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Linnea Sinclair

Hi Ana,

Oh, yes, I remember this totally fun plot line from our previous classes, and the depth of medical research which adds a unique twist and, IMHO, a fab hook.  I love the set-up of him being the injured/failed baseball star and her dealing with the threat of mental illness/untangling her family’s mess. Let me say up front: this is a strong hook and premise. At some point we’ll need to work on a killer blurb/back cover copy so you can pitch it properly. 🙂

That being said (and you know here’s where Linnea takes the gloves off)…

1) Your opening scene in Galen’s POV is too short for the reader to really sink into him. It feels off-hand, you TELL some backstory but we’re not able to FEEL any of it. It’s about 950+ words. In my AN ACCIDENTAL GODDESS, I have short-ish opening scene in female protagonist Gille’s POV, and it runs about 1200 words. I’d be glad to post that if you want to see it. Here’s the big difference between your 954 and my 1200: nothing happens in yours. A threat (pending threat)  is immediately raised in mine. We don’t have to have a fire he can’t put out on page one, but we do need to at least hear the scratch of the match…

2) Let’s look at your first few sentences:

Galen Thomas flipped on the lights in the Minnesota Technical College lecture hall and tossed Director Puissard’s notes into the recycle bin. //Sooo, the recycle bin is AT the doorway to the hall? Or is it up front by the lecture podium? Or… I’m not seeing this. It’s hazy, unclear and you can’t have that in your opening sentences. The brain needs specifics to latch on to and start craving. 

I know we  need to set up he’s a failed baseball player so we get his internal issues. Why not 1) have him flip on the lights then 2) ball up the few pages [it has to be only a few] of lecture notes and THROW–like a baseball player–in a perfect pitch/throw INTO the recycle bin that was [fill in a distance] across the hall and PLUNK! NOW we’re showing the reader who and what he is/was rather than telling. THEN when you add in …

   He didn’t need them. Age onset statistics for schizophrenia memorized as easily as American League batting averages.

It’s a one-two punch that brings the reader INTO the story and him through action. It’s one thing to tell us he was a star athlete. Better to SHOW him in action. And we have what I call compare/contrast. He’s obviously an athlete yet… he’s not. WHY? The brain will punch in that WHY and keep reading.

The clock over the whiteboard showed he had fifteen minutes until class started. He picked up a blue marker and tossed it like a ball between his hands while he paced.

Doing an A-plus job at the Blue Lake State Hospital for the Criminally Insane would prove to the suits in the Minnesota Twins’ front office that he could still be an asset to the team. Not as a ninth inning closer, but as a medic.

You could still continue with the marker toss, as it underscores his natural inclinations to toy with things. But it doesn’t work as well as a ball-shaped wad of papers because a market is thin. It’s not really “tossed like a ball.” Now, flipped it up and caught in in the air… I can SEE that. I don’t see a thin object being a ball.

Age onset statistics for schizophrenia memorized as easily as American League batting averages.

Okay, one more craft issue. “Age onset statistics [that’s the subject of the sentence] … memorized [that’s the verb]… and I don’t think that’s what you mean. You mean HE has the ability to memorize… and that’s not what you typed. 😉 It’s minor but it’s clarity. It’s fine to do in first draft but fix things like that in the second.

I’d also put the paragraph… Doing an A-plus–a medic... all in deep third. You’re telling, not showing. Let’s FEEL his personal career issues and hopes and failures. Because he’s tossing around the marker, it will feel natural he’s in deep thought and the very action–let’s ties that in more strongly–of an athletic kind of motion brings back his feeling of loss and failure. 

“Where’s Dr. Puissard?”

The velvet voice startled him.

Galen turned around.

At first glance, she resembled a Nordic sprite, with black leggings under a colorful past-the-knee skirt that looked sewn from a dozen oversized scarves. Above that she wore a hip-hugging sweater with domed silver buttons and flapped pockets. Below, clunky felt-lined winter boots.

So, in addition to being a baseball player and a medic, he’s a fashion consultant? Unless you set up he has five sisters, this is NOT Galen thinking and analyzing, it’s Ana… analyzing (sorry, couldn’t resist play-on-words with your name). 🙂 

I’ll grant him Nordic sprite analogy. Everything after that is female-speak. He’s a GUY. He has HORMONES. He’s NOT looking at her clothes unless they reveal T-and-A. He’s NOT close enough to her to see her buttons are domed and if he’s staring at her buttons, he’s NOT. He’s staring at boobs. And how can he SEE the felt lining of her boots? Guys do not notice a skirt is sewn from oversized scarves. He would continue with the sprite analogy, like…. At first glance, she looked like some kind of Nordic sprite, like a Disney Tinkerbelle gone Goth with her black leggings, clunky boots and a skirt of mismatched pieces of cloth. But, damn, that soft sweater hugged hips and curves… [etc.] 

I need it in HIS words and guy-hormone-thoughts.

Good –> He raised his gaze. He liked women who didn’t dress like mall store mannequins. Mysterious women, with more on their minds than answering their friends’ social media posts.

