First Page Feedback: Untitled #5

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Untitled by Hong T. 

Original:

Linh danced into the living room with her broom, its bristles wrapped in a plastic bag and double-sided tape. She’d be Tam tonight, wearing a yellow headband and a ponytail, from her favorite Vietnamese fairytale Tam and Cam.

Con oi, what are you doing?” Mom said, making Linh jump.

“I’m imagining myself as Tam.” Linh turned to face her and bounced from foot to foot. “I’m figuring out what she’d do if she had to fix clogged pipes. So you won’t have to spend money.”

“That’s sweet of you, but you’re daydreaming again.” Mom shook her head.
“You can’t just fix the pipes with a broom. I have to go to the restaurant now.” She tossed her keys in her bag—a familiar, tired music.

“Don’t leave!” Linh dropped the broom and seized Mom’s arm. She didn’t like staying home alone at night.

“Who’ll make your favorite pho, if I don’t work?” Mom sighed.

Linh looked at the floor, the tip of her bangs dipping into her eyes. In fact, she’d never thought about this. “No one but you.”

Brushing the bangs aside, Mom touched her nose to Linh’s forehead. “I’ll be back shortly. I need to do some paperwork. Just heat up pho in the microwave, okay?”

Linh nodded and Mom left. The car engine roared. Linh returned to the living room, grabbed a chair to stand on, and stuck the broom in a large hole between the drainpipes and the ceiling.

“Help!” A muffled, high-pitched voice echoed within the pipes.

 

Lorin's Feedback

Linh danced into the living room with her broom, its bristles wrapped in a plastic bag and double-sided tape. [Might give us a sense of her mission/intention here. Feels as though we make an abrupt switch to the next subject without taking time to develop this first line.] She’d be Tam tonight, wearing a yellow headband and a ponytail, from her favorite Vietnamese fairytale Tam and Cam. [This suggests that she’ll have some opportunity to dress up later not that she’s already dressed that way, which I assume to be the case?]

Con oi, what are you doing?” Mom said, [Can you orient the mother in the room a bit and create a stronger sense of environment. E.g., “Mom said from her wicker chair in the corner…”] making Linh jump.

“I’m imagining myself as Tam.” Linh turned to face her and bounced from foot to foot. “I’m figuring out what she’d do if she had to fix clogged pipes. So you won’t have to spend money.”

“That’s sweet of you, but you’re daydreaming again.” Mom shook her head. [Perhaps a bit more to bring her mother into focus—help us see her, see her clothing, etc. Help identify this as contemporary in nature, etc.]“You can’t just fix the pipes with a broom. I have to go to the restaurant now.” She tossed her keys in her bag—a familiar, tired music.

“Don’t leave!” Linh dropped the broom and seized Mom’s arm. She didn’t like staying home alone at night.

Mom sighed. “Who’ll make your favorite pho, if I don’t work?” Mom sighed.

Linh looked at the floor, the tip of her bangs dipping into her eyes. In fact, she’d never thought about this. “No one but you.”

Brushing the bangs aside, Mom touched her nose to Linh’s forehead. “I’ll be back shortly. I need to do some paperwork. Just heat up pho in the microwave, okay?” [I wonder if you might use a different dish here, so as to communicate the idea that they don’t ONLY eat pho.]

Linh nodded, and Mom left. The car engine roared. Linh returned to the living room, grabbed a chair to stand on, and stuck the broom in a large hole between the drainpipes and the ceiling. [I’m a little unclear on things from a logistical perspective. So, within her living room, close to the ceiling are drainpipes that drain…where? And what? And she’s sticking the broom into the PIPE or into a gap between the pipes and ceiling? Not quite clear, as mentioned, and not sure what she intends unless she can get the broom right INTO the pipe to clear it? Might make this a bit more lucid for your readers.]

“Help!” A muffled, high-pitched voice echoed within the pipes rang through the pipes. “Help!” [Great, intriguing!]

Thank you so much for sharing your opening page with me!

 I think you do a wonderful job of establishing Linh’s personality here, though I would love a stronger sense of exactly how old she is to really help orient me in that matter. Perhaps the mother could mention it during their conversation about her staying home alone.

 I also felt that we could use a much stronger sense of Linh’s specific motivations/plan here. We know she wants to unclog the pipes, but it would be great to know what kind of pipes they are—air vents, water pipes?—and for us to know what she THINKS she’ll be able to accomplish with the broom. It would also help to know why she wants to do that herself. While you make it clear that she wants to save her mother money, it would be helpful to get a sense of things beyond that. Does she want to save her mother money so her mom doesn’t have to go to work? If so, you might expand upon that just a bit. The scene feels as though it needs that bit of texture related to her intent and the motivation behind it.

Lastly, it felt as though we could use a bit more in terms of singular, concrete detail in the scene. I don’t quite get a sense of their environment or much of anything to do with her mother’s appearance. While I’m certainly not suggesting paragraphs of such information, a few well-chosen lines or even words will add dimension where needed.

Other than that, great start. It seems as though you’re getting to a rather significant inciting incident—the voice in the pipe—right off the bat, which is wonderful. Best of luck with this work!

-- Lorin