Opening Lines #3: with Lindsey Fraser
Opening Lines with Lindsey Fraser from Fraser Ross Associates #3! What grabs the reader’s attention? What draws you in and makes you want to read on?Our lovely Lindsey Fraser season continues. If you’ve been following it, you’ll know that, in a blossom-like flurry of busy-ness, Lindsey generously commented on all 17 submissions to Opening Lines in March. Come back every Saturday until early June to read more. Thanks a million, Lindsey, for your insight and encouragement!
Lindsey Fraser and Kathryn Ross established the literary agency Fraser Ross Associates in 2002, largely specialising in books for young people. The agency represents writers and illustrators from all over the UK.
Title: Saving Dominic Gallington
It’s been 3 long years in Australia for 16 year old Emily Baxter, without a word of contact from the boy she loved and left. But now she’s back and Dominic is gone, hiding out somewhere believing he’s the son of God. She’s got 40 days and 40 nights to find him, save him and bring him home. And it’s already Day 13. (YA)
Not Day 1, Day 13
Excited? Come on, who wouldn’t be?
I’m playing it cool though, sitting at the café table staring out the window at the flat, grey sea.
It’s Beth who’s up at the counter asking about Dominic.
And I’m trying not to remember the last time I saw him – because that’s feeding the excitement in a thirteen-year-old remembering her first boyfriend sort of way – and I’m not thirteen any more.
None of us are.
When I was thirteen, I scrawled his name over everything: the mirror above my dressing table; the covers of all my exercise books; scratched into the metal of my pencil tin. All in that bubble-style handwriting with hearts for the dots above the two ‘i’s in Dominic.
DOM 4 EM
DOMINIC G LOVES ME
DOMINIC GALLINGTON 4 EVER
I loved the way his name took up so much space. All those syllables to roll around in my mouth. The games the letters made. Making things up. All new. Being in love at thirteen. Holding hands.
It makes me smile thinking about it. And I do want him to be here. I do want to see him now. I’m ready to see him now.
The premise of this book is certainly attention-grabbing! My instinctive reaction to the pitch was that it was too far-fetched, too tightly tied in with biblical stories and imagery - but when I read the opening section I was immediately drawn to the narrator’s voice and wanted to know more. There’s shading in that voice that gives the character weight and intrigue.
Title: Booty and the Beasts (aka On the Run)
In this quirky MG comic caper, life on the road for a crumbwitted monkey, an inappropriate mutt and a nude sloth is never going to be a fairy tale...
The booty's in the boot; three beasts on the run: It's Booty and the Beasts!
It felt good on the road.
Getting away with murder.
Not that there were any dead bodies... YET.
BöBö Kennedy, better known to his friends and family as BoBo Kennedy, nibbled at a crunchy bug from behind his ear, then grabbed the smeary rear-view mirror. No one. Not a soul on the highway. Lickky D, the driver, yapped and pulled it back so that he could see the empty road unwinding behind them.
He put his foot down on the gas, hard: 45... 50... 55... 56...57... 57½...57¾...
In protest at being pushed to its limits, the engine sque-e-eaked and squealed, as if the little yellow car had several small screechy birds trapped under the dented bonnet.
As the sun rose high in the blue cloudless sky, BoBo saw Lickky D edging his black snout out of the open window to let the passing air catch behind his floppy lips.
‘Can you keep both paws on the wheel – and your eyes out front,’ said the young monkey.
‘Why?’ asked Lickky D, drawing his snout back in through the window.
‘Because... maybe... I’d just like to LIVE for a little bit LONGER! That’s all.’
The pitch feels more like a blurb to me, but it’s got appeal. I immediately want to know more.
The opening section is promising - strong characterisation emerging through smart dialogue, engaging images and a sense of purpose to the writing. My concern would be that the Booty and the Beasts idea isn’t sufficiently strong to carry an entire novel for an age-group for whom Beauty and the Beast references might seem a little passé. Puns can wear thin… but there’s every chance that this novel has much more to it than just the gag that inspired it.
A lonely princess is determined to turn a frog into a prince with a kiss so that they can live happily ever after. But what if the frog doesn't want to be kissed?
Picture book for children aged 4-7
Frog + Kiss = Prince
Prince + Princess = Happily Ever After
[Note: The princess reads these equations in a book in the royal schoolroom.]
"I am tired of being glum and lonely since forever," thought the princess, as she looked around the dreary royal schoolroom.
"I want to live Happily Ever After instead. To live Happily Ever After, I need a prince. To get a prince, I must kiss a frog."
My concern about the pitch is that the competition in this area of the market is very tough and that it doesn’t stand out as sufficiently different and original. I’m also always concerned about the target market for a picture book that depends on a knowledge of how fairy tales work. But the few lines submitted suggest a distinctive voice, and a princess with real personality, appealing to an older picture book market (4 to 7 years) which gives you more leeway to have fun with traditional fairy tale tropes. A promising start.
Thanks again Lindsey for your time and professional feedback! Opening Lines is a great exercise, for those who receive personal feedback above, and for all of us who want to learn what makes those killer lines.
Missed the first two Opening Lines with Lindsey Fraser? Read them here #1 and here 2#.
Hooked by the feedback? You can see more of Lindsey Fraser at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this summer.
Louisa Glancy is a features editor for Words & Pictures.
Twitter: @Louisa Glancy