First Page Feedback – Soul Tender

Sophia has sent in a Historical opening set in the 1920s–very intriguing! 

Chicago-1926

Thyra Edward’s paused outside of the Pullman companies Chicago headquarters to straighten her suit, a heavily starched navy Pullman jacket and knee-length skirt.

Company attire. Worn deliberately and, depending on the outcome of this summons by her employer, in defiance more so than out of habit, despite the fact that she had been with her employer more than six years.

Pushing open the sturdy door she noticed right before entering the words:

PULLMAN COMPANY
SUPERINTENDENT
JOSEPH BRICKMAN

Stepping into a large monochromatic office that smelled oddly of leather, her attention was drawn to the right to the room’s only occupant. The man whose name had been announced on the door stood in front of a maple wood desk, blond and broad-shouldered and at that moment a bit red-faced. He immediately motioned for her to sit down. Despite the force of his words which he took no time in lowering to the party on the receiving end of a phone call she wasn’t tempted to listen in. Instead her eyes were drawn to a pair of photographed faces on the green wall above his desk for two entirely reasons.

The first photo was the familiar face of her dad, his dark complexion contrasting starkly with the white suit of his Pullman porter uniform. His picture almost caused her to smile, then she noticed the bright gold lettering: EMPLOYEE REPRESENTATIVE PLAN in bold above the frame of him and the other photo. She stiffened. An unwelcome reminder that despite her father and her working for the same employer, they did not exactly agree on company politics.

Specifically on accusations of how the Pullman managers were underpaying and overworking almost 20,000 porters, nurses and maids in their employment. It made matters no better that until very recently all of those employees had been black while most of the company managers where white, her dad being one of the few exceptions.

The other photo contained, surprisingly, a man of the same race but dressed in a darker suit and hat similar in style and coloring to her own with the dark navy blue not picked up in the black and white photo. He was a strikingly attractive man at least twenty years younger than her dad with piercing eyes and an expression difficult to describe. Although the face seemed open, there remained something mysterious hidden as if saying what you see is not all you get.

Her dad’s gentle gaze held an authority built on experience and connections whIle his was in some way harder no less confident but built on something else entirely. Intrigued, but not liking that he was someone with his picture posted so obviously associated within the higher ranks of the ERP, the Pullman company union which according to her and other members of the Black Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP), it was believed did not adequately represent the rights of its workers. So far, although it claimed to support equality by decreasing hours and increasing wages the ERP had done nothing but set itself up in direct opposition to the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) and other attempts by primarily younger black porters and nurse/maids, like her and her brother, to mobilize in support of their own rights to fair wages and fair treatment while on the job.

Still not knowing whether she was absent of a job, or had been summoned here merely to be reprimanded or something else entirely she sat down lightly on the upholstered seat in front of the superintendent’s desk.

First Page Feedback from the Historical Team!

I love the 1920s era, so I was excited to see the time period leap out at me here. From the first page, it’s clear that this story has a heroine who is willing to fight hard for what she believes in, which is always lovely to see! It’s also good to see when an author has done their research; this story promises to authentically address important political issues of the period.

However, sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming if the reader receives a lot of information right on the first page. For example here, we do learn a lot about the heroine’s political feelings. Whilst we love to see a heroine with strong morals, so that readers can get behind her actions from the start, it might have been more effective to see more of her emotions on the page here. That way the reader can easily identify with the heroine, without first learning the details about her life. For instance; how is she feeling facing the possibility of losing her job? How could her emotions be conveyed through her actions in this opening section – whether that be defiant, nervous, a little lost, or a mixture of all three?

The glimpse of the man we assume to be this woman’s hero and the way she’s unsure what to make of him is intriguing. But her father’s photo added a little confusion; we didn’t quite get a sense of how the heroine really felt about him. For example, it’s suggested that her father is at odds with the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and there’s strong disagreement between them – and yet this conflicts with his ‘gentle gaze’ that Thyra sees in the photograph.

Overall this showed definite potential! But it could benefit from trimming back the historical detail at the beginning, highlighting the emotions of the characters and remaining consistent and clear in the images conjured, in order to really make a powerful impact with this first page.

 

Thyra–an intriguing name–certainly seems to be determined to do something. Can’t wait to find out what!

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Comments

  1. Kristen Brockmeyer

    I love the 1920’s, too! Agree with the editor comments – I’d love to get a better idea of what’s going on in Thyra’s head. Also, maybe some more active writing? For example, “She pushed,” instead of “Pushing,” and “Thyra still didn’t know” instead of “Still not knowing.” Great job, though – I’d like to know what happens next!

  2. Heather Sterner

    Your writing is very clear and concise. The attention to detail is great, but I do agree that there was too much info and not quite enough emotion. It almost felt like I was reading a non-fiction book during parts of this opening. You have a very interesting setting for your book and I hope we get to see more of it!