Sunday, March 20, 2011

Show Me the Voice Blogfest

So thanks to Lori's blog, I noticed this particularly awesome looking contest at Brenda Drake Writes

It's a blogfest for critiquing the first 250 words of a manuscript, and well, why the hell not? So without further ado, hop over there to get the details, and here's the first 250 of Dust to Dust.

Now Edited to show the changes most people have recommended so far!

For my sixteenth birthday, my oldest brother tried to kill me again.

I was at Starbuck’s getting a celebratory scone when the shadows peeled off the walls and came for me. I cursed and dove for the floor. The hot chick waiting in front of me turned, eyebrows raised over heavily made up eyes.  Her perfect lips parted and for a split second I fantasized she was about to ask what I was doing later.  Wait, nope, I wasn't getting laid anytime soon.  That was actually her screaming because magic shadows were slashing through the fabric of her Grateful Dead t-shirt.  Yet another reason to hate my brother. 

I grabbed her leg and yanked her down to the floor with me. Terror was the coffee shop's new special of the day as patrons and employees stampeded towards the lone exit. I suffered a few accidental kicks as I crab-walked me and my damsel in distress under the nearest table. Which was - wait for it - yup, full of shadows.

Brilliant, Micah.

A midnight black hand reached for my ankle and I tapped my own magic. Dust raced from every corner of the room and stormed the air in furious clouds. The shadows kept coming, undeterred - and Mom wondered why I had insecurity issues.  Trent could kill with shadows. Serena could drown you with your own tears. Alice walked through mirrors, Dennis could pull blood from a stone, but me? Oh yeah. Fear the mystic might of my magical dust bunnies!



  1. Your excerpt's great, Kalen! That first sentence is pitch perfect. I would totally read this book! Oh, and the magical dust bunnies ... comedic genius, my friend. Hilarious!

  2. Very nice job. The voice is great! My only crit would be that the sentence "The hot chick..." feels a bit run-on-ish. I'd maybe split it up into two sentences. Also, saying your mc "killed" the last five minutes made me pause at the use of the word "killed", being that you just mentioned that his brother tried to kill him again... Anyway, I'd change it to spent, or some other variation. Just my humble opinion, though! Best of luck to you!

  3. Great voice! I stumbled the same place that Steph did with the girl in front of him and killing time. Otherwise, great job. Love the first and last lines.

  4. Thanks Anita! And you know me, when in doubt, go for the laugh, lol.

    Thanks Steph, and nice to meet you. You're absolutely right about that sentence. It was originally two, but I conjoined it to check the pacing. It does work better as two. And I'll find another way to say killing time, thanks! I'm gonna go over and check out your blog now and see what you've got going!

    Thanks Margie! Yup, two for two, that sentence is getting the Punctuation Breakup. I'll check out your blog in a sec!

  5. LOL this is really funny! I like it! Nice job with the voice. The only thing I think maybe you could expand on is when you say "I tapped my own magic." What does that feel like for him? How does he do it? Is it a strain? Does he have to concentrate hard? Great job though!

    Also, thanks for the comment on my blog. I agree that the first sentence needs some work. I'll have to think on it. Thanks! And good luck in the contest!

  6. Your first sentence is as good as it gets. Absolutely brilliant. I'm jealous! :)

    One of your sentences seems long. And the make-up eye thing didn't sound right:
    The hot chick waiting in line in front of me turned, eyebrows raised over heavily make-up lined eyes and a question formed on lips I’d killed the last five minutes fantasizing about.

    What about:
    The hot chick in front of me turned, eyebrows raised over heavily made up eyes and a question formed on lips I could easily waste five minutes fantasizing about.

    Just an idea to help it flow. Really like the voice, too!

  7. Thanks Christine, I delve into the act of using his magic a little more further down the page, so I don't want to cram too much in, but it is definitely something I thought about!

    And thanks Sycamore! Your version reads a lot smoother, I might use that!

  8. Oh wth, I typed a comment and it disappeared! Try again:

    I LOVE the voice here. It screams off the page. Screen. Whatever. This is only 250 words but I already know a lot about Micah and his family. I'm also interested in learning where magic fits into this world, b/c while everyone is screaming, I'm wondering if this is a normal occurrence or not (and if not, why is it so public?) Obviously, the answers don't matter right now, but those are just the questions in my head. Like I said, LOVE it.

  9. You have a great voice here. The beginning really captures my attention.

  10. Great voice and really fun premise! I love magic stories where the MC's power seems lame. Makes it more fun to see how they use it to their advantage in spite of the suckitude :)
    Just had a couple word-choice comments:
    "heavily make-up lined eyes" was a bit clunky; it could become "heavily made-up eyes" and would flow better. Also, I'd end the sentence there and make "A question formed on lips I’d killed the last five minutes fantasizing about." a new sentence.
    I think "crab walked" needs a dash between.
    Also, when you said "slashed through her Grateful Dead t-shirt", I originally thought she was killed. How far did it slash through? Did it draw blood but not flay her?
    Just thought a little more info there might help the reader visualize the scene :)

  11. Loved the first line, loved the voice! Fear the mystical migght of my magical dust bunnies! That one is going to stick with me.

