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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

First Pages Would You Read On?

Dear Reader;
Many of you are enjoying this column on our blog each Weds. If you are the bold and courageous type- submit your first page for posting consideration to Diana@hartlineliterary.com. Place First Pages in the subject line please. Once again we look forward to your comments on this First Page.

ONE

August 1920

Greenwood District

Tulsa, Oklahoma

It was always present, lurking in the shadows, taunting her mind and choking off the simplest of pleasures. The relentless oppression had not stopped stealing her joy, killing her spirit or progressively dismantling her life. It was hard to be happy about sunshine and clear skies in her state of mind. Three weeks had passed since the twister hit throwing dry dust everywhere. Another summer was almost over with its drought and hot winds killing the crops along with the dreams of many farmers. Prairie farmers constantly struggled against nature to yield adequate crops for the season.

Benjamina Freeman struggled against herself to quell the gnawing doubts and crippling depression. While in the city people forgot the parched earth and shriveled vegetation. Things were always lively in Tulsa. The atmosphere was different with its imposing brick buildings and booming commerce regardless of climatic conditions. No matter what people outside the municipality had to endure, merchants, customers and laborers in Tulsa never stopped hustling to take care of business. The energy was not inspiring to Benny, however. She stood inside the open door of the Ladies Fine Apparel Shop staring at nothing in particular as school children playfully made their way down the street. It was too much to try to work feeling the way she did. She would never stand up to the strain of greeting customers, pleasantly chatting with them when she knew what they were thinking. After all this time she was as shamefully mortified as ever. Her heart still broken as the day it happened. Injury and humiliation were her closest companions even if she’d learned to push them back a bit. The feelings chipped away at her every effort to operate free of the misery. She was contemplating her escape from the commitment she was pressured into when loud throat clearing interrupted her thoughts of closing and going home. She looked into the man’s crafty widespread eyes when he got her attention. “Morning, Benny, surprised to see you here. Where’s Ella?” He spoke with a disingenuous affability that annoyed her.

13 comments:

Anne Love said...

To read on, or not to read on....
I think it depends on what you like to read and what genre this is. If you're a women's fiction reader, you might be pulled in by this opening. But I am a contemporary or historical fiction reader, in which I like my heroine's to be upbeat. This heroine certainly has a challenge to face, but sounds quite gloomy, little depressing. I don't want to pick up a book and be depressed. We want to like the heroine even though she's flawed like us.

I find it only takes a great critique partner, and a little tweaking to make your heroine more likable--so don't trash your WIP yet! :o) What do you like the most about your heroine?--now show us on the first page. What gives her hope to overcome this oppressive situation? What makes her keep taking another step? Keep opening this shop? What is at stake if she doesn't open the shop?---that's what drives her.

Andy Scheer said...

Amid the stifling amount of exposition, a story may be lurking.

Sheila Odom Hollinghead said...

It was confusing to start in one setting and then to have the heroine in Tulsa. I would begin at the shop and go from there.

I don't know the genre, but I doubt this is a romantic comedy. I don't see anything wrong with the heroine being depressed. However, there is too much description and backstory. One line if the drought and twister are important plot points is enough, in my opinion.

Something like: Summer was almost over, with its drought and hot winds killing the crops, along with the dreams of many farmers. But in the city people forgot the parched earth and shriveled vegetation.
Benjamina Freeman stood inside the open door of the Ladies Fine Apparel Shop staring at nothing in particular as school children playfully made their way down the street. For her injury and humiliation lurked in the shadows, taunted her mind and choked off the simplest of pleasures.

Benjamina would never stand up to the strain of greeting customers, pleasantly chatting with them when she knew what they were thinking. She was contemplating her escape from the commitment she was pressured into when loud throat clearing interrupted her thoughts of closing and going home. She looked into the man’s crafty widespread eyes when he got her attention.

“Morning, Benny, surprised to see you here. Where’s Ella?”

He spoke with a disingenuous affability that annoyed her.

*Same words, just rearranged and much cut. That I would continue reading.

Diana said...

Sheila, are you for hire? That was a wonderful re write...

Jeanette Levellie said...

It has potential and a hint of a conflict, but I do not like the herioine's name at all, even though her nickname is cute. A little too much description and not much action for the first page, I'd say. Throw me some action along with the angst, and I'll be hooked.

Millie Samuelson said...

No, I wouldn't read on. . . but I say DITTO to all the revision comments above. . . :-)

Sheila Odom Hollinghead said...

Diana,
I prefer the writing at this point.:) I am in the process of looking for an agent!

Kathryn Elliott said...

I'm a simple reader, thus this was a little too much description for my taste. And Shelia - I'm sending you pages! LOL

Katherine Hyde said...

This excerpt seems a little confused. At first the thing haunting the protag seems like an emotional trauma in the past. Then she starts talking about the weather and I wonder if it's just that. But in the second paragraph it goes back to feeling like past trauma.

The style doesn't seem quite ready for the big time either. I think this needs more work. I would not read on.

vonildawrites said...

I wasn't sure the reason behind the depression, the shameful mortification and trauma. Maybe start with a scene that shows us the reason behind those feelings, rather than a description of her feeling them?

Blessings,
Voni

Sharon A. Lavy said...

This reads like a wonderful first draft. Much to work on and wrestle with, but somehow I see a story lurking.

KJ Bain said...

No, I wouldn't buy it.

I think you might have started your story too soon. Throw us in the action or just a moment or two before.

You have a catchy first line, but you went too far with the "drama" in her life. Get rid of most of it or spread it throughout your book. Don't give it to us all at once, especially in the beginning.

I need a gotch moment to keep me interested. Unfortunately, there isn't one.

Darin Michael Shaw said...

The 1920s Greenwood District heading caught my attention--I recall reading some mention of a racial conflict on a website not long ago. After that, I struggled a bit.

I really like some of the revision suggestions in earlier comments. Revision/Edits like that would tighten the story's beginning up for me. But hey, everybody is a critic, right?

Thanks for posting this. And author--thanks for sharing.