“I Stopped Reading When…” Editor Critiques – Volume 4

ca_20150131_026Publishers, agents, and readers all make quick decisions about what they want to read. Below are my first impressions of twenty novel openings written by Novel Boot Camp participants.

I stopped reading (and ended the excerpt) at the point that I was no longer interested in continuing. I also included comments about why the story didn’t catch my interest.

Please play along by tracking which books you would want to continue reading. There will be a poll at the end of the post.

When determining whether a first page is indicative of publishable writing, these are the elements typically considered:

  • Voice – Is the voice strong, unique, and consistent?
  • Clarity – Is it easy to follow what’s going on?
  • Connection – Is the character easy to connect with?
  • Conflict – Is there conflict or the promise of conflict?

“I Stopped Reading When…”

1. YA Fantasy

December 31st, 2015 | 6.30 pm

 It started like every well planned assassination should – planning with a dry run. The final target was a seven-hundred year old witch. The practice target was any supernatural who could be killed. What had to be tested was the murder weapon. The date of target was February 7th 2016. Time was running out for Barry Vladsun and he knew it.

Notes: The idea behind your opening is cool and has potential, but the current execution needs work. Including both “planned” and “planning” in the first sentence is clunky. The last line is a bit of a cliché so I’d prefer something more original.

Verdict: Not Hooked

2. Mainstream

Boston – 1886. The ticking clock in the downstairs foyer strikes the midnight hour. The chimes echo through the corridors of this elegant Victorian home landing on the ear like sensual music.

 Angelica is the twenty-five year-old mistress of this great house. She is a vain woman. But as vain as she is, she has a right to be. She’s beautiful – or would be if she were a marble statue. In human form, crowned with raven black hair, her alabaster skin seems to glow juxtaposed to a distinct lack of warmth about her.

Notes: The style feels as if you’re trying too hard to sound writerly. It doesn’t seem natural. The protagonist comes across as if she might be a Mary Sue.

Verdict: Not Hooked

3. Romance

Some things in life are better off forgotten, at least that’s my excuse for the gaping holes in my memory. The shrink at my last group home called it a defense mechanism. I think it’s because there isn’t a whole lot of shit in my life worth recalling, and most of the stuff I can remember, I’d rather forget.

Notes: This opening doesn’t at all seem like a romance. The narrator seems contradictory, stating that his/her excuse for the memory holes is that “some things are better off forgotten” but he/she then says it’s because there isn’t anything worth recalling. Those seem like two very different concepts.

Verdict: Not Hooked

4. Science Fiction

 Boyle, in his new form, approached the power board and stood staring through eyes that itched when he blinked. There were marks of glowing and shifting colors on the board. He could see and feel the lights through the residual mental connection he had with the computers. Holding up a limb, he watched as fingers formed on the end of his now male human arm. He examined the new finger nails and turned the hands over to glance at smooth skin.

Notes: I don’t have any connection to the character or to what’s occurring. I’ve seen this concept done many times so a distinct style or unique personality will be necessary to stand out.

Verdict: Not Hooked

5. YA Fantasy

“Oomph” exclaimed as Crista was pushed to the hard concrete floor.

 Connie smirks, “Serves you right you white trash.”

 “Why? What have I ever done to any of you that you would treat me like this?!”

With blue eyes that seemed, to Crista, colder than ice, “Because you exist…Now, girls.”

At her order, Connie’s group started to repeatedly kick her while Crista was in a fetal position. All the while, Crista thought,

 I won’t cry. I will not give them the satisfaction.

Notes: The first sentence seems to be missing a word. “Smirks” isn’t a dialogue tag so shouldn’t be attached to dialogue with a comma. The dialogue itself sounds a bit stilted and not like natural speech, especially the third line. The last two sentences are used too often and border on cliché.

Verdict: Not Hooked

6. Fantasy

One week shy of the full moon, London’s loonies hadn’t stayed home waiting.

 Maybe tonight’s Prince Charmless had taken too many drugs. Maybe he hadn’t taken enough.

 I’d watched darkness bleed into his close-set jittery eyes. I’d chewed my lip as Porn Junkie planned to upgrade himself to rapist in the too-near future. I’d choked back protest while Moni, my best and only friend, had treated his denim thigh as her greasy throne.

