Welcome to another edition of First Impressions whereby one brave writer submits their first page for a critique by three authors: me, Dianne Salerni, and Krystalyn Drown. This month we have a first page from a young writer named Jasmine. Here is the first page of her scifi story, CURIOSITY KILLS.
The air was light and crisp, the wind lightly flowing through the trees, gently shaking the leaves, which slowly moved (moved is a weak verb, how about fluttered?) their way down to the soft dirt ground. The mood (what mood? Do you mean clouds perhaps?) slowly departed to let the sun take over the sky. Purples, pinks, oranges and reds all painted the sky like a brand new canvas waiting to be framed. Axel sat patiently on his smooth wooden windowsill seat. He waited for the perfect time for the sky to set in its place.
“Bingo.” With his notebook in hand, he very gently and gracefully colored a picture of the sky in all its beauty. He grabbed all different kinds of colors form the new pencil set he bought from the store. He had finally saved up enough to buy the best pencils in town. Many of the townspeople (who? Many implies that a lot of the townspeople know him. Is he that well known in town? I think this would be more effective if it was more specific) would tell him that it was a waste to buy pencils when he could spend his money on something more useful and important. (such as?) He was very talented, though many people (again, not very specific. And why don’t they approve?) did not approve. He didn’t listen, though. He made quite a good profit by selling all of his artwork, (if he’s making money with his art, why would people be against him making art?) proving to people that it wasn’t a waste. Despite always being busy helping his mother around the house, he usually found time to relax and draw. (if he’s always busy, then he wouldn’t have the time. Maybe delete the word ‘always’)
After a while, Axel finished his drawing, satisfied with his work. He sat at his windowsill for a little while longer, watching the sun climb up the sky and the white, puffy clouds roll in. He then stood up, put his notebook on the seat, and walked over to his mirror. He was quite the handsome boy, just like his father. His raven black hair was slicked back and curling a bit on the ends. Crystal blue eyes, like his mother’s, shone like large diamonds on his white pale face. He had broad shoulders and a strong voice. A strong voice he faked 80 percent of the time only to impress the girls his age in the town. (lol. This is good. It shows rather than tells that he cares about making an impression with the girls)
Axel ran his bony fingers through his hair, making it messier than it already was. Even though he went to bed pretty early the previous night, he was still exhausted. (why?)The clanking of pots and pans, and the sound of running water could be heard coming from their large marble-based kitchen. The delicious smell of pancakes and bacon came wafting up the stairs and into his bedroom. (mmm, I can smell them, too)
My thoughts: The first thing I noticed was the number of adverbs (words that end in –ly): gently, lightly, slowly, patiently, gracefully. Adverbs are fine in small numbers but too many can overwhelm. So, for example: “The air was light and crisp, wind flowing through the trees, gently shaking the leaves, which slowly moved their way down to the soft dirt ground.” This way light is only used once and there’s only one adverb here instead of two. I should also say that I tend to use too many adverbs in my first drafts and often have to go back and rewrite.
The second thing is Axel going to the mirror. This is a common way to show what our characters look like but it’s a little too common. A better way might be to open with Axel watching the sky and describe him there. That way it seems like the narrator is showing the reader rather than Axel thinking he’s handsome and has his mother’s eyes, etc. I’d definitely keep the voice thing. Love that!
Third, this is supposed to be science fiction and I’d like to get a sense of that somewhere on this first page. It doesn’t have to be a lot, a hint will do, but even a suggestion could make this first page pop. I’d love to know why so many people don’t think he should make art when he’s obviously successful at it. Is it all the people, or just some of the people? And if some, which ones? That might be an interesting idea to explore.
Finally, I realize this first page is from a young writer, not someone who has been at it for a while. It usually takes many rewrites to get everything right on the first page (not to mention the succeeding ones). I would definitely recommend a class in creative writing if available, maybe through the local adult ed? It’s amazing how much we can all learn from each other no matter how old we are.
Jasmine, I hope you keep writing and practicing. You’ve got a great start here! Oh, love the tile, too :)
Last but not least, due to family illness, I probably won't be back 'til after the new year. Be well and enjoy the holidays.