Wednesday, January 29, 2014

First Two (YA Fiction) #11


From my hiding place, at the back of the church, I watched as people dressed in their Sunday best, filtered in. Soon the only seats left were those reserved for immediate family. There were so many flowers that someone had cleared a path to the altar.

Two hundred people speaking in hushed tones filled the air with a steady hum. When it suddenly got quiet, I looked to my left and found Father Andrew standing only a few feet away. It was time. I got in line next to my mom. She took my hand and squeezed. I tried to smile but it came out like a grimace. With my free hand, I brushed at my new dress for imaginary lint so no one could see my hands tremble. On cue we walked down the center aisle, me with my head slightly bent so as not to make eye contact with anyone.

At the front of the church, we slid into the pew and waited. Despite, my best efforts I could not avoid looking at the rectangular box that held what was left of my dad. Over the next hour, I tried to take comfort from the many kind words and prayers but it was no use.

My mom, sat to my left. Her eyes glued to the coffin while her hands destroyed one tissue after another. I looked to my right and pretended not to see the tears in my cousin, Justin’s eyes. Next to him, his sister, Jenna, cried openly. I had no idea how to console them. Three months ago, we had sat inside this same church and said our goodbyes to their parents, killed in a plane crash. I hadn’t known what to say to them then either.

* * *

At the cemetery, we stood listening to Father Andrew and watched as the coffin was lowered into the ground. All I wanted to do was scream “Liar!” My dad had promised me he’d come home. This was supposed to be his last tour in Afghanistan and then he was out of the military. Well, he sure as hell was out now, wasn’t he?

Back at the house, everyone kept telling us how sorry they were and what a great man, a hero, he was. I hated myself but a small part of me wished my dad hadn’t chosen to save those women with their children and his fellow soldiers. He should be at home with us not in a box in the ground. I hated that those other soldiers would be returning to their families soon. I didn’t care if that made me a bad person.

I had to get away from all the people, stuffing their faces with food, as if that would shield them from the pain. I snuck out the back door and hid behind the old shed, in the back of the yard. No one would think to look for me back there.

"Thought I'd find you here."

Well, s***.


  1. I really think your second paragraph is a stronger place to start than your first.

    I really like the line about brushing away the imaginary lint from her new dress. It gave me a connection to your character rather than just hearing about details from the funeral.

  2. I'd read more of this for sure, but I do think the place to start would be after your break with "At the cemetary..." It tells us everything we need to know at that point...who died, why he died, and who's mourning him. We also see how your character is dealing with her grief. Hope that helps!

  3. I didn't realize until 3 paragraphs in that this was a funeral and not a wedding. I went from feeling happy to depressed. If you really wanted to start with a punch, you could start with the At the cemetery line because it's where we see the emotion. The first page seems more of an info dump and I didn't really connect with the character. You could make us care about her more with some whispered conversation if you wanted. I'd read more though because I'm intrigued to see this develop into a romantic thriller.

  4. I liked the first paragraph a lot (although the first sentence has some comma issues). The next part feels a bit disassociated for me - maybe once she's at her seat, it can cut away once the priest starts talking. I don't need to know about her cousins parents right there. I suspect this is part of why it's a thriller, but I wonder if it could be worked in more gracefully a bit further down (the only people that knew how I felt...)

    There is a lot of things told here that could be shown. For example, perhaps men in military uniform could form a guard of honour or another military funeral tradition (e.g. playing the Last Post, giving the family a flag). Someone could tell your MC what a hero their dad was, and the way your MC reacts could show us how they feel.

    I'm interested to see where this goes, so good job!

  5. This is going to sound awful, but you lost me immediately because you've got two commas in the first sentence that shouldn't be there. Then as I read on, I find more. If I were an agent, that would be enough to send a rejection. (There are also missing commas, such as in the last sentence of the third paragraph.)

    You may want to find another set of eyes to do a full copyedit for you. To me, those mistakes really distract from the story.

    I also agree that you might want to consider starting with "At the cemetery." Or delete that sentence but move the rest of the paragraph after "what was left of my dad."

  6. I hate to be a downer, but I agree with Disco. The comma usage in the first sentence was a major turn-off for me. The only reason I continued reading was so that I could give feedback. There were several other places with incorrect comma usage (such as "tears in my cousin, Justin's eyes")--very distracting.

    Like agirlnamednat, I also thought this was a wedding at first. I assumed the character just had cold feet. I'd love to see up front that this is a funeral, instead of thinking "oh this is cute" and then suddenly feeling bad for misunderstanding.

    I had really hoped to connect to your character more, to be honest. The character development seemed flat.

  7. I actually liked this a lot and thought you did a good job of showing your character's grief. It came across as very authentic to me.

    Also, I didn't think wedding, I immediately thought funeral, but now that I re-read, I can see where the other commentators are coming from.

    So I guess what I'm saying is that while I liked this, listen to what the others are saying because I think they have a point. While this is good, you could make it even more compelling.

    Finally, I'm assuming the deaths of the cousins' parents is a plot-point. If it is, definitely find a way to work it in because that immediately caught my interest.

    Good luck!

  8. I agree that a better place to the start the story is at the cemetery. Given the first line, I expected the MC to do something since she was hiding, but the rest of the page was rather passive. Since openings are so crucial, I would start the story closer to where the MC is acting on something. She can always recall pieces of the funeral later, but showing this to the reader first thing, doesn't seem necessary. All we need to know is Dad died. When she decides to get away from all the people, that's something interesting the character is actively doing.

  9. I thought the place to start was at the house. Nothing happens in the church or even at the cemetery. At the house is where we get the info we need and where things start to happen.

    But don't tell us people said this or that. Show us the scene of people milling about and eating. Use dialogue and have people actually ask questions or make statements about her dad. SHow her reactions. And when she runs to the shed, add a line or two that shows some passage of time. Nothing much. Just have her do something, or think something, then have the person come who says "Thought I'd find you here." You need that extra beat in there so he doesn't arrive right on her heels.