First Page Feedback: Amedeo

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Amedeo by Mark N.

Original:

October 15, 1914, Trieste — Amedeo Nassutti rang the bell of his crowded trolley car, an act that of late served only as a symbolic effort to clear his trolley’s tracks.  Harried pedestrians, rustic mule carts and elegant horse-drawn carriages, chuffing cars, growling trucks, men and women with wheelbarrows all fought for a few inches of forward movement.  He squinted into the early autumn sun, cool and low in the western sky but not yet low enough to be blocked by the buildings on the south side of Trieste’s Via Carducci.  All he could see of the wide boulevard ahead of him were more cars, carts, trucks, wagons and people, thousands of people.

He turned the burnished brass control wheel and braced his back against the wall of his open-air cabin as he felt the surge of the electric motor.  He cranked the brake-release wheel and the trolley moved forward.  He grimaced, letting a hand in its great leather gauntlet hang at his side.  He rolled his broad shoulders, then pulled his elbows back behind him to stretch.  He took a deep breath.

The trolley rolled at a walking pace, horses pranced in their carriage traces, and mules walked as if bemused.  The pedestrians complained, and loudly, jostling their way through the traffic, gracing Amedeo and his passengers with rapid-fire curses in Triestino, German and Slovenian, English and Greek, a little French and Lebanese.  Whether they wore business attire, military uniforms or peasant garb, whether male or female, young or old, even children, they griped at a bell-ringing trolley in equal numbers.

Lorin's Feedback

October 15, 1914, Trieste — Amedeo Nassutti rang the bell of his crowded trolley car, an act that of late served only as a symbolic effort to clear his trolley’s tracks. Harried pedestrians, rustic mule carts and elegant horse-drawn carriages, chuffing cars, growling trucks, men and women with wheelbarrows [Wonderful details, but it feels as though it develops for a few too many beats. Consider compressing with just a few items in the list, the ones that work the hardest to create a specific sense of time and place.] all fought for a few inches of forward movement. He squinted into the early autumn sun, cool and low in the western sky but not yet low enough to be blocked by the buildings on the south side of Trieste’s Via Carducci. All he could see of the wide boulevard ahead of him were more cars, carts, trucks, wagons and people, thousands of people. [Doesn’t feel as though this adds to the moment and suggests a lack of forward movement in the narrative as well as in Amedeo’s life.]

He turned the burnished brass control wheel and braced his back against the wall of his open-air cabin as he felt the surge of the electric motor. He cranked the brake-release wheel, and the trolley moved forward. He grimaced, letting a hand in its great leather gauntlet hang at his side. He rolled his broad shoulders, and then pulled his elbows back behind him to stretch. He took a deep breath. [Be on the lookout for repetitive subject-verb-object of this type. Varying your syntax will give the prose greater potency and “music.”]

The trolley rolled at a walking pace, horses pranced in their carriage traces, and mules walked as if bemused. [Repetition: “walking”/”walked.”] The pedestrians complained, and loudly, jostling their way through the traffic, gracing Amedeo and his passengers with rapid-fire curses in Triestino, German and Slovenian, English and Greek, a little French and Lebanese. Whether they wore business attire, military uniforms or peasant garb, whether male or female, young or old, even children, they griped at a bell-ringing trolley in equal numbers. [Again, feels a little over-elaborated. Pare for greater impact.]

Thanks so much for sharing your first page, Mark. I appreciate your adept prose and the gently wry tone you’re employing here. You create a subtle sense of tension in this opening, just in invoking Amedeo’s frustrations in moving his trolley along the line.

I do feel, however, that you have a chance to ratchet up that tension, to give us some greater suggestion of urgency here—a feeling that today, of all days, he absolutely NEEDS to get his trolley through. Or, if that’s not relevant to the story, some sense of how this day is different, how today’s routine is not like yesterday’s routine, even if all the components seem the same.

Per my specific notes above, I’d also take a look at varying your sentence rhythm and applying some judicious edits so that the power and focus of your language isn’t compromised.

Again, thanks so much for sharing this piece, and best of luck with your revision!

Best,

-- Lorin