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First Page: Unpublished Paranormal Romance

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***

I didn't notice the woman until I was right on top of her.

I bit back a startled yip. Stomach fluttering nervously, I let out a small chuckle. "Sorry about that."

The woman mumbled something but I didn't understand a damn word. All I could see was the wiry mass of silver curls atop her head. The sharp curve of her back forced her to stoop, making it hard to hear. Laying a steadying hand on her frail shoulder, I leaned over and listened.

A low growl sounded over her soft mutterings. I froze as my heart lurched into my throat.

No. Not here. Not now.

Straightening slowly, I peered over the woman's shoulder. And heard another growled warning. I recoiled as the creature stepped out of her shadow.

It glared at me through narrowed yellow eyes. I squeezed my eyes shut and counted to three. Swallowing the lump lodged in my windpipe, I opened them only to find the damn thing didn't disappear like a good little hallucination.

Ah shit.

To say that it was hideous was like calling a light socket electric. Skin the same yellow as its snake eyes covered its misshapen form. Coarse dark hair sprouted from open blisters, crusting with flaky scabs and dried blood.

The nasty critter stilled, his reptilian gaze constricting. His long lizard-like snout twitched as it sniffed the air. A menacing snarl escaped his lips and he lurched forward.

I backpedaled but rather than attack me, it crowded the old woman, his sharp claws scraping the pavement as the thing hunched over her slight figure. Lips peeling back, it bared its teeth with a hiss.

An ice cold tingle ran up my spine and I knew I didn't have long.

The irony wasn't lost on me; didn't my neurologist just assure me I had a healthy, happy brain? If my gray matter was so damn happy why the hell am I seeing this shit?

And this wild thing was only one of many. They didn't all look like the walking phlegm here but they were all mighty ugly.

The sizzle turned to searing as pain shot up my spine in a frantic race to my brain. I doubled over, clutching my head and screamed as blinding heat exploded behind my eyes. I had a desperate urge to claw the offending balls out of my skull.

I could only squeeze them tighter as the pressure built.

Naturally, nausea wanted in on the fun. No party was complete without a good vomit. I stubbornly clamped my jaws shut, swallowing the bile that threatened to choke me, only to gag again.
My name is Joey Benton and I think I'm losing my mind. I'm for damn sure about to lose my breakfast.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

25 Comments

  1. Ardee-ann
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 04:16:14

    The last line grabbed me and pulled me in. The rest of the page revolted me but I was riveted enough to keep reading. Once I got to the last few syllables however, I was ready for more. I want to know what is happening here.

  2. sao
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 06:19:57

    I had trouble understanding what was happening. A lot of it was not understanding the geography of old woman (how did she react to the thing?), where this was taking place or what the thing was. A hallucination? Is it going to attack the old lady?

    The last line was great, but I’m left seriously confused.

  3. | MOREBEAUTYES.INFO
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 06:31:19

    […] First Page: Unpublished Paranormal Romance […]

  4. Carolyn
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 07:17:00

    I think the last two lines should be the opening lines. :)

    I too found it a little confusing, but toward the end I was settling in and I’d be willing to read on a bit to see if this scene was explained.

  5. Flo
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 07:35:12

    I was very drawn to this and wanted more. I think the author shows great talent, and the use of words make it an interesting read. I would read more of this.

  6. Juliana Stone
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 07:58:17

    I think the author has a great voice. I agree that the beginning is confusing. I’d start with that last line, make it the first and go for it!

  7. Ivy
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 08:12:52

    I agree w/ the last 2 lines being the 1st…I liked it & wanted more.

  8. Keith Taylor
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 09:20:00

    Damn! I don’t care for paranormal stuff, but this writing is so good! And your sense of humor, could only come from Indiana.

  9. Keith Taylor
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 09:21:45

    I have never been a fan of paranormal, and, at 80, am too old to change. But I can recognize good writing. Your dry, Hoosier sense of humor carries the day.

  10. DS
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 10:20:37

    I don’t have anything to say but that I would keep going.

    Ok, I do have a question about “the sharp curve of her back”. Are you talking about a dowager’s hump (dorsal kyphosis) or something else?

