Friday, January 4, 2013

First Impressions: TSAVO PRIDE


Our second submission for First Impressions comes from Laura Diamond. This is the first page of TSAVO PRIDE, a short story spin off to her YA paranormal novel SHIFTING PRIDE.


The world split before me, torn open by a road of steel slicing its way through the countryside and arcing across the Tsavo River. This was my land, my territory, that the outsiders were digging up, claiming it as theirs to further their own agenda. Only a fool would allow such an invasion and I was no fool. Problem was, the more I cleaned the fields of foreigners, the more showed up to take their place.
Then Patterson came. The Colonel and Engineer who promised to rid the Uganda Railway project of the scourge attacking it. He made Lutalo and I sound like monsters when all we were doing was defending what was rightfully ours. It wasn’t our fault we had to use extreme measures. Anyone else would do the same.
The only difference was that we’d be successful.
Patterson thought he could defeat us. He was wrong. Lutalo and I were invincible. Invincible gods with the power to do anything and everything we wanted. The local tribes knew it. So did the Indian immigrants (un)fortunate enough to labor for the British to build the railway bridge.
The workers—who stayed in camps littering along the thirty miles or so of the ever-lengthening railway—feared us.
As it should be.
But Patterson didn’t. His foolhardy narcissism would be our playground.

I’m intrigued by the setting and the opening premise. I know from reading the summary of SHIFTING PRIDE that the narrator is probably a shape-shifter who takes the form of a panther. The local tribes and possibly the Indian immigrants know what they’re up against, but not the British imperialists. This is setting up a very clear and interesting conflict.

Some phrases could use tweaking, and there are places where less words would have more impact.

The “road” of steel threw me, since ultimately I learned it was a railroad. Could “road” be placed with some other metaphor?

Secondly, the juxtaposition of these sentences – Problem was, the more I cleaned the fields of foreigners, the more showed up to take their place. Then Patterson came. – made me think that Patterson was going to be the solution to the narrator’s problem, but in fact he worsens it.

Next, I wonder if you need these sentences at all:
He made Lutalo and I sound like monsters when all we were doing was defending what was rightfully ours. It wasn’t our fault we had to use extreme measures. Anyone else would do the same. The only difference was that we’d be successful. Patterson thought he could defeat us. He was wrong. Lutalo and I were invincible. Invincible gods with the power to do anything and everything we wanted.

This isn't specific and doesn't give us much information. In my mind it would be more effective to skip that internal monologue altogether and keep only the specific details of the conflict – which are all the more chilling for what they convey without spelling it out. See if this works (I changed some punctuation and one word in the third sentence):

Then Patterson came -- the Colonel and Engineer who promised to rid the Uganda Railway project of the scourge attacking it.

The local tribes knew better. So did the Indian immigrants (un)fortunate enough to labor for the British to build the railway bridge.

Readers, what do you think?  Laura, thanks so much for sharing your first page with us! You can visit Laura at her blog, check out SHIFTING PRIDE on Amazon, and don’t forget that Marcy will have a critique of this same page at Mainewords today!

11 comments:

  1. Great comments, Dianne. I agree that fewer words can have a stronger impact. This is a great tip to learn.

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  2. Great insight, Dianne! I love the opening sentence. But I agree about those sentences beginning with "He made Lutalo and I sound like monsters" (which should be "Lutalo and me"... pet peeve of mine) and I like your suggested changes.

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  3. I like Dianne's suggestions. Very thorough and helpful.
    Keep up the good work, Laura.

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  4. I really really like this piece. I agree about the "road of steel" reference. While I like the imagery of the description, its meaning isn't readily apparent.

    When Patterson is first mentioned, maybe the statement about his arrival could be prefaced with a phrase that indicates what his arrival means. Like "To raise the stakes" or "To make matters worse" (or more interesting)... that sort of thing.

    I disagree about scrapping the internal discussion. I like it. I like it a lot. Just giving the bare-boned facts doesn't have quite the same chill factor for me.

    At any rate, I truly like this piece. (Of course, I'm also a big fan of the movie "Cat People"...)

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  5. Another great crit, Dianne. I like Laura's writing, so it's great to see objective perspective on it. :)

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  6. Awesome! Very helpful. Especially since I'm about to start revisions of this draft, LOL!

    THANKS FOR HAVING ME!

    ~Laura

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  7. Helpful comments, Dianne! I have the same problem sometimes --putting in a whole paragraph when one sentence when one will do.:)
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  8. Here I find you giving someone else great advice, too! You have quite the eye for what can be cut. Just wanted to thank you, so much, for all your input on my query.

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  9. Sounds intriguing, with some powerful verbs. The one-sentence paragraphs work especially well. But I would like to know the MC's name right from the start (Sorry! I haven't read Shifting Pride). I know it's tough with first person, but there are ways to sneak it in there.

    I agree with Julie about the grammar problem with Lutalo and I/Lutalo and me.

    And it would be wonderful if we could see some action in the first page, and then come back to some of this a page or two later. I like Dianne's suggestion for shortening.

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  10. I agree - great advice, Dianne! Laura, you've picked a setting close to my heart. Best of luck with the new story!

    -Vicki

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