Wednesday, August 1, 2012

First Impressions - The Jade Coterie

Once again it's time for First Impressions, a monthly first page critique by yours truly and Dianne Salerni. Our first submission for this month comes from Summer Ross. You can find her at My Inner Fairy. As always, my comments will be in purple and you can see what Dianne thought about this excerpt at her blog, In High Spirits. This is the first page of Summer's adult fantasy, THE JADE COTERIE.

Ebony Graves slipped out of her bedroom window. “Constellations guide me,” she whispered and landed with both feet on the soft ground. She left everything behind; the only life she had ever known. Here is a good place for some inner dialogue, I think. If she's leaving everything behind, I want to know how she feels. Does she look back and think, good riddance? Is there anything she'll miss? Anything she won't miss - like the door that locks from the outside?
Ebony lived in a small, two-bedroom house. Her room barely fit a bed and a dresser. Her door locked from the outside. Her father had the master bedroom. Ebony pictured him sprawled out on the old queen size bed he used to share with her mother. She hoped the sound of the window hadn’t woken him. The last thing she wanted was for him to catch her.
It took months to find enough courage to escape her cage. (I do wonder if her door is locked from the outside why aren't her windows?) Her decision had been made when she read the article stating that the Jade Coterie, the elite courtesan group in Talis City, had been looking for new members in the previous morning’s newsprint. She had paced back and forth in her room deciding when to leave and which route to take. She sifted through her clothes, but all she owned were dresses. Her shoes fared no better, for her father often reminded her a proper girl wore heels. She picked the darkest blue dress from her closet to wear for the day, knowing when night hit, she’d leave. She couldn’t risk asking permission from a man who used a fist for talking. He’d kill her before he’d ever let her leave alive. This last word isn't needed.
Ebony slipped out when the moon shone bright (wouldn't she want to wait for a night with no moon? Just asking...) with a trickle of light invading the threshold of the horizon, as if it would spill over into the neighborhood at anytime. With her heart protesting in her chest, she opened the gate and looked back at her home for, what she hoped, was the last time. All the windows were dark and no movement stirred the drapes. She sighed, turned down the alley, and headed downtown.

One thing that would improve this first page - imo - is to show more and tell less. Specifically, I want to know how Ebony feels, what she thinks as she's leaving, finally escaping her awful father. I want to know what she takes with her - if anything - and why. Does she maybe steal any money from her father? Something to sell that might help her if she's going to be on her own? And how old is Ebony? I know this is an adult fantasy but as she's still in the 'custody' of her father I'm not sure. However, this might be made clear shortly so ...
The second thing is the language which alternates between formal, "Her shoes fared no better, for her father often reminded her a proper girl wore heels." and not so formal, "He’d kill her before he’d ever let her leave alive." I'd stick with one style.
 I also found her blessing upon herself  - "Constellations guide me" - intriguing. What does this mean? I have no idea but it's an intersting hint into Ebony's world and I think this combined with a little more inner dialogue to connect the reader to Ebony (who is obviously a character to be pitied) could make this a kick-ass opening.
But what do you think? What suggestions do you have for Summer to make her first page better?


  1. I like the first sentence, Summer. It definitely got me thinking. I agree with Marcy about adding in a bit of inner dialog. Don't overdo it; just add a little to give the reader more 'feel' for this character.

    Great job, Marcy!

  2. "Here is a good place for some inner dialogue." I agree. I would like to know how she feels as well. To leave everything behind, that must be a shock to anyone. If not, why not?

    I really liked the story, Summer. It made me want to know why she was escaping and what will happen to her.

  3. Intriguing story line Summer! I'd like to feel more of Ebony's emotions as well - let us see how torn she is. Good luck!

  4. Marcy- Thank you so much for the critique and I agree with you about the internal dialogue- that would really help- Thank you.

    Thanks everyone for your feedback! I really appreciate the time you all took to read my first page.

    1. happy to be of help :)

      and I often have trouble with this aspect of writing. I tend to think people somehow instinctively know what my characters are thinking and feeling. I have to constantly remind myself to SHOW it.

  5. Marcy has good insights and comments as always.

    I think starting with her sneaking away is good, but the tension drains away with all the explanation and backstory.

    I hate to throw a monkey wrench into your scene, but don't tell us the father's scary - show us. Have him wake up, have her tremble halfway out the window with her skirt stuck on a nail, have him discover her and almost catch her, have her barely escape as he falls down the front steps (perhaps drunk?) and curses her.

  6. I agree with your critique--there was a lot of telling, though it's a very intriguing opening.

  7. Your observations seem to be good ones. the basics are all there it just needs some tweaking.Good luck to Summer Ross.

  8. Again, I agree with Madeleine. It has a good base, with some fine tuning and less backstory, it will be terrific.

    Good luck Summer.

  9. thank you everyone for commenting! And I hope you'll come back tomorrow for our second first impression of the month :)


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