Voice and The Golden Willow: Heather Webb’s Blog Hop

For those of you who know me and follow my blog, this post is for writing and for the novel I’ve been working on for the past year … it takes a long time and lots of feedback and writer friend help to get a novel to its best. This is another step in the journey made of hard work and long hours of doing what I love most. Thanks, as always, for your support!

 

Author: Jennifer King

Title: The Golden Willow

Genre: Upmarket fiction

First 250 words for It’s All in the Voice blog hop, May 16-17, by Heather Webb:

The Golden Willow

For sixty-five years, I wrapped up my secrets and locked them into the iron vault of time. To anyone who happened by, my life looked like a fine American painting, defined by tea parties and smiling family portraits. But it was the time before, the memory of what I had done, that haunted me in the darkness every night. On the morning of my eighty-fifth birthday, those nightmares finally bled into daylight.

I awoke believing my lover would be waiting for me out in the rose garden. I hurried to descend the steps, thinking that morning we would leave to travel to Milan. We did that in those days, for our art club, for the unspoken Resistance. I remembered the series of encoded messages that had called us to da Vinci’s Last Supper. It was in danger then. We had little time.

With a quick pause on the staircase landing, I grazed the texture of the oil painting with my fingertip. It felt cool, like Judas’s face. Leonardo had surely painted him to be the devil. But in my next step, a stair creaked and I saw the picture before me for what it was—a gaudy portrait of my late mother-in-law—and in a blink, I slipped out of the daze.

I’d never felt so betrayed.

 

Thank you, writing friends, for all of your comments and help with the voice (and any other comments, too) in The Golden Willow opening! -JK

Published by Jennifer Lyn Art

About Jennifer Writer Author Photographer Artist Corporate Marketer Happy Wife & Mom World Traveler Grateful.

27 thoughts on “Voice and The Golden Willow: Heather Webb’s Blog Hop

  1. Hi Jennifer!
    First of all, this opening is intriguing! It’s much stronger. And I’m loving the first person. 🙂

    You know me, I’d tweak a few words here and there–unnecessary prepositions or other words that slow the pace a tad. Deleting those will punch up the tension a bit. Words like: “back”, “out”, “leave to”, “hurried to”. Also the piece where she’s touching the painting is a tad confusing. For clarity:

    “It felt cool like Judah’s face had that day.”

    Also, I think you need a sentence of transition between her touching the painting and this line:

    “I never felt so betrayed.”

    Otherwise, we don’t know what she’s referring to. Does she mean her mother-in-law? The resistance? DaVinci’s painting?

    But I dig all the secrecy so it’s a delicate balancing act.

    Nice work!! 🙂

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    1. As always, this is such helpful feedback, Heather. Tightening can be done. Thank you for giving suggestions. Also, I agree with the balancing act and secrecy … I’ll think on it. Thank you for running and organizing this excellent way of getting feedback!

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  2. Wow. I’ve read how-to books about making sure every word counts… your opening could be an example of exactly how to do that! I don’t think I’ve ever read a story written in the voice of an eighty-year old. I suspect your story will move to a flashback, which sounds like it will be really interesting, but I would want to have more in the story from this opening POV as well. Because I like it so much!

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    1. I’m so glad you like the opening POV, Donna. Thank you for saying so! It’s a new angle on the story as it unfolds, instead of told in 3rd person close. I appreciate your feedback– thank you!

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  3. Hi Jennifer,

    Your opening is hauntingly beautiful. I can feel the age and calm wisdom of the woman reflecting. However, I was confused starting with the second paragraph. Is she dreaming? Remembering? I get that you’re deliberately being mysterious, but a subtle anchoring clue may help the reader (or at least me) shift into the story.

    Beautiful opening!

    Kris

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    1. Thank you for the suggestion to anchor the second paragraph a bit more. That’s a good, solid piece of advice. I think I agree. I’ll think on it.

      And, I love hearing the effect is “hauntingly beautiful.” Wow. Thank you so much, Kris!

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  4. That opening paragraph drew me in right in. I love the line: “To anyone who happened by, my life looked like a fine American painting, defined by tea parties and smiling family portraits.”

    I agree with Heather with deleting the extraneous words to punch it up. But the sequence of the dream of touching the painting was clear to me. I want to read more. Great job!

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    1. Thank you for sharing the line that struck you. That always is solid feedback, whatever struck you enough to comment. And thank you for saying your thoughts about the opening paragraph. You know how much honing goes into those first words.

      Also, it’s interesting that the dream sequence was clear to you. That also is very helpful, Rebeca. I’m so glad you want to read more. Thank you!

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  5. My heart wrenched a bit for the character when she was jolted out of her dream…or perhaps it’s a hallucination. Comparing her life to paintings, something she obviously loves, is a nice touch that is really tying the story together right from the start. I would definitely like to read on to find out who the lover was.

