Wednesday, January 05, 2011

First Impressions

Happy New Year, everyone!  We're starting 2011 off with a new First Impressions critique.  If you would like the opportunity for one of your projects to be critiqued, please see the details below.  And please feel free to add your own comments and thoughts.  Here's hoping the new year is fruitful for all! 

Title: Now and Then
Genre: Chick Lit/Romance
Author: Jen Baggiero
It's very rare that Emily Hayes has to remind herself why exactly Nicole Wright is her best friend. (I do think this would be a bit more engaging if it was first person point-of-view.)

I just don't know,” Nikki's voice drifts out from her fitting room. Her voice is filled with consternation and Em can practically see the pose Nikki's striking in the mirror: lips pursed in concentration, head tilted to the side, and one hip jutted out to the side. (Repetitious with "side".) They've been at the bridal shop for three hours now, the other bridesmaids sitting patiently on the couch as Em continues jiggling her knee agitatedly. She started when they passed the one hour mark and hasn't stopped since.

This is Nikki's show, Em tells herself chidingly, her inner voice sounding entirely too much like her mother for comfort. It's going to be her wedding day, her wedding pictures, and this is her wedding dress that's going to be at the center of everything come January. It's a Big Deal and even in her thoughts, the words sound capitalized. (Not a bad phrase because I get what you're trying to do but it just reads oddly to me.) 

She left those thoughts behind at the two-hour mark. The other bridesmaids are giggly, huddled together on the maroon what is that squishy material called (perhaps trying too hard to be cute?) couch, still sharing the bottle of champagne that the bridal attendants had dropped by in an ice bucket back when they'd all thought that this would be a short, relatively painless process. (Why is she not with them?)

Okay!” Nikki's voice exclaims. Em hears a loud clap and imagines Nikki nod decisively. The dressing room door flies open to reveal Nikki in a frothy concoction of white lace and beading. The dress's skirt (tangled around Nikki's legs) (I'm not one for parenthesis in text, you can easily separate this with em dashes.) rises from a bell shape up to a satin sweetheart neckline embellished with iridescent crystal beading. If dresses were bicycles, this would be the bright pink one, with a flowered wicker basket, silver sparkling streamers, and a bell. (Nice description.)

My thoughts: Overall, I thought this was a clever opening and put me in the mind of the protagonist; she so obviously does not want to be there. Good hook to draw the reader further into the book.

Okay, this is totally personal opinion, but I'm not one for present tense. It distances me from the story rather than drawing me in which I believe is the ultimate point. Do others feel that way or is it just an odd quirk of mine?  I mean, I put a book down if it starts this way it's that hard for me to get involved.  And this book could so easily be fine in past tense. Usually chick lit is first person as well. 

I do think the writer could tone down her descriptions.  I'd like to know more how her protagonist feels rather than just what she's seeing. 


To enter First Impressions, email your first page (300 words or less) to Contests(AT) with “First Impressions” in the subject line. Include the title and genre in the email, as well as the name you wish us to use when referring to you publicly. All genres are welcome. Do not send your entry as an attachment; it must be within the body of the email. Winners are randomly selected using
**Disclaimers, Rules, Stipulations, What Not, and All That Jazz: By emailing your entry to Contests(AT), you agree to have your first page posted on our blog for critique. Entrants will remain in the selection queue indefinitely, so your number could come up tomorrow or two years from now. Such is life. We will drop you a line if your email is pulled out of the hat. Maybe. It’s best to just swing by our blog often and check things out, no? Winning a first page critique does not in any way indicate an interest or offer of representation by The Knight Agency, and we reserve the right to delete any material that we find improper or offensive. Though we encourage blog readers to offer positive, thoughtful feedback, we cannot control their opinions with Imperius Curses. However, we will promptly banish nasty, mean-spirited comments to the outer limits of cyberspace. Dontcha wish you could do that with people in real life? Addendum (11/03/2010): In order to give everyone a fair chance, only one entry is allowed per person. If you've submitted more than one first page, your initial email will be added to the queue; however, subsequent emails have been deleted.**
First Impressions Schedule:  February 2nd, March 2nd, April 6th, May 4th

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Blogger lexcade said...

I agree with a lot of what you said. For me, there's this massive disconnect between Em and the scene itself, and not really because of the tense. I just don't get enough of Em. We don't really get inside her head that much. You're right in that we get a lot of what she's seeing, but not how she's reacting to it. I'm a lot more interested in what's going on in Em's head rather than what's happening around her.

This is well-written, though. I like the premise of it, even though chick lit isn't something I typically read. I've been where Em is, and I'm sure a LOT of other women have too, so she's easy to identify with. This is a great start, just needs some more time in Em's head.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 11:54:00 AM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

Interesting concept. The execution was pretty good and I agree with all of your critiques. Nice job Jen. I do think that a first person switch might be just what you need. Your great dialogue tells me you will probably do great with her internal voice.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 8:54:00 PM EST  
Blogger Heather said...

I was drawn in enough to want to know more and that's a great accomplishment. I do agree about the present tense though. It's rare that I find myself enjoying a novel written in present tense. I love the descriptions but I'd also like to know more about what's going on inside the main character's head. What is she feeling, thinking, that kind of thing. You have an excellent start here, keep going!

Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 4:20:00 PM EST  
Blogger Deserae McGlothen said...

I usually disect things into three criteria: concept, perspective, and content. And you're very right--- while I found the conceptual tone of this first page highly adorable, the third person perspective is distancing us from the MC's thoughts and feelings as she's watching somebody else getting ready to get married. There's just SOMETHING about the first person that I love--- that easy-to-relate-to feeling and ease of the WHO, the WHAT, and the WHY all in one go. I don't like the present tense, personally, but I'm slowly adjusting to it because I'm understanding why authors are choosing to use it nowadays. And to prove that, the NOW AND THEN title makes me a little more willing to accept that uncomfortable feeling because I guess I'm supposed to be going from the now to the then in some way or another. The page, itself, was well-written gramatically, but there are some sentences that need re-structuring for emphasis. I liked it, though; I'm curious. It's a great draw-in for a first page.

Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 10:12:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jen said...

Thank you for the feedback everyone! I'm looking forward to implementing the suggestions when I get to the revisions stage.

Friday, January 7, 2011 at 1:38:00 PM EST  
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Monday, January 10, 2011 at 2:54:00 AM EST  

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