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Monday, July 27, 2015

First Chapter Critique - Kisses From Yesterday

This week I have a first chapter crit for you all, which I will post over the course of this week. A big thank you to Angi Kelly who submitted the prologue and first chapter of her Adult Urban Fantasy, KISSES FROM YESTERDAY.


Nashville, Georgia
Mists swirled up from the ground as early morning fog blanketed the area, hiding most of the house from view.  Dew fell on leaves—eerie, heavy plops in the silence of predawn.  Smoke curled from the chimneys as the smell of cooking permeated the land and the house itself seemed to stretch as the first streaks of dawn brightened the sky.  Saria’s heart was heavy as she trudged through the dew-laden grass, the water in her bucket sloshing against its sides.  A sense of foreboding rippled through her, prickling the hairs on her arms and the back of her neck.  She paused, looking up at the house, studying it to try to locate the cause of her unease, but nothing stood out.  Still, something was wrong.  She felt it, a heaviness that weighed on her skin.
The death of Rebecca had placed an oppressive air over the plantation that was still felt by everyone, but this…this was different.  Saria raised her eyes to the roof and gasped.  A black aura hovered over the house like a low storm cloud, covering the upper floors.  She closed her eyes against the sight as a shiver coursed through her.  Others might sense it in an abstract way, but Saria knew she was one of only a few who would actually see it.  She opened her eyes, looked back up at the aura and muttered a prayer as she hurried into the house.
She gave her bucket to Callie and frowned.  “Have you seen Mama Elsey?”
Callie nodded, glanced over her shoulder and turned back to Saria, her voice little more than a whisper.  “Prowlin’ the house.  Prayin’.  She got her powder with her.”
Saria widened her eyes and her heart thumped against her ribs.  For Mama Elsey to have her powder with her could only mean she knew about the aura.  It also meant she knew something was terribly wrong and was trying to protect those within the house.  She turned away from Callie and headed for the stairs.
Screams shattered the stillness, echoing through the house.  Saria’s heart froze in mid-beat.  A second scream set her heart into a frenzied gallop and she ran up the stairs.
Miss Rebecca’s room!
Ice formed in the pit of her stomach and spread outward, freezing her blood and making her feel as if she was running through molasses.  She almost tripped over her skirts when she saw the crowd gathered outside Miss Rebecca’s room, but she caught herself on the wall.  She pushed herself away and walked slowly toward the others.  Mama Elsey stepped toward her, her hands outstretched.
“No, chile.  You doan needs ta see this.”
Saria pushed her hands away and brushed past her.  “No, Mama.  I do need to see.  You know I’ll never believe it if I don’t.”
She pushed past the others crowded into the doorway.  Just as the blood pooled on the bedroom floor and soaked into the bed, Saria felt the blood drain from her face and pool in her feet.  Tears streamed down her cheeks as she closed her eyes against the grisly sight.  An anguished cry tore from her as she crumpled to the floor.  She felt separated from her body as she knelt, barely feeling the strong hands that gripped her shoulders.  She swallowed against the bile in her throat and tried to take a deep breath, but the air in her lungs had rushed out, and she couldn’t draw in enough breath to fill them again.
She opened her eyes and caught the dark gaze of Mama Elsey.  The black pupils seemed to widen and swirl, drawing her in as she struggled to breathe.  They were like black whirlpools, sucking at her mind, drowning her.  They seemed to widen even more, swallowing her as the darkness claimed her.
My thoughts: First I'll address the issue of the prologue, which as we all know many people do not care for, including agents and editors. I am not any of those people. I was raised on prologues so I'm okay with them as long as they're necessary. I have a great prologue for one of my novels but no matter how many times I try to reinsert it the story reads better starting from chapter one. So. A prologue must be necessary and make the story richer for being there.
That said I like this prologue. I did a little editing in that first paragraph because at first the house was mostly hidden and then it stretched, which seemed at odds. I might revise to show the fog lifting enough to see the house or maybe have the fog envelope the house but that's just my opinion. The question here is whether the house is important. If it is, I might have it enveloped or framed by the fog, if not, I'd shorten up the whole description but keep the fog and mist and dew falling on leaves. The atmosphere is perfect.
Other things I loved about this prologue: It's historical and I love history. It will be interesting to see how this history plays a part in the story. Mama Elsey and her powders. What kind of powders? I want to know, and who is Mama Elsey? The end. OMG! Who died in Rebecca's room?
 I definitely want to know what's going to happen next.
What about you, dear readers? Any thoughts on this prologue or prologues in general? Any helpful suggestions/comments for Angi? 

Tomorrow I will back with the first part of Chapter One.


Angela said...

Thanks, Marcy! I'm glad you caught the dew/dew-laden and froze/freezing repetition. That's exactly one of the things I'm talking about with everyone needing an editor. I'm more likely to catch that in someone else's work than my own.

I'm another reader that enjoys prologues. (Then again, I also enjoy reading Stephen King's forwards!) One author that I think uses prologues well is Nora Roberts.

I'm just really glad to hear that you enjoyed it!

Huntress said...

I never have a problem with prologues. IMHO, some agents follow the pack or individuals who despise the opening as a herd mentality.

This introduces background with action, one the absolutes of fine writing.

Angela said...

Thanks, Carol! The original prologue was more of an omni PoV, and it didn't work as well.