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First Page: Unnamed Contemporary

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***

GAAAAAAA!!!!!!!

Daphne Delaney looked to the doorway to see her assistant Cloe McBride having a mini-freakout over the floral delivery for the engagement party they were in charge of organizing. Giggling to herself, she took her time walking to the table that held the flowers and plants before they were arranged around the room. Although Daphne and Cloe had only known each other since Cloe had come to work at Daphne’s event planning business, Excellent Events and Occasions, six months ago, one of Daphne’s main sources of entertainment in life was tormenting her friend. Sometimes bordering on evil (affectionately of course), this pastime was, at times, too easy but it was great fun damn it and Daphne took pride in rattling Cloe.

"Oh my God!" exclaimed Daphne as she approached the flowers, watching Cloe panic further. "Those topiaries look amazing!"

"Are you blind in addition to being out of your mind?? They’ve got brown spots on the leaves, they’re kind of droopy, they’re too short, and-"

Laughing, Daphne cut her off saying, "They’re fine. Don’t worry so much! I can handle the spots and the droopies. As for the height, we have some flagstones in the storage room that we can use to make them a little taller. You go grab some of the stones and I’ll take care of these."

Daphne chuckled as she watched Cloe head towards the storeroom at the other end of the building. Running a quick eye around the rest of the room, Daphne made mental notes of what was finished and what yet needed done. Today’s event was more of a personal one than business. Her good friends Ella Sprunger and Duncan Murray had recently gotten engaged and Daphne was doing their engagement party. She had offered to do it for free but met with such resistance that they all compromised on doing it for cost. She had been in business for three years but had just purchased this building seven months ago.

Having formerly been a small, family owned funeral home in Libertyville, Indiana, the building was already nicely decorated and only required some minimal renovations and updating. What had been two viewing rooms, Daphne converted into two all-purpose rooms that she rented out for receptions, parties and other events. There was also a storage area in the back, basement space under most of the building and a couple of offices at the front off of the sitting area just inside the entrance. It even had an apartment on the second story that came furnished although Daphne had yet to actually use it. She still couldn’t believe her luck in acquiring the building. The previous owners, former clients actually, had won an obscenely large amount of money in the state lottery. They promptly offered to sell the building to Daphne, sold the icky funeral home stuff and retired to Italy. Their 30th wedding anniversary party had been one of the very first events that Daphne had planned after starting her business and they had kept in touch ever since.

***

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33 Comments

  1. Anon E. Mouse
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 04:37:41

    Some comments:

    * Not a winning first line.

    * What’s with all the last names? They sound clunky at this point.

    * How many flagstones can YOU lift at once? They’re a one-at-a-time deal for me.

    * I read this first page and I still don’t know what’s going on in this story. Apart from the topiaries. And I’m not very inclined to spend a whole book getting to know someone whose idea of “fun” is taunting the woman she hired.

  2. Emmy
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 04:41:39

    Flower prOn..woot! I like a character who can make limp leaves stand up.

    I didn’t hate it…liked the flow and the voice….I’m just not sure I understand where this is going. Is there a point to this in the forseeable future? I’d read a few more pages to see, or just flip to the end, read the last few pages where all the action is likely to be, and stick it back on the shelf.

  3. Erastes
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 05:39:17

    GAAAAAAA!!!!!!!

    Who’s saying this? If it’s Daphne, then it’s odd, because she’s giggling, and if it’s Cloe, then why isn’t it in quote marks?

    The beginning part was promising, but then I got bored really quick with the description of the building and the previous owners and .. blah.. Is this relevant? I’d rather know someone more personal than the layout of a building.

    And I agree – surnames needed of the main players – all the others, not so much.

