Wednesday, January 28, 2015

First Five Sentences #4

TITLE: The Sumerlin Curse
GENRE: YA Southern Gothic

Mama says the Lord punishes wicked boys who disobey their parents.

He will punish me if I cross the fence.

The fence circles the entire house. A wall of boards squeezed together, flat trees choking off my view of the outside world. Or the outside world’s view of me.


  1. I really like this, although the voice sounds more MG than YA to me. That said, you've done a great job of making me care for this character in just a few lines. That's pretty awesome. Good luck!

  2. I like the set-up here, and agree with Merci that the voice sounds a tad young for YA. Have you considered swapping the order of the sentences? I re-read it starting with "The fence circles the entire house…" and then put "Mama says…He will punish me if I cross the fence" at the end. Just a thought (after all, it's YOUR writing!), but the change lulls me into a world of normalcy and then -- crack! -- snaps me into a whole different world, rather than the other way around. Obviously, you'd sacrifice your excellent first line, but it might be worth thinking about.

    I certainly have a feel for the kid's condition and upbringing. Setting is unclear -- my sense is rural somewhere, but not necessarily the South. And these first few lines very much invoke sympathy on the reader's part.

    Nice job!

    LUCKY THIRTEEN entry #15

  3. "flat trees choking off my view of the outside world."

    Marvelous imagery! That being said, I disagree with the MG/YA comments. Just from these few words, I get the feeling that the story is going to be too much for MG.

  4. I agree, it sounds a little young--leaning a bit towards MG--but I otherwise love it! Great job!

  5. The voice did feel a little young for YA, but if there's a reason for that--and it looks like the MC may be coming from an abusive, or at least unusual family--great job. I have a picture of a protagonist who is very scared and vulnerable, and that pulls me in. I might also try out Christina's suggested revision, just to see if it works. Both versions are powerful, but if you switch the order, you do get a bigger surprise factor. On the other hand, the original immediately pulls you into the protagonist's plight, so it's all a question of what works best for your story.

  6. Agreed, it sounds a little young. I think it might be a word choice issue. I would change "Mama". "Mama" is very close to "Mommy". I'd try "Ma" instead. I might just keep it simple in general and say "Ma says the Lord punishes the wicked. He will punish me if I cross the fence." I'm conflicted though, because I think maybe the whole disobeying his parents thing is important down the line. And it does add to the feeling of being trapped.
    That said, I would keep reading! Because I'd want to know why he isn't allowed to see the world and the world isn't allowed to see him.

  7. Love that last line - great insight into your MC. It does read more like MG, but I'm getting the feeling your protagonist might be in a very controlling environment, which would explain the voice.

  8. Obviously not the majority view here and everything's subjective, but...
    Loved the first line. Found the rest choppy.
    A little bit like A. Thus B. Ergo C. Therefore D

  9. A very strong, authentic voice and clear setting - nice work describing the fence by showing instead of telling. I wouldn't tinker too much with your sentences and jeopardize your rhythm. I can hear the story and would keep listening. And I don't think using the name Mama sounds too young - I've heard many Southerners (assuming this is set in the South) say Mama well into adulthood. Thought it was MG, too, maybe with some darker moments like Louis Sachar's "Holes."

  10. Wow. I instantly got pictures of an overprotective mother, a barrier (that maybe MC will cross?), and a child that knows little of the outside world.

  11. I love this. The pacing and details fit the genre. I immediately want to read more!