So, my apologies for the delay in naming winners. The decision was not easy and so I decided to comment on each entry. If I missed your entry, PLEASE let me know ASAP.
Before I announce the winner, I should say that choice C is the optimal choice for our made-up story to begin. Here is the premise:
Boy is only survivor on boat that washes ashore on strange island. Has no idea where he is and upon arrival is captured by a native tribe who raise them as their own for a few years and he falls in love with daughter of tribal leader. Once found, he must decide whether to return home or stay. Where do you start this story?
Here are the choices:
A. At home preparing to leave for trip. We see him with all the people he will leave behind including the girl he has a crush on, his sick mother and best friend and brother. We also find out why he is taking trip in first place.
B. On boat during terrible, raging storm. We see flashbacks of his life before the trip including the girl he hopes he will see again, his best friend and brother and his sick mother. We meet his father who dies during the storm creating a heart-felt moment/emotional moment.
C. Hiding out behind heavy brush, having washed ashore–alone, afraid, cold. Taking notice of a tribal ceremony at night, the sounds, smells, people. Experiencing many emotions over the course of the chapter. Seeing his love interest for the first time but not as she would like to have had him see her had she known he was watching.
Each of the above scenarios are all perfectly acceptable openings which could be built out into workable first chapters. I can look at each of these and tell you what I know for certain a newbie writer would choose, a more experienced writer would definitely choose and what and agent or editor would advise against choosing.
Option A is the one most likely to be chosen by a less experienced writer. This writer will want to introduce you to the protag, his homelife, family, etc. They will likely have the character in his room, surrounded by the things he loves, perhaps even just waking up and starting the day that will turn out to be that life-altering day. It is however, the most mundane offerings of the three.
Option B is acceptable as an opening but with this caveat. The focus must be squarely on the protag while working in the memories and feelings toward these other characters. Thoughts of love, loss and fear will come into play as the reader starts to feel an emotional connection to the protag. An inexperienced writer will spend a great deal of time focusing too much attention on the sick mother, the death of the father as the father experiences it, etc.
Options C is the optimal choice as it brings us right into the heart of the story and that is–this is the pivotal moment in which this character is forced to change. He has lost his boat, father and now is the only one of his kind on an island where he may not speak the language and is at the mercy of complete strangers whose intentions toward him are unknown. This si the strongest of all possible beginnings. It allows for the introduction of all of the above issues–sick mom, dead dad, shipwreck, etc. It can be an emotional journey to the edge of a new beginning.
Having said that–I chose the below entry as the winner. Please keep in mind that the first twenty entries will receive a copy of Malinda Lo’s HUNTRESS (ARC). The runner up will receive a copy of NEVERISMS–a quotation lover’s guide to things you should never do, never say, or never forget by Dr. Mardy Grothe.
Congratulations to, Allison! Please email (georgia (at) georgiamcbride (dot) com me for details on sending me your first twenty five (25) pages critiqued and a chance to have it sent to the agents I work with! Please scroll down for runner up–winner of Neverisms! And to view my original comments on BOTH entries as well as the others, please click here.
Moonlight glowed on the still calm beach as the fiddler crabs came out after the storm. Josh felt his eyes spin in his pounding head as he watched the strange creatures scurry, kicking up sand as they scratched the ground.
It had only be a few days but to Josh, time seemed lost, never ending. Every moment was racked with hunger, fear, and isolation. He had wondered around the island, but this was not the big city he was use to. Tall sky scrappers were replaced with forests, thick and impossible to cut down. Vegetation would tangle around his legs and make anyone feel like the world was after then. This was the true power of man verses nature.
Josh rubbed his aching bones, and rolled over. The stars in the sky reminded him of the twinkling lights of Chicago’s cityscape. He wondered what his mother would be doing right now. He was sure, dinner would be the first thing on her mind when she woke up. He could smell the roast beef and baked potatoes. The aroma wafted around and consumed him. He sucked in the air yearning to taste the food he was dreaming of.
