Monday, March 7, 2011

First Impressions #3


Today’s post wraps up the First Impressions feature for the month of March. Marcy and I will be sharing three more first pages in April.

Not the Girl You Think I Am – whom you can find at her blog I Want Everything – shared the first page of her WIP, which is loosely based on the story of Maria Spelterini, the only woman to cross the Niagara gorge on a tightrope.

Here are the first 120 words:

Mary stood on the platform in front of the tightrope. Her mind buzzing with the fight she had with Albert last night. She called him all kinds of crazy names; names that he deserved. They were getting married in a few weeks. She thought she loved him, but when he caught Julian in her dressing room. Well, that hadn’t gone over well. She tried to explain to Albert that it wasn’t what it looked like, and that she really loved him, not Julian. The bastard Julian forced her to do it. Had forced her. Albert wouldn’t believe her. He saw what he wanted, and instead of seeing a woman raped, Albert saw his soon-to-be wife cheating on him with his best friend.

The first two sentences (which should be combined into one) make a powerful opening statement, introducing conflict and dilemma in a concise manner.

Mary stood on the platform in front of the tightrope, her mind buzzing with the fight she had with Albert last night.

A tightrope walker’s mind should be on the rope! Immediately, I am worried about this young woman and afraid she’s going to make a mistake.

Then, the opening paragraph takes us away from that tightrope and sends us to the dressing room. I think the author should keep us on that tightrope a while longer. I suggest describing the scene a little more, while still keeping the focus on Mary and her state of mind. In between glimpses of her current location (on the tightrope) and her emotional turmoil (half-angry, half-broken-hearted), we can also get flashes of the events of last night:

She called him all kinds of crazy names; names that he deserved.
She tried to explain to Albert that it wasn’t what it looked like.

And this sentence, from further down on the first page:
She understood why he thought what he did. She was the star of the traveling circus, and lots of men looked at her. She could tell that made Albert jealous. But Mary never realized just how jealous a man he could be.

These sentences tantalize us, giving us glimpses of the fight, without telling us exactly what happened. I would suggest not mentioning Julian at all yet. String the reader along, making us wonder what precipitated the fight … making us wonder if she’s going to make it across that tightrope in one piece. Don't give us the whole story on the first page. Instead, make sure the reader is hooked and has to keep reading to find out what happened last night, and what will happen right now.

Be sure to head on over to Mainewords to find out what Marcy Hatch has to say about this interesting selection.

9 comments:

  1. I agree with you. The opener is powerful and maybe teasing us a bit longer would pack more of a punch.

    Nice job!

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  2. Great spot to open a book! I agree with Dianne that you could make the opening even more powerful by drawing out the tease a little. Let the reader's itch get stronger before you scratch it -- it'll be more satisfying that way.

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  3. It is so educational to read these First Impressions. Thanks for doing them Dianne and thanks to the contributors for their bravery in putting them up! I agree that this will be a very tantalizing opener, especially with the changes suggested.

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  4. hi miss dianne! im just learning how to do a good opening and what you said for this is just real good. it cool keeping the reader dangling a little and not saying to much and just enough so he could wanna read more.
    ...hugs from lenny

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  5. Oh, great snippet and critique, I always love reading these posts - it improves my own writing too. Thanks so much for sharing. ;-)

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  6. YOu are spot on Dianne and WOWEE what a story premise! LOVE IT!

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  7. Hey Guys! Thanks for all the positive feedback. :) I have to be honest. I was definitely scared to let this story out into the wild. It's pretty much my first attempt at fiction after a long hiatus of scholarly writing. A huge difference, believe me. I'm so happy for the feedback, I can't wait to make Ms. Mary's story even better! A special thanks to Dianne for not eviscerating my writing. I appreciate that.

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  8. Wow! That was amazing! I was totally caught up in it!

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