Saturday, June 25, 2011

Birthday Blowout Contest Entry!

Hi guys! So, I'm doing an entry for Shelley Watter's First Page Contest. We're supposed to post the first 250 words of our projects. If I'm awesome enough, I might get a request from agent Victoria Marini. Worth a shot, no?

Here goes:

Title: Switch
Genre: YA fantasy
Word Count: 58,000
The First 250 Words:

What little hair Magda possessed stuck up from her scalp like clumps of weeds. Scabs and age spots covered the spaces between tufts. A procession of warts traveled from behind her right ear, across her face and down the high neckline of her nightdress. With her pointed nose and glazed eyes, the old woman resembled the moles that sometimes burrowed through the walls of her underground home.

Magda's breath came in ragged gasps and shudders. She had known for quite a while that death was on her tail and now, now that she could no longer make her own breakfast or sweep out her home, now that she was relegated to the comfort of her wooden bed, it seemed time to let him catch her.

The woman's only concern was for the five girls in her care. Could they survive without her? Magda had protected them for as long as she could, but now nothing would stand between them and the beauty-obsessed citizens of Parnear. It bothered her because, ugly as she knew herself to be, Magda's five wards were so much uglier.

The girls gathered around their guardian's bed, watching with anxious expressions. Magda looked into each face and wished for the power to bestow beauty and luck. She tried to smile.

"I couldn't be prouder if you were my own blood," she said. "You are special in every way imaginable. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise."

The youngest girl made a whimpering noise and reached for Magda's hand. Magda swallowed as she felt the tiny fingers wrap around her wrist.

Thanks for stopping by! Good luck, everyone. :)


  1. Great! Good descriptions, good promise of what's to come. No suggestions!

  2. Great beginning, like Kristi I have no suggestions. :)

  3. I like this, as well. I absolutely want to know more. I have some questions and one suggestion. Is Magda the main character? If not, who is? Also, I would make your second graph your first and move the description down a bit. It draws me in more to hear someone is dying before reading the description of her. Just a thought.

  4. What a unique character!!
    I am wondering if the second paragraph might work better as an intro. Try switching the first and second paragraph to see how you like it!
    Good luck!

  5. Thanks for you suggestions, guys. :)

    I've thought about doing exactly as you suggested and switching the first and second paragraphs. Starting with action as opposed to description. My reasoning for doing it this way was twofold.

    1. Beauty/ugliness is a big theme of the book and in the long run it's more important than Magda dying. Starting out with something really ugly to get the ball rolling was important to me. Then, two paragraphs later the zinger - she's ugly, but the girls are uglier.

    2. I also wanted to purposely avoid starting with a shock sentence. (Deathbed) I thought if I introduced the reader to Madga before I introduced them to the idea of her dying it might change the way they feel about her death.

    Yes, I know this goes against the advice about starting with action. No, I'm not totally convinced that my way is the best way.

    Thanks again, guys!

  6. Ok I agreed with what they said about switching the two, but if you like it the way it is I think that is great too. My advice would be to tighten that first paragraph just a bit. I was ready to move on before it ended. But it sounds really interesting, especially knowing what you said in your last comment. I'm intrigued.

    Also wondering if she is the main character though???

    BTW Thanks for the comments on mine. They were great and much help!


  7. Great descriptions! The only thing that tripped me up was "death was on her tail". Threw me.

  8. the first line stumped me. I was drawn with the second paragraph. Love the idea of protecting the uglies. Good luck.

  9. I'm really glad you don't leave the whole opening page with just descriptions. I was impatient because I had no action or dialogue in three paragraphs, but I think I can allow that if the rest of the book is as promising as the opening page. Not everyone will be so forgiving, though.
    It sure does seem an interesting concept.

  10. I like what you have very much. Magda is a great character, but is she your MC? I assume not if she dies. I've been told chapter one should start with the character you mean to go on with. Is this the prologue or chapter one? Nonetheless, it is very compelling and I like it.

  11. Interesting opening! For YA, I think you need to start out with your teen MC's point of view. I'm curious to seecmore!

  12. lbdiamond keeps posting right before me and saying what I was going to say ;)

    I do think YA readers want to relate to the MC right away, and wondered the same thing everyone else wondered.

