Welcome back to First Page Friday!
Today we are excited to have an entry from our own Jon Spell. Here it is!
by Jon Spell
Rudy gazed thoughtfully at the darkening world just outside his house. It was that peaceful time as the last light from the sun withdrew from the woods. He sat in his old recliner, tapping his pen on his teeth. He was unaware of the stealthy presence in his own house.
Rudy reached over to turn off the lamp to better see outside and saw his own reflection in the window. What he saw startled him, leaving him with his hand outstretched, fingers questing for the lamp's switch. He saw himself in the mirror every day, but this visage didn't look right. It was like looking at a caricature; he could see the resemblance, but it just wasn't quite right. Must be a distortion in the window. He shook his head and left the lamp on. Reflections at dusk prompted inward reflections. How might his life have gone had he taken a different path? "There must be a story in that," Rudy thought, getting excited. Not just the road less traveled, but the fast-paced highway he had never been on, where he had never seen any of the exits or destinations. At best, he'd flown over them and saw others who resided there. Rudy leaned forward to get his trusty legal pad, knowing this would make a good column for his readers, but found that he was stuck and couldn't move.
Ms. Shreditor’s Comments
There is a certain stillness to this narrative. The first page keeps our narrator firmly rooted in his recliner, a character-building sort of inertia. With this stillness, though, comes a lack of narrative momentum. The story begins passively, with Rudy gazing thoughtfully outside, and he remains pensive in his chair for the duration. There needs to be a stronger hook. There is plenty of time in a novel for introspection about what might have been, but the extended highway metaphor muddies the story at its crucial opening juncture. Dealing so heavily in metaphor so early on pulls readers away from a character before they learn anything of substance about him.
We do learn some important things about Rudy in these opening paragraphs, though: that he is a dreamer rather than a do-er, that he spends more time writing about life than he does living it. Still, what is the driving force of this story? Is getting stuck to the chair a pivotal moment or symbolic of his general passiveness? Why does the story begin here? The reader doesn't need to know it all after the first page, but he or she should have at least a vague idea of where the story is headed.
The central narrative question (“How might his life have gone if he had taken a different path?”) is compelling. It's the stuff of great stories. But, as stated, it feels somewhat cliché. You might consider recasting this question so that it feels fresher.
The writing itself is quite strong. The sparse descriptions help establish setting without inundating the reader with extraneous adjectives, and the varied sentence length gives the prose a natural rhythm—the kind of rhythm you might expect from authors who take the time to read the occasional paragraph aloud. Also, the distorted reflection was a really compelling device.
The bones for a meaty story are here, and the sample makes evident that the author has the writing skills to carry out the vision. The first page just needs some tweaks to make that vision clearer and hook the reader/editor/agent.
Thank you again for your entries and for the time Ms. Shreditor takes to help us each week. I know I’m definitely learning a lot from her comments (even though they're for other people!) and I think it’s making my own work in progress stronger.
See you next week!