Wednesday, October 1, 2014

First Impressions - Moving Fear

Our first First Impression for this month comes from DL Hammons, founder of D.L. Hammons' Write Club, who has submitted the first page of his YA Horror, MOVING FEAR. As always, author Dianne Salerni will be critiquing this first page as well and you can see what she thought here.


“Are those restraints really necessary?”
The orderly continued strapping the wide leather belt around the woman’s waist without a sign he heard the question. His ill-fitting uniform of matching white pants and short- sleeve shirt suffered from a terminal case of the wrinkles and did a poor job of covering his massive bulk. The laminated hospital ID clipped to his uniform pocket flapped around like a cowboy holding on for dear life atop a bucking bronco. Working without a sound, he finished with the leather girdle and then guided the woman's listless body into the chair opposite the visitor. Only a small metal table separated the two of them.
The priest, dressed in a dark gray suit with a black clergy shirt and white clerical collar, studied the orderly. He watched without comment as the hospital employee (I think you could replace this with 'man' and it would read a little smoother - imo) treated the woman as a side of beef, maneuvering her roughly back and forth, oblivious to her own will.
Thus the reason for the frown on the priest's face. This feels intrusive to me, but I can't quite pinpoint why.
The room he had been waiting in was brightly lit, which he found odd because the intense lighting only accentuated the dust and grime. (So now we are seeing thing's from the priest's pov, correct? Then who's pov were we seeing things from before? An omniscient narrator? Just asking...)  It was clear that the cleaning staff hadn’t concerned themselves with this part of the hospital for quite some time. The filth was emphasized by a musty smell of neglect and a faint hint of stale sweat and urine, which assaulted his nose and had put him in a foul mood as soon as he'd entered the room. The orderly’s actions now only deepened it.
The priest had taken the seat on the far side of the table, putting the mirror covering the majority of the back wall behind him. On the wall to his immediate left rested an old metal radiator, fed by a pipe that ran along the baseboard and into the floor adjacent to the lone entrance. A table and two stiff chairs, all bolted to the concrete floor, were the only furniture in the interview room. I'd get rid of that and cut to the chase. But again, that's just my opinion...
The woman offered no resistance throughout her man-handling, her distant eyes providing no hint that she was even aware of the orderly’s actions. Grabbing the bulky chain hanging from the rear of the belt the woman was now wearing, the hospital worker orderly (because shorter is better here, I think) secured it with a lock to a loophole at the base of the chair. He gave it a quick yank when he was finished, jerking the woman back in her seat. Only then did he step back and look at the priest.

My thoughts: Okay, so I marked this up a bit, because I think this can be shorter which will increase the tension of the reader dying to find out what this priest is doing, who the woman is, and why she's been treated as she is.  I also think cutting some of the description will make the place seem even more stark and gloomy. This is a page turner as is, but a bit of tightening would make it killer.

Readers, your thoughts?


  1. Quite the unique setup!
    The point of view confuses me as well. Not sure who is the center.

    1. I went with OMNI for the prologue, because actually neither is at the center...for reasons you find out later in the book. Still, I'll take this feedback under advisement.

      Thanks Alex!

  2. I liked the opening, set me in the world.

    When you say 'the woman' are you referring to the person who said the opening line? If so, I think adding a dialog tag there would help.

    I agree about the POV. I'd go with one. Marcy's other thoughts are spot on, too. Best of luck with this, DL!

  3. Great opening line. But I agree with you, Marcy, about cutting some of the description. We know what a priest wears. We know what an orderly wears. No real need to describe it. I think the reader will tend to skip over stuff like that in search of more interesting character observations.

  4. Definitely has some great tension. I'm wanting a clearer POV too. Who are we seeing through? If that one aspect is tightened up, I think it will set this page off.

  5. Commented over at Dianne's, but agree, it could be tightened. There's some telling that could be more visual. That said, I'm going yikes! Because I am already drawn in and want to know what is going on here!!

  6. I agree with the changes. I wanted to say I love the beginning of this, though. Pulls the reader right in!

  7. Music to my ears! :) Thank you Stephanie.

  8. Great feedback, Marcy! I already left my comments at Dianne's but I really want to know what happens to that woman. Please tell me the priests gives her some divine intervention, wakes her butt up so she can kick the orderly ass and get the hell out of that ward!

  9. I think the earlier comments covered my reactions. I assumed the first line was spoken by the priest since you've described the woman as basically unresponsive. What you've got so far could be easily told through the priest's POV but I don't know if that changes later in the scene. It does grab, I want to keep reading.

  10. Blogger just ate my comment. But basically, I said I posted over at Dianne's so I'll keep this short. Over there, I suggested cutting the sentence that starts with On the wall to his immediate left, and I see you've suggested the same thing here, Marcy. I like all your suggestions. Go, DL! Nice, creepy beginning, once you tighten.

  11. You have some really good descriptions in there. Overall, the writing is excellent. But the POV is confusing and the scene meanders along with no tension or hint of a plot. The tension only comes if we know who the narrator is, why he cares about the woman, and how her being restrained affects the character and plot. Good luck, DL!

  12. Thank you everyone for your comments and suggestions and thank you DL for submitting. I think Lexa made an excellent point:

    "The tension only comes if we know who the narrator is, why he cares about the woman, and how her being restrained affects the character and plot."

    I love the atmosphere and sense of foreboding on this first page and definitely would've turned the page based on that alone. If you ever need another reader, DL, count me in :)


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