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First Page: A Work in Passionate Progress

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Adrian was trying to decide if he could manage to skip Cultural Geography, for the third time that week, when he saw her. She was sitting by the fountain, staring at him.

‘She’s not wearing a uniform.’ He noted vaguely, the first indication of the girl’s foreign presence at his high school.

She smiled and he couldn’t help but look away, now painfully aware that he had been gawking at her. And then, this beautiful girl was in front of him. He glanced up, confused, and froze. A lovely oval face was framed by black, mildly unkempt hair. But it was her eyes that caught him. Such a dark shade of blue, but then again, the glaring sunlight probably wasn’t the best environment for assessing colors. Her lips parted and she asked, “Would you mind walking with me?”

“No, not at all,” He whispered, then repeated the statement loudly. She smiled again and turned to glide away, pausing once to make sure he was coming. He didn’t care where they went, as long as he could be next to her. She asked him about school, his interests, and his family, all he answered without hesitation. Finally they paused on the DuSable Bridge.

“Adrian, I came here today because I know you already in a way no other human will ever know.”
This statement finally shocked him out of his haze and his sharp, analytical mind went into overdrive. He opened his mouth and she swiftly cut him off.

“You’ve never felt normal, always a heartbeat ahead of others, always palced apart for your talents. But recently the gap has grown. Before this disparity was a feeling you could brush off. But now it eclipses all other sensations and rare are the moments you don’t feel alone. Why is that, do you think?”

He had no words and jerkily cast his gaze out over the water, dredging up recent conversations with the school counselor. Conversations involving the same feelings this stranger just affirmed. Many enjoyed attributing them to the recent loss of his parents, and before that, Adrian had chalked it up to his natural reservation in all social arenas. It didn’t help that he transferred or that immediately his teachers consistenyl praised his intelligence, ostracizing him to his new classmates. Following his parents’ decease, he was relocated to live with his aunt, who had little time for the quiet, gangly blond boy, but immediately enrolled him in private school and therapy.

She had been waiting for quite some time now. He was pulled out of his misery when she spoke again.

“You’ve never felt fully happy in the human world because you are not human.”

Again, he opened his mouth to retort, but he had no words. Something within him stilled and he sighed deeply, wondering if this was what true peace felt like. His mind viciously rejected her nonsensical words, but his soul embraced them, as though it had always known but only needed to hear.

“I’m not human either.” He snorted at the mischievous tilt to her lips.

“I don’t believe you.” Saying the words aloud only heightened his internal battle. She rolled her eyes and brushed her bangs away.

“Like I haven’t heard that 76 times.” Then she moved, faster than he had ever seen anyone move. She had jumped to the farthest column on the bridge and was calmly standing inches from the edge.

“What the hell are you doing?” He wildly glanced around for other people, but for the moment, they were alone.

“You said you didn’t believe me so I thought I’d show you evidence. Only fair.”

“Evidence? No! I believe you, get back over here!”

“I don’t know, you look quite unconvinced.” She dangled a foot over the edge.

“I do believe you, I do,” he coolly replied. “Or at least, I want to.”

“Good enough for me!” she practically chirped and leaped over the gap to land next to him.

She held out her hand to him. “Come with me and I’ll make you a believer.”

A hand outstretched. The supplicating gesture typically was used in moments of guidance, aid, or compromise. It requires knowledge and compassion in the one offering. And calls for trust in the one who decides to answer the appeal. Courage in both.

Adrian reached forward with both hands, giving no signals as to his decision. He clasped the petite, pale appendage, turning it over, as though in studying its fragile form, the skin would whisper secrets and he would know its owner well. His eyes flickered to hers, restless and uncertain, but betrayed his inner yearning. Her response was a smile that rivaled the legendary beauty of Greek queens long dead.

“I know you’re afraid. I can’t promise that if you come with me, all fear will be erased from your life. But if you come with me, I promise you will never be alone.”


Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. sao
    Jul 07, 2012 @ 07:08:32

    I found this hard to follow. He’s looking at a specific girl “then suddenly this beautiful girl was right in front of him.” I thought maybe it was another girl. I didn’t get it was possibly supernatural powers.

    The sentence, “I’m not human either.” He snorted. . . made me think he did the talking, not her.

    You have a number of typos and you use ‘decease’ (SB Deaths) and reservation (SB reserve) incorrectly.

    I didn’t know where he was, from you hints, I assumed he was in a school building, but he follows the girl without noting that they are walking off campus. I still don’t know the state, although Du Sable bridge was a hint that it was the US. Frankly, it could be France.

    You seem to switch of omniscient POV when talking about his parents’ deaths. The narrator shows no emotion for the recent death and who the hell ever refers to themselves as “the quiet, gangly blond boy?” So, it couldn’t be Adrian.

    But, most importantly, you do a lot of telling and not much showing. You tell us his sharp analytical mind went into overdrive, but you don’t show us any thoughts. The girl offers some opportunities for analysis (her lack of uniform, why he doesn’t feel like he belongs) and he is in a haze, or misery, like he has no clue. Frankly, when you said he had a sharp, analytical mind, my reaction, was Huh, what?

    You tell us his mind viciously rejects her words, while his soul embraced them. You don’t show it. The reason why showing is important is it shows us his character. Does he say, “What a load of horse puckey!” and stomp off? Does he lift an eyebrow and say, “yeah, right?” All I see is a cardboard cut out, standing on the bridge.

