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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | First Impressions: FINDING HOME

First Impressions: FINDING HOME


ZoeOur second submission for First Impressions comes from Zoe Byrd. This page is from her adult novel, FINDING HOME.

He was sitting on the front steps of the Laundromat when I pulled up to the curb. It wasn’t his usual spot, so I had to wonder what was going on. We had been doing this dance for the past four months. Sunday mornings I would arrive at 6 am, he would be walking out and would return for his things in about half an hour, if we passed in the doorway we’d say “hello,” nothing more really. It wasn’t that I wasn’t attracted to him, I was; I didn’t want to be a nudge. It was just too early in the morning for conversation, and he didn’t have the look of a big talker. This morning was already different. It was January and far too cold to be sitting on cement steps at this ungodly hour. I got out of my car and went around to the trunk to retrieve my laundry bag thinking, “He must be freezing his butt off. What’s going on?” Hefting my laundry, and moving past him on the steps, I nodded and said, “Good morning.” He smiled as I passed him.

The temperature change upon entering the steamy room was always a bit of a shock in the winter. The condensation on the front windows almost obscured the view of the road. The room itself was lined with front- and top-loading washers and dryers. Vending machines containing tiny boxes of detergent and fabric softeners stood in the corner. Interspersed with tables, a row of multicolored wooden benches ran up the middle of the room.

It became evident why this morning was different. Not there to do laundry, someone else had invaded our turf. When I entered, the drunk was kicking the change machine. His evening pursuits not having worn off, he was still pretty hammered. In search of a warm, dry place to crash, he wandered into the all night Laundromat. He stopped what he was doing and stumbled around the room grasping onto machines for stability as he approached me. I didn’t even get to unload my bag before he made a play.


So, I’m guessing the fellow sitting on the step outside changed his routine because he knew the girl was going to show up any minute and encounter this individual in the Laundromat. He stayed to make sure she was safe. Nice guy! And a promising beginning, if so.

One of my first thoughts, reading this passage, was that the first paragraph is long and contains quite a bit of information. I suggest breaking it into at least two smaller paragraphs and including a brief description of the guy on the stoop as well. After she says that he was attractive would be the perfect place for it. At least give us his age, maybe in comparison to her own, which will tell us something about the narrator, too.

Likewise, I think we need a better introduction to the guy stumbling around the Laundromat.  Introducing him as “the drunk” suggests we already know about him, or at least, the narrator already knows about him. It could be switched to “a drunk” – but I think it would be better to describe him as a man who appears to be drunk. These lines — His evening pursuits not having worn off, he was still pretty hammered. In search of a warm, dry place to crash, he wandered into the all night Laundromat. – suggest the perspective of an omniscient narrator, not a first person protagonist who can only know what she observes.

Finally, I get why Zoe listed all the steps of “the dance” that had been going on for four months as a list, but wouldn’t it look better if it was punctuated like this and not a run-on?

Sunday mornings I would arrive at 6 am. He would be walking out and would return for his things in about half an hour. If we passed in the doorway we’d say “hello.” Nothing more really.

Readers, what do you think? Zoe, thanks for sharing your page with us. Marcy will have her own comments over at Mainewords, and Zoe can be found at her blog, Rewritten.


10 Responses to First Impressions: FINDING HOME

  1. zoe says:

    Hey Dianne,

    Thanks so much for doing this. I appreciate the critique and agree especially with the punctuation breakup…not my strongest area! Thank goodness for editors! These are really good suggestions thanks again!

  2. I agree there was too much set up and description before things began to happen. Paring that down would make for a stronger impact.

  3. I liked this! Along w/Dianne’s suggestion for a bit of description of the guy on the steps. Does he have any scruffle? I like scruffle! 😉 Is this a YA contemporary? Or perhaps NA? Just the feeling I get so far. Best of luck to you w/your writing!

  4. Angela Brown says:

    What Dianne has listed touched on the main items that had me pause or re-read to feel like I comfortably interpreted a section.

  5. Julia Tomiak says:

    Along the lines of the other comments, I think the first paragraph could be stronger if you included more action in real time and less back story telling. Intersperse action with her thoughts to reveal clues, instead of using one big lump of a paragraph. (You do this more towards the end of the first paragraph – I liked that better.) Also, instead of having her tell us she’s attracted to him, have her describe him in a way that it’s obvious to the reader that she’s attracted to him.
    I’d want to read on and find out how this scene plays out – good luck with this project!

  6. I agree that the first paragraph is amazing but could likely become an entire chapter with more description. Of course, I’m a huge fan of ZOE but that’s my feedback!!

  7. For me, a first line or two should set up questions or create curiosity. Zoe almost had it, and I think with just a bit of tweaking her opening would be perfect. My suggestion.

    When I pulled up in front of the Laundromat he wasn’t his usual spot, so I had to wonder what was going on.

  8. Steven Symes says:

    I agree there is too much information dumping, which will bog a reader down and could trigger discouragement. I also noticed that some words are repeated way too much, so using some synonyms would help break up the feeling of monotony. That, and I found the description of the interior of the laundry mat was unnecessary since there was nothing notably different when compared to any average laundry mat. That being said, I am intrigued about what the guy waiting will do about the drunk and where things will go from there.

  9. It’s interesting that some comments suggest less description, and others suggest more. It’s a real balancing act to provide it without slowing the pace of the story.

  10. zoe says:

    Thanks so much for the comments … I think this has been a real opportunity for me as it reinforced some things and really gave me some constructive suggestions. It really IS a balance of more and less description. When it was professionally edited it was suggested that I needed more description but I think it has weighed the story down some so I have to look at that again. ALso I think this reinforced that I need more “showing” and less “telling.” THanks again … I really do appreciate all the input!