  4. Leah
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 07:32:47

    I’m gonna be interested in anything that takes place in small-town Indiana, and I like the backstory of her job, and of how she got the place…I just don’t think you want it all spelled ouyt on the first page. You could work it in throughout the first chapter and it wouldn’t be so obvious. Perhaps you can start with the actual “freak-out” in dialogue, to give readers an idea of how Daphne and Chloe interact with each other and what kind of people they are. Also, I know people who like to yank others’ chains (ok, I married one), and they can be charming people…but they have all been guys, and sometimes they are not always nice. If you want to have a character who likes to push buttons for her own amusement, fine, but you might want to establish this a little more subtly, and without using words like “torment” and “evil.” She can be funny, and sometimes go too far–it’s a good character flaw to work with, I think, but you want to set her up as sympathetic, and she’s walking the line here a little, imho.

    Just some thoughts. I got a vivid mental picture of the story, and I am curious to know what is coming up, so I’d keep reading. I’d just want some more dialogue soon.

  5. NCKat
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 07:52:44

    The first line scared me. Where did it come from? If it’s Chloe’s yell, it needs to be in quotes.

    I agree with the others – there’s too much too soon.

    I found this sentence awkward: Laughing, Daphne cut her off saying, “They're fine. Don't worry so much! I can handle the spots and the droopies. Maybe that should be rewritten as Daphne cut her off with a laugh, saying, “They're fine. Don't worry so much! I can handle the spots and the droopies…”

    The part about the building being a funeral home at one time sounds too rushed — it reminded me of “Pushing Up Daisies” for some reason. I love that show but I don’t think the pace translates to a book intro very well.

    I would be interested in reading this after it’d been edited and the extra verbiage taken out.

  6. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 07:54:19

    I think there’s too much info being dropped on us for a first page.

    The voice itself works for me, but the story isn’t grabbing me.

    Good luck!

  7. theo
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 07:58:04

    I’m not sure I’d keep reading or not. I had to read it twice to get past all of the Daphne/Cloe references. When I found myself counting how many times their names were mentioned, it pulled me out of the story. I think some simple rephrasing of a few of those spots would still give the reader the information you’re going for without so much name repetition. Simply a suggestion here! But rather than:

    >>Although Daphne and Cloe had only known each other since Cloe had come to work at Daphne's event planning business, Excellent Events and Occasions, six months ago,<>Though she’d only known Cloe since hiring her six months earlier as an assistant for her events planning business, Excellent Events and Occasions…<<

    The reader knows you’re referring to Daphne there so trust them to sort it out easily.

    I do like the funeral home idea, but too much detail too soon for me and I put the book away. Everyone’s not like that of course, but many are.

    Other than that, the first line should go in quotes, there are a few other minor punctuation things, but overall the story could be very interesting with some good editing. I know how hard it is to cut words. But sometimes it just needs to be done for the flow of the story.

    Kudos for putting it out here and good luck!

  8. theo
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 08:00:51

    I don’t know what happened above, it looked fine in the preview window. What I’d written was:

    imply a suggestion here! But rather than:

    “Although Daphne and Cloe had only known each other since Cloe had come to work at Daphne's event planning business, Excellent Events and Occasions, six months ago,”

    Maybe something like:

    “Though she'd only known Cloe since hiring her six months earlier as an assistant for her events planning business, Excellent Events and Occasions…”

    The reader knows you're referring to Daphne there so trust them to sort it out easily.

  9. joanne
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 08:30:49

    I am sort of interested in the story but agree with what’s already been said.
    No to the first line.
    No to all the last names
    No to the info dump, a little on the first page and more coming as the first chapter progresses.

    It seems like the whole thing would have a better flow if it started with “one of Daphne's main sources of entertainment in life was tormenting her friend. Sometimes bordering on evil (affectionately of course), this pastime was, at times, too easy but it was great fun damn it and Daphne took pride in rattling Cloe.”

    On a personal note: I don’t think authors should need to use parenthesis to make their point, I think they should make their point with their sentences (unlike non-writers like me who can do anything because…er, we aren’t authors.)(oh that’s a joke about the non-writers, not the authors)

    Good luck & thank you.

