Jul 30, 2009

Sample Page- BROKEN - PAGE 1

Click here to read the query.
A revision of the query has been posted, click here to read it.

Hello all! Hoping for some feedback on page 1 of the novel BROKEN (thriller) - posted 2 queries earlier. Thank you!

What sound does a heart make when it breaks?
Madeline Gunn knew.
She heard the air hiss as she dropped to her knees in the snow. She pressed her hands hard against her mouth, trying to stifle the scream that was swelling inside of her from bursting past her lips. Above all, Madeline Gunn was already beginning to discover that pain had nimble fingers, capable of peeling away layer after layer of certainty until a heart was raw with ache and nothingness.
“Connie!” Madeline yelled, touching her sister’s body, a body that was wet with blood and warm with the memory of a life that no longer existed.
“Connie!” She repeated. Louder this time, commanding her sister to rise from the dead. Refusing to accept the truth in Connie’s stillness.
Madeline Gunn held her little sister, shielding Connie’s bare skin from the cold. Her fingers trembled beneath the weight, and the scream she’d tried so hard to restrain ripped through her throat, infecting the night air with its agony. She rocked the broken body until the sound of her wailing gave in to the din of the city, to the rumble of plow trucks and the thin whine of police sirens.
Madeline closed her eyes. She ignored the stench of car exhaust and warm blood waiting to rot. She pretended that they were girls again, needing to believe that she could forget this moment, that the sight of her sister’s butchered remains would not be the backdrop against which she would live out the rest of her life. But even then, Madeline Gunn knew this, too, was a lie.
She knew that once a heart begins to break, it never stops.
And that time cannot dull the ache, or take away the memory and the blame.

6 comments:

Weronika said...

There are some grammatical errors here -- I have chosen not to address them because I assume you're not at the final revision stage?

I don't understand the scream. I imagine, first, shock, and, second, sobbing -- not a scream, which presumes fear.

How does Madeline know "that once a heart begins to break, it never stops. And that time cannot dull the ache, or take away the memory and the blame"? That's a philosophical-type statement to make, and it requires back story.

Overall, I think this page is well done. I can't offer many comments in regards to the story because I'm sure more unfolds soon after, but here are some quick first impressions --

You show, but I don't think you show enough. I want to see the exact interaction with the body: how Madeline lifts the body, how little Connie actually is, what she's wearing, how this scene clashes against the setting. I'm not there as much as I could be.

The "genre" also doesn't come through clearly -- you say it's a thriller, so if this scene establishes the crime/beginning that leads to everything, I feel it should be more concise. It has a literary feel to it right now.

Hope that helps. :)

froggfeathers said...

First, let me qualify my comment with a confession. I do not read in this genre...ever. Just not my thing. Please keep that in mind as you read my comments.

First, you have some grammar issues that I am sure you know how to fix. That is the easy part.

Secondly, and more importantly, you have some problems with your POV. They are not the obvious ones, but they damage your prose. Does a person who is staring at her sister's dead body really pause to consider the "nimble fingers" of pain? And while she is stifling the scream, does she process that layers are being peeled away leaving her raw? Does Madeline know that her scream is "infecting the night air"?

You see what I mean? This writing, though beautifully done, distracts from the pain of the event. In doing so, it creates distance between the main character and the reader. In this scene, that should have been a gut twister, I was held completely aloof by the flowery writing.

Again, this is not my genre, so keep that in mind. My opinion could be completely off base for this area.

Best wishes on your project.

Frogg

Weronika said...

What Frogg says about the POV -- I agree. That was sort of the problem that I had with the "interaction": It didn't feel like it was hers (therefore producing a problem with the POV).

Anonymous said...

First off, I really like the scene as a first page start. it pulled me in and got me interested in the characters. As is, I like it. these are changes I might make:

What does a heart sound like when it breaks?
Madeline Gunn knows.
It was the sound of the hiss she heard as she dropped to her knees into the snow. Madeline pressed her hands hard against her mouth, to stifle the scream that was swelling inside of her. Madelines heart began to fill with ache and nothingness.
“Connie!” Madeline yelled, pulling her sister’s body toward her. A a body that was wet with blood and still warm from the life that was now gone.
“Connie!” She repeated commanding her sister to rise from the dead. Refusing to accept the truth in the stillness of her sister's body.
Madeline Gunn held her little sister tightly, determined to shield her bare skin from the cold. Her hands weakened beneath the weight of Connies body, and the scream she’d tried so hard to restrain broke loose, filling the night air with its heartbreaking pain.
Madeline clutched Connie's broken body to her, trying to rock her back to life, until the sound of her wailing gave way to the din of the city, to the rumble of plow trucks and the thin whine of police sirens.
Madeline closed her eyes. She ignored the stench of car exhaust as the blood from her sister began to freeze against her skin. This is not happening she insisted. Connie wasn't dead. She wasn't here. No, this was false. This was a dream. She and Connie were here in the bloody snow together, they were far away. It was summer time and they were little girls again playing together in the sunshine, safe and happy knowing their mother would be calling them in for supper at any moment. That is where Connie was. Happy and safe in their youth, not dead in the snow. That was what Madeline needed to believe so she could forget this moment. So that this grisly image of her sister’s butchered remains would not be the backdrop against which she would be forced to live out the rest of her life. But even as she felt the summer sun across her face and saw the innocent wonder in her sister's eyes, the unstoppable screaming told her it was a lie. It wasn't summer. Her mother wasn't about to call her girls home for dinner. Her life as she knew it was over. Her heart that had once been filled with love for Connie was now filled with a pain so piercing that it was tearing holes in her heart. Madeline knew there was nothing she could do about the pain. It was too strong. Too piercing. It was too late. Once it started, it could not be stopped. There would never be another carefree summer. There would never be another breath of life in her sister. Connie was dead, and Madeline's heart was filled with a pain that was so powerful it began to fill her whole body. She felt the pain and screamed but she knew it was futile. Screaming wouldn't help and neither would time. Madeline knew no amount of time could ever dull the ache, or ever take away the memory. Or ever undo the blame.

