Devolutionaries-- First 250 Words Blogfest

Oct 16, 2010

Here's the first 250 words of Devolutionaries. Please feel free to give any thoughts you have! I have a thick skin. :)


Name: Shallee McArthur
Title: Devolutionaries
Genre: YA dystopian

Grandad lied to me a lot. I’d known that for a long time. But standing at the counter at the Distribution Center, I decided everybody lied.

“You only gave me four potatoes,” I said.

“Well, you only gave me four Produce coupons.” The clerk tossed her braid behind her shoulder. She smiled, making her pox scars wrinkle across her face. Was she flirting with me while she cheated me?

I ignored the smile. My eyes went to the shelves that stretched behind the counter, piled high with tin cans and semi-fresh produce. Including two more potatoes that should be mine.

“I gave you six coupons.” I glared at her through the damp brown hair hanging in my eyes. The ceiling fans circled above me, totally useless.

Her smile faded. “Maybe you dropped some. I only counted four.”

“Look, my boss doesn’t give me enough—“ I clamped my mouth shut.

Working in Kessler’s bike repair shop should have given me more coupons than it did, but Scavengers had an unspoken rule. We didn’t rat each other out to the Government. I didn’t want Kessler’s death on my head.

I glanced toward one of the military policemen in his blue uniform. He scanned the silent line of people that trailed out the door and bounced the butt of his automatic rifle in his pox-scarred hands like he was bored. Nobody made a sound under his watch. Most of them stared at the scuffed tile floor.

I turned back to the girl, who'd gone pale.

46 comments:

Kelly M. Olsen said...

Shallee, I became invested in this story in the first three paragraphs. I want to keep reading. It's intriguing and had me asking all kinds of questions as I read. I Love, Love , Love the title. I am in the midst of a speculative literary novel and was going to use the name "Devolution", but ended up using another. Great job! Kelly

DLCurran said...

That was a great opening! I'm totally wanting more - and I really liked how you slipped in the details of your world without bashing the reader over the head. It just seemed natural. Loved it!

Nathalie said...

Shallee, this is great! It's left me with a feeling of intrigue and suspicion. I like the anxiety you've created with very few words, only involving two characters so far. It's a great beginning.

Colene Murphy said...

Love this opening! Gave us all enough to tease us with what is going on in this world and now I just need to know!

I might stop reading all these because they're all just too good and I can't have the rest! (who am I kidding. No I wont)

Great job on your opening!

Elle Strauss said...

We all know what it feels like when we think we've been ripped off--that' what make your mc's situation so relate-able, except that the danger is ampted up! Nice job hooking us in the first 250.

Brenda Drake said...

Totally hooked. I feel the tension and the heat and I'd keep reading. Loved how you weaved the details into the action. Small typo in the last sentence--"the" should be "them". Loved your first 250! :D

Michelle said...

Hi, Shallee.
Love your opening 250. I'd definitely read more!

One sentence doesn't quite ring true, though. This one: Her smile faded. “Maybe you dropped some. I only counted four.”

If someone is lying to you, I think their smile would broaden, and they'd look you straight in the eyes!

Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

Sorry if my comments show ups twice, I got an error when I tried to send it.

You write well. Too many beginning novelists fall into the trap of using an over-abundance of flowery description. You have a simple, clean way of telling a story and it will get you far.

Jolene Perry said...

You had me at the first line and then the next one was better. You give a great idea of not only the setting but the mood. Ahh! I wish there was another page here.

Marieke said...

Yep, you had me at hello! Such a great opening! :D

Just had a look around your blog too, following now! ^.^

Emy (Sandy) Shin said...

This is such a wonderful opening -- totally intriguing. The first sentence rocks. Interesting enough to make me read on, and is full of the character's voice, too.

My favorite part is how you've woven in tiny details about your world without being over-the-top. And the ending makes me want to read on so badly!

Madeleine said...

What a wonderful opening and an original subject/story line. I would definitely want to read more.:O)

Milo James Fowler said...

Yeah, I could definitely read more. It has a strong dystopian, Hunger Games feel to it. Nicely done.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Great! I love how you show your setting. We already get an idea of what this world is like.

Besides the tiny typo in the second to last sentence (should it be "them"?), I don't think I'd change a thing.

Amy

Jessie said...

Ahh - what a cliffhanger. Why'd the girl go pale? This is a great opening. First line is great. All of it. We get such a good sense of the world with just the first page. Nicely done.

Jennifer Hoffine said...

Nice opening. Very intriguing, and I like the flirting/cheating thing.

Two nit-picks: Him looking over the shelves before telling her he had more tickets felt off timing wise. That description may fit in better in another place. Also, bouncing the gun with both hands seemed a little awkward when I tried to picture it, not to mention dangerous.

Janet Johnson said...

Wow, great opening! Great sense of place without bombarding us with description.

Good luck with it!

Jessie Oliveros said...

I actually read your first 250 in Elle's last contest, and it really stood out to me then. I think it was a little different before?? Anyway, both times you had me intrigued. Although if I remember you focused a little more on the pox in the last version, which really stood out to me then. I like the military policeman in this one. That the girl has gone pale is a great hanging line. Good sense of world. Great job!

Ginia said...

