First Page Feedback – Sweet Justice

Here is a Nocturne opening from Elle Clouse! (@ElleClouse) Not much paranormal, but there is something intriguing going on….

The shockwave rocked the fifth floor of the ChemPharm Industrial Company building. The lights flickered. Dust fell from the ceiling tiles as they shook in their rafters. She stood from her desk chair to look across the call center floor, phone representatives looking around them in alarm. A few stood at the narrow tinted windows gazing at the cityscape beyond.

Her brain started to catch up with reality, her grip around the flash drive in her hand tightened. She slipped it into her sweater pocket before anyone noticed the data storage device. Her little agenda would have to wait.

“Please keep calm.” Justice pushed her trendy thick framed glasses up her nose. “I’ll let you know what is going on as soon as I can.” She watched the other supervisors pop up from their cubicles and look around in confusion. Her email box showed no new email and her office phone remained silent.

A voice over the rarely used intercom: “May I have your attention please! May I have your attention please! All personnel evacuate the building immediately. Repeat: All personnel evacuate the building immediately.” The evacuation alarm sounded as soon as the intercom fell silent. Yellow lights started to flash. She watched the members of her team disconnect their lines and discard their headsets.

“Grab your purses,” a fellow supervisor called from across the room. Justice took a moment to grab her clutch from her bottom desk drawer. People were quick to make their way to the stairs. Justice walked down the row of cubicles to make sure every person left their station. With an explosion like she heard, no one would doubt the alarm. Protocol dictated all supervisors ensure their team left.

The last person disappeared down the stairs as Justice cleared the last cubicle row. The other supervisors had left. She rolled her eyes. A rumble started to grow throughout the whole building as she burst into the stairwell. Her lung filled with smoke, disorienting her. She reached for the metal railing and used it to guide herself down the stairs.

Only one flight down another explosion rocked the building, this one closer and louder.  The power flickered off and the flood lights kicked on. The alarms in the stairwell blared.

Justice willed her heart to slow down as it threatened to race from her chest to safety. The air stank of smoke and excellent. She prepared to take another step down but the stairs. Below her was burning office furniture, rubble, and a twenty foot drop.

Nowhere to go but up.

Someone would see her on the roof and be able to get to her before the whole building collapsed. Justice turned and used the same railing to help her go up the stairs. The smoke grew heavier as she ascended. She threw open the roof door and she gasped in the fresh air. The mid-morning sun strained her eyes as it was a stark contrast to the dark hall she emerged from.

First Page Feedback from Shannon Barr

This is a very dramatic beginning! Right off the bat, I am intrigued because I want to know if Justice is actually rescued from building, and why the building was blown up. But there are a few suggestions for improving the opening. 

The first few pages of a manuscript establish a background for the story, so we need to see the character’s full name instead of a pronoun right away (unless there is a specific reason why you are keeping the character’s identity secret from the reader, i.e. they are the killer in a suspense novel.) The object being to engage the reader with the character and get them invested in the character’s future.

It is also important to detail the character’s emotions. Working on a middle floor of a high-rise building myself, I am familiar with the emergency protocols—ours sound very similar, which is a great detail—but even with all the drill we have, I would probably still be panicking while exiting the building.

I’d love to see more detail of what she is feeling, and if she isn’t afraid, some background should be established for why she would be so calm when the floor, literally, falls out from under her. Justice doesn’t seem to be scared of dying at all… 

It is incredibly important to read over your manuscript for any typos or word errors before submitting to a publisher. You might even consider having a friend look it over because a fresh pair of eyes can see small details we tend to miss after looking at it so many times. Toward the end of the first page, excellent is used instead of accelerant, and there is a sentence that ends with, “but the stairs.” that seems like it should have more to it. These small errors can turn an editor off from a story before it even gets going because we have to read so many submissions.

Thank you, Shannon and Elle! I hope Justice does make it out safely. 🙂