Monday, September 17, 2007

Monday Mania: First Page

Introducing our Monday Mania submission. One of our readers submitted the first page of her novel. Feel free to make comments, but please keep them constructive.

Critique Archive 0002:

September 1839

Thus sing I to cragg’d clifts and hills,
To sighing winds, to murmuring rills,
To wasteful woods, to empty groves,
Such things as my dear mind most loves.

(Sonnet XVIII, Henry More)


Liza swung around, searching for the source of the woman’s voice. It was familiar now, commanding her to do things at odd times. Seeing no one, she shivered and pulled the wool coat tighter around her slight frame, wondering if she had imagined it. Again. Turning to face the sea, she realized she was two steps from the edge of the cliff.

Ignoring the treacherous drop-off, Liza closed her eyes against the incoming storm as streaks of rain pelted her face. Waves crashed below, sending vibrations through her body. The seagulls had long since abandoned their screeching cries and found shelter among the jutted rocks.

“Do it.”

Liza opened her eyes and stared at the furious foam against the dark rocks. “Who are you?” she yelled into the wind. No response came. Feeling a sudden dizziness, she stepped away from the edge, squinting through the sea spray. The menacing clouds descended, and the wind picked up its pace, as a force outside her body seemed to urge her forward.

“Now I’m talking to myself,” she muttered. Aunt Maeve had said the New England coast was not for the faint-hearted. And now Liza understood why. Not only was September the most active month for hurricanes, but apparently the ghost stories she’d heard had just proved themselves credible.

She hurried to the lighthouse, bent against the gathering wind. She’d told her aunt that she’d only wanted to see the incoming storm for a moment. By the time she reached the decayed building, she was panting, shivering, and thoroughly soaked.

The door swung wide, and the wind slammed it into the wall. Liza started at the sound, then looked to see Maeve at the base of the stairs, lantern in hand.

“’Bout time you came back.” Maeve glared at her niece. “I thought you had decided to take a swim.” The woman’s white-streaked auburn hair had come loose from its customary bun. It cascaded across her shoulders, looking almost pretty.


Janet Jensen said...

Strong sense of place, wild and romantic setting. Nothing’s better than a lighthouse and a storm on the east coastline! Great intro with sonnet, definitely whets reader’s curiosity. Not sure if this will be a mystery or family saga or romance, but it doesn’t matter at this point. A few minor suggestions:

Paragraph 2: not clear what “it” is – that she had imagined. Since it’s closest to “coat” that’s confusing if you mean the voice.

Find another word for “streaks” if the rain is pelting her face. It would come with more force.

Word choice: The ghost stories are now credible (or believable?)

Paragraph with the lighthouse contains too many shes. Consider alternating Liza’s name with the pronoun.

Next paragraph: sub “saw” for “looked to see.” It’s more immediate.

This reader is definitely hooked.

Josi said...

Great start. I agree with Janet that there's very strong setting, but I love how you do it without ignoring the story. As opposed to her I'm not sure I like the sonnet, it didn't feel to me that it directly related to the opening scene, but it might just be me.

In the beginning it talks about the voice that is familiar to her, then later she said 'just' in relation to it, which is confusing as to whether this voice has been around for awhile, or it's a new thing.

I also get the idea that she's depressed and somewhat dispositional, I'd love to know why, maybe it comes in subsequent pages. If I could trade some of the setting for a little more concrete motivations that would make it stronger in my mind.

I think the writing ability is very good and all in all it's a very strong first page.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! This really helps. The very next paragraph goes into her motivations.