First Page Feedback: Circle of Jade

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First Page Feedback: Circle of Jade by Yat-Yee C.

Original:

Ash strokes the jade bangle on her palm; smooth, hard, cold. She nudges it onto her wrist and wishes that she can hear Popo’s voice, touch her wrinkled hands, see forgiveness in her eyes.

It’s futile, of course. She knows it.

61 days have passed. The tears are gone. So is the pain that gripped and suffocated and stabbed. What remains is a dull lump, a dormant ache suspended in a gelatinous sac. Disturb it and liquid seeps out. She may already have done that by getting up and taking a shower this morning.

Her hair is barely touching her collar but dampness has seeped through her shirt as she stands in front of her dresser. She can’t decide if she should change clothes, blow her hair dry, or wrap it in a towel.

Her feet lead her back to her bed. She curls a corner of her blanket into her fist. All her cells united in their push to get back under the covers.

But she can’t. She won’t.

She flings her blanket away and picks up a clipboard on her night stand.

  1. shower
  2.  put on clothes set out on dresser
  3. brush hair

 It is a ridiculous checklist and Ash will never let anyone know about it. But when she decided a week ago she would return to school today, she needed something prescriptive, something simple to get her through the day without thinking too much. Thinking too much always brings feeling too much.

Lorin's Feedback

Ash strokes the jade bangle on her palm:; smooth, hard, cold. She nudges it onto her wrist and wishes that she can could hear Popo’s voice, touch her wrinkled hands, see forgiveness in her eyes. [I wonder if it would make a more potent opening to combine these two ideas. E.g., “Ash strokes the jade bangle on her palm and wishes she could hear Popo’s voice, see forgiveness in her eyes.” The idea of forgiveness may make for a stronger emotional “hook” with which to launch the story.]

It’s futile, of course. She knows it. [Doesn’t feel critical.]

Sixty-one 61 [Spell out numbers to one-hundred and those that can be expressed in one or two words. Also, always spell out a number that begins a sentence.] days have passed. The tears are gone. So is the pain that gripped and suffocated and stabbed. [Feels just a bit overwrought.] What remains is a dull lump, a dormant ache suspended in a gelatinous sac. [I wonder if you might bring this into focus as a way that Ash pictures her pain. Lead the reader just a bit to its use as a metaphor.] Disturb it, and liquid seeps out. [To what effect? Infecting her again?] She may already have done that by getting up and taking a shower this morning.

Her hair is barely touching touches her collar, but dampness seeps [Would make it a present action for greater potency.] has seeped through her shirt as she stands in front of her dresser. She can’t decide if she should change clothes, blow her hair dry, or wrap it in a towel. [Nice]

Her feet lead her back to her bed. She curls a corner of her blanket into her fist. All her cells united in their push to get back under the covers. [Could use an added beat here. What would it mean to her to go back to bed. What solace does it provide?]

But she can’t. She won’t.

She flings her blanket away and picks up a clipboard on her night standnightstand.

  1. shower
  2. put on clothes set out on dresser
  3. brush hair [Great]

It is a ridiculous checklist, and Ash will never let anyone know about it. But when she decided a week ago she would return to school today, she needed something prescriptive, something simple to get her through the day without thinking too much. Thinking too much always brings feeling too much. [Powerful!]

Thanks so much for sharing this with me, Yat-Yee:

Well rendered, evocative work. You do a great job of communicating Ash’s loss and depression, the inertia caused by the pain she’s experiencing. The prose is adept and nicely observed as well, especially the small but meaningful details, such as the moisture on her shirt.

I wonder if you might consider reordering the section so that we begin with Ash’s resolve to get out of bed and return to school. Could you give us some sense of why today, and why it’s vital that it actually BE today? Putting her in action, with a goal to break free of the pain that’s paralyzed her establishes her as sympathetic right away.

So, you might want to play with that approach and see how you feel about it. Lead with her strength so that the reader will have a bit more sympathy for her plight.

Again, nicely done. And again, thanks for sharing!

All best,

-- Lorin O.