Wednesday, January 14, 2009


TITLE: ...or swim
GENRE: YA fantasy

Gage sank slowly. His longish hair floated upward as if it was the only part of him with the sense to prefer the surface. He held his breath involuntarily, and opened his eyes to the murk.

This is the last thing I will ever see, he thought.

Gage struggled to open his mouth and force water into his lungs, but his lungs wanted to live more than he did.

Forty-five seconds underwater.

His chest filled with hot coals and his head bloated with helium.

I’ll explode, he thought groggily, finally, I’ll explode.

He settled deep into the sticky bottom.

* * *

Gage’s mother grabbed his feet and shook them viciously. “Didn’t I tell you to stay away from girlsss?” She drew her question out like a hiss.

Gage jerked upright in bed, ready to fight for his life. He had learned to sleep on the alert, like a bobcat.

“What do you mean?” he asked. He tried to sound unconcerned, but his voice trembled a little at the end.

His mother shook a pair of ticket stubs at him. “Movies. With a girrrl.” She sounded like she’d caught Gage molesting a chicken. “I should have known.” She threw the stubs in his face. A tiny curl escaped her lacquered hair and bounced on her forehead like an accusatory finger. “And I don’t know where you got the money, if you are really giving me all of your paycheck.”


  1. Hooked!

    Great job!

  2. I loved the second part - what a great set-up. I didn't care for the first part because I have a thing about suicide, but that's just me.

    Well done.

  3. Not sure if I'm entirely hooked, but I'd read more. Curious about the beginning. Was this a preface? I get the feeling this happens later in the book. Or maybe I've read too many novels lately that start the same way.

    Good job!

  4. I'm having a POV problem with George; if this is from his POV, and if he's attempting to commit suicide, would he be aware that his hair is floating upward? Would he be aware that he's holding his breath "involuntarily?"

    Nitpicky, I know.

    Also, when a person is holding his breath, lungs filled with air, the body's natural response is to float, not to sink. Is he weighted down with something that's pulling him to the bottom?

  5. I agree with some of the crits, but I like your writing, your voice. For that reason I'd keep reading.

  6. I'm in! Great details and imagery! Excellent set up for what's going on and the mother is already creepy...we're talking Gollum creepy!

  7. I'm on the fence. I was caught up thinking about invuluntary too. It stopped me cold while I puzzled the action out and why he would involunarily do this.

    The second part is good, but the sss thing bugged me. Just a personal thing I guess. I guess the second part came too suddenly after the first. Was the suicide a dream? A tiny lead in hint of the dream as he's being awoken would be good if that's the case, or disappointment that it was only a dream...something.

    Thanks for sharing. The floating hair was a good image.

  8. I loved the voice of Gage's mother. However I have some problems with the opening

    "Gage sank slowly."
    Maybe it's me, but I don't like adverbs in particular in an opening line..

    "His longish hair floated upward as if it was the only part of him with the sense to prefer the surface."

    I think this sentence could be edited... not knowing at this point that he is in the water... I was thinking WTF?

    My first thought when reading this, was that he was sitting in a chair... or something..

    Lots of pssibilities here though...
    Thanks for posting.

  9. Lots of tension and emotion in this first page. I can sense his struggle. Nice voice. I love the part with his mother though I was jolted from 'dream' to reality. I assume it was a dream anyway. I couldn't figure out how his mother was pulling his feet when he was at the bottom of the water.

  10. Interesting. A bit confusing but I'd read on to see how it works out. Him trying to drown himself was disturbing. The second part hooked me more. Sounds like a horrible mother, no wonder he wanted out.

  11. I'm a little confused - was the first part a dream or something else? But I like the voice enough that I'd probably read more.

  12. I like your voice too, especially in the second part. You use some strong descriptons--laquered hair. I love that.

    I'd definately read more.


    Loved the voice, the mother, Gage, and the comment about molesting a chicken.

    I would replace the first word in the third paragraph with "he" but other than that...this one hooked me.

  14. He's dreaming, someone pulls at his foot and shouts at him, he jerks awake and upright, ready to fight. Right?

    The transition could be smoother and a lot of questions answered if he felt the tug in the dream. Also, if he was asleep, he wouldn't know immediately that it was his mother doing the tugging.

    I think that transition is really the only problem here. Good setup.

  15. Loved it! Loved the descriptions-- I could really feel the near drowning. That was enough to hook me, but you got me hooked again with the mom. Why does he give her his money and why can't he see girls? Would love to read on...

  16. For some reason this reminds me of "The Secret Life of Walter Middy," or whoever he was - I'm not quite that aged.

    But this character is old enough to work, but is totally dominated by his mother to the point, it seems, of contemplating ways to do himself in rather than tolerate her overbearing personality.

