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Monday, January 27, 2014


As promised, today we have the first page of Scott Abel's THE FOLLOWING, a YA paranormal romance/suspense novel. My comments will be purple and as always, I hope you'll add yours. A big thanks to Scott for submitting and if you'd like your first page critiqued here, by yours truly, just send it along to: unicornbellsubmissions@gmail.com.

Marie knew she shouldn’t appear, (the word 'appear' here, implies a suddenness to me, like a ghost might suddenly appear, which may very well be the appropriate word. But if Marie has arrived of her own volition then I might use a different word) and she’d probably get in trouble for it – she’d been warned more times than could be counted. However, the thrill of seeing Parker up close and in person proved far too strong. Besides, if she really were on thin ice with Markus, there was only one way to find out.
Heavy mist matted her clothes against her like a wet paper towel, and the sweet, crisp smell of approaching rain permeated the night air. She closed her eyes and took a slow, deep breath.
Cloaked in darkness, she moved in silence, camouflaging and timing every step with each gust of wind and rustle of leaves. Nothing - no sound, no shifting of shadows - hinted at her approach despite her physical presence.
Marie continued her stealthy advance toward Parker’s house. Her pulse quickened when it came into view.
Three large oak trees shaded the front yard, obscuring part of the house, but as she walked closer more could be seen. Except for the white brick, it was a carbon copy of the other ranch-style houses in the neighborhood - long, with a low roof and attached two-car garage on the side. Flowerbeds flanked the front door and overflowed with holly bushes and shrubs. Small lights illuminated a wooden sign carved in the shape of a football with “#12” and “Parker” painted on it. A basketball hoop stood to the side of the driveway, the tell-tale sign that youth inhabited the home. A thick row of trees bordered the driveway as an informal property divider. I like this description - I get a perfect picture - but I might shorten it just a tad.
Marie snuck across the front of the house, and the corners of her mouth turned up in a grin. 

Well! Lots of interesting and curious things happening here. First, why is Marie sneaking and why will seeing Parker give her a thrill? Who is Parker? And who is Markus? And why will she be on thin ice with him if she's discovered? These questions alone would be enough to make me turn the page to find out what's going on here but, in order to draw me in even further, I want to know something more about Marie. If she's on the first page she must be important, probably a main character. If I'm going to want to follow her I'll need to connect with her more. For example, why is she defying Markus? Does she want to test him? What sort of person is Marie? What's her situation? You don't have to give all of this away - in fact, I'd recommend you didn't! - but maybe just a little more to bond the reader with Marie.

So. That's my opinion of this first page. What's yours? Agree? Disagree? Do tell.



Huntress, aka CD Coffelt said...

Excellent drama! And yes, I agree with Marcy. I'd turn the page too.

I also agree with her about the descriptions. Good but maybe you might want to cut back. You want to set the scene and put the reader in the world. (And you did too! I was standing right next to Marie.)
But after you hook the reader, stop. Don't add more frosting to the cake. It's done.

In line with that, careful, careful about echoes. Example:
",,,up close and in person..."
",,, her mouth turned up in a grin..."

By cutting the echoes, you move the story along. The drama isn't diluted with Too Many Words.

The same with this sentence:
"...she’d been warned more times than could be counted..."
IMO, edit it to :
"...she’d been warned many times..."

Other cuts and edits:

"Heavy mist matted her clothes like a wet paper towel. She took a slow, deep breath of the sweet, crisp smell of the approaching rain [add something here, a way to convey her emotions. A sigh, a metaphor].
Cloaked in darkness, she moved in silence, her steps timed with each gust of wind and camouflaged with the rustle of leaves. Nothing - no sound, no shifting of shadows - hinted at her approach."

I'd cut as many 'ing' words as possible and substitute 'ed'. That makes the sentence structure stronger.

Also, the word 'however' seems more appropriate to a lecture than a book. IMHO.

Charity Bradford said...

I agree with Marcy and Huntress. In fact there isn't much to add to their comments. The writing is compelling and there is enough here to get me to finish the first chapter. With a few small tweaks, as mentioned above, this will be really strong.

Also, I don't mind the description of the house, but I tend to over describe myself. :)

Kittie Howard said...

The only thing I'd add is to swap out "wet paper towel" for something more in line with the imagery . . . "wet leaves" . . . whatever . . . as a wet paper towel hits at kitchen messes.

Patchi said...

I like the opening. As mentioned in the comments above, that paragraph of description is a bit dense for me. You don't need to cut it, just mix it with action/thought so we know why Marie is paying attention to those details. I want to know more about her too.

Donna Hole said...

Odd woman out here; the opening paragraph didn't hook me. It felt like it was trying too hard to be hookish. Probably my own bias against phrases of "she knew she shouldn't but . ." I think the opening would be stronger starting with something about her creeping through the damp and cold, followed by her reason she defied orders/restrictions against seeing or bothering Parker, and what the consequences could be for getting caught.

I like the description too, but would prefer it interspersed within all the above action narrative that shows smoother progress from her starting point to her destination.

There are a lot of interesting questions asked in this opening, but I don't feel a connection to the focus character due to the lack of emotional connection to the sneaking around.

However, I'm not typically a YA reader, so all the above may not be good advice within that genre.

I have to agree with Huntress and Charity; the writing is good, the situation intriguing, and I like that she has secrets to be revealed. With a little tweaking this has interesting potential.

Thanks for taking the risk with your first page Scott.


Robin said...

I am not going to add any advice about changes... you have got plenty of that already! I'll just say that I would read on. Good job!