First Page Feedback: Untitled #4

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Untitled #4 by Donna E. 

Original:

Wade Malone slipped the ring on my finger easy as he ordered lemon pie.  I let him, too.  I mean, what did I have to lose?  I had myself perched up beside him in the truck, staring down at the sparkle and shine on my left finger, cocking my head to study how my hand looked different.  Maybe it was like a brand, getting that engagement ring.  Maybe it made me half of something, which is better than the whole of nothing, like I’d felt since leaving school.  Still, I couldn’t imagine how he thought us a fitting pair, him being like he was and all.  Fancy was the word that come to mind.

I didn’t want to act proud or nothing, so I didn’t look at my hand too much.  Momma said women who act like they been put up on a pedestal tend to fall hard.  I surely didn’t have that to worry about.  How can you fall when you’re already laying flat faced on the ground?  Anyway, I couldn’t believe he kept coming around, paying attention, acting interested, and now, I got me this here ring. 

Wade pulled up the drive and I opened the door, ready to climb out.  He reached over and pulled me back up close, his hand slipping easy like under my dress, traveling places it had already been.  I sat right still, heart pounding.  Wade did that, made me get all nervous and anxious, though I’d been around him a while now.


Lorin's Feedback:

Wade Malone slipped the ring on my finger easy as he ordered lemon pie. [Great opening line--filled with voice and a subtle tension.] I let him, too. I mean, what did I have to lose?  [This diminishes the punch of the preceding line.]

[New paragraph] I had myself perched up beside him in the truck, [Might make the truck more specific or give it a nickname, something to give this world and the narrative voice added texture.] staring down at the sparkle and shine on my left finger, cocking my head to study how my hand looked different.  Maybe it was like a brand, getting that engagement ring.  Maybe it made me half of something, which is better than the whole of nothing like I’d felt like since leaving school. 

[New paragraph] Still, I couldn’t imagine how he thought us a fitting pair, him being like he was and all.  Fancy was the word that come to mind.

I didn't want to act pround or nothing, so I didn't look at my hand too much. Momma said women who act like they been put up on a pedestal tend to fall hard.  So I didn’t look at my hand too much. I surely didn’t have that to worry about.  How can you fall when you’re already laying flat faced on the ground?  Anyway, I couldn’t believe he kept coming around, paying attention, acting interested, and now, I got me this here ring. [This doesn’t feel as though it’s developing the scene and could be cut. Perhaps the introduction of some source of tension right away? Instead of feeling resigned to accept his proposal, does she feel as though she should decline? Does she feel any anxiety or trepidation over the situation, beyond their differences in class/societal statures?]

Wade pulled up the drive, and I opened the door, ready to climb out.  He reached over and pulled me back up close, his hand slipping easy like [With a voice meant to suggest a strong regional flavor it’s easy to tip over into something that feels like parody. Better to employ a lighter touch.] under my dress, traveling places it had already been.  I sat right still, heart pounding.  Wade did that, made me get all nervous and anxious, though I’d been around him a while now. [Great]


Thank you so much for sharing this compelling story opening with me—and for allowing me to comment on it for the blog!

Right away, I found myself intrigued by your narrator’s voice and by her idiosyncratic way of looking at a situation—getting engaged, which tends to follow a familiar path. We get a sense of who she is as a person, how she sees herself and her status in life, and we have a great feeling for the longings simmering beneath the surface here. Really nicely done.

I think you have opportunities to flesh this out a bit more fully, first by giving us a bit more concrete/sensory detail in the little bit of scene. Hone in on the specifics of the ring, or the truck, or Wade. Are there scents in the air? Does the ring itself—with its fussy marquis setting (for example)—ALSO feel too fancy for your protag? When Wade reaches under her dress, are his hands warm or cold? Does he say anything?  

Secondly, I’m concerned that your protagonist—who could use a name as soon as it makes sense to insert it—could demonstrate a little more observable gumption in the scene. I know we’re just a page in, but she’s basically passive throughout. All of her responses are internal. She doesn’t say anything or act in any particularly compelling manner when Wade puts the ring on her finger. And she just sits “right still” while her new fiancé touches her sexually, giving us no insight into how she feels about it—aroused? Displeased? She’s nervous, but we don’t know if it’s excited butterflies or some form of dismay. Without telling action on HER part, she—and her goals and desires—don’t quite come into focus.

So, my suggestion would be to flesh that out a bit, to have her engaged in some noteworthy and overt behavior so that we get a sense of how she is in action as well as in thought. In my view, that will help put an important finishing touch on this well rendered opening.

Thanks again! Hope that helps!

-- Lorin