Friday, June 4, 2010

First line Friday: Round 3

Here's another round of first lines for you (I know, I know, you're probably getting sick of them. But humor me once more, please):

I felt like I was trapped in one of those terrifying nightmares, the one where you have to run, run till your lungs burst, but you can’t make your body move fast enough. -- Stephaenie Meyer, New Moon.

I was thirteen when my dad caught me with Tommy Webber in the back of Tommy’s Buick, parked next to the old Chart House down in Montara at eleven o’clock on a Tuesday night. -- Sara Zarr, Story of a Girl.

I taped the commercial back in April, before anything had happened, and promptly forgot about it. -- Sarah Dessen, Just Listen.

On January 1, I made two wishes. -- Lauren Henderson, Kiss Me, Kill Me

There are places where kids like me go. Rachel Ward, NUM8ERS.

So Mom got the postcard today. -- Rebecca Stead, When You Reach Me.

There were only two kinds of people in our town. -- Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl, Beautiful Creatures.

I have had more than a dozen so-called mothers in my life. -- Ashley Rhodes-Courter, Three Little Words.

Julia was killed on Labor Day on her way home from a party. -- Jennifer R. Hubbard, The Secret Year.

One more rainy season and our roof will be gone, says Ama. -- Patricia McCormick, Sold.

Later, I would think of it as crossing over. -- Joyce Carol Oates, Freaky Green Eyes.

When I look into a mirror, it is her face I see. -- Ellen Hopkins, Identical.

Some of these work for me, and some of them don't. An blah-looking first line won't keep me from buying a book if I'm excited about the storyline, but if I'm only so-so, the writing in the first paragraph has a huge effect on me. What about you?

Friday, May 28, 2010

First line Friday: Round 2

How important are first lines? For me, very. Often times, they set the mood for the entire story. Here are a few that I enjoy:

- Once you’ve been taken, you usually have twenty-four hours left to live. Edward Bloor, Taken.

- They promised me nine years of safety but only gave me three. Laura Wiess, Such a Pretty Girl.

- Blood fills my mouth. Bree Despain, The Dark Divine.

- It is the counting that saves him. Lisa Mangum, The Hourglass Door.

- Sirens and lights welcomed me back to the suburbs of Chicago. Stephanie Kuehnert, Ballands of Suburbia.

- Life was good before I met the monster. Ellen Hopkins, Crank.

- On Sorry Night, just a few days before Christmas, you have to snuff the lamps, douse the flames in the fireplace, and spend the night in the cold and dark. Simon Holt, The Devouring.

- The day I killed my brother’s girlfriend started with me handpicking leaves off our front lawn. E.R. Frank, Wrecked.

- I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by wolves. Maggie Stiefvater, Shiver.

- He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale, dusty air. James Dashner, The Maze Runner.

- Gray slats of light slipped between the bars, only to be swallowed by blackness. Heidi Ayarbe, Freeze Frame.

- When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games.

- Kaye took another drag on her cigarette and dropped it into her mother’s beer bottle. Holly Black, Tithe, a Modern Faerie Tale.

- The white boy, the skinny, tall boy with shocking white hair sneaks behind the stone bench and leans against the tree trunk. Julie Anne Peters, By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead.

- I am sitting at a desk in the middle of a hallway, and all of the lights are off. Julie Halpern, Get Well Soon.

- The day begins in the middle of the night. Rachel Cohn & David Levithan, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

- I was born with water on the brain. Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

So, what do you think: too tense, not tense enough, exciting, boring, totally brand new, been-there-done-that? Do any of these make you curious enough to read on, or would you move on to the next book on the shelf?

Monday, May 24, 2010

YA: the newest celebrity trend

Move over, UGGs, little dogs in big purses, and reality TV shows. The newest celebrity hotness? Pen your own YA series!

I have to say, I was pretty upset when I saw Lauren Conrad's books on the shelves, but I thought: Well, okay ... She's basically famous because her parents are rich and MTV decided to film a show about rich people's kids, and, well, at least the book is about rich kids who get filmed and are famous because TV made them that way. It's basically the Hills in book form. (And since I was still watching the Hills at that point, I couldn't be all hypocritical and complain about it.)

But then Hilary Duff got bored with acting and singing and being ridiculously skinny and decided to give it a go, too. And I thought: Okay, okay ... this is pretty scary, but at least she's almost a teen, and she's kind of a globe-trotter, like her character, so maybe it won't be so bad ... right?

But then I saw the latest: Tyra Banks, queen of the smize, has jumped on the bandwagon, too, with a forthcoming 3-book series about models at an academy for pretty people with Harry Potter-like abilities. As for this one ... well, I don't even know what to say. Because Tyra? She may know a lot about modeling, but the girl's downright, batshit crazy.

I think it's time for celebrities to move on to a new craze, before Paris Hilton decides she needs to write a YA series and, in turn, brings about the apocalypse ...

Friday, May 21, 2010

First line Friday: Round 1

The Blood-Red Pencil did a post recently about infusing first lines with conflict, and it really made me think. Not only about my own WIPs, but also about books that I pick up off the shelf.

Fair or not, I typically make my decision on what I'm going to buy based on the following: (1) word-of-mouth and/or recommendations from people I trust, (2) book covers that catch my eye, (3) an exciting book jacket synopsis, and (4) the writing in the first few sentences.