  11. Polly
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 10:26:25

    A few things:

    I also am a little confused about exactly what is going on.

    The line, “To say that it was hideous was like calling a light socket electric,” really pulled me out of the story. My first thought was, what do you mean, calling a light socket electric? Then I thought, I call it an electric socket, not a light socket. Anyway, at the next line, I figured out what you were saying, but it was too much time to spend on an analogy. Maybe I’m the only slow one, but it didn’t work for me. I’d go with something more obvious, like calling water wet. Something that not even I can sit around and have to parse.

    I’d cut a few adjectives. Stomach fluttering implies nervously, Bit back a yip implies startled.

    I’d probably keep reading if I had a better idea of what was going on. I’m a little confused at the moment, but I liked it enough that I’d read a bit more.

    p.s. Is Joey a guy or a girl? Because I’d kind of love to see a paranormal romance told from a first person guy perspective.

  12. foolserrant
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 10:51:16

    This is really good! It could use some cleaning up, but I think you’ve got a good thing going here, and I would probably read on.

  13. Naomi
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 11:13:43

    The light socket line pulled me out of the narrative too. The lsat two lines are great, but the action leading up to them is confusing, and I struggled to picture where the characters involved were in relation to each other.

    I’m intrigued by the concept though, so with a little tidying up, I’d keep reading.

  14. theo
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 11:14:00

    I need to preface this by saying I’m not a first person reader. The sheer amount of ‘I did/saw/walked to/heard/wanted/dropped dead totally turns me off. There are very few who can pull it off and do it well.

    That said, there are a few things that bothered me about this.

    “I bit back a startled yip” made me think of a dog. A gasp, grunt, whoa…those things are more “people like,” but the yip threw me.

    The sharp curve of the old woman’s back (I’m guessing she’s old from the other descriptives) made it hard to hear what? Her voice? Her words? Made it hard for her to hear?

    And from the paragraph that starts with “A low growl” to the end of the “I backpedaled” paragraph read very choppy to me. I don’t think if I were the one seeing this thing, I’d be slowly dividing my descriptions and thoughts into neat little sections. Your protagonist freezes, straightens, peers, hears, squeezes, opens and backpedals, all in a few sentences. It made the section stutter where I wanted to see it flow.

    Please bear in mind, this is all MHO. Your voice is there, but needs some editing to make this less like a laundry list and more like a story.

    Kudos for the submission.

  15. Lori
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 11:21:49

    I’ll disagree and say those last two lines belonged exactly where they were… just at the point you might lose a reader those pulled the reader back in.

    I like paranormal, I like humor and I like first person. I like your voice also. I would like to know if the character is male or female and I’d also like a little more clarity in what’s going on.

    Was the woman being fed on? That gave me the greatest amount of confusion.

    I would read more happily.

  16. Elyssa Papa
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 12:02:25

    I also don’t think you should move those two lines since you’ve been building up to that reveal. Your piece has a nice punch and your voice is strong; however, I do think that if you tightened the beginning a little more and got rid of the awkward/confusing sentences, that your piece would be a lot stronger. So that when we get to those last two lines, you’d have us in your hand, wanting more.

  17. Annette
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 12:13:09

    There are some things I like about this and some I’m meh about.

    I would like to know if the MC is a woman or a man. My impression was that the voice sounded like a female writer trying to write a man’s voice and only partially succeeding. I’m thinking it’s supposed to be a guy because of word choices like chuckle, windpipe, and the damns and shits. But then things like stomach fluttering nervously sounds more feminine. So I’m confused, and I’d like not to be confused from the very beginning.

    The description of the creature was well-done and vivid, but the light socket analogy was a teensy bit clumsy.

    I also think you could pare back the number of sentences starting with “I”. That does get tiring in a first person piece. Also – watch for cliches and think of unique ways to say things.

    The piece gained some momentum towards the end.

    All in all I can see your writing can be fun and vivid, but I think this intro needs a little more grounding for the reader and a bit of work on the consistency of the POV character’s voice.

    Good luck with this. Sounds like it will be a fun story.

