Saturday, May 10, 2008

First Page Critique - Revisited

First, I'd like to apologize for the scant number of blog posts and lack of visiting I've been doing... If it makes you all feel any better, I've been using my computer time on writing - I'm hustling through some revisions that I think are really an improvement to the novel (don't you hate when you think you're done and then figure out you're really not?)

Besides the first page I'll be posting below, I've also been working on something new. I hadn't intended to, actually. I intended to take this time to work on shorts and leisurely read, and then start researching my next middle grade novel (which is still on the horizon, just pushed back a bit)... but this idea fell into my head and keeps fleshing itself out, so I'm running with it... maybe it'll be a big burst that goes nowhere, maybe it'll become something great. I'll have to follow it to see a bit better, but that's what's been taking my time lately, so I apologize for the absence, bear with me while I get my creative imps under control... okay, I likely won't control them, I like them when they run amok... but I'll try to stop in more often in any case.

Some lovely writers and readers participated in my first page critique a few posts ago, and gave me great feedback on Marigold Mourning, which I've put to some use. Nearing the end of the comments section there, I said I'd post the revision when it's done... this is actually a bit longer than a page now, but I'll post the whole. Same rules apply. Would you keep reading? Would you stop, where, and why?

Marigold's First Page and a bit more:

Marigold stopped short at the sight of the tulips standing upright against her screen door. She never heard the gate squeak open. She’d only been to the alley and back. It couldn’t have taken her more than a minute. Maybe she wouldn’t have heard it from the alley, though. Her scant blond eyebrows drew together above a small pug nose. Where did the flowers come from?

She brushed straying locks back into her ponytail and turned to look at the open yard. There was no one there. Not a shadow. Not a sound. Whoever left them had to be lightning quick to place the bouquet all the way up on her step and leave without her noticing.

Her gaze fell on the open back door as a sudden chill ran up her arms – a prickling sensation that raised the fine hairs all the way up to her neck. Should she check the house? Maybe she should run to a neighbor’s.

“The hell with that,” she thought, “it’s my friggin’ house!”

As she maneuvered up the porch steps, each creak of the wood sent her top teeth a bit further into her bottom lip. She peered in through the window, the bright kitchen lighting made dreary in contrast to the August sunlight outside.

Grabbing the flowers, she searched for a card of some sort, knowing there wouldn’t be one – there never was. The stems were wrapped in lavender ribbon, and she tapped them against her palm, as she paced back and forth over the small porch.

“I’m being silly,” she thought, still pacing, “Too many of Kay’s admonishments to lock the doors and windows... young girl in the big city, blah, blah.”

She looked skyward, as if she might reprimand her sister through the paint chipped boards of the house’s overhang.

“I’m a big girl now. Besides, boogiemen leave creepy things, not fresh flowers.” She said it aloud to prove her point.

Marigold held her breath and opened the door. She plunged into her kitchen in a reckless clatter, as if the noise of her arrival might scare any intruder away. She shoved the flowers into the garbage and grabbed the phone off the counter, hoping her dialing finger would be quicker at nine-one-one than an intruder’s machete arm might be.

“Haaaaaaa!” she yelled, holding the phone over her head as she whipped open the closet door.

After making sure there was nothing more insidious than outdated clothes hanging there, and wondering why she ever thought she could wear orange, she continued her rampage. Marigold shoved back curtains without reservation and mangled innocent boxes under her bed with a broom handle. At the end of her mad dash, she wound up in the kitchen, chest heaving in exhaustion and, perhaps, a bit of pride when the ringing doorbell made her shriek like a little kid on a scary ride at Disney land.

Okie, dokie... feel free to comment, critique, and generally skewer.


mountainbike said...

I read your post. I understand more or less about your post. But I will continue reading your next post. And yes, when I have free time then I also read others blog and also some article at online. Thanks for your post!

silken said...

well personally, I liked the first one better. I didn't care about her scant eyebrows or pug nose or her ponytail, not even really if they were tulips... and I did not like the last line...much preferred "sent her into orbit" than " a little kid at Disneyland". but that's just me...

the story though, I'd read it.

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Merry:
Hope you had a nice Mother's Day . . . .

I think you added some depth to this . . . but . . . I think the times you leave her POV and are more omniscient pull us out of the story instead of into it. So the scant eyebrows and so on . . . that's the writer's observation, not her observation. When that happens, we leave her POV. It's enough that we get the "young girl in the big city"--now we know her age and so on, and it's not likely here to be important that we know about her nose and brows.

Also . . . I would try to avoid a "chill up the arm"--cliche. You can have her shiver or shudder--show us the chill, don't tell us. It's similar to a lump in the throat--we all know what that sensation is, but it's used too often.

Also . . . I don't know about you, but you have that she "thought" about Kay's "admonishments"--I would never "think" that. That's, again, the writer's word choice intruding on your main character. Her thoughts would be more from her perspective. "Damn you, Kay . . ." (something like that.

What is really fun, Merry, is seeing the evolution of your story!!!

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Silken,

Thank you for the feedback and for reading! I'm with you on the last line, I think that's going back to the previous version. I also don't think making the flowers tulips was a detail I needed... buuuuuuut, it wound up coming in handy later on, so I'm going to leave it there.

Happy belated Mother's day - I hope you had a nice one.

Hi Erica,

It's such a tough balance, leaving off cliche while still showing... and then editing it down seems to leave out some of the fear... ugh...

I have some ideas though, on what needs to be cut down, and definitely 'admonishments' was something I'd write but not think.... I'll have to pay better attention to that.

Thanks for the read and the great feedback!

Mother's Day was okay, I hope yours was good too.

Mary Witzl said...

I liked the first version better too, Merry, though until I read Silken's and Erica's post I couldn't figure out why. It is fun to see the evolution of this story, and I am really grateful -- vicariously -- for the interesting feedback you have gotten on this. I'd certainly read on.

Kredit ohne Schufa said...

When I get free time then I look the online several web site with good information and some Blog. Anyway, thanks for your post.

jjdebenedictis said...

I posted a comment here previously...did blogger eat it? :-(

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Mary,

Thanks for the feedback... tweaking, tweaking.

Hi JJ,

Must've ate it - I just enabled comment moderation today, so that might have something to do with it.. for some unknown reason, I'm getting a lot of spammy comments lately, so I thought I'd try out the moderation feature... but if it's eating comments, I guess I'll just deal with the spam.

Ello said...

Such great spam you are getting! Blogger hates me! My comments are constantly getting eaten and now I can't even remember what I wanted to say!

So first off - HURRAY for writing! Good for you! You have your priorities right and all your blogging buddies will wait til you come back, especially that mountainbike one cause he understands more or less about everything! ;o)

There is nothing I can add to Erica's comment cause she really said it best. But glad to see you keeping at it!


jjdebenedictis said...

I actually posted the comment several days ago and haven't been back since because of real life commitments (Oh no! Work = less blogging time?!! *angst*), so it couldn't have been your comment moderation changes that were responsible.

Blogger apparently decided to eat it of its own free will. I'll try to reassemble my thoughts again tonight.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi JJ,

Maybe the blogger gods are angry with me... they seem to be eating all the good comments and allowing all the spam... perhaps they've been in touch with my email gods too :-)

Whenever you've got time - I've been rather scarce on the bloggy front myself lately.

Anonymous said...

I'm being rotten and tagging you. Cheer!