Friday, January 11, 2013

First Page Friday

Well, it's a snowy January day.  What better way to spend it than gleaning writing tips from First Page Friday!

As always, I would like to thank Ms. Shreditor and all the authors who submit their work so we all can learn.  See you next week!

The Entry

by John Forsythe

He put his right hand into the scanner as the electronic voice instructed. He felt the warmth of the machine as it scanned not just his fingerprints but his palm print as well. He hated the next part, and he winced just as he always did as the metallic teeth, like a saw blade, scratched from the base of his palm all the way to the tips of his fingers. The teeth peeled the top layer of skin off his hand—a precaution against anyone trying to beat the fingerprint scanner with some kind of synthetic.

What you are guarding is more dangerous than nuclear weapons…

Next was the retinal scan, first the regular, then a blast of cold air almost hard enough to push him back from the scanner, drying out his eye and forcing him to hold his eye open with his fingers to make sure his eye didn’t close. If it closed, he wouldn’t be able to continue. He would have to go in for an hour of training on the check-in procedures. Thankfully, his eye stayed open, and the door unsealed. He yanked on the door, knowing he had only five seconds before the door snapped shut again with enough force to cut a man in half. It took two seconds to get the door open, and another second and a half to get through. If you were slow, you were either dead or you had to start the check-in process again.

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

This is a really compelling first page overall. I found myself wondering what the narrator might be guarding and shocked at the extreme security checkpoints through which he had to pass. Particularly horrifying was the machinery that peeled off the top layer of skin on his hand. This did raise one question for me: How often does he pass through this checkpoint? Wouldn’t a hand get pretty raw if the top layer of skin were removed often? I’ll admit that I’m not well versed in security technology.

For the most part, the writing in this piece flows really nicely. It’s evident to me that the author A) has a knack for language and syntax, and B) has edited this thoroughly. Aside from a punctuation tweak here and there, I think my red pen (or, perhaps more accurate, tracked changes in Microsoft Word) would remain fairly quiet on this first page.

I only tripped over the rhythm in one place: the first paragraph. Here, we have three consecutive sentences that begin with “he” + [verb]. If you read this aloud to yourself, you’ll hear the inadvertent choppiness that this structural repetition creates. You might try identifying the narrator by name in the first sentence to eliminate one “he.” You might also recast one or both of the subsequent sentences for variety—e.g., “The machine warmed his hand as it scanned not just his fingerprints but his palm print as well” and/or “The next part made him wince: Metallic teeth, like a saw blade, scratched from the base of his palm all the way to his fingertips.”

Lastly, watch out for word repetition. In the third paragraph, there are four occurrences of the word “door” in three sentences. I’d recommend revising to eliminate some of that repetition.

If this first page is a reflection of the state of the rest of the manuscript, I think it’s pretty close to ready. It sets up some pretty high stakes with the mysterious object that is more dangerous than nuclear weapons. Because the story is action-oriented, it sustains a suspenseful pace right out of the gate. Well done!

4 comments: said...

Excellent feedback Julie! You gave me things to improve while also offering some positives to keep me going. You are greatly appreciated!

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

John, I give all the credit to an excellent editor on the East Coast whom we all affectionately call Ms. Shreditor. Thanks for submitting! :)

Janice Sperry said...

I had to wonder about the condition of his hand after getting the skin peeled back too. I assume medical technology is so amazing, it just heals right away? Maybe you could add a line where his hand is put back together so not even his palm print changed. Other than that, very nice.

Debra Allen Erfert said...

I'd suggest that the scanner would "instinctively" track a different part of the hand each time, therefore it wouldn't cut down deeper each time "he" went through the security procedure. I, too, noticed how many times door was used. If "knob" was used when he yanked, then it would whittle the overused word down by one, at least. I take it that possibly italics was missing from "what you are guarding is more dangerous than nuclear weapons . . ." This seems to me like an inner thought from the narrator. Yes, this first page was very intriguing. It quickly captured my attention.