Friday, February 26, 2010

First Page Friday, #3

Here we go, everyone: a new round of first pages. Please leave your feedback in the comments session. (If you care to participate, see this post.)


Inside a dark hospital room at Charleston Memorial Hospital, Jorge Mendoza hung tenuously between life and death. His chest heaved shallowly under each uneven breath, while the consistent beat of a heart monitor echoed throughout the empty space. Only five feet away, lurking in the shadows, the massive silhouette of a man watched in silent anticipation as his prey slept, oblivious to the stranger’s presence.

With the stealth of a thief in the night, the stalker crept to the bed and covered the patient’s nose and mouth with his hand. Jorge jolted awake. His right eye scanned the room while the other drooped as the result of a recent stroke. When he looked up, Jorge met the menacing blue gaze of his attacker.

“Don’t scream or I’ll kill you. “ The stranger warned. “Blink if you understand?”

In acknowledgment, Jorge closed and opened his eye.

“Now we can chat. Do you know the reason I am here?“

Jorge lay for a moment, gasping for breath, assessing his opponent, “It doesn’t matter, I know who sent you.”

The visitor raised an eyebrow, “All the more reason to kill you, “ he countered while slowly retrieving a needle from his pocket. Then he walked to the I.V. bag and injected a substance into the tube. “Despite what you may think, my kind can show mercy. Your end will be painless.”

Jorge wanted to scream, but he knew it was futile. He would be dead before a nurse could make it to the room. All he could do was watch in terror as the stranger advanced on him.

Now, the man was chillingly close, his hot breath brushed Jorge’s ear as he whispered, “I have a message for you. It was sent directly from the one you tried to destroy.”

Jorge looked into his adversary’s eyes with unyielding resolve, “He sent you to do his bidding? Coward!”

The stranger clapped his hand over Jorge’s mouth. “The message is …His secret will die with you. But before you leave this world, he wanted you to know the game of hide and seek is over. ”

Jorge eyes widened, and he struggled under his attacker’s grip. Could he know?

The stranger’s smile contradicted the anger in his eyes, “Now, don’t struggle, it will only make the poison kick in faster. Since the end is near, and we know you possess what we want, you may as well tell the truth. Otherwise, we will have to begin our search in the home of your grieving widow. ”

In an instant Jorge grasped the true horror of the situation, ”My wife and family, they have nothing to do with this. You must believe me.” He stammered.

“It doesn’t matter at this point, we know it is in your possession. There is no other way you could have known my master’s identity.”

Jorge closed his eyes, his thoughts a mixture of sadness and regret. He should not have interfered, now he left a trail of breadcrumbs to an ancient secret his family had protected for centuries. “Help me.” He prayed.

Suddenly, a bright light flashed above the bed, and a tall, olive skinned angel with sprawling white wings, appeared opposite the stranger.

The visitor’s steely eyes narrowed, “Harut, it’s been too long. I knew you’d come running if one of your sheep was in trouble. “ The stranger tilted his head toward Jorge, smiling smugly, “Too bad it’s too late.”

The angel stroked Jorge’s salt and pepper locks, then he glowered at the stranger, “Abbadon, I will kill you for this!”

The stranger examined his nails, looking almost amused, “that remains to be seen, doesn’t it? The appointed time is near my brother. We’ll face off soon enough, then, we’ll see what you’re made of.”

The angel’s dark eyes narrowed. “Look at yourself! Walking around in sheep’s clothing pretending to be a man, the very thing you fell from grace over. Hypocrite! You embrace what you hate.”

Abbadon scowled at Harut, “Don’t push me, there are no boundaries in war and I will do what is necessary to win.“ He cautioned. “ I may be in sheep’s clothing, but this disguise got me close enough to kill one of your flock, Sheppard!”

“This is not over!” The angel promised.

A smile flickered in Abbadon’s eyes, “It appears to be for your human.” Then he turned and exited the room.

The heart monitor skipped a beat, and Jorge’s breathing quickened. He was dying and nothing could stop it. Soledad my beloved daughter he thought, now she will have to carry my cross.

The angel looked tenderly at his charge, “I wish you would not have interfered. Now I cannot help you my friend. “

A tear fell from Jorge’s eye. “I had to try, for my daughter’s sake.“ He coughed, “I failed you, I’ve failed us all,” he uttered through his last breath. Suddenly, the line on the monitor went flat and the sound of emergency buzzers overtook the silence.


Michelle said...

This is gripping and suspenseful, and there's a lot going on in a short time. There's plenty of conflict. I would keep reading more.

Okay, grammar geek time. I think it could be tightened by removing some of the adverbs and adjectives. "Shallowly," for example, is awkward to read. So much description of the angel takes away from the power of his arrival.

"Blink if you understand." is a statement, not a question. A few of the sentences could be broken up. This will keep the pacing fast as well as improve the grammar/punctuation. One that I notice is "Now, the man was chillingly close..." I noticed some commas where you don't need them, and also some missing where they should go, like after "Soledad." Sometimes reading it aloud helps to catch those. If you're not a natural grammar person, find a proofreader who is.

