I'm excited for a whole new year of First Page Fridays. We still have openings in February, so submit your first page now! (Directions in the side bar).
Let's get on to today's submission.
Bucket List of Hope
by Debra Erfert
“I changed my mind!”
The tornado-like wind tore the panicked words from my lips the moment I spoke them. The plane’s open door, where the experienced skydivers already jumped from, looked innocent enough when six grown men sat between IT and me. But now the huge, gaping hole seemed monstrously evil. It laughed at me, like it knew my irrational terror as I stared down at the geometric patches of green and brown landscape with my stomach crammed up my throat. I moved to grab the doorframe. The diving instructor attached to my back had other ideas.
We fell from 13,000 feet.
The icy wind stabbed at my skin, keeping me from passing out. I had no choice but to greet death with my eyes open—head on. I looked up. A man from the dive company pointed to his helmet and then waved. My brain clicked on. I paid extra money to have my first experience recorded. With my face pushed back into a perpetual, flapping sudo-smile by the freefall wind, I waved back at the guy. He gave me a thumbs-up sign. I gestured him right back.
Jerry, or Gary, my over-enthusiastic diving instructor, took hold of my wrist and led my fist to a ball. I unclenched my hand and pulled. My backpack fell apart—and then swooshed . . . our parachute opened, stopping our freefall into a gentle descent. That intense fear of dying I had for the past sixty-seconds vanished, and just like that I remembered everything they briefed me on in the pre-jump class.
Above my head, I grabbed the steering toggles in my fists and gently pulled down on the right. I laughed, as we turned clockwise. I tried turning in the other direction. No problem. My heart raced, beating with a freedom that escaped my tenuous grasp for the twenty-seven years of my life.
Ms. Shreditor's Comments
It seems we’re off to a great start this year. This week’s sample definitely has my attention. Opening with dialogue can be a risky maneuver, but in this case, it’s quite effective.
I often take first pages to task for not telling us enough about the narrator, but in this case, the sparse characterization works. The page-turning action generates plenty of momentum on its own. We don’t know anything about this narrator, but we can infer certain things from cues in the text. The voice strikes me as female. If I had to guess, I’d say that this opening scene signifies a moment of real empowerment for a previously inhibited young woman. The story tells us that, at age twenty-seven, the narrator never done anything like this.
Be careful with past tense. There are a few instances of the simple past (“verbed”) that should be expressed in past perfect (“had [verb]ed”). Examples: 1) “…where the experienced divers had already jumped from,” 2) “That intense fear of dying I’d had for the past sixty seconds…,” 3) “I had paid extra money to have my first experience recorded,” and 4) “…a freedom that had escaped my tenuous grasp for the twenty-seven years of my life.” In each of these instances, you’re describing something that happened before something else, so use of the past perfect is necessary.
There are other minor syntactic hiccups that a light copyedit would resolve. But the author accomplishes something important here: natural prose rhythm (thanks to varied sentence length). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It shows when an author reads his/her work aloud.
One last question: Did you mean “pseudo-smile” instead of “sudo-smile”? Just checking!
Thanks so much Debra and Ms. Shreditor. I think we're off to a great start, too. See you next week!