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First Page: Unnamed Paranormal

Welcome to First Page Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously.

In exciting news, the author of The Duke of Snow and Apples reported that she participated in a blog pitch for Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks who asked for a full of the manuscript.   Werksman told the author that Werksman remembered the author’s first page from First Page Saturday here at Dear Author.   Congrats!

***

Darkness. Pain. Disgusting stench. Clicking. Moans. Unbearable heat. Surely she’d arrived in hell, yet she could not give up. Too much rode on her survival.

She wanted to move, but her limbs remained unresponsive. Even thinking was a struggle with the drugs in her system. The constant beckoning of unconsciousness ate at her and battered her already frayed nerves.

She heard two muffled voices; before there had only been one. The creak of the door to her left announced the arrival of her visitors. They did not speak and her terror spiked. Silence was always bad.

Her fear was confirmed when one of the visitors roughly reached into her mind. She yelped and feebly tried to block the intrusion. She failed and pain, sharp and hurtful, rose up. She almost vomited right then as her body spasmed.

“Why do you continue to resist, Girl? Give in. Give me what my master desires.”

“No,” she moaned. The hateful stabs of her captor’s cruel mental touch brought tears of hopelessness.

“Stop playing around, Nolen. Master Helsmith will be here soon and we still have nothing,” complained the second person in the room.

“I know that, Calen. She’s just being stubborn. Isn’t that right, Serafyna?”

The slap, when it came, was not unexpected. She had lost count of the number of times Nolen had hit her. She winced and remained silent. Her tears had stopped. Crying only encouraged Nolen to greater acts of torture.

“Nolen,” Calen whined. “We need that information.”

“Shut up, Calen! I will loosen her tongue and enjoy every moment of it.”

Serafyna tensed at Nolen’s words. Her heart raced and filled with dread. She wanted out of this hell, but no savior was coming for her. No one knew she was even here.

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

16 Comments

  1. Lynne Connolly
    Sep 04, 2010 @ 08:51:57

    This is an interesting, although slightly cliched start (but then, I’m not one to speak. I did one of these in “Red Inferno.” But it needs some work before it’s ready to go.
    You start with short, staccato words with no context. They don’t really do anything except set the scene. That, I think, is because the reader isn’t deep enough in the character’s head.
    Take out the tags, especially the descriptive ones and replace them with actions and body language. That will help to draw the reader into the scene.

    Most importantly, replace the “showing” with “telling.” Take the second para.

    “She wanted to move, but her limbs remained unresponsive. Even thinking was a struggle with the drugs in her system.”

    You’re telling us. Instead, make her try to move, make her try to think and show the result.
    “When she stirred, pain shot up her legs to settle in the core of constant pain that burned in her gut. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Fighting through the mush her brain had turned into proved frustrating, and familiar anger did nothing to help. Familiar because it had happened every time they woke her. Knowing they’d drugged her didn’t help. Nothing did.”

    I know that’s a bit rough and still not deep enough, but it’s off the top of my head. Put yourself in her place and let the reader know her actions, what she’s feeling.
    This should convey agony and pain, and it should let the reader in to a deep understanding of the character’s situation. It doesn’t. It skims the surface and leaves the reader cold and not particularly interested in what happens next. But it’s a simple fix and then you’re good to go.

  2. Debra
    Sep 04, 2010 @ 11:15:18

    I want to read more.

  3. Courtney Milan
    Sep 04, 2010 @ 11:42:28

    I like it.

    I want to read more.

    I really liked the choppy feel to it. If she’s been drugged, she’s not going to be thinking in long sentences. She’s not going to be stringing out long paragraphs. I think you did a great job capturing that really raw, painful feeling of awakening and not feeling in control.

    Only nitpick: “Her tears had stopped.” I think this is a slightly missed opportunity to show us her backbone. She was drugged, surprised, and we got a hint of tear. It’s not that her tears stop–it’s that she stops them. So give her control of that tiny little area of her life. Let us see that–see that even though she’s lying there passively, she is taking action to control the situation any way she can–and I think we’ll empathize with her even more.

  4. DianaW
    Sep 04, 2010 @ 12:18:27

    I like it, for the most part. But I have to admit, I’d probably put it down when I reached the name Serafyna. The spelling is simply too precious for me, and I’d be too afraid that the rest of the worldbuilding would be similarly precious.

