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

First Impressions: MONSTER TOWN

Our next First Impression comes from Garrett Vander Leun, who is sharing the first page of MONSTER TOWN, a middle grade fantasy.
Vampire, on the roof, freaking out in a beach chair.  Other kids had alarm clocks, I had my dad.
That was the first part, the little scoot-back.  He’d be chanting or yodeling or whatever he did while he meditated on the roof, and then the sun would sneak up on his little, grey toes.
That’s how I woke up every single morning.  The sound of him scooting away.  A sound like the blade of a clumsy knife screeching across a plate.  Like an idiot vampire who should have known better.
It sounded like thunder when the sun put a little sizzle in his shorts and he fell over backwards. It shook the walls and rocked my mattress and absolutely guaranteed I was done sleeping.  I’d just lay there with my hands lumped into fists and wait for the rest to happen.  On the morning of my thirteenth birthday, the vampire jumped off my roof like a man on fire.  To be fair, he probably was.  When he sprung off the shingles, little white bits of ceiling sprinkled into my hair just like parmesan cheese on spaghetti. 
He came down in the bushes outside my window and snapped and crackled his way out of anything left standing.  The way his hands fumbled along the outside wall sounded like trouble.
I shook my curls out and kicked my sheets off and reminded my legs how to walk as I pin-balled down the hallway.  I couldn’t remember if I’d left the sliding glass door open or not and those kind of things matter to vampires running away from the sun.
The sliding door was open, but the screen door was not.  My dad dove right through it, head first. 
“Congratulations, Dad – you’re on fire.  Again.”  His hands looked like candles; I wondered what kind of wish I would get if I blew them out.  Maybe I’d woosh all the other monsters I had to live with right out of existence.
The kitchen sink wasn’t too far away and the hose on the faucet might have reached.  A cup of water definitely would have.  I crossed my arms and watched the human torch dance instead.  He’d heal eventually.
My dad slapped his hands into the carpet like he was ripping into some sort of wild bongo solo and huffed and puffed through a rather lackluster ending when the fire finally went out.
“Well done, Dad.”
He’d smacked brand new black, smoldering scars into the carpet right next to dozens of crispy older ones.  He turned his head sideways to look it all over.  “It kind of looks like cheetah print.”
You know what? This is hysterical. The entire situation – a vampire on a beach chair catching fire on the roof while his son provides a fond, but slightly irritated commentary – I can’t imagine what reader wouldn’t be hooked by this.
I only have a few suggestions for tweaking. First off – starting with a sentence fragment is taking a risk that you might turn off the reader immediately, and it did confuse me a little. I think it would be easy to change. For example:  Other kids had alarm clocks; I had a vampire on the roof, freaking out in a beach chair. You could reveal the vampire is his father in the line below: Dad would be chanting or yodeling or whatever he did … This is just one suggestion. There are many ways to eliminate the fragment.
Next, do boys shake their curls out? That line made me think the narrator was a girl, but his name is Bobby. I don’t think we need a physical description of the narrator this early, and I doubt he’d think about his hair while getting out of bed to make sure his on-fire-vampire-father can enter the house. Why not just skip to: I kicked my sheets off
My last (miniscule) thing is this: A hose on a faucet can “reach,” but a cup of water can’t. So I wouldn’t try to use that parallel verb. How about: I could at least have brought him a cup of water, but instead I crossed my arms and watched the human torch dance. 
That’s it! I loved this. Readers, what do you think? Don’t forget, Marcy Hatch will be sharing her own feedback at Mainewords. You can find Garrett on Twitter, or at Douse The Lights, where he shares an online portfolio of his artwork, including character illustrations for MONSTER TOWN.

16 Responses to First Impressions: MONSTER TOWN

  1. Linda G. says:

    Love the whole tone of this!

    As usual, Dianne, I agree with your suggestions. A few tweaks, and this will be perfect. 🙂

  2. Angela Brown says:

    Although I had to read the first few sentences a couple of times to gain my footing, I really enjoyed this. So much punch and active word use. Definitely brought a smile to my face.

    As Dianne suggested, just a bit of tweaking with the beginning would help settle the reader in the scene.

  3. Hey is that the gum wall outside Pike Place Market?

  4. I absolutely love this! So engaging, funny, vivid, and I definitely want to continue reading. It reminds me of when my girls were little and for some strange reason, every time I’d cook, the smoke alarm would go off. (I know, I don’t get it either.) They’d stand there looking at me with their hands on their hips and shake their heads. Great job!

  5. Great suggestions. I got confused with the curls too.

  6. I LOVED this so much. There’s hardly anything to say about it. Yes, lose the curls line. It’s confusing about gender (and this comes from someone in Portland who sees long-haired curly headed boys all the time). I wouldn’t reveal the vampire on the roof is the dad any earlier. It’s such a great grab when you realize it! Great writing and so enjoyable!

  7. I loved it, too. Great description, great verb choice, wonderful humor. Kid will absolutely love this. Dianne already touched on the few suggestions I had, so no need to repeat them. Great job!

  8. I broke my heel this weekend – the warm, honest feedback around here almost puts it back together. Thank you so much for doing this, Dianne. Looking forward to incorporating these very helpful suggestions.

    By the way, I got my gum fix at Bubblegum Alley:


  9. Tiana Smith says:

    It was hard for me to understand what was going on at first. I’d also recommend changing the first few sentences so that your readers really understand what is happening, because I had to read it a few times over. Once I got past that, I really enjoyed it. 🙂 The voice was fun, the action was amusing and I liked the humor. The only other thing I noticed was the whole “human” torch thing, since he’s not really human…

  10. Gwen Gardner says:

    It sounds like a really cute read. I loved it and I’d read on. The voice was strong.

    I was confused by the first sentence. The fragment and commas didn’t put me immediately in the scene. Like you said, I’d start with “Other kids had alarm clocks, I had my dad.” Then, by proceeding to the vampire scene we’d know who/what he was talking about.

  11. I thought this was a great beginning! Hilarious! I liked Dianne’s suggestion for improving the beginning. It made it more clear.

    As for shaking out the curls, I didn’t have a problem. You meant he was shaking out the ceiling stuff from his hair, right? Maybe say you were shaking out the stuff, or the debris or whatever, but I thought it was fine.

    Seriously awesome beginning. Just the kind of book I’d love to read. 🙂

  12. Lydia Kang says:

    That was pretty hilarious! I’d

  13. Having come back to read, I really enjoyed this. I do agree with Dianne though, especially about that first line.

  14. Jemi Fraser says:

    Great voice! The first line did confuse me too, I reread it a few times before moving on. I like Dianne’s suggestion for the switch up to make it clearer 🙂

  15. Steven says:

    I agree with your assessments, especially about the first line. That being said, it hooked me!

  16. This cracked me up! Definitely a great start. I agree with the comments made–especially the first line. I had to read it several times to follow along. Otherwise, I definitely want to read more!