Friday, November 30, 2012

(57) YA: Margaret Ethel

TITLE: Margaret Ethel

Sixteen-year-old trouble maker Margaret returns from the grave to stop her best friend from committing the seven deadly sins. Failure means spending eternity apart. Margaret will go to Heaven and her friend will go to that other place — you know the one.

It's not every day someone dies in Mr. Sample's sixth period physics class. I guess if Freddie Johnson were telling this story she'd say, "It's not every day you kill your best friend in the Samp's sixth period physics class." But she's not telling this story, I am.

Killed, not murdered. It was an accident. Freddie's crazy, but not psycho-crazy. She doesn't go around willy-nilly killing people. But she is always getting into trouble, which was both great fun for me and a royal pain in my you-know-what.

We were in lab and Mr. Sample was going on about something, but I wasn't listening. I was updating my Facebook page to say I'm now completely and definitely single. Just so you know, we're not supposed to use our cell phones during class or even in the hall, but this was an emergency. Thankfully I did, and just in time. Now Kent Adams will always be remembered as the guy who broke up with me on the day I died. 

Perfect, it's what he deserves. He dumped me at lunch. I was devastated during fourth period, angry in fifth, and over him by sixth. I'm a quick griever. I told him I wasn't ready. I'm barely sixteen and we'd only been dating for three measly little weeks. I guess when it didn't happen at prom, he figured he'd move on. That's fine. Bye-bye. 


  1. This has a great sense of humor and an interesting premise.

    Some picky things...

    It's not clear who got murdered until the third paragraph. Maybe move it up sooner to quell confusion?

    Don't need both measly and little before weeks; maybe pick one or the other?

    Not sure why we need to know about Kent Adams now. I'm more interested in how Margaret, who maybe needs to be named, died.

  2. The voice in this is really strong, and that's what grabbed me first. It's humorous and has dramatic flair to it (ah, teenage girls!). Here are a few ways I think can help make that voice a little stronger--

    As much as I love the opening,the first paragraph reads redundant to me. If it were me, I'd make it stronger and lead with:

    I guess if Freddie Johnson were telling this story she'd say, "It's not every day you kill your best friend in Mr Sample's sixth period physics class." But she's not telling this story, I am.

    With the line "We were in lab and Mr. Sample was going on about something", it would help if you listed something Mr. Sample was babbling about ("going on about photosynthesis or something. I wasn't listening") It would help clue us in on what KIND of science class it is:

  3. I was good with the beginning until I read Valerie's suggestion for a tweak, and I agree that it's better.

    I think these three lines could be combined into two for the sake of not getting repetitive, so here's my suggestion: "Freddie's crazy, but she doesn't go around willy-nilly killing people. But she is always getting into trouble, which was both great fun for me and a royal pain in my you-know-what."

    Now you only show that she's not psycho-crazy.

    I think your colloquial, hey-I'm-talkin'-to-you voice works great for the story so far. I like it! Good luck!

  4. Fun voice, and am looking forward to seeing what the accident was (am guessing it's going to be somewhat humorous).

    Suggestions: While there's a bunch of interesting info here, it doesn't flow as well as it could. Maybe you're trying to cram in too much stuff right away? Perhaps concentrate on telling the reader about the accident and bring Kent in later? Also something about the final paragraph, perhaps the very short sentences, makes your MC come across as not very likable to me, but that could just be me.

    I think Valerie's suggestion for changing the beginning is very good, I didn't think you needed the repetition either.

    Finally it seemed a little odd to me that she is talking (I presume?) about sex in the last paragraph, but then uses the phrase 'royal pain in my you-know-what' which sounds kind of young.

    I think this could be a lot of fun with a little re-jigging. Good luck!

  5. Love the voice!
    Disagree with the criticisms. I like it exactly as is.
    The voice is spot-on IMO. I love the way the random, casual details are mixed together.
    I'm definitely left wanting to read on and find out more!

  6. Great voice! This and the premise pulls the reader along. I think it's okay to wait until the third paragraph to find out who's speaking. The paragraphs aren't that long.

    Some picky things grammatically: Suggest you change to "But she's not telling this story. I am." Also, I suggest a comma after "Thankfully."

    Food for thought: Wouldn't a sixteen-year-old most likely say "butt" rather than "you-know-what?"

    Good luck.

  7. I like the diary-style narration, I think the author works this angle well. It took me a couple read-throughs to figure out the MC is the one who died. I know the logline says it, but I do think this could be added in. The voice is strong, good luck with this!

