Monday, October 8, 2007

Monday Mania: First Page

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

Critique Archive 0005:


It had been fifty years since I last visited my parents’ home in Foster Center. The farm had been bought and sold and the land divided. At my grand niece’s wedding reception, one of the old-timers, like me, told me my folks’ place was still standing, although abandoned. It was the last farmhouse remaining on the east side of the creek.

When the festivities died down I drove to the home where I’d spent my youth. The road was paved, a few sidewalks had cropped up, and newer homes replaced the old. I had previously returned to Foster on brief visits for family functions, but I’d never stayed long. Now, at the age of seventy-five, I was going home.

The farmhouse sat a half-mile from the new road. The trees surrounding the property were immense and bent with age, and the house was smaller than I remembered. Driving down the rutted lane, I parked and climbed out of the car. I ascended the creaky steps to the front porch. Leaves were strewn everywhere, and some of the boards were rotted through. I pulled open the screen, surprised it was still there, and pushed the front door open. After stepping into the dim interior of the empty house, I unfastened a stubborn window and open it. Fading light entered the room, revealing dust and cobwebs. A rocking chair, resembling my mother’s, stood alone in the center of the floor. I could almost see my siblings sitting near her knees, laughing at her silly stories, as the rocker creaked back and forth.

I brushed off some of the dust and caressed the smooth curving wood—it felt cool to the touch—then I dragged the chair to the porch. Twilight had begun to fade, but the weather was still warm. I sat and began to rock, just as my father had, just as my mother had.

Closing my eyes, I listened to the crickets begin their song. Memories flooded through my mind and once again I was a young woman of nineteen.


Josi said...

Great description, I could picture every scene you described and I loved the fade-off at the end of the prologue. I'm so lousy at setting and description that I marvel at those writers that can do it so well.

However, I would like to have a bit more thought and feeling from the character. What does it feel like to see the house worn with age as it is now? Is she apprehensive at all as she approaches, does she have feelings of nostalgia for the place. I'd also like a reason for me, the reader, to want to read chapter one. Did something dramatic happen at age 19? Was there an intense memory that's brought back by seeing the house? Basically, what can the reader anticipate. Internal thought allows us to get to know the character, to wonder what will happen to them, without it we don't have that connection.

One reason Prologues have gone out of style (though I personally love them) is that too often they are not a 'hook' that makes the reader want to continue. The story actually starts in Chapter One, and the prologue becomes something to get over with so the reader can get to the story. It might be something to consider. I'm not suggesting you get rid of the prologue, but consider making it 'part' of the story.

Best of luck.

Janice LeFevre said...

Great story premise. I wanted more internal dialogue. Things felt too "telly" and not nearly enough "showy." Also include more of the 5 senses.

Anonymous said...

I can't add a whole lot more, except for maybe starting with a real bang. You have great description and by the end I'm very interested. I want the same for the first few sentences.