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

First Impressions: KEEP AWAY

Woo Hoo! Welcome to 2013 everybody! I’m awfully glad the world didn’t end in 2012! There’s all kinds of great stuff happening this year.
We’re starting off with First Impressions and a submission from Joanne R. Fritz.  This is the first page of her MG contemporary mystery, KEEP AWAY.
Jake never expected to be standing on this bridge again. Not after what happened last year. The rough cement scraped his bare feet. He clung to the wire fencing behind him and shivered in his swimsuit. Luckily for him, the August sun was playing Hide and Seek behind thick clouds. Maybe he could pretend his goose bumps were from the weather.
Next to him, Flip Farrell balanced on the narrow ledge as lightly and easily as if he were standing on solid ground. He didn’t even need to touch the high fence behind them. “Kankowski, are you nervous?” Flip laughed. “I thought you grew up here. I thought everyone did this. I figured it was some sort of Pocono Mountains rite of passage.”
Jake shook his head. Half the time when Flip talked Jake didn’t understand him. “If my parents knew we were jumping off the Ledgedale Bridge, I’d be grounded for life.”
Flip shrugged. “Aw, who cares about parents?”  
Far below the two boys, the choppy water of Lake Wallenpaupack looked almost black. Murky. It made Jake think of horror movies, of drowning and death and pale limp bodies. No. Not that. A strong breeze carried the high-pitched whine of boat motors and the bitter fumes of their exhaust. He swallowed hard. The three cinnamon rolls he had wolfed down for breakfast were threatening to come back up. He choked back the acid taste and wondered why he’d said yes to Flip’s idea.
A guy’s thirteenth summer was supposed to be more fun than this. 
A car rattled over the bridge behind them and a deep voice yelled, “Go for it!” Jake shuddered but didn’t release his tight grip on the wire. His palms were starting to hurt. 
Flip laughed softly. “You’re chicken, aren’t you? Come on, Rock, Paper, Scissors. Loser jumps first.”

Yay! The Pocono Mountains! I love the Poconos – set two novels and two short stories there, in fact. I can vividly picture this setting: the bridge over the lake and the chill air when the sun goes behind the clouds.  I think you’ve given us the exact right amount of setting description for a MG opening page.
I don’t have much to critique. It’s very well done! Hide and seek should not be capitalized, I think.  And “wondered why he’d said yes to Flip’s idea” seems a little weak of a phrase, considering what they’re about to do and how scared Jake is. I think you could come up with a stronger way to put that. Especially if something bad happened here last year.

As for the car that passes behind them and the driver who calls out, “Go for it!” – TOTALLY believable in the Poconos. It should be a pickup truck, though, LOL!

I wish I had more to suggest, but I really like this the way it is. Do my readers have any suggestions?  Thanks, Joanne, for sharing your page with us! Please visit Joanne at her blog My Brain on Books, and don’t forget to check out Marcy’s critique of the same page.

17 Responses to First Impressions: KEEP AWAY

  1. Linda G. says:

    Joanne, I agree with Dianne–this is an excellent opener. I can’t think of a thing to add to Dianne’s suggestions. It’s already polished, and darned engaging. 🙂

  2. Joanne, this is fantastic. I have nothing to add. I think it’s great! Wonderful job!

  3. WTG, Joanne! Great start. 🙂 My only suggestion has to do with Flip Farrel’s name. I think I would change his last name, so it doesn’t start with the same first letter.

  4. This IS very good. The only suggestion I might make is to break up that first paragraph.

    “Jake never expected to be standing on this bridge again. Not after what happened last year.” feels disconnected from the rest, and would work well as its own separate paragraph, I think.

  5. Tonja says:

    I like how it’s so sensory in the opening paragraphs.

  6. K. M. Walton says:

    Yay, I finally get to read some of your writing, Joanne. <3 it. Wouldn’t change a thing. Excellent work.

  7. Dang! I want to read some more. I loved what I took as a subtle hint about what had happened the summer before with the “…pale limp bodies. No. Not that.”

  8. This is great stuff. But I do agree with changing the car to a pick up truck. Perfect for the Poconos.

  9. Joanne Fritz says:

    Thanks so much, everyone, especially Dianne! I’ve been a nervous wreck since December. Dianne, I wondered about capitalizing Hide and Seek, just because it’s a well-known game. My first draft didn’t capitalize it. And you’re right: the sentence about wondering why he’d said yes is weak. I’ll work on it. Sharon Mayhew, good point about the alliteration of Flip’s name.

    One of my beta readers has suggested NOT mentioning anything about pale, limp bodies yet, because it makes it too obvious. But none of you have talked about that. So now I’m not sure what to do!

  10. Joanne Fritz says:

    Oh, and I thought a pick-up truck might be too much of a cliche, but I’d be happy to change it!

  11. I think this is GREAT–kept me riveted! *waves to Dianne and Joanne*

  12. LTM says:

    Hey, this is GREAT! I love the whole fear–I could totally feel it. And Flip being all egging him on, and the “drowned bodies” flash totally has me wanting to know what THAT’S about!

    Great work, Joanne! My first impression is ROCK ON!!! :o) <3

  13. Like I said elsewhere, this was a pretty clean read for me. Excellent work, Joanne! 🙂

  14. Joanne Fritz says:

    Forgot to thank Matt MacNish for an excellent suggestion. I might just do that!