Friday, September 16, 2011

First Page Friday

Welcome back to First Page Friday! We have another wonderful entry today. As always, if you are interested in submitting your first page to First Page Friday, make sure you follow the guidelines on my sidebar. Once I have received your entry, you will be put in the queue.

Ms. Shreditor critiques every Friday and I'm excited to announce that Angela Eschler, who has guest-critiqued for us before, will now be critiquing the last Friday of every month. We are so incredibly lucky to have two such well-respected editors in the industry critiquing our work. Thank you so much to everyone who participates!

Let's get to today's critique.

The Entry
A Birthday To Remember

by Zach Knell

Regi always enjoyed the slight breeze pressed against the fire-like heat that Newport, California brings in the middle of the summer. Today, June 15, 2031, was his twelfth birthday. Though Regi was happy to finally be a dozen years, he joked with himself that his height hadn’t quite figured out how tall it should be by this point. He was just too short.

Though he hadn’t been told that he would be going to the beach today, he decided he would dress for it anyway, judging by the beautiful weather Regi felt on his face as he walked onto the deck. He liked the deck. It gave him a chance to be alone and think clearly.

Twelve years, and still he hadn’t seen his parents. Regi had had countless times when he tried to decide whether or not he was angry with his parents for leaving him as a child. This morning, a new thought had entered his mind. If they would have kept me, I would not have had the opportunity to live with the Roses.

As long as he could remember, Regi had lived with the Rose family. It was the closest thing to a family that he had. Carter Rose, was almost exactly Regi’s age. He was his friend. His brother.

Regi realized that he had been out on the deck for quite a while and he then decided to head downstairs for breakfast.

As he sauntered into the kitchen, Regi realized that Mrs. Rose had tried her best to decorate the room with green crepe paper streamers, which she knew was his favorite color. Though it was not an extravagant setup, Regi appreciated the effort.

Mrs. Rose noticed Regi and immediately put on a smile, “Regi! Happy birthday.”

“Thanks, Mom,” Regi said as he shuffled forward to give her a half-hug as she struggled to put candles in the cake.

Ms. Shreditor’s Comments

There are some compelling elements in this story. For reasons not yet clear, it takes place in the year 2031. Why twenty years in the future? Is this a futuristic sci-fi/dystopian? If so, the first page needs to convey this somehow. If not, make sure that the future date is vital to the story and not just an add-on.

It is a convention of the superhero myth that the hero’s biological parents are out of the picture. Spider-man and Harry Potter were raised by aunts and uncles, and Spiderman was adopted. So my first instinct is that this, too, is some kind of hero’s trial. The problem is that it’s difficult to tell from this page what kind of story this is. The year 2031 suggests sci-fi, and the absence of parents is reminiscent of other superhero tales, but we just don’t know. At this point, we don’t even know why they left or how the Roses became his adoptive family.

Voice is a key concern here. The narrative doesn’t read like it’s coming from a twelve-year-old. Is this a third-person omniscient narrator? The story opens the door for some character-establishing introspection, but then shuts it just as quickly. Regi steps outside to think, offers up a quick information dump about his parents leaving him and the Roses taking him in, and then goes back inside because he’s been outside too long. While we learn something crucial about him in this moment, we don’t necessarily connect with him because we’re responding to information instead of emotion. There also needs to be a smoother transition between exposition and introspection here—for example, someone calling out to Regi and interrupting his thoughts.

The writing itself is quite choppy in parts and could benefit from a strong content edit. There are some rocky transitions, awkward turns of phrase (e.g., a breeze pressing against heat and height not figuring out how tall it should be), and too many instances of the name “Regi.”

The ingredients for a good story are here. The question remains: What kind of story is it? We have clues, but not enough anchors yet to make an educated guess.

A big thank you to Zach and Ms. Shreditor! Lots of potential for everyone to take away something here. See you next week!


Debra Erfert said...

First, my congratulations to Zack. I know how hard it is to have anything critiqued, especially in public. Ms. Shreditor did a wonderful job, as always. I find Fridays invigorating. I love to learn, and reading critiques, even someone else's, helps me grow as a writer.

I, too, need to work on my homonyms--Julie's pet peeve #2 (see Thursday's post) Oh, and I do like to read the ending in some cases. There are times when I get totally frustrated with a story and I want to quit reading, even throw the book across the room. The only thing that saves it from an untimely demise is a happy ending. And, yes, I can put down a book and not finish it. I've done just that, too.

Sarah Tokeley said...

I don't have a lot to add to Ms. Shreditor's comments. I see the possibility of something interesting here. Well done to Zach for submitting!