First Page Feedback: The Proof

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The Proof by Cheryl C.

Original:

Gabe swallowed the bitter taste of hate. And fear. Shame bit him. His sister never thought about danger. He huddled on the ground where his father had thrown him against the rocks, cuts burning over the aching bruises. Bark dug into his small palms as he clung to a tree with a death grip. Tremors shook his young body. On every side, water swept soil and rocks down the mountain.

“Get. Down. Here!” Neck craned upward, their father screamed at Angelica to move faster. His fury intensified with the storm.

Gabe blinked rain away as he searched the cliffs above them. Surely she’ll be okay. He spotted her. Eyes wide with excitement, Angelica jumped gracefully to another large boulder. But this time her tennis shoes slid off the slippery rock. Her mouth opened in surprise. She pitched headfirst down the steep terrain.

He watched in horror as sharp rocks and sticks gashed her thin arms and face. His father’s face went ghastly white. Tears joined the rain on Gabe’s face. He forgot about the throbbing pain. He’d lost his best friend.


Lorin's Feedback:

Gabe swallowed the bitter taste of hate. And fear. Shame bit him. His sister never thought about danger. [For my money, this is the most compelling place to begin. Would change it, then, to “Gabe’s sister never thought about danger.” Or “never considered the danger.”] He huddled on the ground where his father had thrown him against the rocks, cuts burning over the aching bruises. Bark dug into his small palms as he clung to a tree with a death grip. [As I think you mean us to be in a closer point of view, a phrase like “death grip,” and even the concept would probably not enter his consciousness.] Tremors shook his young body. On every side, water swept soil and rocks down the mountain.

 “Get. Down. Here!” Neck craned upward, their father screamed at Angelica to move faster. His fury intensified with the storm.

Gabe blinked rain away as he searched the cliffs above them. Surely she’ll be okay. [Perhaps a more childlike phrasing, e.g., “She’ll be okay. She has to.”] He spotted her. Eyes wide with excitement, Angelica jumped gracefully to another large boulder. But this time her tennis shoes slid off the slippery rock. Her mouth opened in surprise. She pitched headfirst down the steep terrain.

[This all feels a little hasty to me. I’m assuming that this is a prologue (and if I’m wrong, forgive me), which means trying to move through it as quickly as possible. Yet, you’re robbing this moment of a great deal of the tension by speeding through it. Can her movements here go on a bit longer, build to a greater height of anxiety on Gabe’s—and the reader’s—part? Can we think she’s made it to safety and breathe a sigh of relief, only to have her trip or slip in a place that should be safe? Feel free to unspool this just a bit more, to really heighten the reader’s sense of apprehension.]

He watched in horror as sharp rocks and sticks gashed her thin arms and face. His father’s face went ghastly white. [Would he spare his father a glance at this point? Wouldn’t he be much more focused on his sister?] Tears joined the rain on Gabe’s face. He forgot about the throbbing pain. He’d lost his best friend.  [This all feels like it comes a bit too quickly, and feels a little “pat.” Better, I think, to leave us with a really concrete and horrifying image of his sister’s tumble, of her being swept away by the water, etc.  Give us a picture that will linger in our minds rather than a flat summary of his emotional state, which he likely would not drill down to right away, given the shock and horror of the moment.]

 

Thanks so much for sharing this opening, Cheryl! Certainly a compelling situation, one, as I’ve mentioned above, that I think you have some time to develop a bit more fully.

Also, I think you might give the reader a bit more to go on in terms of the concrete parameters of the situation. Can you give us some more specific idea of where they are, what they’ve come there to do? Did Gabe’s father throw him against the rocks to HARM him? To just get him out of the way or to safety? He hates his father, it seems, so I’m guessing the action was abusive, but that’s not really clear. 

Would love to see this developed a bit more fully, more added in the way of both emotional development and concrete logistics. This is a powerful place to start. Now you have only to build to make it GREAT.

-- Lorin