So as to not mess up our First Page Friday schedule, I am included the piece and the critique in our prize blog. I hope you don't mind! Be sure to read to the very end. :)
(Oh, if you're new to the blog today, we have a cool feature here where you submit the first page of your manuscript and two incredible editors critique them every week. More info is on the sidebar.)
by Gina Denny
A stake dance isn’t exactly my idea of a good time, but my parents insist that I get out and make more friends. They say high school is supposed to be fun, and that it’s time for me to stop moping and get used to my new surroundings.
My family moved to Glendale five months ago when my parents decided they wanted a bigger house. We are only eleven miles from our old house, but the move put us in a different stake, different schools and a gated neighborhood. Basically, a whole different world. And I’m still not sure how I fit into this world.
“Elisa, please. Trust me. You’ll be fine.” Lily says to me.
Easy for her to say. She’s lived here her whole life. This is her world. So far, she's the only friend I've made, and she happens to be in my Mia Maid class, seminary class and freshman algebra class.
Lily and I walk into the cultural hall much too quickly. Part of me wants to just hover by the door, observing, before I walk into the room, but Lily doesn’t seem to agree. She walks in as if there is absolutely nothing to be scared of.
“Why are there so many people here?” I hiss to her as we approach a group of girls from our ward.
“This is a tri-stake dance. Didn’t I tell you?”
“No.” I say quietly. Now there are three times as many people to face.
I don’t know what I had really been expecting, but it certainly wasn’t this. The lights are all off, except for some colored flashing lights coming from in front of the DJ setup on the stage. A smoke machine is pouring smoke from the corner, and a long table is set up with bowls of candy and some cheesy Halloween decorations on it.
And not one single person is dancing.
Ms. Shreditor's Comments
I’m having some trouble getting my bearings in this piece. Although the first sentence mentions a stake dance, it doesn’t actually tell us that the narrator is at one; thus, it feels disembodied from the rest of the sample. Immediately thereafter, we hit upon a short information dump about the circumstances that have led Elisa to this point, immediately followed by dialogue from Lily, who is presented to us as if we somehow already know her. I’d recommend revising the dialogue tag to identify her as Elisa’s friend right off the bat.
There are compelling elements here. Perhaps the meatiest bit of this entire sample is the sentence that reads: “And I’m still not sure how I fit into this world.” It tells us a lot about Elisa in very few words. It tells us that we’re reading the story of a girl who is out of her element in the suburbs. To add fuel to the fire, she’s found herself in the most awkward of teenage social situations: the dance.
But I think the readers need more to go on if they’re to follow Elisa across hundreds of pages of narrative. What sets her apart from other young adult heroines in this same storyline?
Lastly, be careful not to let your secondary characters outshine your heroine. Lily commands this scene, and she strikes me as more interesting than Elisa herself. Perhaps it’s because Elisa comes off as so passive, a trait that afflicts too many young adult heroines right now, and I find myself craving more self-assured heroines like Lily. Of course, this amounts to personal preference, but because there are already so many passive heroines in suburban YA novels, it’s important that a character like Elisa make some sort of lasting impression from the get-go. It’s important that she establish strengths and interests of her own so that Lily doesn’t have to hold her hand throughout the entire story.
Thank you Gina and Ms. Shreditor!
Can you believe the party is coming to a close? My throat is still hoarse from karaoke, I definitely have a chocolate hangover, but I really did have fun. (And I'm not playing board games with some of you people anymore. You are brutal!)
Today is the last day for prizes and then I will tabulate all the entries and announce all the winners on Monday! I hope you've had as much fun as I have.
Here's a bit more about her: Danyelle discovered her love for the written word in elementary school. Her
first article was published when she was in 6th grade. During high school, she
placed runner up in the Pennsylvania School of Excellence for Arts program,
specializing in creative writing. Since then, she's won several awards for her
poetry, short stories, articles, and other writings. Her work has been published
internationally in anthologies, newspapers, and magazines. Her book,
(dis)Abilities and the Gospel, was released in May 2011. You can go to her website here to find out more.
The second prize being offered today is Monique Bucheger's middle grade book, The Secret Sisters Club. Here is the back copy:
Twelve-year-old BFF’s Ginnie and Tillie, want to be sisters.
Tillie's divorced mom plus Ginnie's widowed dad could equal a lifetime of
round-the-clock girl talk and slumber parties. Too bad Dad vowed to never marry
again. Ginnie and Tillie form a secret club. They come up with the perfect
mission to change his mind: ‘Operation Secret Sisters’.