How is This – Feedback Please

I have a request for all of you. I am nearing the home stretch (and deadline) of the project I have been working on for the past month. The story I am writing is for a Theme Anthology, and it deals with a machine that with just a blood sample, will predict how you will die. The catch is that though the machine is never wrong, it is sometimes vague or misleading. For example, OLD AGE could mean run over by an old guy in a car. Anyhow, I have posted the opening paragraph of my story below, in which I’m trying to hook the reader to convince him or her to continue on. Put yourself in the place of an editor, would continue on with the story? Also, is there anything grammatically or stylistically you would change? I would really appreciate any constructive feedback you have. Anyhow, on to the story..

Sarah glanced at the atomic clock hanging in the family room of her parent’s house, just above the bookcase which held her many science fair trophies. Her parents and few remaining true friends had thrown her a birthday party, but she was feeling mixture of dread and anticipation rather than happiness. “4:00 PM,” she thought to herself. “I might be dead in less than four hours, but at least I’ll know for sure.” Sarah had received the prediction, BOMB AT 18, from the Annulment Predicator nearly a year prior, and she had barely slept a wink since. Adding to her anxiety was the constant ticking sound she had been hearing the past two days, an audible reminder that the end was near.

*****************************************UPDATE*******************************************
I was thinking about this and reworked the above paragraph a little. Here is the updated version (now two paragraphs):
******************************************************************************************

Sarah glanced at the atomic clock hanging in the family room of her parent’s house, just above the bookcase which held her many science fair trophies. Her parents and few remaining true friends had thrown her a party to celebrate her birthday, but she was feeling mixture of dread and anticipation rather than happiness. In less than four hours she would either be dead or nineteen years old, and although she preferred the latter Sarah awaited the closure either scenario would bring.

Sarah had received the prediction, BOMB AT 18, from the Annulment Predicator nearly a year prior, and she had barely slept a wink since. Adding to her anxiety was the constant ticking sound she had been hearing the past two days, an audible reminder that the end was near.

So, what do you think?

11 thoughts on “How is This – Feedback Please

  1. Ha, I like it a lot.
    However, I’d tighten up that first sentence…it runs on too long and seems oddly constructed.
    I’d put ‘just above the mass of science fair trophies resting upon her bookcase.’

    Well…actually I’d say ‘morass’ instead of ‘mass’ and ‘resting triumphantly’ instead of resting….but that’s just because I’m weird like that.

    Or you could even say that the bookcase was buckling under the weight of the Science trophies…it would explain why it had a passive structure..but would be very clichéd.

    Did I mention I have a knack for micro-editing stuff.

    Hope that’s helpful.

    Anyway, the answer to your question is that I’d definitely read on. I like it.

  2. The idea pulled me in.

    What if you changed “glanced” to something with a little more life. I don’t know the character well enough to suggest exactly what, but I mean words like “glared,” or “winced.” I think I’d truncate the cliche “slept a wink” into just “slept.” Most people will fill in the rest. Finally, I think that “anticipation” seems a little too positive. Anxiety? Trepidation? Or does she hope that the clock will strike midnight and the “18” will prove not to mean 18 years old?

    I like it.

  3. caveblogem – “Or does she hope that the clock will strike midnight and the “18″ will prove not to mean 18 years old?” – this is what I was going for.

    I will clean up those other words. Good Suggestions.

  4. grammatical:
    “…but she was feeling A mixture of dread and anticipation rather than happiness.”

    i would definitely keep reading. i agree with fixing the first sentence. keep it short and catchy. is it really important to know just then about all those awards? this seems just a distracting detail. also, i’d try to pack in a little more emotional tension in the first paragraph – you tell us she’s feeling dread and anticipation, but i want to be convinced of it. the last sentence of the first paragraph is fantastic.

  5. O la la, we are wearing the same outfit on WordPress.

    The rewrite was definately better, and both hook me (love the premise of this story) but if you really want to snag a reader right away? Move that sentence “In less than four hours she would either be dead or nineteen years old” straight to the top.
    That sentence knocks the wind out of me.

  6. Sarah glanced at the atomic clock hanging in the family room of her parent’s house, just above the bookcase which held her many science fair trophies.

    this is awkward and too long. how about:

    Sarah glanced at the atomic clock, above the bookcase that held all her science fair trophies.
    (is the rest of the information important?)

    Her parents and few remaining true friends had thrown her a party to celebrate her birthday, but she was feeling mixture of dread and anticipation rather than happiness.

    This is confusing: about what? the party or her birthday? How about:

    Her parents and a few remaining true friend had thrown her a birthday party, but instead of happiness she felt a mixture of dread and anticipation.

    (better emphasis on the last words. also, doesn’t dread encompass anticipation? how about dread and fear?)

    In less than four hours she would either be dead or nineteen years old, and although she preferred the latter Sarah awaited the closure either scenario would bring.

    This sentence has the same length as the previous two, roughly. Try to break it up, like this:

    In less than four hours she would either be dead or nineteen years old. She preferred the latter, but frankly looked forward to the closure either scenario would bring.

    Sarah had received the prediction, BOMB AT 18, from the Annulment Predicator nearly a year prior, and she had barely slept a wink since. Adding to her anxiety was the constant ticking sound she had been hearing the past two days, an audible reminder that the end was near.

    Try this:

    A year ago, Sarah had received the prediction: BOMB AT 18. She had barely slept a wink since, but adding to her anxiety was the constant ticking sound that began two days ago. The sound reminded her: the end was near.

    I hope this helps!!

  7. My initial thought was to tighten the first sentence. Do we need to know about the science-fair trophies yet?

    Probably still could use the tightening, but reading it again, my thought is that…

    Sarah had received the prediction, BOMB AT 18, from the Annulment Predicator nearly a year prior, and she had barely slept a wink since. Adding to her anxiety was the constant ticking sound she had been hearing the past two days, an audible reminder that the end was near.

    …is the real hook, introducing the character and the central problem. I don’t know how the piece turns out, or which bits from the first paragraph are essential, but have you thought about swapping the order?

  8. Pingback: Thanks! (followup to feedback post) « The Struggling Writer

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