I was enjoying this opening, and then I had a thought and went back to the synopsis. I’m not sure this is the opening to this book. See what you think.
Title: The Faye’s Secret
Language: US English
Synopsis: Werewolves, witches, and the Faye are real, and Abby is about to discover that she is one of them. But can she help a pack of werewolves rescue a missing girl, while she tries to figure out who she really is?
It was happening again. For the last couple of weeks, Abigail Reed had been dealing with ghosts. It had started out slowly after she turned eighteen; tricks of the light or shadows out of the corner of her eye. But then it had gotten harder to ignore. There was the woman in Abby’s favorite cafe, who would stand in the far corner with black eyes and blood covering her shirt. She never moved and she never spoke. She would just stand there and stare at Abby, who studiously tried to ignore her and do her graphic design homework.
Or there was the man at the bus stop, sitting on the bench hunched over, his skin as pale as moonlight. The first time Abby had seen him, she had wanted to make sure he was okay and had touched his shoulder. The eyes that looked up at her were like black holes, void of any life or emotion.
But it was the kids that followed her around the park that really got to her. The quickest way back to her apartment from the bus stop was to walk through the middle of the park, following the path around the little pond covered in green algae. It was Abby’s least favorite part of the day. Worse than the man at the bus stop and worse than the lady at the cafe.
These children were slight and had clearly been malnourished during their lives. The girl wore a plain white dress, no shoes on her feet. Her brother, that’s how Abby thought of him anyway, held his sister’s hand as they walked down the path, always staying a few paces behind Abby. His hair was short and scruffy looking, overalls covered his legs and torso but left his thin arms bare. Not once did Abby stop to think that maybe these children were real, alive and maybe lost. Their clothing wasn’t common for Seattle in the twenty-first century. And even if it wasn’t for their attire, their eyes were black as night, just like all of the others’.
Without looking back, Abby quickened her pace and within a few moments the grass of the park turned into grey pavement, and her apartment building was across the street. Once across the road, she stood for a moment with her hand safely touching the metal doorknob. With a deep breath she looked back at the park across the street.
There they stood, hand in hand, staring at her. Abby didn’t know why they never left the boundary of the park, not even by an inch. But then again, she didn’t really care either. She was just happy that they never followed her across the street. With a deep breath, Abby opened the door and left the two children out on their own.
“You going out?” Abby asked. Her roommate Wynonna was nineteen, a year older than her, and drop dead gorgeous. She was one of those girls that Abby never would’ve been friends with in high school, let alone in college. But somehow they worked as roommates, maybe simply because Abby kept to herself most of the time.
Tonight, just like every other weekend night since the semester began, Wynonna was dressed in a tiny skirt and tank top, clearly not worried that it was the beginning of October. As Abby watched from the couch in the small living room, Wynonna pulled her long blond hair up into a ponytail. “Of course I’m going out, it’s Friday night.”
Right, of course. Abby continued to watch as Wynonna grabbed her purse and heels, heading to the door. “You know, you could come out with us.” Abby raised a single brow as her roommate glanced at her.
Editorial critique: As I said, I was enjoying this opening until the scene jumped to “Interior: Abby’s room.” That break in concentration allowed me to remember what the synopsis had said, and what the genre was posted as. There are two lessons to be learned from this.
The first is, don’t make your opening scene too short. I was getting involved, I was liking the spooky paranormal vibe, the “I see dead people” trope. The writing was good, tight, close PoV. The particular incidents were specific and varied. At some point in the book, I thought, I’m going to find out why the bloodied woman is in the cafe, who the children in the park are and why they can’t leave the park. No matter that there’s no dialogue, and the whole section is interior thought. It’s well-written, so it works.
But then there’s an abrupt scene change, and we’re suddenly being told things that we could have either done without knowing, or been shown. “Her roommate Wynona was nineteen, a year older than her, and drop dead gorgeous.” There’s no real point in telling us Wynona is her roommate. We’d find out soon enough even if we couldn’t deduce it from the fact that one of them is sitting doing their homework while chatting to the other who is dressing up and getting ready to party. The fact that Wynona is described as drop dead gorgeous doesn’t tell us anything about Abby, only that Wynona, in some objective way, is gorgeous. Does Abby think she’s gorgeous? Do men find her gorgeous? It doesn’t really tell us much.
Having been thrown out of my comfort zone, reading about Abby and her spooky walk home, I was free to remember that the genre of this piece was fantasy, and that the synopsis mentioned werewolves and witches. I suddenly got the distinct impression that this scene is one that you’ve had in your mind for a long time, doesn’t actually fit the book that you’ve written, but you’ve shoe-horned it in anyway. This may be horribly unfair, but it’s the kind of thing that happens if you allow your readers to think for themselves. As an agent I’d be worried that your grasp of the genre you’re writing for is less than perfect, and that this book could be a bit of a nightmare to market. “It starts off as a bit of a paranormal thriller but honestly, by chapter 2, there are plenty of werewolves and fairies. You’ll love it.”
The opening few paragraphs are assured and compelling and I really like them. After that, I lose interest, because I’m dropped out of the story by the scene change and the sudden deterioration of the writing to rather prosaic “telling”.
As an aside, an utterly brilliant start to a novel, and one that would have earned you a gold star, would be your first few paragraphs up to “Abby didn’t know why they never left the boundary of the park, not even by an inch”, followed by, “This time was different. This time the boy took a tentative step forwards, dragging his sister with him. Their eyes fixed on me, they walked across the sidewalk and stepped off the curb.”
Thanks for posting.
I can completely see where you’re coming from, and I really appreciate the insight. I’m going to play around with the opening chapters and rearrange. I’ve felt like the first couple of chapters are a little slow, and switching things up will help to speed the story up just enough.