Friday, September 21, 2012

First Page Friday

Well, after yesterday's comments, I just want to post the link to where you can get a hardcopy of All Fall Down.  You know, in case Jon was talking about me.  So, if you want a hardcopy of my book, click here  As soon as I see it available in stores, I'll let you know.  :)

On to First Page Friday and it's a good one!

The Entry

The Raven 
by Jericho McKraven

     Bathed in the light of a half crested moon, the Raven sank back into the shadows and waited.  Nightfall beyond the edge of the forest was aglow with the flickering light of freshly lit lanterns, yet darkness crept slowly across the village, unheeding of the fragile glow that glimmered softly from each tiny flame.  Soon, all would be drenched in night and the Raven would emerge.
     He watched at a distance from his perch in a tree and remained there until well after sunset. He was waiting for his prey.
     The Raven was not a creature that craved attention.  He preferred the solitude and comfort of the dark.  Rarely did he ever find a reason to grace the day with his presence, and today was no exception.  The Raven found that he was much more suited for night and was less conspicuous as a hunter when clothed so deeply in shadows.
     Easing away from the thick tangled branches of a gnarled old oak, the Raven grinned wickedly as he caught sight of his target. 
     A tall, lean, middle-aged man who stank of ale, stepped clumsily onto the cobblestone lane and fumbled arrogantly with the over-sized jewels that garnished his fingers.  Rubies and emeralds shown brilliantly in the flickering lantern light and seemed to take on a life of their own as he twisted and tugged at their settings. 
     Finding the situation quite irresistible, Raven left his post at the edge of the forest and drew dangerously near the object of his interest. 
     As his prey made its way casually down the streets and lanes of the village, Raven followed.  Keeping always to the shadows, he stalked in silence, remaining unnoticed until deciding that it was time to end this most simple of hunts.

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

What I really like about this first page is that the narrator isn’t human. The Raven observes the scene silently from his perch, and we hold our breath as his focus narrows to his prey. In the absence of dialogue, the suspense builds quietly. 

Perhaps most chilling is the Raven’s use of the pronoun “its” to describe his drunken target. With just one word, we understand something fundamental about this narrator: He operates according to a different code than humans, and he has no qualms about the hunt. He is bucking his place in the food chain, reducing a human to an “it” and an “object.” This raises some interesting questions about the story that follows. Does the entire story take place from the Raven’s point of view, or is this merely a prologue? I’m not a huge fan of prologues as a general concept, but if this is one, I’m willing to make an exception because it leaves such a strong first impression.

Mood can be one of the trickiest intangibles in a story. If a writer strings words and images together carelessly, a story can feel hollow. Here, we can readily envision the foreboding darkness. What gives this piece a cinematic feel, though, is the effective use of lighting. In just one page, we experience the moonlight, the glimmering lanterns, and the gleams of light reflected on the prey’s gemstones. These shards of light illuminate only the most important details. When contrasted with the darkness (in which our narrator lurks), it creates a sort of literary chiaroscuro.

The page is quite clean. It’s clear that the author did some polishing before submitting this. There are a few minor issues (“clothed” in shadows instead of “cloaked,” “shown” brilliantly instead of “shone”). I’d also recast the second sentence so that it doesn’t contain both “aglow” and “glow.” Otherwise, though, there isn’t much to fix here. This feels submission-ready to me. 

Thank you to Jericho and Ms. Shreditor.  See you next week!


Debra Erfert said...

I thought this was wonderfully done. I love the whole animal aspect view, but can we be sure it is a bird that is watching his prey? How about some other type of predator who stays in the dark--shall I say it? A vampire? Wouldn't he or she look at his food as an "it", taking away any outwardly identity the prey has and making Raven feel better with killing it?

Love the narrative beginning, and would love to read the first chapter to see how it changes. Great job!

Kate said...

Maybe I'm confused, but I thought the Raven was a person or type of fantasy creature/person not an actual bird. I thought that's what this part was inferring:

*the Raven grinned wickedly as he caught sight of his target. *

The author also says he *stalked* which made me think he wasn't flying. Maybe if the word hovered had been used somewhere I might have thought he was flying from perch to perch.

That's just my now confused opinion.

Jon Spell said...

I confess that I initially read the Raven as a person, but then rethought it when I read the comments, then I went back and read through it again, and now I'm 100% unsure. I think it could be either. To me, the telling point is that Raven is capitalized and doesn't always have "the" in front, so it really sounds more like a person's name than a bird. Buuuuuut, I'm still not positive. I am a fan of stories told through the POV of animals (cats, dogs, drgaons) so, either way this falls, I like it. =)

Julie, I am going to buy it on Amazon, but this does NOT get you out of signing it! =)

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

I thought it was an animal, too. Interesting how we all have a different take on this one!

Jon, my offer still stands. The post office just needs an address. :)

Janice Sperry said...

I got the impression it was a bird too. Maybe it's a shapeshifter? Either way, I really enjoyed it.

Jericho said...

Thank you Julie for your time and opinion on my work, your words were encouraging and very appreciated. I must say I have found myself delving into your past posts simply to read more of what you have to say!

I will be sure to include Ms. Shreditor's invaluable suggestions into my final draft.

With gratitude,

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Thanks, Jericho, but all the credit must go to Ms. Shreditor, our national editor who does so much to help new writers. I am so glad you like her column though. Thanks so much for supporting First Page Friday!