Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Magic 8 Ball Comes to the Rescue

Hope Roberson is quickly becoming my favorite person on the blogosphere!  Not only did she offer me the opportunity for the great interview last Friday, but now she's tagged me for the The Magic 8 Ball Meme.  This is great for two reasons. 1.) I needed a blog post and 2.) I need some help with the beginning of Finding Meara.

Before I move on with the meme, I wanted to let you all know I'm over at Vaughn Roycroft's blog today sharing  The Way I Like My Rejections.  Obviously something I'm living right now!

I'm going to share the rules of the meme first and then it'll all become clear, I promise.

Rules for the Magic 8 Ball Meme:

1. Post the button and link to Jaycee deLorenzo (following would be nice, but not required). 

2.  Share an excerpt from your current WIP, perhaps something you're struggling with, are stuck on, or just can't "get right."  

3.  Ask a question about your excerpt.  It can be something easy such as "What do you think?" or something more in-depth, such as "Can you suggest a better way to word such-and-such," or "How can I make the emotions in this scene more realistic?"   

4.  Tag 8 people. 

I contemplated the whole query letter thing because I think my query stinks, but I decided to ask for your knowledgeable help on the first couple pages of Finding Meara, instead.  I have had contrary feedback on the beginning.

One person who would know said it was sufficient, but not strong.  Another person who would know said that it was a great beginning.  So, I'm giving you a little over the first two pages (the entire chapter is only five, but I didn't want to be greedy) and would like to know what you think I could do to make it stronger.

Here goes:

The beautiful fall day didn’t give any hint of the unbelievable mess my life was to become.

By late morning, I’d opened all the windows in my apartment.  The outside smells of dried leaves and cool air flowed through the rooms.  They mingled with the infrequent rumble of large delivery trucks coming off I-25 on their run into downtown Denver.

I focused on my laptop’s screen, and wished my online racing bet would download faster.  I wanted to get going.

The loading bar ticked up to ninety-seven percent, ninety-eight…

“And…done!” I said to the empty apartment.

I snapped the lid of the laptop shut, and set the computer on the coffee table.  Clasping my hands behind my head, I stretched the kink out of my back when the sound of heavy footsteps outside the door grabbed my attention.


Nobody had access to my floor without being buzzed up.  I crossed to the door, while I checked my cell phone for messages.  No alerts showed on the screen.

No one on the other side of the peephole, either.

“See there.  You’re just hearing things, Hazel.”  I checked my watch and headed for the bedroom to change into my workout clothes.

I made it halfway across the living room before the door shattered with a spectacular cracking noise.  Shards of wood flew by me.  Instinctively, I covered my face with my arm, and dropped to the floor.


I uncovered my eyes, and stared at the hole where the door had been.  My heart pounded.

A gigantic man watched me from the hallway.   He said one word.



The man strode through the wreck of the doorway.  His black trench coat rippled around his legs. A fedora, pulled low on his forehead, obscured his face.

“No! I’m Hazel… Hazel Michelli.”  I scrambled to my feet. “Stop!”

He didn’t stop.  Who I was didn’t matter.  He was going to kill me.

I searched the room for a weapon, but found nothing.  No vase or lamp to throw.  No baseball bat to beat him with.

The bathroom, I can lock myself in the bathroom.

Sprinting down the hallway, I slipped on the wooden floor and skidded past the sharp left into the bathroom. Crashing to the ground with a bounce that made my teeth hurt, I lost my grip on the phone.  It fumbled from my fingers, and slid away from me.

Phone or bathroom?  Indecision rendered me motionless.

The guy had made matchsticks out of my front door.  A flimsy bathroom door would be no protection.

I lunged for the phone.  A decision made too late.

An oversized hand wrapped around my ankle.  The man flipped me on my back, and pulled me toward the balcony.

My breathing rasped in my ears. If he got me out of the apartment, I’d be a goner.

I stretched for a chair leg, then the coffee table as they slid by.  Each time I grasped some piece of furniture, he gave me a violent shake, and I lost my grip.  Whatever I held on to slipped away behind me.

He was way too strong for a man.  I quit fighting long enough to really look at him. 

My heart stopped.

His hat had fallen off.  The skin on his bald head was grayish-green and had the waxy sheen of day old death.  Bulky knots protruded from above his shoulder blades, while his arms reached to his knees.

A cold chill flooded through my blood.

He wasn’t a man at all.

So there it is!  Please let me know what you think, as I'm trying to decide what to do with both my query letter and my first chapter before I start sending it out again.

