This First Impression excerpt for June comes to us from Christine Danek (whom, unlike most of my blogging friends, I have actually met in person!) This is a YA paranormal titled REALM 17.
Colored light stretches across the floor of the landing. I look up to see the same angel with her arms spread, her yellow hair flowing, and rainbow colored glass surrounding her form. I know I’m dead, but really, do they have to remind me at every turn
Death is a strange beast. You hear so many theories
onabout what it’s like on the other side. Then you hear about those people who died for like a minute , and then came back from the dead claiming they heard angels, saw a white light, and felt calm and peaceful.
It’s totally not true.
Realm 17 has been nothing but one big bore-fest except for this part of my day. For six months, I’ve repeated this routine. I scoot back onto the window seat and adjust a button on my white oxford shirt. Each follicle of hair hurts because I’ve tied it back in a ponytail every day. You know–the rules.
Students pass by all wearing the same thing–white shirt, black skirt or pants, and black shoes. They walk up the steps to class in one heaping mass of spirits. Then I see him.
He comes up from the bottom floor, taking each step just like the others, but slows on the landing, glancing at me. A black curl falls over his left eye and is accompanied with a smile creeping up his cheek–typical hot boy in sea of monotony, and I like it. He turns and follows the others to class.
“Becca.” Kat waves her fingers in front of my view.
I look at her, hoping that my narrowed eyes give a hint of disappointment. “You’re totally ruining my day.”
The opening lines really engaged me. I made a few editing suggestions in red, but other than that, Christine has given us a great visual with that stained glass angel, as well as a taste of her MC’s voice: I know I’m dead, but really, do they have to remind me at every turn?
The name Realm 17 is also appealing. It calls to mind questions about Realms 1-16, not to mention Realms 18 and above, if they exist. Immediately I want to know more about the setting and what brought the MC to this place (besides dying, that is).
Which is why I’m not sure Becca should tell us Realm 17 is a bore-fest, because if it is, we might lose interest in reading about it. Furthermore, I’m uncertain about Asher. It’s too soon to tell whether he is the love interest or merely a passing fancy, but my personal preference is not to meet the love interest on page one – and perhaps not even in the first chapter. I’d rather get to know the MC first and see the love interest get a flashier entrance. A while back, Georgia McBride wrote an interesting post on why the love interest shouldn’t be introduced too early.
If Asher is a passing fancy (or one of a parade of hotties Becca watches each morning), then his first page appearance is on firmer ground. After all, the first time we meet Romeo Montague, he’s obsessing over Rosalind, a girl he will soon forget. Thus, Romeo’s impulsiveness (not to mention fickleness and lack of self-restraint) is quickly revealed, since everybody knows the play isn’t called Romeo and Rosalind.
I once took an online workshop with an agent in which he explained the two things he looked for in a YA first page: voice and conflict. He wanted to get a taste of the MC’s voice and a strong hint of the main conflict. Following his guidelines, I’d suggest that Christine might want to hold off on Asher and use the first page to continue exploring Becca and this school full of dead teens, since I assume Realm 17 will be the source of the conflict in the novel. Even in Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare introduces the Montague-Capulet feud before Romeo and his soon-to-be-ex crush.
What do the readers think? To crush on the first page – or not crush? That is the question. No, wait. That’s the wrong Shakespeare play.