Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Would You Read On? hosted by Diana Flegal

A brave and courageous writer has stepped up for your critique. The following is his first page. Do not forget to Scroll all the way down to see which author offered herself up for your comments last week.

First Page:

“You can’t run that story.”

Katrina Shaw heard more threat than plea in the woman’s voice. It wasn’t the first time her reporting had riled someone, but she wasn’t about to back down now. Besides, it was too late. The story was tomorrow’s lead with her photo of the fatal crash on page one above the fold.

“It’s already on the page,” Katrina said, sensing more than seeing the woman’s slight forward movement on the other side of the waist-high counter.

“That’s my mother, you heartless—“

“I’m truly sorry about your mother.” Katrina’s fingers brushed the underside of the lobby countertop and hovered at the silent alarm button. “I understand your loss, but your mother is not in the picture, just her car.” She softened her voice. “We don’t run photos of victims in a situation like this. I’m sorry, but this is a major story because of that dangerous intersection.”

The woman curled her fingers into fists and her knuckles whitened. Her eyes hardened. “I want to talk to the editor.”

“Just one moment and I’ll see if he’s available.”

Katrina turned her back and then wondered if that was a good idea. On her way out she shot a warning look at the receptionist, and then forced her feet into a reasonable walk through advertising. But she didn’t exhale until she made it to Bob’s corner desk in the newsroom.

“The daughter of the victim in that T-bone on Highway 33 wants to talk to you. She doesn’t want us running the story.”

Bob Henley’s fingers drilled into his keyboard and he spoke without looking up. “Tell her I’ll meet her in the conference room.”

Katrina sat down at her desk and pressed the receptionist’s extension. No need to step directly into the line of fire more than once in a five minute period unless absolutely necessary.


We look forward to your comments on this First Page.

The BIG Reveal: Last weeks First Page was submitted by author Marlene Banks. Marlene's first published title, Ruth's Redemption will be released Feb 2012 by Moody Publishing's Lift Every Voice imprint.
The last time Marlene shared her first page- she and her editor took your comments into consideration and made some changes. Marlene appreciates your comments on this title and sends her thanks.

Have a Great Fall day ya all,


Anonymous said...

I'm just home from a weekend with my crit partner. We took your first page exercise and had a little fun. We stacked up our to-be-read pile and took turns reading the first pages out loud, asking would you read on?

Then we separated into two stacks, yes and no, and then picked apart why. Then we read our own WIP first pages out loud. It sure put them into perspective.

Seems we need the perfect balance of action, emotional connection, and introduction of character and setting. Hands down, we said, nix the excessive descriptions.
Thanks for the idea!

Anne Love said...

oops, didn't mean to post anon. Will try again.

Timothy Fish said...

If I had the book in hand, I would probably keep reading. It serves its purpose, which is to introduce the reader to the initial disturbance.

But I do see problems. The whole scene is rushed. The woman very quickly moves from asking a reporter not to run the story to wanting to talk to her boss. In real life, we would expect some discussion to take place before the woman decides the reporter won't help her and she must take it to the next level. Katrina's explanation to Bob is also rushed. She compresses everything she needs to say into her initial statement. I would love to see this slowed down. Let her tell him that there is a woman who wants to see him and then let him ask what it is about. Don't tell him that it is about the "T-bone on Highway 33". He already knows what the top story is. If he doesn't, he can ask to be reminded. Don't just dump the woman off in the conference room, leave her standing at the front door and watch her stew. Another thing that makes this thing seem rushed is that we're missing the first part of the conversation. A woman isn't going to walk into a newspaper office already knowing what story the newspaper is running. She is going ask if they are planning on running the story. She may request that they not run the story. When they refuse, her frustration will begin to increase.

And can we get rid of the phrase, "fingers drilled into his keyboard"? It reminds me of Inspector Gadget.

Even with the problems I mentioned, this is right in line with some of the books I've read recently, so if I wouldn't keep reading, I probably wouldn't read at all.

Linda Glaz said...

I think I agree with the drilling fingers, that sort of made me go 'HUH?" the same way, but I like the opening. Yes, there could have been more detail, but the brevity was what kept me reading on. Very quick to the point had my "What's this all about?" keeping pace. I like it, would want to read on.

Sheila Odom Hollinghead said...

I would keep reading.

However, the opening lines could be stronger. We need to see the anger from the very first sentence. Also, I'm not sure why the writer does not have the reporter go back to tell the woman what the editor said. In most situations (in our writing, we want conflict engaged in, not avoided.

I'm assuming the woman has more of a reason for the anger than just because it's her mother. If so, that mysterious reason needs to be strengthened. Readers need to wonder, "Why is she so angry?" And then we turn the page to find out.

Kathryn Elliott said...

Yes, I would read on. The pace, brevity and premises kept my interest without the added weight of extra description. I do have one critique, and it piggybacks on Tim’s point. As a reporter, I was pulled out of the story by the victim’s daughter knowing the article was running prior to print. I’m sure the author informs the reader of a previous conversation between the reporter and daughter further on, but that needs to come earlier to establish the connection.

Millie Samuelson said...

YES, I would read on! And I wouldn't want anything changed, not even the verb "drilled"! It's the style of writing and storytelling I like -- not too much description but just enough for mental pictures to form, realistic action, great dialog, strong vocab and sentences, plus skillful use of POV. Where and when can I place my book order?? :-)

Sharon A. Lavy said...

I would keep reading, which just goes to show a story does not have to be perfectly crafted to hold a readers attention.

Of course, working on it an perfecting it is always a good idea.

Diana said...

Ann, I am glad your crit group had fun with this exercise. At the Montrose Christian Writers conference we did a workshop on First Pages and it was a lot of fun as well. As stated in the REVEAL at the bottom of the post- readers objective comments help the authors.