  10. cecilia
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 08:42:20

    Others have mentioned the last names. I have to say I found the first names really off-putting – all of them are too pretty. And this maybe is just a personal deviance, but that spelling of Cloe – I don’t know if I could stand to look at that for a whole book. It looks wrong and amputated.

    The frequency of the chuckling and laughing in the paragraphs before the info dump bothers me – Daphne seems to find things hugely amusing, but as a reader, I don’t see what’s so funny. It comes off as trying too hard to make her seem fun.

  11. Gennita Low
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 08:52:04

    There are a lot of information and background given in this one page. The converted funeral home was a funny irony and I think it’d be an excellent way to start your contemporary, perhaps giving it a nuance on things to come with this particular event. I’m going to play with your paragraphs/writing a bit here:

    Seven months ago, this was a funeral home. Daphne Delaney looked around. Not anymore. She’d converted it for her events planning business, Excellent Events and Occasions, and it was now a place for more upbeat functions.

    She hoped so, anyway, as she gazed at her panicking assistant struggling with the topiary. Chloe had only started work six months ago, but she was already a friend.

    (insert conversation between the women here to show their friendship, maybe making a few jokes about dead plants and the ex-funeral home or dead plants in the viewing room, thus using the info you’ve provided in the other paragraphs)

    Today's event was more of a personal one than business. Her good friends, Ella and Duncan, had recently gotten engaged and Daphne was doing their engagement party. She’d offered to do it for free but met with such resistance that they all compromised on doing it for cost.

    This is just an example of how to insert details without info-dumping. There are other ways, probably better than this ;-). Thank you for letting me play with your first page. Good luck!

  12. shenan
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 09:00:41

    If I opened a book to the first page and saw “GAAAAAAA!!!!!!!” as the first line, I would immediately slam the book shut. It screams (literally!) of an amateur effort.

    Giggling to herself — Is this even possible? Why not just have her giggle? Hmm. And she then proceeds to laugh and chuckle.

    Lose the exclamation points and the extra question mark.

    There’s no hook here to engage my interest in this short excerpt. Instead we get a bunch of detail that isn’t interesting and that (I assume) has nothing to do with the plot. And really — what IS the plot? I don’t see a clue here as to what the story is about.

  13. Jessica Barksdale Inclan
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 09:33:07

    I like the idea of starting with action (and I know we go back and forth on this), but the GAAAA was a bit strange. I found myself subintonating it in order to replicate. Then I got stuck on the spelling of “Cloe.” Is it pronounced Klow or is it a cool way of spelling Chloe. Again, there I was trying to figure something out.

    I must say, I have never heard this line in real life or in a book, so it was fun to read: “Those topiaries look amazing!”

    Daphne and Cloe seem to have a good relationship, and the choice of the names Daphne and Cloe suggest some sort of secret Greek thematic thing. Who knows what is going to happen here.

    I’m in agreement about the setting info dump that comes up, and I wouldn’t have minded staying in that active part of the scene, with those characters for a while longer.

    When I think about this activity, while very useful especially if you are about to send it off into the world, I can imagine that almost anyone could put up a first page (well published or not) and we’d feed on it like fish on a worm. So take all of the above and what I say with a grain of salt, knowing that all we have here is this one page.

  14. Lori
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 09:45:06

    The event planners in the funeral home is a serious giggle. I love original ideas and that’s a good one.

    The names are too cutesy: one might be okay but almost all are just too much. There’s nothing wrong with a Jane Smith or Michael Jones. I didn’t even notice the spelling of Cloe…

    My advice on this is just pace it a little more sensibly. I felt like I walked in right in the middle of a screwball comedy and I adore screwball comedies but want to catch my breath before the craziness starts. So slow it down, give us a moment to catch our breath and meet your characters as they prepare for the party.

    Good luck with this. It sounds like it could be a lot of fun!

  15. Maya Reynolds
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 09:49:12

    Christopher Vogler, author of The Writer’s Journey, a well-known book on story structure, argues that you begin any story by showing the hero(ine)’s “ordinary world” before s/he receives the “Call to Adventure.”