Notes: I didn’t initially understand what was going on. After reading it twice, I think you’re describing a guy that the narrator thinks is going to take advantage of her friend. It’s not immediately clear that “Porn Junkie” and “Prince Charmless” are the same person. It’s also not clear if the darkness in his eyes is literal or metaphorical. I think you need a lot more clarity to set up this scene sufficiently.

Verdict: Not Hooked

7. MG Fantasy

Today is the last day of school. I don’t recall springtime ever feeling this warm. Excited sounds of children echo around the schoolyard, but I’m not so happy. I walked the footpath to the schoolhouse with Nicholas following a pace behind. The broad schoolhouse door was wide open, drawing the fresh morning air inside. I turned to Nicholas as I approached the door, holding my palm forward, silently gesturing him to stop. Without hesitation, he stopped and stared at me. I flicked my hand to the side, and he headed to the shade under the tree at the corner of the schoolhouse. I stood watching as he laid down, looking back, thumping his tail on the grass. “Good dog,” I whispered to myself.

Notes: This isn’t a particularly interesting place to start, but it could work if the reason the narrator isn’t happy were explained in a way that hooks the reader. The explanation of the hand gestures isn’t needed and takes up precious space in the first paragraph. I’m not sure if it’s intentional, but it seems as if you’re hiding that Nicholas is a dog initially and this is jarring.

Verdict: Not Hooked

8. Mainstream

The twins were in the hospital for the third time. Mr. and Mrs. Canterbury looked worriedly at the infants through the windows of the pediatric intensive care unit. No one was near the Canterburys at the time. Two nurses attending to the babies, looked at the Canterburys with suspicion, or at least Mrs. Canterbury thought so.

Notes: There’s way too much repetition of “Canterbury” in this first paragraph and that points to the need for more thorough line editing.

Verdict: Not Hooked

9. Fantasy

“We should away,” Gloin said. “The Major bade us be back by dark-fall. Dead is dead that flies the Corson Divide.”

 “Do the trees frighten you, old man?”

The Lieutenant was an Herballist, an unbeliever, and sneered with the superiority of ignorance. A strutting fool who carried a quirt. Gloin ignored the Scamerian. He was an old man, indeed, and had gotten old by respecting those that earned it.

Notes: There seems to be a typo in the first sentence. It’s pretty difficult to follow this opening. It’s not clear which character is “the Lietenant” initially. Calling him “the Scamerian” further complicates the descriptions. I think you’re expecting the reader to juggle too much new information.

Verdict: Not Hooked

10. Mainstream

“It’s time to wake up!” Robyn Martin bellowed from the base of the stairs as she twisted her auburn hair into a messy bun. She hastily walked into the kitchen and flipped on the light. She squinted and rubbed her eyes as the light blinded her momentarily. Robyn filled up the electric kettle with filtered watered and turned on the burr grinder for a hurried cup of coffee. She walked across the kitchen, opened the cupboard that contained the coffee mugs and picked her favorite one, an owl, pushing a pair of glasses up its nose. After she pulled a spoon out of the drawer and gathered the milk and creamer, she left the kitchen to head back upstairs to wake her sleeping brood.

Notes: Opening with a character waking up is a trope. Going over a morning routine won’t hook the reader because there’s nothing inherently interesting or intriguing about it.

Verdict: Not Hooked

11. Mainstream

 Three things happen when your abductors dump you for dead into a roadside ditch high up in the Chilean Andes. First, your body revolts. Nauseous convulsions attempt to purge you of your internal organs – this in response to the intensity of the altitude and other inhumane elements of the mountain environment. The snow that packed your nostrils as your bare face impacted the ground makes breathing more difficult and amplifies the throbbing pressure that assaults your temples.

 Second, your brain panics. The duct tape blind fold you’re wearing sends shots of claustrophobic hysteria throughout your nervous system. Irrational passions distract you from the very rational and serious survival business that should be focusing your attention. Please understand, though there is a motivational quality to it, revenge is an inappropriate thought path when exposure is threatening a generalized breakdown of life functions. All vindictive fantasies should be shelved for later.

 Third, and unexpectedly, your spirit soars. FREEDOM! The responsibility for your life, the decision whether you live or die, has been removed from the whim of a few well-paid mercenaries, and returned to the rightful hands of the Almighty. You are free, therefore, to respond to your circumstances as you choose. Life, or death, will once again result as a consequence of your own capacities and actions, and there is power in that knowledge.

 Soon, that power stokes the small flame of courage welling up in your gut as massive flows of adrenaline release into your system.

