An unselfish wish made on the horn of a unicorn will come true. Our wish? To support the writing community by giving constructive tips and criticism through submissions. Check out the submissions tab for more information. We can survive the crucible of fire together.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On Common Ground - first page critique

David said I could choose so I picked the completed novel and this is the first page (I hope!) I got from his blog. My comments are in purple:

Grace leaned back against the door to the coffee shop and smiled up into the sunshine, sipping her hot vanilla cream mocha. A day off after a long week pulling extra duty alone. Her partner was on vacation with his pregnant wife. He'd gotten married the year before. She smiled, remembering the ceremony. It had been a nice one, and he and his new wife had gotten more toasters and towels than they'd ever need. The best joke of the wedding presents was that her partner didn't even eat toast. She paused on the corner, debating how to spend her pleasant and well-deserved morning off.

The sound of hurried footsteps caught her attention and she turned to watch a boy run headlong across the traffic toward her, seemingly (seemingly is a very vague word. Do you want to be vague here or more specific? Just asking.) heedless of the danger he was throwing himself into. He couldn't be more than twelve, and looked something between frightened and determined. She heard a whisper (who?) in her ear and looked to her left. A sedan was pulling out into the street from the side road. The driver, too busy talking on his cellphone to pay attention to his driving, hadn't seen the boy. With no time to think, she stepped off the curb and threw her coffee cup at the windshield of the oncoming car. (I admit I was a little confused by where exactly Grace was standing and had to go back and read it through again. But that's just me.)The Styrofoam cup burst on contact and splashed the brown steamy liquid across the glass, catching the immediate and brake-squealing attention of the driver, who stared in shock through the vanilla mocha residue as Grace grabbed the startled boy by the lapels of his jacket and jerked him back to safety on the street corner. She looked into his face, holding him firmly by his jacket. He had brown eyes and a mass of curly hair. His cheeks were smudged with dirt and there was a scrape against one jaw.

“What's wrong with you? Why were you running across the street like that?”

“There's a lady! She's in danger! They're gonna kill her!” Love this! Makes me want to know more, like who's the lady and why does someone want to kill her?

Grace stared into his face and hesitated only long enough to mentally check whether she had brought her sidearm and badge with her when she left the house this morning. She had. Now I'm sensing there's a lot more to Grace than I first guessed. She's no pansy.

“Show me where.”

The boy nodded and turned back across the street, glancing back every few steps to make sure she was still following him. They sprinted down the street and took a right at Hawthorne, stopping halfway down the block at an alleyway. Good pacing.

“Down there?” The boy nodded and pointed to the back of the alley, where it turned at the end of the building and continued on into the between places, the area behind the stores that held the trashcans for collection, among other things. “Go call 911.”

Grace pulled her revolver and headed down the alley, slowing where it turned and the air grew darker, danker. The garbage that inhabited this back alley gave the air in it a permanent stain of mildew and rot. She stepped slowly down the alley, checking behind the large dumpsters as she reached them. She began to wish she had asked the boy how far down the alley she needed to go. Ahead she saw the break in the walls that signaled another entrance corridor like the one she had used to get back here. Love the atmosphere created in this last paragraph; the stink of the garbage, the closeness of it, the corners...where anything might be lurking/waiting.

Overall, not much to crit, really; I was pulled in by the end of this first page, wanted to know more about Grace, who carries a badge and a gun and likes vanilla mochas, and the boy who's worried about a un-named lady that's going to get killed (by whom?). Great beginning. 

What do you think?

5 comments:

David Jace said...

This is actually a couple of pages in. The whisper is intentionally unnamed, but the two scenes prior have hinted and shown (respectively) her guardian angel following in her steps. For the record, she's a police officer.

Coincidentally, the rest of this scene was posted this week for Blogfest...Interrupted on my blog. So if this intrigued you, the rest is currently available! LOL

Thanks for the comments; I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else has to say.

mshatch said...

thanks for the clarification, David :)

Huntress said...

After the first paragraph, I found myself working to ‘see’ the scene. This is a good thing. If words or a name grabs my attention, I want to be in the story and I put forth the effort to involve myself. Now it is up to the writer to keep reeling me in.
#

The sound of hurried footsteps caught her attention and she turned to watch a boy run headlong across the traffic toward her, seemingly heedless of the danger **he was throwing himself into.**

He couldn't be more than twelve, and looked something between frightened and determine. She heard a whisper in her ear and looked to her left. A sedan was pulling out into the street from the side road. The driver, too busy talking on his cellphone to pay attention to his driving, hadn't seen the boy. With no time to think, she stepped off the curb and threw her coffee cup at the windshield of the oncoming car. The Styrofoam cup burst on contact and splashed the brown steamy liquid across the glass, catching the immediate and brake-squealing attention of the driver, who stared in shock through the vanilla mocha residue as Grace grabbed the startled boy by the lapels of his jacket and jerked him back to safety on the street corner. She looked into his face, holding him firmly by his jacket. He had brown eyes and a mass of curly hair. His cheeks were smudged with dirt and there was a scrape against one jaw.

“What's wrong with you? Why were you running across the street like that?”

“There's a lady! She's in danger! They're gonna kill her!”
Grace stared **into his face** and hesitated only long enough to mentally check whether she had brought her sidearm and badge with her when she left the house this morning. She had.
“Show me where.”

The boy nodded and turned back across the street, glancing back every few steps to make sure she was still following him. They sprinted down the street and took a right at Hawthorne, stopping halfway down the block at an alleyway.

“Down there?” The boy nodded and pointed to the back of the alley, where it turned at the end of the building and continued **on** into the between places, the area behind the stores that held the trashcans for collection, among other things. “Go call 911.”

Grace pulled her revolver and headed down the alley, slowing where it turned and the air grew darker, danker. The garbage **that inhabited this back alley** gave the air in it a permanent stain of mildew and rot. She stepped slowly down the alley, checking behind the large dumpsters as she reached them. She began to wish she had asked the boy how far down the alley she needed to go. Ahead she saw the break in the walls that signaled another entrance corridor like the one she had used to get back here.
#

I see some areas where you could cut some of the pronouns and use ‘ed’ variations of verbs instead of ‘ing’. But good tension, excellent drama throughout.
I placed ** at the places that, IMHO, could be cut. But remember, it is only stylistic and my subjective opine that calls for the edits.

I would turn the page.

Charity Bradford said...

I don't think you need most of the first paragraph. It's all back story and it isn't even about Grace really.

After that, I really enjoyed this. You have great pacing and set the scene well. At one point I had a fear that Grace would be the lady they wanted to kill (this is good!) so I would keep reading to make sure she's not being set up.

Then the next thoughts were who is in trouble and why and how is it going to affect the rest of Grace's story.

I agree with Marcy on the word "seemingly" and would just cut it. Huntress covered everything else.

I loved that Grace thinks fast on her feet--throwing the cup of coffee to get the car to stop.

Nice job!

David Jace said...

Thanks for the great critiques! I used seemingly because someone else pointed out to me that, for instance, Grace can't know what the other character is thinking, so she can't be sure that he is unaware, he just seems to be. Certainly something to consider, though.

Charity- this isn't the first page, so the first paragraph is a little more effective (I hope) than it seems here.

HUntress- you had me scared there for a moment, trying to "see" the scene! I'm glad that ended up being a compliment. LOL I'll be looking at those cut edits, I think you have something there for many of them.

You've all made me feel quite successful with your comments on the pacing and tension. Thank you!