    You have established a good voice and have anchored your story in Daphne’s ordinary world. You’re off to a good start.

    I have three issues, some of which others have touched upon:

    1) The names Daphne and Cloe are a little too close to “Daphnis and Chloe,” the Greek novel, for me. I found them distracting, particularly since Daphnis was a male.

    2) I don’t find an employer who delights in torments her employee sympathetic at all. This is a major turn-off for me.

    3) You have too much backstory. The funeral parlor offers a lot of potential to the story, but I would just make a casual reference to it here and work the other details in at later points. At this point in your novel, the reader needs to get pulled into the story, not absorb a bunch of facts (like the physical structure of the building or every character’s last name).

    Again, I very much like your voice. Don’t get discouraged. Keep writing and revising.

    Good luck.

  16. Lynne Connolly
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 10:01:16

    Agree with all the others. Get rid of the first line. Too gimicky. And get rid of all the surnames, too. Do we really need to know their last names? Do they think of themselves like that?
    And then I read “Giggling to herself.” The “to herself” thing needs to go.
    Daphnis and Chloe reference, or is that an accident? I’m tempted to think it isn’t, with the flower theme, but I don’t see where it can go from there, since Daphnis was a man in the original story. And “Cloe” makes me think that her parents couldn’t spell which would be an interesting diversion.
    “one of Daphne's main sources of entertainment in life was tormenting her friend” my first thought is – what a horrible person.
    Too many sentences beginning with “ing” words. And get rid of the infodump.
    If this book were a published one, we’d have a cover and blurb to tell us what to expect, so I’m not too bothered about that aspect, I assume we’d be ready for that.

    And since Gennita’s had a go, and I’m currently struggling with a new WIP and looking for anything except that, here’s my try:

    Chloe rushed at everything like a bull at a gate, but watching her struggle with the topiary plants, Daphne knew she’d made the right choice when she’d hired her six months ago. What Chloe lacked in subtlety, she made up for in enthusiasm and energy. The rest would come. Floristry wasn’t all about huge plants and flagstones. And event planning wasn’t all about the decor, either.
    Chloe stood back and rested her hands on her hips. “Doesn’t look much like a funeral home any more, does it?”
    Daphne smiled. “That’s because it isn’t. The premises were just ideal for my business and it came at the right price. Although it hasn’t hurt the wreath side of the business, I’d far rather be doing something like this, a happy occasion. And an engagement party is a great fun occasion. People sometimes assume we’re just florists, even though it says ‘event planning’ on the front door. We need more of these things to make our name.” Which was one of the reasons she was doing this affair at cost. Although it didn’t hurt that Ella and Duncan were her great friends and she probably would have done it at cost price anyway.

    Far from perfect, but it’s an attempt to drip the information in instead of dumping it in one para, and incorporating it into the action. I’d cut Daphne’s speech down in revisions, and make the conversation longer, and put in the dead tree stuff, which I think was nice. Also, I tried to make her attitude to Chloe (sorry, I just can’t do Cloe) a bit more sympathetic.

    Anyway, nice voice, good start and I think with a bit of revision this could be a really entertaining read.

  17. Maya Reynolds
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 10:52:35

    Lynne: Good Morning (or Good Afternoon for you).

    As usual, we’re on the same page.

    Regards,

    Maya

  18. MCHalliday
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 11:35:48

    “Christopher Vogler, author of The Writer's Journey, a well-known book on story structure, argues that you begin any story by showing the hero(ine)'s “ordinary world” before s/he receives the ‘Call to Adventure’.”

    If I may add further, the above are the first two of the 12 step Ancient Mythology story form. It is used most obviously in fantasy and less so in other genres. Beginning a tale with Ordinary World is not intended to be interpreted literally, IMHO and introducing the protag’s life with conflict or hook to grab reader interest is a more appealing approach.

