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March 20, 2011 / Chersti Nieveen

Show Me The Voice Contest

Hello dear blog readers! I need your help.

Brenda over at Brenda Drake Writes…under the influence of coffee is hosting a SHOW ME THE VOICE contest that I’m participating in. I’ve posted the first 250 words of my manuscript, THE COLOR TRANSPARENT, and according to contest rules I need to collect critiques for the next two days so it can be polished for the contest. So thanks to all those who leave a comment with their critique!

**update** I revised based on the first 18 comments, and I’m eager for more feedback. **update**

Dues to this contest, my normal Monday book review will be moved to Tuesday of this week.

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Name: Chersti Nieveen
Title: The Color Transparent [see more here]
Genre: YA fantasy (magical realism)

When I was five, my favorite color was the shade of clear plastic or clean glass. The color transparent.

My kindergarten teacher had repeatedly told me that transparent was not a color. I kept silent—my tiny hands trembled and my mouth refused to form words, even back then—but whenever I filled out one of those ‘about me’ papers, I wrote down my favorite color as “clear.”

Now that I’m a sophomore in high school, I’ve learned to say that my favorite color is white. Just one more thing I’ve had to do to blend in with the other high school students.

But it’s all a lie. My favorite color is still transparent. And I can never truly blend in when I’m only pretending that I belong here on earth.

I wriggled deeper into the armchair, looking down at the open book in my lap. But the words blurred before my eyes, unable to hold my attention, and again I looked back at the window.

Somehow I’d known it would happen tonight. A thought—a whisper in the back of my mind, hidden until this exact moment. As if I’d always known the truth.

The Shade was coming for me.

Dread crawled inside my skin, making my heart pulsate into a pounding rhythm. I sat tucked away in a forgotten corner surrounded by shelves and shadows. Around me, the library seemed colder. I rubbed my arm through my thin white jacket.  Tonight I would have to face the Shade.

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**Don’t forget about the 1st LINE CONTEST to win a query critique by Agent Mary Kole + other prizes**

**Also check out the contest over at YAtopia where you can do a 2-sentence pitch until March 24.**

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22 Comments

  1. Shallee McArthur / Mar 20 2011 9:14 am

    You already know my thoughts– love this! 🙂

  2. Alicia Caldwell / Mar 20 2011 9:58 am

    Hey. I am a new follower to your blog and thought I’d try and help. Keep in mind, I am a pretty green writer myself, but these were my thoughts as I read it:

    When I was five, my favorite color was the shade of clear plastic or clean glass. The color transparent. (Very cool)

    My kindergarten teacher had repeatedly told me that transparent was not a color. I’d never answered back (this sounds funny, maybe say “I’d never responded” or “I’d kept silent” something like that, especially since you say “back” twice in the same sentence)—my tiny hands trembled and my mouth refused to form words, even back then—but whenever I filled out one of those ‘about me’ papers, I wrote down my favorite color as “clear.”

    Now that I’m a sophomore in high school, I’ve learned to say that my favorite color is white. Just one more thing I’ve had to do to blend in with the other high school students.

    But it’s all a lie. My favorite color is still transparent. And I can never truly blend in when I’m only pretending that I belong here on earth. (Intrigued)

    I looked down at the open book in my lap, wriggling deeper into the armchair. (These sounds funny too. Maybe it would sound better as “I wriggled deep into the armchair as I looked down at the open book in my lap”) But the words blurred before my eyes, unable to hold my attention, and again I looked back at the window.

    Somehow I’d known it would happen tonight. A thought, a whisper in the back of my mind that had been hidden until just this moment. But when I’d realized this important truth, it was as if I’d always known.

    The Shade was coming for me. (Ooooo)

    Dread crawled inside my skin, making my heart smooth (“smooth” sounds too calm too me, maybe something more like “race” or “take off” or something way cooler I’m sure you can come up with) into a pounding rhythm. Around me, the library seemed colder and (I feel you could put a period after “colder” and then start “I rubbed” as a new sentence) I rubbed my arm through my thin white jacket. Tonight I would have to face the Shade.

