Monday, November 7, 2011

First Impressions #28


Our final First Impression for this month comes from Jerri George. This is the first page of SEADUCED, a generational saga set in the 1950’s to 70’s in Cape Cod and Miami Beach. Jerri says it’s loosely based on her parents’ experiences – something I find rather alarming, considering the direction this scene takes!!!
'Come on and rock...around...the clock tonight', urged Bill Haley and his Comets, once the DJ finished extolling the song's virtues as one of the hottest summer sounds of the mid-fifties. It was evening in Miami, but the mercury still registered above 80. The burgundy leather seats in the Packard were slick with perspiration and although there was a slight breeze, it was balmy. As they drove away from the ocean the humidity increased but no matter how unbearable the heat or enticing the melody on this night…one thing was certain…Cliff and Dahlia were taking Liz into the Everglades to end her miserable life!
Tonight, her involvement in their otherwise ordinary lives would end. Cliff had formulated the plan and Dutch, a nickname Cliff had called his wife since the day they met, was in full agreement. He had never meant for the situation to become this complicated but now...with letters coming to their house on a weekly basis, her showing up at the door unannounced, and threats she made about making their secret public...they had to make it stop!
Cliff drove with the car windows rolled all the way down hoping for any relief from the sweltering night. Always the sharp dresser, he was sorry he’d chosen to wear his favorite khaki slacks instead of shorts. His feet were sticky and swollen in saddle-brown leather loafers sans socks. The matching belt produced an uncomfortable tightness around his waist. Or was that simply his anxiety peaking? Liz was squeezed between them in the center of the sedan’s front seat. Her slim black skirt hiked up her thighs as she curled to find room for her heels. Her light turquoise blouse was buttoned loosely and fell open at the top edge showing her ample chest. She was clever to reveal just enough to appear welcoming. The clatter of her bangle bracelets annoyed Dutch to no end.
How appropriate, Dutch thought. That's where the harlot would be most comfortable …between them, in the middle, destroying her life and their marriage!
This is a riveting way to start the novel! Are Cliff and Dutch are really going to kill Liz and dump her body in the Everglades? However, I’m not crazy about starting with the lyrics and a description of the DJ’s plug for the song, although it does firmly set the time frame for us. Maybe I’d like it better if you actually included the DJ’s banter, and if Cliff found the perkiness of both the song and the DJ a jarring contrast to their grim mission. (Liz, however, could sing along, blissfully unaware of her danger.)
I don’t think you need the first sentence of the second paragraph: Tonight, her involvement in their otherwise ordinary lives would end. That is obvious enough without saying it. I also wasn’t happy with this sentence: He had never meant for the situation to become this complicated but now...with letters coming to their house on a weekly basis, her showing up at the door unannounced, and threats she made about making their secret public...they had to make it stop! The phrases in the list are not grammatically parallel. One starts with a preposition, another with a gerund phrase, and the third with a noun. Restructuring the list with parallel constructions would make a smoother feel.
I love the description of Liz, but at the end of this paragraph be careful, because it switches from Cliff’s POV to Dutch’s. (You could say Cliff knew the clatter of the bracelets would annoy his wife.)
Well, I’m hooked by the situation – and I’m seriously wondering how Jerri’s parents are involved in this. Please tell me they're not Cliff and Dutch?!?!
Jerri is currently looking for a critique partner, so if you found this page interesting and you’d like to read more, please contact her through her Facebook page. Also, be sure and stop by Mainewords to see Marcy’s critique as well.

6 comments:

  1. The biggest problem for me is all the exclamation points! They're fine in blog comments, and sometimes after dialog, but the context of the text should provide enough exclamation, as it does here. You don't need them.

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  2. Just one thing to add to Dianne's comment about the song lyrics. Be careful with using them. If they are not in the public domain, the author must pay for rights to use the lyrics, and that can get expensive. It can also be difficult to find out who truly owns the rights, and it may be more than one person. You can use titles without paying for them, or like Dianne mentioned, use the dj's banter.
    Otherwise, very intriguing beginning.

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  3. Jeez, was that song reeeeally from the mid-fifties? Crap. I must be getting old. Doesn't seem like that long ago. To avoid copywrite issues, she could say something about Bill Haley and his Comets were "rocking around the clock."

    Anyway, I like this start. It's intriguing, and I'd continue reading to find out what happens.

    One little bitty thing: I'm not sure I'd describe temperatures above 80 as being "balmy." Especially if we're talking about the Everglades. I'd think of it as being oppressively humid and sticky. Balmy implies comfortable and soothing.

    I agree about the exclamation points. Not a big fan of them.

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  4. I'm intrigued enough to read on, but I agree with Matt, maybe lose a few of the exclamation marks?

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  5. I'd also read on.

    I did have the same problem as everyone else - the exclamation marks pulled me out of the story - but that is easily remedied. I also felt you could use more commas. Commas are our friends! :)

    Aside from that, it's a very intriguing first page, and hooks us the way it's supposed to. BUT - I wondered if you might consider this as your opening line?

    "As they drove away from the ocean(,) the humidity increased(,) but no matter how unbearable the heat or enticing the melody playing on the radio on this Miami evening(,) one thing was certain(:)Cliff and Dahlia were taking Liz into the Everglades to end her miserable life."

    OR, just start with "Cliff and Dahlia were taking ..."

    The first example is still a bit long, but this is where your story really grabbed me. I'd suggest playing around with it and grabbing the reader straight away. :)

    Good luck!

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  6. Dear Dianne,

    I wanted to tell you what an awesome experience it was for me to be chosen for First Impressions. The comments from you were so insightful and those of your readers helped me in ways I never knew possible. This has been an eye-opening experience and has made me more excited than ever before about publishing SEADUCED. Thank you so much. PS: Yes, my Mom and Dad are Cliff and Dutch. I hope you like where I take it!

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