  5. Cathy in AK
    Sep 04, 2010 @ 12:48:46

    Minor nit: Calen and Nolen don’t need to call each other by name when speaking. If this is for the benefit of the reader to identify the characters, have your protagonist recognize them if she’s met them before. It’s dark, and continues to be so when the door opens, so I’m assuming she is blindfolded? If that’s the case, she can know who is who by their voices or footfalls or BO. If she doesn’t know who it is, it’s okay to keep *us* in the dark as well : )

    Otherwise, an intriguing opening. I’d like to know what they want from her and why it’s so important. Thanks for sharing and good luck!

  6. Jo
    Sep 04, 2010 @ 14:39:06

    “I will loosen her tongue and enjoy every moment of it.” That made me smile, but not in good way. I went to straight to Snidely Whiplash standing over the hapless Pauline as he twirled his mustache. There has to be a better way for Nolen to get that idea across without sounding campy or stilted. That sentence – and others – made me wonder about the time setting for the story. Just curious. I like the idea of the mental torture (well, not really, but as a story idea), and I wasn’t sure if the slap she received was physical or psychic. I thought it would be cooler if it were psychic.

  7. Karen
    Sep 04, 2010 @ 16:53:58

    Yeah, I agree about the “Serafyna” bit. You might think you’re being all nice and poetic giving her such an “uppercrust” name, but to us its a chore and an eyesore to come upon such complicated name! Whats wrong with just “Serafina”?

  8. MaryK
    Sep 04, 2010 @ 17:46:45

    I like the short sentences and short paragraphs. It gives immediacy and impact, IMO.

    I agree with Cathy in AK about the names, but only noticed after she pointed it out.

    I definitely would’ve turned the page if only there was one. :)

  9. Julia Sullivan
    Sep 04, 2010 @ 22:23:34

    This is well done, though I agree with the points about names (both usage and spelling). Good luck!

  10. Kristi
    Sep 05, 2010 @ 09:11:51

    I also agree about the names. I thought the story was rolling right along in a dark and tortured way, then I got to the names, and they seemed too “worked” to me to be actual names.

    I know writers take great pleasure in getting creative with names, but more often than not, I really wish people would keep it simple and true to whatever time period they’re shooting for.

  11. evie byrne
    Sep 05, 2010 @ 13:04:52

    One thing that confused me was that in the first line you say “surely she’d arrived in hell” so I assumed she was waking up for the first time in a strange place. But then it turned out that she’d been there for a while, long enough to know her captors. Perhaps you might want to start with something more along the lines of “another day in hell?”

    And this is super nitpicky, but I inferred that she’s blindfolded or in the dark by the lack of visual description. It might help set the scene a little faster if you mentioned the itchy hood over her head or the oppressive darkness of the the room or whatever, to confirm her situation.

    I’d also second Cathy’s comment about the captor’s names being overused. Folks rarely call one another by name in conversation–and doing so in writing interrupts the flow of the dialog. Cathy’s suggestions are spot on so I won’t repeat them.

    Good job overall. I think a little polishing will go a long way on this page. Best of luck!

  12. MichelleKCanada
    Sep 05, 2010 @ 18:32:44

    I like it alot! I get the sense she is a tough cookie and I like a strong woman. Can I add a pet peeve? Please change her name. I really super hate it when authors do this. Can you just call her Serrafina if that is her name and lose the funky spelling????

    I am on the fence about the use of Nolen and Calen’s name in the story at this time. I get what some of the other reviewers are saying but I like knowing who is talking and who’s personality belongs to who. I am 100% a reader and not an author so my feedback is from a reader POV….I don’t like it when the author doesn’t tell the reader who is talking and I’m too busy trying to piece together the characters and then I loose the story. I like the organized approach.

    I’d like to give an example of what I love other authors have done to combat this. Change the wording around so that Serrafina is hearing them talk and she gives them a name. Like “Hairy Guy” or “Big Lips” or “Pointy Horn”. It helps with description as well as not introducing their names to early.

    Also I wanted to add I like the beginning with short choppy words and periods. I get the sense she is drugged and confused. If I was drugged, confused and in pain, I wouldn’t be thinking in full sentences or thoughts. So I am all for keeping it the way it reads. Well done. I am normally critical of these Saturday feedback posts and I really like yours.

