Friday, April 2, 2010

First page...*sigh*

Well, I've mentioned before that I can't seem to refuse a challenge, but today's blogfest, brought to us by Kelly @ Kelly's Compositions, is a challenge I really believe I need to take part in. Because, as so many people do, I hate the first chapter of my WIP. I can't seem to get it right. This is the latest incarnation of probably at the very least, twelve different versions...yikes. So, if you enjoy ripping apart people's work, rip away...I'll take any and all comments.

Thanks for hosting, Kelly--and please, readers, be sure to check out the other posters.

And if you're here for yesterday's Alternate Version blogfest, well, look at the post directly below this one!

Sallie Kingston sank down onto her knees in the dirt, and put her fingers over the words, to feel the engraving as she had when she was younger. Helena, 1851. Death knows life’s secrets.

It was one of the few markers in the graveyard still inscribed with a name, one of the fewer marked by a date; it was engraved so deeply that, centuries later, Helena still lived on. At least for Sallie.

She folded herself against the stone to read it over again, one last time before going home, before her mother started to wonder, and then she stood. Yellow leaves fell from her lap like rain. Her knees were sodden, and she tried to wipe them down, but only made it look worse. She looked out beyond the front of the graveyard, to the small house she shared with her mother; it was a bit less than a mile away, but there was nothing in the way, and she could see it clearly, the windows lighting up as the sky darkened. As long as her mother wasn’t waiting for her at the door, Sallie could clean herself up, and she wouldn’t know.

Unless she asked. Sallie wasn’t exactly the world's greatest liar.

She should have gone straight home, probably, but sometimes she stayed after to study, so her mother would probably assume that’s where she was now. Maybe she would have been, too. But that had been before Trina Smithson had tormented her at school, before she had gotten in trouble in one of her classes for dozing off. Before the others had whispered about her as she walked through the halls. She was tired out, and now she was waiting for—well, just waiting to forget, a little. To not think about the day—but more to forget about the night.

Nights had never been easy, but they were mostly manageable. Her mother was overly concerned when something like this came up, and it made Sallie uncomfortable. It wasn’t anything, really. Sometimes, she just worried. Or her dreams woke her, sometimes—something just wasn’t right about them. They were nonsensical and gray.

It was much easier to forget, here and now, in her sanctuary.


Charity Bradford said...

I like all the layers in this. My mind started asking questions and trying to find answers. I would keep reading to find out what the girl is afraid of and why she feels such a connection and peace in a graveyard.


Portia said...

First, I have to tell you you're not alone! I am also on the (it feels like) millionth version of my first page. I found this to be a much tougher challenge than I care to admit. Posting a first page *sounded* easy enough, but ...

I love the way Sallie feels this inscription. To me, there's already a powerful mystery here. I'd definitely read on.

Simon C. Larter said...

Your writing is smooth, and you've established the character quite effectively. Nicely done, good lady.

My only question is this: what's the main conflict? Any hints there that I didn't catch? If not, are there any that could be included?

Just my initial thoughts, for what they're worth. :)

Harley D. Palmer said...

This is interesting! I could really see myself in Sallie! I would love to read more! Very vivid details!

Just Another Sarah said...

Charity: Thanks! And say, I just learned about your blogfest...looking forward to it!

Portia: Oh, don't you just hate that first bit? Thanks for the review!

Simon: Thank you...your (and everyone else's) initial thoughts are worth everything! :) And you've given me something to think about...I appreciate it!

Harley: Thanks! I'm all about the details. :) Hopefully the big picture will be as strong!

Laura Canon said...

I think its in the nature of things that you work on the beginning the most. When you start writing you don't know the characters very well yet, and -- for me, at least -- I am often feeling my way around and settling in. At a certain point I usually go back and cut a lot of that settling in out because I realize I don't need it any more.
I like the atmosphere of mystery here but I was asking myself just what sort of mystery it is. I think you could bring that out without tipping off the reader too much.

Dawn Embers said...

I like the first page. The part about the tombstones is intriguing with the lack of engraving that most are hinted to have. The adverbs tend to stick out to me, but that's more because after enough critiques discussing adverbs I notice them in any writing. Have more than one in a paragraph and I'm gonna notice it. lol Shows the difference in reading since starting to write and critique as opposed to how I used to read for fun.

