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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | First Impressions: THE DESIREE

First Impressions: THE DESIREE

Our third First Impressions post for June comes from PK Hrezo.  Her new WIP is YA magical realism and titled THE DESIREE.
In the not so distant future ….
            It’s hard to believe I’m standing in front of it again, after all these years. The same scarlet script still forms the words, The Desiree, and adorns the old theatre entrance with a promise of elegance. My chest swells. For me, it goes much deeper than a slice of cinema decadence. I know the secrets she holds. Secrets I never understood until just before Stevie left.
The once white lightbulbs encircling the marquee are now caked with dust, the empty space inside, bereft of words. Directly below it, drawn black shades hide a deserted box office booth, its windows greasy with city grime. None of it shines like it should—like it did when I was a child. But that will be fixed.  
            “Daddy, aren’t we going in?” Chantal asks, hugging her chest. Her iridescent purse is hooked over her right arm in the same fashion all the young girls wear these days, camouflaged by its reflection of her yellow vinyl dress.
            I stoop to her eye level and brush a ginger curl from her cherub face. “Patience, butterfly. I needed a good look at her from the outside, too. I’ll bet we can have it polished in no time, don’t you think? Did you notice the gilt framework around the box office booth—it’s the original artistry from 1931. Impressive, really. She left it in much better condition than I’d hoped. Not that I ever doubted she would. ”
            Chantal’s big hazel eyes glaze over in boredom. “I’m tired of standing here. You said I could climb to the projector room, and get popcorn.”
            A glossy silver and white shuttle pulls to the curb behind us in a swoosh of air, stopping a few yards away. Its doors open like giant mechanical lips and a slew of passengers step off the streamlined machine. They scatter toward the other buildings, none of them interested in an old downtown theatre dwarfed between the sleek modern buildings of the time. The intel-ogram advertisement from the side of the shuttle hones in on us, zooming right up to our faces, her image grinning like a game show hostess.
I like the premise of this beginning and the promise of mysteries and secrets to be uncovered in The Desiree.  The narrator is an adult, so I’m predicting that the main part of the story will include either a flashback or some kind of magical return to his younger years.  Just a guess, of course.
I think the first paragraph needs some restructuring.  The first sentence includes two uses of the word it, neither with a clear referent.  There are much stronger words used elsewhere in that paragraph that could be rearranged into a flashier opening sentence – something that combines the visual impact of the theater with the emotion it evokes in the narrator.
I would also cut the lines where the narrator talks about the gilt framework being original artistry from 1931. Chantal isn’t interested, and I’m afraid the readers won’t be invested enough to care yet.  There’s a place for this information, but I don’t think it’s the first page. Instead, perhaps the conversation between Chantal and her father could reflect how they see the theater with different eyes.  He sees its former glory, but Chantal is disappointed by how old and run-down it is.
In fact – what if the entire opening revolved around that disparity? The narrator stands in front of the The Desiree, remembering her in all her glory, and then Chantal breaks into his thoughts to complain that the lightbulbs are broken, the marquee is blank, and the windows are all covered in greasy dirt.  Perhaps she isn’t sure she even wants to go inside until he bribes her with the promise of climbing to the projector room?  Just a thought.
Thanks, PK, for sharing the first page of another one of your manuscripts!  Please visit PK at her blog, and also stop by Mainewords to see Marcy’s take on the same page.

13 Responses to First Impressions: THE DESIREE

  1. Kyra Lennon says:

    I agree on all counts. I love, LOVE the wording. The description is wonderful, but I was thrown out by the MC telling Chantal about the framework. At first, I felt that changing just that part would make it stronger, but Dianne’s suggestion of the MC really remembering how it used to be with Chantal breaking his thoughts is great!

    I love the premise for this story. I really wanted to know more about The Desiree, so your opening is strong. But with a little tweaking it could be even more brilliant! 😀

  2. Pk Hrezo says:

    Great feedback, Dianne. Thanks!

    I tried something really different with this story, in that I used a frame–a narrator who’s present only at the very first part of the chapter and at the very end…for a purpose of course. But the challenges are in how much to disclose upfront without confusing reader when I shift to the actual story.

    Any and all suggestions welcome!

    Thanks for having me!

  3. Diane, your suggestions are perfect. I agree with all of them.

    And, PK, I wanted to keep reading!

  4. Linda G. says:

    Oooh, I love old movie theaters! The atmosphere just draws me right in.

    Very nicely done, PK. Dianne’s suggestions are good, too. Best of luck with the rest of your story–it sounds like something I’d love to read. 🙂

  5. Old Kitty says:

    Hi PK, hi all!! Thanks for sharing your first page here PK! For me this read like watching a film! I felt like the camera panning across this neglected theatre and then zooming in to Chantal and dad! So it’s a big thumbs up from me!! I see the scene in all its sad glory! Yay!!! Take care

  6. Pk, this sounds fantastic. I want to keep reading to know where this is going. I agree with Dianne’s suggestions. Although, your descriptions created a visual in my head that’s very clear. Great job and good luck!

  7. All great suggestions. The biggest confusion I had was during the paragraph with the most dialog. The narrator refers to the theater as she, but then he also refers to some unknown character, seemingly a previous caretaker, and it all gets kind of muddied up.

    I love the image of the dilapidated old theater, against the shining backdrop of this brand new plastic city, and I think it’s full of potential, but I agree with Dianne that some of the things included in this first page might not be best as first page material.

  8. Jenny Morris says:

    I love the imagery that this first bit creates. The old and new aspects.Anything that confused me has already been pointed out. ;0)

  9. Mina Burrows says:

    The opening has unique feel to it, something that promises to be a different tale. I wasn’t expecting the narrator being an adult, male or even a father so that was a bit surprising–still interesting though. I want to keep reading too. Great job!

  10. I like the characters and (this is my bias both in reading and writing) but I need to feel more invested in them before I care too much about their world. Which is tricky because it’s sort of a circle right?

    You set the scene with skill but maybe I could have used some more character building before the scene building to really hook me on these people.

  11. Pk Hrezo says:

    These are all super helpful–tells me I cut too much already. Thanks so much everyone!! 🙂

  12. Hi PK, your writing is really pretty! I did get confused as to who the MC was and if this was in fact YA, but when explained, it’s really unique! Dianne, i think your idea of having the two different takes on the theater is spot-on. Good luck, PK!

  13. Julie Musil says:

    Wow, Pk, I absolutely love your word choices. I felt like I was “there.” I do like the idea of the description coming out in dialogue (although I was also find with reading it the way it was.) I’d definitely read on.