  19. JoB
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 11:52:48

    My problem with this opening is that it’s a description of how the women interact,
    instead of the women interacting.
    It’s description of places where these two women are not,
    instead of description of where the women are.

    Every time we start to notice some real and concrete object we get grabbed up by the scruff of the neck and hauled off someplace else.

    If this scene of two women talking is worth writing,
    (is it … ?)
    then we should be IN THE SCENE to see them do it.

    .
    Lookit here at the first example …

    .
    she took her time walking to the table that held the flowers and plants before they were arranged around the room.
    .

    We have something concrete here. A table. But instead of showing us that table and what’s on it, we slip away to an abstract and distant line about how the table is routinely used.

    Consider instead …

    .
    she took her time walking to the scarred formica table. Peruvian cat fern and florettes of bachelor button had been shoved aside to make room for …
    .

    The here-and-now table is about to hit our gal in the belly. Show us that table, not the future and routine use and abstract table.
    At ten in the morning, Wednesday, the fifth of June, what is the sight, smell, color, texture, shape of the table?

    Another Lookit …

    .
    “Oh my God!” exclaimed Daphne as she approached the flowers, watching Cloe panic further. “Those topiaries look amazing!”
    .

    Consider instead …

    .
    Daphne picked off a yellow-and-muddy-brown, mottled leaf. It smelled like the morning after a frat party. “What IS this?”

    Cloe opened and closed her mouth, uninformative as a goldfish, hanging midwater. “T .. T …Topiary.”
    .

    Daphne’s action of picking off a leaf is more detailed and specific than the vague ‘approaching’. We now have the color, shape and smell to what she’s looking at. It’s not just a generic ‘flower’.
    We are not TOLD Cloe has panicked. We see Cloe panic.

    So my advice would be

    — decide whether this scene is NEEDED for some story purpose, (something beyond forming a nice quiet spot to dump backstory.)

    — describe actions and objects in the scene with some specficity and detail.

    — fine-tune the emotions of these two characters. Their giggling, laughing, exclaiming, panicking, torturing and being rattled may give way to reactions both more moderate and more complex.

    — take three-quarters of this segment and move it six pages onward. Put all that backstory AFTER the reader is wrapped up in the characters.

  20. JulieLeto
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 12:42:27

    Tried not to read anyone else’s comments and just make mine.

    This is a good character sketch, but it isn’t the opening of a chapter. I sense the writer trying to discover character and establish backstory, but this is the kind of scene I might write for myself, then tuck it away in a file.

    Nothing is HAPPENING. This is not the moment of change. I think the author needs to dig deeper.

    That said, I don’t personally like heroines who giggle. Giggling would make me put down the book right then and there, unless she’s twelve. And even then. The teasing relationship comes across as very childish and not at all professional. When I meet a heroine (again–this is totally personal) I like to see her being good at something. She doesn’t have to be perfect, but competent. Even if she’s screwing up. I don’t know if I can accurately describe what I mean…it’s one thing to be human and have foibles and another to be silly–and this heroine comes across as silly.

    And yes, there is WAY too much backstory for a first page.

  21. Maya Reynolds
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 12:43:36

    It is used most obviously in fantasy and less so in other genres. Beginning a tale with Ordinary World is not intended to be interpreted literally, IMHO and introducing the protag's life with conflict or hook to grab reader interest is a more appealing approach.

    Although fantasy writers have enthusiastically embraced Vogler (and Campbell’s) theories, when you read “The Writer’s Journey” or hear Vogler speak, you learn that he makes the point the “all storytelling, consciously or not, [follow] the ancient patterns of myth, and that all stories . . . can be understood in terms of the Hero’s Journey . . .”

    His seminars are attended by writers from all genres, not just fantasy writers.

    Starting in the ordinary world does not negate having a hook or an appealing approach.