    This sounds fun to me, and the mother is a real hag - I love the way you've already shown us how lovely she is.

  17. Hooked, of course. Just me, but I'd take out the two ly words in the first paragraph. The thigh-high waders made Gage sink as he'd planned, or something. You can always switch the "last thing I'll ever see" lign with the next paragraph without difficulty. His head bloated with helium sounds very technical. And then I was really jolted by his Mom waking him up. I want to see what you've done with it and how the juxtapositioning of Mom and drowning works throughout the book.

  18. As somebody who almost drowned when I was little... I wasn't totally sold on the first part. What I remember is that holding the mouth shut is very easy. Trying not to breathe through your nose is very hard - especially if you do it just a little bit. Then it hurts - your face, throat, chest... everything. You see stars and black spots. And every instinct tells you to save yourself - which is complicated if you are three feet below the surface and can't swim.

    So I don't know about the 'bloated with helium' descripto...

    Figuring out that the character is committing suicide in his dream (?), I let it pass and the the second part sort of won me back.

  19. Loved the title and how it made me pause and think.

    It was interesting. I was definitely hooked and would read on. I would like to get a clearer sense of the plot soon--within the next few pages or so--but as a first page, I'm so there.

  20. I like it! I like the first part too, it works well with the second part and the mom, like she's always there no matter what.

    I imagined him dreaming then being suddenly awakened by his mother. I agree with others on a couple of word changes. I would definitely keep reading because I'm so curious to find out what's up.

  21. I'm not wild the dream sequence - the part that really grabbed me was the mother. That definitely made me want to read on. Any way to put that first?

  22. I was a little disconnected with this one. I'm thinking it was a dream, but it's not clear enough to be certain.

    The mother is well-cast. I don't think I'm going to like her unless she does a turn-around later.

    I'm on the fence as to whether I would read more or not.

  23. I appreciate everyone taking the time to comment. You have some really good points to ponder.

    Keep 'em comin'!

    I'm determined to comment on all 51 posts.

    Wish me luck, I'm starting to sag.

  24. Hooked! Hooked! H-o-o-k-e-d!
    As a reader I felt instant empathy for the MC, which increased throughout the passage. Good Job!

    Loved how you trusted the reader to infer important details & as a writer you made every word count. Actually, I'm downright envious;)

    Fave line is the first one about the hair having sense and then the lungs wanting life. And molesting a chicken is LOL effective.

    Did I say I was hooked!?

  25. Doesn’t hook me…
    Because I’m totally lost. Dream scenarios and drowning scenarios are so common and then we wake to a screeching mother. I have no idea where this is going or why I should care about the guy. It didn’t really hook me. Oh, and molesting a chicken? Even used as a simile that’s… ewww

  26. Beginning with a dream... Hmm. Not sure it works here.

    Gage's mom sounds like a piece of work -- a real bitch, in fact.

    "He had learned to sleep on the alert, like a bobcat." To me, this is telling us, not showing us. Can you find a way to describe it from Gage's POV?

    For me, I would read a few more paragraphs/pages to see where this was going, but I'm skeptical if I'll like it or not.

  27. Liked it. Great voice. Would love to read on. Good luck.

  28. Wow! The second part is dynamite. The first, not so much--it was a dream right? Felt a little too abstract.

    I'd read on, though.

  29. Um, not really sure how I feel about this one. Is the opening scene a dream? If so, I'm not a fan of starting a story with a character waking from a bad dream (it's cliche and a transparent writing tool). Also, why does the mother pronounce her words so strangely (it's not like any lisp I've ever heard of)?

  30. The second part got my attention. The first part not so much - I don't like dream sequences (even though I've been guilty of using them) and the sensation of drowning doesn't read true to me. I think starting with the mother would be much stronger; there's real conflict there.

  31. If you'd started with the mother I'd be hooked, now not so much.

  32. Er, is this first bit a dream? I'm not clear. And how does it fit in with the next bit? I'm lost H-e-e-l-p! However, you do have a great line: 'She sounded like . . . a chicken', which made me smile. And I potentially like this evil mother.
    But I'm not clear enough about how this fits together to feel really engaged.

  33. L-O-V-E-D IT!!!

    People, people, people. The dream is telling us something very important about the character. You guys are all hung up on the dream thing, because of agents saying they get a lot of them. GET OVER IT!!!!!

    I think we have some jealous authors!!!


    Don't change a thing!

  34. Hooked. :P I'm not sure if the first scene is a dream or not, but even though the second one has him waking up, I don't mind since he's alert right away and in an interesting situation with his mother. Nice.

    I have no idea about that title, though.

    Good luck,


  35. I laughed aloud at the chicken comment! Lose the dream sequence and you're off to a rocketing start.

  36. No dream, but loved the chicken! I like the voice and would at least read a little more.