    When he needs to make a decision, my guess is the most important in his life, to accept her offer or not. Does he think about what it might mean for him or his life? Does he ask questions? No. He thinks, “A hand outstretched. The supplicating gesture typically was used in moments of guidance, aid, or compromise. It requires knowledge and compassion in the one offering. And calls for trust in the one who decides to answer the appeal. Courage in both.” as if the entire question was academic and had nothing whatsoever to do with him. He could be writing an art history paper analyzing a painting or statue.

    You need to make Adrian come alive. He needs to feel something other than fear.

  2. Bren
    Jul 07, 2012 @ 11:02:32

    A very intriguing beginning to what looks like an interesting story. Your writing, however, needs tightening.

    First of all, the POV is very distancing. We see Adrian and the girl’s actions and we are in Adrian’s skin but never once do I get a real sense of the feelings that Adrian is experiencing. You state things like “he had no words” but there’s no sense of what is going on inside of him. Is he fearful? Sorrowful with the memories of his dead parents? Is he aching, lonely inside? I get no sense of any of this… just his surface observations of this strange girl. SHOW us what he’s feeling inside be describing his heart quickening, the cold fear trickling down his spine, his mind racing with the possibilities of who this girl could be, etc.

    As for the voice… you have 3 major things to work on.

    *The following sentences suffer from passive voice

    A lovely oval face was framed by black, mildly unkempt hair.
    He was pulled out of his misery when she spoke again.
    The supplicating gesture typically was used in moments of guidance, aid, or compromise.

    *Use of weak verbs that require profuse adverbs in order to specify what you wish to express. If you take out the weaker verb + adverb, and replace with a more powerful verb, you have no need for an adverb. I’m not saying you should ALWAYS avoid adverbs, but there’s a time and place for them and that is not every other sentence. The following sentences are examples of what I mean (this is just from the first third of the passage):

    He noted vaguely, the first indication …
    …, now painfully aware that he had been gawking at her.
    He whispered, then repeated the statement loudly.
    Finally they paused on ….
    This statement finally shocked him …
    … and she swiftly cut him off.

    *The third stylistic problem I noticed was the past progressive form of the verb. You switch around from one tense to the other quite often, but there are lots of past progressives. Here’s what I mean

    Adrian was trying to decide if he could manage to skip Cultural Geography
    She was sitting by the fountain, staring at him.
    She had been waiting for quite some time now.

    If you can tighten up your language and give the reader a sense of the POV character’s emotions (by showing us, not telling us), then this will become a much more compelling passage.

    Best of luck to you in your revisions.

  3. theo
    Jul 07, 2012 @ 12:04:00

    The typos and punctuation threw me and made it hard to read this. But putting that aside, you have other problems here, some of which SAO and Bren went through already.

    The differences in the girl’s voice bothered me for one. When she’s telling him about himself, she has an old world quality to her explanation. And yet, on the bridge, she uses a very modern term, (like I haven’t heard that 76 times) which was in sharp contrast to the idea I originally had of her.

    He “jerkily cast his gaze out over the water.” So, was he having a spasm when he was gazing? Or did he cast his gaze jerkily over the water? Either way, leave the word jerkily out. It’s clunky and impossible to fit into the sentence to make good sense.

    Also, he “wildly glanced around for other people,” which makes me picture arms and legs flailing about wildly while he glances around. He glanced around wildly would be the better phrase here.

    Get a good beta reader or into a strong critique group and learn from them. Clean up the typos, the phrasing and the showing. At this point, I have no idea if there’s a great story underneath all the problems and that’s never good on a first page.

    Good luck to you.

  4. Marianne McA
    Jul 07, 2012 @ 14:28:44

    Apart from what’s already been said, I’ve a knee-jerk reaction that this violates the International Story-telling Code. Because the story is always about the third son, the most ordinary one, who suddenly discovers they’re special. Somehow “You know how you always knew you were extraordinary? You’re right!” reads oddly.

    Not necessarily a critisism: I like a book that surprises me.

    But the reason that I mention it is that in this case, the mental picture the girl paints for me of a boy who believes he is set apart because he’s more special, more talented, more intelligent than anyone else – in day-to-day life, when I’ve met someone who believes that, they’ve turned out to be a bit disordered. So instead of engendering my admiration, that passage alienates me from the hero. (Which is probably why the hero/ine usually believes that they’re ordinary – because it’s easier for the readership to root for them.)

    It could be an intriguing opening just because it breaks the rules of The Story. But if I’m not rooting for him on this page because he’s everyman, I need to root for him for some other reason. And at the moment I wouldn’t read on, because I’ve negative associations with the belief set the girl ascribes to him.

    Hope that’s helpful. Good luck.

  5. Sweeney
    Jul 07, 2012 @ 15:32:00

    I agree ith some of the other comments here regarding grammar and POV. But I wanted to put my two cents in, your dialog between the two characters, especially at the end of scene, is very realistic. I like how they spoke to each other, I felt it brought them to life for the reader. Thanks for submitting.

  6. wendy
    Jul 07, 2012 @ 18:27:18

    I was so caught up with this that I didn’t notice the grammar and POV problems. I want to find where you take Adrian, and hope you publish.

  7. Jacques
    Jul 07, 2012 @ 21:27:52

    Lots of problems with POV, telling, voice, vocab, etc., as noticed already. But there could be a fun story underneath it all. The misunderstood adolescent who suspects there’s a spark in him–you should try to show us what Adrian’s experiences have been, and how they lead him to think he might be special. That could be worth reading.

    It looks like you’ve tried to begin with a striking scene–a mysterious stranger, a scene on a bridge and a promised revelation–and that’s not a bad idea. But then you’ve smothered the excitement by loading it with too much info. Let the scene unfold in such as a way to allow you to show us more of what led up to it.

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