A BOY COULD #BLOGPITCH Logline and First 250 Words

Last week I participated in a Twitter pitch contest through the popular Miss Snark’s First Victim blog (http://www.misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com/) and was selected as one of ten blogs to participate in a blog hop to receive critiques on the first 25o words of my manuscript. It’s a win for me because I’m at the perfect stage to be getting critiques on my opening page, but it’s a win for you, too, because for every critique you leave for me or one of the other participants, you receive an entry for a 15-page line-edit from Authoress Edits. Thank you for selecting my pitch, Authoress!

Without further ado, here is the Twitter logline I used to catch Authoress’s attention, along with the first 250 words of A BOY COULD. I look forward to your comments!

Twitter Logline:

YA C: LIAR SOCIETY meets 12th NIGHT when 16yo Hannah becomes Gid at summer camp to catch the boy who put her brother in a coma.

(Note: Gid is short for Gideon–a casualty of 140 characters! Since so many have asked :).)

First 250 words:

Mattie Matt,

1.4 seconds. I looked up a velocity formula online, so I know that’s how long it took you to hit the dumpster. 1.4 seconds. Less time than it takes the average person to be thrown from a mechanical bull–which would have been a smarter stunt.

You do these stupid things without considering the consequences. You think you’re invincible. Well, you’re not. You might never wake up, and it’ll be all your fault.

And mine. Because I should have been there on time to pick you up.

Maybe then you’d be sitting here next to me instead of

Ding. Dong.

“Hannah! Could you come down here, please?” Mom’s voice was muffled through my bedroom door.

Probably another church member with a foil-covered casserole dish. Except Mom didn’t need me for that. Maybe it was Lena. She’d been bugging me to go out with her this weekend.

I snapped my notebook closed and flicked a glance in the mirror to make sure I was decent–not a sure thing lately. I’d greeted the youth minister the other day in skimpy pajama shorts and a cami with no bra. He’d stared over my shoulder while he asked how I was holding up. Talk about awkward.

Satisfied I was fully dressed, I slipped out of my room. Multiple voices mingled in the foyer, including, I realized with a start, Dad’s. He usually only left Matt’s room in the trauma ward for work or sleep.

I peered around the corner down the stairs. Two strangers, a man and a woman, stood just inside the door.

Ok, that’s it for now! Be sure to check out the other participating blogs at http://misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com/2014/07/blog-critique-tour.html!

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About Michelle I. Mason

I'm a full-time writer, focusing mainly on middle grade and young adult fiction with some freelance PR writing and editing on the side. I'm also a wife, mom, Christian, violinist, avid reader and St. Louis Cardinals fan. And I watch way too much TV.
This entry was posted in Blog Hop, Critiquing, Writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to A BOY COULD #BLOGPITCH Logline and First 250 Words

  1. kiperoo says:

    Ooooh, Michelle, love your reworked beginning! (and your logline btw) Such an enticing first 250 words!

  2. This opening keeps me reading for two reasons:
    1. I want to know more about the dumpster accident.
    2. I want to know who these strangers are because I predict that they will propel the plot. I like that you started so near an inciting event.
    In general, the opening avoids the cliche, which is tough to do with grief scenes where we’re told the characters are sad because the event is sad. This is a “duh,” I know, but because there are so many grief scenes out there, readers look for the fresh.
    In the logline I wonder if it’s necessary to know the name change to Gid. It was a little overwhelming to get two names for the MC right away. The name Gid implies we’ve got a She’s the Man situation. At least, that’s my prediction: it’s a camp for boys so she has to go undercover as a boy. Like a more dramatic The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Ohh I love the voice in this. It sounds like such an interesting story. I don’t think I have anything to say other than this is awesome! I’d definitely keep reading. I wish you the best of luck as you pursue this but I’m not sure you’ll need it 😉

  4. Great opening! I like your character’s voice. It’s really touching how she’s writing a letter to her brother. The bit about the minister visiting was pretty funny. I’d keep reading–I want to know who’s arrived.

  5. Good strong voice for the MC. I like that you make her actions reflect her mental state–the awkward cami with no bra incident–rather that just telling us that she is distracted and her life is upside down. I would definitely read more…which is why I am particularly annoyed by where you left off.

