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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | First Impressions: CLOCKWORK BOUNTY HUNTER

First Impressions: CLOCKWORK BOUNTY HUNTER

Ink GirlOur final First Impressions post for September comes from Talynn Lynn. Now, Talynn is in the middle of moving house and has been without internet, so I don’t have all the usual information I would give you – like genre and audience. I consider this a chance for her page to make a real “first impression” on us, and we can see how good we are at deductive skills!

***

The clockwork dragon detonated in a barrage of fire and metal.

I yanked the sword I wielded and shoved the shield in front of my body, but it was too late. The acid laced fire already started to melt the silver blade. I growled and flung the weapon away from my body. It settled in a muddy bog and slid beneath the surface. The dragon hissed and disappeared, transmitted back to its creator, though it left most of its working parts scattered around the battleground.

“Echo!” I yelled over the explosion of noise. “It’s over. You can come out now.”

My twin sister had been standing behind me a few minutes earlier, tucked away in safety, but now I fought alone in the damp muskeg. I scrunched up my nose, the acrid smell left behind from the dragon burned when I breathed. I glanced around me. It wasn’t easy to concentrate on the battle when Echo wasn’t in sight. Nothing but dark shadows, where the bog mixed with cypress tress and deep caves in the distance. All I could make out was rocky crags with dark circles that looked like black eyes keeping watch over the swamp. Creepy, even for me. Echo wouldn’t have run in there. With one last look around, I walked back toward base camp, betting my cards she’s run home to the safe house.

***

Well, clockwork dragon and sword suggest steampunk, fantasy, or science fiction to me, and based on twin sister, I’m going to guess this is YA.

The first thing that caught my attention was some irregularities in verb tense and sequence. The third sentence should be past perfect, I think: The acid laced fire had already started to melt the silver blade. The last sentence in this passage slips into present tense at the end. Also, this sentence seems out of sequence — It wasn’t easy to concentrate on the battle when Echo wasn’t in sight – because the battle is already over by the time she sees Echo is gone.

Secondly, a detonating clockwork dragon is a pretty cool way to start a first page. It sets up a lot of interesting questions for me. However, it’s risky to begin with too much unexplained action. I don’t feel invested in the narrator or her sister, yet, so that works against the great setting and situation described here.

There are a few things I think the author can do to help us connect with the characters and the stakes right away. One is to share the narrator’s internal thoughts and feelings – let us feel her emotions, hear her heartbeat, experience her breathlessness. The other is to explain a little more about what came before this – how it happened – without getting into too much of an information dump. The trick is to mix the explanation with the thoughts of the narrator in such a way that we understand this scene and care about the main character as quickly as possible. And yes, it might take numerous tries to get it right … Doesn’t it always?

Readers, what do you think? Talynn, thanks for sharing your first page with us, and I hope your move goes smoothly. Marcy has feedback on this page at Mainewords, and Talynn can be found at her blog, Ink in the Book.

 

7 Responses to First Impressions: CLOCKWORK BOUNTY HUNTER

  1. Sheri Larsen says:

    I really enjoyed your comments, Dianne. As always, they are spot on. I’m intrigued by this piece and would like to know more, especially about the clockwork and steampunk probability.

  2. I didn’t even notice the changes in tense. (Probably because it’s not my strong suit either.) It probably does need more connection with the character, but I really liked the clockwork dragon.

  3. I like to see action at the beginning of a story, so I’d say the clockwork dragon shattering into bits is a great start. I’d suggest using “exploded” rather than detonated because detonated can be read as a causative. It seems more exciting to me to have things explode, then there’s no question about what’s happening only why.

    What’s her reaction to the barrage? What does she do besides put up that shield to protect herself? And what is she yanking the sword out of? The exploded body? The sheath? Where is she in relation to that dragon?

    You’re right about the tense. When is all of this happening?

  4. Julie Dao says:

    I think this was a great start! It certainly pulled me in with the immediate conflict/action. One thing I would suggest is to tighten up the language and eliminate words that aren’t completely necessary. I think this would help the paragraphs move along faster (CRUCIAL in a first page), as sometimes it seemed a little clunky to read. For example, “I yanked the sword I wielded and shoved the shield in front of my body, but it was too late” could be tightened up into “I clutched my sword and ducked behind my shield, but it was too late” (bad example, but hopefully makes sense).

  5. Talynn says:

    Thank you everyone for your helpful comments. They all helped me and showed me the best way to improve my first page! I’ve had several agents tell me I needed more character but was at a loss for how to do this, or what it meant. Your explanations and suggestions were exactly what I needed. Again, thank you all!

  6. Talynn says:

    Ps. The title is The Clockwork Bounty Hunter:)

  7. Joanne Fritz says:

    This is an exciting opening page, but I have to agree with Dianne and others that some words could be cut (for instance, “the sword I yielded” could simply be “my sword”) and more of the protagonist’s feelings/thoughts added. Not too much, just enough to draw us in and make us care more.