Friday, October 19, 2012

First Page Friday

I am so glad it's Friday, not only because it's been a long week, but because it's First Page Friday!  I'd like to thank Joshua and Ms. Shreditor for their efforts today.  I learned a lot!  If you'd like your first page critiqued please submit your double-spaced, 12 pt. font first page to juliecoulterbellon@gmail.com

See you next week!


The Entry
Origin of Storms
by Joshua Berry

       

          Rolling thunder frightened the people of Taylor Springs to near panic. The strength of its voice even shook the bones of those lying in the town cemetery. People all around predicted the very next day would bring the end of the world. Following another burst of lightning across a darkened sky a clap of thunder was accompanied by human screams. Then, without further preamble, the lights of Taylor Springs, every one, went dark.
            Mike Cannon walked through his darkened bedroom. He retrieved a flashlight and made his way to a cupboard where he stored several candles. He lit one to illuminate a cluttered kitchen. The clutter didn't include dirty dishes, however. Mike was good to keep dishes washed. He didn't want small rodents roaming around. Pouring a glass of water he considered the people of Taylor Springs. Why did they believe the world would end the next day? He thought it was total nonsense.
            Kaleb Browning's many conversations with his brother-in-law about the end of the world always ended the same. Even before he'd married Michelle Cannon he and her brother, Mike, had engaged in spirited dialogue concerning the earth's final days. So many events of nature spoke clearly of the earth's end. And Kaleb believed something else of which he wasn't shy about telling others. Satan had control of the earth and when all was finished it would belong to him.
            The sin of the earth's inhabitants would mark their downfall, Kaleb believed. He'd been taught as a child the earth was created by someone who loved him very much. This creator did only good things and believed in peace in the world. But Kaleb saw death at every turn, destruction along every path, and he knew Satan, the author of all evil, had taken control. The hold wouldn't be relinquished easily because the people on the earth favored his ways. They were easy to live and the people felt comfortable in their grasp. But the deception could only lead the people to one thing, eternal damnation.


Ms. Shreditor's Comments


This first page has good bones, but it needs some developmental editing to bring forth the bits that will make the most compelling beginning. Once the thunder has rolled and the lights have gone out, we meet Mike Cannon briefly before the story shifts to Kaleb Browning’s point of view. While we learn next to nothing about Mike, we learn a great deal about Kaleb.

Having multiple narrators on the first page creates a lot of confusion, so I would consider separating the two throughout the book. The best option would be to separate Mike and Caleb into separate chapters. I get the impression that this story will highlight two men with vastly different perspectives. To convey this dichotomy effectively, make sure that each character gets enough face time for the reader to forge a meaningful connection.

The first paragraph makes effective use of sound as a suspense-building agent. However, this section also leaves the reader wondering why the townspeople are predicting the apocalypse tomorrow, and even Kaleb’s thoughts in the fourth paragraph don’t illuminate why people are homing in on a specific day. Is the world in such a shambles that the apocalypse seems imminent? All we know from the text is that the thunder is rolling and the power has gone out, but this doesn’t seem noteworthy on a global scale.

Try to avoid extraneous details as a general rule, but particularly on the first page. When we meet Mike, he responds to the power outage by lightning candles and then goes on a tangent about dirty dishes and rodents. Then he pours a glass of water and ponders the mass hysteria. It feels a bit disorganized as is. The most important thing we learn about Mike comes at the end of the paragraph, when he questions why people are so convinced the world is about to end.

As you continue to write this story, consider some of the aforementioned issues. Allow one character at a time to command the narrative, as head-hopping creates reader confusion. The opening paragraph has the right idea; it serves up an eerie setting and sets the plot in motion with the power outage. The challenge will be stringing together a cohesive story that successfully interweaves two characters’ narratives. 

4 comments:

Charlie Moore said...

Thank you so much for the counsel and suggestions. I will definitely be making changes moving forward to better this first page and the story in whole. Thank you, Julie, for your tireless efforts.

Jon Spell said...

I had to re-read the 3rd paragraph opening several times, trying to figure out whose point of view it was. If you'd put an ellipses at the end of the 2nd paragraph, it might have helped. I'm no editor, but I'd switch around the 2nd sentence in the 3rd Paragraph.
>>He and Mike had engaged [...] even before Mike became his brother in law.<< (You know, I was having trouble trying to write "before Mike married his sister" without it sounding bad. )

I relate to Mike better - sometimes I feel like the only sane person in a building full of crazies. And then I go home, and suddenly I'm the crazy one. Circle of life.

I don't know if this was intentional, but Browning and Cannon both make me think of firearms. There's something about the descriptors in the first paragraph that makes me feel like it's an Old West town. Is there a saloon?

Ok, last comment. I find the sentence that begins "Then, without further preamble" amusing, because that segment is a preamble. =) (But I may be crazy, but not as crazy as Rob.)

Debra Allen Erfert said...

I go back and read my first few manuscripts and notice that I head hop practically every other paragraph. I really like the stories, but rewriting will be a tough road. If I knew then what I know now . . . *sighs* I guess we all need to figure it out, and having an expert like Ms. Shreditor give us a great critique is priceless.

Rob said...

I found myself thinking 'Old West' too, especially with the opening paragraphs, which I thought were great at establishing atmosphere.

I definitely agree that the two different characters' perspectives are too closely entwined to read easily at the moment, but I'm sure that's the kind of thing that would be easier to fix than it might at first seem, whether you choose to switch between them on a chapter by chapter basis, or prefer to use some other method of separating them more obviously.

Good luck!