3 S.R. Johannes: Teaser Tuesday: I need help!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: I need help!

Marketing Muse: Its a Librarians World

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Tuesday's Teaser

OK so I always see great posting about all of your new books and love reading them. I have never put my writing out there. I guess because I feel kinda vulnerable.

Am I crazy?

I mean what if you all hate it but don't want to tell me? What if you love it but hate to comment so all the comments are negative? What if the people who will love it dont' come today?

But I need help. So I have to just put it out there.

Past or Present, that is the question.

Do you like the book in present or past tense better? Or does it even matter? Before I ever query my book, I need to know. But I can't decide and have had different people pick each way.

OK so here goes (thanks in advance for your time in reading this.)

Be honest....

But be gentle :)

Gabby is a tween angel assigned to protect her high school rival, Angela. What’s worse, Angela is now dating Gabby’s pre-Transfer boyfriend. Soon, Gabby is put on probation by her Sky Agent for the three offenses: popping Angela's Wonder Bra, conducting an onion breath spell on Angela's first date with Michael, and influencing Angela to buy a pair of jeans that make her butt look big. But when Gabby continues her pranks and refuses to give up her mortal life, she sets off a series of “death changing” events and learns what can happen when you hate someone to death.

Present Tense (chapter 1/Copyright 2008)

Like all my birthday parties, my funeral is just plain boring. Nothing different. Nothing exciting.
Not exactly the final act I hoped for. Then again, I never expected this day to happen so soon.

First off, I hate elevator music, AKA crap tunes. I much prefer something a bit angrier. I’m also majorly bummed that my mom chose the hideous white pants that made my butt look as big as Texas. But then again, it didn’t really matter anymore. Except that now, I’m stuck with these pants for eternity. Lucky for me, white is cool where I’m going.

I balance on the open lid of my casket and watch all the tear-streaked strangers stream by my mortal form. The guest list freaks me out more than the music. I’m not only shocked at who has come, but how many. I am more popular dead, than alive. Who knew?

The strange, acne-infested kid from my Drama Class strolls up and starts to whimper. Weird. The kid never gave me the time of day so how can he be disturbed by my death? He’s probably hoping our Drama teacher notices and offers a lead role in the upcoming school play?

Ms. Cross, my World Religion teacher, comes up and whispers her respects. I betcha she feels guilty for giving me a D on my last test. Someday real soon, I’d probably be able to teach her a thing or two about “life after death”. That would definitely spice up her syllabus.

The snaking line parts and my mom stumbles through the sea of black polyester. She slumps over my mahogany box and sobs. Pain screams through my chest, forcing me to double-over. I remember what I learned in my Orientation Class. A downside of being a Bright is that we experience the pain of our loved ones, only 1,000 times more. Sometimes my mom’s agony gets so bad, it paralyzes me.

Now I know why every Brights hates it when a loved one mourns. Because we suffer too.

I clutch my chest and wait for the tide of agony to pass. Deep inside, I have a deep urge to cry with her. I’ve heard most Brights think their inability to cry is a total perk. But not me. I always loved a good cry. Not the whimpery kind. I’m talking about the all-out blubbering, snotty, suck-in-your-breath kind. The kind that - somehow – always makes you feel better.

Now, I’d give anything to have one last wail session.

One more thing I’m sure I’ll miss up here.

PAST Tense: (Just an exerpt of Chapter 1 so you can compare)

Like all my birthday parties, my funeral was just plain boring.
Not exactly what I expected as my final act.

First off, I hated the elevator music, AKA crap tunes. I much preferred something a bit angrier, like Muse. I was also majorly bummed that my mother choosing the hideous white pants that made my butt look as big as Texas. But then again, it doesn’t really matter anymore, does it? Except that I’m stuck with those pants for eternity. Lucky for me, white was in fashion where I was going.

I perched on the lid of my casket and observed all the tear-streaked strangers streaming by my mortal form. More than anything, the guest list totally freaked me out. Not only was I baffled by the people who showed up, but surprised by the sheer number, more than in my whole crummy town.

An acne-infested kid from my Drama Class strolled by and started to whimper. As I recall, the kid had never given me the time of day. Was he really that disturbed by my death? Or was he just hoping our Drama teacher would finally notice him and offer him a lead role in the school play?

Ms. Cross, my World Religion teacher, strolled by and whispered her respects. I bet she felt guilty for giving me a D on my last test. Now I betcha I could teach her a thing or two about “life after death”.

A few minutes later, the snaking line parted. My mom’s wilted body stumbled towards the front. She slumped over my mahogany box and sobbed. Pain screamed through my chest, forcing me to double-over. One downside of being a Bright was that you actually experienced the pain of your loved ones. Only 1,000 times more. Sometimes the agony was so bad, it paralyzed me.

The reason why Brights hated it when a loved one mourned. Because we suffered more.

I clutched my chest and waited for the tide of agony to pass. Deep inside, I felt an urge to cry with her. Some Brights thought their inability to cry was a total perk. Not me. I’d give anything to have one last wail session. I’m not talking about the whimpering kind, but the all-out blubbering, snotty kind. The kind that - somehow - always made you feel better.

Just one more thing I would miss up here.

What do you think? Past or present?


C.R. Evers said...

LOL! luv the nail bitting picture. :0) I understand the feeling.

I LOOOOVE the premise that she is assigned to her rival. Awesome!

