Monday, September 24, 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 0003:

Chapter 1

Anita and I had made a plan on the phone: Think sophomore. Dad picked her up on the way to school and dropped us off where the buses unloaded. We slipped into the crowd, heading for our lockers like we knew where we were going.

“Think we’ll make it through the whole day, Joannie?” she asked as we turned left into the main hallway.

“Shhh,” I whispered. “You’ll give us away.” I chewed on my lower lip.

Kids roamed the hallway in search of lockers and friends, calling out names—Sally, Deb, Carol. Aurora was a small town so lots of people knew me. I kept my gaze low, not wanting to make eye contact with anyone who would give me away as a freshman.

Since seventh grade I had heard stories about hazing, so I dreaded the first day at Aurora High. Innocent freshman girls, chased down by upperclassmen, then pinned to the floor and fire engine red lipstick smeared all over their faces. Since we were forced by school rules to wear dresses instead of jeans, so that none of us stood a chance to outrun the senior boys. Our bad luck as children of the late 1960s that the micro-mini was in fashion. If I got wrestled to the ground, there would be more panty showing than worn by the entire group of Laugh-In dancers.

The two of us stopped at the bank of lockers directly across the hall from the girl’s restroom. I tried the combination on my locker. What was wrong with the stupid thing? On the third round I realized the locker number didn’t match the tag number I had pulled at early morning draw a few days ago. I moved a door to the right and spun the dial again. The final tumbler clicked as it fell into place. I sighed in relief, looking around furtively. No one had seen my mistake.

3 comments:

Julie Wright said...

Your first sentence is more telling rather than showing and since showing it would start the scene in a place illogical for the story, you may want to rework a bit of the first. Something like . . .

“Think Sophomore.”
Those two words created the sum total of our whole plan for high school freshman survival. Anita repeated them over and over to herself as my dad dropped us off where the buses loaded and unloaded.

We slipped into the crowd, heading for our lockers like we knew where we were going.

“Think we’ll make it through the whole day, Joannie?” She broke through her own chanting as we turned left into the main hallway.

“Shhh,” I whispered. “You’ll give us away.” I chewed on my lower lip.


Another thing to remember is that not all high schools start as freshmen. In most rural areas they do, but in bigger cities high school starts in tenth grade as sophomores. Because of this, you’ll want to let the reader know they are freshman in the first paragraph.

Since we were forced by school rules to wear dresses instead of jeans, so that none of us stood a chance to outrun the senior boys.

In this sentence you’ll want to strike out the words, “so that.” You could also take away the passive tense of this sentence by rewording it to say, Since school rules dictated girls wore dresses, none of us stood a chance to outrun the senior boys.

Anywhere you can get rid of passive “was” and “were” words will increase the strength of each sentence and improve your writing overall. :)

Josi said...

Good humor, but like Julie, it took me a minute to get oriented. I started high school as a Sophmore, so I was confused. I was also confused where she said they were trying to blend in, and yet it's a small town and everyone knew her--so wouldn't they know she was a freshman? I get the overall feel, and I get a good sense of setting and such, but I'd go over it and determine exactly what you are trying to get across (that she's nervous about her first day of high school and doesn't want to come across as a dumb freshman) and make sure what you write fits that goal.

You also did a good job of putting us up against her conflicts right away--many writers take several pages before they show us what the problem in.

Great start.

Heather B. Moore said...

I agree with Josi and Julie so I can't add too much more. You might also consider with "showing" a hazing scene right at the beginning. Perhaps a hazing is going on as they enter the school doors. That would be a strong hook.