Notes: The voice isn’t perfect but this kept my interest throughout and promises an interesting novel with plenty of conflict.

Verdict: Hooked

12. Mainstream

Matt looked down at this hands and realized he was day dreaming again He must have miss calculated the setting on the refrigerant and would need to do it again. This was the second time this week that he had lost his concentration while performing this task. He felt that he was more in a daze and lacked concentration this week than any other this year. He knew that he would soon have to do something keeping focused, but for now he just needed to finish his assignment and get on to the next job. The low level of concentration was weighing him down and he felt like he was not everything he was destined to be.

Notes: This could be significantly tightened to avoid the repetition of “concentration.” In general, it seems as if the paragraph is making the same point in several different ways so most sentences feel redundant.

Verdict: Not Hooked

13. YA Science Fiction

Maris Piper wanted a robot.

 Most of her friends had robots. Most of the people who weren’t her friends had robots. Even that awful Jimmy Smith had a robot. In fact it seemed to Maris that the only place you were guaranteed to definitely not find a robot was right there, in the podule where she lived with her mother and father, Morris and Paris Piper. Of course Maris knew the reason why she couldn’t have a robot. Robots were pretty expensive, and her family were poor. Dirt poor.

 She knew this because six seasons ago, on the very day on which she reached her fourth season, her father had called her to him and sat her down on his knee and said, “Maris, darling, I have something to tell you. We’re poor, Maris, dirt poor.”

 Then he had waved her back outside, empty-handed, to play in the lime-green dust that coated their small back-yard, and most of the planet Ryga. Morris Piper was a man of few words, an ignorant, ill-educated man, but his daughter was bright and his meaning was clear. Maris had understood, even at such a tender age, that birthday presents and gifts would be things for other children to enjoy.

 All through the following six seasons, she had accepted this with good grace, and would always try to smile and never let her parents know how the other children at school would tease her at best, and ridicule her at worst, for her state of poverty.

Notes: This is middle grade, not young adult, which is a very important distinction. I love the idea of a girl wanting a robot. This kept my attention throughout and hooks young readers with the promise of robots which are widely considered cool by the middle grade crowd. I also like how you haven’t bogged down the opening with unnecessary world building while still providing a sense of the setting.

Verdict: Hooked

14. MG Mainstream

I lay belly down on the dusty ground, poised to shoot. Through the scope of my bolt-action sniper rifle, I honed in on the ogre in the valley below me. He was a Tribal ogre. I could tell by the white swirls and symbols decorating his green skin and the piercings covering his face. Two white teeth punched through his lower jaw.

“Are you ready to take the shot Jo?” came Rash’s voice in my earpiece.

“Ready,” I replied.

“I’m coordinating with the other guild leaders. We’ll wait until the ogre’s Hit Points are below ten percent. Stand by for my signal.” Rash said.

 A roar of noise from the battle below me accompanied Markl’s voice in my earpiece. “Just say HP Rash. What kind of noob are you?” I could barely hear him over the symphony of warriors fighting the ogre in the valley. That wasn’t unusual, noise accompanied Markl everywhere he went – battle or not.

Notes: The writing is strong. I’m not a big fan of opening with a fake-out to make it seem like the scene is happening in reality when it’s really a video game. Unless this is virtual reality (which it certainly could be), the first line is too misleading since he isn’t physically on his belly. I doubt this video game scene is important (though, again, it certainly could be) so it feels like it could simply be a gimmicky opening. Of course I can’t tell for sure without reading the novel.

Verdict: Not Hooked

15. Thriller

Can’t a girl go to a party without being kidnapped?

 Phoebe rode behind an offensive troll of a man, tied down like a sack of flour. Half on her side to accommodate her stomach, she looked at the last few riders bringing up the rear. From what she could see, it was a bad thing to be with this bunch. Their masks were down but not their guard. The turn off from the deer path brought them into brambles, catching and tearing hair from her head. None of the men spoke.

 When I get out of here, I’m inventing the portable toilet. Let them burn me for a witch, I don’t care what comes with the comfort of an indoor bathroom.

 The Clan Ferguson tents were set up along the tree line to the far south of the Gathering of Clans. A meeting called in late fall to consolidate sentiment to keep the English dogs from invading to keep the peace. Boarder skirmishes were out of hand, and english lords lost livestock and revenue too often.

Notes: This doesn’t come across as a thriller to me. The first sentence zaps any potential tension from the scene because it makes light of the situation. It’s not clear how you want the reader to feel, but it’s also not clear what’s going on.

