Monday, October 29, 2007

Monday Mania: First Page

One of our readers submitted his first page of a novel he's writing. Feel free to make comments, but please keep them constructive.

Critique Archive 0009:



October 1998, Heathrow Airport, England:

The lady turned on him like a snapping turtle. “I don’t want you sitting next to me.”

One open seat near the window, and the young man was forced to take a seat further into the terminal. The lady aside, the young man mused on his positive experiences, unaware that his change of seating brought him into range as a target. In the midst of hundreds of people waiting to board the jumbo jet, he should have been safe.

To the gentleman dubbed by his co-workers as the assassin for his skill in identifying new talent, location was never a consideration. He was a professional and his target was well marked. Wasting no time, he moved in for the kill. “Is this seat available?”

“Sure, go ahead.”

The young man’s choice two years earlier placed the mark on him. The mark was simple but complicated – rather it was a combination of four marks innocent by themselves, but deadly when combined with the fifth. Short hair, clean-shaven, white shirt and tie, and a dark suit.

The assassin slid into the seat next to his victim and with cloaked words, began his assault. "Returning home from a mission are you, Elder Jones?"

The fifth deadly mark: A rectangular nametag emblazoned with, ‘Elder Jones, Misión de Espaňa-Málaga, La Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Ǘltimos Días.

The assassin: An Air Force Senior Master Sergeant (SMSgt). Three-time Air Force Recruiter of the Year, his target would seal up the fourth award as he headed into retirement. While not a religious person, he knew his target well. He’d almost yielded to the enticings of the spirit and joined the LDS church as a young man before something went wrong – terribly wrong. A struggling young staff sergeant, he was caught in a web that by association nearly cost him his career.

The Sergeant could almost mouth the young Elder’s response. "Yes, I've been out two years, probably the best two years of my life." It was nearly always the same. If he’d heard anything less, he would have marched into a fast retreat.

The Sergeant knew what he was doing. As the Air Force's top recruiter, he prided himself on his ability to attract top notch young men and women into the service; those with the stability to finish their commitment and go on to make the Air Force their career. Knowing the training and discipline the Mormon Church instilled in these young missionaries, he had brought many of them into the service by going the extra mile.


Heather B. Moore said...

First of all, this premise is really fascinating. An "assassin" targeting missionaries.

Some technicalities:
You need to stick with one POV. I'd recommend the assassin/recruiter's in this first scene.

Show more: You have great information, but it needs to be shown instead of told to us. Showing comes best through action and dialog.

Way past your first draft: After you get the manuscript finished and edited, you'll need to look for things that stand out. I noticed that nearly every paragraph started with "The"--this is extremely technical, but you need to make sure you have enough variance in your writing.

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

First of all, I agree with Heather that the premise is fascinating; however, I was often confused by what was going on.

Watch for rambling sentences that are hard to follow. (e.g. "To the gentleman dubbed by his co-workers as the assassin for his skill in identifying new talent, location was never a consideration.")

Clarity is really important for you reader, especially when you are trying to hook them to read the entire piece.