This is Ana Author speaking–>A cloud of curly, jet-black hair framed her oval face. Her ruddy cheeks suggested she’d walked some distance before coming indoors.

I know you’re trying to establish–and you should–the pending attraction. But you also  need to focus on the threat to that attraction, one of which is (I’m guessing) his opinion of himself, his failed career, and whatever add-ons come with that in relation to his current career and now his attraction to her.

Ana speaking–> The scent of spring lilacs enveloped him.

I’m not saying he wouldn’t know the scent of lilacs. The “spring lilacs” is girl-speak. But even if he knows the scent of lilacs, I just don’t see a guy thinking that THEN. He may subliminally realize she has a nice scent or perfume on and then, after they’ve been together a bit and he comes to know that as her SIGNATURE scent (I also use this in my books), THEN, yes, he will categorize it. But you’re getting ahead of yourself here and writing what ANA knows and not what Galen is learning moment by moment.

She’d asked a question, but he forgotten what it was. “I said, where’s Dr. Puissard?” “I’m subbing for him this evening. Galen Thomas, PA.” He held out his hand. “Are you here for the lecture?” “No.” She squeezed once and let go. Her fingers were calloused and cold. His palm tingled.

<–I’m on board with most of the above BECAUSE he’s an athlete and very familiar with callouses. 

“A PA lecturing about schizophrenia for a night class.” She glanced at the lectern and then up at the board. “Where are your notes?” “Symptoms, prevalence balance, risk factors, and environmental triggers. All up here.” He tapped his forehead. “Is your memory that good?” “For things I’m interested in, yes.” “Schizophrenia interests you?” She sounded amazed. She opened her mouth to say something more but snapped it shut as students wearing pink and yellow hoodies emblazoned with the Minnesota college logo entered the lecture hall. They clustered on the tiered seats like scouts at spring training camp, marking time, expecting to be bored or unimpressed.

<–Whose POV are we in? He’s looking at her, right? Yet he can see students enter the lecture hall? Are they coming in BEHIND her, if so, a few words can clear that up. Is he going to notice pink and yellow? I don’t really think so unless he’s never seen those hoodies before. These students are expected, right? He’s taught before, right? I think he’d notice a group of girls came in, he’d notice the college logo (he knows he’s in Minnesota so he’s not tell himself that… he tell himself if three girls came in wearing Florida State University logo shirts, not hoodies or shirts he sees daily. Watch author intrusion.) 

Galen cleared his throat. “Looks like I have to start the class now.” Several students giggled. Others rolled their eyes or whispered behind raised hands.

<–Again, how close is he to them? And they’re all girls? Guys generally don’t giggle, but… he can guess they’re whispering behind raised hands but he cannot KNOW (unless they’re really close to him). Unless this is a really small lecture hall then it’s not a hall but a classroom. Which is fine. Use what you need to because hall or classroom makes no true difference to the plot but it DOES to how the characters perceive.

She flinched as if their derision picked at a half-healed wound, and then retreated, stiff-backed, toward the exit. Suddenly, he didn’t want her to leave. Everything about her struck him as special—how she dressed, the aroma of her perfume, the urgent tone underlying her questions. He wanted to impress her with his lecture tonight. Before he could think of how to stop her, she looked over her shoulder and blurted, “What about gene markers?” He pitched his voice to drown out any scoffing from the other students. “Three single nucleotide polymorphisms in Neuregulin Three.” Her eyes widened. She took a seat in the front row.

<–I like the pending departure and how she turns, last minute, and nails him with an intense question, and that his answer SEEMS to spark something. This is the first tickle of “an issue” other than his failed career. To hammer that home, though, I’d stay in his POV here and make him realize that it was his answer–which isn’t everyday conversation stuff–made her stay. Clearly, he didn’t expect her question or that his answer would affect her. We need to FEEL THAT.  We need to start HIS brain craving answers so the reader’s brain starts craving answers. 

And that’s why the opening section in HIS POV needs to be longer than 954 words. I love that he’s a failed athlete and even his medical brilliance doesn’t make him feel worthy–yet. I like he’s still a bit cocky and knows he’s good at medical stuff, even if underlying that belief is the deeper belief that he’s a failure. He has to PROVE himself. I like that she’s not cookie-cutter, she’s unexpected and asks and does the unexpected, BUT THIS HAS TO THREATEN HIS WORLD VIEW. We need to FEEL–by being in his head as much as possible–that his world is going to get seriously ROCKED. And not only that, but that there’s also some really serious medical information that could save or change lives emerging here. She may need to hit him with another question or two that underscores this, that sets him (the reader) back on his heels, that makes him (the reader) start to believe he has no idea who/what she is. He (the reader) has to feel her urgency. He may even have to suspect Puissard set him up and she’s not who she appears to be (the whole Tinkerbelle outfit is a ruse) or whatever. Is Puissard a mentor, a friend? Could he be playing a practical joke? Or is Puissard a potential antagonist, and this could be a set-up? 

Inquiring minds want to know. 

And you’re doing good, Ana. This opening has good bones. But let’s get his part fixed and stronger and longer first. Then we’ll work on hers. 

//Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//


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