Melissa K Norris said...

I would keep reading. I do agree w/ the woman asking if the paper's going to run the story. I also want her to say something about why they can't run the story. A little hint would suffice.


Anonymous said...

I would definitely keep reading. Sure it could use a little editing, but that will come.

Katherine Hyde said...

I would absolutely read on. As a writing teacher of mine once said, "I can tell I'm in capable hands with this writer." It has that authoritative voice. Love the grasp of subtle gestures that convey so much.

Anonymous said...

I would read on.

Several have pointed out the phrase "fingers drilled into his keyboard" as uncomfortable. I'd suggest a revise of the last two paragraphs. I find both the visit to Bob's office and Katrina's return to her desk quirky.

Thanks, author, for sharing your work.

Anonymous said...

I, too, wonder how she would know what's in tomorrow's paper.

My main beef is that I don't like the reporter very much. For a woman strong enough to make it in a man's world, as she has done, she seems a bit weak in leaving the boss and the receptionist to deal with what she considers to be a dangerous situation.

Timothy Fish said...

Now that vonildawrites mentions it, Katrina does come across as rather weak. I'm not sure I would go as far as to say I don't like her because of that, but she does seem unengaged in the situation. If I'd spent a few hours of my life working on a story and someone told me I couldn't print it, I wouldn't be passing that person off to my boss, I would be demanding an explanation.

Rick Barry said...

I'd probably keep reading. However, I'd like to see the potential threat in the angry woman beefed up a little to raise the stakes. Is she the wife of an influential business owner? A wealthy widow with connections? A lady with rumored connections to organized crime in that city? Make the angry lady both dangerous and vengeful, and then I'll delete my "probably" in the first sentence above.

Linda Glaz said...

Timothy, I think you'll nailed it on the head. YOU, a guy, would demand an explanation, a woman handles it differently. That just might be the point. A guy would want an instant and right now solution where a woman might avoid the conflict and pass to her boss, (not all, so women don't get upset, but I see this mostly with women, not men)

Diana said...

Linda It is that ole Mars Venus thing :-) These comments have been great and I am sure a big help to the author. Thanks all.

KJ Bain said...

If I had the book I would keep reading because I like the author's voice. I would at least give it until the end of the first chapter.

My biggest poblem with the scene is I don't buy it. If it's such a bad intersection making it big news, why wouldn't the news stations run it, with the accident picture? And how did this woman know they were going to put the picture in the paper. They wouldn't have called and told her.

I know it's fiction, but I have to believe it to read the whole book.

Timothy Fish said...


I see your point and agree. I've even said before that one of the differences between women's fiction and men's fiction is that men expect the main character to solve the problem, whereas women are willing for a knight in shining armor to save the day.

Even so, I think there is a difference between a character allowing a hero to step in and the character being disengaged from the problem. There's not much point in a knight slaying the dragon if the damsel is safe at home, powdering her nose. We need to keep her tied to the rock, so she can feel heat of the dragon's breath.

Linda Glaz said...

Yikes, sorry ladies if I implied that. I like a great heroine who can also save the day! At any rate, I would keep reading. When can we find this on shelves, Diana?

Timothy Fish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Timothy Fish said...

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying a female character can't take charge of her situation. Sara wouldn't exist if I believed that. Anne of Green Gables has a strong female lead, molding her world to her will. But look at Redeeming Love, which many women have called their favorite book. The author chose to make the woman the main character. But the main character is clearly not the hero. In the final chapters of the book, that woman waits for her husband's friend to take her back to her husband. Women obviously like that sort of thing or there wouldn't be so many that like the book, but how silly it would be if we tried to sell men a book about a man in a similar situation.

Diana said...

Tune in next week; the author will be revealed along with a link to her website for those that are interested in contacting her with questions as to if and when her book is to be published :-)

Millie Samuelson said...

Aren't some of you above FORGETTING that the upset woman ASKED to talk to the editor??
What FUN to read these comments! :-)

Timothy Fish said...


No, I don't think so, but I would be interested to know why you ask.

Millie Samuelson said...

Timothy -- because several seemed to agree with you when you wrote, and I copy and paste:

If I'd spent a few hours of my life working on a story and someone told me I couldn't print it, I wouldn't be passing that person off to my boss, I would be demanding an explanation.

Timothy Fish said...


I had the woman's desire to see the editor very much in mind when I said that. As Linda pointed out, what I would do and what Katrina would do may be very different, but I see it playing out something like this:

The woman curled her fingers into fists and her knuckles whitened. Her eyes hardened. "I want to talk to the editor."

"He'll tell you the same thing," Katrina said. "He's the one that wanted to run the story."

The woman crossed her arms. "Likely story."

"I'm just telling you the way it is. But if you can tell me what your concern is, maybe there's something I can do about it." As late as it was Katrina knew a retraction was about all she could promise, but this women didn't seem like she wanted a retraction. She didn't want the story going in at all.

"I don't see that's any of your business. I want to talk to the editor."

"You might as well tell me," Katrina said. "Bob will tell me what you said anyway."

"It's none of his business either."

"Suit yourself," Katrina said, "But he won't pull that story without a good reason." Telling the woman that wouldn't help calm her down, but there was no point in lying about it.

Millie Samuelson said...

Nice work, Timothy! Compelling reading! But hey, I think you've run the story over the one/first page limit. . . :-) I'm going to check and see what you have published. . . I'm always in the market for excellent writing!

Timothy Fish said...

Millie, I wasn't really thinking about keeping it on the first page when I wrote that, but since you mentioned it, I had to check. With my revision, it is 16 words longer.