Friday, February 7, 2014

First Impressions - Into the Black

Our final First Impression for the month comes from Paul Baughman. This is the first page to his Scifi novel, INTO THE BLACK. My comments will be in purple and do check out what Dianne Salerni thought about this first page at her blog, In High Spirits.  

John Adler walked into the office of the Director of Advanced Projects when he heard the muffled 'Enter'.
"Hi Bill," he said.  He stopped in surprise to see three others already seated with Bill Smith in the informal conference area.
"Come in, Jack.  Have a seat."
Jack closed the door and took the one unoccupied chair at the end of the low table.  There was a mug and a carafe of coffee already set out in front of him.  Automatically, he poured himself a cup and sipped as he studied the others.
Louise Billings was a familiar face to the scientific world.  In her late forties, she still kept a trim figure and unlined face.  If her dark brown hair had any grey, it wasn't showing.  She wore a conservative business suit and a crisp white blouse.  She had started her career as a mediocre chemist with a talent for publicity and politics.  Over the last twenty years, she had used her political savvy and scientific credentials to work her way into the Directorship of the National Research Agency.
Henry Stinson was well-known both inside and outside the scientific community.  As the head of the first team that had designed and built an FTL probe based on German and Russian nobel prize work, the whole world knew his face.  He was a stocky man, in his late-fifties wearing a slightly rumpled business suit.  He was mostly bald with a fringe of grey hair that frizzed wildly.  He was known as a brilliant engineer with a flair for systems integration, and an inspired team-leader who could always get diverse personalities and backgrounds to cooperate on the job, even if they abraded each other at other times.
The third person was another man.  He was very thin, on the edge of emaciation, but his clear blue eyes, thick, wavy hair and unmarked skin showed his build to be unrelated to disease.
Jack put down his coffee and raised his eyebrows at his boss.
"Jack," Bill said.  "This is Louise Billings--"
"Mr. Adler," the woman said, rising and offering her hand.  "It's a pleasure to meet you."  Her smooth voice irritated Jack in a way he couldn't define.  He returned her firm hand-shake and turned to the others.
"Henry Stinson," Bill continued, "leader of the FTL Project."
"Mr. Adler," Stinson said.  Stinson's hand-shake was just as firm as Billings', but seemed friendlier...

My first impression is that the pacing is too slow. There's too much telling which slows the story down and doesn't really help me to know any of the characters. My suggestion is to get right down to the introductions, which occurs at the very end of this first page, then, as people speak, show us something about them. Not much, just enough to make an impression which can then be emphasized later. But get to what this meeting is about - the FTL project perhaps? - and give us a reason to care about the main character, who I assume is Jack. Another thought is to begin with Jack walking into the building and show his inner dialogue about the meeting. Does he know what it's about? How is he feeling about it? Is he happy? Sad? By giving us a reason to connect to Jack, you'll also give us a reason to follow him into the next page.
That said, I'll just add that I'm speaking as a reader who connects with characters more than plot. Someone else might have a completely different take and for that reason I'm hoping you, dear reader, will offer your comments :)

A big thank-you to Paul for submitting!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I agree with your assessment. Chuck the three paragraphs of description and start with introductions. Introduce that stuff slowly. And we need more of what Jack is thinking and feeling so we can connect with him.
    (Sorry, typo in first comment.)

  3. Ditto. . . perhaps the opening sentence could be something like this: As Jack cracked the door to the Director of Advanced Projects' office, a muffled voice said, "Enter."

  4. I agree about the slow pacing. I'd make the first sentence more gripping with some descriptions maybe

  5. I already commented on Diane's blog, but I agree that there's too much character background and not enough personality on the first page.

  6. I enjoyed this start, but I must agree with the others about the use of so much character description. What they look like doesn't matter nearly as much as how they behave, or how Jack reacts to seeing them there. Let readers draw their own conclusions about the characters, based on what they do... or what they're thinking. Physical descriptions may allow us to "see" them, but you want to make us get a deeper perception beyond what they look like.

  7. I really like the voice a lot and I'm super curious on what the meeting is about, but agree with the others that there is too much description right off the bat which does slow it down. Just the name of the Director's office makes it very intriguing so I like Marcy's idea of having some internal thoughts about him wondering about that at the beginning. :)

  8. Very fun to have critiques here. Lots of talent. Oh the joys of balancing everything... :)

  9. Nice one Paul and of course Marcy!


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