Would You Turn To Page 2?

Just when I say—I have that novel I wrote a few years ago. I’m pretty sure there’s been enough time and distance that I could effectively sand it from rough to draft.—information about a writing competition falls in my lap. Literally. I dropped my Writer magazine and it fell open to the page about the James Jones First Novel Fellowship.

So here’s where you come in. If you picked up a book, with an interesting title and captivating cover art, of course, and read this first page, would you care to turn to page two?

Page 1

Day settled into an unsettled evening. Marybeth stood barefoot in front of the kitchen sink. The dishwasher lay open at her right. The pots and pans, the mixing bowls, most of the dinner preparation dishes were already clean. It was Marybeth’s habit to wash as she cooked. It saved time in the end. She only had the span of her kids’ bath to have the kitchen work finished. The echo of laughter and splashes swirled with the steam of the dish water to warm an otherwise cold room.

Paul was silent, sitting hunched on the toilet lid with a towel over his legs to keep his jeans dry. The setting sun would be glowing through the frosted window had he not shut the shade before he started the bath water. He watched the kids bathing in brief glances over his iPhone. A beer can sweated on the edge of the sink. There was nothing else on the small ledge, just as he liked it. The linen closet door was closed, as it should be, and the kids’ towels hung on hangers exactly six inches apart.

Two-year-old Sara spun in circles on her bottom, her wet hair clinging to her face and back. Charlie was strapped in his bathing chair, kicking his legs and chewing on his hand. He was two months old. Paul had grown tired of doing separate baths and had sent Marybeth to find something suitable for Charlie so he could join his sister in the tub.

*****

Submissions are due by midnight Tuesday. Does this feel like the now of a story, or backstory boringness? Do you feel oriented in the location? Is there enough that you think you might care about these characters at all? Does it make you wonder what’s to come enough that you’d give page two, or perhaps chapter one, a chance?

Any feedback is appreciated. Kindness is not necessary. If it’s crap, do say so. I promise to only cry one or two tears. I can’t be objective anymore. I’ve read it too many times.

*****

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21 thoughts on “Would You Turn To Page 2?

  1. Just a couple things I thought, which hit me as not quite making sense—it’s cold in the room, but she’s wearing no shoes, and his beer can is sweating. Also, I’m not sure a 2 month old baby would be able to sit up in one of those bathing seats yet. That’s just the way my mind works when I read stuff.

    I would keep reading for awhile. I’m curious to know why it’s “unsettled”, so that would keep me going for awhile.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I would turn to page 2 because the story seems interesting. I concur with Fat Bottom Girl on the points. You’re painting a picture in the readers mind of the area and character. You could add more details which describe more and increase the word count at the same time. But I’m just a guy and probably know nothing. But I find reading about the normal family evening interesting. I am curious about what Paul is looking at on the iPhone though. Please let him take a drink from the beer (lol) before it gets hot. Indicating the six inch gap and closet detail certainly sparks imagination into Paul’s mind. Great Job!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Wade! I’ve read that the first page of a printed novel is equal to 16 lines of a double spaced, one inch margin Word doc, so that’s what I put here.
      You bring up a good point about drinking the beer. It just gets left there in the following pages, so I should probably do something about that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m drawn in by the obvious pointed perfectionism of the parents, especially the father’s. That made me want to keep reading and find out why, exactly, they’re so neat and tidy, and how that affects their lives and their kids. However, couldn’t get a feel for the plot at all. It was all backstory. I think if you find a way to insert something alluding to the plot somewhere at either the beginning or the end – a catching, interesting foreshadowing of a future event, perhaps? – it would really up the page-turning factor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • To elaborate more, I suppose I just didn’t get a feel at all for WHY the evening was unsettled. She was finishing kitchen work. He was giving the kids a bath. The detail was really interesting and painted a solid picture in my mind, but I got no real unsettled feeling from it.

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  4. Hey Mel! Well, you want honesty so here goes. I might turn the page to see how Charlie and Sara made out – even though I get the impression that this carefree bath may be the happiest time they will see in the near future. There was always a tension in the house similar to what Paul and Marybeth are experiencing and I know how that turns out and I am not interested in reading about it, having lived it with my own parents and then my own marriage. Bleh!

    It is rare that I abandon a book after one page, Even if I don’t care for it, I’ll give it one chapter and then scan to see if there are any plot twists, then read the last few pages and call it done – takes about 15 minutes max. Unless an miniature alien spaceship lands in the tub or Marybeth is called away on a top secret mission to save the world, I’m not likely to continue reading this story, because of personal experience. The writing is fine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Paul! Sorry, no miniature alien spaceships or secret missions to save the world, but she does go on a mission to save herself and her children. You are right, this carefree bath is the happiest time they will see in the near, and distant, future.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You have some excellent critique already. Your question is whether I would turn to page two. I think your final paragraph needs a hook, something that makes me want to find out what happens next. Maybe just replace the last sentence?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great critique from everyone here. After I’ve had something to eat, I’ll read it again. I’ll say now, by the end I’m feeling suspicious about the husband. He seems reluctant and the mother seems overworked. Will something get overlooked, like a child, for example. or will one of them snap??? You should definitely continue this. And submit, yes!!

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  7. Okay, read again. I agree that the newborn shouldn’t be in the bath. And so, if Paul is willing to go to great lengths to shorten bath time, etc, we should have some hint that he knows better. Like maybe what the wife doesn’t know won’t hurt her or something like that. Something kind of offhanded is enough. He should take a swig of beer for sure and how does he pass that time on the iPhone? That could be a great place to build character. Also, the wife just gets dropped after the first paragraph. What is she in such a hurry to do next? I love the opening sentence but I’m not sure I’m convinced it’s an unsettled situation unless the parents are just completely OCD! If that’s the case, then you could insert more OCD issues in here to show motivation, i.e. why it’s unsettled. I hope I helped. 🙂

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