First Page Feedback: Untitled #3

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Untitled by Tracy S.

Original:

Lilith of the Bats and Fire Prince started their day with her very pregnant belly on the cliff overlooking a shoreline of bathing apes.

A morning after a night of; wine and playful whales (his wine, not hers) and listening to ukulele music plucked by short wolf like men.  Fire Prince sniffs fish on his fingers as he moves his hands to his strong natured neck.  He had ordered volcanic liquor from the Bar of Life and began gorging on wolf culture.

From this crag they see the light of the sky hula dancers swinging their naked big titties and the bartenders at this Bar of Life swim like whales travelling back to Angel Falls.  “Amazing”, he whispers but it is not bubble language and only whales hear bubbles as he snacks on the macadamia seasoned Mahi Mahi fish that the whales just swam with.   He often yodeled like the black roosters and found cosmic sap on his palms when drinking chicory snake mouth liquor and smoking wild succory weeds.  The succory weeds in autumn during harvest were especially delicious inhaling robust cigars, also known as the violet plates.

Fire Prince was nature made flesh and any element of outdoor yard that needed tending to he very happily did.  As they walked he sang and he asked her to dance.   They did and in whirling a hot incredible ache in Lilith’s lower back began to grow.  Catching her breath, she pulled away.  He immediately guided her to sit down but she disagreed after a few moments of cramping eased off.  Pulling a few languorous red flowers from a branch Fire Prince presented them to her with a concerned grin.  They both felt better, baby wasn’t due for another month.

He mentioned how his girlfriend, Violet Mary, was returning tonight and he would take her the same wild flowers, too.  As they leisurely strolled he spoke of how often she had been away lately.  He missed her.    He asked Lilith if she ever missed Merlin.  Fire Prince had never met Merlin but knew of the relationship and the fondness between him and Lilith.  Lilith didn’t hesitate to say that she didn’t miss Merlin when he was away; he was very fulfilling when he was here.  They turned to short cut and entered the field of sunflowers.   The sunflowers had other ideas for their walk.


Lorin's Feedback

Lilith of the Bats and Fire Prince started their day with her very pregnant belly on the cliff overlooking a shoreline of bathing apes. [Though I understand the meaning of this, the syntax, with her belly as a separate entity, is a little tough to absorb, especially for a novel’s opening line. Perhaps something more along the lines of, “The very pregnant Lilith of the Bats and Fire Prince started…”  Or it might be helpful to frame Fire Prince in some way, “her consort, Fire Prince?” “Her advisor?” With novels that are speculative in nature—as I’m assuming this is—it’s helpful to ease the reader into the magical world, to give him/her some context so that he/she can become acclimated smoothly.]

A morning after a night of; wine and playful whales (his wine, not hers), of and listening to ukulele music plucked by short wolf-like men. [Great]  Fire Prince sniffs fish on his fingers as he moves his hands to his strong natured neck.  He had ordered volcanic liquor from the Bar of Life and began gorging on wolf culture. [I’m finding the tense changes a bit jarring here. We begin the novel in the past tense (“started their day”), move to present here (“Fire Prince sniffs”) and then back into past. It makes it a little difficult to stay with the prose and also to feel as though the story is moving forward from this point.]

From this crag they see the light of the sky hula dancers swinging their naked big titties and the bartenders at this Bar of Life swimming like whales travelling back to Angel Falls. [Evocative phrasing, but I’m a little unclear on the concrete, literal meaning of what you’re suggesting. Can you bring this scene into more specific and understandable focus for the reader?] “Amazing,” he whispers, but it is not bubble language and only whales hear only bubbles as he. He snacks on the macadamia seasoned Mahi Mahi fish, which had swum with these same whales that the whales just swam with. [Tense change. Also subject change, which may jar the reader.] He often yodeled like the black roosters and found cosmic sap on his palms when drinking chicory snake mouth liquor and smoking wild succory weeds.  [There is a great, poetic feeling to this, but I do wonder about the paragraph’s focus. What are we meant to take away from this moment?] The succory weeds in autumn during harvest were especially delicious inhaling robust cigars, also known as the violet plates.

Fire Prince was nature made flesh, and he happily tended to any element of the outdoors that needed his touch.  yard that needed tending to he very happily did. [Not sure how this relates to the rest of the scene.]

As they walked he sang and he asked her to dance.   They did and in whirling a hot incredible ache in Lilith’s lower back began to grow.  Catching her breath, she pulled away.  He immediately guided her to sit down but she disagreed resisted, and after a few moments, the cramping eased of cramping ease off.  [Feels as though we’re moving into her perspective here, where it seems we’ve been in Fire Prince’s perspective to this point.]

Pulling a few languorous red flowers from a branch, Fire Prince presented them to her with a concerned grin.   They both felt better, . The baby wasn’t due for another month.

[I wonder if this would be more lively if rendered in actual dialogue?] He mentioned how his girlfriend, Violet Mary, was returning tonight and he would take her the same wild flowers, too.  As they leisurely strolled, he spoke of how often she had been away lately.  He missed her.   

He asked Lilith if she ever missed Merlin. The Fire Prince had never met Merlin but knew of the relationship and the fondness between him and Lilith. Lilith said that she didn’t miss Merlin when he was away; he was very fulfilling when he was here.  [Great]  They turned to short cut and Taking a shortcut, they entered the field of sunflowers.   The sunflowers had other ideas for their walk. [Intriguing]


Thanks so much for sharing this with me, Tracy!

As I mentioned in my comments, above, you’re creating such an interesting mood here and using such unexpected, poetic language and phrasing.  It’s always lovely to see someone pushing their writing to new places.

That said, I’m afraid the syntax employed here, along with ideas that could use a bit more grounding and context, make this a bit of a tough opening for a story. While there’s much to intrigue the reader, it feels as though you can give us a little bit more to help us understand this world (Is it a different world? A primitive version of our own?), these characters, what they want, and how they truly relate to one another.

It’s always an interesting balancing act—giving the reader enough explanation and concrete detail to help them feel moored—without bogging them down with exposition or long, inert, passages of description. One way you might get a handle on it is to decide whose scene it is and what that character wants. Steer us into the story and its setting, while keeping us attuned to the tangible desire of a character, who meets opposition in the pursuit of that desire.

Make sure, too, to keep us pinned to the scene’s focal point—the characters and their goals, which will make, ideally, for opposing agendas. Ask yourself whether every sentence you insert speaks to the central point of the scene—and the story—in some way.


Here I’m afraid things feel a little fragmented, a little too fluid. While we have a bit of tension in terms of Lilith’s cramps, there’s not a great deal of conflict here, nor a strong sense of a promise being made to the reader about what kind of story we’ll be reading or the themes we might encounter along the way.

Still, there’s much here to work with, and I know you’ll reframe it so that the scene and the powerful language really soar.

Again, thanks so much!

--Lorin