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First Page: Untitled Paranormal Romance

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For as long as Cali could remember she’d had the good angel, bad devil thing going on.  Of course she didn’t actually see little cartoonesque figures sitting on her shoulders trying to persuade her to their point of view, that would just make her bat shit crazy.

No, it was more a case of the voice of reason duking it out with the voice of temptation and Cali had been ringside for some spectacular, knock down, drag out fights.

Ultimately though, being of sound mind and body despite what it sounded like, Cali decided the outcome which rarely boded well for Reason Angel.  With Cali usually rooting for Temptation Devil, coupled with the fact that the imagined angel never resorted to below the belt tactics, meant that as much of a fight as reason angel put up, she invariably lost.

The rare occasions Reason Angel did win were usually shallow victories occurring when Cali, always a sucker for an underdog, was feeling repentant or when she wasn’t in the mood for her fabricated Temptation Devils gloating.  He really liked to rub his victories in.

Honestly, not bat shit crazy.

She’d created her imaginary pugilists so long ago it was only natural they should develop personalities, 2D just wasn’t Cali’s style.  But despite the eccentric element of their existence, they were there to keep her out of trouble.

Not that she didn’t know wrong from right, she was after all the puppet master of the imaginary good angel and bad devil.  No, she knew right only too well, well at least her queens version of right.  The trouble was that she liked wrong, she liked it a lot, and after almost one hundred years of life wrong wasn’t even close to wearing thin.  Cali put it down to two things; rebellion and curiosity.  As a Bijou ruled by a queen with a very strict set of rules rebellion seemed a natural side effect but what made her need for rebellion worse were the consequences for breaking those rules were so severe she had to hide her rebellion which proved less than satisfying.

On the other side of the coin was the rampant curiosity she’d been created with, a curiosity that filled her with a perpetual need for discovery.

Need? Way too mild a word.

Compulsion was probably more apt, no obsession, definitely obsession.  Cali was obsessed with learning new information and what she couldn’t get from books she got from life, crippling rules withstanding.  Whenever it was peaked her curiosity demanded to be satisfied, leaving her with little choice but to indulge it.  It was bordering on being a disability.  Hell, instead of punishing her her fellow Bijoux should be holding charity collections for her.

Instead they were perhaps one or two more mishaps away from burning her at the stake and all because her curiosity had irrevocably screwed up her and her twins lives forever.  Correction, they didn’t care about her life but her twins? Now that was a travesty they couldn’t bare.  Cali had screwed up good and proper on that one.  The ultimate epic fail.

Where were you on that one reason angel?

But one thing she’d learnt over her long life was her curiosity couldn’t be ignored and it was that curiosity that had her stood outside a dodgy looking pub on aptly named Shoot up Hill and not because of gun crime.  She’d bet the lights in the toilets were fluorescent blue making it that much harder for those inclined to find a vein.

Hardly her kind of place but she’d sensed Sempiternus inside and her feet had frozen of their own accord.  Of all the rules the queen enforced avoiding the so called ‘ever living’ was the biggest.  Even though the Bijoux were Sempiternus themselves apparently they were better than and above all other Semps and as such were forbidden to have anything to do with them.  It was one of the few rules Cali tried to stick to as the aforementioned ruination of her and her twins lives? Yep, Semp related.

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. Tasha
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 05:07:39

    I’m going to be painfully honest: this needs a beta. The lack of proper punctuation made it borderline unreadable for me, and there are also errors in grammar and spelling.

  2. Tory Michaels
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 05:38:03

    I do agree about there being plenty of errors, but with how I read, it didn’t really pull me out of the story. I love how you started, but then, for me, it just went on too long with the rumination. I’d like to see an example of these devil/angel conversations, not just being told about them. Some sort of interaction, not just narrative.

    My two cents, but again, I liked the beginning and I’d probably read a little further. Find a beta partner though. They’re a lot of help for the grammar and spelling issues.

  3. Rhian
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 06:10:54

    The many grammar/punctuation errors aside, this opening was a whole lot of telling: telling me the precise way in which Cali thinks, and doing so in an overly detailed way. By the time I get to her physical location and what she’s doing, I’m bored, even though there are some interesting tid-bits about the setting thrown in there. I think it would be better to start with her being an active element in the scene, and gradually show us her mental processes.

