Tuesday, June 4, 2013

First Page Critique

Today we're starting the first of what will become Wednesday's free first page critiques. Starting with...mine. Re-reading my (rejected) very very very first novel should prove interesting. I haven't read it for about three years!

Want your first page critiqued? Email it on over to lisaphillipsbks(at)gmail(dot)com
We won't share your name, just your writing. You'll get a serious, but edifying critique of your first page. 

Here goes:
Every morning Riley Cates woke up with blood on his hands. And every morning one foot pounded concrete after the other as he sped through his three-mile-long town.  Each step matched the thump in his chest, soothing what lingered of the nightmare.  He passed Maggie’s Diner, Tough as Nails hardware, the state bank and finally the Sheriff’s station where he turned the corner onto Eighth Street and headed into the woods. 
Shards of daybreak reflected across the dust of snow between trees and atop branches.  His feet drummed out a rhythm as yard piled upon yard but it didn’t matter how far he ran.  The guilt and regret still froze his heart.  Yet at the same time somehow each step broke the hold of memory, and in that moment hope dared whisper he could be more than his limitations. 
With a deep breath, Riley picked up his pace, flipped up the hood of his sweatshirt, and ran on.  God, will it always be this way? 
He burst through the tree line and cut right to sprint along the bank of Garnerdale Lake.  The icy breeze coated his lungs and his feet crunched the sand between the water and the houses lined up along the shore.  Each had a wooden deck at lakeside—the rear of the house—though the water barely reached twenty feet from it. 
A woman screamed.
Riley’s foot clipped a branch and he collapsed onto the sand, his chest heaving. He looked up and saw a woman on what used to be Mrs. Peterson’s back deck.  Snowflake skin seemed to reflect the morning light, accented by midnight hair as she stood beside the black iron table with one hand covering her mouth.  

You can tell right off it's going to be suspense, which is good. You also get a sense of the setting, being as it's a three-mile-long town. The character, Riley Cates, clearly suffered some kind of past trauma, but is attempting to work through it. It makes me sympathize with him, this determination despite whatever happened. 
There's also a sense of hope for what his life could be, within the second paragraph, and I'm interested to know what he feels his limitations are. He also has faith in God, given the prayer in the third paragraph, so I can figure this story will likely have Christian elements. 
It's quite descriptive, which gives it a bit of a literary feel. It's interesting, and as a reader I'd want this to continue through the book. Maybe even to the point that the setting develops a life of it's own. But can literary and suspense co-exist in the same book? 
At the end of the first page, the writer sets up the suspense by introducing a second--female--character who screams. It's good to get to the suspense fast, it keeps the reader turning pages.

What are your thoughts?
Does this first page make you want to read on? 

Lisa Phillips is a wife, mom of two and author. Her first novel, The Ultimate Betrayal, will be released from Harlequin's Love Inspired Suspense summer, 2014. You can find her at www.lisaphillipsbks.com or on twitter @lisaphillipsbks


Steph said...

Wow, this is your very first novel? I love it! Opening sentence immediately hooks me, and everything after it weaves so many vital elements of the story together (as you point out in your crit). Yes, I'd love to see literary and suspense--and Christian!--brought together. No question but I would read on, mainly because of the lovely writing … and I enjoy suspense.

Mary L. Ball said...

Sounds like a good suspense Yes, i suppose I would read it. I enjoy Inspirational Suspense. The only thing that threw me was the very first. I thought Riley really did wake up with blood on his hands and had to decide(later in the page)if it was real blood or an experience gone bad.

Lisa Phillips said...

Thanks for your comments, ladies!

Mary - that's an interesting point about the blood.
Steph - thanks for the comment on 'lovely writing' - I'm pretty sure, back in the day, I edited it 50,000,000,000,000 times!!