  18. Anion
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 12:58:47

    Sorry, this didn’t work for me at all. All those participial phrases (“Stomach fluttering nervously, I let out a small chuckle,”) (“laying a steadying hand on her shoulder, I leaned forward to listen,”) sound amateurish and wonky to me. There are better ways to indicate simultaneous action. Plus, why is he touching the old woman? Why doesn’t she repeat what she said before? Why, if he’s seeing some hideous beast going after the old woman, is he not stepping between her and it?

    “Straightening slowly, I peered over the woman’s shoulder.” If you had to lean over to hear her, you should still already be able to see over her shoulder, unless you’ve leaned over so far that your face is right in hers, in which case you are really creepy yourself. Also, there’s that sing-songy sentence structure again.

    Honestly, just “I let out a small chuckle,” sounds weird, especially after “I bit back a small yip.”

    Is the creature an “it” or a “he”? You use both. It’s confusing.

    How do open blisters grow hair?

    Doesn’t the MC even care about the old woman, standing there with this hideous beast looming over her? The old woman feels like a contrivance; just a reason for the MC to stop while he’s walking. Why would the MC even stop to listen to what she’s saying anyway? When I bump into someone I say sorry and move on.

    What “sizzle” turns to searing? I don’t see any other mention of a sizzle. I see a tingle. Either way that sentence doesn’t work.

    I think this is a great idea that has potential but the writing needs work. It doesn’t feel confident or stylish, it feels forced and is full of constructions and repetitions (eyes, eyes, eyes) that tell me the writer is trying too hard to create excitement/urgency with their words instead of with the action itself.

    JMO.

  19. Author
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 13:01:04

    Thank you so much for your comments! Unfortunately I had to edit some things to keep the line count down so I can see why it’s a little confusing.
    Joey is a woman. She’s seeing things that others do not and fears she is going crazy. Obviously that is not the case but she doesn’t realize that until the next chapter where she also meets the sexy hero! hubba hubba hubba. :)
    The old woman does not see the creature that is ‘feeding’ from her. As the demon grows stronger, she grows weaker.
    I’ll certainly be taking out the electric socket reference!
    Thank you again for taking the time to post suggestions! I truly appreciate all the feedback!

  20. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 13:04:09

    Interesting! I liked the light socket bit. This is smart and vivid. I agree that the voice doesn’t sound masculine. I don’t know many men who yip or have stomach flutters. But that’s okay, I guess; I don’t need to read about uber-alphas all the time. Nice job.

  21. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 13:07:18

    Hmmm. I can’t edit my comment. I see that Joey is a female, so that explains it.

    On the bright side, the new site is finally “remembering” me. For weeks I’ve had to retype my info for every comment.

    Good luck, author.

  22. evie byrne
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 13:23:38

    Like the others have said, you have a good voice and intriguing premise, and that’s 90% of the game. Others have addressed the language issues. However, I was confused as I read this, and that, to me, is the biggest source of concern. At the risk of sounding harsh, this is what I’d tell you if I were your critique partner:

    1. Where are they? As a reader, I’m free floating, and that makes me edgy. Give me a clue as to place, just a hint, a mention of a subway platform, a park bench, a supermarket basket, a cave mouth, would be enough–I have no idea where this is.

    2. The old woman is an object, not a person. She’s faceless, and other than mumbling, passive. I’m not sure if she’s an illusion, or some aspect of the creatures, but if she’s a real person, one that I’m supposed to be concerned about on the next page, I’d give her more substance. For instance, I’d have her turn around and look at Joey, for instance, rather than remaining an anonymous back.

    3. The creature comes out of the old woman’s shadow. You don’t have to explain everything here, you shouldn’t, in fact, but I had a hard time even imagining what that looks like. Shadows are always cast on something. Also, our shadows lie close to us, unless the lighting is extreme. Is the monster sort of sidestepping from her body into existence? Is it rising from the ground, out of a long shadow, as if rising out of a puddle? Or is the shadow against a wall?

    4. The monster is so big it can hunch over the woman, and still touch its claws to the ground. That’s gi-normous! Like, grizzly bear sized. How did something that big rise out of her shadow and not already crowd her? In other words, it read to me like it was on top of her all along, so the description “it crowded her” made me pause. Perhaps a different verb is in order? Is it looming, engulfing, embracing, sniffling, nuzzling…?