  6. Abbe Hoggan says:

    This is terrific. Really, I like this a lot. You give character introduction very smoothly. I understand something about the basic situation without obvious info-dumping. The grief mingled with anger of the diary entry is believable and touching.

    If I must suggest one change, I’d say to drop the “ding dong” and just say the doorbell rang. It threw me a little because I was imagining a sound closer to her (like somehow she had a doorbell on her bedroom door, which would be quirky and interesting, but not what you meant!). It’s a tiny thing, I know, but I didn’t see anything else I didn’t like.

    Very well done.

  7. Jemi Fraser says:

    Well done! I like many of your small details – crossing out Mattie, looking up velocity, the being dressed bit… They all bring voice and personality to your writing.
    The only part that slowed me down was the ding dong and the following line. I think in this case you’d be better off telling… The doorbell interrupted my thoughts, probably another foil…. or something like that.
    I’d definitely read on! Hope that helps you out a bit – good luck with it!

  8. Vivid yet sparse details which create a very compelling opening to a story I would like to read more of. I am a numbers person so I liked the 1.4 reference and it has stuck with me. Along with the thought that that is such a short time for something so quickly to change or for someone to die after an awful injury. Nice work.

  9. I enjoyed the excerpt and thought you did a great job with the character’s voice. The ‘ding dong’ didn’t work for me either and I think a brief ‘the doorbell rang’ would be more effective. I did wonder (which is a good thing — I obviously want to know more) at the blame she assigns to her brother. It has me questioning if the accident was partly his fault — or if that’s merely an assumption which will soon crumble. I also liked the way you show us her distraction and grief, and her willingness to shoulder her share of the blame for showing up late. This promises to be a gripping read.

  10. Cordelia Dinsmore says:

    This really sucked me in. I love the voice and I enjoy the brevity with which you convey so much. The fact that she blames herself a bit, and her brother, for his present state confuses me as far as the tagline goes, however. I guess I don’t quite understand in what manner she wishes to ‘catch’ the boy who put him in the coma if she’s blaming her brother and herself for it.

    But I am definitely hooked with this small snippet, and I rarely read YA.

  11. I really liked the excerpt. Like the others, the ding dong threw me a little, so I’d lose that if I were you.

    The logline didn’t jump at me. I think having two names for the same person is a little confusing, and the use of 12th Night as a comparison already implies the cross-dressing thing. But I guess not everyone knows 12th Night…. Maybe see if you can come up with a way to say she goes undercover at a boy’s camp so you can avoid using Gid.

  12. Mark Murata says:

    Wow, you’re really mischievous at where you cut off this first segment.
    I know writers are told to show, not tell, but that’s a half-truth — I agree with others above that the “Ding. Dong” does not work.
    Great description of the fall into the dumpster. Be sure not to add another word to that.

  13. kirabauthor says:

    Oh my GOSH I love this! The idea sounds totally awesome (although Gid’s kind of a weird name, haha). The writing is also very clear and vivid, with the exact kind of voice I love to read myself. I’d totally read more.

    Good luck!

    — Kira Budge

  14. Ailsa says:

    Hmm, I’m definitely interested. Although we haven’t seen who is at the door left, there’s enough interesting things been shown already that I’m curious, and would read on for sure. I like that you don’t just have one intriguing thing here, you have several – the person (someone close to her although we don’t know for sure yet that it’s her brother) in a coma, the strangers at the door, and potentially a bit of cross feeling from Hannah directed towards her brother, I think, from the tone of the letter. I’m actually not sure what I can say by way of critique here, because I do really like this, and I don’t see anything that I would change.
    Good luck with this!
    -Ailsa

  15. Wheeler1992 says:

    The letter in the beginning confused me and I didn’t have a clue what was going on. The story really began when the doorbell rang. I’m still a little confused, Did someone die? Who is Mattie/Matt? This is well written just not my cup of tea. If I got this as a sample on Amazon on my Kindle I wouldn’t read on. Sorry.

  16. Aubrey Cann says:

    This is awesome! I love that it starts with the letter, and I love even more the crossed-out Mattie. I also love that the doorbell interrupts the letter. As you can tell, I have a lot of love for this opening.

    Mentioning a casserole dish is a great detail, because we know that her brother’s accident was recent enough that well-meaning neighbors are still dropping by. And I’m extremely curious to know who the strangers at the door are and where that will take the plot.

