Friday, February 1, 2013

First Page Friday

It seems fitting to end this week off with a First Page Friday entry called Relative Evil.  Haha

Here's to the month of February. May it be a wonderful writing month.

As always, thank you to our authors and amazing editors.  See you next week!

The Entry
Relative Evil
by Ryan Albert Williams

The air felt thick, heavy, like when a tornado was about to touch down. Claret Abney watched her dad, a widower of only a year, hold hands with a pretty woman sitting next to him at the restaurant’s dining table, and smile. Twenty-five-year-old Claret guessed the woman couldn’t have been more than a handful of years older than Johnny, Claret’s oldest brother. She was way too young for her dad to be dating, and it was way to soon for him to be staring at her with such amorous eyes. Something was about to break.

James Abney had called for a family dinner never mentioning Adelaide Walker Harris before all three of his grown children had arrived at their favorite restaurant.

Claret sat on the opposite side of the table from her dad and Adelaide. She wanted to watch them. He looked happy, so did Adelaide. Claret had a habit of studying people, their expressions, their mannerisms, even the way they dressed. She was a novelist. She had two books published, with two more manuscripts in rough-draft in her computer. Claret didn’t exactly make enough money to quit her editing job, but she hoped someday that would change. Discreetly studying Adelaide, Claret noticed that she kept her left hand down on her lap. Not once did she bring it up, even when her dinner had arrived, so either her hand was deformed and she was self-conscious of it, or . . . Oh, no! There was only one other reason Claret could think of that a woman would hide her left fingers.
A sickening, burning sensation churned inside Claret’s stomach when her dad stood up. The smile on his face widened. He still had a firm grip on Adelaide’s right hand.
“Everyone, I have an announcement,” James said.
Claret’s pulse beat erratically. The patrons at the tables next to theirs stop eating and were staring as well.

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

What works for me in this sample is the slow buildup to James’s announcement. The author portends the impending bad news with thick air and Adelaide’s concealed left hand. The mood is decidedly ominous. The mounting tension is powerful enough to register in Claret’s body as a “sickening, burning sensation”—a sensation that the reader experiences alongside her.

You might try amplifying the setting by specifying the name of the restaurant—or, at the very least, what kind of restaurant it is. Even just specifying that it’s a Mexican or Indian restaurant will give the reader a clearer picture of the unfolding scene.

One point confused me at first: The second paragraph mentions James Abney, and it took me a minute to piece together that James = Claret’s aforementioned father. I’d recommend moving the first mention of his name to the second sentence of the first paragraph.

While we’re on the subject of text moves, I wonder if “Something was about to break” would work better earlier in the paragraph, perhaps even as the opening sentence. This sentence conveys the tension that powers the scene, and it is certainly evocative enough to grab reader attention and launch the story.

Take care not to disrupt the flow with misplaced details. In the third paragraph, Claret watches her father and Adelaide from across the table. We learn that she has a tendency to people-watch, a detail immediately relevant to the previous sentence. However, the narrative veers off at this juncture to tell us that she is a published novelist who dreams of quitting her editing job to write full time. This is, no doubt, an important character detail. However, I’m not sure that this is the right place to include it. Claret functions more as an observer than as an active participant in this scene. Therefore, I found it a bit jarring when the story flipped suddenly to random biographical details about her; it interrupts the tension that makes this first page so powerful. Consider introducing this information later, when it isn’t interrupting an otherwise action-oriented scene.

This first page has really good bones. We have a young woman whose father is starting over later in life with a much younger woman, and this is bound to stir up both internal and external conflict. The writing is generally solid, with the occasional technical issue. Make sure to give your manuscript a thorough proofread before submitting it to avoid spelling errors, tense inconsistency, and other grammatical issues. But, rest assured, you’re moving in the right direction. This story is definitely on the right track.


Debra Allen Erfert said...

I hope Ryan doesn't feel like you're stalking him, Jon.

Ms. Shreditor's comments and suggestions are great. Ryan, like most writers, get caught up in the momentum of the scene and let small errors slip by. I'm sure his critique partners will find them and will gleefully point them out before he submits his manuscript to any literary agent or publisher.

I've learned a lot from this first page, too. Thank you, Ms. Shreditor, and Julie.

Anonymous said...

Ryan! I saw that you were doing a book signing at Costco, but the line was too long and I have this fear of crowds, otherwise I sure would have come to meet you!

Can't wait for your book to be released!


-- Helen

(P.S. Happy Birthday!)