Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fright and Flight - 200 Words

So this is it—Deana Barnhart’s final week of “Gearing Up to Get an Agent Blog-O-Rama”, and this week it is the first 200 words of our WIP. This is how I see it—if I really want my book published, I should be willing to share my MS. So here are the first 200 words of THE ALABASTER REFUGEE—Chapter 1-Fright and Flight.

Night covered the forest like a heavy blanket waiting for a movement or a noise to throw back its cover and reveal the secret hiding there.

Jocelyn lay flat—her stomach pressed to the earth and the chill from the ground seeped into her skin. Was it the cold or the fear making her skin rise in angry goose bumps?

I’m trapped! She swallowed her panic in breathless gulps. From under the overgrown bush, she could see the path straight ahead. It’s too late. With guards chasing her, Jocelyn had two options—run or hide.

She chose the latter.

Now she waited.

The blustering pursuit moved closer to her with each shallow breath. Jocelyn reached her hand to her neck and let her fist close around a broken locket—its jagged face cut into her flesh. I’m still alive, the pain reminded her. She willed herself to remain still, fighting her every screaming instinct to—Run! Run! Run!

The earth throbbed as boots hit the ground in a chaotic cadence.

They’re here! Jocelyn’s body stiffened. I only made it to the woods!

She could hear them sifting through the dense vegetation bordering the well-worn trail.

“Any sign?” A guard bellowed.

“Not yet, Sir.”

“Keep looking. She can’t have gone far.”

Thanks for any thoughts or help :)



Alleged Author said...

Way to drop me right into the action! Whew!

This makes for a great opening because you have strong images driving the plot.

The only thing that gets me is I have no sense of her background and why she's running or hiding. I'm sure the query explains this, but if I was a random kid picking up this book then I would want to know a leeeetle bit (like a sentence).

Sounds like a great novel!!!! :)

Robin Weeks said...

Love the scene here--girl hides from guards in the woods? Oh, yeah. I'd read on. I love that you have her huddled so close to the guards--very immediate tension.

I would suggest that, instead of starting with a description of the dark woods (yawn), you start with the MC--IN the woods. Plus, that first sentence is a little too complex for me. :) Skip right to your heroine and show me what she's feeling and why. If you want to talk about the forest, do that after you tell me why I should care.

Also, you probably don't need to explain so much about the fight-or-flight instinct. Show her choosing to hide and fighting the instinct to run, and we'll get it. Keep me in the moment and don't pause for pulse-soothing science lessons. :)

Excellent start.

Michelle Fayard said...

I love how you start with an intense moment, Angela. You might want to make sure your opening doesn't contain any cliches, as I've heard it's usually best to avoid these. I'm very curious to learn who is after your MC and why!

rewrighter said...

I agree with Robin and Michelle - skip that first sentence. Get right into your MC's emotions.
And your question - is it fear or the cold making her skin rise in angry goose bumps? I don't think you need it. Also, angry goose bumps make me think of a rash. Or goose bumps with frowny faces on them. :))
Otherwise, love the set up!

Sharon Bayliss said...

Hi Angela,

I pretty much have the exact same comments as the others, but isn't it nice with critiquers agree instead of giving you the opposite advice? It gives such order to the world. :)

I loved that you started with the action, I would read on to learn more about why she's running. I agree that the first sentence can go. You do probably want the reader to know that we're in a forest at night, but state it simply at some point after the "Jocelyn lay flat.." line.

Good job! Good luck!

Anonymous said...

How funny - that's instantly what I thought. Get rid of the first bit and start here:

"Jocelyn lay flat—her stomach pressed to the earth..."

Think it's great! Dialogue is perfect - kids will love this as it gets straight in there.

Andrea Mack said...

I love the action in this beginning. We get some insight into Jocelyn's thoughts, as well as the detail of the broken locket, which I'm sure is significant.

I agree with other commenters about losing the beginning descriptive paragraph. It didn't feel like it fit with the rest of the openning to me.

A couple of picky points:

"I only made it to the woods!" - I wasn't sure what this was all about, and it didn't feel like something she'd be thinking at that exact moment, more like it was there for the reader's info.

"sifting through the dense vegetation bordering the well-worn trail." It could be me, but "sifting" didn't seem like it fit with vegetation, I couldn't picture it. And the phrase "well-worn" stuck out for me, again, like it was there for the reader and not naturally part of the narrative.

But these are really tiny points. I loved the story and really wanted to read on and find out what happens next! I hope my comments are helpful.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Love this excerpt. I really don't have anything to add. But I'd love to read more. =D

Anonymous said...

