Monday, February 24, 2020

First Page Critique!

Writing Implements 1879
We received a First Page Critique entry.  In other words, a brave soul needs our help! It's up to all of us [including YOU] to provide that help.  Please offer your thoughts in the comments section.

Reminder: Be nice, but be honest. [Comments that are not polite/respectful will be deleted.] What would YOU like to know if this was YOUR first page? Do you think it has a good opening line? Does it have a hook? Does it pull you into the story? Do you want to read more? Why or why not? Be specific, so your critique helps the person who wrote the entry.

Genre:  Mystery/Police Procedural

Fevered Fuse
Chapter 1 – Speed Kills

Speed is my addiction, intoxicating and lethal, driving away the frustration over my lime-green Ninja motorcycle.

But my tad says speed’s another killer he must curb - it’s his job.

I soar around a bend, then open the throttle down the last straight towards Tremadog. The distinctive blue and yellow markings lurking behind a stone wall warn me and I slow. Heddlu – Police.

I can’t have Sergeant Marc Anwyl’s traffic police colleagues at North Wales Police reporting his daughter Sparkle for speeding on her new bike. Must evade that first offence. Imperative.

The town is busy, although not heaving like nearby Porthmadog which draws the tourists now the warmth of summer has banished the rain – for a few days. Reason to avoid going that way and getting held up. I have a better way to save time. No marks for getting to college late.

The main road north is busy, and I wait my chance to dive across the roundabout to cut through to the coastal road along the Llyn Peninsula.

Control the speed. Other adrenaline boosts will come. Time to negotiate traffic.

The shadow of the railway bridge looms. An object dislodges as I slow for the roundabout beyond.

It falls. I swerve – into the ditch.

Instinct causes me to smash my bike. Tumbling. Alive.

A second object. Duck.

Pain and darkness envelop me.


  1. It's good. It draws the reader in. It captures the motion of speeding.'s a girl!!! What is a tad, did you mean dad? Heddlu means police? It's a good first page. Keep on going.

    1. Thanks Chubbybubby. As the writer, I'm glad it worked for someone. Tad is Welsh for dad and I always italicise it. Heddlu = Police and Welsh police cars have both on them - very visible too. I have finished the second/third draft.

  2. Sorry, but it doesn't work for me. I found it too choppy. I think the short sentences are meant to up the tension, but it's a little overdone for my taste.

    The bigger issue is what is the purpose of this text?

    It feels like a prologue to introduce a character you kill right at the start.
    - If she is dead, how does this help the rest of the story? What information here could not come out organically later?
    - If she's not dead, I want more of an emotional attachment before she's injured. As a stranger, her harm has no impact on me.

    I could be completely wrong, but hopefully it still gives you things to think about.

    1. Sorry, ikmar this didn't work. The short sentences are meant to be her quick-fire thoughts, but I sense that doesn't work. It's not a prologue as she survives. I take your point about building attachment, so I might have to add more earlier without killing the opening. Thank you.

  3. It would be nice to know what country or state this is. You're listing lots of place names that I've never heard of, so I can't get fully grounded into the setting. I definitely feel the sense of speed, so that's good. I'm not clear what's dislodging toward the end. Is the bridge crumbling? This sentence felt like too much info at once: I can’t have Sergeant Marc Anwyl’s traffic police colleagues at North Wales Police reporting his daughter Sparkle for speeding on her new bike. Can you shorten it? Perhaps "I can't have Sergeant Anwyl's traffic police reporting his daughter, Sparkle, speeding." We already know about the bike. His full name isn't necessary right now, nor is the name of the town and all the words meaning police. Maybe even her name can come in later. It seems a little odd for her to be thinking of herself by name. But perhaps not. Anyway, just my thoughts! Good luck!

    1. Your edit makes sense, Betsy - especially cutting words like 'new bike' and 'Marc'. But the North Wales is the clue to the country - Wales, part of the United Kingdom. 'Heddlu' are the first words one sees on a Welsh police car, but I could avoid repeating 'police' in some instances. Yes, she wouldn't name herself, so I could cut that. However, I'll need to balance this with other responses. Many thanks.

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  5. I'm familiar with the setting, so I wanted to like this but never felt an emotional investment. It might help to know why speed is so important. It would help to know her. I'd recommend reading "The Emotional Craft of Fiction" by Donald Maass. Pob lwc.

  6. Thanks for the recommendation, Victoria. Although I keep reading craft books, I'm still struggling with an opening. I get the feeling I need to find somewhere else to start. No longer know where. Original opening was deemed worse.

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  8. I get the idea that Sparkle likes speed, and that she is a bit of a rebel. That said, opening hooks are extremely hard! And that goes doubly for honing down the little nuances necessary to establish a hook, which identifies a mystery/police procedural. But they make a big difference in investing the reader. I question if a college-age MC would be riding a ninja motorcycle. And I wasn't sure whether "tad" was the name of the bike since you said "he," or if Tremadog was a fictitious town in Wales. Mainly, I think inclusion of the STAKES for her, beyond evading police and getting to college on time, would alleviate confusion, ground readers in the story and pull them in.

    1. Useful suggestions, JA. I'm working on a new opening when she acquires the Ninja - one of the lower CC, but not her first bike. Also age in UK for riding a bike at this point in time was lower than US. Plus, the Ninja fits her character. In fact, her traits need to emerge in a different way - and I'll work on the STAKES. Tad is Welsh for dad. Tremadog is a real town near Porthmadog.


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