Very compelling chapter! I think I like present tense better. I like experiencing the emotion as she does.

Don't worry, girl! This is good stuff!

Casey said...

I've always loved your blurb for this one! Great premise.

I tend to prefer past tense and I think I do for this, too. That said, I just went through this problem with my own MS and decided (with the help of my CP) to keep mine in present.

Do you feel like your story needs to be in-the-moment? Mine almost has to be, which was really the deciding factor. I'd probably do past tense unless it takes something away from the story.

Hopefully someone can offer more stable input, ha!

Kelly said...

That sounds like a cool story, Shelli!
I prefer the present tense.

Katie said...


Solvang Sherrie said...

Present. Maybe it's just because you had present first, but I felt so much more in tune with the story in present tense. And your opening lines are great in the present tense. They lose something when they go to past.

There are some repeated words and phrases that need to be edited out, but the basic premise is good. I'm liking it!

Corey Schwartz said...

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! Might be the best first line ever, Shelli! Usually I don't like present tense but it seem to work with this story.

Lisa and Laura said...

I prefer past tense, but present tense doesn't bother me at all. To be honest, I don't really notice the tense at all as long as the story is compelling. We actually started our book in present tense and had to go back and change it. It just wasn't working for us.

Love the premise here! Nice work.

Lisa Schroeder said...

I know there are some people out there who hate present tense, but I am not one of them. I love it and write in it all the time. Okay, not all the time. Half the time? Anyway, I definitely like the present tense better. Fun premise! I have an angel story in my files that I pull out every once in awhile, fiddle with it, then file it back away. Sigh.

Kelly H-Y said...

Oh my goodness ... love the premise of your story ... it's going to be GOOD!!!! I think I'd go with Present Tense!

PJ Hoover said...

Great stuff! And present tense all the way! It works well with death!

Vivian said...

It usually takes me awhile to adjust to reading present tense, but this was a fast and fun read! Nice pacing and voice. I vote for present tense.

The Other Jen said...

I think present tense can sound unnatural but works well in this scene because of your premise. Your narrator is not in the action herself, but reporting on what she's watching -- a kind of play by play commentary.
Once your MC is actually doing something, you might want to try past. Unless you're not allowed to mix your tenses up within the same book?

Bonnie A said...

I vote for present--we're discovering things about her new "life" right along with her.

Heidi said...

Great voice! Great premise!
I vote a big strong PRESENT. It definitely moves the story faster, feels more immediate, and a bit edgier.

Leigh Brescia said...

OMG. I came here hoping to offer some writerly advice, and I can't even pick between the two! Honestly? They both work for me. And the premise? It sounds fab!! Let me know when it's out 'cause I'm buying!

Tabitha said...

First off, great premise! I love the idea of the first assignment and protection and such.

Personally, I don't think the present tense works. In general, I'm not a fan, but I think that's because I've seen too much of it that doesn't work. There are a few examples, however, that are stellar, like JENNA FOX and THE SPECTACULAR NOW. Both of those stories are definitely in-the-moment, and present tense really makes the story.

In this one, I'm not feeling the necessity. The main character seems to already know a lot about life after death already, so I feel that we're not in her moment, so to speak. In Jenna Fox, Jenna was discovering who she was and what had happened to her, and present tense really worked with that. But this main character already knows more about life after death than we know...so how are we in her moment? :)

I think your present tense version has had more work than the past tense, so it feels more polished. Still, I vote for past. I realize I'm in the minority here, but I think it'll have a greater impact on your reader.

But hey, it's your story and your decision, because you know it better than any of us. :)

RM1(SS) (ret) said...

Love the first paragraph! When do I get to read the rest of the story?

Add me to the list of people who normally prefer past tense, but like the present tense better in this particular case.

Windsong said...

Love the premise. The opening reminds me a bit of Vamped. Personally, my prejudice is going to come in here and say that I really do not enjoy reading present tense. Past tense is normal to my brain, and if I'm going to be doing something relaxing like reading, I want to relax. I loved your exerpt though!

Shelli said...

Everyone - thanks for all your great feedback _ i REALLY appreciate the time you took to read and comment.

this is actually the preface then I skip forward a few months.

I am thinking maybe put this in past and then the rest of book in prsent since you go with her.

jonyangorg said...

I think I prefer past tense on this one, to add to the minority vote. Both are pretty good and worked for me but maybe it just felt more normal in past tense and the immediacy in present didn't add that much for me?

Great idea!

Christina Farley said...

Oh I loved this except. How fun! Great story. I always find myself writing in past but I enjoy either past or present. I think the present gives you the now feel. Like its happening at that moment and you're experiencing it with the mc and that can be powerful.

Between the two, I'd have to say present tense. Your writing style and the way the story is being revealed makes present tense so rich.

Have fun with it either way!

jessie said...

I'm a little late, but I cast my vote for past. I see what Tabitha is saying about discovering along with your MC in present tense. So, I think if the rest of the book is like you said, "going with her" then present tense will work. I loved it, btw.

Kim Kasch said...

I like living in the present - just wanted to get my .02 in.


Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

I wanna keep reading more!! Great story. I vote present tense.

beth said...

I vote for present tense--but I am biased because I'm writing in present tense right now, and everything other than that feels weird to me!

Rita J. Webb said...

Great story. Very well done. You've got a strong writing voice.

I preferred present tense in this particular case.