Wednesday, January 28, 2015

First Five Sentences #18

TITLE: Pulled in Pieces
GENRE: YA/Contemporary

I shouldn’t have been able to hear the screaming, but something was different about it today. Rumbling shook the floor as I pull my headphones off, put my book down and sit up.

“Where the hell have you been all night?” Mom’s voice echoes through the foyer followed by the slamming of the front door.

“Who the f*** do you think you are?


  1. I'm curious what was different about the screaming today? Maybe you could help us understand that right away. What is causing the floor to rumble? The screaming? The dialog in the fight could tell us more information as well. As it is, it's very generic arguing. But I could see this being a strong opening with just a few more details. Good luck to you!

    PS. You also change tenses at the end of the first paragraph--"sit" should be "sat".

    1. I think it's all in present, so the change should be at the beginning. I shouldn't be able to hear....

      I like this a lot and set's me up to want more.

  2. This short passage immediately set me on edge! I really want to know what's going on. I like it that the MC is wearing headphones and reading a book - like he/she has got things to do, and is used to having to cancel out the nastiness of the house.

  3. The first sentence is a little confusing, because the protag "shouldn't have been able to hear" it, but it was "different". The first part implies that he/she/ never hears it, but the second part implies that he/she always does. I can definitely tell that it's modern, though, so you've established the setting well :3

  4. Great job pulling me into the MC's world! I immediately feel sympathy for him/her, and I would definitely read more. I agree with Anonymous that I would like to know why exactly the floor is rumbling--I've never heard of screaming that loud. Also, I might replace f*** with a milder word. I don't have a problem with language in YA, but in my experience, having it so near the beginning of a book always pulls me out of the flow of the story. Once I've read further and am more invested, it's not a problem, for some reason. That's just me personally though, so feel free to ignore it if it isn't helpful.

  5. I like this. I'd like to see your verbs tightened and the sentences shorter, just at first. This will help nail down that sense of urgency.

    For instance, you might consider dividing the first sentence. I feel like the conjunction slows it down. "I shouldn't be able to hear the screaming. Something is different today."

    In the next sentence, I'd like you to use words that tell us how he feels. Is he sliding off his headphones out of curiosity or yanking them off because he's nervous about what happens next? Is he leaning forward to hear better, or jolting upright because he's scared? "Pulling," "put," and "sit" ... these words tell us the *what* but not the *how*, and the how shows us your character.

    It's a great start! Thanks for sharing your work!

  6. I'm sorry. I would be putting this book down right now because the teenager is not very respectful, wise, or obedient. We're not all rebels. :)

  7. The change in verb tense is confusing here. You're in past tense up until the word "as" and then you move into present. This is further confused by the fact that the screaming is coming after she says she shouldn't have been able to hear it. Was there screaming before Mom's words? Also, I don't get a real sense of place. She is clearly near enough the foyer to hear but far enough to state that she shouldn't have been able to hear. This confuses me more. Has the foyer changed somehow?

    I would suggest you make the tense consistent and say why she shouldn't have been able to hear it right from the start (after the screaming itself, of course). Finally, you need to clarify who says the second sentence. Is this Mom again? Or the MC screaming back? Or is Mom screaming at someone?

    I don't have a problem with the profanity if it fits the situation. If a reader puts down your book because of it, they are probably the wrong reader for your book.

    Good luck!

  8. The first line is super compelling. I think what could continue that tension is to focus on the character's emotional reaction rather than a listing of physical actions re: the book and sitting up. How does the character feel when he/she pulls off the headphones? Annoyance, shock, fear? etc.

    Obviously this is only a few lines, but I would make sure to add in what the MC thinks of what's happening between the slices of overheard dialogue. already it's sort of a passive scene since the MC is listening in on other people. But that can absolutely work, so long as we get in the reader's head at how they are experiencing this, whether it's normal, whether this will change everything, etc.

  9. This is an intriguing opening. The F word threw me off. Mainly because I wasn't expecting it in a YA novel. Although it may have a place here if the character speaking is abusive. If that's the case, I would have expected your MC to react with more urgency.