Wednesday, May 04, 2011

May You Always Make a Good First Impression by Melissa Jeglinski

It's time for May's First Impressions post.  I take one of our first page entries and offer a constructive critique.  (My notes/edits are marked in red.)  Then I ask all of you to make your thoughts known in the comments section.  Remember, this is meant as a learning experience so please be honest and kind.  And, if you would like to have your first page randomly chosen to be critiqued by moi, please see our rules at the bottom of this post.



by Sean Thomas Fisher

        “Can they get in here?” Carla whispered, with wide eyes and a face that changed expressions in the flickering candlelight. (Awkward.  How about: ...Carla whispered, her eyes wide and her face seeming to change expression in the flickering candlelight.)

        “I hope not,” Dan replied, hitting the joint and offering it around the circle, catching a disapproving glare from Carla in the process.  No one accepted, too paranoid already.

        “They can’t,” Paul lied, chewing the partially frozen apple pie. He had tried to thaw it out by the fireplace, which, to avoid being spotted by outsiders, was had been extinguished just before dark.ness took hold.  He watched Carla nervously glance to the farmhouse’s living room windows again while she clung to her two young boys.  Looking to the large windows again himself, He wished they were boarded up as much as Carla did.  Or at least had thicker curtains than the dirty white ones hanging there now. 

        The small amount of light the three candles were giving off made him nervous as well.  They should put those out too, he concluded.  But he worried about Sophia the most. (You mention Sophia, then have Carla speak next so it's confusing; you should go right to a description of Sophia or her line of dialogue or perhaps expand upon why he's worried about her. As it is that sentence is just hanging there and seems out of context.  I'd just delete it.)

        “I don’t know,” Carla surmised, still inspecting the premises, her breath floating out in white, ghost-like waves.  (It's a long time between dialogue so I had to go back and reread what Carla is responding to.)

        “Mom, they have guns,” Mike contended.

        “I know, sweetie,” she patronized said patronizingly.  “We’re gonna be just fine.”

        “Your mom’s right,” Sophia lobbied said, (Simplify your dialogue tags. Why is she lobbying?) discreetly brushing a gloved hand against her pink gun, just to make sure it was still there.  Like one would have subconsciously done with their cell phone or wallet at the mall or the fair before all of this began.  (Again, we're in Paul's POV so how does he know she's doing this discreetly?  He's got to "catch her discreetly brush a gloved hand against her pink gun as if to make sure it was still there.) “We’ll be playing volleyball on the beach soon.”

        Both Mike and Matt nearly cracked a smile at this. (How can he tell they "nearly" cracked a smile?  He's not in their minds.  Be careful to maintain a consistent point-of-view.)

        Paul shook his head, knowing he would never get used to hiding out in a different house like this every night with their rotating smells and furniture and pictures of the people who used to live there.  (I get what you're going for in this last line but it reads awkwardly.) 

My overall first impressions:

I'm guessing that Paul is the main protagonist; I read this twice before I knew for sure.  The first line should be from his eyes

Not every line of dialogue needs to have an action immediate follow it.  The writer tends to do that a good deal in the opening page. Sometimes that can make the piece read like a screenplay. 

From not a lot of set up I definitely get that this group of individuals has banded together to keep safe.  And I get the sense of danger with which they are living.  So a very good job on getting the atmosphere right.  Really work on establishing character development right from the start and confirming who your main protagonist is.  I'd read on. 

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.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would agree with Jia's take on this. I, too, was confused about the point-of-view. It almost seems to be third-person omniscient.

Nothing wrong with using this POV, but I think picking one viewpoint and sticking with it lends itself better to a horror story. I think you want to really cement your readers into the story, into his or her fears, rather than jumping from head to head.
The dialogue tags go a little overboard as well.
Otherwise, some really good stuff here! I see a good story developing and would be interested in seeing what happens next!
Good job!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011 at 6:33:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

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Thursday, May 5, 2011 at 3:28:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Jia Gayles said...

Hi Bryce, I just want to apologize for accidentally making this look like my blog post! One of our agents, Melissa Jeglinski, always handles this feature. I was doing her a favor by posting it yesterday, and I forgot to put her name on it -- thus publishing as myself. So, sorry for the mix-up! I've fixed the title so others won't be confused.

All Best,


Thursday, May 5, 2011 at 8:27:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops. My bad. I knew Melissa had been doing this, I just figured you were rotating duties. Please offer my apologies to Melissa for not giving due credit.

Thursday, May 5, 2011 at 10:55:00 AM EDT  

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