Verdict: Not Hooked

16. Mystery

“Jan Abbott, here to see Eunice Cohoon.” I shout this at the iron gates and right at that moment, all the lies in my world began to unravel.

 At my initial visit, I was told her name is Eunice… and Matilda. She’ll let you know which, the head nurse had said with a laugh that was more cold than kind. Today, I sign in and make my way to the long corridor. I’ve been given almost unlimited access to the facility and the woman.

 This isn’t my first trip to Ashland. The first was back when the attending psychiatrist was charged with taking indecent liberties with some of the patients. That was nearly thirty years ago when I was a young and eager reporter for a local newspaper assigned to cover the story and then later, the trial. Those paper and ink days are long gone as is the psychiatrist– Joshua Stein.

 When I left Ashland in the summer of 1985, I vowed never to return. Most would guess the obvious reason why. While that reason would be cause enough for nearly anyone, it wasn’t the real reason. Already, out of the corner of my eye, I’m watching. I’m praying too, knowing it won’t make a bit of difference.

 A year or so after the trial, I did a story on the psychics of Salem. The witches had been done to death so the paper’s editor thought the psychics would be a fun twist on the annual fair he wanted….

Notes: This kept my interest throughout. I’m assuming Eunice has multiple personalities. This might be a tough sell if it’s a significant element of the book because it’s been done quite a lot. I’m not sure what “obvious reason” she left Ashland. Was Joshua Stein angry with her? Were the readers angry with her? This could be clarified. I would also clarify what Salem has to do with Joshua Stein to better tie the opening together. Despite a few snags, I would probably keep reading but with the hope that the telling wraps up and the scene progresses.

Verdict: Hooked

17. MG Fantasy

The rain started to fall harder as Libby crossed the road to number eight, Amber Street. A sudden crash of a thunder made her heart race. Libby looked up at the sky. It sky had never been so dark. Luckily, she seemed to have anticipated the storm, leaving the small green gate half open in the morning. She ran to the front porch stepping into cool, ankle-deep puddles along the way. Wiping the rain from her eyes, she put hers hand in the side pocket of her backpack looking for the keys. She had the small plush penguin keychain in her hand when a soaked, deep ginger cat peeked out from behind the old rocking chair, jumping in her arms.

Notes: It’s taking too long for the scene to progress but this is mainly due to wordiness. I would tighten this paragraph so you can get to the point more quickly. If the storm isn’t a significant plot element, it probably isn’t the best place to start. If it is, I would try to inject some mystery or intrigue as soon as possible. Avoid cliche phrases like “made her heart race.”

Verdict: Not Hooked

18. Romance

2012

 New York

“ There’s no fuckin’ way I’m doing another!…”

He slammed his hand hard against the glass coffee table making the vase and ashtray slightly tremble, like a mild electric current hit them. He ran his hands through his hair desperately trying to regain his composure.

“ But we’ve sold out! The show is sold out ! Do you understand? What about all these people flying from frickin’ nowhere land to see you Dan? ”

Daniel reached for a glass of water but he stopped just before he actually put his hand on it and looked down. Then, he turned and faced Percy.

“ We’re talking about major bucks here man…” Percy continued his usual monologue… “ Your fans would be soo disappointed…I promise you, just two more shows and then, you’ll take some time off .”

Daniel had heard the same story for two months now. He was on tour for five months straight. His couldn’t even remember the last time he went back to his apartment. He was in New York and he didn’t even have the time to visit his own apartment on 54th street. The one he so carefully decorated… Interior designers, Feng shui experts with an obsession for tropical fish aquariums, not to mention his previous girlfriend Becky or shall we say previous girlfriends? Catrina, Allison and Becky…

Notes: The main character being a rock star, having a nice apartment, and having had a series of girlfriends pushes him dangerously close to a trope. This isn’t necessarily a problem for romance, but I would make him a bit more likeable. Make it clearer why Dan doesn’t want to do another show so the reader can relate to him. As it is, he could seem like a “poor little rich boy” having a tantrum, which will make him hard to relate to.

Verdict: Not Hooked

19. Literary

 Ryusei Yanagi once loved a girl named Miwako Sumida.

 They had started as friends, but before he knew it, his eyes were constantly following her; watching where she went, what she did, and what she wore. How she tied her hair and how she adjusted her glasses. When Miwako read a book, she always tilted her head, resting it on her left hand, as if it were too heavy for her. Her right hand would twist around a pen and her eyes would be half-closed. To Ryusei, she had a dreamy look about her.