Suddenly he jumped up, this was not his feverish mind playing tricks on him, he smelled food. Real food! Steadying himself he stumbled around in the darkness. He had to find it, at whatever cost.
Sweat was dripping from his brow as he pushed back branches, that whipped him in the face. His eyes peered through the darkness yearning for a sign, anything to help him. The slight flicker of what appeared to be a fire caught him my surprise. He stood on his tip toes trying to see where it was, but nature was not that kind.
The ground whined under him as he felt his feet loose their footing. He tumbled down, spinning and twisting around tree roots, and rocks, as dirt was shoved into his mouth. He blinked and tried to rub the muck out of his eyes, but he was not given a chance. Something wet hit him right in the face, making his head spin as he fell backwards on the ground. He heart raced as he tried to make
sense of what had just happened.
His arms and legs were getting pulled behind him, he was sure they would break any moment. He tried to free himself but whatever was attacking him in the darkness was not so forgiving. Another wet object hit him in the face, but oddly it felt familiar in some way.
He blinked and tried to shake his head but something cold and sharp was at his neck. He gulped, what was happening to him? Finally he had, had enough, he tried to stand but Josh was pushed back against a tree. “What do you want!” He screamed. The creature scurried back and made a yelping noise. He watched as it walked into the dim fire light. His eye sight was blurred by the bits of debris covering his face but her long slender golden brown body was all in view. Her black hair was falling around her, covering her chest. She was shaking as she pointed the knife at him.
It was around this time Josh noticed, she was dripping wet and not a strip of clothing was on her. Her cheeks were flushed and she was almost in tears.
“Hi.” It was the only thing he could think to say. He had never walked in on someone bathing before. As he prepared to apologize, she charged at him. At that moment everything went black, as his mind whirled. Yeah, it was a familiar feeling, the slap of a girls hand. The pain and the passion in it, he smiled as he fell back unconscious. Even in the wilds of the Caribbean he had the same
effect on women.
Runner up–Gina Mosley Lamm (Option C)
He was almost grateful for the scrape of cold wet sand on his cheek. At least it meant he was alive. He pushed himself upright, coughing as his salt-soaked lungs gave protest to his movement. Stopping when he reached his knees, he vomited salt water onto the moonlit shore. His lungs were on fire, but that meant he had a chance to see Abigail once more. He’d take it.
He clambered to his feet, surveying his surroundings. Other than wreckage from “The Saucy Lady,” a ridiculous name for a ship if he’d ever heard one, there was nothing but jungle ahead. But jungle meant plants, and hopefully animals he could catch to sustain himself. He had to stay alive. He’d promised her. She was back in North Carolina busily planning the wedding. His heart sank when he thought of her pale blue eyes, filled with tears at the thought of his departure.
“William,” she’d cried, her hands digging into the blue coat he’d worn for the sailing. “Please, don’t go. Your father can take care of his plantations in Jamaica. Please, you don’t have to do this.”
He’d brushed away her tears, and kissed her soft pink lips, and promised her that he’d be back before she knew it.
The thoughts of home were enough to drive him onward. He walked up the beach, cursing his legs for their weakness. The storm had taken its toll, as well as the long hours tossed in the sea. He needed to find some water soon.
He came to a bend in the shore, and followed it around. As the side of the island came into view, he gasped.
A large bonfire was burning, its warming flames dancing like chorus girls in a show. He nearly ran toward the blaze, but stopped when he saw them. Ducking behind a nearby bush for cover, he watched.
There were drumbeats and women singing in a strange language. Warriors stained and painted with odd colors danced around the fire, chanting in time with the women’s song. His breath caught in his throat when he saw her.
Her long dark hair swung around her as she danced, the warriors each passing her and bowing as they circled. She was dressed only in a simple woven shift, which flowed out around her like a ballgown as she twirled. It was the most breathtaking sight he’d ever seen.
He started to come to his feet again when he felt the cold steel point of a spear in his back.
The words were unintelligible, but the meaning behind them was cold, cruel, and unmistakeable. He raised his hands in surrender, and allowed the warrior to take him.