  22. Val Kovalin
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 12:45:44

    I’m going to second a lot that’s been covered already just so you know that the same things are leaping out at us:

    No to the “GAAAA!” and all the chuckling and giggling. It’s trying too hard as Cecilia and others have pointed out. No to the surnames. They’re not relevant on the first page and people don’t think of themselves this way. To open like this holds the readers at arm’s length and prevents a close third-person viewpoint. No to the back-story coming as an info-dump. Gennita and Theo and Lynne have provided some good examples on how to integrate this stuff a little more naturally.

    My biggest problem is the lack of what Shenan calls the “hook”. As a mystery/fantasy fan, I first started participating in these DearAuthor critiques from the background of practically expecting a murder on the first page (I want my dead body, damn it!).

    Only recently have I come around to the realization that some writers prefer to open more subtly with a sense of tension permeating everyday life and then build quickly (like towards the end of the first chapter) towards the outright conflict.

    But we do need that sense of tension, in my opinion. Even if you don’t start with the outright conflict, you should probably start with a hint of what Daphne wants. Just a hint of something lacking or some dissatisfaction so that we know that all is not perfection – because you can’t build a story from that.

    An actual conflict would be something like foreclosure on her building or some action of hers incurring someone’s animosity or whatever. That can come a little later, if you like.

    But what she wants … that could be something as small as one subtle thought on the first page that all is not right in her world. Maybe she’s lonely and hoping she’ll meet someone special, or she has a twinge of insecurity about her new business because her parents never thought she’d amount to anything. These random examples may all be inappropriate – but I hope you see what I mean. We’ve got 506 words here and I’m still not getting a sense of anything at stake that could build into a storyline.

  23. MCHalliday
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 13:53:40

    First Page Author, after my HO of the story structure form ‘Ancient Mythology’, introduced here by Ms Reynolds, perhaps I might mention two others that might prove helpful to you.

    ‘Classical Full Story Map’ is most often used for dramatic narrative storytelling, particularily when considering a book to film adaptation.

    The simple step template from the book, The Comic Toolbox, by John Vorhaus is an eight point story form based on the KISS principle.

    Wishing you great success!

  24. Melanie
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 13:54:11

    The description of how the heroine likes to torment her employee turned me off instantly. Everything else I read about Daphne after that was tainted by the idea that she’s a shitty boss. I don’t care if they’re friends or not, Daphne is in a position of power over Cloe at work and a decent boss (and friend) would be cognizant and careful of that.

    Also, I plan major events and if someone tried messing with my head (or any of my colleagues) in the hours before show time just because they thought it was funny, I’d beat them with a flagstone.

  25. CC
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 14:18:58

    like the event planning/party room in a former funeral home

    dislike the info dump- it just feels clunky- like some of the stuff we’re getting doesn’t need to be told already- the geography of the building can be described when it comes into play- right now I don’t need to know about the storage, but later when you need something large or to clean up from this event, the storage room will be important

    like employer and employee being friends

    dislike sadistic streak- there are friends I pick on because its fun, but not at work before a big event

    like the sense of fun and enjoyment Daphne seems to have in her work

    dislike the internal giggling- I kept expecting to see smoky beakers and other accoutrements of a mad scientist

  26. Kaye Sykes
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 17:47:19

    I agree with the comments above, but wanted to add that I found your voice engaging and I’m a sucker for small-town settings. There’s something about the beginning that makes me want to read more.

  27. Hope
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 17:57:06

    I couldn’t even get past the 1st paragraph after that first liner. . .

  28. Lorelie
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 18:17:16

    Can I truly be the only person who thought that Daphne intentionally ordered crappy plants, simply in order to mess with Chloe? It took me three read throughs to realize the rattling part was only cooing over how they’re “amazing.”

  29. Dawn Kunda
    Oct 04, 2008 @ 20:46:42

    The story sounds cute and lighthearted. Start with the conversation right away. Get rid of a lot of the “telling” and substitute “showing.” This can be done with dialogue, touching droopy leaves, looking around the room for something because they are not completely familiar with it yet, to show it is a new purchase. This will build a visual scene. Who cares about the previous owners unless they are an integral part of the story? I like the friendship you have described. Keep writing!

