Wednesday, January 14, 2009


TITLE: The End of Normal
GENRE: YA Thriller/Sci-Fi

Theodora sat in the principal’s office, again. Across from her sat Mr. Silver, in his dress shirt and tie and his perfectly combed gray hair.

“Why did you do it?” Mr. Silver asked in a somewhat defeated tone. He seemed tired. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes with his thumb and middle finger and took a deep breath in. Theodora sat in silence staring at her band-aid covered fingertips and wished today wasn’t the day she chose to stop her bad habit. The words, “great timing” kept rolling around in her head.

Mr. Silver never wore a suit jacket and the kids at West Chester Middle thought he did it to look cool, more approachable. It wasn’t working. His rolled up sleeves didn’t help him either. She was pretty sure no one liked him in all of 6th, 7th or 8th grade. Well, maybe the Business Club kids liked him. They came to school dressed as his clones when they had their meetings. They probably liked him, she thought.

She lifted her head as if she was going to answer the man, but instead she looked right past him - over his right shoulder to be exact. Two walls of his square office were windows and the movement of her classmates on the field caught her eye. She intentionally lost herself in thoughts.

Anything to remove herself from this moment – this situation.


  1. Hi,

    I think you have too much detail and info in this opening. Mentioning the business club kids and how the principal has windows in his office. I'd much rather know what she did OR how she's planning to get out of the trouble.

  2. This didn't quite hook me, though I wanted it too. It has good potential, but I think there are too many details and nothing actually happens. But, I'd be interested to read a few more pages based on this.

  3. I would have to agree with Gillian.

    Move us faster into the story, and leave specifics for later on in the story.

    Edit, edit, edit! I think your story has potential ;)

  4. You've set up an interesting situation, and I'd like to know more. But the story is slowed down by a lot detail (as others have noted) and some over-explaining. For example...

    “Why did you do it?” Mr. Silver asked in a somewhat defeated tone. He seemed tired. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes with his thumb and middle finger and took a deep breath in.

    You could delete everything in bold and still convey that he's tired. And you'd get to the story much faster.

    There's definitely potential here, so good luck!

  5. Sorry. Didn't do anything for me. Nothing exciting is happening. It's supposed to be a thriller. Thrill me!

    Look forward, though, to see this in a future contest with a quicker start.

  6. I agree with Gillian--I wanted to be hooked. I like your character, but we need better follow up to what she's done rather than info on the principal. Some editing and tightening will help show off the great potential--I have a feeling that this story has a lot of that.

    Best of luck with this!

  7. While you start with a good story question - what did she do? You lose your grip on us with all the details following.

    He asks her why she did it - would her thoughts go to his style of dress or how popular he was? I don't think so, I think she'd be thinking to herself a bunch of possible answers, testing out which one would get her out of there.

    Good luck!

  8. The fact that this is labeled thriller/sci-fi completely contradicts with this opening paragraph.

    Though well written, this story openings like any other prep-school YA I've seen. There's nothing that draws me in or hints at the labeled genre. I'd be hard pressed to read any further.

    Even if there had been one crazy line indicating the thriller tension or sci-fi imagination, I would have felt differently.

  9. Didn't really do it for me. It sounds like a good start but there's some stuff that doesn't jibe the whole school environment for me. There's too many cliched elements in this for me. A "cool" principal would dress in jeans or something like that. And too many of his actions are cliched.

  10. Sorry, but there's not really a hook for me here. It seems to wander a lot and not get to the point. It feels like the character has potential, so I might read a little further to see if I could get interested.

  11. I'm not hooked.

    I think you have the beginning of a good voice: "The words, 'great timing' kept rolling around in her head."

    But I can't find Theodora in here. Too much Mr. Silver, not enough Theodora.

    You do a good job on Theodora's internal dialogue, just make it focus on her, not the principal.

  12. Love the voice, but more needs to happen to hook the reader.

    Maybe tighten it a little too. I would read on though. I want to know what she's done wrong.

  13. I sorta like this.... but nothing really happens here. There is a lot of description, and I kept skimming instead of reading.

  14. Hooked! I liked this one. One thing I would suggest is to start off with the principal's line instead of just sitting--that, to me, would up the tension.

  15. I get hooked on parts of the story - wondering what Theodora did, wondering about her history since she's in the office again, but I get bogged down in the details. I'm not very compelled by Mr. Silver, and he takes up most of the paragraph as well as owning the only dialog.

  16. This didn't hook me. Well, parts of it did - like why her fingers have bandaids on them and what in the world is the bad habit she quit today.

