The Winning Entry

Here’s the first page excerpt I revised after the Fantastic Books Publishing event critique.


Tony is dead. He killed himself Monday night.

I took my window seat. Twelve hours and thirty-two minutes since I was told, forty-five minutes since I’d had a cigarette, and barely fifteen seconds since I’d thought about it. When they paased out drinks it would be thirteen hours and seven minutes since I was told. When I asked the guy on the aisle if I could borrow his magazine, it would be fourteen hours and nine minutes.

We were going to Virginia, the guy on the aisle and me, and there was nothing I could do to stop that now. But we weren’t in this thing together. He couldn’t even hear the mantra.

Tony is dead. He killed himself Monday night.

Half of my life is in Virginia. Two parents. One ex-girlfriend. Four best friends who would do anything for me. Well, three now. Tony is dead.

It’s February and it’s too soon to be going back to Virginia. It’s the time of year they usually tell me they’re coming to me. If I asked they would be on a plane in minutes to be with me. At least that’s what they say. But none of them have ever been toSan Francisco. We still call Virginia home. Say things like, “when will you be home again?” But the loft apartment on West Hartford is my home and I know that, even if they don’t. .

Wednesday morning at 9:52 a.m. Pacific time, I asked the flight attendant for a beer. She scowled at me, made change from my ten-dollar bill and handed me a Heineken. But the beer only made me want to smoke.

Tony is dead.

The book is called A Moment When the World is Silent and the pitch goes like this:

Brian Listo wants to forget Virginia, even as he returns to bury his best friend. Can he escape before the love of his life forces him to admit the life he has been living is a lie?

The critique read like this:

A Moment When the World is Silent by Kasie Whitener Critique by Penny Grubb and Danuta Reah PART TWO (OF TWO) – to see part one, scroll back up the time line. …

Good opening and very effective catalogue of seconds, minutes and hours…. You need to establish the sex of your character in these opening stages. If readers picture one thing, and get it wrong, it can stop them from reading further. This is well written.
There were some comments and other discussion, but this is the gist of it.
Let me know what you think!

7 thoughts on “The Winning Entry

  1. That’s such an interesting first page. I must admit I thought it was a female protag. until I read your pitch. I’m so curious to know what craving Brian has. I think your first page is very well done! Thanks for sharing it. 🙂

    • Hi, Lara. Thanks for coming over to take a look. The craving should be for a cigarette. He mentions it only being a few seconds since he’s thought of having one and he’s stuck on the plane so… but if that isn’t clear, I can work on it. What made you think it was a female protagonist?

  2. I love, love, love, dare I say, love the repetition of the seconds/minutes. It makes the stunned numbness of losing a loved one palpable. It also creates an urgency for some reason. Quickens the pace.

    I figured out it wasn’t a woman when the catalog of Virginia “ships” mentions the parents, ex-girlfriend and the four dudes.

    So after I read Lara’s remarks above…I thought, okay, reread it and REALLY figure out why the gender was ambiguous. So I did.

    Theory: The formality of the “mantra” is okay. It helps with that surreal numbing effect of shock. But paragraph 2, may be too formal of speech pattern for a dude.

    ” I PRIED into A window seat. It had been twelve hours and thirty-two minutes since I GOT THE CALL, forty-five minutes since I’d had a SMOKE, and barely fifteen seconds since IT HAS CROSSED MY MIND. When FLIGHT ATTENDANT ROLLED THE BEV CART DOWN THE AISLE it would be thirteen hours and seven minutes . (since I was told.) When I asked the GUY on the aisle if I could CHECK OUT his NEWSWEEK, it would be fourteen hours and nine minutes.”

    So I capitalized my changes and put a cut in ( )’s. I’m sure you can come up with better that what I just did. I figured showing would be easier than telling what I was meaning by gendered word choices.

    Can’t wait to read the whole book! Way to be, Kasie. Your stars are aligning nicely. I know it is talent and hard work more than luck that got you this far. So proud to be in your cheering section!

    • Wow! Thanks, Lori!

      I have wondered about Brian’s voice for a long time. Wondered if “dudes” really talked that way. His legitimacy is important to me. Maybe a more casual, less rehearsed tone would also illustrate his youth. I rearranged a couple of words by your suggestion. I think it rings a bit truer.

      I’m really grateful for the cheering. Thanks for coming by 🙂

      • Oh, Lord, I’m so glad you found it helpful. I had just come from a critique session at the museum, and I had a bit of a panic this morning that I over did it on the comment yesterday.

        Oh, you can count on me in the cheering corner. I couldn’t be more excited for your recent, well-deserved successes.

        And about Brian’s voice. I think most writers think about getting the voice right in strict dialog scenes, but not necessarily during interior monologues.

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