Thursday, April 17, 2014

First Line Grabber Winners #3

TITLE: The Day I Ruled the World
GENRE: MG Fantasy

Spying is rude, and I would never, never do it. Not without a good reason anyway, like needing to know if my parents suspected I'd been practicing spells in secret.

For Snooper's Delight, I needed a mirror, some magic, and a little privacy. Good thing I had my own bedroom, so I wouldn’t be interrupted by bossy older sisters or nosy younger brothers.

I settled cross-legged on my bed and tugged on my pajama shorts to de-wedgie them, making the mattress bounce under me. When it was still again, I balanced the mirror on my knee. I hadn’t turned on the lamp when I woke up, so the only light in the room came through my window, reflected from the planet below. We arrived in orbit around Peregrine during the night. Living in a house that was also a spaceship meant that we got to travel across the galaxy and sleep through the disgusting parts.

To focus the magic, I imagined the kitchen where Mom and Dad would be, alone before all the kids got up. I pictured the counter along the back wall and the big dining table. When the mental image was as clear as I could make it, I let it slide into the mirror and replace the reflection. My brain gave a satisfied sigh, and I opened my eyes. The mirror showed my parents at the kitchen table, plates of eggs and toast and glasses of juice set out in front of them. The picture was so perfect, I could almost smell the food.

I had one second to feel proud of my success before the side-effects hit me, the slam of crazy emotions that came with every spell. This time it was a wave of totally-out-of-proportion, what-the-heck-does-this-have-to-do-with-anything sadness. My eyes filled with tears, and I wanted to bury my face in my pillow and sob.

Misery squeezed in until I ordered myself to stop it, just stop. None of this was real, and none of it could hurt me if I didn’t let it. I stomp-stomp-stomped the feeling down and made myself ignore it. Mom was wrong. I was ready to handle magic and everything that went with it. Brushing tears off my cheeks, I picked up the mirror and watched my parents.

Mom scooped up a bite of eggs. The fork clicked against the plate.

While he ate, Dad talked about the inventory he had bought for his business on our last trip. He picked up his napkin and wiped butter off his chin. “I’m a little worried about Teddy.”

At the mention of my name, I leaned forward and held my breath.

“She’s been kind of moody lately,” he continued.

Mom dropped her fork, and it landed with a clatter. “Oh, that little sneak.”

Dad stared at her. “Sneak?”

Mom nodded. “ Sneak. She isn’t just moody. She’s been doing magic.”

My stomach flipped over. They suspected.


  1. I think this one is a lot of fun, and i'm really intrigued by the fact that she lives on a ship and practices magic.

    I wish i knew the gender of the MC sooner, because i thought she was boy for most of it.

    Also, the voice isn't quite there for me. There are times where she seems quite young: "Never, never," vs "never, ever" or " stomp-stomp-stomped the feeling down".

    But then other times she sounds much older "This time it was a wave of totally-out-of-proportion, what-the-heck-does-this-have-to-do-with-anything sadness. My eyes filled with tears, and I wanted to bury my face in my pillow and sob"

    This bouncing around made it so i had no clue as to her age. The genre is MG fantasy, but her age could have been anywhere between 7 and 14. I just couldn't tell.

  2. Ammi-Joan PaquetteApril 17, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    This is a really great start, with the perfect balance of character and story. The voice tugs me right in to the action and I'd definitely keep reading.

    One small thing to consider--I felt a little off-balance by the mix of sf and fantasy elements. Starting off with magic put me in a certain frame of mind, and the zooming out from there to see that we're ALSO on a spaceship felt a little jarring. I wouldn't say that it *doesn't* work exactly--I'd just be cautious that you're not trying to do too much. (I do love that it's a house-turned-spaceship - that is fabulous - so maybe just keep the emphasis on the fantasy side and not try to do too much as once, so the signals are clear to readers.)

  3. I love the beginning and how the snooping magic unfolds. I also wanted to know the gender and age, but it is an MG novel and I could wait a page for that info.

    The third paragraph interrupts the flow for me. It's nicely done, but my attention was on the magic and I didn't need info about their space travel that soon.

    I would definitely read this book.

  4. I liked this and would read more. But, the space ship pulled me out of the story. Perhaps that reveal needs to wait a little longer, until we are grounded in the character and magic. I'm sure it's important, just not yet.