 Once, Miwako unexpectedly took the seat next to Ryusei in the library. He kept his head down, but he caught a whiff of her shampoo. A sweet summer scent of strawberries, ripe and bursting with flavours.

 Ryusei Yanagi was twenty-two when he attended Miwako Sumida’s wake.

 Miwako Sumida was barely twenty when she hanged herself.

Notes: The last two lines are a great hook, but the first three paragraphs teeter on clichés and tropes. The explanation of their romance just isn’t very gripping or unique. It will initially give the impression that you are setting up a typical/cliché romance with a bunch of telling, which is a problem because agents/editors might not stick around to get to the hook. It also makes your writing seem weaker than it probably is.

Verdict: Not Hooked

20. YA Fantasy

Gods-to-be couldn’t drown, right? At least that’s what Mikor told himself as he plunged into the tepid waters of Crater Lake. But as he sank, his limbs crackled and contorted. Bone grinding against bone unleashed a deafening roar like a wrecking ball crashing into a concrete building. And as pain ripped through him, waves of bluish white light streamed from his body into the abyss below. But despite being half blind, deaf and crippled, he inched forward. Deeper. He scoured the area in search of the little humanity he had left — a gift from his mother. A carved dragon figurine.

 Near the bottom, the boy spied his beloved statuette lodged between two boulders. Its jeweled eyes reflected the light flowing from his body. But reaching for the carving ignited a battle with the beast that seethed within him. The closer Mikor approached his childhood toy, the more the water around him boiled. His body was shifting, his dragon form awakening. And with it, raw energy surged through the lake. But he was too close to give up. Just a little more. Fighting to keep his mind alert, he extended his arms and dragged himself along the sand bed.

 The intense heat that seared his body and pulled him to death’s door was proof that the Islanders were probably right. The beast always won. But who cared if the creature disapproved of what he was doing? Whether he fought it or accepted it, his dragon self would consume his soul a morsel at a time.

Notes: I had some difficulty following this. I’m not sure if he’s actually dying or if the pain is just part of his transformation. I would work on clarity. The writing style seems more like middle grade to me. It might just be because I’ve read too many query letters, but the first sentence seems like a marketing hook/tagline rather than an opening sentence.

Verdict: Not Hooked

What Do You Think?

More submissions will be posted tomorrow and every day next week so make sure to check back.

If you did not submit already, you can still submit here.

Comment Question: Do you have a favorite opening page from a published novel? Why did it work for you?

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12 thoughts on ““I Stopped Reading When…” Editor Critiques – Volume 4

  1. nicolelochoa says:

    It usually takes me a bit to get into a story, but I remember feeling “hooked” on the following books rather quickly:

    “When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.”
    -Hunger Games

    “I’d never given much thought to how I would die…”
    -Twilight

    “Have I got a Little Sister anywhere in this house?”
    -Laddie

    “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.”
    -Jane Eyre

    “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins.”
    -Gone With the Wind

    “She was born Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kilendree, and she did not open her eyes for three days.”
    -The Goose Girl

    “I have no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to the public fell into my hands.”
    -The Screwtape Letters

  2. Bjorn Schievers says:

    #1 Have you read Throne Of Glass? I’ve only just started but it seems like something you might enjoy. I agree with Ellen in liking the idea. 🙂

    #9 It was complicated to read, but I’m curious what follows next.

    #11 Wow. Long ago I wrote a short story in Dutch about someone who had either died or fallen asleep. It wasn’t entirely certain at first since both are similar. But When I read this I loved it!

    #13 This is really great! I wish I could buy it for the daughter of a friend of mine.

    #14 Had this been SF or Fantasy I think I would have been hooked. I would have expected to be in this ‘world’ on a regular basis and that important events would take place there.

    #20 Definitely intriguing.

  3. Bjorn Schievers says:

    After a year of slavery in the Salt Mines of Endovier, Celaena Sardothien was accustomed to being escorted everywhere in shackles and at sword-point.
    (Throne Of Glass)
    –> I’m annoyed for her, I can somehow feel her pain. Hmmm…..

    People get the heroes that they deserve.
    (Fable: The Balverine Order)
    –> This set the tone for me, and it sounded like a cool quote by a historic figure or main character within the world.

