Friday, November 11, 2011

First Page Friday

My heart is a little tender today because it is Veteran’s Day (or Remembrance Day if you’re Canadian). My sons got up early to go and put flags in our neighborhood yards. It’s such a grand sight to drive down the street and see those flags waving from every yard, like small sentinels watching over all who pass.

There are so many things running through my mind--being grateful for sacrifice, remembering my own relatives who have served, and love for those left behind. This video seems to capture everything I'm feeling today, so if you have five minutes to watch it, I think it's worth your time. Click here

I did think about not posting First Page Friday today, because of the significance of the day, but I didn't want to disappoint anyone who has been waiting for their critique, so here it is. For all my new readers, First Page Friday is where a national editor critiques the first page of your work, to help you make it the very best it can be. Guidelines for submission are in the sidebar, and the entries are critiqued in the order in which they are received, so thank you for your patience!

The Entry
Blessed by Venus

by Mazna Mundir

It was a beautiful misty November morning. The sun was just coming up. It was the crack of dawn. The Los Angeles skyline was naturally glorious at this time. The environment was extremely beautiful as the dew drenched trees and flowers were smiling at a magnificent morning. The neighborhood of Eagle Rock was just stirring up from a good night’s sleep with the chirping of the birds. Well, not all of them. A young girl, about nineteen years of age, was walking alone up the street leading to St. Mary’s Tower.

She was a pretty, average built girl who had dark chestnut brown hair and hazel eyes. She looked extremely tired. Once inside the apartment building she walked to apartment number 17 and entered. She dropped her keys and her coat on the table and went straight to bed without even removing her clothes. But just as she climbed on the bed the phone rang. Letting out a sigh of exasperation she picked it up. However all her annoyance at the disturbance evaporated as she heard Michael’s voice on the other end.

“Hi Mike, what’ up?”

“Thank god, you’re not asleep! I tried your mobile earlier but it was switched off.” Said

“Yeah, I just came home. I was working late for that presentation I’m doing. So why do you call?” said Genelle.

“Yeah, Gen can you drop by later? I’ve finished work on that article you asked me for.”

“Ok, I’ll come over. Thanks Mike.” Said Genelle yawning widely.

“Ok, see you at six then. And good luck for your presentation by the way.”

“Thanks, bye” said Genelle hanging up the phone. Stretching and yawning she fell on the bed and was instantly asleep.

Ms. Shreditor’s Comments

What this page lacks for me is identity. Where is this story’s pulse? What are its central conflicts? It’s important that the readers sense these things early on; otherwise, there will be nothing to compel them to read past the first page. Instead of drawing the reader into the story with a point of narrative impact or attention-grabbing first line, this story opens with a daytime version of “it was a dark and stormy night.” The first lines need to deliver more.

The characters also need a dose of identity. We don’t learn anything of substance about Genelle beyond what she looks like. Readers will need to identify with her on some level, and to do that they must first know something crucial about her. Even her job status is unclear. What does she do for a living? Why would she have to pick up an article at Mike’s place? Wouldn’t he e-mail it to her?

Be careful not to overwrite, as this can cloud meaning. Take this sentence as an example: “The environment was extremely beautiful as the dew drenched trees and flowers were smiling at a magnificent morning.” I understand the intention here: to describe just how beautiful sunrise in Los Angeles can be. It would be more effective to say so with just a few descriptive words, rather than introduce somewhat awkward personification (i.e., flowers smiling). Try not to fog up your writing with flowery turns of phrase like this. If you’ll pardon the cliché, sometimes less is more.

Think of the authors you love most in this world. What is it about their writing that strikes you? What effect do you want your story to have on readers? My recommendation is to try a new narrative approach. Start the story with a pivotal event or at a key emotional juncture for Genelle. Right now, this first page starts with a sunrise and ends with the main character falling asleep, and only a few lines of small talk bridge these two non-events. Strive for more intensity. Think about what you know that the readers don’t and insinuate, insinuate, insinuate. Give them enough to capture their attention, but not enough to leave them with a sense of resolution. Instead, make them crave resolution, and don't give it to them until the very end. This is how you turn a first-page reader into a full-story reader.

Thank you so much to everyone who participated today. It is appreciated.

And to our veterans and families, you are never forgotten.


Janice Sperry said...

Just a tiny thing to point out - "Hey Gen," said Mike. Comma before quotation followed by said. It's all part of one sentence.

This sounds like a pretty rough draft to me. I did catch some tension when Mike said he tried to call her. Why was he anxious? Focus on this more than the weather. Never start with the weather unless it's pelting flaming hail at your MC. (which would actually be pretty cool)

Show that your character is tired. Have her drag her feet or trip over something.

Good luck!

Gina said...

Ms. Shreditor nails it! :)

Debra Erfert said...

Spot on, Ms. Shreditor!

It took me a little while to actually get back to the blog after I watched your video, Julie. I couldn't cry and read the critique at the same time. I had uncles in Viet Nam, and my brother was a marine, as was my brother-in-law. I have friends with sons in the service, so this whole war hits close to home. You did a great job in bringing Veteran's Day/Remembrance Day to our hearts. We should remember our servicemen and women everyday and not just on special occasions. Thank you!

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Thanks, Deb. I admit, I cried, too.

Thanks to everyone for their support and comments. You make blogging so totally worth it. :)

Sarah Pearson said...

Late again. Just wanted to say how proud you must be of your sons Julie.