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An Island Never Cries - Women's Fiction - 1st 5 paragraphs

Posted: February 4th, 2011, 1:18 pm
by aduson
****I'm sorry it's a long excerpt, and I never offer any advice of my own. After reading my writing, you'll probably realize that my amature advice wouldn't be very valuable. My specific questions I pose to anyone kind enough to read this beginning writer's beginning are: (1) Is the POV to neutral to engage the reader. (2) Am I waiting too long to formally introduce my protagonist? Does the prolonged ambiguity bore you? (3) What other issues have I failed to see in my blind devotion to this manuscript? <3 Allie****

Surrounded by people, a young woman sat alone. She listened dutifully to words being spoken that were somehow trivial despite their seriousness. Instinctively, she pulled her thoughts inward away from the people and the voice. As she entered the protective cocoon of her mind, her anxiety lessened. This really isn’t so bad, she comforted herself. Though the words echoed dully inside her mind, it was a useful defense. After all, she continued, I’m the only one really looking out for me anyway. She wasn’t afraid of being alone and could take care of herself. Physically that is. Her thoughts had become sarcastic, mocking her with their brutal honesty. She sighed sadly.

Her mind no longer being quite the safe haven it had been a moment ago, she allowed her awareness to return to her surroundings. As though a veil had been lifted from her sight, she saw her perfectly manicured hands as they smoothed invisible wrinkles from her new silk dress. A lady’s hands proclaim her habits drifted a reminder from her past that smacked of a dictator’s edict rather than gentile advice. Her hands became claws momentarily as she recognized the voice and fought off the panic that crept like bile from her throat. She tried to relax. She re-crossed her ankles feeling her muscles scream from the suppressed tension in her body. She allowed her eyes to attempt to refocus on the face of the voice and to imbibe some measure of comfort from its words of faith.

It was no good, however, she wasn’t ready yet to stare down the stark reality before her. Feeling the emotion welling up like blood seeping from an infected wound, she allowed the solitude of her mind that was both fiend and friend to escape with her consciousness once again. The whirlpool of her thoughts tried to drown out the smell of the roses, the sound of the voice, and the soft soothing music that only served to agitate her. Not knowing what to expect, she succumbed to its currents. She relished for a minute the complete unawareness of anything as she swirled though the indistinct pictures and memories. If only it could always be like this. If only I could keep my mind as passive as mental white noise. The wish was barely formed before it was made impotent.

She was thirteen, and had voiced to her mother the first and only time that she wanted to see a therapist. Her mother had taken her to Chateau Élan instead for a manicure and pedicure. It was the first of many such trips. Over the spa luncheon that followed the pampering, her mother had encouraged her to try a “sip” of wine to “better enjoy the flavor of the prime rib”. Her mother’s sing-song voice that was equal parts creator and executioner still trilled in her head, “This is the only therapy women like us need, Juliet. Remember that.” She had smiled a knowing smile at me. And right on cue, I had smiled back. She remembered how the wine glass had stayed within her reach for the remainder of the meal, while mother sipped my sweet tea looking superior and in control as always.

The memory let go of her. The droning voice had stopped. The smell of the roses assaulted her again. She stood up as was expected of her. If anyone thought she looked pale and withdrawn, they were sympathetic and did not intrude. One step at a time, she told herself, but she knew that her panic was only temporarily on hold. This is where Juliet shined, she would have thought if she wasn’t so focused on acting her part. Doing exactly what was expected of her was her vocation, and she was very good at it regardless of the anguish it caused. Following the lead of the elderly man in the deep navy suit, she turned her back on the caskets of the strangers that were her parents and left the chapel.

Re: An Island Never Cries - Women's Fiction - 1st 5 paragraphs

Posted: February 4th, 2011, 6:20 pm
by mnaylor3
I get the impression that there is a girl and she's having a psychological episode of sort. That certainly interests me.

(1) It reads third person limited point of view. That's a fine way to do a story.

(2) I don't see any ambiguity, but vagueness. If you're not sure what vagueness is, it looks like your first 3 sentences.
Surrounded by people, a young woman sat alone. She listened dutifully to words being spoken that were somehow trivial despite their seriousness. Instinctively, she pulled her thoughts inward away from the people and the voice.
Vagueness pulls me out of the story right away and is a general turn off for readers. The second to last paragraph, on the other hand, pulled me right in and I wished that was your opener.


Keep at it,

Marsh

Re: An Island Never Cries - Women's Fiction - 1st 5 paragraphs

Posted: February 5th, 2011, 11:09 am
by aduson
Thanks so much for taking your time. When I forced myself to skip the 1st 3 paragraphs and go straight to the 4th, my first response was "wow" that's a pretty cool opening.

I can clearly see your reasoning behind it and won't forget it's obvious potential. But...it's not the way I want Juliet to be seen for the first time. The 4th paragraph is really the day Juliet "died". This Juliet is damaged by her past and fearful of the future. I don't think I want to tell her story chronologically, but will play with using #4 as an opening and a flashback at the same time.

Again. Thanks for your time. You were a breath of fresh air, and I won't forget it.

Allie

Re: An Island Never Cries - Women's Fiction - 1st 5 paragraphs

Posted: February 5th, 2011, 5:19 pm
by D.T.Roberts
I agree with mnaylor3. The first couple of paragraphs left me going huh? They were much clearer after I read the whole thing then went back and re-read the first part. Unfortunately, you don't want to make your reader have to read anything twice.

Overall I like this. I'm not sure about using the contradicting terms in the opening line. I understand why you use them, but they seem a little cliche'. "All alone in a crowded room... The deafening silence, etc...

As far as you not offering critiques, Don't look at it as not being "worthy" to review other's work. Rather, see it as a way to improve your own. By looking at others posts and offering critiques, you will get better at looking at your own work with a more critical eye. And the more you do it, the better you get at it.

Cheers

Re: An Island Never Cries - Women's Fiction - 1st 5 paragraphs

Posted: February 6th, 2011, 9:34 am
by maireadg
I think your first paragraph is not the strongest of all these five paragraphs. It might be a good idea to reconsider your opening. I like the suggestion of starting with the fourth flashback paragraph. It creates intrigue which the first paragraph does not do so well.

However, I hear your hesitancy to cut your first three paragraphs. I understand how you alone know your plan and the importance of this information. That being said, first paragraphs are crucial to draw a reader in, and especially to catch the attention of an agent. After wading through the entries in the first paragraph competition, I fully understand how agents discard submissions after the first few lines. You must do all in your power to reduce the risk of your submission not receiving the thorough reading it truly deserves.

As a compromise, you might consider starting with the line 'A Lady's Hands Proclaim Her Habits'. This line has depth, which immediately captures a reader's attention.

Hope these few thoughts are helpful. I really like your writing style. Great job and best of luck for the future of this work.

Re: An Island Never Cries - Women's Fiction - 1st 5 paragraphs

Posted: February 6th, 2011, 11:28 am
by aduson
I completely agree that it's not working. As with most readers, if the first two or threesome paragraphs don't grab me then I give up. These have managed to stand the test of time with me because (as the writer) I understand the underlying importance of the paragraphs but have failed to convey.

That's why this is so important for you to read with fresh eyes to alert me to these issues Thank you for helping me stay on path to becoming a more effective writer.

You are all amazing.

Allie