  13. job
    Sep 06, 2010 @ 12:18:16

    I like it very much for the atmosphere it creates. I would read onward.
    .

    I wish I had the feeling the prose was under better control.
    .

    The constant beckoning of unconsciousness ate at her and battered her already frayed nerves.
    .

    Beckoning is a summons with a nod or gesture. In this metaphor, the ‘beckoning’ eats and batters.
    .

    “No,” she moaned. The hateful stabs of her captor's cruel mental touch brought tears of hopelessness.

    “No. God. No.” The mental stab burned like a hot poker. Tears squeezed uncontrollably through her closed eyelids.
    .

    Show the moaning instead of saying it was a moan. Don’t tell us hateful and cruel. Show us it hurts and we will figure out it is cruel. Don’t tell us it’s hopeless. Show the fight for control.
    .

    These are small points, truly. But I’d like to see the writer who can create such good atmospherics and drama also be in charge of the technicals of sentence-to-sentence prose.
    .

    I hate to say anything about names, because that’s fairly trivial. Easy to change.
    .

    But these names don’t work for me. Not Serafyna, (I am unable to get the notion out of my head that she dots her ‘i’s with little hearts.) Not Master Helsmith. Not Nolen. Even when he was applying the thumbscrews I’d be thinking, ‘Nolen? Nolen was the boy who sat behind me in Math class who bit his fingernails.’

  14. job
    Sep 06, 2010 @ 12:30:53

    I like it very much for the atmosphere it creates. I would read onward.
    I just wish I had the feeling the prose was under better control.

    What I mean:

    The constant beckoning of unconsciousness ate at her and battered her already frayed nerves.

    Beckoning is a summons with a nod or gesture. In this metaphor, the ‘beckoning’ eats and batters.

    “No,” she moaned. The hateful stabs of her captor's cruel mental touch brought tears of hopelessness.

    “No. God. No.” The mental stab burned like a hot poker. Tears squeezed uncontrollably through her closed eyelids.

    Show the moaning instead of saying it was a moan. Don’t tell us hateful and cruel. Show us it hurts and we will figure out it is cruel. Don’t tell us it’s hopeless. Show the fight for control.

    These are examples of the small hitches where the prose could so readily be improved. Very small points, truly. I’d like to see the writer who can create such good atmospherics and drama also be in charge of the sentence-to-sentence technicals.

    I hate to say anything about names, because that’s fairly trivial. Easy to change.

    But these names don’t work for me. Not Serafyna, (I am unable to get the notion out of my head that she dots her ‘i’s with little hearts.) Not it’s-very-clear-he’s-evil Master Helsmith. Not Nolen. Even when he was applying the thumbscrews I’d be thinking, ‘Nolen? Nolen was the boy who sat behind me in Math class and bit his fingernails.’

  15. job
    Sep 06, 2010 @ 12:31:52

    I like it very much for the atmosphere it creates. I would read onward.
    I just wish I had the feeling the prose was under better control.

    What I mean:

    The constant beckoning of unconsciousness ate at her and battered her already frayed nerves.

    Beckoning is a summons with a nod or gesture. In this metaphor, the ‘beckoning’ eats and batters.

    “No,” she moaned. The hateful stabs of her captor's cruel mental touch brought tears of hopelessness.

    “No. God. No.” The mental stab burned like a hot poker. Tears squeezed uncontrollably through her closed eyelids.

    Show the moaning instead of saying it was a moan. Don’t tell us hateful and cruel. Show us it hurts and we will figure out it is cruel. Don’t tell us it’s hopeless. Show the fight for control.

    These are examples of small hitches where the prose could so readily be improved. Very small points, truly. I’d like to see the writer who can create such good atmospherics and drama also be in charge of the sentence-to-sentence technicals.

    I hate to say anything about names, because that’s fairly trivial. Easy to change.

    But these names don’t work for me. Not Serafyna, (I am unable to get the notion out of my head that she dots her ‘i’s with little hearts.) Not it’s-very-clear-he’s-evil Master Helsmith. Not Nolen. Even when he was applying the thumbscrews I’d be thinking, ‘Nolen? Nolen was the boy who sat behind me in Math class and bit his fingernails.’

  16. Daz
    Sep 08, 2010 @ 03:51:13

    Great news about “The Duke of Snow and Apple”. I hope it goes well for her.

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