First Page Feedback: Thrill Seekers by Naomi C.
Thanks for jumping in to be our first participant, Naomi! You deserve big kudos for that alone.
Readers, feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section. We'd like to encourage anyone who paritipcates to be honest but constructive.
If you're interested in submitting your first page (up to 250 words) for Lorin's feedback, please email a Word doc or text file copy to email@example.com.
Tonopah is the only seven letter town I’ve known my entire life. It’s a small town where everyone seems to be concerned for the pastor’s daughter, Savanna Christy, and the lack of resources flowing out of the mines. It’s a place that has more churches than grocery stores and my parents are the proud owners of one of them, The First Baptist Church. I’ve been cooped up in it ever since the last wall went up, staring at a plastered Jesus that’s only two bolts away from falling off the wall. Maybe sitting in that place year, after year, watching seven bolts unwind freeing Jesus from the wall is what’s making me lose my mind. Or maybe it’s all the “prayers” everyone’s saying for me. They don’t really seem to be working; otherwise, I wouldn’t be making up lies and driving across the desert kicking up dust in a beat up Ford with Amy, Lucky, and Red.
As we go over a speed bump the door shakes from rusty hinges and I notice Amy attempting to gloss her lips with black as she stares over Lucky’s shoulder. The book they’re holding freaked me out when they first showed it to me, but that was back when I was a shy little redhead with freckles who was afraid of getting a sunburn and had guilt trips if I didn’t do everything perfect like mom. But after reading it—meditating on it, I’m starting to see things. Dad keeps telling me the Bible says books like these open doors that should never be opened. He shouldn’t have told me that—his parental advice left me curious—addicted.
There’s so much to appreciate in the above. Who can resist a story that promises us a “good girl” picking a wrong, and potentially terrifying, path? I also love that image of the plaster Jesus, which is unbolting slowly from the wall. Great, rich metaphor and, as I mentioned, terrific tension in just one detail. Nicely done.
Further, I appreciate the sense of movement in the latter part of the page, once we’re flying down the road alongside the girls and once the idea of the book has been introduced.
In terms of story promise, though, I think you might want to revisit the scene’s opening, find ways to give us a sharper picture of Savanna; introduce us to her while she’s engaged in an activity that stirs our interest and communicates something about her to us. Something that’s demonstrated rather than simply explained.
Right now, your opening lines have more to do with the town than with the your protagonist or her circumstances. So, you might want to play around with it a bit, ask whether there’s a more arresting moment with which to begin. Find a way to demonstrate who Savanna is and what her life is about in a vivid and sensory manner. Hook us so that we MUST keep reading.
Tonopah is the only seven[[-]]letter town I've known my entire life. It's a small town where everyone seems to be concerned for the pastor's daughter, Savanna Christy, and the lack of resources flowing out of the mines. [[While I think the reader will appreciate the quirky opening line, I’m not sure that it will be clear from the above that Savanna is actually the story’s narrator. Further, it feels to me that you’re presenting information to the reader but not quite hooking them in with an arresting moment or a quirky physical detail—such as the image of Jesus coming unbolted from the wall, which you present below. As such, this opening feels a bit too static and doesn’t launch your story with as much energy as it might.]] It's a place that has more churches than grocery stores and my parents are the proud owners of one of them, The First Baptist Church. I've been cooped up in it ever since the last wall went up, staring at a plastered Jesus that's only two bolts away from falling off the wall. [[Awesome image and great tension in just that one detail.]] Maybe sitting in that place year, after year, watching [[the first]] seven bolts unwind freeing Jesus from the wall is what's [[is]] making me lose my mind. Or maybe it's all the "prayers" everyone's saying for me. [[Could give us another emotional beat here, perhaps. Help us feel the prayers as she does, as a tangible oppressive force of some kind. A great place for a metaphor here.]] They don't really seem to be [[I don’t think they’re]] working; otherwise, I wouldn't be making up lies and driving across the desert[[,]] kicking up dust in a beat up Ford with Amy, Lucky, and Red. [[I wonder if the novel’s opening might be made more compelling if it launched with Savannah sneaking out past that precariously dangling Jesus figure to join her friends on an as-yet-undefined adventure?]]
As we go over a speed bump the door shakes from rusty hinges[[,]] and I notice Amy attempting [[Amy attempts – No need for language of observation, as we know it’s Savanna doing the noticing. Keep us in as tight a viewpoint as you can here to help us feel invested.]] to gloss her lips with black as she stares over Lucky's shoulder. The book they're holding freaked me out when they first showed it to me, but that was back when I was a shy little redhead with freckles, [[afraid of sunburns and not doing everything perfect like mom.]] who was afraid of getting a sunburn and had guilt trips if I didn't do everything perfect like mom. But after reading it--meditating on it, I'm starting to see things. [[Intriguing!]] Dad keeps telling me the [[The]] Bible says books like these open doors that should never be opened[[, or so my dad keeps telling me.]] He shouldn't have told me that--his parental advice left me curious--addicted. [[Feels like this could be phrased in more emotionally evocative terms. E.g., “He should have known that would be like throwing gas on a flame. Now, I’m addicted.”]]
Again, thanks so much for being our inaugural guinea pig, Naomi. SO appreciate your willingness to put your work out there for comment, and I wish you all the best with this piece!
If you'd like to recieve feedback from Lorin on your first page (up to 300 words), email Erin at firstname.lastname@example.org.