Monday, November 7, 2016

First Impressions - Untitled

We have a special First Impressions today from an aspiring 7th grade writer, as yet untitled. My partners in crime - Dianne K. Salerni and Krystalyn Drown - will also be critiquing this first page on their respective blogs, so I hope everyone will pay them a visit to see what their thoughts were.

Tightly clutching a twenty dollar bill in her hand, 23 year old Maya approached the counter at an Asian takeout restaurant.
“Uhm, could I have an order of spring rolls?” she uttered. In most cases, use he said, she said.
“Is that all?” The woman at the counter inquired.
Maya nodded. 
“That will be 11 dollars.” The woman added.
Maya handed the woman the twenty dollar (make it either 11 and 20 or eleven and twenty for consistency) bill and received her change. She situated herself on one of the red leathery cushions positioned throughout the wait area. She had heard good things about this restaurant, (no comma needed here) and was hoping that it would live up to the rumors. It was strange, really. The place just appeared one day out of nowhere. (ooh, interesting…) A different employee (a man this time) tugged on a short string connected to a bell, making a shrill ring that grabbed the attention of all the customers. He then placed a grease soaked takeout bag marked ‘spring rolls’ on the mahogany countertop. Maya stood and paced (walked or went is fine. Pacing implies repetition) over to the countertop and grabbed her food. She peered up at the man at the counter when she realized he had been staring at her the entire time she was here. He winked at her then continued staring. What a creep… Maya thought to herself and hurried out of the building. She shivered. That’s definitely a drawback. This place better have amazing food. Maya weaved through the bustling crowds of people out on the terribly paved streets of Vladivostok.
 A chunk of her ash blond hair slid into her face, covering one of her bronze-colored eyes. She ducked into an alleyway, pulled her hair away from her face, and continued walking down the alleyway. Her nose caught whiffs from the white paper bag in her hand, and she could almost taste the crispy, almost sweet parcels filled with a variety of vegetables. She navigated through a labyrinth of alleyways until she got so far out she came to an entrance to a forest. Maya loved this getaway from the busy life in the town. She would come here almost everyday now for some peace and quiet. The thick treetops were comforting, as they reminded her of her childhood that was full of adventure. Pulling back some blooming branches to create an opening, she entered and began to wander around. 
Following  the sound of a trickling stream, she came upon an old, eroded wooden bridge that was surrounded by lush underbrush. She maneuvered around the shrubs and sat down on the side of the bridge. The bridge was still damp from the morning dew. Maya slipped her flats off of her feet and set them next to her, swung her feet over the side of the bridge and opened her bag. She scarfed down the spring rolls(which really were as amazing as people said they were) and went to roll up her trash in the bag. I almost forgot. She pulled out a fortune cookie encased in a transparent plastic, tore away the wrapper, and snapped the cookie open. Setting the slip of paper holding her fortune to the side, she ate the cookie. When she picked up the slip of paper and read her fortune, she suddenly felt sick to her stomach. This must be some sort of a joke.. Her mind was racing. The paper read ‘Your life's in danger. Talk to nobody about this. You must leave to a different country immediately’. (This sentence reads awkwardly; I'm not sure you can leave to a different country. Maybe, You must get out of the country immediately.) Maya quickly gathered her trash, slipped her shoes on and ran all the way back to her flat that overlooked the ocean.

My thoughts: Aside from the grammatical errors (and I can tell you my grammar was waaay worse in 7thgrade) this is an intriguing first page. Did the take-out place actually appear overnight? Does it give out fortune cookies of a similar nature to all its clients, just some, or just Maya?? And why is Maya’s life in danger?!!! I don't know about you but I'd be curious enough to turn the page to find what happens next.

Readers, please chime in and help out by offering any suggestions you might have for improving this page. Aspiring author, thanks for submitting and keep writing!


  1. It was intriguing.
    Maybe shorter paragraphs? And maybe what the fortune said should be placed right after the line that she was sick to her stomach?
    Now I want some spring rolls!

  2. grease-soaked

    "She peered up at the man at the counter when she realized he had been staring at her the entire time she was here." Show us this right when she notices it. Let us feel the tension at the beginning of the scene along with her rather than surprising us with it later.

    "Her nose caught whiffs from the white paper bag" Let's not draw attention to her nose. Her nose should not be the thing we're paying attention to. Try leading with whiffs of won-ton (or whatever) tickled her nose.

    A warning about this structure: "Pulling back some blooming branches to create an opening, she entered and began to wander around.
    Following the sound of a trickling stream, she came upon an old, eroded wooden bridge that was surrounded by lush underbrush." Lead into a sentence with an "ing" verb sparingly. We want to see who is doing the action first in most instances.

    Great hook for the end of the first page. I'm definitely curious about what is going on.

  3. That wasn't bad, well to me anyway!

  4. I agree with the minor quibbles and would add 'situated'. Sat is fine.
    And yes, I would happily read more.
    We don't get fortune cookies here. And I suspect after reading this one I am glad.

  5. Pretty clean writing. Agree with the suggestions. Also, had the same questions. I would definitely keep reading.

  6. Wow! I'm impressed and intrigued! Super hook. I want to read on! agree with the critique you gave, too. Christy

  7. The last sentence of the fortune cookie could just say "Leave the country" or something equally brief. Well done on this piece! Solid critique, as well. I agree with keeping it simple (said, walked, etc.)

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  9. Ooh! I want to read more. I continue struggling with excessive wordiness as well as replacing "said" more than necessary. And I'm in my forties! Best wishes to this young writer.


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