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    1. I appreciate the insight on that you liked the paintings in the opening. It’s a new add, and it’s also the central piece to the book. I’m glad it comes off well to you. Also, thanks for the mention of your interest in who the lover is. This is great feedback, Janel. Thank you!

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  6. Beautiful writing.I love the first paragraph! I was a bit confused with the time frame of the second paragraph. Is it present day or flashback? The last sentence of the first paragraph suggests present, but the eagerness to meet the lover suggest youth.

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    1. The second paragraph seems to be a trip-up for most everyone. Since it’s from an eighty-five-year-old woman, I’m on the fence as to whether it’s okay to leave it. She’s living in the present, but in a blur between dream / wakefulness. The dream is reflecting back to her youth. I’ll keep thinking on it. Thank you for the feedback, Patricia!

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  7. Initially, I am left wondering if the woman has dementia or actually had been in the Italian resistance during World War II. In any case, 65 years is a long time to be troubled by something and to be unable to deal with it.

    Is her troubles really about the man which she left behind, or is it more than that?

    If her haunting memory is set during the tumult of World War II, wouldn’t those two young lovers have an especially difficult time sneaking into the Vatican to gain access to da Vinci’s Last Supper? Certainly, things were not operating as normal back then. Did her male companion have some kind of special entrée?

    Why did she end up marrying this other man, which possibly commissioned, or even painted by himself, the hideous painting of the mother-in-law? Was it only for money and a life of leisure (on the surface at least), but was it a loveless marriage?

    So, at age 85, possibly with her mind slipping away, is there any time left for this troubled woman to do something to relieve herself of her prolonged troubles?

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    1. Good questions on plausibility. Thanks, Alec. I’m glad you picked all of these things up in the first 250 words. Very helpful! (The Last Supper is in Milan at Santa Maria della Grazie in the refectory…)

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  8. I like your dense use of words very much. I won’t say anything about the transition to the second paragraph, but I experienced the disconnect, too. An 85-year-old with a lover? Hmm. My favorite phrase?
    It felt cool, like Judas’s face.
    I would like to have written that.

    Like

    1. I’m smiling, JoAnne. An 85yo with a lover. I need to make her dream of the past clearer.

      Also, thank you for sharing what you connected with … the dense use of words, and the sentence with Judas’s face. I appreciate hearing what struck you — it’s so helpful! Thank you!

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      1. I have often told students and any apprentice writers (those silly enough to listen) that poetry is a good discipline for prose writers because it forces economy and power. I don’t know whether you write any poetry, but it sounds like you do. The music is there.

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  9. Hi Jennifer,
    Oh, I can’t wait to read! And this line, “…I grazed the texture of the oil painting with my fingertip.” Love this.
    What an exquisite vignette you shared. Thank you! Love, Dawn

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    1. Dawn, Thank you so much for stopping and leaving your thoughts. It means so much. And thanks for sharing the line that struck you. I appreciate it. That line shall stay forever. 🙂 I can’t wait to chat more about the rest — probably another month or so. Thank you! xo JK

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  10. Hi, Jennifer! Your story sounds intriguing. I love your first paragraph, you set up the secret right from the start and that instantly grabbed my attention! I would definitely continue reading based on what you have here. You have a fascinating story to tell here, well done! Best of luck!

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  11. I’m intrigued but like others had a disconnect at the second paragraph. Not so much about her having a lover (I kind of though “Hey! Good for her!” but more the hurrying down the stairs bit. At 85 I would expect it might take her a little time getting down stairs, not to mention she’d probably be a bit cautious. Although I guess if she’s in the midst of a daydream she might think herself younger and attempt it…you might consider working in something about how she attempted to hurry but her body didn’t cooperate like she wanted it to.

    Everything else flows well until the last sentence. Like someone else stated, I wasn’t sure what she was feeling betrayed by, her mother-in-law or the fact that it wasn’t what it all seemed.

    I’d definitely be interested in seeing where this goes.

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  12. What a beautiful poetic style you have. I was enchanted by the phrasing and the hint of secrets to be revealed. It’s a lovely start and I would read more. 😀

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  13. My favorite part is the last line, LOVE it.

    I’m actually a little confused by the timeline, mostly by the phrase, “We did that in those days.” It feels like we’re starting the story on her 85th birthday but “we did that in those days” makes me think we’re past her 85th birthday and she’s thinking back to that day, or possible to a time when she was much younger. The timeline flashback elements aren’t quite clear to me.

    I guess I’m missing something, but I didn’t get the reference to Judas’s face, although I like the sentence.

    Bled into daylight is an interesting choice of words, feels like foreshadowing.

    All that being said, it’s a strong opening. You’ve got a mystery for us right off the bat and I personally love anything with an art angle.

    Like

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