Wednesday, February 02, 2011

First Impressions with Melissa Jeglinski

Hello and Happy Groundhog Day!  If you're currently getting blasted with snow, I'm so sorry.  And might I add how happy I am to be living in Georgia these days (although we've gotten our share of ice and snow storms here as well.) 

We've got a new First Impression page to read and critique.  For those of you who might be new around here, this is something I do the first Wednseday of the month.  You're invited to submit your first page for a chance to be critiqued by myself and fellow TKA blog readers (see below for guidelines.)  Everyone should feel free to post your constructive criticism in the comment section. 

Title: DOUBT
Genre: Suspense
Author: Stephanie St.Clair

“We had a deal,” Tom Dubium said (We're in his point-of-view. People don't think of themselves this way. "Tom Dubium" should be "he" instead.) as he turned his attention back to the blonde across the table. Without waiting for an answer, he lifted the cold bottle of Heineken to his lips. The bitter liquid flowed down his throat, but couldn’t wash away the distaste of doing business with Alessandra LaFave. (Really nice and solid first paragraph.  I get a strong sense of this protagonist.)
Alessandra tapped her long red fingernails, one by one, on the table as she silently stared at him.
Clack…clack...clack. (I'm personally against sound effects.  But if used, italicize them. It's also a bit redundant.)
The impact of acrylic against Formica echoed like deliberate shots of distant gunfire. She took a long drag off the slim cigarette, tilted her head back and blew gray smoke toward the yellow stained ceiling. (Over use of descriptives; every noun doesn't need an adjective.) 
“Deals are made to be broken. Aren't they?” she asked.
He could see the gears turning behind those icy blues. It was now a waiting game. Tom glanced out of the large glass window behind her as he waited for her reply. (But he just had her reply, so why is he waiting? Perhaps this sentence is in the wrong place.) 
The small Italian seaport in which he (currently) found himself was an ocean away from home. Fishing trawlers docked alongside freighters from around the world in Gaeta Harbor. From where he sat, Tom could just make out the NATO base in the distance.
It was getting late and hurried workers anxious to get home for dinner yelled to each other as they offloaded boxes and fish. The salty air merged with the acrid taste of burning tobacco as diners left the small cafe with their arms full of boxes stuffed with a local specialty, Tiella, a combination of a pizza and calzone.
Tom's dinner sat untouched on his plate.

My thoughts:
The story sets out with a certain intensity.  And then it wanes while Tom contemplates the view and thinks about local cuisine. The impact of the opening paragraph needs to be sustained.  The descriptives of where these characters are isn't important right off the bat.  Their conflict is what needs to be established right from the start. 

A little less descriptive phrasing should help the pacing. 

This is intended as a suspense novel and so I urge the writer to really build up the suspense aspect from page one. 


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.**



Blogger TheChosenDarkness said...

I see what you mean when the suspense trails off when it gets to the description of the place. I was on the edge of my seat and the sudden description of the surroundings, without saying why he was looking around, caught me off guard. I think the author could use the setting to build suspense. If done right.

I do however like the beginning. It does draw me in. Wanting me to know more.

Also, this blog is insightful, but it leaves me with a question. Does it not get redundant to use He/She constantly after every piece of dialogue? So many people have told me to use other "tags" after each sentence. To break up the redundancy of the story. Even if most of the story is either his or hers point of view. Which leaves me confused at this point. It is something to think about and research on I guess.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 1:09:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Stephanie St. Clair said...

Thank you for your comments, Melissa. I appreciate them and will try to apply your advice going forward.

Also, thank you for posting your "First Impressions" each month. I've learned quite a bit from reading them all. :-)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 3:07:00 PM EST  
Blogger Judy said...

It's really helpful to see a first page critiqued like this. I'm able to look at my own work, and see more clearly what I'm doing right and what I could do better. Best wishes, Stephanie St. Clair.

Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 8:27:00 PM EST  

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