Wednesday, January 29, 2014

First Two (YA Fiction) #10

TITLE: The Elder Race
GENRE: YA Urban Fantasy

I’ll never forget the first time I died.

A dense fog rolled in off the Virginia coast, camouflaging two deer that darted into the road. I cut the wheel and my foot slammed the brake, but my Jetta figure skated across the pavement. A metallic screech pierced the night as the guardrail etched a complaint into the passenger side door, threatening to break, and send Ana and me over the edge. Below, the icy black water of the Atlantic waited.

I overcorrected and the car sailed into the woods. Tree branches clawed at the doors until it stopped with a shattering crunch, plowing into a large evergreen. My seatbelt locked my body in place, but my head jerked to the side, leaving behind a bloody spider web of cracked glass.

“Ana, are you okay?”

“I peed my pants,” she said with a shaky laugh. That made two of us.

Fractured tree limbs rained down. The windshield cracked under the weight of ice and wood. Hundreds of tiny fissures shot out from one another. The roof wailed in protest. It caved in under the branch’s weight. The steering wheel shoved into my chest. Pain spread like an infection throughout my body. The metallic reek of blood saturated the air. Black spots consumed my vision. Goose bumps bejeweled my skin.

Fear breathed down my neck and I gasped.

The gentle drumming of my slowing heartbeat lulled me to sleep. As the darkness consumed me, my body fell limp. So much for making curfew.


The pungent smell of gasoline burned my nose, forcing my heavy eyelids open. The searing pain in my leg and my head I felt moments ago had diminished. A man stood in front of me, less than a car length away. Instead of the night’s shadows hiding his approach, he glowed like the moon. But the light didn’t surround him, it radiated from within him.

He lifted the handle, and with a loud stannic snap, wrenched the door off its hinges. “I’m here to help,” he said in a hushed voice.

The stranger’s muscles flexed and his body tensed as he tore the steering wheel from the dashboard. His warm hands lifted me from the driver’s seat, ripping my seatbelt like a paper towel. My body trembled in his arms, clattering my teeth together as shock turned into tears.

“Don’t cry. Everything’s going to be all right.”

I raised my head toward his velvety voice, hoping to get a good look at him. But my gaze never left his electrifying, silvery-blue eyes. He cradled me against his chest where his heartbeat played me a simple melody. It calmed me like a child’s lullaby. The earthy scent of sandalwood and vanilla hung off his clothes and dulled the stench of gas.

“Where are you taking me?”

“Some place safe.”

He mumbled something under his breath as we passed through a low-lying fog. “Who are you?” I asked as he sat me on the ground.


  1. It took me several read throughs before I figured out why the first half of this wasn't really grabbing me. I feel like there's too much description of the car crash (which is really good and easy to picture) and not enough of your character's personality.

    I liked her casual attitude towards a panicked situation when she talks about peeing herself. The same attitude is carried on when she mentions missing curfew. I like this characterization, and maybe if you condensed the crash and death scene it would work better. Or maybe start with the smell of gasoline and the glowing man.

  2. Hi, I read this through a few times and I do not know if the MC is a boy or a girl?? I know the passenger in the car is called Ana, and I'm not sure if she is his girlfriend or whether they are friends or siblings!!
    I liked the first sentence," I’ll never forget the first time I died."
    And want to know what happens next, but I agree with Sue-Jay there is too much about the crash, and for me not enough about who the character is to feel hooked. Good luck.

  3. I agree with SueJay on tightening up the crash sequence. The second-by-second play-by-play didn't really draw me in, and I suspect that the crash itself isn't nearly as important as what happens next.

    In fact, I would suggest starting with your first paragraph after the break. The glowing man is a really arresting image, and I'm curious about who he is and what he wants with the MC. If you started there, you could work in a paragraph to explain the crash, which is probably all that's needed.

  4. Wow! Just wow! My heart is racing after reading that. You can't see it, but I'm bowing down to you. You've used such wonderful descriptions without making them overbearing. I can feel your MC's fear, pain, confusion, and (dare I say?) euphoria. I'm definitely intrigued by the mysterious man that saves the MC (he? she?) from the car, though I'm not actually convinced it's a human. I'm sure there will be more on that later.

    I really liked your opening sentence. Very grabbing.

    There was an incorrectly placed comma in the second paragraph, though. You wrote "the guardrail etched a complaint into the passenger side door, threatening to break, and send Ana and me over the edge." The comma after "break" should be removed; otherwise, it sounds like "threatening to break" is an aside. It's not, since it has the same tense as "send."

    I would definitely keep reading this! Great job :).