    Also, and this might just be because I was sleepy. ;) But since you were talking about an ugly character, the use of the word "wards" confused me at first. I thought it said "warts." I was thinking about physical description and things that were ugly, and you had already talked about her warts. So I was a little confused. I had the same trouble with the word "moles" in the first paragraph.

    But I love the character!

  13. Thanks for visiting my blog. I'm not sure I'd compare hair to weeds. I agree, unless the characters really do have tails, "death on her tail" is a bit of a reach.

    Good luck!

  14. I would change the sentence that starts "Magda's breath" as "Her breath" instead, but it's not a dealbreaker. 58K strikes me as a little short for fantasy, but if your story is 58K it's 58K. Really nice stuff. Clearly you've already drafted the hell out if it. Good work!

    Good luck and keep writing! - TH

  15. I really enjoyed the descriptions, especially of Magda. Good luck with the contest.

  16. Wow! You are very, very skilled with descriptive language. I loved it. I reread the first paragraph to try to perfectly envision Magda. I loved every word.

    I do agree with others about the inro being kid of description-loaded, though. I couldn't get an immediate sense of what was happening to Magda. Not that that's a bad thing, though. Rules were made to be broken, right? :)

    I think you might be able to rectify the action start vs. description start problem in a really subtle way by maybe moving the first sentence of para.2 and making it the first line of the story (or the second line if you prefer). Magda's breath coming out in ragged gasps orients me(though in a subtle way) into the action and motion of the scene). That way, you may be able to keep your descriptive intro while still throwing a little action/movement in there. Just a thought.

  17. Your writing is very descriptive; there's a lot of good vivid imagery in this. I would keep reading, although I think a lot of readers might be thrown if they open a book and the first paragraph is a description of an ugly old lady. It's original and well-written, although I'm not sure readers would expect this to be the first page of a YA book. Like others have said, it seems like Magda is the main character just from these first 250 words. It's kind of hard to judge from reading so little of it, but I'm guessing this is more like a prologue and that there will be a teenage MC. I prefer it when the beginning is about the MC right away, but that may just be personal taste.

    Otherwise, I think this is great. Like I said, very well-written. Good luck! :)

    - Brigid

  18. All I can say with the first paragraph is YUCK! Wonderful descriptions, though I'm not sure clumps of weeds works for her hair, since weeds are so varied. Something more specific like clumps of dried grass?

    Wonderful opening and I care instantly for this ugly ugly woman! The only thing I was confused about was if she was lying in bed. At first I thought she was walking around.

  19. You've got me intrigued... I want to know more, but I get a feel the old lady will die, but hope not. If so, I would have preferred to be in the head of one of the daughters. Otherwise, great start.

    Good luck

  20. Wow, I'm totally sold! I want more! Unlike the majority, I love that you don't start with the deathbed paragraph. I enjoy finding out what Magda is like first.
    Also unlike some (although I might be totally wrong) I don't think it's an utter requirement for us to meet the mc in the first paragraph, even in YA or MG. That said, if it's one of her five wards, I would kind of like to know. I'm thinking it might be the youngest, since she touches Magda.
    Overall, I'm enthralled and dying to keep reading! Good luck!

  21. Okay, I'm torn. I love how this is written and I already like Magda. I'm so intrigued with this story that I would keep reading. With that said, I'm concerned about not introducing the MC that will carry the story the rest of the way. Is there some way to mention whoever it will be within the first words? Maybe, Magda could think of her or she could bring her a cup of water or something? I don't know, it's just my opinion. I wish you luck in the contest! :D

  22. This is wonderful! The descriptions of Magda made me laugh and I love the idea of her wards being uglier than she. It's like the opposite of a fairytale haha!

    I agree with Brenda. I am torn about loving this intro and introducing the MC. Perhaps you could use this intro but have it from the MC's perspective. I didn't have a problem with the backstory, but if you wanted to convert it to action, you could incorporate/introduce the info through dialogue. Perhaps magda could tell them that she knows she's dying and it won't be long now and the youngest touches her hand. OR the kids are cleaning the house and come rushing to magda's side when she gasps for breath.

    I'd love to see where this goes and who the guy is that's after magda. Grwat effort and good luck.

  23. Great descriptions! I loved the clumps of weeds and scabs and warts...

    Also loved the tiny fingers wrapping around her wrist.

    I want more :)

  24. Poor Magda and even more so for her wards. How awful to live in a beauty obsessed world...oh...wait. We do. :( Great entry!