Monthly Manuscript Makeover – The Lost Girl

Thanks to Rachel Bradbury who has submitted the prologue of her mystery thriller, The Lost Girl for the Monthly Manuscript Makeover.

She has asked for advice about making the start of her novel sizzle – and Rachel also wants to know if she has used the correct tense.

The Lost Girl is a Mystery thriller.

Here’s Rachel’s excerpt:

Amber rubs the tiny bump at the base of her skull.  A sharp pain immobilises her and strange images flash through her mind. She stops to rest for a bit, leaning her head against the cool tiles.  In the dim-lit hallway, she runs her hands across the walls, feeling her way along, not knowing where she is going.  All the walls are the same; white.  There are no decorations or pictures to give her any clues as to which section of the building she is in.  She hates this place, but she cannot leave.  Not yet.  Not until she finds her baby.  Amber wipes a tear away from her eye and continues down the hallway.

She is barefoot and the tiles beneath her feet are freezing.  There are no windows or doors, yet she feels a cold draught seeping in from somewhere.   Shivering, Amber wraps her arms around her body, the flimsy white gown doing nothing to protect her from the cold.

She stops momentarily and looks further down the hallway.  The never-ending tunnel of darkness, symbolises her life.  A life of shuffling from room to room in a trance, unaware of time; her days and nights combined into one big hole of nothingness.

GENERAL FEEDBACK

Rachel, I think the tense you have used is fine. There are already some great hooks in the start of this piece. My comments mainly relate to clarifying things for the reader and tightening the text.

You also give us a good sense of your character, by being specific with some of the details, you will give us even more insights into her world. You raise a lot of questions that will intrigue the reader and make them want to keep reading.

Something else you might want to think about – does this really need to be a prologue or is it actually part of the story? Particularly as you mentioned to me that there will be flashbacks in this novel, you might not need a prologue.

A prologue shows a distinct situation in time, place or character that the reader won’t experience anywhere else in the novel. It has to have a really strong reason for being there. Ask yourself, would this work just as well as a chapter?

A prologue is necessary where it’s not possible to incorporate the information in the main body of the story.

When writing the start of a novel, you also need to consider its place in the story. Does the start give the reader enough of a feeling for the tone, the character, the story problem and possible themes?

SPECIFIC FEEDBACK

Amber rubs the tiny bump at the base of her skull.  A sharp pain immobilises her and strange images flash through her mind.

Rachel, I’d really like to know what these images are – they would give me more clues to her circumstances and her character.

She stops to rest for a bit (Don’t think you need ‘for a bit’), leaning her head against the cool tiles.

In the dim-lit hallway, she runs her hands across the walls, feeling her way along, not knowing where she is going.   (If it’s so dim, can she see what colour the walls are? Having her feel her way along makes it seem as if she can’t see well enough to know what colour they are. Also, the fact that she is feeling her way tells the reader that she doesn’t really know where she is going.)

All the walls are the same; white.  There are no decorations or pictures to give her any clues as to which section of the building she is in.  She hates this place, but she cannot leave.  Not yet.  Not until she finds her baby.  Amber wipes a tear away from her eye (Do you need this action? It takes away some of the impact from your very powerful line, “Not until she finds her baby.”) and continues down the hallway. (Can you think of a stronger verb here? ‘continues’ doesn’t have a sense of urgency, yet if she is looking for her baby, she might be more frantic.

She is barefoot and the tiles beneath her feet are freezing.  (Could tighten this up with, “She is barefoot and the floor tiles are freezing.)

There are no windows or doors, yet she feels (Not sure you need to say, ‘she feels’. This piece is written from your character’s point of view so the reader knows that she is the one feeling it.) a cold draught seeping in from somewhere.   Shivering, Amber wraps her arms around her body, the flimsy white gown doing nothing to protect her from the cold.

She stops momentarily and looks (Can you think of a stronger verb here, perhaps “peers”?) further down the hallway.

The never-ending tunnel of darkness, ( I think I know what you are trying to say here, and I like the analogy, but if the tunnel is dark, I’m not sure she’d be able to see that the walls are white – and also, you said earlier that it was ‘dimly lit’, which isn’t quite the same thing.) symbolises her life.  A life of shuffling from room to room in a trance, unaware of time; her days and nights combined into one big hole of nothingness.  (This could be more powerful if you were more specific – perhaps talk about the grief she feels at the loss of this child she is looking for. You could use some really strong imagery here.)

Rachel, thanks for sharing your story with my blog readers. I hope you found my suggestions helpful and I look forward to hearing how you progress.

If you have suggestions or feedback for Rachel, please feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)

Dee

HAVE THE START OF YOUR MANUSCRIPT MADE OVER

If you’d like to get some feedback on an excerpt of your manuscript, Here’s what you have to do.

  1. Send me 200 words of the manuscript with your question or outline of what you need help with OR
  1. Alternatively, you can just send me the writing question itself. For example, “My main character isn’t very likeable, what can I do about it?”

Email your 200 word writing piece or your question or both, together with a paragraph about yourself and a paragraph about your work in progress.

Also, if you’d like to see a blog post about a particular topic, please feel free to make suggestions.

Email to dee*at*deescribe*dot*com*dot*au

On 9th June I’ll be responding to a request from Rachel, doing a blog post on Applying for Funding.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Monthly Manuscript Makeover – The Lost Girl

  1. Hi Dee, Thanks so much for the wonderful suggestions! You’ve given me lots of ideas and lots to think about. I’m looking forward to finding some time to go back over the start of my story and change/add bits and pieces. Now that you’ve explained the prologue vs first chapter I’m thinking that it could easily be the first chapter of the book and I won’t worry about a prologue. Looking forward to your post on funding! Thanks again 🙂

  2. Hi Rachel,

    I’m so glad you found my suggestions helpful. Prologues are very tricky. That tends to be my rule of thumb – if I think a prologue could be a first chapter, then that’s what I make it. I don’t use prologues very often except my new YA has one because it sets up an historical moment in time where the reader is introduced to an artefact and its importance, and the rest of the book is about the hunt for the artefact. The character and the period of time in the prologue don’t appear anywhere else in the prologue.

    Good luck with the revisions:) I look forward to hearing how you progress.

    Happy writing:)

    Dee

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