Friday, July 22, 2011

First Page Friday

Welcome back to First Page Friday. I hope you’re having a wonderful week!

Before we get to the critique, I wanted to mention to always remember to look for the positives that you are given in any critique first, before you look at and consider the parts that need improving. If you do that, it makes everything a little easier.

The Entry

Ocean Wylde

by S.L. Seele.

The only sounds to penetrate Ocean’s conscious thoughts were the rhythmic thump, thump, thump of leather on wood and the raspy echo of her lungs sucking air. If she were going to make a break for it, it had to be now. She faked right, spun left, then angled back in three long strides and leapt into the air, her right arm stretching beyond its limits. An intense pain shot up her arm. The oversized goon that guarded her caught her hard; a sickening smirk creased his face. Ocean landed with a thud and grasped her stinging wrist. She looked up to see an orange blur circle once, twice, then in.

Yes. Fouled on the shot!

Ocean stood at the foul line, took the shot and…swish – nothin’ but net. She repeated the process with her second shot.

“Good job, Wylde,” the coach called. “And, Olsen, that’s what separates first string from second.”

Ocean just smiled when Tyler Olsen glared at her.

“That’s it, hit the showers ladies. Um…men…I mean, not you Wylde,” the coach stammered. “I’ll make sure they leave the girls locker room open for you from now on.”

Ocean waved him off. “I’m good, Coach. See ya Monday.”

She strode toward the bleachers on the far side of the gym and Reg rose to meet her. He raised his arm and Ocean leapt to reach his hand in a high-five, their arms continuing on to clap low behind them.

“That was wicked!” he told her.

“That’s how I roll.” Ocean pulled herself up to her full five feet, but turned a bit pink around her ears when Reg smiled down at her. She grabbed her backpack off the bleachers and they headed for the exit.

Ms. Shreditor’s Comments

The first paragraph could use some revision here. It begins rather abruptly, with sounds interrupting Ocean’s thoughts, and leaves the reader feeling disoriented. Who is Ocean? Why is leather thumping against wood? (At this point, the reader can’t know that it’s the sound of a basketball against the court.) Why is Ocean so winded? Instead of answering these questions in short order, the first paragraph presents an action sequence that is a bit hard to follow. Instead of building momentum, it slows the reader down as he/she tries to visualize the rapid-fire choreography. This is exactly what you don’t want to happen in your opening lines. The reader should be picking up speed, not slowing down.

The dialogue between Ocean and Reg feels somewhat forced. We have some Bostonian lingo (“‘wicked’”) and some pseudo-urbanspeak (“‘That’s how I roll’”). I get the impression that this mish-mash of vernacular is supposed to function as banter, but I have strong feelings about banter. Good banter is an art form. It has to entertain the reader while feeling completely natural. It has to flow; it can’t just be a stringing together of lingo. I can recommend some national authors who excel at it, but I’m not as familiar with the LDS bantersmiths. I’ll defer to Julie on that one. In any event, this patch of dialogue could use some tweaking to create more natural repartee.

Be careful to stick with either third-person limited or third-person omniscient. In the last paragraph, Ocean turns “a bit pink around the ears.” She can’t see this for herself, so this feels like a shift to an all-seeing, godlike narrator.

I really enjoy the interplay between Ocean and her coach. It would be nice to know his name, even if just his last name at this juncture; “the coach” makes him feel remote. Since this is, I assume, a third-person limited narrative, I imagine Ocean would think of him as “Coach [last name].” Anyway, we learn from subtle dialogue that Ocean is the only girl on a guy’s basketball team. We learn from her pink ears (more on those later) that she has a thing for Reg. There is, in other words, a whole lot of showing and not much telling, which is the way it should be.

Thank you to Ms. Shreditor and to Ms. Seele for participating. It is so helpful for every writer to see a general idea of how to build a first page that editors and agents will love. As for the banter issues, LDS or not, do you have an author you like who is a natural at banter?

See you next week!


Debra Erfert said...

Ms. Shreditor hit everything I would have.

I'll add just a couple of things. First: I love the name Ocean. It's so creative yet easy to pronounce, like Apple, Sky, or Sunshine.

Second: When I read the opening paragraph I imagined someone running, and when I read a little farther and I realized it was about a basketball game, I thought that it should've been the "rhythmic thump . . . of rubber on wood" as in the shoe impacting the game floor. I never thought about the leather ball being dribbled. Its strange how our (the reader's) minds word, isn't it?

YA banter? I know nothing about that, even back when I was a youth. ;)

Good luck with your manuscript, Ms. Seele. Thank you Ms. Shreditor for a great critique. I learn from each one you give us.

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

You know I wondered when I read the name Ocean if it was going to be a paranormal. It is an unusual name.

And I was glad Ms. Shreditor pointed out there was a lot of great showing in the scene. I enjoyed it! :)

Ms. Shreditor said...

I apologize for my somewhat disjointed thoughts this week. It's been quite a week in Shreditorland, editorially speaking. I said in the last paragraph "more on those later" about Ocean's pink ears, but I moved my comments about her ears before that paragraph. My apologies for the error!