Continuing the Studio Session series in which I take the first paragraph of a piece of another’s writing and unpack it, this week’s contributor is a former classmate from SCAD who graduated in 2014. Thank you very much for volunteering. We salute you, sir!
The Piece: “Mistakes We Knew We Were Making,” a novel adaptation of a play the writer wrote in his freshman year of college.
The George Wilbur Bridge wasn’t anything special as far as bridges go, Kimberly thought. It didn’t offer any spectacular views of the city. It held no sentimental value for her. She rarely even crossed it, except for the occasionally guilty McDonalds run. The only reason Kimberly was here on a bleak Tuesday morning was because she thought it would take them the longest to find her body here.
We start off with a location — one we can easily imagine because there’s nothing special about this bridge — and a character. We’re getting a blunt, matter-of-fact approach to this world that continues into the next few lines. Our location is a bit more defined as being close to a city, though we don’t know which. It hardly matters, though, since our character seems to have a near apathetic tolerance for wherever she is.
It’s too early to tell if Kimberly’s attitude will change over the course of the story, but we can expect her bleak outlook to continue (if she lives past this first scene, that is) at least through the beginning. It’s too early to tell if she dies here, changes her mind, gets caught up in an unexpected situation, or even gets talked out of it.
But the uncertainty of whether or not she’ll die on this page or the next is a great source of tension to keep us moving forward. And that’s not all; the fact that Kimberly wants it to take a while before the unnamed “them” find her corpse adds another layer of tension. Is this so there’s absolutely zero chance of anyone saving her if she doesn’t die upon impact? Or perhaps the timing of her death is important. It could just be she wants to spare friends/family/loved ones from the news of her death for as long as possible once she’s gone.
Add in the day of the week we now have and it seems like the timing of Kimberly’s suicide is going to be pretty important. There’s not enough here for me to tell what the main conflict is or how her suicidal thoughts/potential actions affect it, but it’s reasonable to think this situation is either one of the direct or indirect causes of the main conflict, or it’s a direct or indirect result. Without that information here, though, it’s too early to say. But hey, that’s why we read on, right?
It’s off to a good start — if I was browsing a bookstore and picked this up on a whim and started reading, I’d keep going. The mention of McDonald’s is just a hint of levity that we need within that first paragraph, and it almost feels like we need another one soon after the end of this paragraph. We could keep going into the dark and dramatic, but another touch of something light — even if it’s halfway between serious and humorous — would give me something to hold on to so I don’t think I’m going to be depressed before I can start to care about the characters.
Good luck to you, Chase! I hope all the next paragraphs are like this one.
If you’d like to volunteer a piece of writing for a Studio Session, head to my contact page. I’ll go sentence by sentence, commenting on the writer’s voice, authority, intention, the expectations they create, and the level of intrigue. Any and all types and genres are accepted. I will happily give my two cents on the opening to your novel, short story, memoir, cover letter, artist statement, author bio, potentially rude email to professors or coworkers, ode to tater tots, and whatever else you creative geniuses come up with.
Please include your name and the URL to your website (optional), the title of your piece, a brief description, your first paragraph only, and any specific concerns you’d like me to address if you have them.