I'd agree with Simon on what to ask since you're still not keen on the chapter.

Tiny idea: How do you feel about the first paragraph? I'm curious cause I wonder how it would look if you started with "Death knows life's secrets." It's something that crossed my mind after reading it.

Either way, it's a decent first page and hopefully you'll be happy with it soon. Good luck on that first chapter.

Iapetus999 said...

Interesting. The first para really hooks me.
I feel like the scene gets bogged down in backstory. I'd rather see the story start out with some action, (not kung-fu but movement). Self-reflection kind of kills things. Don't feel that you have to explain your character's actions or mood. Just let her act in her world.
Would it still work if you dropped the last 3 paragraphs? Or moved them to later in the scene?
Nice job, I want to know what happens when she goes home. :)

maybe genius said...

I liked the image of the leaves falling like rain, and the worn gravestones. Very atmospheric. This left me wondering who Helena was.

roxy said...

I feel so sympathetic toward this girl. You did such a good job of revealing her character. I also liked the beginning in the graveyard. Intriguing, Sarah. Great first page.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

You connect with the reader immediately. That is a rare talent. I wanted to read page 2. Come check out my first page, will you?

Good luck in becoming published, Roland

Elaine AM Smith said...

Not FLOWER but NEAR EDGWARE has had 97 re-writes on page 1 alone - I kept count! Some were as little as repositioning a comma and some were rather longer.

Your character is very believable. The best advice anyone ever gave me was write what you need to in the fewest number of words. This is a little snipped snippet of what it could go like:

She read it over again, one last time before going home. It was late, her mother would wonder. When Sallie stood yellow leaves fell from her lap like rain and her knees were sodden. She wiped at them, made them look worse.
The house she shared with her mother was less than a mile away, she glanced across, the windows lighting now. Sallie shrugged, as long as her mother wasn’t waiting at the door she could clean herself up and no-one would ever know.

Tara said...

I am in the same 1st chapter blues boat. I'm pretty sure it's normal ;)

I like your writing very much, it flows nicely.

I agree with a couple of the comments about hinting to the actual story - what is going to happen to MC, or what major thing has happened. That's your hook.

I would keep reading though!

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

Yellow leaves fell from her lap like rain.

I adore that line. I agree that the layers are engaging. I want to know why she is so drawn to the gravestone.

I'm so curious to know what it is that is making her mother worry "when something like this comes up." What is the something? Is that the central conflict Simon is looking for? I think it is a bit convoluded, but I still really like it. :) I think you just need to give us a little bit more.

Kelly Lyman said...

Oh- I like this. I want to know more about the person whose grave she was at and about her nights- you really have me intrigued. And, I've rewrote my first page 17 times! I still don't think it is where it needs to be either! THanks for participating!

Anonymous said...

Sanctuary in a've got me hooked with these first lines.

DL Hammons said...

An eery beginning raising all sorts of questions. Just my cup of tea. I'd be moving forward to the next page for sure!! Good job.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Thank you for the kind words on my first page. They are deeply appreciated. I've had four agents request to read my entire novel. But I also get rejections, and your words help blunt their impact. Thank you. Have a healing weekend, Roland

Anonymous said...

I can't speak for your entire first chapter, but I can say your first page is wonderful. Really. Keep going I say! And fear not - your prose and idea are wonderfully compelling. :)

Abby Annis said...

I agree with a lot of the other comments. The writing is very fluid and easy to read, but I don't get a sense for what the conflict is--what the story is about.

And I understand completely how difficult it is to get that on the first page. I wrote my opening page countless times before I figured it out, and I still don't know if I'm totally happy with it.

Good luck! :)

Anonymous said...

Sparks many questions and I wouldn't stop reading until I got the answers. Great start.

Don't forget to sign up for Last Line Blogfest! (details on my site.)

Just Another Sarah said...

Thanks, everyone, for all your comments! I haven't made it through all of your first pages yet...but I am going to work at it.

Your comments have all been really very helpful to me. I really appreciate all your help! Thanks *so* much!

Just Another Sarah said...

PS-Lilah, I can't get to your blog to sign up! Can you provide a link?