Now for the tagging, which may be difficult because I know a lot of people have already been tagged.  If you've already been tagged, just know I like you so much I tagged you again!  Of course, if you haven't been tagged and I don't tag you, I still like you!

Denise Falvo
Emily R. King
Leigh Covington
Hildred Billings
Suzi at Literary Engineer

Okay, I'm stuck, so I'm going to cheat and only go for five! Thanks so much for any thoughts you might share on my pages.


  1. Thanks for the tag. :)

    The beginning didn't grab me. Not until the door shattering. My suggestions would be to cut some out. Like the nobody had access to my floor part. Or her checking out the door.

    I would show her sitting at the laptop, doing the betting, because THAT is interesting w/the online betting, and then have the door shatter.

    Good luck.

    1. I've never thought about shortening up the time between the computer and the door... That's a good idea I'm definitely going to consider!

      I rewrote it once where it started almost on top of the door shattering and didn't really like it. I felt like there was no introduction to Hazel. By shortening the time between the computer and the door, there would still be some setting and characterization. Thanks!

  2. WOW! First of all, this is amazing. I love the imagery, love how fast it moves and love how shocking it is! I think this grabs you right by the throat and keeps you glued to your seat reading. I actually prefer that you set the scene as it being a calm, kind of lazy day before the crap hits the fan--I think by setting it up the way you have, it makes the whole door-shattering thing more impactful. You've given us a frame of reference and a question (the betting thing) and then you had all hell break loose. Well done! My only suggestions would be that I think the first line would read smoother as "The beautiful fall day gave no hint of the unbelievable mess my life was to become." Then the second line where she says by late afternoon she had opened her windows--maybe some indication of why she opened them? Was it nice out? That's just me being a stickler. Also the part where she checks the door and says to herself that she is hearing things, that might read better if you either put it in italics as if she had thought it or if you make her whisper or mutter it to herself. Also the online betting is super interesting cause I was like what is up with THAT?! As long as you're going to delve into that later, you're okay. If you're not, then you need to elaborate on that here. My feeling is that it probably becomes more important later in the story so as a reader, I'm willing to wait and keep reading to find out. But on the whole, I think this is fanatastic!

    1. Thank you so much, Lisa! I do address the betting thing later, albeit briefly. I might need to beef that up or move it up. It just didn't seem to flow into the story until later in the book. I have felt the first line is a little awkward as well, so thanks for giving a suggestion. I wasn't sure if it even worked, quite honestly. I'm super-happy you liked it, and all your suggestions are appreciated and taken under advisement. :)

  3. I love your beginning, Lara! It hints at great potential for the rest of the novel, and makes me want to read more. I really think the back half flowed very well, and I agree with the first two commenters about the pace in the beginning. There is a little bit you could do to create a stronger, more active voice, but WOW! I love it.

    1. Thanks, D.D. I'm looking forward to your suggestions!

  4. You ROCK girl! And thanks for the tag!

    This is really good! I love the intensity in the action scene and the description of the intruder when she's able to see what he looks like.

    On this part: He didn’t stop. Who I was didn’t matter. He was going to kill me.
    More description could make this more suspenseful. Tell us more of what he looks like as he stalks toward her. And if we're in first person, does how does she KNOW he's going to kill her? She probably feels like that or fears it, so description tell us what she's feeling and why.

    LOVE THIS PARAGRAPH: Sprinting down the hallway, I slipped on the wooden floor and skidded past the sharp left into the bathroom. Crashing to the ground with a bounce that made my teeth hurt, I lost my grip on the phone. It fumbled from my fingers, and slid away from me.
    I LOVE THAT PARAGRAPH and pretty much everything after it.

    I'd up the suspense and details in the beginning a bit, but I think it's a great start :)

    1. Thanks, Leigh! I'm definitely seeing a trend about the very beginning, so that's good. It means I have some work to do. :) I appreciate the idea for more at the point when he comes through the door. I know I have issues with holding back with the internal thought processes. It's good to know where I might add a little. Thank you!

  5. Replies
    1. It is, and I'm getting some great feedback! I was going to tag you, but I didn't think you'd want it. If you do, please consider yourself tagged!

  6. I'm partial to what Suzi said. It didn't grab me. And yes, consider starting with the door exploding. I gave you a critique before (didn't I?), so I'll save the blog space for others' opinions. And keep at it. You'll know when it's just right.

