Here’s this month’s Thursday First Page Critique. My comments follow.
Leo wasn’t dead yet, so that’s a good thing … he thought. One never ever knows how these meetings will end up. Sometimes they finish nice and easy, some information passed around, possible issues are brought up and dealt with or maybe some questions need to be answered. A nice meal usually followed, some alcohol, if you are lucky maybe even some hookers. Then again, sometimes they ended with a loud BANG! and that was it. When you were summoned by the “higher ups” coming out alive was never a guarantee. The fact they were meeting in a public place did nothing to calm his nerves. In this business, you could get clipped in your own front yard with your all your neighbors, your mother a group of mariachi and even fucking mother Teresa watching and the only thing that mattered was someone got a job done. He was escorted to the banquet area of the restaurant by a young, pretty hostess. Walking in, he was a bit uneasy, he didn’t even notice how beautiful she was or how perfect her ass looked in her black slacks. What he did notice was the five bodyguards scattered throughout the room.
“Enjoy your meal/ Provecho” she said with a sly sexy smile, she motioned for him to advance forward to the farthest table in the large room. Leo smiled back and walked up to the table and exhaled. The three older gentleman seated at the table did not bother to formally stand up. They greeted and acknowledged Leo, smiled and offered him the only seat to join them. Everything is always business with these types.
Although I do think there could be an interesting snarky, wise guy ‘voice’ to this first page, it is submerged beneath extraneous information and stylistic choices that slow the pace and detract from the story. Overall, I wanted to see more action and tension in this first page – to have questions (and stakes) raised and to be exposed to the unique voice of Leo and his POV.
Here are my specific concerns:
- POV confusion: We have a lot of pronouns going on in this first page. First we have ‘Leo’ then we have ‘he’, ‘one’ and ‘you’ and then back to ‘he’. This wouldn’t ordinarily pose too much of an issue but in this piece it feels strained, like we aren’t too sure about the POV the writer intends to use. The first line “Leo wasn’t dead yet, so that’s a good thing … he thought.” makes it sound like the narrator is someone other than Leo (otherwise why not say ‘I’?) Then we switch to the more detached use of ‘one’ and ‘you’ then return to the pronoun ‘he’ – although by now we aren’t totally sure who ‘he’ is…I assume it is Leo since Leo is the character referenced in the last paragraph. As a reader, however, I shouldn’t have to puzzle at all. From the get go it should be clear who is speaking and the POV should keep me engaged (to be honest the use of ‘one’ and ‘you’ created a distance for me from the narrative voice). Also, if the writer is using Leo’s point of view than Leo cannot say: “he didn’t even notice how beautiful she was or how perfect her ass looked in her black slacks” because, as the narrator, he obviously did…
- Generic information/sentences: It is crucial that the first page intrigues a reader – it should raise questions and tension that means a reader can’t wait to turn the page and keep reading. That’s why sentences like: “One never ever knows how these meetings will end up. Sometimes they finish nice and easy, some information passed around, possible issues are brought up and dealt with or maybe some questions need to be answered” are flat and dull. There’s no real information being imparted that is specific to the situation. This sentence could be used for almost any meeting…but what the reader wants is specifics – details that ground the story and which add texture and sensory detail that is gripping as well as believable. Once we get to the statement that people get gunned down in their front yards we’re starting to approach the detail we need, but, it is still too generic and stereotypical.
- Lack of Tension: I really wanted to be worried for the protagonist’s safety in this first page and to feel that there was a very real threat of him being bumped off. Yet in this first page we never get the level of tension needed for a reader to believe that this is a drug meeting that could easily go horribly wrong. The fact that we had the beautiful sexy girl beckoning Leo to the table also seems too much like a stereotype. I wanted to see more specific details that made me believe this scenario.
- Telling but not showing: This directly leads on from the last comment. I wanted to see more action in this first page but instead, although I was told a lot of information about the dangers (as well as the banality) of these meetings – I never really saw or experienced it on the page.
So what about you? What comments or feedback would you give for today’s submission?