Tuesday, June 29, 2010

5 #9 Vicki Tremper

“All cockroaches step forward,” a voice barked.

My heart dropped into my stomach at the command. How could anyone call people that? Didn’t these boys in their torn and dirty clothing recognize us as human beings?

No one moved.


  1. Hi Vicki,
    Wow- this opening is so intriguing! Immediately I want to know where this character is and more about this world. You have also set up a very tense situation and conflict with the line "No one moved." This implies there's danger ahead. This is great!
    I am wondering if the first line could be more specific- who is speaking? Maybe describe one of these boys in the torn clothing issuing the command? Also consider adding one gritty sensory detail to ground us in the main characters experience, the smell or temperature of the air, the feel of her clothing, hunger, thirst.

    But these are just thoughts- I would definitely keep reading!

    Maurissa G.

  2. Vicki - I see what you are doing here! I really do and I would love to see more. But here's the thing... You break two "rules" in the opening line. In order to break rules (and yes sometimes you can) you have to have something UNBELIEVABLE. What rules am I referring to? 1. Opening with Dialogue (a good example of breaking this rule is Charlotte's Web). and more importantly 2. Using a dialogue tag other than said. Right away, an agent/editor is going to hesitate. Plus, we don't have the feel yet for what we are looking at. Does the word cockroaches refer to a book using animals as main characters? Another rule broken btw.

    So, I recommend showing the situation this poor kid is in through other means before he is spoken to. Start with "No one moved." That is a great hook. Then describe a little of the situation. That's my opinion and I really hope it helps!

  3. Wow, I have a feeling I might be concurring a lot with the other authors.

    Lisa’s suggestion of having “No one moved” and then elaborating on the situation a little bit before jumping in is brilliant.

    That being said, I can feel the tension you’ve created. You’ve managed to produce an immediate sense of fear about what is going to happen next. In my opinion, the cockroaches reference is fine, since a voice is ‘barking’ it, it’s easy to assume it is being used as a derogatory term.

    Rules are important and although you should avoid breaking them, no one says they can’t be bent a little.

    Good luck!

  4. Vicki,

    I'm going to echo what everyone else said, all the great stuff as well as the suggestion about the first line and adding the gritty detail. But since I vaguely know where you are going and what the book is about, I'm going to add a couple of things.

    First, wow. That's my thought on where you are going. This is such an awesome premise, and I love that you are starting with the dehumanization aspect of it. That's something that you don't see up front very often.

    Second, since I don't know where this particular scene is going or what came just before it, what I'm about to say may be a complete non-issue. I would just caution you to be sure the dehumanization thought rings true in the MC's immediate situation. If they are in visible danger, danger that they are aware of from past incidents and/or rumors, or continuing danger because of something that has already happened, then the MC may be more focused on survival, family, fear, anger, etc. I'm not suggesting that there is anything wrong with what you have written, but it does seem a little detached and lucid if these boys also happen to have guns. Just a thought though. I would definitely keep reading--especially if you start with that last sentence as suggested!

  5. I have to say, I adore starting with dialogue as a writer. I also have to say, in two out of the three books I've written, that has been changed. I have no problem at all with your first sentence, but given that I don't know the genre, I too wondered at first if this was a book with actual cockroaches. I self corrected pretty quickly, but you don't want anything to halt the reader like that. Perhaps adding a little detail about the age of the voice...something that intrigues me is that it seems to be kids barking at other kids...I love that. I think you can find a way to hint at it in the dialogue and still keep it as your first sentence.

    I hope the above isn't too rambling. Just know that I was grabbed and would keep reading.


Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)