You've used a lot of strong verbs. The stranger's smile contradicting his anger in particular stands out to me.

Overall, this is a good first page, it just needs a little tightening and some mechanics tweaking.

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

Thanks for the helpful feedback Michelle. Usually my mother-in-law edits my drafts. She has a strong literary background,i.e., masters in English and is also a teacher.

Since I re-wrote my draft at midnight on Wednesday and then submitted it, I obviously overlooked some grammar errors. Thanks for pointing them out. Hopefully I'll get em all during the revision process(:.

Also, your opinion on my use of "strong verbs" was unclear. Do they stand out in a good way, or I should cut back on them?

Since you didn't comment about the content of my story, I will assume you thought it was solid. I want the first page to hook the reader.

Although I was nervous about opening my work to scrutiny, your comments helped me identify weaknesses in my writing. Thanks for that.

Michelle said...


Strong verbs are always good! The content is just fine. That's what I was trying to convey in my first comments. I didn't say more because I'm not sure this is the kind of story I would normally be drawn to. I think you have enough going on to hook the reader.

Michelle said...

I enjoyed this very much indeed. The drawing of 'supernatural' battle lines between angel and demon over a human is evocative and terrifying in some ways. Good names too...I thought about Abbadon for one of my 'demonic' characters. I am in adverb editing mode as I have hit a brick wall with my first book - so the other Michelle's comments are useful too.
Well done

Steena Holmes said...

Andrea, these ladies know what they're talking about when it comes to grammar ect, so I'll just say this.

I want to read this. Badly. I love it.

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

Thank you again for taking time from your busy schedules to look over my first page. Also, I appreciate the encouraging words. It means a lot that some of you liked the story and would want to read more. Michelle #1 sorry my genre isn't for you but nonetheless, you're a terrific editor.

I find the critique process interesting. Many of the mistakes pointed out here seem so obvious when I look at my piece from the reviewer's perspective.

Seriously, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude that less description when the angel appears would add more tension to the story. In addition, some of the adverbs are unnecessary. Now I'm catching mistakes everywhere.

This has been such a helpful excercise. I can't wait to see what the rest of the weekend brings. Thank you Slushbusters.

Lisa said...

You definitely draw the reader in here. The content is solid, and this first page makes me want to keep reading (even though this isn't a genre I usually read).

I agree with Michelle #1 that some tightening would improve it...cut the first "hospital" from the first sentence.

I also thought you could work the entrance of the angel. It startled me into a slightly different story than I was expecting, so I wanted a moment to adjust. For that reason, I think description of the angel is good, but maybe not all in one sentence. Maybe break it up into 2 or 3 sentences with the description coming after the appearance of the angel.

Also, after the angel appears, we seem to leave Jorge's head for a while until the very end. I wanted to know what he thought of all this...not a lot of thoughts, just a taste. For example, does he already know about the angel, or is it a surprise to him? What does he think of this whole conversation, or is he already feeling the effects of the poison?

All in all, a gripping start, and I would keep reading. Thanks for opening yourself to scrutiny.

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

Thanks Lisa, glad you like the story. Lots of revising going on right now. I didn't consider Jorge's thoughts about the angel's arrival. I thought it was clear in the end. Maybe a snippet to get into his head would add to the story. I'm glad my next draft isn't due till Wednesday (really Tuesday)(:

I appreaciate your feedback. It helps to know what the reader is thinking. I've learned so much from this excercise.

Sarah said...

Yay! Sorry for coming by so late.

I can't add much to others have already added. I think you have a great intro to a story here.

I agree that the first paragraphs could use some tightening. They are so full of description that it's easy to have their impact blunted. See if you can trim some of the adjectives and adverbs. Just as you had picked strong verbs, you can also pick hefty nouns that won't need an adjective.

I also had a question. In this sentence, you mention a man, his prey, and a stranger.

Only five feet away, lurking in the shadows, the massive silhouette of a man watched in silent anticipation as his prey slept, oblivious to the stranger’s presence.

I couldn't figure out who the three people are since the angel doesn't arrive till later. Oh! I just now figured that you probably mean the prey is oblivious to the stranger. Hello. Still you may want to clarify.

Is the angel's name Sheppard? Or did you mean Shepherd, like the shepherd of sheep?

I completely agree with Lisa about letting us in Jorge's head. I think it will give this chapter a stronger emotional center if you tie the events to Jorge-what he feels and thinks. The more the reader cares for and empathizes with Jorge, the more they'll want to see what happens.

I also wanted to know if Jorge tried to do anything to help Soledad now that she will carry his burden. I wanted him to ask the angel to look out for her- something.

Good job, Andrea. Can't wait to see where this goes.

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

Thanks Sarah,
My revisions are almost complete. I addressed most of the issues discussed here and I think the piece will read better.

Since my book is not yet complete, the first page will probably change AGAIN before all is said and done. I'll turn in my revision on Tuesday. Thanks again for the helpful feedback.

Sarah said...

Sorry it was so late, Andrea! I know I've rewritten my first pages quite a few times, myself. I'm sure I'll be tweaking it again just before I send it out.