    Really, I have no criticism of the first 250. I did wonder, though, what “Gid” is in the pitch, so it didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Good luck!

  17. Hi Michelle

    So, it’s rare that I see a story that implies what has happened before in just enough words for us to get a good picture. I really like this. Starting with Hannah writing a letter to her brother is an awesome move. You manage to use this to fill us in on details of Matt’s accident without having to write the scene. And we get to see that filtered through Hannah’s emotions. Even better.

    After the letter, there’s not much to say. The story just moves along. You do a good job moving the story to the point where the two strangers show up at the door. You also manage to insert a little humor into the story (regarding the minister). Two strangers at the door normally wouldn’t be anything to be concerned about, but you effectively show us that it IS something important because Hannah’s dad has left Matt’s room. You didn’t have to tell us, or inflate the situation artificially. This simple statement was enough. Good job!

    In fact, I’m struggling to find something you might need to work on. The only thing I thought was confusing had to do with the pitch and not the story opening. I totally didn’t understand what you were trying to say when you wrote “when Hannah becomes Gid” in the pitch. It didn’t dawn on me later that she was going to become a he to go undercover. But maybe that’s just me.

    Great job with this opening! Hope to read more someday.

  18. KayC says:

    Hi Michelle,

    I am not a contemporary reader, but I would read this! Great job of giving the reader enough information to know what is happening and not enough to make it feel like a backstory dump. I was captivated from start to finish. Loved the 1.4 seconds into the dumpster, loved the neighbours bring casseroles, loved the minister staring over her shoulder. The only thing, like others, that threw me was the ding dong.

  19. lwrites says:

    I love the opening lines of this — sucked me right in. And I would definitely keep reading. I wonder if you could end her letter a little earlier though, such as at “and mine.” The part after that was the only part of this beginning that felt a little heavy-handed to me, and I think the “and mine” would be enough for her guilt to come across without telling us everything just yet. Just a thought. Good luck!

  20. H G Stevens says:

    I love your story. The voice is wonderful – the details are perfect: cami with no bra on so he looked over her shoulder. You really captured the feel of a household, and a teenage girl, under this kind of stress. I even like the “ding dong” – it interrupted Hannah’s thoughts just the way a doorbell does. Logline: You might make it clearer that Hannah becomes a boy to catch the kid who put her brother in the hospital. Gideon is a really loaded religious name. I didn’t pick up that you were using it as a male name. Something like, “transforms herself into Hank” might be a little clearer.

  21. maureenwillmann says:

    What sort of youth minister makes house calls for teens? That’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. My brother is a youth minister and he can’t even message a teen privately on Facebook, let alone visit them at their HOUSE.

    I would begin your log line with something about YOUR novel. I want to hear about your idea, not how it’s like somebody else’s.

    I like that she was interrupted while writing to her comatose brother. It’s an intriguing opening. I have a lot of questions and I want to keep reading to learn their answers. Your voice is fantastic for YA–snappy and realistic. Not snappy like crabby, but snappy like… taut. It’s good. I like it.

  22. Jen S says:

    I would definitely keep reading. I love the repetition of 1.4 seconds. The fact that she figured this out says a lot about her character. The letter to her brother says suggests something about their relationship. You do a great job showing her mental state. Just a little nitpick about the use of was in ‘voice was muffled by the door.’

    I was confused by ‘Hannah becomes Gid’ until I read your clarification about Gideon.

    Great job. Keep writing!

  23. Laura Martone says:

    I absolutely love this beginning – I totally want to know more about the accident, the MC, and the strangers at the door! As others have stated, starting with the letter is an excellent way to pique the reader’s interest, and the details (such as what she was wearing when the minister came to call) really help to solidify the MC’s engaging voice.

    Unfortunately, though, I’m not on the pro side of the “ding dong” issue. It momentarily pulls me from the story – and I heartily agree with Abbe… “The doorbell rang” (or something to that effect) is sufficient without jolting me.

    All that said, I love the name “Gideon” – and I fully understood the “Just One of the Guys” concept from the logline. No confusion for this girl.

    So, thanks for sharing your words – you really do have a wonderful way with them – and congrats on being one of MSFV’s chosen ten. Good luck with the story!

