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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Kisses from Yesterday - continued...

Yesterday I critiqued the Prologue of Angi Kelly's Adult Urban Fantasy, KISSES FROM YESTERDAY. Today I'm critiquing the beginning of Chapter One...

Chapter 1

Nashville, Georgia
Present Day

How do you live somewhere most of your life and not know the local haunted house belongs to your family?  Alexis wished she could ask her parents that question.
She opened the door and felt around for the light switch, hoping Mark Walker hadn’t been misinformed when he said Rosedawn had electricity.  She found the switch and gasped when the interior of the house sprang into view.  A chandelier hung overhead, revealing a wide foyer.  In a parlor to her right, a huge oil painting hung over the mantle, a portrait of a young woman standing in front of the very fireplace over which it hung.
In front of Alexis and to the right was a staircase with steps that curved up to the landing.  The ceiling was vaulted, and a balcony encompassed the second floor, leaving the center open.  She crossed the room to a doorway near the staircase, and went inside.  It was an office with an old roll-top desk against one wall, and a bookcase filled with books lined another.  She ran her hand over the wood of the desk, admiring the intricate details carved into it, and then she slid the top up.  Papers were scattered on its surface as though someone had just left the room.  She picked up a piece of paper that was crackly, brittle.  She lightly traced her finger over the writing, marveling at the old style.  It was a letter.  Her eyes were drawn to the inkblot near the middle of the page.  The writer never finished it.
“I thought the house would be empty, but this looks as though someone just stepped outside.” [Are these Alexis’ thoughts or did she just say this out loud? Just asking.]
She placed the paper back on the desk and left the room.  As she explored the downstairs area, she found a breezeway and followed it to an enormous kitchen.  Her mouth gaping open, she turned around in circles, trying to take it all in at once.  It was a harmonious blend of history and the modern day.  Set into the wall to her left was a huge stone fireplace, still containing the cauldron one might expect to see in a castle in medieval Europe.  The old semi-circular ovens used by the original inhabitants of the house were also still there, but their modern counterparts were set into the opposite wall.  A large island counter with two ranges dominated the center of the room, with copper pots and pans hanging over it.
“This is huge.  You could prepare a meal for an army in here.” [For some reason her speaking her thoughts out loud is jarring to me] 
A century and a half and the house looked as if the previous owners would return any minute.  The house was a moment frozen in time.  What would that moment tell her about its inhabitants?
“It seems so odd to realize no one has lived here for such a long time.  The way it looks, you’d think someone had just stepped outside.  I could move in right away.  Mark told me the caretaker and his wife have kept the house up inside and out, but he didn’t tell me about all the stuff left behind.”
She left the kitchen and decided to explore the main upstairs first, and save the two wings for another time.  She paused on the staircase as a tickling sensation crept across the back of her neck.  Her heart constricted and she took a deep breath.  She turned around and looked back down into the foyer, expecting to see someone watching her, but there was no one.  She looked back up to the top of the stairs, where old family portraits hung on the wall, and she laughed nervously.

My thoughts: How do you live somewhere most of your life and not know the local haunted house belongs to your family? What a perfect way to connect the past with the present and make the prologue relevant. Nicely done. Bonus? There's a haunted house and I love a haunted house story! The description of the house was also excellent and I got a vivid picture in my mind of that entry. The only thing that bothered me was Alexis talking out loud to herself. I may be alone in this and if so, readers, do speak up! But I think I would try to incorporate Alexis words into her observations, have her think that the kitchen is large enough to feed an army and how odd it was that no one had lived in the house for so long, and that she could move in right away if she wanted...You get the idea. But, again, that's just me and maybe Alexis is the sort of person who talks out loud to herself. Regardless, I can't wait to see what else Alexis is going to find :)

Readers, I hope you'll chime in on this first part of Chapter One, KISSES FROM YESTERDAY. Tomorrow, I'll be back with more.


Angela said...

Thanks, Marcy! Yes, Alexis does have a tendency to talk to herself, (there are other places in the story where she's by herself and talks out loud) but I see what you're saying. Originally, this scene was written with Albert, the caretaker, present. However, his primary purpose was to tell Alexis about what happened to Rebecca and her fiance. I was concerned that even though the backstory took place through dialogue, it was still backstory and it would come across as an infodump. So I cut it, but left certain parts of what was originally their dialogue, since she does talk to herself.

Even when I tried to shorten his explanation of what happened,it was still kind of long, and what you will see happening at the end of this chapter originally didn't take place until the end of chapter two, or roughly around page 30, and I felt that was too far into the story.

I'll definitely take your suggestions into consideration! Again, thanks for taking a look at it!

Charity Bradford said...

Does Alexis have a friend that could be there to explore with her? That way they can discover things together through the dialog. Otherwise there is just observations and her talking to herself, nothing is really happening yet.

Angela said...

The closest thing Alexis has to friends right now would probably be her agent and her agent's husband. They have a role to play later. She's kind of isolated right now. Her parents died in a car accident when she was 19. She was engaged right after, but he turned out to be a jerk and she broke it off.

I'm wondering if I should put Albert back in and just cut his storytelling about Rebecca's murder down even more.

Huntress said...

I feel a lot of echoing in this. As in, "I want the reader to see this, understand this.It is important."

Less is more, IMHO.
Also, sentences tend to be all one length. Try looking for a beat.

Example: She left the kitchen to explore the main upstairs first and save the two wings for another time. She paused on the staircase. A tickling sensation crept across the back of her neck. Her heart constricted. She turned (I'd pick a different verb here. whipped? swiveled?) back expecting to see the watcher. No one. Nothing. She looked to the top of the stairs, where old family portraits hung on the wall and laughed nervously.

Angela said...

Good point, Carol!