Great start. I'd like a sentence in here about why she's hiding. Also was confused about "I only made it to the woods!" Otherwise I think it's perfect:)

amy kennedy said...

I agree -- start with the second paragraph. The first line is beautiful, but the second P gets my heart started.

I agree with Jamie -- we know she's in the woods, so does she, I understand what you were doing though. So maybe just a re-word.

What a great beginning!

Anonymous said...

Angie-This is great. I agree with the others too, but I do really like the first paragraph. It's so hard to tell sometimes, isn't it? I was wondering about the line "I only made it to the woods!" as well. It felt a little out of place. Like that comment should have happened a bit sooner.If you don't want to cut it, you could move it up to where she thinks "Its too late."
It sounds great Angie! Good Job!

Nicole Zoltack said...

Love this! You drop us right into the action. A small hint as to why she is hiding from the guards would probably be a good idea.

This sentence - Was it the cold or the fear making her skin rise in angry goose bumps? - seems very telling to me. Maybe show her angry goose bumps (Love the use of angry!) and then give a hint that it could be from fear rather than the cold. If my rambling makes sense.

Great job, I really enjoyed this!

amber said...

I'm going to be of completely no help and just simply say that I loved it. Every word was perfectly chosen, and I felt every description. :) That first line? YES YES YES. You're kind-of awesome :)

Kate Larkindale said...

Very exciting beginning. I agree with the others about losing the beginning. Darkness as a blanket is kind of cliche. Start with the character, then describe the setting.

Now, I need to go slow my pulse rate...

Lora R. Rivera said...

I'm going with the crowd here--bring Jocelyn in lying flat on her stomach. The first line was rather tangled, and I honestly skipped it on first read, anyway, to find out about our MC.

I do want to know more about what's going on, as in, why we should care.

The word "blustering" took me aback. I don't think it quite works unless you're hinting the guards are rather stupid--then I'd wonder why Jocelyn's so afraid.

Lots of pitch-perfect description! Well done.

I don't know if we need quite so much direct internal dialogue. You do such a great job with J physically that the direct dialogue is sort of redundant. Interiority, though, I could definitely do with a pinch of to get a better overall connection.

Great opening scene. Riveting.


Christine Danek said...

I did love that first sentence, but I would agree to start it with Jocelyn lying flat on her stomach.
I do want to know more about what is going on. This is a great start! Nice job!

K.V. Briar said...

Love this, great way to start a scene. I was immediately engaged in the story. I think that some of the inner dialogue could've been cut, it was a lot for the first 200. Specifically "I only made it to the woods!"

Great descriptions! Very vivid!

I definately wanted to read on. Great job!

K.V. Briar

alexia said...

Great beginning, full of juicy tension! I agree with some of the others that the first sentence, while nicely poetic, is a bit wordy. I also wasn't sure what she meant by "I only made it to the woods". She knows she's in the woods, right? It may be just me, I just wasn't sure of that sentence.

I would definitely read on, this is an awesome start!

Josh Hoyt said...

Good start and we know a lot about the MC from the get go. We wonder about the locket and what it means and why she is trapped.

kathy stemke said...

Love the first 200 words. I agree-ditch the beautiful first setence. Great tension and intrigue. What are angry goose bumps? IMO You do not need "I'm trapped" or "I’m still alive, the pain reminded her."

I want to keep reading.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Very gripping! Agree with Kathy above. The italicized thoughts aren't necessary. Swallowing her panic in breathless gulps is WAY more awesome for showing those same thoughts. I also thought it'd be weird for her to actually think, "I only made it to the woods," like maybe you just put that in to tell the reader that she was hoping to get further. Maybe show her looking past the forest toward what she was trying to reach would be better.

I LOVE the bit about the locket cutting into her hand, the pain reminding her she's alive. Awesome! Thank you for sharing!

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Wow, there were a lot of typos in my suggestions. Ignore me. *facepalm*

LisaAnn said...

What a great opener! I really enjoyed this, although I agree with everyone that you should drop the first sentence. It's beautiful, but it's almost self-consciously beautiful, like you are trying to impress readers with your powers of prose rather than trying to immerse them in your story.

I also wasn't a huge fan of the internal dialogue, because it's fairly obvious what she's thinking, so I'm not sure the words further her cause. But overall, I love how we are dropped right in the action, and I really like this a lot!

LisaAnn said...

I just gave you an award on my blog... I'd love it if you stopped by to check it out!

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