    5. Does the old woman have any reaction to this, does she see it at all? Or does she have any reaction to Joey’s reaction? Again, just a teeny clue would help. It would also help define Joey’s reaction.

    Overall, I just want to see the visual focus sharpened in this scene. So it’s not a matter of explaining anything, just describe the other visual details in the scene with the same acuity as you did the monster.

    I hope this level of nitpicking doesn’t disturb you. Please take it with a huge grain of salt–and my best wishes. Good luck with it!

  23. Terri
    Mar 06, 2010 @ 13:24:20

    I agree with many of the comments above. The last two lines are the best by far. And they should remain where they are. They do not strike me as an enormous reveal, however, since we already know that Joey has been to a neuro about her hallucinations. That said, I think I would have liked a little bit more about the hallucinations a little higher. Otherwise, her (assuming Joey is female?) reactions seem to miss the mark. For example, I don’t think someone would close their eyes and count to three when confronted with a monster, unless that person has had trouble with hallucinations before and suspects the creature is not really there. For that reason, I think “Not here, not now” cannot really stand alone, although it’s a great line. Maybe: “Not another hallucination. Not here, not now.” (BTW, we don’t really know why this is a particularly bad time for Joey to be having a hallucination, as “not here, not now” seems to imply. All we know is that she was strolling along tripping over old ladies.)
    In general, Joey’s reactions sometimes seem off to me. S/he nearly knocks down the old lady and yips, flutters and chuckles? I think that is the writer intruding and I think there are more realistic things Joey might do.
    Your writing is vivid and the description of the creature is especially fine. The first person did not bother me, but the “ing” constructions in the beginning did. I began to anticipate them. Too much fluttering, laying, steadying, straightening, swallowing for my taste.
    Why didn’t she notice the old woman, btw? Lost in thought over her visit to the shrink?

  24. illukar
    Mar 07, 2010 @ 21:02:46

    On the plus side, I found myself drawn to read on.

    On the negative side, I think you haven’t avoided one of the major pitfalls of writing in first person: ie. so much “I”. The first sentence does catch the attention, but it’s far from the most interesting thing you could be saying there, and the semi-frequent repetition of “I” and the relative brevity of your sentences starts to turn your paragraphs almost into a dot-point list. I did this. I did that. Of course, that is really what paragraphs are, but mixing up the structure a little more can help and running a few of the sentences together will definitely take away some of the ‘dot-point’ aspects.

    >I didn't notice the woman until I was right on top of her.

    >I bit back a startled yip. Stomach fluttering nervously, I let out a small chuckle. “Sorry about that.”

    I didn’t notice the woman until I was right on top of her. Biting back a startled yip, I ignored the nervous flutter of my stomach and said: “Sorry about that.”

    >The woman mumbled something but I didn't
    >understand a damn word. All I could see
    >was the wiry mass of silver curls atop
    >her head. The sharp curve of her back
    >forced her to stoop, making it hard to
    >hear. Laying a steadying hand on her
    >frail shoulder, I leaned over and listened.

    The sharp curve of the woman’s back tilted her into a permanent study of the ground, so when she mumbled something I couldn’t make out a damn thing, just caught the edge of distress and apology. I’d scared her a hell of a lot more than she’d startled me.

    Leaning forward, I laid a hand on her shoulder, frail but warm through her thin dress. “Can I help you? Do you need something?”

    The other major point to stand out for me is that I have no sense of place or purpose. Where are these people? Are they in a wood? A street? Where was your protagonist going, and why? Although the scene is obviously focused primarily on your mumbling (old?) woman and your nauseating monster, at least one sentence given over to place early on will ground this opening much more clearly.

    >My name is Joey Benton and I think I'm
    >losing my mind. I'm for damn sure about
    >to lose my breakfast.

    This would work better as an opener, not a closer.

    Good luck with your writing. :)

  25. sao
    Mar 08, 2010 @ 03:30:13

    I’m not at all a fan of having to wait until chapter 2 to meet the hero in a romance. Unless the romance is very much a subplot, that says you’re starting the plot in chapter 2.

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