Wednesday, September 3, 2014

First Impressions - Crimson

Well. Here we are, beginning of the month, and it's time for First Impressions again. Today we have the first page of CRIMSON, a fairy-tale spin-off of Little Red Riding Hood from Ashley who blogs at The Tattered Page (what a great name for a blog, eh?). Dianne Salerni will also be critiquing this first page so do hop over and see what she had to say if you get a chance.

Memories could change in fifteen years. Altering to fit how you wanted to remember them.
When I woke the light of the morning was still gray. For a few moments I continued to lie in bed counting the seconds on my old clock. Finally settled in my morning skin I stood up and walked to the window. The only one I had in my matchbox bedroom. Fog still clung to the glass as I gazed out at the Statue of Liberty in the distance from our small high-rise apartment in Red Hook. My father moved us out to Brooklyn when I was three years old after it was clear he could not afford to pay the mortgage on the bungalow in New Hartford. That was what happened when half the family income vanished into thin air along with your mother. For about a year, he put up a good fight though, wanting to at least let me keep my home since I could not keep my mother. The mother I could not remember. Or maybe my memories choose to be forgetful when it came to her? (This last sentence is in the present tense while the rest is in past - watch your tenses.)
Cracking the window open, my nose was instantly assaulted by the delicious aromas of the local bakery across the street. I remembered the first time I had a crescent roll. Flaky, buttery and sweet. My father held my hand as we made our way to the other side of the black paved road. The bakery normally did not sell to customers before 8 a.m. but my father wanted me to try the crescent before I went to daycare. It was my first day. But the owner of the shop was a Vietnam veteran and could not refuse my father’s request. (why? Is this important?) Ever since then, if Dad was home from deployment we would head over there to enjoy a crescent as he walked me to the train station before school.
The neighborhood was starting to yawn and stretch. Old men were walking out of the grocery store with their morning newspaper and hot tea. Mothers were juggling their workbags and their sleepwalking toddlers. The stoplights were doing their dance for an invisible audience. Exhaust clouded the air as cabdrivers rub their hands together and waited for their engine’s to heat.
As I watched the other world carry on, I wondered why it got to continue on when mine did not. As if nothing happened. Sighing, I shivered to shake the chill that settled in my bones. Didn’t matter that the heat in the apartment was stifling.
First thought: I like the first line.
Second thought: I've heard it said more than once we should never start our stories with our characters waking up. Probably because not much happens. They get up, shower/shave/brush teeth what have you, and then they go about their day. Just like everyone else. But our characters have to be more interesting than we are otherwise we wouldn't read about them, right? So, in order for this to be a better first page, I';d start when the action starts, or the mystery, or whatever it is that pulls this character out of her normal everyday life and into the interesting one we want to read about. The back story, the moving from New Hartford to Brooklyn, that can come later or in smaller pieces. For example, when she leaves the apartment, is she going to have to lock a lot of locks? Is this place less safe than where she used to live? Maybe she'll remember that briefly as she leaves, make comparisons in her mind. The main thing is to intersperse description with action (no easy task - I know!) in order to move the story along and thus keep the reader's interest. As this first page stands, all the reader knows is that a motherless girl is waking up in her smaller apartment. The first sentence, on the other hand, is what makes this first page interesting and I think that's where the focus needs to be. Why is she thinking this? Why is she remembering her mother on this day?

Thank you Ashley for submitting and I hope this helps. Readers, I hope you'll chime in and offer Ashley your thoughts on her first page. Friday, we'll have another First Impressions :)


  1. I agree - start with some action or dialogue. It will move along faster.

  2. I, too, like the first line. And the second one is necessary too. But there's something about the way it's worded that made me stumble. Wish I could give you more than that.

    And yes, at least add a bit of action that grabs attention here.

  3. I do like the opening sentences

  4. Good suggestions Marcy. I commented on Dianne's, but totally agree with your feedback.

    Hope you're fabulous!

  5. I already left comments over at Dianne's. I really liked those first two lines too. :)

  6. Great start! I love fairy tale adaptations!

  7. Bravo to Ashley for submitting to public critique!

  8. Hi Marcy, I just left my comment on Dianne's post. Another spot on critique by you and Dianne. Like I said on Dianne's post, Crimson has the elements to be a great story, NYC, Little Red Riding Hood, a modern day twist on an old tale. And like many have suggested, I too would like to see an opening with an action scene or dialogue, those scenes engage me a lot more mainly because I'm a plot-driven reader. The backstory is better in my opinion, when the writer can weave tidbits in with appropriate action scenes (not easy and something I have a hell of a time doing myself). Anyway, good luck with Crimson and keep going! :)

  9. Thank you for all the helpful advice and encouraging words! Crimson will be better because of everyone who took the time to give me pointers :)


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