Wednesday, October 2, 2013

First Impressions: DREAMIE'S BOX

Our First Impressions post today comes from Claudette Young. This is the first page of Claudette’s women’s cozy mystery, DREAMIE’S BOX

 “I have to leave early this morning. I have a breakfast meeting in Westley and won’t be able to drop you at the library. I guess you’ll be able to get extra cleaning done today, won’t you?”
Dreamie listened as Martin’s voice washed over her, managing her day’s hours. This line of instruction had followed much the same morning routine for nearly twenty years. She often contemplated arguing but declined the invitation for confrontation. Too messy. Instead, she nodded to signify that she’d heard him. If he took that as agreement, he had only himself to blame.
She kept her face neutral as he patted her on the shoulder like the neighbor’s dog before heading out the backdoor. Dreamie could go about her day now unimpeded and unrestricted.  A house quiet with solitude soothed its mistress. Dreamie Simple stared out the kitchen window as she finished the breakfast dishes.
Martin was gone.
With that knowledge her anticipation broke free. A smile broadened her mouth, bringing with it a glimpse of the understated beauty of her youth. There would come a time when Martin’s dictates would have no meaning for her, except as a training ground for patience and endurance.
 Dreamie emptied the sink without moving her eyes from the cardinals that devoured seed scattered below the bird feeder. Her sad smile quirked her lips as she recalled the silent argument she’d had with Martin regarding that feeder.
“You’re not going to hang that contraption out there on that maple, Dreamie. I won’t have you putting up things like that to hit me in the head when I’m mowing.”
Dreamie had continued assembling the simple feeder purchased at the local Dollar Store without looking up at her husband. He knew that she’d heard him. He knew that she wouldn’t sass back.
As soon as she’d readied the feeder, she filled it with store-bought birdfeed. She went outside immediately and hung it from one of the lower branches of the big maple. She’d stood, admiring it.
Her marital war with Martin had begun in earnest that day. Martin had removed it and tossed it into the trash. She’d retrieved the feeder and replaced it. He removed. Dreamie replaced. In the end, each time Dreamie heard the mower fire up in the storage barn, she would go to the feeder, remove it from its hanger, and take it to safety on the back porch. As soon as the mowing was done, Dreamie returned it to its place on the tree limb.
Ten years had passed since the argument began. Ten years filled with complacency on Martin’s part and active waiting on hers. Some things took time, she knew.
Martin exacted a high price for the completion of his marriage obligation. Her own mother could never have understood Dreamie’s disillusionment and aching loneliness throughout the years.

First of all, I have to comment on the main character’s name, Dreamie Simple. It seems to fit her perfectly – dreamy and rather simple-minded – but it becomes apparent by the end of this page that she’s not passive. She’s passive aggressive, and not simple at all.  I wonder if Martin’s complacency, his belief that he dominates this marriage, is going to end in a rather messy and spectacular way? (He seems like a jerk, so is it okay for me to wish that it does?)

There are several lines I had to read more than once. They were imprecise, or maybe just not needed. For example: This line of instruction had followed much the same morning routine for nearly twenty years. The sentence could be rewritten as: His instructions had been part of their morning routine for nearly twenty years. But I wonder if the middle lines of the paragraph are needed at all. It doesn’t seem like Dreamie is really contemplating arguing, so why say that she is? Why not streamline the paragraph and let us draw our own conclusions:

Dreamie listened as Martin’s voice washed over her, managing her day’s hours. She nodded to signify that she’d heard him, just as she had every morning for the last twenty years. If he took that as agreement, he had only himself to blame.

This was another sentence that bothered me: There would come a time when Martin’s dictates would have no meaning for her, except as a training ground for patience and endurance.
What time was coming? Why would his dictates have no more meaning for her – especially when it seems they have little meaning for her now? She ignores them. I get the feeling the author is planting the suggestion that Dreamie anticipates a change coming, a plan for her life which will make all the years she has endured this marriage worthwhile. But I’m not sure this sentence is the right one for conveying that.

Claudette, thanks for sharing your first page with us! I, for one, will shed no tears if Dreamie bashes Martin over the head with the bird feeder tomorrow at breakfast. I do think you could take out some of the global, general statements and let the situation unfold before us. Readers, any suggestions or comments?

Be sure to check out Marcy’s feedback on Claudette’s page at Mainewords, and you can say hello to Claudette at her blog/website.


7 comments:

  1. I agree with Dianne on a few of the sentences but that doesn't take away from the emotions this piece evokes.

    As a reader, I want Dreamie's story to be epic. I want her to bring the hammer down on Martin and her complacency. I'm so intrigued and would have kept on reading.

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  2. Overall, I think I like the concept, but I want the first paragraphs to be tighter and suck me in more aggressively. I think it could be done with more conversation between Dreamie and Martin.

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  3. I agree with Dianne's comments on cutting out some of the extra and clarifying/removing bits.

    I'm always hesitant to start with floating dialogue. I thought it was a Mom or Dad talking to a child until midway through the 2nd paragraph when I realized they were married. It might just be me, but perhaps a little tag, if not before the dialogue, after the first sentence, so we're more grounded in the story.

    I enjoyed learning about their relationship through the 10 year bird feeder fight. I'm sure this will wrap up as a satisfying mystery where Dreamie is much happier at the end and Martin, if not dead, is no longer as issue.

    Best of luck to you!

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  4. I love the conflict we're introduced to. The bird feeder is utter brilliance. I'm left wanting to know how this first chapter will end, and if there will be a major upset in Dreamie's life. I really want the upset right in the first paragraph, but I'm impatient that way.

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  5. As I mentioned on Marcy's blog, I thought Martin was her father until the end of the sample. It's intriguing that his confrontational behavior only started 10 years into the marriage, but maybe the bird feeder was when she realized it. I just can't understand why she stayed married to him, but this might be a period piece and the time has not been set yet.

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  6. Claudette, I'm so glad you submitted! I like the premise and the promise of changes ahead for Dreamie. I agree with Robin- I'm wary of opening with straight dialogue. I also wondered how the story would be if you opened with the bird feeder incident. That would include more "real time" action and less backstory initially. Good luck with this!

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  7. It's nice to get to know the character, but I felt it was spoonfed to me and there were no actions showing me her emotions, her mood, or any quirks that wold have made her real for me.

    Good luck. :-)

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