  30. isidri
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 14:11:12

    Haven’t read through the comments, so apologies if I’m just repeating what others have said. But OTOH, if 10 people all say the same thing it makes it harder to rationalize away. And that’s a good thing.

    My gut reactions:

    * If the first line is dialogue, it needs quotation marks, and needs to be made clear somewhere (second paragraph is fine) who is doing the GAAAAAAA-ing. If it isn’t, it makes no sense and needs to go.

    * multiple question marks and/or exclamation points make you sound like a twelve-year-old posting on a Jonas brothers fansite. One is sufficient.

    * way, way too much repeating of names. I know it’s harder to keep everything comprehensible with two “she”‘s in a scene, but you are putting the dots way closer together than they need to be

    * infodump ahoy! You only need to convey the information that the reader needs to understand what is happening in the story right now. Do I really need to know that Daphne converted two viewing rooms into one room for receptions, parties, and other events, in order to understand this scene? Do I need to know how much storage space she has? About the apartment she isn’t even using? Unless these things are going to become vitally important in the next few pages, don’t stop the scene to tell them to me.

    * when you begin a story, you have to ask yourself the First Question from Passover: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” In other words, why does the story start here, on this day, at this event, with these substandard topiaries? You probably already know the answer to that… but I don’t– not from reading your first page. You don’t necessarily have to dive straight into the conflict, but it wouldn’t hurt to at least hint at it, instead of telling me about characters I’m (probably) never going to see or hear mentioned again winning the lottery.

    Beginnings are precious and precarious. Don’t waste the space.

  31. karmelrio
    Oct 06, 2008 @ 14:45:49

    Julie Leto said: “This is a good character sketch, but it isn't the opening of a chapter. I sense the writer trying to discover character and establish backstory, but this is the kind of scene I might write for myself, then tuck it away in a file.”

    Great advice, Julie. Not everything we write should necessarily end up in the final product. isidri also touches upon this with his/her “infodump ahoy” comment. The writer needs to know the layout of the room so she can move characters around in the setting through out the book, but it’s a bit too much info for page 1.

  32. Deb Kinnard
    Oct 06, 2008 @ 14:53:53

    I mostly agree with the others. Backstory and first chapter are not friends and shouldn’t be forced to share space.

    I could tolerate Daphne’s hobby of tormenting Chloe, as long as Chloe gets her back. In spades. Mega-vengeance. My crit partner & I do this to each other all the time. We’re equals. For your characters, it will make their relationship a thing of marvellous invention.

    I couldn’t hack “Cloe.” My mind kept wanting to add “–rox” and consider her as liquid bleach. All found, though, you’ve got potential here for a very nice romp. Stick with it!

  33. Lauren Bethany
    Oct 07, 2008 @ 20:42:57

    I didn’t read what others wrote, so please excuse if I repeat.

    the Ga thing… who is ga-ing and why? Is it to draw attention to the plight of Cloe’s topiary? If so it needs to go with the topiary discussion, not seperated from it by a paragraph, and it needs to be in quotes with a clear indication of who is making the noise. Even when there isn’t a tag, the reader should get an indication as to who is saying what or it just gets confusing.

    The next thing I noticed was the names being repeated. it made me think of a British comedy skit I saw some time ago where formal introductions went nuts each time someone new spoke. Cloe, Daphne, Daphne, Cloe, cloe and Daphne… And BTW, the ‘Cloe’ spelling makes me think of shoe, which makes me want to say Clue instead of Chloe. I’m simple, please don’t give me oddly spelled names.

    On to the action…where is it? I have a bit of topiary rescue and what else? The rest of the page is info dump abut the house and her business, none of which is making me want to keep reading.

    On the plus side, I do like the voice. Despite bouncing back and forth with the names and the waiting around for something to happen, it sounds good. There is a nice flow to the language that could translate to an enjoyable story.

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