Friday, November 28, 2014

(49) YA Contemporary Fantasy: THE TASTE OF LIGHTNING

GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

Seventeen-year-old Pia Xun is so over being called spoiled brat and ching chong and psycho stalker. That last one’s thanks to the deity living in her body, who insists she follow around stupid Lauchlan McCrea for his protection or whatever. But when she learns what happens when Lauchlan's gone, she finally starts to take things seriously, nicknames be damned. Because Hell on Earth? Kind of a big deal.

I was standing in the newsagency pretending to browse a stack of glossy magazines when this middle-aged woman wandered up to me.

“Hello,” she said, loud and slow. “Can you –” she pointed at me, “– please help me?” She pointed at herself.

Possibly a few k’s short of a marathon.

I gave her my most patient smile. When she was sure she had my attention, she gestured out to the city street. People hurried past, not bothering to wait for the crosswalk signals as they ducked between cars and buses, their business outfits and school uniforms already sticky from the Australian summer heat. The scent of pastries and coffee wafted from the adjoining café, where Lauchy was downing an iced coffee with his precious posse. Dear old Metal Mouth was the reason I was stuck here this morning thumbing through magazines rather than lounging in bed.

“Can you tell me how to get to Raine Square?” the lady said. Still loud. Still slow. She was drawing attention. Soon Lauchy and his friends would notice me, and if that happened I would never shake the “psycho stalker” tag.

I set down my magazines and took her outside. “It’s a bit of a walk.” Didn’t think she got most of the instructions, but I tried anyway.

She beamed. “Thank you.” This time she spoke normally. “I didn’t realise you’d be so good at English until you opened your mouth.”



What the actual hell?


  1. Your logline is a little confusing, but intriguing so I think it works. I do wish we could know who gave her the other nicknames - the deity or Lauchlan and his friends? But I'd be sold to keep reading to find out :-)

    As for this opening passage, I'm really enjoying the voice. At first I was confused what a "newsagency" was, I thought she was in a newspaper office or something, waiting and flipping through magazines haha. So I was confused how a woman would wander up to her off the street. But then I re-read it and understood that its some sort of news stand, and probably just my American-ness that didn't pick up on that.

    The only line that threw me was the one about Metal Mouth. Is he/she a part of Lauchlan's posse? I guess I'm just picturing Lauchlan as one of those "cool" guys, and finding it hard to imagine him hanging out with someone who has braces at age 17. If Metal Mouth is the deity, I'd suggest breaking the line from the paragraph about Lauchlan so that we don't make that assumption. I assume we'll find out soon though, and I'm hooked enough to keep reading until we do!

  2. You are obviously going for a strong voice here, and you've got it, but I think at the cost of trying very hard to stay inside your characters head and her voice, there were places where confusing.

    The metal mouth part also confused me, I didn't know who that was. I was confused why the old lady wouldn't expect her to speak english? The line, a few k's short of a marathon also threw me, I didn't understand how it related to the old lady.

    But, I love the sassiness and your logline sounds very interesting.

  3. I liked the writing and the voice. The reference to the 'psycho stalker' seemed to come out of left field. That put me off. And I wasn't wild about the line "what the actual hell?" It may have relevance later, but for now it just sounds a bit silly. But I did like the voice. Good luck with this.

  4. I really appreciated how you let the logline give us a clue into the voice of your MC.

    In terms of the pages, I wanted to know if she's standing inside or outside. Seemed like she was inside, as she's browsing at magazines, but then why would someone looking for instructions go to a customer rather than to the cash register? And why would someone in need of instructions ask someone they think may not even speak her language?

    Maybe simply directing the setting a bit more may be enough to clarify these questions, but as a reader I don't want to fall to disbelief in the very first few pages of a ms.

  5. This is intriguing but 250 words isn't enough to put the pieces together. I want to know more about the deity inside her which we probably find out by word 297. Though the busy streets has nice imagery, I'd rather read more about Metal mouth. I like what you established at the end which ties in with your logline. I got Pia's sarcastic humor in the marathon line, nice work! I'd drop "actual" from last line. I do want to read more. All the best come Tuesday!

