Friday, January 4, 2013

first impressions - Tsavo Pride

Today's first impression comes from Laura Diamond who can be found either at her blog or her author site. This is the first page of her short story spin off to her debut, SHIFTING PRIDE. My comments will be in purple and do head over and check out Dianne's critique of this same first page.

     The world split before me, torn open by a road of steel steel road slicing its way through the countryside and arcing across the Tsavo River. This was my land, my territory, that the outsiders were digging up, claiming it as theirs to further their own agenda. Only a fool would allow such an invasion and I was no fool. Problem was, the more I cleaned the fields of foreigners, the more showed up to take their place.
     Then Patterson came. The Colonel and Engineer who promised to rid the Uganda Railway project of the scourge attacking it. He made Lutalo and I sound like monsters when all we were doing was defending what was rightfully ours. It wasn’t our fault we had to use extreme measures. ( Anyone else would do the same. 
     The only difference was that we’d be successful. < but this sounds like the future.
     Patterson thought he could defeat us. He was wrong. Lutalo and I were invincible. Invincible gods with the power to do anything and everything we wanted. The local tribes knew it. So did the Indian immigrants (un)fortunate enough to labor for the British to build the railway bridge.
     The workers—who stayed in camps littering along the thirty miles (this should either read, littered along the thirty miles, or littering the thirty miles) or so of the ever-lengthening railway—feared us.
     As it should be.
     But Patterson didn’t. His foolhardy narcissism would be our playground.

     I realize this is a spin off, and perhaps this first part is a reminder of what has already occurred, but there's a lot of telling, which takes away from the impact this opening could have. I suggest replacing at least half (if not more) of the "to be" verbs (highlighted in annoying yellow) with more active verbs. Show us who Patterson is. Then show us who Lutalo and the mc are and what they're going to do or what they can do (those extreme measures, perhaps?). And if Patterson is the bad guy, show us that, too. I want to know who to root for and this opening doesn't quite make it clear. Of course, I also realize this is a short story, so there may have to be more telling than in a full length novel, but I think by replacing those passive verbs with some kick-ass verbs, this opening can be a lot stronger.
     Now, what do you think? How do you think Laura can improve upon this first page?


  1. Agree. There needs to be more show. I felt a little muddled when reading it.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  2. Cool concept. This is great advice too.

  3. Just out and about doing some catching up. Love these 'First Impressions' That last one was super.

    Being the person your dog thinks you are - a most worthy goal. I miss having a dog, but here in the tropics it's a real ordeal for both the human and the dog.

    44 Books - Wow! I sat down the other day and tried to comprise a list of the books I read in 2012. I should have kept tabs throughout the year, but you did remind me o three that I had missed. My goal for 2013 is to read at least 2 a month, for a grand total of 24.

  4. Wow. I'm impressed. I already commented over at Dianne's place, but you know what? I didn't even notice the preponderance of "to be" verbs in this piece. Usually, that sort of thing bugs me, but I didn't even notice this time. Either that means I wasn't paying attention... or I like the piece so much, it didn't matter. To tell the truth, I think it was the latter. Although now that you mention it, more action verbs would make this piece even better.

  5. Openings are tough for me--orienting the reader, giving enough info to make the character "known," and keeping things going. Thanks for your pointing out that choosing more active verbs can be helpful. :)

    Susan--Aww, thanks so much for your positive words! Glad you liked it. ;)

    1. Laura, thank you for submitting! I liked the opening paragraph. I think I didn't like the telling so much because I wanted to know more about everything, more about the characters and the setting and what the conflict was. But you're right, slowing things down to do that might slow the pace too much, and this is a short story, so - it's a dilemma for sure!

  6. I have to say, I do like strong action verbs. :) But this is an interesting glimpse at the story. Spot on critique as always, Marcy.

  7. that's a rather hot book cover

  8. Have to agree with Marcy. And like Susan, I didn't notice all those to-be verbs until I saw them highlighted in yellow! I thought the first paragraph was chock-full of active verbs (split, slicing, arcing, digging) but then it does fade away.

    And as I said over on Dianne's blog, I want to know the MC's name right from the beginning!

  9. It's an interesting piece and I'd keep reading, but Marcy points out some really good areas of improvement to make it even better.
    Great job, ladies!

  10. IMHO, to improve the drama in the first sentence, I would do the following:

    The world split before me, torn open by a steel road. It sliced through the countryside and across the Tsavo River.

    I cut the extra words and broke it in half to increase the tension. Then I'd end the paragraph. Start the new one with "This was my land..."

    1. Btw, the line 'this was my land' is Powerful! It makes me want to discover What and Why. Great voice.

  11. A fine opening with good edits -- needs more active verbs, less being verbs.

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