It’s All in the Voice Contest

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I’m participating in Between the Sheet‘s blog hop/contest about character voice. We’re to post the opening 250* words and hoppers will give their opinions and critiques. Excited to see what people think!

 

*mine is slightly longer than 250 just to end off at the end of a paragraph.

 

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Title: Heavyweight

Genre: YA GLBT contemporary romance

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Chapter One

 

So I’ve got six rules for dating. They go like this:

1) Never date the same person for more than one month.

2) Never date the same person twice.

3) Always behave like a gentleman, but try to remain distant and aloof.

4) Never give more than a kiss. Preferably short pecks. Definitely no tongue.

5) For the love of God, NO TOUCHING BREASTS!

6) Always end it with an “It’s not you, it’s me” speech, highlighting their greatness while making yourself out to be the dog.

I’ve got my reasons, but these keep me sane. Keeps most of the girls from getting too attached and keeps my balls intact after I let them go.

A brunette ball of energy bounds my way, all smiles and twinkling eyes. My name is on her glossy coral lips and her curves are probably the focus of every hot-blooded male standing on the green. Holding back a sigh, I open my arms to receive her but as she’s rocketing my way, something—or actually someone—catches my attention.

Who.

Is.

That?!

Shoulder-length black hair with…are those blue stripes artfully running through it? Skin like porcelain. The sun reflects off a silver lip ring. It seems to be winking at me. Slight build, yet the skin tight tee shows that he must work out.

Shit. My jaw is hanging and there is drool on my chin. My teeth click with a snap and I try to focus on the girl hugging me. Maggie’s soft body is rubbing up against mine as she greets me hello, but I cannot seem to avert my gaze from the new boy. Who is that Adonis?

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20 responses »

  1. Hi MB!

    Interesting sample! There’s a lot that’s great about this. I like the fun opening, the light tone–it’s definitely grabby. As for the voice, it feels slightly feminine to me. I’m not a gay male so maybe it works better than I think? That’s hard to say. I’ll be interested to see what the others think. Also, I’d delete the “Who.Is.That?!” as well as the other rhetorical questions. Rhetorical questions are fine once in awhile, but in this context they feel as if the voice is pushy, like it’s trying too hard, and you want it to feel effortless.

    At any rate, the tone is great and there’s definitely some underlying humor. Good luck with this! 🙂

  2. I like the way you started and you’ve captured the voice of someone who is young. But the way you described the girl and guy veered to older voice territory. If the audience is YA, I doubt a young woman would wear coral lipstick–that’s an old lady color. Young women go for bolder colors. The terms “hot-blooded” and “Adonis” seems to0 old for this voice. The descriptions are good, but I would listen closely to how someone younger speaks when they’re describing someone they’re attracted to. Of course, you actually might be within this age bracket and proved me wrong. 🙂

  3. Nice opening! I like the voice but, like Rebecca, I couldn’t place the age of the MC. I was wondering if this was more NA.

    My other comment – and I admit that I didn’t see the GLBT heading until after I read the sample- is that it seemed that the dating rules were geared towards girls so I was surprised by the MC’s reaction to a boy when there was already a girl in his arms. It made me go back and reread the first section and wonder if he was already bi. *reader distraction* If the MC is bi, you may want to build the foundation in the dating rules. If MC doesn’t know he’s gay, you may want to imply some sort of shock/surprise self-awareness when he sees the Adonis.

    Still, great start to the book.

    • The rules are geared towards girls! Shortly after the opening it’s explained that he does know he’s gay but can’t come out in his town and occasionally dates girls to keep suspicion at bay, but he does state he doesn’t like to do it, nor does he think it’s a very nice thing to do.

      Thanks everyone! I will take all advice into account and shortly get around to reading your excerpts as well!

      • Just a thought… maybe you could add a 7th rule such as “Never even think about dating boys.” Or somehow indicating that to the MC, it’s the forbidden fruit.

  4. I was hooked right from the first line. Love the set-up with the list. Having a 17-year old son who has many gay/lesbian/bi/etc (when I was a teen there was no etc!) friends, I think the voice sounds fine. I know I’m moving to stereotype-land here, but what I expect is fem-boys getting their heart rates up for tough guys, not other boys who look like them. The porcelain skin and long, dyed hair, suggests another fem-boy – but one who works out. A mix I haven’t seen among the kids my son knows. And that’s not to suggest you’ve got it wrong, in fact, it makes me more curious about this new boy since he does break the stereotype. I’d read more!

    • Ahh my character is an athlete so he’s not really a fem type. He’s pretty but not obviously flashy or flamboyant. New boy is actually bi.

  5. I like the list at the beginning. It gives it a kind of casual tone, something a teen would do. The voice does seem older, though. From the dating reference the MC seems to be able to attract his share of girls and boys, but a few words/phrases struck me as things only a nerdy, academic geek would use: aloof, a brunette ball of energy bounded my way, open my arms to receive her, blue streaks artfully running through it. The paragraph where the girl runs to him really threw me off with the older tone. Nice start to your book. I like it!

