Tuesday, October 31, 2006

First Page Challenge

Over on Julie Cohen's blog she issued a first page challenge so I am taking it up! Albeit nervously. So here is the first page of August Rock and my thoughts in italics.

Prologue


Centerville, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, 4th June 2005

Judith sat watching the incoming tide lap over her red toenails and wet the brilliant white lace of her wedding gown. Tears caused it all to blur to pink. She didn’t like pink. Not that anyone cared that she didn’t like the colour. The church was filled with pink flowers. Hundreds of lilies to be precise and their scent still filled her nostrils despite the brisk breeze coming in with the tide. We know that Judith is in a wedding dress and crying on the beach. Why?

As she stood in the doorway of the church, all she could see were various shades of pink. Flowers and ribbons adorned every pew. The altar was barely visible for all the massed blooms in every shade of the wretched colour; particularly pale pink. Her fiancé, John, stood among them; tall, blond, perfect yet even he had not escaped the colour with a waistcoat matching the flower girls spinning around her knees clothed in pink dresses with pink stinking lilies clutched in their fists. We know that she had little or exerted little control over her wedding by the choice of her least favorite colour. What does that say about her?

The heat of the early June afternoon intensified the cloying scent of the lilies to overwhelming levels as the soprano in the choir loft hit high notes on some hymn she couldn’t remember. In her hands, she held a decadent bunch of lilies, carnations, roses and other pink flowers which reached the floor in their cascade. She saw her hands tremble and sweat so much that she dropped the candyfloss mess on the floor.

The salty water of the Gulf Stream took the stiffness out of the lace so that it collapsed on her legs. Now she felt at peace with the damn dress; wet and shapeless. A seagull dive-bombed in front of her forcing her to wipe her eyes so that she could see if he was successful. He was and she smiled. At least someone got what they wanted. What had gone so badly wrong at her wedding that she was alone on the beach and not with her perfect fiance? Why hadn't she got what she wanted?

I hope that introduces Judith in a way that makes one want to know more. What do you think?

8 comments:

Laura Vivanco said...

"Judith sat watching the incoming tide lap over her red toenails "

Is the sea an image of change/of her life? It quite often is in literature, because of its ebbs and flows, its storms and calms. And this bride has red toenails. Are they an indication of her rebellion? of her sexuality? They contrast with the white bridal gown and the pink you write about later. It makes me wonder if she prefers this colour and painted her own nails.

"Tears caused it all to blur to pink. She didn’t like pink. Not that anyone cared that she didn’t like the colour."

The colours red and pink are contrasted, but the fact that she doesn't like pink and that no-one cares makes me wonder about (a) the bridegroom and (b) the wedding organiser. Why don't they care? Is the organiser of the wedding someone in Judith's family (e.g. her mother) or a professional?

What statement is being made by the fact that 'The altar was barely visible for all the massed blooms in every shade of the wretched colour; particularly pale pink.'? Is someone putting their own mark on the wedding? Does this person not want the wedding to go ahead (and is therefore overwhelming it with her/his own personality)? Or does this person want the bride to conform to certain ideas about the perfect bride/woman? Maybe Judith, who has red toenails isn't innocent/demure/conformist enough to please this person?

"Her fiancé, John, stood among them; tall, blond, perfect yet even he had not escaped the colour with a waistcoat "

Perfect in the eyes of the person who's decorated the church or perfect in Judith's opinion? Is Judith not perfect? Seems like the person organising the wedding has some influence over John, too.

"The heat of the early June afternoon intensified the cloying scent of the lilies to overwhelming levels [...] a decadent bunch of lilies, carnations, roses and other pink flowers which reached the floor in their cascade. She saw her hands tremble and sweat so much that she dropped the candyfloss mess on the floor."

This feels like the equivalent of saying 'there's something rotten in the state of Denmark'. This vegetation is on the verge of decay/bringing disease (or at least dis-ease). I'm not quite sure what you mean by 'decadent' here - is it because they're too expensive? but it gives the impression of overwhelming opulence concealing a big problem.

And then we go back to the sea, which smells different and seems clean: "The salty water of the Gulf Stream took the stiffness out of the lace so that it collapsed on her legs. Now she felt at peace with the damn dress; wet and shapeless."

Does she feel like the dress? Her tears are salty, like the sea and, now, the dress. And does she feel shapeless? Certainly it seems as though she's been forced into a role that didn't fit her.

"A seagull dive-bombed in front of her forcing her to wipe her eyes so that she could see if he was successful. He was and she smiled. At least someone got what they wanted."

She's got a sense of humour, and isn't self-centered. Even when she's sad she can appreciate other people/creature's successes, and she's a curious person, who's interested in others. But she doesn't get what she wants. Why not? And what does she want?

I would want to know more, but the shift of location and time between the first and second paragraphs confused me a little at first, because I didn't realise it was a flashback.

liz fenwick said...

Thank you Laura.

Amazing input. This doesn't surprise since i frequently read your blog and it reminds of the world I left behind along time ago!!! I love it.

Your comments hit me over the head because despite the fact i should think my themes and images through i don't. They just flow in writing and yet all the you have noted fit exactly into where the book goes.

Thanks for comments :)

Best,

Liz

Jessica Raymond said...

I would definitely want to read more. Something is very wrong with this wedding and I want to know what!

Jess x

Laura Vivanco said...

I'm very glad you liked my comments (and the blog). Re 'despite the fact i should think my themes and images through i don't. They just flow in writing', I think you're doing the right thing. Or rather you're doing the right thing according to Jennifer Crusie. She talks about how she writes a first, 'discovery' draft, and then, when she goes back and reads it, she notices all the images that her subconscious has already planted in the text. So then she works on them a bit more, but the initial images/motifs/themes were already there in the first draft and came with the flow.

I think it must be that way for a lot of writers, and it would make sense that it should happen that way because we all have associations that we make between objects and moods. For example 'it was a dark and stormy night' is a very obvious way of signalling 'there's tension and dark happenings coming up ahead', daffodils say 'Spring, cheerfulness', apples can be homely apple pie, or temptation (depending on the context), and we make snap judgements about people on the basis of their clothes all the time, whether we want to or not.

liz fenwick said...

Thanks Jess :)

You have given me a light bulb moment Laura! Thanks.

Liz

Fiona Harper said...

I still think this is a great beginning, Liz. And, by the way, I've tagged you to do a "Five things you may not know about me". Blame Jess. She tagged me first.

Julie said...

Thank you for doing this, Liz! I'm sorry it's taken me a couple days to comment, but I'm interested in what Laura says, how you've used colour and description to create character and conflict. Excellent stuff.

liz fenwick said...

Hi Julie,

Thanks for coming by. Its been a great exercise. I have learned so much!!!