    I’m also not sure what relevance her struggle over right and wrong has in this scene. Her insatiable curiosity, sure, but unless she’s actually having an argument with herself about whether or not to commit a good/bad act, then it’s too much information for the reader at this point. I find it most effective when personality is revealed through action, rather than a list of attributes with no evidence (that the reader can see) to back them up.

  4. eggs
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 07:13:04

    I agree with the way too much telling, way too many grammar/spelling issues. OTOH, the grammar stuff is fixable if you hand it over to an honest beta reader with a sturdy red pencil.

    I’m not firmly in the ‘all telling is bad’ camp. I think you tell us some good stuff here, just too much of it without any voice or personality for your MC. There’s no point in telling all about your MC’s world or problems if I don’t know or care about your MC. First things first.

    Straight off the bat, I would cut the 2nd through 6th paragraphs. They belabor the good angel/bad angel thing, and what’s the point in using a cliche like this unless you’re using it as a shortcut?

    You use a lot of Judeo-Christian language and imagery here on your first page. Angel, Devil, Hell, Cali being created instead of born, the threat of being ‘burnt at the stake’, the idea of charity collections (no longer a religious concept, but that’s where it’s roots in our culture are) . Your world, however, doesn’t appear to be human so why is Cali’s thinking based in the Judeo-Christian mythology? Shouldn’t she be thinking in terms of her home world’s culture?

    You use the expression ‘bat shit crazy’ twice on your first page. This is another world building issue. Do they have bats in Cali’s world? It’s a very specific idiom that places us in the modern English speaking world, which works against your world building. I would steer well clear of using profanity at all, unless it is in the voice of a character. Here it is part of you telling, not the character speaking. This is authorial intrusion. Effectively, you are swearing at your reader which is a bit disconcerting, especially on the first page. Same goes for ‘ultimate epic fail’, which is not swearing, but again a very specific modern English idiom that works against your world building.

    All that being said, I think you might have something good here! So suck it up, find yourself a good beta, and fix it up!

  5. Kate Sherwood
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 07:18:45

    I like the general voice, but I feel like there’s way too much of it. This was a WHOLE lot of telling, some of it repetitious. I agree with Rhian that it would be better to open with action and SHOW us the internal struggles. It doesn’t have to be action like a fight scene, just somebody doing or saying SOMETHING. Hell, even somebody THINKING something, because this isn’t the MCs thoughts, it’s the narrator giving us back story/characterization as if it were an essay. It will be hard, because some of your phrases and ideas are really good and I understand that you don’t want to cut them, but even if you just put them to the side and work them in gradually throughout the rest of the story, it would be a great improvement.

    And, yeah, there were several times when the sentence structure/punctuation issues interfered with my ability to understand what you were saying (I figured it out, but I had to reread, and I shouldn’t have to do that), so you need to get that stuff sorted out.

    Good luck with it!

  6. Lil
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 07:36:45

    I’m sorry, but the grammar mistakes the punctuation mistakes, the sentences that make no sense all distract me so much I can’t follow this. For example:

    “With Cali usually rooting for Temptation Devil, coupled with the fact that the imagined angel never resorted to below the belt tactics, meant that as much of a fight as reason angel put up, she invariably lost.”

    The main verb in this sentence is “meant,” but what on earth is the subject? I don’t mean what concept is the subject, but what word is the subject?

  7. Angela
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 08:49:22

    I’m going to agree and disagree with some of the others– you’re obviously writing in Deep POV and so those parts that others said was authorial intrusion didn’t feel that way to me– I read it as the voice of the main character and I got a sense of her personality. I do see lots of potential here for a very strong voice, but the grammatical problems really need to be fixed. Befriend the comma and the apostrophe :) This sentence took me several rereads to parse what was meant: “As a Bijou ruled by a queen with a very strict set of rules rebellion seemed a natural side effect but what made her need for rebellion worse were the consequences for breaking those rules were so severe she had to hide her rebellion which proved less than satisfying.” and the ‘whenever’ in this sentence “Whenever it was peaked her curiosity demanded to be satisfied, leaving her with little choice but to indulge it.” made no sense to me…

    I do agree that it’s a lot of telling and could be vastly improved by having her actually engaged with a debate in real-time. Show don’t tell :)

  8. hapax
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 10:23:27

    Erggh. My webfilter doesn’t like me quoting you — another reason to be careful when you swear at the reader!

    Trying again.

