GENRE: YA Fantasy
Someone once said, “If you reveal your secrets to the wind, you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.” That could be the reason James Donald McDonough rarely spoke. He could not give up his secrets. Not to the wind. Not to the trees. Not to me.
James McDonough is my father.
Coming to live with him is what started me down this rabbit hole in the first place. We were estranged before my mother died. I like that word. Do you notice how the term resembles the word strangled?
People don’t talk when they’re being strangled. I know this first-hand.
Johnda threw herself on top of me, using her thighs to pin me against the grass. The blue of her wild eyes was barely visible, thanks to her over-dilated pupils. Was this what madness looked like? She meant to kill me. The bones of her hands were crushing the wind from my throat and I couldn’t breathe, let alone speak. This was my doing. I had interfered with a force I didn’t fully understand while Johnda’s mind was still connected to it.
If she killed me now, then who would fix this awful mess? Would all my father's secrets, the ones I was just beginning to uncover, be left unrevealed?
It was trying to discover those secrets that seemed to plunge me further and further into trouble.
It all began with the crow.
I love this beginning. You had me from the first sentence. But then you got down the last line and I cringed. Why do I have a feeling a big dump of backstory is going to happen next?ReplyDelete
I would read on, though, just to make sure it was only for a paragraph or two (if even that).
Love the voice! Good luck!
The first two paragraphs are wonderful.ReplyDelete
But the bit with Johnda could be tightened to keep up the tension. Perhaps something like this? "Johnda threw herself on me, pinning me against the grass. Her hands were crushing the wind from my throat and I couldn’t breathe, let alone speak. This was my doing. I had interfered with a force I didn’t fully understand while Johnda’s mind was still connected to it."
The mystery of the father's secrets and the reason for Johnda's attack work well as hooks but "It all began with the crow" sends the narrative off in a third direction.
I hope it doesn't wander away for too long from the first two mysteries. If that's what got the reader's interest, perhaps we should stay with them a little longer?
Agree with previous 2 comments. That's alot of mystery for the first250 words. Each seems worthy but when they're so close together, they lose potency. The first paragraph is intriguing, then the abrupt shift to Johnda, I still want to know what secrets the father has! Nice voice, btw.ReplyDelete
I really love your rhythm, almost poetic.ReplyDelete
Agree with the other comments, the cut between the secrets and the attack is too sudden, but even then, I'd keep reading.
I like, "It all started with the crow," for a first sentence/hook, and then go from there.ReplyDelete
Seems too much in these first 250; dad, Johnda, secrets, etc. Maybe pick one and focus on that?
Just an idea...
I do like the theme of father's secrets though.
I don't typically like YA Fantasy, but there are parts of this excerpt that really shine. I really, really like the first paragraph, and then it moves on too quickly to something totally different. I liked hearing about the father, who seems bizarre and a little creepy. The entrance of Johnda really threw me off.ReplyDelete
There is voice in this short piece and I can tell the writer is a storyteller and technically skilled.
I feel this excerpt and the paragraphs within it don't feel very connected to the other. I always wonder how much shaving and cutting someone does to get a 250-word fragment to share. I'm guessing that the writer did a lot—perhaps too much—trimming and shuffling to make it fit, and I think that's unfortunate because you've obviously got some promising skills.
I really liked this: "We were estranged before my mother died. I like that word. Do you notice how the term resembles the word strangled?ReplyDelete
People don’t talk when they’re being strangled. I know this first-hand."
Estranged is a great word but not one that I assume a teenager would use, then it's followed up with the fact that the narrator is aware of the word choice and it means something more.
The part about Johnda felt sudden, like we go from dad to this. I'm thinking the transition of the strangle phrase to actually being strangled should work but it still feels jarring. Maybe because it goes from a reflective point to ACTION. I'm not sure how to remedy this. There's a lot going on here, which is good, but maybe it needs to be paced a little differently.
Definitely a strong voice. I'm interested in the story.
I have to agree with the others - the writing itself is good, but the jump between the beginning and Johnda is too jarring and confusing. Smooth this out and I would definitely read on.ReplyDelete
I agree with most of the people here in that there seems to be too much going on, and that's a shame, because the opening is really well done. I think this just skips from the dad's secrets (the thing I care most about), to some girl stangling him, to a crow. I think the crow part really throws everything out of whack, mainly because it doesn't sound that interesting, while the rest of it does.ReplyDelete
I agree about the great opening. I didn't have a problem with the jump to jhonda because I thought your story was going to start there.ReplyDelete
The problem with the jhonda section, to me, was that she is getting beat up and strangled and she has no reaction to it. She's just rambling on with her thoughts instead of fighting back or trying to get loose. She's not choking or having a hard time breathing.
I think if you drop the introspection there and move into the fight and what is happening, you'll have a stronger first page.
And then forget about it all started with the crow. Show us what's hppening now and get the back story in later.
I like the opening paragraph a lot, though I don't think you need to delay the fact that our narrator's talking about his father, since it feels a bit manipulative to me (couldn't it just be, "That could be the reason my father rarely spoke. He could not give up his secrets. Not to the wind. Not to the trees. Not to me."?) There's some nice personality and idiosyncrasy to the voice here, but I feel, just like with the "James vs. father" moment in the opening paragraph, it's a bit too coy with the reader, introducing things without REALLY introducing them (awful mess, my father's secrets, rabbit hole, a force I didn't fully understand, etc.) There are two or three too many of those, seems to me, and it becomes more frustrating than intriguing...ReplyDelete
I have to agree with Barbara. The 'crushing the wind from my throat and I couldn’t breathe' being followed by him thinking about his father's secrets stopped me in my tracks.ReplyDelete