    And I agree with other critters about the details and why we need to know how is dress style. Maybe you could work that in later is we need to know it.

    I wanted to be hook but it just didn't work for me.

  17. I liked the opening line and when the Principal asked the MC why she did it. It started out really tweaking my interest. But you didn’t hold me. I wanted to know what she had done and why. Maybe move some of the descriptions to after at least one of the answers. The descriptions are great and age appropriate, but I wanted something to sink my teeth into before I know all the kids don’t like the principal.

  18. Author here. I appreciate everyone's comments and crits but disagree 100% on the philosophy that a book has to jar the reader in the first 250 words. A matter of opinion, I guess, as a reader.

    The first chapter sucks the reader in, trust me on that - and it's a fairly short chapter.

    My book, since it's a thriller, is obviously FILLED with suspenseful/thrilling/can't put the book down moments - just not in the first 250 words.

    My beta readers (including ACTUAL young adults) stayed up all night reading my book - one was even late for work.

    That's it. Thought I'd weigh in. Thanks for the comments.

  19. Just little things...

    "somewhat defeated" is too wordy....just "defeated" works.

    Also, would kids this age use the word "approachable?" That jumped out as "too adult."

    Theodora has great potential (starting with her name!) but this didn't really hook me.

  20. Here's what I got from reading your passage. Theodora bites her nails, the principal is a meticulous dresser, Not too many students like Mr. Silver, & Theodora is ignoring him.I would add at least one thrilling element to tease the reader and keep them reading. Good Luck!

  21. I like the tone and the voice of this. I'm not one for chick-lit type books so I like a slow build rather than having something just for shock value.

    BUT, I do have to agree that it is maybe too much of Mr. Silver.

    For instance, just for fun, read the piece without the entire third paragraph. You can, easily, without losing "who" Mr. Silver is. (the book is not about what he dresses like). Just find a different spot to say the name of the school.

    Also, just maybe a tad too many details. -- Mr. Siver in a "defeated tone," then in the next sentence he "seems tired," and then in the next sentence he is "rubbing his eyes" and "taking a deep breath." ALL of these details = the man is worn out. You can get by with two, you don't need five.

    :... Mr. Silver said, defeated, rubbing his eyes."

    One aside: teens reading your book is way, way different than editors/agents reading your book. My 14 year-old niece loves my book too. Doesn't matter. She doesn't work for a publishing house. I hope none of this sounded snarky because that is not my intent. I do, do, do like this voice!

  22. Doesn’t hook me…
    Because nothing really happens here. It’s slow. I have no idea what the situation is. And why does the description of this principle supersede the plot or main character?

  23. Pretty. Would read on.
    Not hooked though. Not yet. What's the conflict? Just being in the principal's office isn't enough. I'm okay with not knowing in the first 250 words, but I'd take out some of the detail to get to it a little faster.

  24. I remember the older version of this. I liked that better since there was more immediacy. As far as I remember, the problem then was straying into her physical appearance too early.

    The problem now is that when the narrator distances herself from the situation, she's distancing us from it as well. Keep us in the moment.

  25. Ditto on the detail overkill--it slows down the tension and pacing way too much. Also, the comment about the Business Club kids didn't make any sense to me--how can they dress like him when Mr. Silver doesn't wear a suit jacket (and thus has no identifiable style that you've given us for these kids to emulate).

    Sorry, but still not hooked.

  26. There are two very interesting things here. 1) A good title and 2) the small revelation, when I happened to check back, that this is actually going to be a thriller/sci-fi story - because I wouldn't have guessed that from this opening.
    I'm not immediately grabbed and there are a few little lumpy bits in the writing (eg, repeat of 'liked him' x3, but I'm interested to know where you might be going with the story.

  27. A thrilling sci-fi story.

    I think the description of the principal doesn't need to be so close to the beginning. Maybe later?

    I want to know more about what Theodora (who will probably be called Theo, another girl-with-a-boy's name) did, and why.

    I'd read further to see if you actually answer what Theodora did. If not, I'd stop.

  28. She's unsympathetic and self-absorbed. I need to like a main characher

  29. You have the raw materials for something great here. Your title rocks!

  30. I'm not certain who the story is about here - your mc or the principal. You spend more time on the principal than you do on her.

  31. I'm not certain who the story is about here - your mc or the principal. You spend more time on the principal than you do on her.

  32. Loved the title, but sorry, not hooked with this excerpt...still 250 words is often hard to judge for the worth of an entire book. I'd read another page