First Page Feedback: Alpha and Omega

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. 


First Page Feedback: Alpha and Omega by Catherine M.


Original:

VXD left me an orphan. All I have left is Alexandra, and she might as well be across the world instead of at Duke University. The only connection to her I have my cellphone.California Girls by the Beach Boys plays. It’s her favorite song. The light from the screen stands out in the night.

“Hi, Al,” I say.

“Are you there?”

Red Robin Lane hasn’t changed, but something feels wrong. It’s as though it’s shrunk while I was gone. I stand in the center of the street and stare at cars covered in dust from a year without use. I’d rather it all be different. 

“Well, what are you doing?” she sounds frustrated and I imagine I would be too, if I were her. Before VXD hit, she had been consumed with the thought of coming home to see Mom and I. Now she’ll never come home again unless I find the cure.

I’m trying so hard. But Alexandra is right. I’m not giving enough.

“I’m walking down the street. Passing Mr. Rudd’s trellis. The ivy is still there.” Al sighs and I know she’s remembering the time we plucked the leaves to bring to the fairy house we’d been building in the backyard with sticks.

“So you can see the house now,” she says, as though she is the guide, not me. 

“It’s still red.” 

She takes a deep breath and laughs. Everything about Alexandra is refined, and her laugh is no exception. “I knew that much, Squirt.” 

I want to take in everything slow, but I know that Janis will be furious with me if she learns I left the compound. 

You know you’re not allowed out, Janis would say. You’re the world’s biggest hope

My body is all I’ve got to offer anyone.

 

Lorin's Feedback:

VXD left me an orphan. [Intriguing opening, but I wonder if there’s a way to give this an even grander, more mysterious feel. Something along the lines of, “VXD made orphans of us all,” for example, which might elicit more curiosity and a stronger compulsion to read on. Assuming, of course, that this is a widespread issue, which seems to be the case. Or something like, “VXD left me an orphan—and a savior.” Something to give this idea greater dimension and potency.] All I have left is Alexandra, and she might as well be across the world instead of at Duke University. My cell phone serves as our only connection.

Her ring tone, California Girls, sounds in the night.  Her favorite song. [I’ve tried to strengthen this just a bit, but I think what the scene could use is a stronger sense of time and place even before Alexandra calls. Some sense of your protagonist being on a mission of some sort, bent on SOMETHING before her sister calls.]

I answer, and the The only connection to her I have my cellphone. California Girls by the Beach Boys plays. It’s her favorite song. The  light from the screen stands out in the night.

“Hi, Al,” I say.

“Are you there?”

Red Robin Lane hasn’t changed, but something feels wrong. It’s as though it’s shrunk while I was gone. I stand in the center of the street and stare at cars covered in dust from a year without use. I'd rather it all be different.  [This would seem to be a given. Perhaps another visual beat or two to help bring the place, and her intention, into focus?]

[Some answer before her sister’s question?]

“Well, what are you doing?” she sounds frustrated. and I imagine I would be too, if I were her. Before VXD hit, she had been consumed with the thought of coming home to see Mom andme. Now she’ll never come home again unless I find the cure. [Good]

I’m trying so hard. But Alexandra is right. I’m not giving enough.

“I’m walking down the street. Passing Mr. Rudd’s trellis. The ivy is still there.”

Al sighs, and I know she’s remembering the time we plucked the leaves to add bring to the fairy house we’d been building in the backyard with sticks.

“So you can see the house now,” she says, as though she is the guide, not me. 

“It’s still red.” 

She takes a deep breath and laughs. Everything about Alexandra is refined, and her laugh is no exception. [Might describe the laugh a bit more fully, so we get a sense of what makes it refined.] “I knew that much, Squirt.” 

I want to take my time, take in everything in, slow [A little more emotional/fluid, perhaps] but I know that Janis will be furious with me if she learns I left the compound. 

You know you’re not allowed out, she’d Janis would say. You’re the world’s biggest hope

My body is all I’ve got to offer anyone. [Powerful!]

 

Certainly an intriguing set of circumstances, Catherine. And an emotionally compelling opening. I think almost any reader would want to continue on to learn more about this girl—presumably—who has been charged with saving the world. Or at least her corner of it.

I did feel a little unmoored here; never quite latched onto the environment in a way that created a strong image in my mind. It feels a bit as though their conversation takes place in a vacuum, though you do make it clear that she’s outside, presumably looking at her old home.

Still, I could use more there. A little more world-building, a little more of what things look like via your protagonist’s emotional filter. Because there’s been, it seems, some form of large-scale devastation, we should be able to see that. Perhaps in another line or two about the cars. Or in a description of the neighborhood that contains a hint of what’s already unfolded.

Beyond that, too, it feels as though you could imbue the text, earlier on, with the sense that your protagonist (whose name we might like to know as soon as you can slip it into the narrative) is doing something forbidden, that she’s snuck away for some purpose of her own—or, perhaps, at her sister’s behest. Perhaps instead of having Alexandra call HER, your protag can call Alexandra, keeping her apprised of her “mission” as she carries it out, and getting guidance and emotional backup along the way. We could feel more of that tension as a way to really rope us into the story.

Also, making her the one with the motivation to achieve something specific will probably make your protagonist a little more visible and proactive on the page. At present, her narrative feels just a bit remote. We’re not really experiencing the world through her body, not feeling her emotions as she returns to this place. We could be pulled close, via the voice of your main character and her desires throughout the piece.

Again, thanks so much for sharing. Hope this is useful, and I wish you best of luck with your work!

All best,

Lorin