    You lost me at the very second paragraph. While actually *seeing* shoulder angels / devils = “crazy”, apparently *hearing their voices* your whole life = “sound mind and body”.

    Others have commented on the grammar / spelling / punctuation, but it really is important. Every time I have to stop and puzzle out your meaning, I get thrown out of the story.

    You might want to try going straight from the first paragraph to “But one thing she’d learnt over her long life was her curiosity couldn’t be ignored.” The rest of the background details could be gradually worked in.

    I do like the suggestion that others have made of using the Angel of Reason / Devil of Temptation dialog a running motif. Just don’t overdo it on the first page!

  9. Katie
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 10:56:36

    I would not worry too much about spelling and grammar errors, a copy editor would clean that up.
    What I would focus on is the telling vs showing that the other people have already pointed out. This felt like a character sketch. This is all good stuff for the author to know, but the reader doesn’t need to see it. Let me discover these things about Cali as I read.
    Good luck.

  10. Lil
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 11:22:34

    @Katie: I can’t let this pass. A copy editor will take care of all the spelling and grammar mistakes? No way. A manuscript that is full of errors will not get a first reading, no less a contract. I speak as one who has worked as an editor. Something like this would have been shipped back to the author immediately as unacceptable. Telling an aspiring author that this sort of thing is not important is really bad advice. There are some good ideas in this piece, and some things that show a lot of possibility, but please, dear author, you must master your craft.

  11. Author on Vacation
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 11:24:37

    I would not worry too much about spelling and grammar errors, a copy editor would clean that up.

    Hello. I respectfully disagree with your comment. Self-editing is a tremendous advantage for any author or aspiring author. No one cares more about the author’s words than the author (except, perhaps, the author’s readers.)

    To the Author:

    I liked the first few paragraphs of your page, but I read no farther than that because the explanation seemed to be going in a circle instead of leading somewhere relevant. Less is almost always more when you want to convey a particular condition or idea. I also found the overall tone of your work lacking emotional depth. You introduced concepts of conflict but no urgency (or any other emotion.)

    Your language is attractive and flowing. Definitely to my taste. I would be very interested in your story if I had reason to believe a little bit more was going on here beyond Cali’s fixation on her good/bad angels.

    You are a gifted writer. Please keep working on developing your craft.

  12. An Editor
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 12:06:27

    @Katie
    As others have said, you are mistaken in your belief that the author shouldn’t focus on grammar and punctuation. I’m an editor and I have witnessed, first hand, material being declined on the basis of poor grammar and punctuation. That being said, a few errors are acceptable and a story won’t be turned aside for a few. But it will for a manuscript riddled with them. It says two things – the writer didn’t care enough and there would be a lot of work to get the manuscript in shape for publication.

    Dear author – follow the suggestions above – get a beta reader, work on your grammar and punctuation and this will be a good piece. I like your voice. That’s a big part of the battle. But don’t forget the rest. Good luck!

  13. BlueRose
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 16:45:31

    Blah blah blah blah. Too many words, nothing happening and at this point in time, as I don’t *know* the character, I really don’t care about what she is thinking.

    Bored now.

  14. SAO
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 17:16:01

    I admit I was skimming by the end and assumed the what-is-actually-being-said-here sentences were my bad reading, but I finished not sure there was a story here.

    I don’t give a damn about the good angel or bad, except when she is confronted with an actual situation and an actual choice. That shows me her character. At the end of this, I don’t really know if she is giving in to the bad angel when confronted with a plate of really tasty-looking but high-fat cookies and blows her diet or if it’s about, say, blowing up the Bijoux Queen’s palace.

    A lot of the language is nice, but it’s completely divorced from plot and character.

    I was skimming looking for the start of your story by the end of this page. I might have skimmed for another page or two and if you hooked me, okay, but I doubt editors and agents read more than 3 to 5 pages and you’ve wasted 1/3 to 1/5 of your chance to hook them with no story.

  15. Katie
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 17:54:10

    I wasn’t suggesting the author not edit her work, I was saying the spelling and grammar would not be a deal breaker if it was good enough. I am only going by personal experience as an author, not an editor.

  16. Lori
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 19:15:08

    Love the voice but got lost in the telling.

    Cut and then cut some more. Show us where you’re going and we’ll go with you. The voice is too good not to follow but not as is.