  6. The list at the start gets the reader in a puzzle solving mood/mode. Most people enjoy the challenge of solving a puzzle. So, this will engage more parts of their brain, as they look for the next clue and the meaning of the puzzle. Ultimately, is it the discovery of the deeper meaning to the main character which will make or break the story — for the character and the reader?

    Perhaps if the clues in the list were less direct and more enigmatic, then the reader would be more challenged to seek out what really is going on? Then, any surprises later on will be more magnified? It all depends on how much the author wants to tease things out for awhile or feels the need to get to a certain plot point earlier on.

    Then, there is the question of if a Red Herring is being introduced — by the character or the author? What if the first “deep secret” isn’t the deepest secret after all? Angst over the “social-sexual politics” of his group may be a smoke screen? What if an even more shocking thing than “who is dating who” is the real puzzle?

    Enough on speculation. Back to what seems to be presented so far:

    In any social circle, there are the group “social-sexual politics” and other dynamics that the main character may be trying to “manage.” Is the main character is trying to manage some aspect of how people percieve (and thus treat) him here. Is he afraid more of losing control of:
    – Others?
    – Himself?
    – Both at the same time?

    It seems he has the “jitters” over something important, because it could cause a social upset of some kind soon. There is the impression he has been hurt in the past? Has he also hurt others? He seems to want to avoid a new “upset,” yet he already is being tested in the (school or town) “green.” If he wants to avoid exposure, being out in the open so much seems to be a dubious choice. Is this character an unmoored ship with no control of his destiny? Or, is he a calculating type and is many steps ahead of the others?

    My gut feeling is that merely being a hapless victim of the vicissitudes of life is not what is interesting in a story. Seeing a person stretched beyond being “just a survivor” is what can bring a new insight into the human experience.

    I’m rooting for the character to be “more than the usual YA character” in some way. It’s up to the author to give the reader something fresh which might:
    – Rise above any stock reactions to “social-sexual politics.”
    – Make them proud of how the character grew.
    – Takes everyone’s breath away when they see his unanticipated sacrifice.

    In other words, the story goes beyond just getting to find one’s soul mate for the time being. In the lives of young people, friendships come and go. However the strengthening of the person’s character is something that will stick with them for a lifetime.

    • Very insightful, thanks! There is definitely more to the story than his sexual identity. The romance plays a significant role but the MC is pretty tortured over other aspects of his life. I like to think it’s not a typical kind of story but I’m sure some aspects are expected.

  7. You stinker! It’s a guy!
    I really like the hip flavor of this, and as it turns out, that voice well suits your MC and obvious (now) POV. My only initial concern is that you are targeting a YA audience. Either I’m a fuddy-duddy, although until a couple of years ago, I taught Jr High and High School English and was considered relatively ‘cool’, but both your language and emotional responses, ie: “and keeps my balls intact after I let them go,” seem pretty mature.

  8. I enjoyed the way you began this story, it’s an interesting place to begin a story and it certainly makes you want to know more about your MC. Well done!

    As your story continues, and the girlfriend comes running up, I liked your use of alliteration,”A brunette ball of energy bounds my way….” But, as the MC is looking at her glossy lips, would he really be thinking of that specific of a color–coral? From being around the men in my life, none of them would know that color; they’d just say pink or orange, if they even noticed at all. However, I could be way off base with your character’s personality traits and he may understand the difference.

    Like I said before, well done! You have a unique voice and you began your story in an interesting way! Good luck!

  9. I have to admit, when reading this list I thought, “What a tool” and disliked the narrator immediately. From your comments I see that he knows it isn’t nice and doesn’t like that he does this (which makes him more likeable). I wonder if you could hint at that from the beginning. This sentence: “Keeps most of the girls from getting too attached and keeps my balls intact after I let them go.” The way it’s worded makes it sound like he selfishly doesn’t want them to get attached, for his own sake. Could you say this in a way that implies concern that the girls themselves don’t get hurt?

    • You’re not the first person to say that! I don’t think I mind people disliking him a bit in the beginning and the explanation comes up in the next couple of pages so it’s not like you’re holding out half the book to find out he’s really not so bad a guy 😛

  10. This is a really strong and catchy opening, but I agree that it could be toned down a touch to make it feel more natural. I love the voice and the unique perspective. For sure, you’ve got this character, as a writer. I assume this character is about 17yo (I have 3 sons, YA age, and this seems quite a bit more mature than they are, in case that helps.). Great start!

  11. I love the energy in your writing, the rules have a nice bite of humor, and when you move to the action your sentences just snap, crackle, and pop. 😉 I’d love to see a few more anchors in the set-up, some idea of where and when we are. May I suggest a single line prior to the rules that instantly gains our empathy for the MC? I mistook his self-preservation for over-confidence at first. Wonderful pacing.

  12. I would cut the So and just start with “I’ve got six rules for dating.” You’ve got a strong and clear voice, well done.

    Rules one and two seem to contradict. I’d like a bit more of an explanation on rule 5, just another line.

    I’d suggest changing thier greatness, to her greatness.

    Great beginning, though, I think it compels the reader to keep reading.

    • I’ve just skimmed some of the comments, and I think this guy’s voice is unique, so much so that he would notice lipstick color. He seems to be mature for his age. Don’t read too much into our comments, you can only discern so much from 250 words.

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