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October 15, 1914, Trieste — Amedeo Nassutti rang the bell of his crowded trolley
car, an act that of late served only as a symbolic effort to clear his trolley’s
tracks. Harried pedestrians, rustic mule carts and elegant horse-drawn carriages,
chuffing cars, growling trucks, men and women with wheelbarrows [Wonderful
details, but it feels as though it develops for a few too many beats. Consider
compressing with just a few items in the list, the ones that work the hardest to create a
specific sense of time and place.] all fought for a few inches of forward movement. He
squinted into the early autumn sun, cool and low in the western sky but not yet low
enough to be blocked by the buildings on the south side of Trieste’s Via Carducci.
[Doesn’t feel as though this adds to the moment and suggests a lack of forward
movement in the narrative as well as in Amedeo’s life.]
He turned the burnished brass control wheel and braced his back against the
wall of his open-air cabin as he felt the surge of the electric motor. He cranked the
brake-release wheel, and the trolley moved forward. He grimaced, letting a hand in its
great leather gauntlet hang at his side. He rolled his broad shoulders, and then pulled
his elbows back behind him to stretch. He took a deep breath. [Be on the lookout for
repetitive subject-verb-object of this type. Varying your syntax will give the prose
greater potency and “music.”]
The trolley rolled at a walking pace, horses pranced in their carriage traces, and
mules walked as if bemused. [Repetition: “walking”/”walked.”] The pedestrians
complained, and loudly, jostling their way through the traffic, gracing Amedeo and his
passengers with rapid-fire curses in Triestino, German and Slovenian, English and
Greek, a little French and Lebanese. Whether they wore business attire, military
uniforms or peasant garb, whether male or female, young or old, even children, they
griped at a bell-ringing trolley in equal numbers. [Again, feels a little over-elaborated.
Pare for greater impact.]
Thanks so much for sharing your first page, Mark. I appreciate your adept prose and
the gently wry tone you’re employing here. You create a subtle sense of tension in this
opening, just in invoking Amedeo’s frustrations in moving his trolley along the line.
I do feel, however, that you have a chance to ratchet up that tension, to give us some
greater suggestion of urgency here—a feeling that today, of all days, he absolutely
NEEDS to get his trolley through. Or, if that’s not relevant to the story, some sense of
how this day is different, how today’s routine is not like yesterday’s routine, even if all
the components seem the same.
Per my specific notes above, I’d also take a look at varying your sentence rhythm and
applying some judicious edits so that the power and focus of your language isn’t
Again, thanks so much for sharing this piece, and best of luck with your revision!
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