Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Would You Read On? hosted by Diana Flegal

This week's First Page is for a Middle Reader title. Please keep that in mind as you make your comments. Thank you in advance for your critique.

Chapter One

Nothing would be alright, not this new house, not this day, and especially not Caleb’s smirking face, until Adrianna rescued her violin from the pits of the U-haul truck. She glared at the orange demon vehicle through the window. “It better be alright,” she mumbled. Of course, when it came down to it, the truck itself wasn’t responsible for the hairpin turns that put the seatbelts to the test. No, that would be Steven’s fault.

Her hands clenched into fists. “Steven!”

Tall and scraggly, with an ugly beard and yellowed teeth, an image of her stepfather appeared in her mind. She pictured a speech bubble above his head, filled with all the different little symbols to censor his natural speech. This man drove the U-Haul. If her violin was hurt, it would be his fault. Anyways, it was because of him that they even had to move in the first place!

She whirled around from the window. She hated this place, this soon-to-be living room, and this awful smell of new carpet. Soon they would have entirely new furniture, and her old life would be completely erased except for one thing. “I want my violin.”

To hold it in her hands would be to hold something familiar. To play it, despite having hands much too large for it now, would be even more wonderful. “Mom!” she hollered, as she stepped into the hallway, “Where is Daddy’s violin?”

Would you read on?

The Reveal: Last weeks contributing author was Timothy Fish. Timothy is a frequent commenter on this column We appreciate Timothy's insightful comments and helpful edits. Be sure to stop by his website and say hello.


Sharon A. Lavy said...

Yes, I like the voice.

Timothy Fish said...

Probably. What I like about it is that it begins with a simple, everyday, kind of conflict. So many writers begin with a gimmick, but not here. I also like where I think this story is going. It appears to be a love story between Adrianna and her step-father, so I look forward to watching them come to the point where they realize they need each other.

As for weaknesses, I’m having a little trouble criticizing this piece because it reminds me of something I wrote a few years ago. At the time, I thought it was great. Now, I would say of what I wrote, and of this piece, I think it would help if the author would show more and tell less. Instead of the author telling us what Adrianna is thinking here, I would rather see Adrianna’s thoughts revealed through her action and dialog.

All the same, the conflict between step-child and step-parent is one that anyone can understand, so good job on that.

Kathryn Elliott said...

Yes. I agree with Sharon, the voice resonates with me.

Anonymous said...

I would read on. The story has a good hook. We know immediately that Adrianna values the violin. Already I care about what happens to the violin and how it plays into the story. I also like the deep POV.

In the third paragraph, her approach to characterizing Steven is effective and fresh. The "speech bubble" comment made me smile. The conflict between Adrianna and her stepfather is clearly established.

The spelling of "alright" in the first line gave me pause. While I know that language is dynamic and spelling it as one word is accepted, I still prefer to see the two-word traditional spelling. Perhaps if it had appeared further down, I wouldn't have noticed it.

Does Adrianna actually play the violin, or is it a connection to her father? What happened to him? The writer has me asking questions early on. That's good. I want to read more to learn the answers.

Write on!
Because of Christ,
Sharon Kirk Clifton

Timothy Fish said...

Personally, I see nothing wrong with the use of “alright” here rather than the more formal “all right”, especially since it appears in dialog. Perhaps it’s my hillbilly roots showing, but even though Merriam-Webster says “all right” is more frequently used than “alright”, I don’t often hear “all right” used in spoken language. The exception is when an instructor tells a student, “your answers are all right.” But if someone were to ask for the general condition of a person or thing they would ask “are you alright?” or “is it alright?” treating it as one word rather than putting emphasis on every individual thing (all) being okay. In some parts of the country, even “alright” would be too formal because most people say “awright” instead.

Davalyn Spencer said...

Yes, I would read on. I love that the first page ended with "Daddy's violin." Just before that, I wondered if the instrument was one she had as a younger child, due to her hands being too big to play it well. Was it Dad's when he was a child? This is a good question to keep me reading more.

As a former middle-grade teacher, I like the dilemma of relocation. It's a huge issue for kids of this age, as is a step parent. So far, I believe this book will grab young readers.

Anonymous said...


Linda Glaz said...

VERY intriguing opening. I'm with Sharon on the alright thingie, it drives me crazy, but not enough to stop reading. I like just enough inference about the driver, and her connection to the violin. I think I'd keep reading...

Jennie Dugan said...

I would totally keep reading. In fact, I'd like to follow this author. She told just enough to make me wonder what's going on, and wondering whether the step-father is really as wicked as she sees him.
Nice job.

Katherine Hyde said...

I've seen this somewhere before. The incorrect (yes, absolutely incorrect; this is a copyeditor talking) use of "alright" in the first line put me off, and the rest of it did nothing to erase that initial impression.

The girl is too angry for me to identify with her in a positive way, although I can understand her feelings. Also, the writing seems a little disjointed to me. I would not read on.

Jeanette Levellie said...

Oh, yes, I would read on! Please, tell me more. I am hooked, and the voice is very authentic for a middle reader.

Plus, it reminds me of my own childhood and a hated stepdad. My life had a happy ending; I hope this book does, too.

Great job!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, everyone, for your comments and feedback. As a young writer, I appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, everyone, for your comments and feedback. As a young writer, I appreciate it.