First Page Feedback: The Second One

First Page Feedback: The Second One by Catherine M.

Copies of Lorin's feedback are available for download in the Resources for Writers section under Extras. If you're interested in submitting your first page (up to 250 words) for Lorin's feedback, please email a Word doc or text file copy to erin_anderson@free-expressions.com. 

Original:

Madelyn woke to the sound of someone else crying. Instinctively she started to wipe the tears from her face, but there were none. She allowed herself another moment of warmth, and then pushed back the sheets and down comforter, exposing her body to the chilled air. The skin on her arms and legs raised tiny bumps of protest. She knew she’d pay the price later if she dispensed with her morning stretching routine, but today she found it hard to care.She got out of bed and made her way across her bedroom, her feet silent on the cold bamboo floor. She reached for her robe, putting it on as she walked down the hallway, heading for the sound of the noise.           

“Tante Joyce?” Madelyn placed her hand on the kitchen door, then pushed it open. The crying stopped, replaced by the sound of a television being turned off. She walked into the kitchen, the scents of cinnamon and Brioche enveloping her. “Qu’est-ce qui ne va pas?”

Her aunt was at her side in moments, guiding her to one of the chairs at their small kitchen table.

“I don’t need help to sit down in my own home,” Madelyn said. 

“I’m not helping. I’m...”

“What’s happened?”

“Nothing.”  

“I’ve never known you to cry for nothing.”

Madelyn heard a heavy wooden chair scrape across the floor, and started to get up to help her aunt.            

“No, sit. I lost my grip on the bowl while I was whisking the eggs. There could still be some glass on the floor.” 

“These chairs are too heavy for you.” 

“And I baby you? I’m perfectly capable of lifting a chair, Maddie.”

Her aunt sat down next to her, and the faintest hint of lavender joined the assortment of aromas that permeated the de Lumiére’s household this time of year.


Feedback:

Madelyn woke to the sound of someone else crying. [Subtly intriguing opening line. Might build this just a bit, so that the reader comes to the understanding that the crying is coming from elsewhere, along with Madelyn.] Instinctively, she started to wipe the tears from her face but there were found none. [Might orient us a bit to where the sound is coming from here, how it comes to her.]

She allowed herself another moment of warmth, and then pushed back the sheets and down comforter, exposing her body to the chilled air. The skin on her arms and legs raised tiny bumps of protest. She knew she'd pay the price later if she dispensed with her morning stretching routine, but today she found it hard to care. [It’s a little unclear to me what emotion is supposed to be dominant in this scene. Is she fatigued? Depressed? Concerned about the person crying? This passage robs the opening of a bit of urgency and feels a bit too diffuse on an emotional level.]

She got out of bed and made her way across her bedroom, her feet silent on the cold bamboo floor. She reached for Shrugging into her robe, putting it on as she walked [Walked is a bit of a generic verb in terms of communicating an emotion. Is she creeping? Striding?] down the hallway toward heading for the sound of the noise. [“Sounds of the noise” strikes me as a bit redundant.]

"Tante Joyce?" Madelyn placed her hand on the kitchen door, then pushed it open the kitchen door. [Unless she’s hesitating there for a reason, I’d keep the action fluid to sustain the momentum of the scene.] The crying stopped, replaced by the sound of a television being turned off. She walked into the kitchen, the scents of cinnamon and Brioche enveloping her. "Qu'est-ce qui ne va pas?"

In a moment, her aunt came to her side, Her aunt was at her side in moments guiding her to one of the chairs at their small kitchen table.

"I don't need help to sit down in my own home," Madelyn said.

"I'm not helping. I'm..."

"What's happened?"

"Nothing."

"I've never known you to cry for nothing." [Nice exchange.]

Madelyn heard a heavy wooden chair scrape across the floor, and started to get up to help her aunt.

"No, sit. I lost my grip on the bowl while I was whisking the eggs. There could still be some glass on the floor."

"These chairs are too heavy for you."

"And I baby you? I'm perfectly capable of lifting a chair, Maddie."

Her aunt sat down next to her, and the faintest hint of lavender joined the assortment of aromas that permeated the de Lumiére's household this time of year. [Really nice! And a very effective and subtle treatment of what I assume is Maddie’s blindness.]


Overall, I think this is an effective opening. As noted above, it could use a bit more in terms of emotional temperature; it registers as a bit neutral in that arena. We could, as mentioned, feel a stronger sense of alarm or urgency resonating from Maddie.

Also, as another way to subtly communicate her blindness, I wonder if she might smell whatever it was that Tante Joyce was in the middle of preparing when she enters the kitchen to check on her?

Polished and well executed. Thanks for sharing it! 

-- Lorin