If you’re a writer who’s been in the trenches for awhile, you know the importance of the first page of your manuscript. It’s supposed to do a myriad of things like establish voice, create character presence, and give an inkling of the premise. It’s a lot of pressure for one page. Recently, I received a critique back from one of my CP’s (critique partners) and she provided insight into the first page, but more importantly she reacted to my first paragraph. She pointed out what she’d learned about the story and character just from reading the first six lines.

I thought it’d be fun to do First Paragraph Friday’s, where I critique the first  paragraph of either an unpublished manuscript or a published novel. If you want to participate, send me the first paragraph of your first page to writedahl (at) yahoo (dot) com and I’ll give you feedback about what I learned from it. Then you can decide if that’s what you wanted your reader to learn.

Today’s FPF is The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen. I haven’t read the back cover or looked at the front cover. (To be fair, it’s an e-book, so I did glance at the cover, but I picked out a bunch of books and can’t recall what it looked like.)

Here’s what I consider the first paragraph.

All day, I have been watching the girl.

She gives no indication that she’s aware of me, although my rental car is within view of the street corner where she and the other teenagers have gathered this afternoon, doing whatever bored kids do to pass the time. She looks younger than the others, but perhaps it’s because she’s Asian and petite at seventeen, just a wisp of a girl. Her black hair is cropped as short as a boy’s, and her blue jeans are ragged and torn. Not a fashion statement, I think, but a result of hard use and life on the streets. She puffs on a cigarette and exhales a cloud of smoke with the nonchalance of a street thug, an attitude that doesn’t match her pale face and delicate Chinese features. She is pretty enough to attract the hungry stares of two men who pass by. The girl notices their looks and glares straight back at them, unafraid, but it’s easy to be fearless when danger is merely an abstract concept. Faced with a real threat, how would this girl react, I wonder. Would she put up a fight or would she crumble? I want to know what she’s made of, but I have not seen her put to the test.

Observations:

1. Straight up creepy, right? It sounds as if chapter one is from the perspective of a killer/dangerous person. At first, I thought it was a prologue and I had to go to the table of contents to make sure it wasn’t. This killer knows his prey. He calls her Asian at first, but then narrows it down to Chinese. Next, he tells us her age, seventeen. Finally, he knows that she’s a street kid and that she has not been put to the test.

2. He wants to put her to the test. It’s evident that he doesn’t consider the guys with the “hungry stares” dangerous, when he says, “Faced with a real threat, how would this girl react….” He considers himself the real threat.

3. The storyline is going to be about the person stalking the girl and the girl will be one of his victims, possibly his first. Since this chapter is told from his perspective, which is him sitting in a car watching the girl, I think that the story will have to be told from a variety of viewpoints so as to give the reader the whole picture.

That’s my observations. If you think I missed something, please feel free to add your own observations in the comment section.