  5. I think you've used a lot of vivid, evocative language, but I agree with the other commenters about the crash scene not drawing me in. I'm thinking, though, that the reason it doesn't is because I don't know the character. I have no reason at this point to feel fear for him or her (I'd like to know at least the gender of the POV character), especially since it appears this death is not permanent.

    There's also a strange interruption, when the POV character asks Ana if she's OK, then more damage occurs. That had me confused. I wouldn't think it appropriate to say Are you ok if the accident is still in progress.

    The glowing man is interesting, but I wondered if he was also going to help Ana or if there was someone else for her. But maybe that's a good thing--that part had me asking questions, so I'd want to keep reading to find out. I'd be disappointed if I didn't find out, though.

  6. Holy vivid crash scene. I mean that in a good way. "Etched a complaint into the passenger side door..." Love this so much. I think it's clearer by the end that the mc is probably a girl, but I guess we could be clued into that a bit earlier since it isn't overtly stated. The first sentence is a great attention getter and gives us the idea that there is some fantasy involved. I guess my only suggestion is that early character identification, but well don. I'd read on!

  7. Wonderful opening line! Totally caught my attention, and the description of the crash is very evocative. You have some serious descriptive chops *bows*. But I agree with other commentators above that I'm not entirely drawn in. I think I need to see more of the character and less of the events, especially since the opening sequence is slightly confusing.

    What if you wove the description of the crash into her being pulled out by the mystery guy? That way we'd start in her immediate situation - dead, or recently dead(?) - and piece back the events with the protag. This might give you more room to show off your character's personality. It would also ties into your first line - she's remembering how she died. This could also explain why she lets mystery guy cart her off without thinking/asking/looked for her friend.

    Great job! All the above aside, I'd keep reading :)

  8. I really loved this opening. That first sentence is brilliant! I actually really enjoyed the in-depth description of the crash. Usually I hate paragraph after paragraph of description, but yours was written so well!

    I really like Deana's suggestion about starting with the glowing man and then piecing back the events that led to this.

    As much as I loved reading this I was also a bit confused. Did your MC die at the point: 'so much for making curfew'? I assumed she had, but then the next paragraph made me think that she was still alive. This probably isn't a problem for anyone reading the next few pages of your manuscript, but for me reading this short section, I was very confused.

  9. Thank you everyone for the feedback. The reason I started with the crash scene the way I did is because I want you to feel the confusion of the MC (which was a chick - missed that adding that back in when I tried to rework it) because it's a focal point of the query (ie back of the book) and what changes her into the person see through the book. I'd like to think if you read that first before the first two pages, it would all make sense, but I'm going to play around with your suggestions all the same.

    Thanks again :)

  10. I also like the first line, and the imagery about the Jetta skating and the guardrail etching a complaint. Like mentioned, I think adding a bit more of the MC's personality (and note her name) will help readers related. Maybe some sensory details, having her describe a sensation and relate it to something specific about her. A similie that relates to her life, maybe. When this is all happening, is she frozen with fear, or is she experiencing it like she's looking in on herself, a calm bystander? Just one or two observations like that can really add to the story.

    Really nice writing overall.

  11. I'm going to disagree about the first line. I think it doesn't work for you, the reason being that it gives away the outcome of the crash. I don't have to read about the crash because I already know the outcome. You wrote a vivid scene, yet most commenters said it didn't draw them in. I think the fact that we already know the outcome is why.

    My suggestion is to start with the MC waking up dead. The crash scene really doesn't seem necessary, and you can always get it in later as a flashback.

    I also wondered about Ana. Is she just dead and gone, or does someone save her, too. ANd if not, why not?

  12. I think the first line is brilliant and works because the key words are "first time". Yes, I may know she's going to die in this crash scene, but I'm instantly glued wanting to know how she survived...and further more, just how many times has she died!

    The description you used sucked me in. I love being pulled immediately into action. Great job!

    I took a pause at the "shaking laugh" part. Even though I know you meant a nervous laugh, I felt like she'd been more scared, pissed, embarrassed with tears. The "laugh" part just seemed out of place. But, I'm the only one that's mentioned it, so what do I know;-)

    As other's have mentioned, and you have already mentioned working back in, the MC's identity (girl/boy) is not certain by the end of the excerpt. But I was so drawn into the action, I would have kept reading to find out!

  13. One more thing I meant to mention. I think the curfew part, and the fact she is old enough to drive, tells me her approximate age. She knows the wreck is going to make her late, regardless if she knows she is going to die. wrecks always take a long time to deal with. I don't think you need to fix anything with that.