Fall First Page Critique Blog Hop


Great first page critique blog hop sponsored by Michelle4Laughs.

Adult Thriller

The Drought of Sam Dakota

A missed court appearance early in the morning and an emergency custody hearing later in the day sent Sam’s planned day into the crapper. Practically before the judge’s gavel came down, he sprinted from the courthouse. Kansas City’s bumper-to-bumper rush hour hadn’t prevented him getting home before Danny got off the school bus. Not once since Kate died, had he failed to get home. He pulled into the driveway, slammed the truck into park, and leapt out. He hollered Danny’s name as he entered, pausing long enough to glance at the wood floor where his son always dropped his Spiderman backpack. Sam had tripped over it too many times to count.

The wide planks gleamed, unmarred by black and red.

He looked at his watch. 4:45. The bus always arrived by 3:50. “Danny!” The dining room and kitchen were empty. No apple or glass of milk, no sign of snacking. On the back porch, he searched the corners of the yard. Humidity caused wisps of hair to curl around his face, and he swiped them back. It hadn’t been easy scheduling his court cases early in the day, but he’d made it a priority after Kate died. Now what?

There was no boy smell, no stinky shoes, no fresh from outdoors odors. No mud or dirt in evidence.

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13 Comments

Filed under Writing

13 responses to “Fall First Page Critique Blog Hop

  1. Firstly, I’m liking the title 🙂

    Although the writing in the first part is good, its not compelling. Its a set of *things that happened before something happens*
    In some genres and categories that’s OK (women’s fiction for example or a re-tell or some fantasy because you need set up)
    But in a thriller, you need ‘the thrill’ as it were.

    I would recommend starting here:
    “He looked at his watch. 4:45. The bus always arrived by 3:50. “Danny!” The dining room and kitchen were empty.

    But start with Sam looked at his watch…
    An maybe ad SCHOOL before BUS to let us know Sam is waiting/looking for his son.
    You can tell us later about Sam never being late, and Kate’s death (etc) right now I want to feel the first little lump in my throat.
    I like the Spiderman backpack line but maybe leave out or at least cut back the lists (milk, snacks, boy smell etc) and add to the tension but having him sweat more from fear than the heat (perhaps).

    Its got the makings of something good 🙂

  2. I would drop the first bit. It doesn’t really matter why he’s late, just that he is. I’d start with him stuck in traffic. Also, I’d make his hunt for his son more frantic, breathless. Losing track of your kid at all is a harrowing experience and I’m getting some of that panic but you could stand to have more. I’d really get into how this is effecting your character physically because you could really narrow in the focus on his fear, panic, and guilt about his son presumably being missing. I think you can get the custody hearing and the dead wife in later. It seems like unnecessary backstory on what should be a very tense scene. I hope this helps.

  3. Dawn. I like how you write, I can feel where the story is going. I do think you need more panic in the opening and more of a hook. I like using the Spiderman backpack to set an age range for his son and how you explained that him being alone when he got home was not a usual situation. Not sure when this takes place, but my first thought is a cellphone call, maybe to his son, or school, or neighbor.

  4. eeek. As a parent, this is a really scary opening. I can’t imagine anything worse than coming home and my child is gone. I agree with some of the other comments that the first paragraph is maybe too long and gives us too much info before getting into the story. I actually like the description of the home with the backpack and the milk and snack. I’m also very jealous of your nano word count! great job!

  5. The world of Adult and YA are a lot different, so I’m trying to re-orient my brain.
    I like how much information about the character you fit into the first paragraph. It definitely sets them in a place/time that allows you to move the action forward.
    Since it’s Thriller the tension is important, and even with your world building you seem to achieve that.
    Again, since this isn’t my genre (although I’ve read some in the past) I’m not going to be super much more help, but I would keep reading, and I stopped reading Thrillers during the Pelican Brief era.
    Best of luck!

  6. Put me on board with dropping the first bit too.

    The tension starts to ramp up when he realizes his son isn’t there. That’s where the story begins.

  7. Fantastic energy to this writing! But I was a little confused by the first paragraph.You say he’s never late, but today he is, so I agree with above comments to start with just showing that he’s late. And perhaps he could be reassuring himself – Danny has a key, he doesn’t need me there to start snack/homework routine…
    Also, you have super kid details – you can totally see the missing trail of kiddo mess.

  8. Hi Dawn,

    I agree with the others. I don’t think you need the opening bit explaining why he got home late. It’s a bit tell-y, and then it ends up feeling like you rushed to get the missing child on the first page. Cut the unnecessary parts, and the rest will flow better. I’d probably start with Sam pulling into the driveway.

    Show me how he feels to realize his kid isn’t there. Is he panting from a mad dash from the car to the house? Is his heart rate up because he can’t find his son? You’ve got a great set-up, though, and some tweaking will really make it shine.

  9. Amy

    Hi!
    Yeah, I agree with others in regards to that first paragraph. You’ve set the scene nicely, but do we really need to know all that immediately? I think you could work all those details in later in the story. Hook us from the beginning, with Sam’s realization that his son is missing.
    I’m not much of an adult reader, so I have no idea if my advice is sound…it’s simply suggestions that would keep me, personally, reading.
    Best of luck with this!

  10. I agree with the others about the first paragraph – I think if you tweak it a bit, maybe cut the first half of it, and then I think it will work. I think there’s a lot more you could do to illustrate Sam’s fear. Maybe start by putting yourself in Sam’s shoes and envisioning how you would feel if it was your child missing, then write that. Otherwise, I like what you’ve got so far, especially the idea of the after-school mess. Good luck! 🙂

  11. I agree with the above as well. I am taken the edge of my seat in the few paragraphs, the scene is written well and takes me right in.

  12. Not much to add! It got me hooked as it stands, but reorganizing it would make it tighter and tenser. Leave the details in, like the backpack, but emphasize how quickly he checks for these things and how he’s feeling in that moment of realization.

  13. I’m wondering if you could interweave the info about why he’s late and the dead wife into the search for the son. I like what you have here but the mixture could heighten the tension.

    He looked at his watch. 4:45. The bus always arrived by 3:50. A missed court appearance early in the morning and an emergency custody hearing later in the day sent Sam’s planned day into the crapper.

    “Danny!” The dining room and kitchen were empty. It hadn’t been easy scheduling his court cases early in the day, but he’d made it a priority after Kate died.

    No apple or glass of milk, no sign of snacking. On the back porch, he searched the corners of the yard. Humidity caused wisps of hair to curl around his face, and he swiped them back.

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