    “We should start back,” Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them. “The Wildlings are dead.”
    (Game Of Thrones)
    –> I felt transported to that wood. And who are the Wildlings?

    “Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars – Nemedia, Ophir, Brythunia, Hyperborea, Zamora with its dark-haired women and towers of spider-haunted mystery, Zingara with its chivalry, Koth that bordered on the pastoral lands of Shem, Stygia with its shadow-guarded tombs, Hyrkania whose riders wore steel and silk and gold. But the proudest kingdom of the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither came Conan the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.”
    (The Phoenix On the Sword)
    –> All I have to say to that is hell yes! This transported my brain to another dimension.

  4. Renata says:

    I like 19. Full of clichés? Yes. But it creates a kind of feeling and the last two lines definitely hooked me. Probably later in the book the explanation of their romance will go deeper.

  5. Hades-uftg Tartarus says:

    A big “thank you”, to all those writers who posted their work for critique. I know how hard it is to put your work out there. And thank you, Ellen for doing this. It’s very helpful.

    #6 I like the opening sentence: “One week shy of the full moon, London’s loonies hadn’t stayed home waiting”. However, it’s incongruous with the rest of the excerpt, and the rest of the excerpt is convoluted. I couldn’t tell what was happening.

    #7 didn’t sound MG to me. “Excited sounds of children echo around the schoolyard, but I’m not so happy.” This sounds like an adult talking. Most kids would refer to other kids as kids, not children. However, I was curious to know why the kid wasn’t happy, plus I like the dog, so I’d read on.

    #11 Very interesting, but I’m afraid this is going to turn into info dump because the events leading up to that scene would have to be explained at some point. Provided that the backstory is imparted in small installments at the “right” time and maybe through dialogue and inner monologue, this could work very well. I’d definitely read on to find out.

    #16 Definitely read on. This is well written, and very intriguing, starting with the setting–mental institution. I’m curious about what happened 20 years before and what’s happening now with Eunice/Matilda.

    #18 I used to read Romance when I was very young and I think this is the kind of thing that romance readers would read. It needs a bit of tweaking, and the situation is cliche, but it’s genre-appropriate and interesting.

    #19 It’d need some tweaking, but I’d definitely read on. I find this very evocative, and it has a wistful tone to it, that I find compelling.
    The following felt incongruous to me. First of all, Ryusei and Miwako were friends, so why did he keep his head down when she sat next to him? Second, this sounds as if the author is trying too hard at incorporating the sense of smell into the writing, just to follow some writerly prompt.

    “Once, Miwako unexpectedly took the seat next to Ryusei in the library. He kept his head down, but he caught a whiff of her shampoo. A sweet summer scent of strawberries, ripe and bursting with flavours.”

  6. Iva says:

    13 – I appreciate the premise. The MC is left wanting something that could potentially put her in with the “in crowd”. But would it? What’s so special about these robots? Are they the latest trend or an integral part of main stream society? If so, what purpose do they serve? This definitely leaves me wanting more.

    15 – I like snark and it seems like the MC has plenty of it. Is humor in a grave situation her defense mechanism? Why?

    16 – I am assuming Eunice has multiple personalities. It’s an interesting premise. I want to hear more about the doctor’s undoing. I want to know more about Eunice. I want to know more about the MC.

    19 – Okay, so we’ve all read a story that starts very similarly to this one. But I wonder if it wouldn’t have more of a punch if the last two lines/paragraphs were written first? I do want to read more. Why did she hang herself? Abuse? Depression? Something else? How does the MC handle the passing of his friend/love interest? I’d continue reading to find out.

  7. Anonymous says:

    #13 I voted to read more but having the protagonist named after a potato?
    #15 Again, I voted to read more – but would depend on the next few pages. The comment about the toilet made me think possibly Outlander fanfic?
    #11 More, more, more!

  8. johnhansendk says:

    Is a trope bad?

    I had the impression that a trope was a kind of incident that could happen in a specific genre, like in a thriller the antagonist is caught by the bad guys. And if a trope is done the way it has been done a thousand times before, then it is a cliché, which is bad, but if done in a fresh way then it’s fine, and the kind of thing readers will expect and enjoy in their favorite genre.

    • Ellen_Brock says:

      There are certain genre standards that could be considered tropes, but I only point out tropes if they aren’t working due to feeling too unoriginal. They aren’t inherently bad, but there are certain tropes that are very likely to get a novel rejected. In the opening pages when you want to show off your originality, I would avoid tropes as much as possible.

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