Wednesday, October 2, 2013

First Impressions - Dreamie's Box

Well, here we are again, first of the month and time for First Impressions, whereby you submit your first page and author Dianne Salerni and I critique it on our respective blogs. Today I have the first page of DREAMIE'S BOX, a cozy mystery. Doesn't that sound delicious? Like everyone is going to be all nice and sweet until someone ends up dead. Ahem. Anyway. Much thanks to Claudette 

who submitted her first page. You can find her here, and while you're clicking, go see what Dianne thought of this first page over here. And please, chime in with your opinion!


Chapter One

            “I have to leave early this morning. I have a breakfast meeting in Westley and won’t be able to drop you at the library. I guess you’ll be able to get extra cleaning done today, won’t you?”
            Dreamie listened as Martin’s voice washed over her, managing her day’s hours. This line of instruction had followed much the same morning routine for nearly twenty years. (structurally, this is an awkward sentence, imo, but the info is important. Just needs rewording, I think) She often contemplated arguing but declined the invitation for confrontation. (this does not make sense. You could say she declined the invitation for fear of confrontation but as there wasn't really an invitation I might just say she declined in favor of peace.) Too messy. Instead, she nodded to signify that she’d heard him. If he took that as agreement, he had only himself to blame.
            She kept her face neutral as he patted her on the shoulder like the neighbor’s dog before heading out the backdoor. Dreamie could go about her day now unimpeded and unrestricted.  A house quiet with solitude soothed its mistress. Dreamie Simple stared out the kitchen window as she finished the breakfast dishes.
            Martin was gone.
            With that knowledge her anticipation broke free. A smile broadened her mouth, bringing with it a glimpse of the understated beauty of her youth. There would come a time when Martin’s dictates would have no meaning for her, except as a training ground for patience and endurance.
            Dreamie emptied the sink without moving her eyes from the cardinals that devoured seed scattered below the bird feeder. Her sad smile quirked her lips as she recalled the silent argument she’d had with Martin regarding that feeder.
            “You’re not going to hang that contraption out there on that maple, Dreamie. I won’t have you putting up things like that to hit me in the head when I’m mowing.”
            Dreamie had continued assembling the simple feeder purchased at the local Dollar Store without looking up at her husband. He knew that she’d heard him. He knew that she wouldn’t sass back.
            As soon as she’d readied the feeder, she filled it with store-bought birdfeed. She went outside immediately and hung it from one of the lower branches of the big maple. She’d stood, admiring it.
            Her marital war with Martin had begun in earnest that day.(Over a feeder? Or is Dreamie trying to convince herself it's about the feeder?) Martin had removed it and tossed it into the trash. She’d retrieved the feeder and replaced it. He removed. Dreamie replaced. In the end, each time Dreamie heard the mower fire up in the storage barn, she would go to the feeder, remove it from its hanger, and take it to safety on the back porch. As soon as the mowing was done, Dreamie returned it to its place on the tree limb.
            Ten years had passed since the argument began. Ten years filled with complacency (Does this mean that Martin gave up and let her have the feeder?) on Martin’s part and active waiting on hers. Some things took time, she knew.
            Martin exacted a high price for the completion of his marriage obligation. Her own mother could never have understood Dreamie’s disillusionment and aching loneliness throughout the years.
           *  *  *

I am of two minds on this beginning. On the one hand I like the passive feel of it, because I get the feeling that Dreamie is the sort of person who has let things happen to her. I also like how it shows the way Martin  belittles her and I wonder if he is as thoughtless as he appears or is there some malice in him we haven't seen yet? However, I was confused by the last paragraph. How is Martin making Dreamie pay for the fulfillment of his marriage obligation? By denying her little things to make her happy? Like the feeder? What obligation does he have? To provide for her? Something else? We don't need to know the answers to these questions now but these are some of the questions that come to my mind that I'd want answered. I'm also not sure why her mother comes into it - unless her mother is an influential character in the story. Otherwise I am most definitely curious about Dreamie and what she might do next. 

How about you guys? What are your thoughts on Claudette's first page?  


  1. Agree with you about the awkward sentences. This flows a little slow for me, but I like the battle of wills and the way she approached it.

  2. Claudette has such a genuine and warm smile!

  3. I like Dreamie's voice and her passive character was clear. But I was confused about Martin. I didn't catch he was her husband until the end of the sample, at first I thought he was her father. I would have liked some grounding before the dialogue opening line.

  4. I've already put my opinion on Dianne's blog, but I think Marcy really did a great job of analyzing Dreamie's character. Those are all very important points to consider - and how best to "show" them in the story.

  5. I'm just stopping in to say hi. I'm back from blog break and trying to get around to everyone. Love that header pic!

  6. I like the critique offered here and at In High Spirits. This sentence seems particularly out of place for me, given the MCs mostly passive approach to her problems with Martin: "Her marital war with Martin had begun in earnest that day." What if you subbed in "small acts of rebellion?" Perhaps something like this: Her small acts of rebellion began in earnest that day. That suggests that she does more than oppose him with a birdfeeder. The birdfeeder was merely the inciting incident.


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