  6. I thought this worked pretty well, although Laura Valeri raised a good point about why the woman would choose to ask her for directions. And I didn't think the racial bit at the end worked because at this point, we don't know who the MC is. We have no idea what her name is or that she may be Asian. We get it from the log line, but there's description of the MC in the story.

    Parg 1 - say "I stood"

    Parg 4 - I'd cut the last sentence. She knows why she's there. That sentence is written for the reader, and she can't talk to the reader.

    Parg 5 first sentence should be 'the lady asked.'

  7. I really LOVE the premise for this, but I actually agree with one of the above comments that there's a level of forced closeness to this page, where it feels like you're struggling to stay as close to the character's thoughts as possible. I don't know if maybe that means you're fighting in third person when it should be first, or perhaps that you just need to loosen the reins a little and let your character guide, but it's something to be aware of.

    (And it's funny, there are definitely things that throw me off as an American, from "newsagency" to "k's in a marathon" instead of "miles".)

    I would also cut the last line, it felt an unnecessary punctuation on the point.

    I'm also confused as to why the woman would ask for directions if she doesn't think Pia understands/speaks English very well. The assumption she's a foreigner doesn't go with the questioning of her like a local.

    But I'm REALLY curious to learn how she got that deity in her body.


  8. I found this opening, including the logline, extremely disorientating. I’m not even sure where to start with a critique other than to say I would want you to ground us into your story more with a few concrete explanations. I don’t understand the references to Lauchy and his friends or what triggers the strength of her reaction at the end. And what does it mean to be a few k-s short of a marathon? Is she panting or does the MC think she is crazy?

    The voice is good though and the character sounds fun. In fact, I think that may be the main problem I’m having, the character voice is SO strong that nothing else is coming through as far as setting and plot details, so if you just toned it back a bit, I think that may be all you need.

    Best of luck with this.

  9. The premise is very interesting, and the voice is wonderful. I love smart and snarky characters. The description of the streets was very good. The thing that didn't quite work for me was the lady asking her questions. It seemed like it was a bit random, like it just didn't fit in to the scene.

  10. What a cool premise! I love the idea of two "souls" (maybe not the right word?) inhabiting one body. There's so much built-in conflict already. I'm excited to see Pia contend with this god controlling her, and I already want to know more about Lauchlan.

    I agree with the above comments about the woman asking for directions. It doesn't completely make sense, and I also didn't buy that Pia wouldn't realize why the woman was talking to her that way. In the logline, it's indicated that Pia has received this kind of (horrible!) treatment based on her race more than once, so I think she might pick up on that more easily.

    I wonder if this story starts in the right place. Is there a way to start immediately with a Pia-centric scene? Maybe she can interact with the god or Lauchlan, or the focus can be more on her watching Lauchlan than on a secondary character asking for direction. With that approach, the readers feels more of a connection to Pia rather than seeing a very minor character take center stage.

    I do think Pia's voice is super fun, and I want to know more... Good luck!

  11. I agree with what the other reviewers have said--your premise is really intriguing and your character voice is strong. However, there were certain moments where (and I hate to say this) your character's voice may have been too strong. Certain lines seemed forced, and I too wondered why that middle-aged woman would ask her for directions if she thought Pia was a foreigner would couldn't speak proper English.

    Despite these hiccups, I would definitely be interested in reading more. I'm also very curious to know the story behind the deity living inside her!

    Good luck!

  12. Interesting log line- that alone would keep me reading.

    I got a little distracted by the scene setting but would read on.

  13. I agree with the other comments, but I love your voice and how fiery the character seems. While I don't know if this scene will ultimately sustain in the novel, you have a great premise that would have kept me reading. I also loved how you pitched your logline in the character's voice though I felt it could be tightened. Good luck!

  14. Voice: you got it. I also like the fact that the MC is Chinese-Australian--and the fact the book is set in Australia. Let's hope she can stave off Hell on Earth.

    Good luck in the auction. I'd grab some pages if I were an agent.

  15. Hi
    I'm your tweet diva for the contest.
    Good Luck!

  16. CLOSED! Full goes to Josh Getzler.