Saturday, March 19, 2011

Show Me the Voice Blogfest- Come Critique!



Brenda Drake is having her Show Me the Voice Blogfest and I've decided to post the first 250 of my new MS.

WARNING: It's barely edited, but I wanted to get some early feedback on the voice. This is my first foray into first person, but I'm really enjoying it. Here goes!


My life began the night my father died.

I lay on the straw pallet with my sisters and listened to Comito’s snores and Anastasia’s even breathing in the dark. An animal snorted, probably the scraggly new bear Father had acquired to train for the Greens, a beast scarcely fit for the spectacle of the Hippodrome. I scratched my stomach and kicked Comito, none too gently. The fleas were bad tonight and Constantinople’s summer heat made the stench of the nearby garbage heap especially pungent. I missed our old home in Cyprus, the salty smell of the Mediterranean and the cicadas’ screams amidst the olive trees. Our ramshackle house near Constantinople’s amphitheater could scarcely compare.

I heard a shuffle in the dark—possibly a rat—but then my father grunted.

“Quiet, Acacius.” My mother giggled. “You’ll wake the girls.” She gave a little moan, followed by the sounds of their lovemaking. I snuggled into Anastasia’s bare back and drifted toward sleep.

“Acacius.” My mother’s voice woke me. She sounded annoyed, the same tone she used when my father played too rough with us girls. There was another sound, a thud like a sack of flour hitting the ground. “Acacius!”

“Mama?” I opened my eyes, but wished I hadn’t. My father lay facedown on their pallet, his arms crumpled in strange angles under his bulk.

Departing this life in the throes of passion is probably as good a way to go as any—in later years I’d wish such a fate on many men—but now was not a good time for my father to greet Saint Peter.

41 comments:

Steph said...

I have no crit. for you, other than this.is.AWESOME! Great first sentence that hooks you and the voice is wonderful! Nicely done!

Cheree said...

This is definitely a great opening. It really hooks me in and the voice is wonderful.

J.C. Martin said...

Great voice! The fleas, the garbage heap, the sound of rutting parents...I love the opening line! Sorry to be unhelpful, but I can't see anything I'd change.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Excellent, that is all I can say,

Yvonne,

A. Grey said...

It definitely grabbed my attention, and by the end I had a good feel for the young, but obviously keenly intelligent mc. Really nice! I have only two questions, and they aren't critique-sort of questions just plain questions.

Is the MC a girl or a boy? I'm assuming girl, since Comito is snoring and Anastasia is asleep and the mother said 'girls'

And is there such as thing as 'upper MG'? I ask because of the lovemaking bit. Not that it's inappropriate or anything, but I was just questioning how a MG aged kid might respond. It seems like something that would provoke a lot of giggling, at least from younger kids, and I'm not familiar with exactly what ages fit into the MG category.

Escape Artist said...

This is great, but what genre. I'm thinking YA?

Jenna Wallace said...

Seriously, this is fantastic! What a great opening. Full of voice and rich details. Well done you!

Jan Morrison said...

I like this - think you've got the voice down well.
Keep going!
Jan Morrison

Loralie Hall said...

I think your hook here is solid. It's difficult for me to tell at this point if the voice is (I'm sorry). You've got one hint of a voice that's prone to just a touch of rambling toward the beginning (not a bad thing, it makes a distinct voice), but in the next few paragraphs it becomes less rambling and more terse. I wasn't sure which to expect to see moving forward.

But I'm still definitely hooked by the story you've laid out ^_^

Anita Saxena said...

Love the hook. Dad keeling over while having sex, and his daughter nearby to witness it! Good stuff. I also like the first paragraph where you describe the setting (because it's such a unique time and place), although this may be streamlined a tad. Overall, great work.

christicorbett said...

I agree with the previous comments, it's lovely! I especially like the twist of the father dying on the first page :)

Christi Corbett

Liza said...

Your first sentence, as many others have commented, is excellent. There are a few things maybe, to make the writing more powerful. The fleas were bad...but how did they feel? The garbarge smell was pungeant, but how did it smell (for ex: the rotten meat from the butcher's scraps in the garbarge heap...). The father's arms, crumpled at strange angles under his bulk...what does "strange" look like?

Anyway, great start...I'm hooked. Wish I could keep reading. Good luck with the contest.

Vicki Tremper said...

I'm hooked and the voice shines through! Good job.

Good luck with the contest!

Shayda Bakhshi said...

Well. I want to read the rest of this. Immediately. So intriguing!

J. L. Jackson said...

Stephanie, I think this is great. It caught my attention and I wanted to keep reading. Good luck!

Mara Nash said...

I would definitely keep reading, but I have a few questions:

1. The MC sounds intelligent, maybe well read or educated, yet their surroundings are incongruent. Would a girl living in a hovel somewhere in Greece have that kind of elevated vocabulary?

2. I need a little more feel for the time frame here in order to be properly grounded in the story.

3. The second sentence I didn't realize at first that Comito and Anastasia were her sisters.

4. Her father's death seems way too abrupt for some reason. Maybe you can ease into it more.

5. This has a much more adult feel to it than YA. The language, the rhythm, the comment, "in later years I'd wish such a fate on many men," feel above the comprehension level of YA.

