First Impact: THE LEGACY OF THE EYE (first page) by Patricia Moussatche

It's time for another First Impact Critique, where we take a look at your queries, first pages, back cover copy, and more. You want to make an impact right from the start. We're here to help you do that.

If you'd like to submit your first impact material, send it to firstimpactAE@gmail.com. Details here.

Remember, anyone who offers their comments this month is eligible for either $10 for Amazon or B&N OR a 20-page critique from me.



This week we have the first page of a sci-fi novel from Patricia Moussatche. Some of you may remember critiquing the query for this one. My overall thoughts are at the end. As always, this is all just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

UPDATE: Patricia has a revised version of the first paragraph in the comments.

First Page
Chapter 1--Proposal

Catrine blinked as her eyes adjusted to the brightness outside the school building. She should have worn a hat. She glanced at David, who had closed the heavy wood door behind them. Her best friend’s smile was as bright as the afternoon light. This was the first time either of them had left the school since their enrollment at the age of two. They were both eighteen now, but David looked ready to conquer the galaxy.

“Maybe we should go over your speech one more time,” she said.

His smile dimmed. “We went over it five times on the way here.”

“Four. And you’re still forgetting to mention that the tutors will be traveling to the pupil’s home planet. That’s the whole point of the proposal.”

“Do you want to give the speech?”

Her inside twisted in knots. “No.”

"Then stop fretting. If the council hadn’t liked our idea, they wouldn’t have requested an audience.”

“They probably read the proposal once. You’ve read it a dozen times and you still forget some of the details. I should have made you write it.”

David's smile returned. “Then it wouldn’t have been perfect.”

Or written at all, she thought.


Adam's Thoughts
I've actually read an earlier version of this (Patricia was one of the lucky winners of the 20-page critique). So keep in mind that I have more of the backstory in my head than a new reader might.

I really like the banter between them. It feels natural, shows off the characters (especially Catrine), gives useful information without being obvious about it, and it even makes me smile in a couple of places.

I'm less certain about the opening paragraph. It feels slower and less interesting to me. I don't think it should be cut necessarily, because it grounds us, but it didn't shine for me like the dialog did.

What do the rest of you guys think?

9 comments:

Matthew MacNish said...

This was up at Dianne's just the other day. I had some thoughts there, but I will repeat - while I think there's some room for improvement, I would read on.

Here's Dianne's: http://diannesalerni.blogspot.com/2013/02/first-impressions-legacy-of-eye.html

Patchi said...

Thanks Adam! I'm glad the dialogue has improved since you last read the first page. I'm working on the opening paragraph... I got quite a bit of feedback over at Dianne's and Marcy's blogs. Here is a revised version:

Catrine blinked as her eyes adjusted to the brightness outside the main school building. She should have worn a hat. She glanced at David, who was closing the heavy pine door behind them. Her best friend’s smile shined as intense as the afternoon light. This would be the first time either of them left the school grounds since their enrollment at the age of two. But sixteen years later, David looked ready to conquer the galaxy.

She looked at the front gates of the Academy, less than a hundred feet away. Just the thought of going outside turned Catrine's empty stomach. Was she ready?

R.S. Bohn said...

The dialogue is natural and fun and shows a lot about these characters. By contrast, that opening paragraph is mostly telling. I would cut all this out of the first paragraph: Her best friend’s smile was as bright as the afternoon light. This was the first time either of them had left the school since their enrollment at the age of two. They were both eighteen now, but David looked ready to conquer the galaxy.

If they step out of the school, she glances at him as he shuts the door, and we are launched into dialogue, we get an immediate sense of their personalities. The rest can be divulged through conversation or smaller snippets of telling in the first chapter. Here, it almost turned me off. Luckily, I kept reading and that dialogue and what appears to be an interesting and wryly recognized (on my part) dynamic pulled me in.

Rena said...

Patricia, I really like your revised paragraph. I'd warn about the double verbing (past progressive: was closing) when you can drop the was for a sharper "she glanced at him as he closed the door behind them."

That's really my only comment because I like this, and I would certainly read on.

K Callard said...

I've also seen this (and other variations) a few places. I wonder if you could re-arrange the first paragraph a bit to bring the more 'exciting' info to the start. SOmething like:

Catrine blinked as her eyes adjusted to the brightness outside the main school building. This was the first time [she] had left the school since [her] enrollment at the age of two. She glanced at David, who had closed the heavy wood door behind them. Her best friend’s smile was as bright as the afternoon light. [He'd been stuck in the school as long as she had, but] David looked ready to conquer the galaxy.

She looked at the front gates of the Academy, less than a hundred feet away. Just the thought of going outside turned Catrine's empty stomach. Was she ready?

Just a thought. I really like your dialogue and get a feel for their relationship from the banter. Hope this helps. Good luck.

KayC said...

My immediate reaction when I started reading was you were setting the scene by 'telling' me it was the first time they'd left the school since they were two, and now it was sixteen years later. This seemed forced, particularly in the very first paragraph.

I agree with R.S. Bohn - you could easily incorporate this in as you go. Is it really essential that we know this right off the cuff? Go with the strength and cut straight into the dialogue after the initial shutting the gate and smiling. Oh, and personally, I'd cut the hat line. I don't see it's significance or necessity (unless there's something later on I don't know).

My only other query is a 'visual' one - if they have been in the school and this is their first steps outside the door - then were did they come from when they "went over it fives times on the way here?" On the way from where? From school to the gate? This could be just me - but I couldn't 'see' it.

maine character said...

The first version makes it seem it's their first time outside the building, so the version in the comments, with it being the school grounds, is better.

You don't need a wooden or pine door - it doesn't matter what it's made out of if we don't get a sense of it being like in a castle or a sci-fiction setting. And if they're advanced enough to have spaceships, why not doors that close behind them? Unless, again, it's a very old school, where you'd want to show that with the stone walls and all.

So yeah, more details about where they are and how advanced their world is, would be good to see. Just so we can picture where they are.

anewday66 said...

I really liked this first page. I've read the query and I think right off the bat Catrine's relationship with David at the writer for his ideas is established without too much telling.

I know this is nitpicky, but this sentence threw me a bit: Her best friend's smile was as bright as the afternoon light. Firstly, I don't think you need the "best friend" because it comes across as a bit forced since it's in the beginning and the reader has nothing to back it up. Secondly, comparing the smile to afternoon light sounds just a bit cliche (I almost want to read it as "afternoon sun", but that's still cliche). I know that there are many variations of a smile, but a simple "smile" has a bright connotation.

But other than that line, this was well-written. I loved the dialogue :)

The Dieselpunkette said...

It reads smooth, but I find the "We've gone over this X times already" to be one of those constructions I've seen a lot of times in story openings. It seems to be one of those go-to conversations to get a story going, but it's been used so many times it's too obvious that it's just a way of getting information across to the reader.

The world sounds interesting though, I'm curious what kind of academy starts kids at 2 years old.