Monday, April 28, 2008

Monday Mania--First Page

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

Critique Archive 0016:

Chapter 1

The cursor blinked a challenge at me: do. it. do. it. do. it. I reached for the mouse but my finger hovered over the button, not quite ready to click. Holding my breath for a minute while I screwed up my nerve, I finally blew it out with a defeated “Dang.”

There was a snort from the sofa. “Dang?”

I could see Sandy’s bright red hair peeking over the top of the sofa arm. “Quiet in the peanut gallery,” I told her.

“Sorry. It’s just….dang? Take it easy there, Jessie. That’s tough talk for a nice little Mormon girl,” she teased.

“I can’t use any of the really good curses because you’re inactive. I have to set a good example.”

There was an even louder snort from the sofa, but this one was laced with laughter.

“What’s your problem, anyway?” she asked. “You didn’t bring work home with you again, did you? What happened to New Year’s resolutions and all that?”

“Coerced resolutions don’t count.”

“Do I need to get your butter pecan again?”

Just last week she abducted my deluxe carton of Haagen Dazs and held it hostage over her head until I promised to go out more during the new year. I stayed strong until she waved a spoonful of ice cream under my nose. Then I folded like an extra chair in Sunday school. It was a dirty fight.

Which brought me back to Sandy’s question. Or rather, her accusation. “No, it’s not work.” I hesitated. “I guess…..maybe your nagging worked.”

The top half of Sandy’s face finally made an appearance over the sofa arm, her blue eyes showing curiosity. “I don’t nag. I make suggestions. Which excellent one are you taking?”

“There’s so many to choose from. Let’s see, I’m not going to get weekly manicures, I will not be taking up yoga, and I will never eat tofu on purpose.”

The last one I delivered with a glare. She tried to sneak some tofu into my diet by sticking it on a whole wheat pizza but I figured out pretty quickly that it was not, in fact, a gourmet Italian sausage. “Bean curd will never be meat, Sandy. Never. Leave me to my carnivore ways.”

“Okay, but I don’t think you should be praying for your double pepperoni pizza to make you ‘strong and healthy’, either. God’s too busy to work that kind of miracle.”

I burst out laughing. “It’s pepperoni, not anthrax.”

She grinned back. “All right, so I haven’t reformed you from your carnivorous, nail bitten, meditation rejecting ways, so what are you—” she interrupted herself. “Oh.” She looked at me thoughtfully for a moment. “You’re going to go on a date, aren’t you? Spill it.”

“Well, the thing is I, uh.…” I trailed off in embarrassment. Her eyes narrowed in suspicion. I squirmed ever so slightly in my seat.

“What? Spit it out.” She levered herself all the way off the sofa and beelined toward me, stopping when she could see over my shoulder. “Online dating?” I squirmed even more in an effort to block her view. She held me still with a hand on my head while she looked. Cringing a little inside, I waited for the jokes or the lecture. I got neither.

“That’s not a bad idea,” Sandy said after a moment.


Annette Lyon said...

You've got a great opening hook and some good banter in the dialogue. My one problem is that you walk away from the hook to go to the banter, leaving the reader wondering waiting to find out what the cursor was daring her to do. That kind of banter is great for characterization, but don't use it while keeping the reader waiting to find out what's actually going on.

Josi said...

I agree with Annette, you've introduced great characters, fun dialogue, good conflict and a hook, but you broke into your hook too soon. Either finish the hook, so we the reader know where this is going, or start with the banter. Also, you have two lines of dialogue from your main character where the word "work' and "worked" come in the same line, I'd take one out for redundancy. Also you say "leave me to my carnivore ways" I think you should use carnivorous. You use it later, but a carnivore is a noun, not a verb. Love it though, very fun, punchy stuff.

Julie Wright said...

Great dialogue! I love the interaction between the two girls and I understand what you were trying to do with the hook. her finger is hovering over the button on the mouse because you are making us wait to find out she is online dating. I get it and don't mind the wait so much but do think you could have the roommate sit up and look to find out for herself what "dang" means. That will shorten the hook, or maybe have them fight over the computer screen where the roommate is trying to see what dang means, but she won't move out of the way long enough. That draws the hook out in a way that keeps us hooked. Love it though, really.

Crystal Liechty said...

One word: charming. Love the interactions and the characters so far. But I also agree with Annette- you take a little long to get to the hook and I found myself skipping ahead a little to get to the point. That being said, I'd still keep the fun banter, just work in the hook (online dating) sooner. Great job!