Saturday, June 25, 2011

First Page Contest with Victoria Marini

So, here's what's up.

Fellow blogger and YA writer Shelley Watters is hosting a contest on her blog, "Is It Hot In Here Or Is It This Book?". The idea is, writers submit the first 250 words of their manuscripts, and the entries will be judged by literary agent Victoria Marini of the Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency. The winner will receive a full request from Victoria, as well as a partial critique. Victoria will also select runners-up, who will receive partial requests.

Awesome, right?

Full contest rules are here.

As part of the contest, writers are posting their entries on their blogs for critique. So, without further ado, here is my entry. Critique away!
Walking Shadow
YA Fantasy
99,000 words

Everything is a lie––their faces, their words, the books on their desks, the clothes they wear. It's a barrier as fragile as a bubble. Underneath it, there is only emptiness.

I know their fears, their secrets, the feelings they hide. I know their loneliness; it emanates from their minds, building from a whisper to a murmur to a scream that ricochets around in my skull.

One of the shrieking souls is my own. I may not be normal, but I'm still human. I share their pain. On the inside, we're all screaming.

But I've learned that I'm different. I accept the scathing mess of words their minds throw at me: freak, girl, freak, witch, goth, freak. I don't care what they think, as long as they never know the truth. They can think I dyed my hair blood-red, that my reflective eyes are contacts. They can think I wear long sleeves because I cut myself, even though I'm hiding something very different from the furious red slashes they'd expect.

I don't blame them. It's human to make judgments. If I had a choice, I would make them, too.

Instead, I have to know everything about everyone––who hates who, who's sleeping with who, who's doing drugs, whose parents hit them. Thoughts and dreams and memories and fears all burst inside my head like fireworks … and someday, I won't be able to take it anymore.

I never asked for this. I sure as hell never wanted it. My whole life, I've kept it inside. And it's killing me, crawling through my veins like a disease.

How long before it takes over––before it takes me, like it took my mother?


  1. The contest says the agent likes darker YA with a strong voice, so on that score I think you have a great chance of success.
    Also, I love the irony that the reason Cassandra is so apart from everyone else is BECAUSE she is so deeply connected to them.
    One thing that stuck out to me, however, was that early on your say that underneath the facade there is only "emptiness", but your later descriptions don't give an empty feeling-in fact, in examples like the antepenultimate paragraph (had to go for the opportunity to use that word...) it seems like the classmates' inner lives are full to bursting. The contrast between stated emptiness and described turmoil threw me a little.
    Anyhow, good luck-Walking Shadow is awesome and so are you!
    -Alison M

  2. :) Thank you, Alison! You make a good point ... I'll think about how to revise that. Thanks!

  3. Great voice, Brigid. You communicate an immediate sense of darkness and mystery. I'd definitely want to read more. Starting off with introspection is always tricky, though, since the literary world is obsessed with action! action! action! from the very first word. But this is only the first 250, so I expect there's plenty of action coming. And you build an interesting enough MC that I don't mind a journey through (her?)subconscious first.

  4. This is very pretty and interesting. You have a lot of good concepts here, and I like that. Your voice is great.

    However, I feel like this is very "tell-y". Instead of telling that she's ostracized, you could show it, perhaps?

    (also, I entered the contest because you gave me the idea, so thanks :) )
    I love the third-to-last paragraph. I understand the character, right there.

    Also, I don't get why she says "I may not be normal, but I'm still human." and then goes and says " It's human to make judgments." as is she's... not human.

    Maybe I just don't get it. Whatever; I like it a lot. You've got lots of talent. Post more, please?


  5. Hi Audrey! Thank you for commenting, and I'm glad I gave you the idea to enter! Yay! :D

    Thanks for your feedback. I see what you mean ... I've been concerned for a while that parts are too tell-y, so I'll work on that.

    As for the human/not-human thing ... She is human; but then, she's saying that it's human nature to make judgments, but she can't make them because she's psychic. The two things aren't really related, but I guess I could use different words so that's not as confusing. Haha. :) Thanks so much!

  6. Jessica - Thank you! I know, that's also been a concern of mine (that the beginning isn't action-y enough). The problem is, the first action that really happens is a flashback of her mother committing suicide––and I didn't want to open with a flashback or with something TOO dark, so ... I don't know. Anyway, thanks so much for your feedback! :)

  7. Alison made the point that I was going to make. :)

    I like this as an introduction to the character. It's interesting enough that I don't feel a lack of action. The words have a lot of movement to them, so in a way the story is actiony. But, that's coming from someone who tends to write similarly, so I don't know how helpful my input is. ;)

  8. Your writing and descriptions are wonderful. I agree with the others that it leans toward too much telling (which I have a habit of doing too), but you totally drew me in. I could really hear her voice and I wanted to know what she was. I like the dark feel too it. You might want to put in some action in with her internal thoughts. Show us how awful her classmates are to her. Good luck! :D

  9. I thought that the character concept was really interesting, but like the others, too much telling rather than showing us how she knows all this information.

    However, the last line was an excellent punch to end the scene on.

    Good luck in the contest! I'm also participating and would love to hear your thoughts!

  10. I think the hard part with showing vs telling in this part of the story is that the classmates and their meanness aren't really an important part of the plot (that I remember... from your vague descriptions when we were supposed to be doing our chemistry assignments...) so we care more about what she thinks of the classmates than about what they are actually like. It's difficult to find a balance.

  11. Thanks everyone for your thoughts. :)

    Alison - haha :D No, they're not really all that important. What's more important is that I'm trying to convey that Cassandra is psychic and an outcast, etc.

    Although I'm not sure how else I'm supposed to "show" she's a mind reader. I mean, she doesn't outright say "I can read minds" ... Ack.

    Well, I'll keep brainstorming. :]

  12. Interesting. Very nice start.

  13. I really enjoyed your submit, Brigid.

    Unlike the other comments on doing more showing vs. telling - well, this is only the first 250 words, and you still managed to pull me into the web of your story. So as long as you start embedding more showing as we get further in, I think this is a strong start.

    Great job and good luck in the contest!

  14. Great voice! I like the dark feel of it. I don't mind the telling in this case, because we get a sense of the character and her "problem." I've got the same deal with the beginning of my muse story. In any case, good luck!

  15. I love this voice. It pulled me in and didn't let go. I love the concept as well - or as much of it that's been revealed and the rest that I've guessed at.


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