    1. You did, Karen - and I tried to make it better, I promise! Just didn't get it there yet, I guess... :P

  7. I got chills at the end there! Awesome cliffhanger! Send the whole first chapter my way if you'd like another set of eyes :)

    And thank you so much for making me a favorite blogger! Right back at ya ;)

    1. I'll take you up on your offer, as you have come highly recommended!

  8. This has so much potential, Lara! I agree with Karen and Suzi, I think you need to get into the action a little sooner. While the betting is interesting, to me, it felt a bit out of place. I say start with her snapping the laptop shut because she's going to be late. Just an idea, but you could have her about ready to rush out the door when the door explodes in front of her.

    Now I'm going to challange you. You've got an awesome start and the tension is there but I think you could do so much more. Like Leigh said, amp up the tension with more description. Amp up what's she feeling and thinking. She seems pretty calm considering what's happening to her.I want to feel her fight more. This is a traumatic scene, really put yourself in her shoes, mix in some physical cues as well, is she sweating, clawing at the ground? Does she try to kick him to get away? Does she scramble to grab something to hit him with? What about him? What does she observe. Does he grunt with the weight of dragging her? Or is he super strong? (posible hint that he's not human) Does she scream for someone to help her? I would. The bones are there, now really amp it up. :) Thanks for sharing, Lara. These are just my opinions so use what you like and ignore the rest.

    I love the twist at the end! And I love the image of his coat pooling around his ankle. Awesome job!

    1. That's great feedback, Heather! Having it explode in front of her is an excellent suggestion. I think I need to look through the whole manuscript and see where else I've short-changed the emotional stuff. I'm so emotional, you'd think it'd be all over the manuscript. Although, I think I might hold back because I don't want to be melodramatic.

    2. It's something I struggle with too, Lara. I've had several comments from my editor that I need to add in more emotion. It's hard to get the balance right. I ran across a great book last week called the
      The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
      I highly reccomend it.

    3. Thanks, Heather, for letting me know I'm not alone. I was reading all these great suggestions and thought I must be the only one who subdues that emotional stuff! I have long used the Bookshelf Muse's blog, I just haven't bought the book yet. It sounds like it's got some helpful additions to it that you can't find on the blog. Maybe I better do that, huh!

  9. I think the first two paragraphs should be deleted to get to the action sooner.

    I agree with Heather about showing more emotional cues in Hazel's thoughts and actions after the door comes off.

    It's quite suspenseful and interesting, nevertheless.

    1. Thanks, Medeia. Yeah, I'm glad I've got a lot of people pointing to the same issue, because it really shows me that I need to develop that skill in me more. Perhaps that's why I chose to share this part, because I knew it was a little flat, but didn't know how to get that emotion in there, exactly. This has been a great learning experience for me!

  10. Sorry Lara, a few days ago I made a comment on this book passage from my phone, and of course it didn't work... Arrgh! Anyway, I wanted to say I really enjoy the beginning of the book. I love the action! It's very well written and I agree with all the comments about the potential. My thoughts may run contrary to a few others in that I don't believe any of this needs to be cut, but it needs to be "fleshed out" a bit more so that we understand who Hazel is. I'm not saying you needs tons more--that's too much. It's tricky to find the exact right amount of backstory to weave in before you move forward with the plot. My suggestion is to thread in little hints about Hazel, who she is, maybe what her job is and why we should care about her. Readers want to become emotionally invested in the character/plot, so authors have to do that magical thing. I know you can do it. In short stories and flash fiction pieces, you can't do that because word count prevents you. You have to do this very fast, and readers understand in a short piece they have to pick up quickly and run with the plot. With a novel, there is more time to explain who a character is. It's vital, because you'll have to take this character through 400 pages or so of plot, action, emotion. Right off the bat, readers, editors and agent want to care and they want to know why they should read more. Appeal to their curiosity. I recently watched the old "Total Recall" with Arnold Schwartzenegger--a very action packed movie. But the set up took a little bit of time so we understood Doug was a construction worker, married, lived in a little apartment and wanted to go to Mars. That didn't take long, but then he goes to Total Recall and shit hits the fan. But before he went there, we had a good feel for Doug's character and what he wanted. In your piece, I don't see what Hazel wants, except for the betting part and I don't understand how it will fit into the grand scheme of things. Though movies and books differ in how they are treated, movies can still give you an idea of how to keep the flow of a novel entertaining. Movies like Total Recall, in my opinion. Some movies may not flow that way. I hope I helped!

    1. You have given me food for thought, for sure. I had played around with starting in a different place, with a different conflict, and then let this part be chapter two. I'll ponder it for a bit. Thanks for the lovely, in depth comment!


I'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave your comments below.


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