We haven't done an analysis of an opening in a while. This one popped up in our blog inbox and caught my attention. (firstname.lastname@example.org in case you want to email us, but be aware we rarely have time to check it.)
Usually, we only look at the first three sentences, but the author provided more, and we're in an indulgent mood. Or, if you really want to know the truth, I spent all weekend rejecting manuscripts and setting people's shoes on fire, and now I want to restore some karmic balance. So we'll look at all nine sentences.
Assume this one is a middle grade novel.
The combination seemed simple. A few sideways steps, jump and switch feet, then back the other way. Yet when Melissa slid to the side, she stumbled in a small hole in the dance floor, straight into Her Majesty.
Of all people to bump into, why her?
"Hey! Watch it, klutz!" Her Majesty narrowed her eyes at Melissa and dusted herself.
Melissa stammered an apology while she backed away. What a way to start at a new studio, colliding with the reigning prima ballerina. Before class, Her Majesty had dismissed Melissa with a glance.
Okay, right off the bat, I'm thinking both yes and no on this one. Yes, because the writing is clean and active and easy to follow. And yes, because we're in a scene to start with. And yes, most especially, because we've got a strong voice and an author obviously in control of the manuscript.
But no, for three reasons. I'd be interested in knowing whether anyone else had the same reaction to any of these three points.
A dance studio's floor should not have holes in it, right? Am I the only one thinking that? I loved the vivid, active description of the dance moves, and I loved the pov even though we didn't get the pov character until the third sentence. That all worked.
But the hole in the dance floor -- is this, perhaps, meant to be a metaphorical hole? Is Melissa actually clumsy, and tripped over nothing? Kids do that. Paws grow faster than the rest of the puppy, and kid brains can't always coordinate all those bits and pieces. So tripping over air -- a "hole in the floor" -- is something a kid could probably relate to, but if that's what's happening here, I'd like it clarified.
Otherwise, I'm inclined to think this is a bad dance studio, and it's not such a crisis if Melissa doesn't get along with Her Majesty.
Her Majesty. Is this the best way to introduce Her Majesty as a character? Is she an important character? At first blush, my guess is that the conflict will have a lot to do with some kind of competition between Melissa and Her Majesty. If this is so, then I want just a bit more physical description of the character. We get a voice and an attitude. Give us something concrete to hang that on. Something maybe like,
Her Majesty narrowed her eyes at Melissa and dusted off her immaculate white designer leotard.
Her Majesty narrowed her eyes at Melissa and jabbed her with one too-thin, pointy elbow.
Or whatever. Something physical about the character so we can attach the voice to the body.
Before class. This is sentence number nine, and we're shifting out of scene time and into backstory. It's probably too soon to disrupt chronological time. No hard and fast rules, of course, but if the scene before class is important, if it establishes the baseline dynamic between these two characters, why not show it? This is presumably where Her Majesty earns her nickname. I'd sort of like to experience that moment.
What does everyone else think?