Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Are You Hooked? #8

TITLE: The Wall
GENRE: YA Historical Fiction

          Jo rose on her tiptoes straining to see beyond the white wispy zigzag pattern that stretched across the great Pacific. She longed to catch a glimpse of the land that the sailor had spotted from the crow’s nest earlier that afternoon. Her heart pounded. Her fear that last week’s storm had tossed and hurled the boat back towards Shanghai gripped her chest. She desperately needed to see the port of San Francisco, to know that Shanghai and the danger that lurked beyond the dirty Yangtze River were far away.

           She wondered, Did the Pilgrims feel this way as they were fleeing England to find safety in the New World?  Could America become my New World, too?

            The boat swayed and tipped back and forth to and fro, but Jo’s sea legs were strong.  She no longer weaved and stumbled, sometimes even falling, like she did a month ago when they first boarded The Orient. She remembered that first day as she clung onto anything stable to keep from falling while her younger sister, Lizzie, twirled and jumped around her in circles. Her poor mother faired far worse. She had to be near a bucket for what seemed like a week. Jo had never seen her mother so pale.

            Darkness began to cover the sky like a mother her covering her child for the night. There would be no land sighting today. As a child Jo loved this time of night when the sky became a dark blanket speckled with silver sequence.


  1. The writing is very descriptive and poetic, but I'm not sure that it hooked me.

    In the first paragraph, the girl first seems to be searching or longing for something, but then we are introduced to her fear and the danger she is running from. I would consider switching the order around, as the fear/danger immediately brings tension to the front and might make it more compelling for the reader to keep going.

    Once we get to the third paragraph, we're mostly getting description of what she's currently going through. Nothing wrong with that, but nothing especially compelling either. If you are going this way, I'd put extra work into that first and second paragraph to make sure the reader immediately connects with Jo and what she is running from. Perhaps even expand on it in the first few paragraphs to really bring the reader with you as you start the descriptions of the boat and the family.

  2. Hi, I think this beginning could use more work to really draw me in. A couple issues I have are that it doesn't feel like a very close POV, with phrases such as "she longed" and "she wondered," so I would study up more on how to fix that sort of thing. Also, the action here is all very much in the character's head, and not all necessarily related specifically to the present moment. Why is her heart pounding and why is she afraid at this specific moment? Has something happened? Because it doesn't sound like it. It might work better to show her interacting with someone on the ship, show her in some real conflict, and leave some of the backstory for later. I'm not sure where this story is going, but if it is about her arriving in and making a life in the USA, it might work better to start with her actual arrival?
    Those are rather general suggestions, I know, but overall I think you need to start in a bit different place in the story with your character, so it's hard to be more specific. I always have to rewrite my beginnings a thousand times, too, until it's just right. that's the way of it. Good luck!

  3. I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt here, but it seemed incongruous that two gals from Shanghai would be called Jo and Lizzie AND know who the Pilgrims were. I guessed perhaps the girls are children of missionaries, raised overseas. At any rate, I also had trouble guessing the time period. Their nicknames sound a tad modern, but there's mention of a crow's nest... I guess I was filled with questions after reading this.

  4. The writing is good here, but I'm afraid I'm not quite hooked. I would focus more on the present moment instead of adding backstory in right at the beginning. Also the last line seemed to be leading away from the current scene. But with a few tweaks, I think this could be really strong.

  5. I am curious about what she has left behind. Her name doesn’t sound Chinese so I’m curious about why she has been in China. Because it’s historical fiction I’m even more interested. Have you read this out loud? That might help you hear some unnecessary repetition: “week’s storm had tossed and hurled” and “The boat swayed and tipped back and forth to and fro.” (also I don’t believe a boat of that size would do that. That feels more like a rowboat.)

    It’s important for you to take some time to feel your imagery so that what you express matches what you want the reader to feel. The last sentence (which is very good) doesn’t make sense there. Please don’t delete it. Move it. She has been longing to see land; she realizes she’s not going to; I don’t think she’ll start having fond recollections. That’s not the feeling you want to convey at that moment (is it?)

  6. I agree that perhaps you should bring what she's escaping from to the forefront. The very first sentence if possible. First, it creates immediate tension. Second, if we know, it helps place the reader in time. You do give us a crow's nest, and SF and China, so my guess would be the gold rush.

    Perhaps cut the bit about the storm since it happened last week, and we know she didn't get blown back toward Shanghai because she just told us the guy in the crow's nest spotted the land she's anxious to reach, ie,SF.

    I'd suggest cutting the rest. One parg tells about her family's seasickness, which doesn't matter becsuse they'll be getting off the boat soon. The last parg tells us it's getting dark, and you don't need a whole parg for that.

    Perhaps replace those two pargs with something that lets the reader know what time period we're in, and what is happening now. Is she on deck alone? Is she interacting with anyone? Move up the first bit of action you have in the story. Get the reader invested in her current situation, then you can take the time for backstory.

  7. Hmm, so on the fence about this one! I like the premise here, and the writing is good. But, I am just not feeling it. I don't feel like I'm on a ship. There are no sights, sounds, smells, voices...it feels very much just in MC's head.

    Your last word I believe you mean "sequins", not sequence.

    I think it has potential to be an interesting story though.

  8. It's pretty, but I'm not drawn into the story...yet.