Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday Mania--First Page

One of our readers submitted a first page for critique. A first page of a manuscript must hook an agent or editor. Feel free to make comments, but please keep them constructive.

Critique Archive 0037:

Maren sat on the bathroom floor often.

She liked to feel the cold floor through the fabric of her clothes and hear the quiet echo of closed in noises bouncing off the hard tile walls. Sometimes she even liked to turn the shower on, to hide the sound of her crying.

But today isn't a day of turning on the shower; She doesn't want the sound to go down the drain with the wasted water.

All she wants is to be alone. Just Maren and the razor.

The small sharp piece of metal gleamed invitingly on the white tile as she stared at the back of the shut door. The wood's grain patterns she'd memorized seemed a dull place to being focusing on and she felt tears come as she realizing what she was about to do.

Then she criticized herself for being a coward picked the small blade up, grasping it firmly between her forefingers and thumb and immediately brought it down and across the thin layers of skin stretched over her left wrist.

The flesh opened and spewed up life, blood, and she hissed, dropping the blade to the ground.

The gash burned harsh and hard like a fire consuming her nerves, making her writhe in pain.
“Ah. Ah. Ah.” she panted, her eyes wide. But slowly the burning faded out and she felt herself relax.

She knew it was coming, the release, and she welcomed the growing wooziness as she felt herself become weaker and weaker.

She took one last look through droopy eyes at the enlarging scarlet puddle covering the stark white tile.

“Mine...” She mumbled, watching her blood spreading outward until she could no longer hold onto consciousness and she slumped down, sprawled over the wet floor.


Susan said...

Ouch. I actually squinted and flinched when I read that. If that's what you were going for, then good job. It makes me want to see what happens. I'm expecting someone to intervene, and hoping I get to see some of her life.

joanie fairbank said...

It feels very dark, which is probably the aim of the piece. This may be a matter of personal preference, but I feel like too many novels lately open with a death or something similiar. I think this scene would need something different to stand out. As an example, in that last moment that she's fading out of consciousness it would be interesting to have an unexpected hook. There could be an unmistakable sound from in the house, a message on the answering machine, maybe a package could land on the doorstep. Something like that would quickly humanize the character and grab my attention.

Candice said...

Susan--yes that is exactly what I was going for, thank you.
Joanie--I actually had the same thought when I first started, that it was possibly too dark. I don't naturally like to go that direction. For this story however, it really fits. I also intended to get some of the darkest bits out of the way first, so I can focus on the more uplifting stuff. Thanks for the advice. I can see/feel what you are saying.

Julie Wright said...

It's a very well written first page, but here are some thoughts. Since we don't know this character aside from the fact that she's spent a lot of time in the bathroom crying, it's hard to care about her. This is what I would call unearned emotion. We know we're supposed to feel the horror that comes with such an act and feel the sorrow for loss of life but if you start a little sooner in her day, even if it's only a couple of paragraphs, we invest ourselves in the character a little--enough to earn our sorrow that she's resorting to this drastic situation. Make me care about her, in some small way.

Also it's good for us to know character's age right up front. Maren could be a fourteen year old kid or she could be a recently divorced fifty year old woman.

I also like Joanie's suggestion of the scene ending with something that mixes things up a bit, a phone call or a young child pounding on the door to use the restroom--something.

It's a well written scene. Kudos to you.

angfla said...

I agree. It's a well written scene. However, little nit. To get the type of immediate and extensive blood loss you describe the cut wouldn't be nearly so quick or easy as it reads here. I researched this for a previous project. You actually really have to cut deep and exert quite a bit of pressure to get to the vein past the tendons and such. Also it has to be a vertical not a horizontal slash, since the vein runs vertically, not horizontally. I hope this doesn't get into too much gruesome detail for anyone. Best of luck with your project!

Anonymous said...

Is there a problem with the use of tense here? It seems like some of it is written in past tense, and some in present tense.

Like when it says "All she wants is to be alone" (present tense)

Or "She took one last look through droopy eyes..." (Past tense).

Noble M Standing said...

Is this a moment that changes the characters life for the rest of the book? If it is it is way too early. We, like others have said, need to get to know this girl bwefore she slashes her wrists. I as a reader love the scene. but I am not invested in the character and really don't care if she lives or dies.

If this scene is that life changing moment. It needs to be about 1/4 of the way into the book. You should introdouce this character and her world to us. then I will care.

You do have a nice descriptive tallent. :)

Heather M said...

I hate, hate, hate reading about extensive blood loss, it makes me feel faint, so I'm afraid I skimmed the second half. Altho' I'm pretty sure the lady who says you'd have to cut deeper is right. Other than that:

I really, really like the beginning. Her liking to feel the cool floor through the fabric, the quiet echo etc. This gave me the sense of her as young and a loner, almost autistic--whether by nature or because of depression. It also gave me empathy with her: here is something she likes, that most people don't like, and it's something I can feel.

And then that phrase "Just Maren and the razor." Real, real good.

From there I wish it had moved slower. And not just 'cause it made me feel faint. The emotions of wanting to be alone with the razor, of liking the sensations, felt real; tears coming as she realized what she was about to do, and criticizing herself for being a coward, didn't.

The Maren I thought I saw in the first para's was going to play with the razor a while, press it into her skin almost hard enough but not quite; maybe go on to cut herself. She was going to toy with the idea of killing herself, and the thought that she *could* was going to make her feel better. But she wasn't going to do it just yet. I'd recommend that. It's plenty dramatic, and it leaves you room for the more life-changing moment to come later.

Or if she actually does attempt or commit suicide, tell us *why*. Along with telling us, like others've said, more about her. You don't have to tell us *exactly* why, if the mystery is important. But in that case tell us the emotion that drives that thrust, the thing that lies deeper than criticizing herself for a coward--tell us how deeply she wants to be gone from her life.