  17. Dani Alexander
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 19:28:17

    I really love your voice, author, but I had to give up after paragraph 5 (and almost before that). As stated by the others, the grammar and punctuation were startlingly bad. That’s disappointing, because one line made me LOL.

    Honestly, not bat shit crazy.

    I get the feeling I would do a lot of that in your story – which is a good thing.

    The voice attracted me enough that I would have probably have overlooked the ‘telling’ (as long as it didn’t become a habit throughout the first chapter). I could not overlook the grammar and punctuation errors, however. The simple lack of a self-edit before putting this out here for others to critique is frustrating. (If you did edit this, I would seriously suggest getting the blue book of grammar or the elements of style – as well as a self-editing book.)

    It takes a courage to put this up for everyone to read. I’m glad you did. I hope you’ll work on getting a beta/editor, because I would like to see your voice out there.

  18. Tasha
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 22:11:53

    @Katie:

    I disagree with this. I think, actually, you’re slightly misstating a copy editor’s job, which isn’t just to fix grammar, spelling, and punctuation–although that’s a part of it–but also to do fact-checking, make sure the manuscript conforms to the publisher’s style guide (whether it’s AP, CMoS, APA, or an in-house guide), make sure there aren’t any consistency/continuity errors, and in many cases create detailed design sheets for the typesetter.

    Usually a copy editor has a limited amount of time with each book. If a manuscript arrives in bad condition, that editor has a choice to make: either try to make sense of each individual sentence and adjust grammar/spelling/punctuation accordingly, and not really be able to focus on the story level (meaning consistency-continuity), skip the fact-checking, gloss over the style, and do the design sheet; or fix the most glaring of the word- and sentence-level errors, and do a reasonable job with maintaining consistency/continuity, fact-checking, style, and design. There’s only so much you can do in a fixed amount of time, and things will be missed if a manuscript comes in needing a lot of work at the basic word and sentence level.

    Also, not all publishers have dedicated copy editors anymore. Sad but true.

  19. Anonymous
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 23:57:52

    The voice was grating, like some teenager at the mall. That, along with all the spelling and grammar errors, made it impossible to finish. You have all your work still ahead of you, I’m afraid.

  20. Karen
    Jan 01, 2012 @ 03:55:33

    This story started off okay, but the ruminations just killed it for me.

  21. Katie
    Jan 01, 2012 @ 04:02:06

    @Tasha I see your point, perhaps I was overstating things, which is a shame because my real point was lost. I am a dyslexic author and I have managed to get by. I wanted this author to know if she had similiar issues she could overcome them.

  22. Maura
    Jan 01, 2012 @ 10:11:16

    I’m afraid I didn’t finish this excerpt. After the first few paragraphs of angel-devil, angel-devil, angel-devil, I just tuned out and skimmed a bit more, then stopped. This voice clearly isn’t for me.

    With regard to the spelling and grammar errors, I am going to agree with those saying these need to be fixed before you even think about submitting this to agents or publishers. There are way too many for a single page here, and I can only guess this is multiplied throughout your manuscript.

  23. Gwynnyd
    Jan 01, 2012 @ 12:13:36

    Curious about something, I copied the text and ran it through MS Word. Ah ha! I was right. Word found no grammar or punctuation errors, except for a few cases of “incomplete sentences” that can certainly be said to be a stylistic choice.

    Still, it IS riddled with problems that annoyed me, too, while I was reading it. I can see the author staring at the comments here, wondering where the errors are, and wailing, “Word didn’t find any problems. How come you think it’s so bad?”

    Do not trust electronic grammar checks. You still have to know the basics. Get a beta-reader who knows grammar better than you do.

  24. eggs
    Jan 02, 2012 @ 00:41:44

    @Gwynnyd: it’s funny you did this because I have ‘highlight grammar’ turned off on my Word for just this reason. It’s always either insisting a perfectly grammatical sentence is incorrect, or blithely ignoring a dog’s breakfast of words simply because there’s a verb and a noun in the right order. What a useless product.

  25. Jane Lovering
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 08:01:27

    Liked the concept, but I agree with what people have said – maybe it smacks a little of ‘trying too hard’? Oh, and I spent far too long trying to work out whether it should be ‘her twins’.. ie, she had twin babies, or ‘her twin’s’ ie, she had a twin brother/sister. Things like this make me feel that the piece was written in a hurry, and was truly a ‘first draft’, where the author is writing their way into a character, rather than actually being a potential submission piece.

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