  5. Very surprising mix of SF and Fantasy. It threw me a bit to learn she was on a house turned space ship with parents who practice magic and also run some kind of business. Lots going on to be intrigued about.

    I agree the voice seemed up and down with age - a little difficult to tell if she is younger or almost teen.

    There were a few areas that could be tightened up. For example, she doesn't need to explain about not turning on the light. You could simply say the only light was .... Also at the end the mother declares Teddy has been "doing magic" - I would think a word like practicing or performing might be more accurate and interesting.

    Overall, I'd give this a few more pages to see where it was going and see if I were totally drawn in.

  6. Sarah took the words right out of my mouth with the age bouncing up and down. A lot of it really is in word choice. Something a simple as naming your spell Snooper's Delight versus just saying that she's using a snooping spell completely changes the age of your character and the audience. I found the younger moments a bit jarring, which makes me suspect suspect that she's supposed to be a bit older (maybe 12 or 13?). I'd definitely recommend going through and aging up the voice so that it's always at that level.

    I always love when magic comes with consequences so the explosions of emotions is always a really cool thing. I'm definitely curious about how that all plays out.

  7. I liked the fact that she's practicing magic in outer space. It was the thing that drew me in the most. It kinda reminded me of my Catholic school days when we went from Adam and Eve in Religion class to Darwin and evolution in Science.

    I did think it was overwritten and could be cut down a lot. The fact that it is practically all telling contributes to that. Try to show us instead of tell of. Let her just do things instead of having her tell us what she did.

  8. I love this. I like the mom is smart too. I would read on!

  9. I think the magic is enough to carry the beginning, and then finding out she's on a spaceship could be a chapter one cliffhanger. As it is, my mind kept going to the configuration of this orbiting house and how she got to have her own room (and how mom and dad got to have a quiet breakfast) with all those brothers and sisters.

    I'd leave out a few things: The mattress bouncing, not turning on the lamp ("the only light..." suffices), and "The mirror showed" (we already know the breakfast scene is in the mirror).

    I agree about the age-jumping vibe. Look at word choices again and maybe mention age here: At age ??, I was definitely ready to handle magic and everything that went with it.

  10. I think you do a great job of giving us information about this world, all while keeping the story moving forward. I love the line about the spaceship, that’s nicely woven in, though it did throw me off a little, as I thought I was in a fantasy world. At the same time, I’m intrigued by the sci-fi/magic mash-up. I got very interested in this at the moment that we learn about the toll that using the magic takes on Teddy. I love the idea that she can master this magic, but that it has this emotional side-effect that she has less control of. I do think you could get a little bit more on the inside of your character as she experiences the flood of emotions. It also seemed convenient that she needs to know if her parents suspect she’s using magic and she manages to tune into the conversation right at the very moment that they are discussing that. I would read on!

  11. I like this one, but agree that the information about the spaceship could have waiting. The reason being, once I find out they are in outerspace my mind started wondering to what it looks like instead of the really interesting magic going on. I would suggest letting the reader get grounded in the idea of the magic and how it is impacting her and then knock them off balance again with the spaceship.

  12. Hi, thanks for sharing this fun story opening! I really enjoyed the charming voice, especially in those passages that are 'in the moment' in which heroine is narrating her spell creation & her parents' interactions.

    I too find the magic alone quite compelling as a beginning. I'm intrigued enough by it that you could easily save the house-spaceship parts to unfold over time and create added-hook with it as you go along.

    So the description of home, lighting, and also even tugging on PJ shorts etc. may not be needed. It postpones the unfolding immediate story unnecessarily - - unless somehow the exact way she sits actually matters. Also I found it enough to know that she wanted privacy and could get it in her room. Doesn't really matter to me how many or relative ages or characters of her siblings at this early opening moment. Maybe save that level of detail for later.

    Wish I knew what happened next in the story! I definitely want to continue on and read more.

  13. Tricia Lawrence, EMLAApril 21, 2014 at 10:24 PM

    Nicely done. Although, this feels like we're jamming a bit too much detail into the first page. Why do we have to know about her de-wedging? And why do we have to know why she's spying on the first page? I wanted some of this detail included to be exchanged with other details, such as setting, atmosphere, etc. Congrats on being in the top five! I so loved reading this.