Wow! Great beginning. I like the dialogue between your characters. Keep writing. Thanks for commenting on my 250.

michelle said...

Shallee, I LOVE this! Your beginning has a great hook and jumps right into the story.

Charmaine Clancy said...

I love this. You start with a strong first line and continue with tension and intrigue. You set the scene of a story to be told with the inclusion of the guard.

Rachael Harrie said...

I really loved your first 250 words, and would read on for sure. Well done in showing us what's going on so cleanly and economically. One thing I'd love to know - was the soldier in the shop to start with or did he just come in? Again, great job!!!

Rach

Stephanie said...

Great beginning...and a great opening line!!!!

The only thing that stopped me and pulled me out was the line of internal dialog: And kept two uncounted ones for herself. Maybe there's some way of reworking it??

Good job!! Definitely want to read on!

Erica said...

hmmm intriguing. dystopian? I love dystopian. I was a little uncertain of what was going on, maybe a little more description of the circumstances. Though, it's about that first 250, so maybe you cut them for the sake of pace. I know I slashed out much of my details to get to the point asap for this blogfest. my site is mightymouse88-hypotheticallyspeaking.blogspot.com

Sharde(Shar-day) said...

I like that the first 250 words puts us right in the middle of some type of conflict.

We know that something has happened in this world, or they wouldn't need to ration food the way they do. We know that the rations aren't enough, so people(clerks) steal coupons for more. The military makes everyone uneasy because of their presence. And I want to know what happened that makes their presence needed.

This line really got my gears turning.

"Apprenticing in Kessler’s bike repair shop should have given me more coupons than it did, but I wasn’t going to rat him out. I didn’t want his death on my head."

Real interesting stuff, Shallee.

Sharde

Joanne said...

Very intriguing opening, we can really feel the tension in that room. It seems like there's more going on with these two characters than meets the eye. I clicked over from Janet's, enjoyed browsing here.

Carolyn Abiad said...

Nice tension and world set up without being too much. Only thing that threw me a little was the ref to the bike shop. At that point, I was wondering if he really did have 6 tikets in the first place.

Patti said...

Shortage of food and guns, great way to get people's interest.

Janet Johnson said...

I know I already weighed in, but I left you an award at my blog if you want it. :)

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Nice way to build the world while advancing the story!

kathrynjankowski said...

Interesting setup. I want to know more.
I did stop when the bike shop was mentioned. It didn't really seem to fit with what was happening in the moment.
Thanks for sharing.

Lynda Young said...

GREAT opening. I want to read more, darnit! You built the world really well..I felt I could see it/experience it.

Bekah said...

Great opening!! You already let us know where we are and what sort of society we are in

Steph said...

Great voice, and excellent job hooking us! Nicely done!

Chersti Nieveen said...

I love how you set the tone of the world and stakes for the reader up front. I already have this sense of dread, which is fantastic. I love where this is going, and you have a great tone here!

Cheree said...

I love the voice. You've done a great job at hooking the reader and I definitely want to know more.

erica m. chapman said...

Oh this is really great. You packed a lot of detail in 250 words. I definitely get an idea of the world. Great job!

Margo Berendsen said...

Great opening line! And powerful introduction and world-building.

Most of the voice I've read so far (including mine!) is heavy on the snark, so this is a nice change. This girl is serious. Her voice says she's strong and determined.

I did get confused at one point though. How does "Working in Kessler’s bike repair shop should have given me more coupons than it did," relate to "but Scavengers had an unspoken rule. We didn’t rat each other out to the Government." I need a little more explanation here to make this link.

I'm hooked though and I want to read more!

Lori M. Lee said...

I think this is great. Totally hooked, and I'd love to read more. My only critique is that I'm not sure why you open with his granddad. You transition the lying to the present moment, yeah, but I'm still not sure why you can't just open with the MC thinking everyone is a liar.

Other than that, like I said, LOVE it. Would definitely read on.

amber said...

i'm very interested in this. i'd totally flip the page if i was in a store.

Trisha said...

This is a great beginning! At first I didn't know what the 'pox scars' were about - thought you actually meant acne scars or something. But I'm guessing this is a futuristic setting, and there's been a pox on all their houses ;)

I'd definitely read on! This piece has a sort of tension, i.e. military police, etc.

Jolene Perry said...

After half of the first line I remembered reading this. That means you made some sort of an impression, OR that my brain remembers a LOT more than it would like for me to know...

J.C. Martin said...

I don't normally read dystopia but my, this really grabbed me! Produce coupons and pox? What a vivid world you have created in just 250 words! Great work, and good luck with the blogfest!

Bekah said...

I know I've read snippets before, but I think this version is really strong. You drop us into the new world without it being too much. Good Luck Shallee!

Nicole Zoltack said...

I really liked this, There's voice, setting, you get a strong sense of character and the world.

Just one nitpicky thing: I would change the last sentence to I turned back to the now pale girl.

I would definitely read on!

eeleenlee said...

The opening line is grabbing, but it could be more arresting if you mentioned a lie by the granddad that is specific to the world. (About coupons, human nature, the scarcity of crops etc... So that the following line has more punch; when the protagonist is older, he realises that everyone says it.

The rest is great too- nice hints (the coupons, the pox scars, all hint at a corrupt system and ruined world...)

 
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