This is the first 400 words of Thrill of the Chase, by Christina Crooks.
Powering up through the gears, Sarah felt all the muscles in her body tighten with readiness and excitement before the two turns.
I like this beginning. I only have two nit picks. (And I’m famous for nit picking, so just ignore me.) The first nit pick is the word ‘felt’. Since we’re in her POV, we don’t really have to know she felt her muscles tighten... if her muscles are tightening, we know she’s feeling it. So, if I were to reword, I’d say, “Powering up through the gears, all the muscles in Sarah’s body tightened…”
Now the second nit pick is there is just a little bit of ‘telling’ in here. Now the best case would be for us as readers to be able to figure out she’s excited by her muscles tightening. I *think* we could figure this out, so I would try to get rid of the telling part, and just say “Powering up through the gears, all the muscles in Sarah’s body tightened before the two turns.” This shows excitement and readiness, so we don’t need to be told that. But, like I said, super nit picky and this is just the first sentence so I’ll go on to read more.
She gripped her Mustang’s custom wood-lacquered shift knob with one hand, the thick steering wheel with the other. Though the late-morning traffic was light, she checked her side mirrors twice and carefully scanned from left to right through her windshield, alert for any movement. There were no cars nearby. And, of course, no pedestrians. Nobody walked in Huntington Beach’s industrial-zoned “automotive alley.”
Ah, so I thought she was racing. Nice fake out. If you wanted to continue with it a little more, I’d like it even better.
My only other nit pick would by the adverb. “Carefully scanned” is redundant, in my opinion. If you say, “…she checked her side mirrors twice and scanned from left to right…” I as the reader can tell she’s scanning carefully for any movement. Do you ever scan for movement sloppily? No. But that’s really nit picky, so I’ll keep reading. I try not to be too much of an Adverb Nazi. I’m interested to see where this is going.
Jerking the steering wheel to the right then pulling it smoothly left, simultaneously heel-toeing the clutch and brake pedals with the edge of her running shoe, she felt her car’s tires break free from the pavement’s friction. The car slid sideways.
Now here I do get the impression that she’s racing again.
Maintaining the throttle pressure to keep her wheels spinning, she steered into the same direction she slid. She spotted the large, faded red letters of Big Red’s Auto Performance Shop’s sign out of the corner of her eye.
So, she’s racing to the Auto Performance shop? Maybe she’s late for work.
Right on target.
The four-wheel drift positioned her to race up the exact middle of the entrance to the shop’s parking lot.
With a satisfying screech of tires, she floored the gas to gather more speed, then whipped her car into the second and final turn.
Another four-wheel drift, pressing her back into the firm, curved racing seats she’d installed. She grinned as she piloted the sideways-hurtling car with an instinctive touch, lifting off the gas pedal and feathering the brakes to bleed off her speed.
The yellow Mustang slid to a halt. It was positioned perfectly in the middle of her parking space.
I liked the racing feeling of this. My only suggestion would be to take out the indicators that she’s not really in a race, until we get to this point. Then it would be a better fake out, in my opinion. But good nonetheless. We do get a nice grasp on the feeling of the book with this opening.
“Yes!” Energized, she leapt out of the car. Another day’s commute concluded.
I’d take out the word ‘energized’ here, just because we can totally tell from her dialogue and actions that she’s energized, and it’s important to cut unnecessary words. It tightens up the writing.
Now let me talk about the hook here. I like the feeling the author has created with the race talk, but now that she’s at work, the little bit of excitement is over. Now I’m looking for something else to hook me.
Sarah pushed the building’s tinted front door open, humming. She jogged through the shop’s retail area, neither seeing nor expecting to see anyone manning the front desk.
The jogging is a little strange to me. Usually people don’t jog around the work place. But I can get past that. I’m being terribly hard on the author.
Matt was probably in the back again, complaining to the technicians. He pretended to be a gearhead, but she knew they saw through it. What he should be doing was unpacking and stocking those magazine shipments she saw lining the front wall in boxes, or cleaning the grimy glass display case. He should be sitting on that padded stool answering the ringing phone. Her dad hadn’t hired him to hang out.
Matt must not be Sarah’s love interest. (Yes, I’ve read the description of this book.)
She shrugged. Matt didn’t know a 9/16th from a hole in the ground, but he wasn’t her main problem.
Hmm, now we get somewhere. Who is her main problem? I’m guessing it’s her love interest. I do like a good unrequited love story, so I would probably go on to read more and see where this goes. But if her main problem turns out to be someone else, I might lose interest. So, for me, this is a mild hook right here at the end. If we get to see some conflict between her and her crush, I would be hooked even more. Great job, Christina!
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