I have taken past page critique entrants to task (or at least have tried to gently steer them away) when there’s a high concept hook right up front in the beginning. Trying to cram the plot into the opening can sometimes feel unnatural.
But here’s the thing about this one: I think it works!
Now, personally I still think I’d try to find another way to tip off that she’s dead rather than coming out and saying the words “I’m still dead.” But I also realize that’s highly influenced by my own personal taste, and for the genre I think it’s okay as is. Honestly, as far as “Actually, I’m dead” openers (and I have seen a lot in my time as an agent and former agent), I think this one works very well.
Two main reasons:
1) There’s a reason the character is thinking about being dead at that precise moment
2) The hook is woven in with the tone and attitude of the rest of the page.
In other words, it feels natural.
I like this page because of the way the narrator experiences the emotions with a mixture of fondness and faintly oppressive routine. It builds such a strong feeling of loneliness.
Now, the character never comes out and says “I’m so lonely,” but when you add a character who either by choice or not is forced to watch a loved one day in day out, and who still cares enough about that person to make the best of it and see the good in the situation, it stirs up some strong emotions.
And that’s all accomplished through a series of observations and reactions.
No redline, I think it’s fine as it is. As mentioned I might try to find a new way of saying “I’m still dead,” and I’m not positive about the repetition of “All you have” in “Time is a funny thing to judge when it’s all you have. All you have, and yet you still tend to lose track of it.” but I don’t think a change is imperative.
I agree. A great beginning!
Bryan Russell (Ink) says
I liked this, too, and thought it was quite clean. The only thing I tripped on was that she followed him into the bathroom, and then didn't look. Why follow him in at all? I mean, he's going into the bathroom, and she knows his routine. If she does want to look, fine, then she'd follow him in. But why follow him in simply to not look. It doesn't seem logical, though it could be explained fairly easy–either for reasons of plot or psychology.
Anyway, good job! And I'm going to be far more modest heading to the shower now. Heck, I might even wear a bathing suit in.
The Pen and Ink Blog says
It feels like the relationship in only in the narrators head. It doesn't sound as thought they had a close relationship in life. creepy but interesting
I think this could have been a perfect example of show, "don't tell." The passage was nicely written, but I think it would have been much more effective without the "I'm still dead" explanation. It would have been more fun if I hadn't known why this narrator is watching this person wake up and shower. I would have had to figure it out and it would have been more engaging.
David Whistler says
Nice job, Regan.
I like these kinds of openings. Mystery is a great attractor.
I agree that following him into the bathroom is different than watching him go "into" the bathroom. It would depend on their relationship when she was alive. Husband? Follow him, harass him, whatever. Son? Don't follow, give the guy privacy from Mom.
I suggest a minor tweak to the following sentence: "Almost two months have passed and I’m still dead" to "Almost two months have passed since I died."
To me, the "still dead" phrase implies she is trying to become "un" dead, not necessarily undead.
Now that's my kind of editing. Not changing anything that doesn't have to be changed.
danielle spears says
Ok, maybe I am just a romantic (writer), but I found this opening to be sweet actually. Maybe I am totally off. I think the whole following him into the bathroom set us up for the part where she sings with him and I thought that's what sorta added to the sweet factor. I liked this opening particularly for the romance aspect of it. I hope it's romance cuz otherwise I will feel dumb. (I should be used to that by now.)
Regan Leigh says
Thank you all for the comments. 🙂
And Nathan… wow. No redline? That's awesome. 😀 Thank you again. These posts are so helpful and I really appreciate it. I'm overwhelmed by all the great comments and feedback.
Kristin Laughtin says
Agreed! I found myself curious about these characters and what their relationship was (especially since the narrator is laughing about the tent in his boxers, rather than feeling embarrassed or something). Well, I guess she feels awkward, but why? Is she his mother, his sister, someone who loved him, maybe in an unrequited fashion?
I don't think the "and I'm still dead" line is terrible, but do agree that a little more subtlety could be effective. Maybe something like "and he still can't hear me"? That and the "as if he could see my expression" line in the next paragraph would work together to tell you there's something strange about Evan's unawareness of the protagonist's presence, but drag out the uncertainty of why and thus build up the tension a little more.
Eisley Jacobs says
I can't say I am surprised… Regan Rocks!
Nathan, I continue to be consistently impressed with your critiques. I didn't even notice the emotional context, but you are absolutely right.
You are very good at this, Nathan. If you ever give up your social networking gig, and then your book trailer gig, you should think about an editing gig, you have a gift.
Regan, if someone doesn't sign you, they're nuts.
Stephen Tremp says
Emotion is a great hook. It engages the reader because the event reaches off the page and grabs at the reader's heart, causing a response that demands an action of some type, whether good or bad. Both work.
When this happens, the reader begins to care about the character. All too often the author fails to engage me and I really don't care what happens to the protagonist or antagonist. That's usually when I set the book down. But tug on my heart and I'll continue turning the pages.
At first I thought they had a relationship, and then I re-read it, and now it looks like she's his sister. (If "she" is even a girl at all- maybe that's just how I'm reading it.) Anyway, that is the basis of good mystery to me- many readings to the same thing.