    Sorry for the sudden adoration, but I'm a follower now.

    only one suggestion, the following is rather long sentence - suggest breaking it into two sentence to maximize the voice. "The hot chick waiting in line in front of me turned, eyebrows raised over heavily make-up lined eyes[. A] question formed on lips I’d killed the last five minutes fantasizing about. " You might also switched "killed" to "spent" (or some such verb, "spent" is pretty boring) but you already used the kill verb and it might be overkill at this point. no pun intended.

  12. Oh, I LOVE it! Your voice is exceptional. I'm totally into this. I want to see what happens next. I love how you described what his siblings did too. Killer first line too! Great job ;o) Good luck!

  13. The voice here is definitely great! The same sentence that tripped up others made me read it a second time, but that's a quick fix.

    Well written!

  14. Wow. Well you have my vote for a win. I love it. Especially love the voice and the dust bunny part. I'm with everyone else. I want to know what happens next. And I want to get to know the family better.

    My fingers are crossed for you. :D

  15. This has great potential. My suggestion is to polish your sentences to make them flow better. I tended to stumble through a couple of them, such as "the hot chick" sentence and "the small corner shop" one, as well. I think once those are tidied up, then your character's voice will shine so much more.

  16. What a killer first sentence (and yeah, I know that's a bad pun). Love it!

    Others have mentioned the couple things that made me stumble, but other than those I think it's definitely on the right track. You've captured the quirky voice very well. I'd keep reading.

    Carol J. Garvin

  17. I like the voice very much. I'd keep reading.

    Just a couple of things. In the first line, I'd say 'On my 16th birthday' or 'As a 16th birthday gift....'

    And the crabwalking line might be better as 'I crabwalked myself and my damsel...'

  18. Great voice! Loved the humor, and the end line "Fear the mystic might of my magical dust bunnies!"

    And I thought this sentence might be able to be made into two. Her perfect lips parted and for a split second I fantasized she was about to ask what I was doing later.

    Her perfect lips parted. For a split second I fantasized she was about to aske what I was doing later.

    Other than that, great hook. You've got a fun voice!

  19. What an awesome concept.

    My favorite line is: Terror was the coffee shop's new special of the day as patrons and employees stampeded towards the lone exit.

    I think you can cut out the word "lone" though. You know the whole less is more concept.

    And of course I love the opening line.

    Great work! I definitely want to read more.

  20. Great voice dude! I quite like it. Once again, I'm late to the party so there is no use reiterating what has already been written. Best of Luck in the contest!

  21. Loved that first sentence! And great voice. I really have no suggestions. It reads really well and is scary and hilarious all at once.

    Love the dust bunnies. :)

  22. Love this! I have no suggestions because I was hooked from the first line! Definitely one of my favorites so far! (Yes, I'm using wayyy too many exclamation points lol) Good luck! :)

  23. Kalen, strong voice, good beginning and I love Micah and his dust bunnies. Your humor is divine. Good luck :)

  24. You must have posted your sample after I stopped by yesterday morning--I think you were the first site I went to (and you were the last entry--another 2o or so have joined, yikes!)Thanks for stopping by my blog, too.

    I would definitely keep reading based on this sample--the voice and premise really hooked me in. Kind of reminds me of Zelazny's Amber Chronicles, but with a more contemporary flair.

    Good luck with the contest!

  25. Nice shot of humor in the midst of the drama! I like how you use that to break up the tension. Let's hear it for the mighty dust bunnies!

  26. Oh, this was great! Very interesting set up. I want to know how poor Micah ended up in a house of people with these dark powers! I totally want to keep reading!

  27. I wish this was published already so I could read it. Voice is epic and it's a very interesting set up. Definitely one of my most favorites.

  28. This is awesome! I love his deadpan acceptance of the fact that his brother is trying to kill him - again. I would keep reading this because of the humor and the voice alone. Let me know when it gets published!

    The only line I didn't love was the "wait for it.." one. Don't know why. Maybe I'm just tired of that particular phrase. There's enough humor in here that's more original. I don't think you need that.

    Magical dust bunnies. Snort!

    Great job!

  29. How fun is this?! It reads very fantastical (is that a word?) ... is that your intention? If not, reconsider. Otherwise, it has a strong voice. Way to go.

  30. LOL, so far this may be my favorite. It is FULL of voice. Fun, quirky, this is my messed up life but I'm used to it VOICE. Great job.

    Thanks for your comments on my blog. Also, your post on the camaraderie of the writer/blogerverse was great. I've often wondered why that is myself. I'm gratful for it beyond measure so I've decided not to question my luck.

  31. Thanks again to everyone who weighed in on this! Trust me, your feedback was killer in helping me zero in on the weakest parts and I've made even more changes since submitting to the contest! Y'all are rockstars!

  32. I meant to comment on this when I read it, and then... didn't, because I am terrible at keeping up with commenting on blogs.

    But the short version is -- yes! This rocks. I think there are a few stumbly spots, but they're minor and don't stop me from reading on. Awesome voice and gripping start. Very cool.