Friday, August 19, 2011

First Page Friday

I hope you’re all having a wonderful week. I just love First Page Fridays, don’t you? Let’s get right to it today.

The Entry
by Jessica Patterson

I got a phone call this last week that I’ve been expecting for the last few months. One of those phone calls. My friend Billy was on the other end of the line and hearing him made me want to run out my back door barefoot through the dirt over to the ponds. But the two inch thick calluses on my feet that got me through then were gone and I had no backdoor to go out anyway.

“He’s gone Mona.” I can’t explain it physiologically, but I’m pretty sure there is a phenomenon where a human’s internal organs can combust and be absent from the human body completely, then ten seconds later miraculously reform.

“Does it feel different?”


“Just pretend you are in touch with your emotions and feeling loquacious. What is it like not to have him there?”


“Just because you don’t choose to use it very often doesn’t mean I don’t know you know the English language Billy. Just answer my question. So there was no earth shuddering or volcanic eruptions or stars falling from the sky or thunder or at least some dark clouds?”

“The weather was fine Mona.” I didn’t believe him.

“I just think that the town would feel a little colder or more hopeless – or maybe a little less cosmopolitan.”


“Do you miss him? I miss him a lot.”

Ms. Shreditor’s Comments

This sample has a lot going for it. The dialogue establishes a real intimacy between Billy and Mona. We know from the opening paragraph that they are friends, but the dialogue tells the real tale. These two people know one another very well, and they have known one another a long time. There is a natural flow to their dialogue.

At first, I didn't know how to feel about the use of "loquacious"; even given the subsequent explanation, it felt somewhat forced. Is Mona fond of using "big words"? Does Billy make a habit of downplaying his own intelligence? This could be a character-establishing detail, but as presented it's a bit confusing. I did, however, like Mona's comment about Billy's choice not to use the English language very often; after all, by this point Billy has only spoken five words. He is, it would seem, economical with language. (And we all know how fond I am of economy of language.)

I particularly liked the text that follows "He's gone, Mona." (Notice the inserted comma here.) There are some places where I would rephrase (e.g., "be absent from the human body completely"), but I like this sort of introspection. We learn a lot about what Mona is feeling without ever being told explicitly. Instead of saying something like "I felt shocked," which would get the job done but likely bore the reader, she resorts to metaphor to convey her shock.

I'm having a hard time getting a "read" on this story, though, if you'll pardon the expression. I can't guess at where this story is going. Is it a romance between Mona and Billy? Who is "he," and why is he gone? If Mona has just learned that "he" is gone, how can she miss him a lot already? It's difficult to understand her viewpoint when what she's responding to is still so unclear.

The page could use a good copy edit. There is some missing or incorrect punctuation and some awkward word choice in places. Tightening up some of the syntax would make for a smoother read.

One final suggestion: Instead of establishing that this phone conversation happened last week, why not just start the story at the time of the phone call? Starting with a blow-by-blow flashback of an earlier conversation doesn't quite work for me. A slight shift in timeline would allow the reader to jump in at the moment of impact.

Thank you, Jessica for submitting, and thank you Ms. Shreditor for your time. As always, I’m so grateful to everyone for their participation. See you next week!


Melanie Goldmund said...

Don't forget to line up your dialogue tags with the right dialogue! When I read this line:

"He's gone Mona." I can't explain it physiologically, but ...

I thought that the POV character was saying "He's gone, Mona," (Yes, I noticed the lack of comma, too) and my first reaction was, "Hang on, didn't I just read that it was Billy who called up? Why is this person addressing Mona?" Then I realized that Mona was the name of the POV character, and that Billy was speaking. The line beginning "I can't explain it" should be in a new, separate paragraph.

Completely unrelated to this critique, I sent you an entry for the First Page Friday about two weeks ago, Julie, on the 10th and haven't heard back yet. Did you get it, or did it end up in some spam folder somewhere? Should I send it again?

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

I got it, Melanie, and I emailed you about it just now. Thanks so much for submitting! :)