PS
there are typosin my version I am sure but I hope some of the suggestion are of help. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

writer--I proofread what I posted last night and made some corrections. You have a very good opening scene, it will get readers to turn the page to see what happened to Connie, to find out why Madeline is to blame and to see what happens next. Way to set the table.

here are the corrections I made:
What does a heart sound like when it breaks? Madeline Gunn now knew. It makes a hiss. She heard the hiss inside her head as she dropped to her knees onto the snow. Madeline pressed her hands hard against her mouth, to stifle the scream that was swelling inside of her. Her heart began to fill with a piercing pain.
“Connie!” Madeline yelled, as she pulled her sister’s body into hers. A body covered in blood, that had not yet grown cold. 

“Connie!” she repeated demanding her sister to rise from the dead. “No, Connie, please God, no” Madeline cried refusing to accept the truth in the stillness of her sister's body.

Madeline Gunn held her little sister tightly, determined to shield her bare skin from the cold. Her hands weakened beneath the weight of Connie’s body, and the scream she’d tried so hard to restrain broke loose, filling the night air with its pain.

Connie's body was broken. Madeline clutched it to her, as if she could rock her sister back to life. Large sobs of grief filled the air. There were no other sounds until the sobs got softer and gave way to the din of the city, to the rumble of plow trucks and the thin whine of police sirens.

Madeline closed her eyes. She ignored the stench of car exhaust as the blood from her sister began to freeze against her skin. This is not happening she insisted. Connie wasn't dead she told herself. Connie wasn't here. No. This was false. This was a dream. She and Connie weren’t together in the bloody snow, they were far away. It was summer time and they were little girls again, playing innocently in the late sunshine of the day, safe and happy knowing their mother would be calling them in for supper at any moment. That was where Connie was. Safe and alive in their youth, not dead in the snow.
That was what Madeline wanted to believe. What she needed to believe so she could forget this moment. So that this grisly image of her sister’s butchered remains would not be the backdrop against which she would be forced to live out the rest of her life.
But even as Madeline could feel the summer sun across her face and could see the innocent wonder in her sister's eyes, the unstoppable screaming told her it was a lie. It wasn't summer. They were no longer little girls. And their mother, Her mother wasn't about to call them home for the night. Connie was dead and Madeline’s life as she knew it was over, too.
Her heart that had once been filled with love for Connie was now filled with a pain that was piercing. And Madeline knew there was nothing she could do. The pain was too strong. Too intense.
It was now too late. Madeline knew once it started, it could not be stopped. It would never leave. There would never be another carefree summer. There would never be another breath of life in her sister. Connie was dead, and a powerful pain now filled Madeline’s body. She felt the pain and screamed but she knew it was futile. Screaming wouldn't help and neither would time. Madeline knew no amount of time could ever dull the ache, or ever take away the memory. Or ever undo the blame.

gj said...

Based on your query, this would appear to be a prologue. I'm not sure it's consistent with the tone of the rest of the book, which could be a problem.

Beyond that, I'm not a big fan of prologues, and this excerpt demonstrates some of the reasons why they're problematic. For one, you're presumably aiming to make me bond with the character, feeling bad for her, because her sister is dead. But the thing is, it's all abstract and distant. I don't know the protagonist, don't know her sister, don't know their relationship. It's largely omniscient POV, which is distancing in itself. And it's all telling, really, rather than showing. If I knew the protagonist, saw her in action, got to know her and get invested in her goals, and then her sister is killed (which is a setback for the protagonist's goals), then I'd care, both becuase I care about the protagonist, and because it's a setback for the protagonist's goals. Here, it's just something that happened before the story started, something that the protagonist has been living with for a while, so it's not really a current problem (the death itself), it's backstory and motivation for her current actions.

OTOH, if you start with the protagonist in action, doing something toward her goal of finding her sister's killer (although the reader doesn't know about the motivation, just that she's hot on the trail of some bad guy), and she's at the scene of a murder, and the victim's family shows up, and the protagonist thinks that she knew, only too well, the sound of a heart breaking, and she heard it just now (from the victim's family), and you've got the reader thinking, "Hmm, I wonder why she's so experienced with heartbreak," and then in a later scene, she says something about once having a sister, and so on -- that's much more effective than dumping it all at once in the beginning, when we don't know or care about her.