  8. Great voice. The third oaragraph reveal was fine for me.
    Godd luck!

  9. I love it. The voice is great and the opening is intriguing.

    I'm a little confused about the logline--sounds like you'd have to stay on someone's case forever to prevent them from committing sins.

    But I'd definitely read on.

  10. I agree that the info in the first paragraph is redundant, and I also would have liked it better if I knew that we were in the head of the main character who get's killed earlier.

    It sounds like a fun and humorous story. I'd keep reading.

  11. I'm going to be nitpicky here, but the idea is to help, right?

    First off, the name "Margaret Ethel" seems so old for a current-day, 16-year-old girl, IMO. When I read your logline, I figured the girl died LONG ago and she came back from the grave to stop her best friend as a senior citizen. Seriously, my grandmother's sister was named Ethel. And even though "Freddie" implies a male character, you did follow up quickly by mentioning "she'd" in the same sentence, so no confusion there.

    I think the reason your first paragraph seems repetitive and ineffective is because the two sentences are too similar. I might italicize the word "kill" since your point is to differentiate "dies" and "kill" - if I am understanding this correctly.

    I see 'tense' shifts:
    --She "is" always getting into trouble which "was" both great fun...
    --"It's what he deserves" ... He "dumped" me...
    --"I'm" a quick griever. I "told"

    If this is a YA story for teens, wouldn't they already know that cell phones are not allowed during class? Meaning, "Just so you know..." seems to be targeted toward people who would not be aware of this, such as an adult.

    Finally, "I guess when it didn't happen at prom..." I have to assume "it" means sex, but the "I wasn't ready. I'm barely sixteen" doesn't work in that paragraph, positioned where it is. I would suggest reworking the paragraph. And why should "it" happen at prom anyway?

    Sorry to be so negative. Your premise is strong. I think with a little work, this could be a fun read.

  12. I LOVE this. The voice is so strong and engaging that I think it overrules any nitpicky comments I may have.

    I both agree and disagree with a comment above about Kent Adams - the second-to-last paragraph is hilarious, the last paragraph may be something that can be moved later in the story. Right now I want to find out how Freddie accidentally killed her best friend!

    Good luck!

  13. I like this quite a bit. My only issue is that it isn't clear right away that the dead best friend is the one telling the story. I think you need to sort that out asap, in the first paragraph. Even if it's something to the tune of: But she's not telling this story, her best friend is. And her best friend was me.

    It's very gutsy to write a frame story that starts out warning the reader about what's to come. Personally, I like it, but I've heard too many editors and agents respond negatively to this device. I hope you don't run into that here because I think it has great promise. Good luck!

  14. Your voice is practically leaping off the page, which is good, but I agree with some of the earlier comments that there are some tense issues. I see that you've jumping from past to present to explain your fantastic opening sentence but it gets somewhat muddled as you continue. And I do like the final paragraph but, as other have mentioned, am far more interested in how Margaret is killed. All-in-all, you've definitely hooked me!

  15. Yes, you need to work out your tense issues, but I agree that the voice is a stand out.

    I'd like to see you focus on the friend relationship and leave the douchebag ex for the next page. I want to know more about what put her in her present state of undead-ness.

    Love the humor, too.

  16. The voice and the humor are great. I like Valerie's suggestions to tighten it up. I'm intrigued and would read on to find out how the story develops. Good luck!

  17. I agree with the others that the voice is strong and humorous. I would like to see more of the action unfold, rather than being told about it, however. If this is just a prologue, so to speak, maybe you can go right into the action and refer back to incidents like the whirlwind breakup.

  18. I like the voice of this a lot. It’s humorous and distinct, and clearly Margaret doesn’t take herself (or death) too seriously.

    I agree that in that first paragraph, you can ditch the first sentence and you’ll get the same information across in a tighter, smoother manner.

    Similarly, I like Margaret’s rant about her jerk of an ex, but in obsessing about him and the break up she’s pulling us away from the point, and what we want to know—what happened in Mr. Sample’s physics class that caused Margaret to die? And perhaps you’re drawing this out intentionally. Okay, I’ll give you that. But I’d still cut back on some of the boyfriend rant.

    One nit-pick side note. Is your current title just a place holder? Because with a voice like this, I think you can come up with a much more intriguing title. This one’s a bit drab, and tells me nothing about your story.

  19. The premise is a LOT of fun-- sounds like something I'd pick up and read in one shot without putting it down. The voice is fantastic! But as other critters have noted, a few things need to be tighter. Still, the minor glitches wouldn't hold me back from reading on...'cause I'm hooked! Good luck!!!

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