    I hope this helps. But this is your story, so do what works for you. Good luck!

  3. Britney / Mar 20 2011 10:18 am

    It kind of reminds me of Invisible the way you talk about the person being from a different planet and a Shade coming after them. That’s also what you wrote for Invisible. I like this one as well.

  4. Shayda Bakhshi / Mar 20 2011 10:35 am

    Oooh, I like it! I’m usually a bit leery of working plot in through some nostalgic device, but you do it brilliantly, and with a light enough hand that it actually has weight. It doesn’t feel like you’re forcing symbolism on the reader, and I love that.

    The only thing that popped out at me–because the rest was so wonderful!–was mention of her “thin white jacket”. I’d cut “white”. It just clutters the writing a bit. No big deal, though. 🙂

  5. fromawriter / Mar 20 2011 11:20 am

    I like this one! I’d even read more of it if I could. Also a new follower to your blog now.

  6. Mara Nash / Mar 20 2011 12:18 pm

    I really like this. I don’t write YA and I don’t read it often, but I’m hooked by the MC liking the color “transparent,” and I wonder why and how it will be important later in the story. I’m also intrigued by the Shade and who the MC is and why a shade would be coming for her, so of course I’m going to keep reading to find out what happens next!

    You’ve succeeded in giving your MC a voice that makes her sound both resigned to having to hide who she is, kind of beaten down by life already because she’s different, and afraid about facing whatever’s ahead of her.

  7. Cheree Smith / Mar 20 2011 1:22 pm

    You have a great voice here. It’s really hooked me an I would definitely want to read more. I love some of you descriptions like “dread crawled inside my skin”, but I don’t think “smooth” is the correct word to describe the heart because it becomes a “pounding” beat.

    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Chersti Nieveen / Mar 20 2011 1:30 pm

    Wow, these comments have been fantastic so far — thank you so much for your helpful feedback!

  9. Casey Reads / Mar 20 2011 2:00 pm

    I feel hooked, and wonder what’s going to happen next. What is a Shade and why is it after her? Good job!!!

    It seems like she’s not from earth. So would that make it science fiction?

  10. Josh Kennington / Mar 20 2011 2:56 pm

    It’s perfect don’t change a thing.

  11. Kalen O'Donnell / Mar 20 2011 3:07 pm

    Found this via the blogfest and its great! I’m hooked! I LOVE how quickly you hook the title to the story, as far too often that’s left vague and unresolved. And considering this is a contest about voice you have that nailed. Little things you litter in here and there just made me HAPPY as a reader and a fellow writer. Like what we learn of your MC by how she learned to keep her mouth shut when her teacher was an idiot and anyone could clearly see transparent was a color. And the melancholy about just one more thing done to fit in, and how that led into the revelation she doesn’t belong on earth. And I’m very intrigued to see what the Shade is.

    My ONLY criticism comes from not being able to read the rest of this chapter and how it fits in – but as is, your build up at the end of the exerpt feels vaguely artificial. Like its a premature climax, that ramps up the tension well for this short exerpt, but I’m not sure how well it flows or reads in the context of the longer chapter, if that makes sense? Its really hard to say and entirely subjective, but Im not sure I’d like the tension ramp at the end of this AS much if I’m reading the whole MS.

  12. Margo / Mar 20 2011 4:01 pm

    I love this! I love how transparent is favorite color and that’s how she knows she’s set apart. And her voice gets even stronger when she admits she says her favorite color is white now. I soooo want to read more!!! I’ve read about 20 so far, and many are good, seriously good, but this one really clicks with me! I think it’s the powerful emotional connection you create? And a nice change from all the snarky voice that abounds out there (including mine).

