Friday, August 9, 2013

First Page Friday

I am excited it's Friday because I have some great plans for the weekend AND because we get another First Page Friday!  Today Ms. Shreditor talks about scene flow and tension, something I can always work on.

As always, thank you to the author and our editor for their efforts.  If you would like your first page critiqued, send your double-spaced 12 pt. font first page to We still have one opening for August.

See you next week!

The Entry
The Cove
by Julie Spencer

“Why did you do that?” she demanded, standing in his lit doorway, dripping wet in her custom-made designer swimsuit. He stood with the screen door still closed between them, a look of confusion and anger across his face. Gail pushed the door opened and stomped into his house, not really caring that she was leaving water all across his linoleum floor. He silently grabbed the kitchen towel from the handle on the stove and stooped down to wipe up the mess. Out of spite, she grabbed her long hair in her hands and wrung the water from it so that it left an even bigger pool of water beside her. He just took a deep breath, as if to calm himself into not getting angry, and wiped up that mess as well. When he stood up, he tossed the towel at her chest.

“Dry yourself off,” Todd snapped at her. “You’re making a mess in my kitchen.” He walked back over to the counter where he had been making himself a sandwich. The thought occurred to her that she didn’t know how he could possibly be hungry after the huge buffet he’d had access to for the last few hours. It passed quickly when she reminded herself how angry she was with him.

“Why did you have to show up there anyway?” she asked, a little less fiercely but still with intended bitterness.

“I was invited!” He turned back to her with fierceness in his eyes. “By your fiancé!” He spat the words at her and she flinched back from his accusing eyes. He stepped away from the counter and crossed the room to her. She was kind of glad that he had put down the knife he had been using to cut the salami for his sandwich. Not that she thought he would ever really get that mad that he might hurt her, it just would have felt a little more threatening. “Do you have any idea how much Patrick loves you? How much it’s going to hurt him when he finds out that you’re engaged to someone else?”

Ms. Shreditor Comments

This story certainly cranks up the drama. There’s a strong undercurrent of anger and resentment between Gail and Todd as she drips water on his floor and he slices his sandwich meat. I’m a bit confused about the sequence of events here, though. If I’ve read correctly, Gail has been swimming while Todd was at some sort of event with Gail’s fiancé, Patrick. Gail comes charging in, asking why he’s done something, but it’s unclear how we’ve gotten to this point, with the two of them facing off at his door. Did she hear Todd’s car drive up while she was swimming and approach the house? If Todd is her man on the side, why is she at his house swimming while he’s not home? Or is Patrick the man on the side?

This first page leaves me with a lot of unanswered questions. How did Gail end up engaged to two men at once? There are plenty of stories involving characters who are involved with two people at once, but having this character be engaged to both of them ups the ante quite a bit. How do Todd and Patrick know one another? Which one did Gail get engaged to first? (If she accepted Patrick’s proposal after she got engaged to Todd, it seems odd that Todd would have stayed with her. If she got engaged to Patrick first, why would Todd have gone so far as to propose to her when she was already engaged? That’s a huge leap.)

There are a lot of effective devices at work in this scene—the way the dripping water heightens the tension, Todd’s very palpable anger, and the love triangle already in motion. I’ve mentioned in past columns that the first page should leave the reader with questions that propel them to the next page, and the next. However, I feel like we’ve stumbled into the middle of a story without enough context to make sense of what’s happening.

So what’s the solution? It’s a tough call. I like so much about how this scene flows, so I wouldn’t want to reinvent the wheel if I were editing this. I would, however, want to drop a few more details to ground the reader and provide some much-needed context. In reading this story, we’re signing on for what promises to be a juicy love triangle (a plot that will sell books until the end of time), but if we’re going to stick with it, we need to understand a few key details about the two relationships in question.


Julie Spencer said...

I’ve always thought it was obvious from page one how the novel ‘starts’ but apparently I’m wrong. You really need pages two and three for that. See, there’s actually a third man involved. Before this evening took a dramatic turn for the worse, Gail had been promised to Patrick since they were very young, she starts dating casually while he’s away (cliché, I know!) and Stephan (a man who goes to college with her) proposes to her at the country club in front of 300 people. Gail feels pressured to say ‘yes’ but realizes immediately that she’d made a mistake. After accepting the invitation, she looks across the room to see Patrick’s best friend Todd. He looks at her with disdain after realizing that she was about to break his best friend’s heart. It’s obvious within the first few pages that she will eventually fall in love with Todd. Before you feel sorry for Gail’s predicament, it would help to know that Gail is a selfish, spoiled brat who destroys the lives of the three men who love her. She’s a famous Olympic Gold medalist swimmer and didn’t think twice about diving into the water to swim across the cove and confront Todd (whose small cottage is located just across the cove from her lavish home). This starts a whirlwind of events that follows her across the country and to the other side of the world before ending in tragedy because of one final choice. Here also is a link to several excerpts from The Cove as well as excerpts from my second novel The Farmer's Daughter. Thanks for your review! I’m looking forward to finding the right publisher and seeing my novels in print someday! -Julie Spencer (

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Julie, I know you didn't ask my opinion, but I was also confused reading the first page. After your explanation above, I wonder if perhaps you haven't started the book in the right place. I would start with the proposal and what that means to Gail when she sees Todd's face. There's a sense of tension with that, a grounding for the reader, and a good spot to get to know the characters better. Sounds like you have quite a story there! Good luck with it.