Dianne Salerni author Dianne Salerni author Dianne Salerni books Dianne Salerni blog Dianne Salerni Appearances Dianne Salerni contact Dianne Salerni teachers
Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | First Impressions: NOT ME

First Impressions: NOT ME

Our second submission for First Impressions is a YA Thriller, titled NOT ME by Taffy Lovell.
I glance out my dirty bedroom window. The sky promises another beautiful day. If my days were normal, I might hang out at the pool, pretending not to watch the lifeguards. If my life were normal, I might sit under the shade of the trees and daydream. If I were normal, I might gossip with friends late into the night. We would sit on someone’s bed, eating popcorn and talking about everything and nothing. But I left normal behind ages ago–in quiet cemeteries.
My computer desk is unorganized chaos. I hide the scissors and yesterdays newspaper under my bed. The obituaries can wait.
A worn-out and yellowed clipping flutters to the floor. I pick it up and study it. John Birch’s trench coat is thrown over my little sister and me. He’s trying to shield us from the snooping cameras. The caption reads “Lost Memories or Fake Amnesia?”
I tuck the old news story into the red shoebox and place it in the closet shelf. Time for reality.
My hair is a ratty mess. I flip my head over and try to force my tangled mane into a ponytail. I peek in the mirror. It will work. Easy. That’s how I roll.
The t-shirt I wore to bed reeks like last night’s Chinese takeout. Not how I roll. A black piece of fabric peeks out from beneath my pillow. Pulling my favorite AC/DC vintage t-shirt close I inhale and pretend it smells like the last boy I crushed on. I haven’t lost memories of him.
I trade the shirt with another, cleaner one off the floor and shake it out for good measure. A green frog grins at me with the thought bubble: “It isn’t easy being green!”
Georgie is still in bed, I’m sure. She doesn’t have a morning ritual because she has natural beauty. Everyone says so. She doesn’t even sweat, she glows.
 “Georgie!” I scream from my doorway. “I can’t be late again or I’ll get detention!”
There are several things that really catch my attention on this page. The sentences I left normal behind ages ago–in quiet cemeteries and The obituaries can wait and the bit about the newspaper clipping and the headline are all very intriguing.  The list of “normal” activities in the first paragraph and the descriptions of her t-shirts, less so.

I suggest rearranging the information on this first page to make those intriguing details pop.  For instance, Taffy could start with our MC laying down the scissors and deciding The obituaries can wait. That would be a startling beginning. (The obituaries can wait might even make an excellent opening sentence.)

Next the MC can glance out the window at the beautiful day and (more briefly) think about the ways normal girls might spend the day. Then she can deliver the line But I left normal behind ages ago–in quiet cemeteries.

Finally, while she’s searching the floor for a clean-enough t-shirt, she can come across the clipping that had fallen off the table – and boom, we’re hooked. Or, at least I am. Readers, what do you think?

Taffy, thanks so much for sharing your first page with us today! You can visit Taffy at her blog, Taffy’s Writings, and don’t forget to check out Marcy’s critique of the same page at Mainewords.

10 Responses to First Impressions: NOT ME

  1. SA Larsenッ says:

    Hmmm…I’m with Dianne. There is a lot of positive elements in this piece. I really like Dianne’s suggestion about starting out with putting the scissors down, letting the obituaries wait. There’s nothing that will catch a reader in the opening than an MC with a pair of scissors in his/her hand. Seriously, makes the reader wonder and want to read on.

  2. Julie Daines says:

    I love the way Taffy really gets into the voice of the character. In just this one page the reader gets a good taste for who this girl is. And plenty of clues are dropped to intrigue the reader and still leave a wide enough net to take the whole story to unfold. I love it!

  3. I sort of lost focus around the searching for clean t-shirts piece and felt like I needed something stronger right up front to hold my attention.

    The writing was nice, but I think it would be stronger with Dianne’s suggested tweak.

  4. I really like this opening. It is intriguing. I also agree with Dianne about moving the obituary part to the beginning as the opening statement. And I agree with Johanna that the t-shirt scene drew me out of the narrative. But for me it was the part about the green frog and the quote bubble. Also in the last statements, I think you could just say Georgia is still in bed, because she has no morning ritual; she doesn’t need one. For me, describing Georgia drew my attention from the MC.

    This is something I would want to keep reading based on the opening page. Good job.

  5. Patchi says:

    Great comments Dianne. This page was really intriguing, but you ordering suggestions would make it much better. I love “the obituaries can wait” as a first sentence. What a hook!

  6. Lexa Cain says:

    For me, the two interesting things on the page are the cemeteries line and the amnesia clipping. Those were great! The rest is a bit mundane. Even the lovely prose in the three “if” lines then leads to the fact she’s not normal, which fits just about every mc in YA. This opening might work for Contemp, but I don’t think it works for a Thriller.

    I suggest you find a more exciting place to start the novel. The opening needs tension and conflict, and her waking-up, morning ritual doesn’t really have that.

    Good luck! 🙂

  7. DL Hammons says:

    I was intrigued by this…a lot. Your comments are spot on and if she follows your suggestions it will improve the page considerably. I would read on! 🙂

  8. For a change, I commented on Marcy’s blog first this time.

    Much to my surprise, I don’t agree with what a lot of folks here are saying. I LIKE the first paragraph. A LOT. And I like the part about the tee shirts, too. It comes across to me as authentic teenager behavior.

    Just goes to show ya, we all have different tastes.

  9. I loved the first paragraph but I also love the suggestion about the obituaries waiting as an opening line. I was much less taken with the paragraphs about the t-shirts and takeout. I wanted to know more about the caption!

    Well done, Taffy.

  10. Taffy says:

    Thanks everyone! Your comments were very useful.