    My only suggestion pertains to this part: ” A thought, a whisper in the back of my mind that had been hidden until just this moment. But when I’d realized this important truth, it was as if I’d always known.” This is just a little too much for me, or “overdone”. I think you could condense this into one sentence and still capture this important point.

    Great set up for tension, too.

    When can I read more? 🙂

  13. Taryn / Mar 20 2011 5:20 pm

    It’s a little jarring to go from the abstract musing about colors right into a paranormal element like the shade (especially when that requires at least a little world-building as to how she knows about it/why it’s after her). Also, the tenses at the beginning have me confused. I understand the use of the pluperfect, but in this case I don’t know if it’s necessary since you already said “When I was in kindergarten . . . ”

    But I’m hooked! Good voice and good tension.

  14. Loralie / Mar 20 2011 5:30 pm

    I like this. I think you’ve got a great voice that has a flowing almost meloncholy feeling. And you’ve got a great hook overall with the combination of the Shade and the color clear. Great job and good luck ^_^

  15. ramblingsfromtheleft / Mar 20 2011 5:40 pm

    This is intriguing and I am wondering what transparent looks like. What or who is The Shade? The sentence someone suggested was over board might need editing. Use word find and rid yourself of as many realize/d realization … and all other variations. Say it differently …

    A thought–a whisper in the back of my mind, hidden until this moment. It was as if I’d always known the truth. It would happen tonight.

    You also need to watch “just” as in “just this moment” and if you can find a way to lose “always” … never, always, forever and the absolutes are a trap.

    Quirky and interesting … still wonder who or what is the shade?

    Good luck 🙂

  16. Lori M. Lee / Mar 20 2011 6:11 pm

    I really like this. I’m intrigued about what the Shade is, and I would definitely read on. I think the voice is great, especially how you establish it with the MC’s favorite “color” being transparent.

  17. amber gilchrist / Mar 20 2011 6:35 pm

    i like it. at first i was wondering how the beginning paragraphs related to the sudden change. but then i didn’t care because i was so fascinated by the whole Shade is coming thing. I would start there if you can. the thing about the color, i’m not sure what the point is and i felt a little disconnected. i’m sure there is a point but since it isn’t related to the action it feels like it’s removing me rather than pulling me in.

  18. Trisha / Mar 20 2011 7:30 pm

    This is fabulous! I love that the MC’s fave colour is clear, and I love the description of the ‘tiny face’ and those little hands.

    And the Shade…spoookay! I want to know more, for sure. 🙂

  19. ali / Mar 20 2011 10:10 pm

    Oh Chersti. I loved the piece you shared at WIFYR last year and girl . . . you have got some serious magic. Because I loved this excerpt too! Which means you have at least TWO rockin’ works out there. Totally stellar.

    Anyway, I want to help you win! Here’s my thoughts:

    Now that I’m a sophomore in high school, I’ve learned to say that my favorite color is white. Just one more thing I’ve had to do to blend in with the other high school students.

    And then your last line. It feels a tad melodramatic or like it’s out of character. You might just want to consider if there’s a better/different way you can achieve the same hook while staying in voice.

    Great, great job Chersti. I SO can’t wait to read one of your books one day! (And would have jumped into the book crit group if only to read YOUR book!)

    p.s. I’ve never tried to use HTML in a comment before, so forgive me if I screwed it up! Hopefully it’ll still make sense …

  20. Nicole Zoltack / Mar 20 2011 11:13 pm

    Wow! Great voice, and I would love to read more!

  21. e6n1 / Mar 21 2011 3:16 am

    Your entry reminds me of a horror short story by Ambrose Bierce called ‘The Damned Thing’, in which a man is terrorised by a creature that cannot be perceived by normal sight. Rather than trying to describe the creature, Bierce described what the creature wasn’t, and perhaps your protagonist could begin by what she cannot see or perceive.
    Your main character is wining and sympathetic- well done!

  22. RaShelle / Mar 21 2011 8:08 pm

    Love the voice. Good luck. =D

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