6. St. Peter is Catholic, right? (I know squat about religion). Was Greece Catholic/Christian at this point? Again, some hint about time frame would be good here.

That being said, I was hooked by the MC, whether it's YA or adult, and liked her enough to be interested to find out why her life began the night her father died!

Margo Berendsen said...

Nothing major - this is SMOOOOTH and I wish I could write vivid descriptions like that opening! It really "put" me into the scene.

Here's where I see her voice: "scraggly new bear my father had acquired" acquired is a strong word choice. makes this girl seem older, sophisticated. so does "A beast scarcely fit for the spectacle" - sounds sophisticated too, along with the "scarcely" later. Nice contrast of sophisticated with sleeping in bed with sisters and fleas! Then I hear her voice again at the end, with the St Peter comment.

Her reference to later years however - this is tricky. Now I don't know if her voice is the voice of an adult looking back, or the voice of an unusually sophisticated teenager. Might be an issue there??? dont' have experience enough to say. Except for that one minor uncertainty, this is a great intro/hook and I'd read more in heartbeat.

Gabrielle said...

Ooh. I remember this from the previous contest. It's a great hook.
I'm not exactly what time frame the story is from, though. And what the genre is. Other than that, I have no critiques to say for this because other people summed it up better than I did.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Great comments- thanks everyone!

This is actually adult- historically the protagonist was about seven years old when her father died, but I've bumped her up to about 14 due to later events. She was old enough to be married, so she should give an older feel than a modern 14 year old.

The time frame is 7th century Constantinople, post-Rome, but not yet Middle Ages.

Keep the comments coming!

Chersti Nieveen said...

Loved it. Great first line, and the rest is just as fantastic! Good luck.

Kalen O'Donnell said...

Love it. Fantastic first line and setup. My only crits would be to ground the setting and time a little more. The events and voice come through loud and clear, but the world around them is hazy and indistinct. Use the MC's senses as another person said, give us a larger sense of the city and time they're in so its not lingering overhead as an unanswered question.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Honestly - I loved this. The descriptions, the setting, the voice. All there. Spot on. I would love to read on! :)

Jemi Fraser said...

You sure can set a scene Stephanie! Great opening - I think the voice is terrific & we get a vivid picture of the setting right away - love it!

Florence said...

Departing this world in the throws of love-making, the strange descriptions of the characters, bears and fleas and a great voice.

I'm curious and want more.

Katy said...

Your first sentence is fantastic! I loved the voice and I'm so curious to learn more about the setting and how this narrator grew up. I'd definitely read more!

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Wow, this is interesting. Your first line really drew me in! Not sure if it's MG or YA though. . . I'm guessing YA from the "lovemaking". Excellent start! http://www.veritasoccultus.blogspot.com

Trisha said...

I think this is fabulous, and that opening line is intriguing - I want to know why our MC's life BEGINS with her father's death.

Guinevere said...

Stephanie, I love this! It pulled me right in.

Dawn Simon said...

Wow, Stephanie! It's great! Love the hooky opening!

eeleenlee said...

Ahh a unique period, 7th Century Constantinople, poised between East and West but retaining the customs of Rome.

I just posted my entry

Debra Ann Elliott said...

I liked the whole wording. Stopping by from the blogfest.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

You already know how much I LOVE this story. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

LOL Amazing how we all jumped to the conclusion that it's YA or MG.

I thought it was YA because of the voice but then the ending caused me pause. I have no idea what the voice should sound like for this era and for adult fiction, but I really enjoyed it. Loved the voice. Loved the story. :D

L'Aussie said...

Your voice transported me right away. I love first person if it's done well and you came up trumps. Great entry.

Denise<3

Medeia Sharif said...

This hooked me in! Great excerpt.

Erin Kane Spock said...

You open with a great sense of place and time. The mc's voice is clear and defines her character. The location, sleeping arrangements, fleas, nonchalance about her parent's intimacy all tells us so much about the social history without being teacher-y. :)
Great opening. I'm hooked.

Janet Johnson said...

You write beautifully! What a unique time to set a book . . . I don't know what comes next, but if the time is set closely thereafter, I'd not worry about getting in the first page.

The only thing that bothered me (though I seem to be the only one) was the "annoyed tone" of the mother when her husband had just died. That didn't seem quite right to me.

But I loved this! Again, excellent writing! So vivid. :)

Laurel Garver said...

This opening draws you right in, though I'm not normally drawn to historical. The voice feels spot-on (helps knowing this is a book for adults). I love how you drop in so many intriguing hints that the family is suffering a downturn in fortune. This period--when Asia Minor was Christian rather than Muslim, and even before the Eastern Church split off--hasn't been explored much in ficition, which adds to the intrigue for me.

Julie Dao said...

I love historical fiction and I'm 100% positive I will love your book. This opening was great - just the right touch of humor and foreshadowing through the eyes of a young girl. Definitely a great hook!

Jen Daiker said...

Wow. This was amazing!!! I adored it! I'm so glad that you haven't posted anything else so I could enjoy this piece! You my friend have a gift!

Amalia T. said...

This sounds great, Stephanie! As always you've done a great job of grounding us in the world through the details of description, and the voice is solid here! First person sounds like it is working out well for you :)