A less QUIET opening...reworked first 2 paragraphs (after Davinia's advice)

1. Can you follow the timeline (picture the events as I have written them)?

2. Do you even care what happens next? Honestly, I want to get better so that reader really wants to turn the page (or swipe!)

Thank you in advance for all the growth you've catalyzed in me through your previous comments. 

Cp. 1 - Order & Chaos (first 2 paragraphes)

“K-H-E-N-T,” Magen paused, hoping the digital voice on the other end would get it right this time. Her name wasn’t even that hard to spell. Soft music. Not calming me down. More soft music. At least this meant she was in line to speak with the next available medical representative. Things had gotten out of control lately. After the incident yesterday, she knew she needed more help. It had happened around in late afternoon, the scorching August sun finally releasing its hot grip on the West Coast. Needing to get out of the house, Magen had announced, “I’m taking the dogs over to the school,” and then added because she knew it’s what a good mom would do, “if you want to come, let’s go.” And much to her dismay both her husband and daughter had decided that yes, a walk sounded like a great idea. You should’ve just gone yourself. Now you have to interact and try to be normal.  Before leaving the house, she grabbed a peach Fresca from the beverage fridge. In her other hand, she held Buttercup’s thin leash, the one she and Isaac had bought on their trip to Kauai’i back in March. Before the volcano. 

Once out the door, Isaac handed off Bisous’ (pronounced Bee-zoo) hibiscus patterned leash, to his step-daughter who was still deciding to walk or ride her bike. As Abby had a seventy-pound labrador at her dad’s house, handling Bisous, a seventeen-pound Maltese, was almost too easy. Maybe that’s why she decided to ride her bike this time; it was Magen’s old mountain bike, the one she had bought when she was first dating Abby’s dad almost twenty years ago. It fit Abby’s eleven-year-old frame perfectly, her long legs creating gentle circles as she rode slowly with her mom, step-dad and two dogs, a crowded awkward group ambling along. 

Yes, the walk had started alright. And then they had to cross the street. 

Replies (9)
  • Oh no, too quiet to too loud. Perhaps it’s not the detail you need to increase, but the motion.

    • I just revised again. It's like a painting that I want to show the reader but I'm still figuring out the medium. How to make it punch, but also reflect the tone of the character.  Your comments are truly pushing me to the next level. Thank you so much.

      Kelly (it's 100 degrees in California today!)

      • Hi Kelly,

        The version of paragraphs 1 & 2 (above) is the 'revised' revision of the original, I am presuming?

        If so, I can only comment on this version, and I really like it. The narrative voice is intriguing, and there are lots of elements to it that draw me in and offer me ways to empathise with your MC.

        To address your specific questions:

        1. Yes, although I think clarity would be enhanced if you inserted a paragraph break after "... next available medical representative."

        2. Yes! You have created questions in my mind such as, why does she want/need 'calming down'? What happened yesterday and why does she consider that things are getting 'out of control'? Why does the prospect of 'having to be normal' fill her with 'dismay'? And what does the remark "before the volcano" mean??

        Good stuff, Kelly! :-)


        • I follow the time line fine.

          As things stand it's mildly piqued my interest and I would probably read on a little at this stage. 

          I rather like the apparently pointless pieces of information about the dog lead and the reference to the volcano and such. I thought the peach Fresca was overkill of information, though, unless it is of importance later on. I also was annoyed at being told how to pronounce Bisous.

          I think you could make more of the initial telephone conversation if you are going to keep it as the beginning. It's a tad matter of fact, apart from the "Not calming me down" which is majestic. But maybe experiment with making a seemingly mundane call being really difficult. Shaky fingers causing a misdial at the start. A really obtuse operator - you have hinted at it with the spelling of the name, but maybe you actually need to spin it out a bit more, so the revelation that she wants to speak to a medic comes after more of a build up. Maybe also try getting the comments about things getting out of control and so on before the reference to a medic. So you take us to that and then, just as we are curious as to her condition you whisk us away to the incident the day before.

          Kate is right that this is full of minutiae which at present don't grab all that much but I think they could be made to grab if you need them to. I'm getting an impression of a neurotic woman who is on the verge of being seriously unhinged but currently just about keeping up a veneer of happy domesticity. If that's vaguely right then you must be on the right track - but if that's hugely wrong then you may need to consider how to steer the reader down the right track.

          Good luck with this. The more I think about it, the more intriguing it is. Which is great in one way but of course I am here in order to think about it and critique, whereas a reader will take one look and decide at once whether or not to read the book.

          • Hi Bella! I just read this all the way through. I want to thank you so much. The phone call is not an emergency. It is a check-in with her psychiatrist. Nothing happens in the crosswalk. Nobody gets hurt. You pinned it perfectly in your beautiful description, "'m getting an impression of a neurotic woman who is on the verge of being seriously unhinged but currently just about keeping up a veneer of happy domesticity. If that's vaguely right then you must be on the right track". I want to use this for the back summary!!!! 

            Thanks again,


            p.s. I would give you all the credit, don't worry!! :)