means she is often behind, but apparently she is first in everything except being born, so the reference is misleading. Good luck with the book. I like the title. 🙂

  5. Julia Tomiak says:

    I was very confused- there are a lot of twins here. The twin girls (?) who are the main characters, then also Siena’s doppelgänger. And I agree with the other comments re: starting with more action, in real time, and less backstory.

    A quick thing about Siena “always playing catch up”. It sounds like Siena was a very strong personality, eager to learn and succeed. That doesn’t sound like someone who is behind, catching up. That sounds like someone rushing ahead.

    Good luck with this piece! I struggled with finding where to begin my story- it took several tries to catch the right spot. But now I think I’ve got it. You’ll find it too. 😉

  6. To start, I have to say that CURSE CURSE is a great title. I don’t know why it works, but it really does. ^_^ The first paragraph is intriguing – the first sentence alone got my attention, as it’s easy to imagine how disturbing it must be to know that the person who disappeared is not the one who’s come back. And I like the way that you show with some small initial details that we’re dealing with something supernatural, which explains why the narrator accepts that a doppelganger of some sort is a possibility.

    After that, though, things get kind of jumbled. Why does Seea say that Siena was playing catch up, when Siena was always slightly ahead of Seea? I figured that it’s because Seea was born first, but it’s an awkward way to phrase that. And everything from then on is unfocused. First Seea’s talking about being an adult, then the night she lost her sister, then about their mother, and it’s all very stream-of-consciousness in a way that makes it hard to keep track of what’s going on and what’s important. The start of a book needs to get the reader’s attention and hold it, not scramble to drop a lot of important details. The things Seea’s talking about seem like things that could come up naturally over the course of the story, and I think that would work better than presenting them to the reader all at once.

    I agree with Diane’s advice – find out the inciting incident, determine where the story truly starts, and go from there. Good luck, and I hope you get some good advice here. ^_^

  7. Misha says:

    I agree. This section feels like a lot of telling when the story would have been better served if I could experience it right there with the character.

    That said, I think the writer has a knack for beautiful writing. I just think the story needs to be refined so that there’s more of a connection with the characters.

  8. Thank You all for the great feedback and insight, it is an immense help and I think this First Impressions feature has helped me to find the right voice for the twins and where to start the story! I will be reshaping the POV and telling the story in the present instead of back from a later age. Please check out my website (am-author.com) and reach out to me if you think we could help each other as fellow writers!

  9. As I read through this, I paused to check back at the intended age group (thought I’d misread it, and it was YA). I agree whole-heartedly with the others in so far that it should start with the disappearance. Then we get a glimpse at the girls and their relationship without being told what it was (avoiding backstory). Plus, MGers love action.