  24. jkwise1 says:

    I like the letter writing beginning. At first, It seemed a little “tell-ish” for me, but the interruption works well to limit the amount of info the reader receives in a clean package. Watch out for the mirror-looking bit. I’ve read a lot of agents/editors list mirror-looking 1st person MCs as pet peeves in the start of a novel. The sentence word-order on the “with a start, Dad’s” sentence gave me pause.

    Clean, interesting voice. I’m intrigued, and I would keep reading.

  25. Liz Brown says:

    Love the opening lines. I disagree about them being confusing. I think the use of his name and the bolded font signal to the reader that this part is separate from the rest. Did wonder how Matt hit the dumpster – in a car? skateboarding? That part was unclear to me. Also, don’t have a sense of how old Matt is yet. Love how she blames her brother at first since he did something stupid that caused this, but then she also feels a lot of guilt for not picking him up on time. Great deflection.

    Wanted her to be jolted from her writing by the doorbell and maybe hope that she won’t be called away from the sanctuary of her room to deal with whoever is at the door. Agree that you don’t necessarily need the actual ‘ding dong’ sound.

    Thought the part about her not noticing how she was dressed for the minister does a great job in conveying her mental state. Maybe mention how awkward or not awkward she felt about that encounter? Maybe she didn’t care at the time since the important thing was her brother, not whether she had a bra on.

    Based on the premise in the logline, I did wonder about the summer camp. Is it a sleepaway camp? Are those common for 16 year olds? The camp would have to be something pretty interesting (not just one with a lake and canoes) for me to buy that teenagers would agree to go. Or would it be more likely that the teenagers are the camp counselors?

    Overall, loved the voice and writing. Would definitely read on. Good luck!

  26. Fantastic writing! The MC’s voice comes through loud and clear.

    Although it took me a minute to realize what Hannah was doing, when it clicked I smiled. It drew me in and I definitely want to read more! I love the premise and the suspense you’ve already managed to create. I have no recommendations for fixes in the first 250 other than the ‘ding dong’ didn’t work for me either.

    The logline threw me until I read your explanation. I agree with another commenter that it might flow easier if Hannah became ‘Hank’ rather than Gideon (unless there is some religious reason relevant to the story for picking that name). I’m not familiar with your comparison choices so wasn’t pulled in by the logline. The first 250, however, did the job quite nicely!

    Well done! Good luck to you!

  27. Cheryn Y says:

    Hi Michelle,

    I like this opening a lot, but find myself a bit confused. Is she writing a letter to Mattie, at the beginning? And gets interrupted by her mom? Or writing in a diary? Does she think Mattie will read it?

    I like where this is going, and I would definitely read on, but I would like more of Hannah. Her voice, personality, and emotion come through beautifully in the letter – really, very very very well done – but after that I kind of lost her. There’s a list of things happening where I don’t know how Hannah feels. Was she writing a letter and had to abandon it? How does that make her feel? (I feel like a therapist whenever I ask people that). Does she want to hang out with Lena? Her father being there surprises her, but is it a good surprise (does she think “oh, yay, Mattie must be getting better”) or a bad surprise (“oh, no, he’s back because Mattie died”)?

    In other words, pause a little bit to show (not tell!) Hannah’s reactions to the events, and how she feels about them. Her letter to her brother was very strongly written (I know I mentioned that above, but I feel the need to say it again) and I love the check to see if she is decent, because that tells so much about her emotional state… I’d just like a little bit more of that emotion to come through in the rest of the piece. But that’s just my opinion, take it or leave it. This is a very strong beginning and I’d definitely read on to see who the strangers are.

  28. BE says:

    This was hard to critique. I didn’t see a lot of problems, so I’ll nitpick a little. “not a sure think lately”, this feels like odd phrasing. “Talk about awkward”, don’t think you need this, I was already making my awkward face while reading the lines preceding it, you sold us on the awkward already. “I peered around the corner down the stairs,” another bit of awkward phrasing for me.
    That being said, I really liked this, I loved the letter at the beginning (something I usually don’t). I loved her crossing out Mattie and writing Matt. Totally wanted to finish the letter and was irritated by the interruption. In a good way! Thats my way of saying its a page turner.

  29. Pingback: Thoughts on Revising from Public Critiques | Michelle I. Mason

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