So I went on a field trip to my library (a.k.a. the little hearth room at the front of my house), pulled down book after book, and wrote down the first line of most of them. I ended up with quite a few, so I think I'll split them up over a few posts.

Here's the first round:

When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he’d caused it. -- Ingrid Law, Savvy.

Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any worse I saw the dead guy standing next to my locker. -- P.C. Cast and Kristin Case, Marked (a House of Night novel).

Everyone’s seen my mother naked. -- Elizabeth Scott, Something, Maybe.

Mother spent $700 on a treadmill “from Santa” that I will never use. -- Suzanne Supplee, Artichoke’s Heart.

The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say. -- Patrick Ness, The Knife of Never Letting Go.

A piece of advice from me to me: better brace yourself, loser. -- Sonya Sones, What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know.

On a Saturday morning in November, Alex finds himself alone for the weekend, so he decides to break a few rules. -- Martin Wilson, What They Always Tell Us.

So what do you think? How do these first lines make you feel? Did you laugh, squint your nose, roll your eyes? Did you want to read on, or were you so bored you nodded off? What's your take on how important (or not) adding conflict in first lines really is?

Monday, May 17, 2010

To prologue or not to prologue?

That's my question of the day.

Almost all the "How To" blogs I've seen say prologues are a no-go, that they're just a backstory/info dump, that whatever you need to say can and should be said in the first chapter. In fact, many industry-types think the real start of your story is somewhere around what you currently call chapter 3-4.

But if prologues are dead, and agents/editors/publishers truly don't want to see them, then why do so many recent YA books (and some very popular, mind you) still have them?

Here are a few examples (sorry, I'm too lazy to include the links):
Becca Fitzpatrick--Hush, Hush
Bree Despain--The Dark Divine
Lauren Oliver--Before I Fall
Rachel Hawkins--Hex Hall
Simon Holt--The Devouring
Sara Zarr--Story of a Girl
E.R. Frank--Wrecked
Lisa Mangum--The Hourglass Door
Stephanie Kuehnert--Ballads of Suburbia
And, of course, Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn ... all by some girl no one's ever heard of.

I admit, I have a soft spot for prologues. Always have. But do they add to the story, or are they just a cheap plot device for a story that falls flat in chapter 1?

My personal opinion? Sometimes prologues work, sometimes they don't (immensely helpful, I know). But as for me, I think I'm going to take the advise of someone whose opinion really matters: my 15-year-old cousin-in-law, Jenna (who reads like a crazy person and is way too pretty for her own good).

When I loaned Jenna Hush, Hush (which she loved), I asked her if she thought the prologue was a little weird. She said, "Oh, I don't read prologues. I just skip over them and start with the first chapter. I figure if it's that important or if I get confused or whatever, I can come back to it later."

I don't know about you guys, but that's all the information I need.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Truthful Tuesday (or, the post where I shamelessly objectify pretty boys).

I know it's unhealthy. I know I should know better. (I'm not a kid anymore, right?) But I can't help it. Bad boys, they still get me.

It may have something to do with the fact that they look like this:

And like this:

And (OMG) like this:


(Sorry ... Damon was just telling me how I want to get lost in his eyes. Must be that creepy, vampire trance thing...)

Even when they're sweaty:

And all dirty:

Or maybe it's because they clean up so nicely:

Or because they pack heat underneath those football jerseys:

(If you haven't seen Taylor in The Covenant, go do it. Now. Trust me: you'll forgive him the Speedo.)

And inside those tattered jackets:

Or maybe it's because they drive girls crazy with their confidence:

Or because they drive these:

Or it may be because they fight against the demons living inside of them:

So they can be good enough for the girl who makes them crazy:

Even if she's sort of bland and doesn't seem to deserve all the fuss:

(Yeah, I know. These 2 are about as bad ass as a flea, but the abs deserved to be included. And he's 18 now, so it's totally cool. Right?)

Or it may be because they make for really hot love triangles:

Or maybe it's because, no matter how bad ass and untouchable they seem, they always, always, have a weak spot. And that weak spot? It makes them human:

(Or as close to human as they can be if they're, ya know, a vampire.)

Whatever that little piece of magic is, all I have to say is keep 'em coming. Pretty, pretty please, keep 'em coming.

p.s. If this isn't a good example of why it's important to show, not tell, I don't know what is! :)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The English language has stumped me. Please help!

I admit: I'm one of those people. The ones who spot errors in books and pretend to be all annoyed but get this sick satisfaction with finding imperfection. The ones who get unreasonably annoyed when people use the wrong their/they're/their or its/it's or you're/your. The ones who find it way easier to edit for grammar than for content. The ones who delete blog comments b/c of one, tiny typo.

(For everyone who thinks I'm crazy, I'm not alone. Just check this post for more about white people and their grammar issues.)

But, much to my dismay, I still don't know it all. Like, for instance, I sometimes hesitate when spelling grammar. A part of me thinks it should be grammer instead. (I won't even get into how long it took for me to accept that there is no "a" in definite.) And when I'm writing and I can't remember whether to use lay or lie or sit or set, I just pick another word.

And now, when I don't know whether to italicize the punctuation directly after a word that is also italicized.

Normally when I'm stumped, I can Google the answer, but I don't even know where to start with this one. So I'm putting this to a vote. Which one of the 2 choices below do you think is right?

(a) "What were you thinking?"
(b) "What were you thinking?"

(In case it's not clear, I'm asking whether I italicize the question mark.)

Thanks, peeps!