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First Page: Awakening (A Dangerous Man #1)

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Chapter One

I like to look at the framed picture of the young girl that hangs in my room. She is smiling, and her dark blonde hair is ruffled. She looks happy. I would do anything to get to know her, to see that smile and hear her laugh, but I can’t. She’s dead. She died giving birth to me.

The door opens, and Aunt Josephine walks in. I don’t have a lock, and she never knocks. It’s her house after all, and I am only twelve. She doesn’t look mad, but I know she is, she always is. It’s never anything I’ve done or haven’t done, although she always makes it seem as if it’s my fault. I know now that I can never make her happy with me. She hates me. She hates that she has to take care of me until I’ grow up.

I am glad that I’m going to boarding school this year, even though Aunt Josephine says that the nuns will ‘discipline my mother’s faults away’. The nuns may be bad, but they can’t be as bad as Aunt Josephine. Nobody can.

She comes towards me. She is tall and thin, and her skin always looks shiny. I look away from the picture, but not quickly enough. Her face is a tight mask of disapproval as she studies it.

“Why do I even bother?” She snaps at last. “Anybody can see that you’re going to end up exactly like her, pregnant with God knows who’s child.” Her black eyes flash, and I can’t stop myself from flinching. “Just don’t think I’ll be wasting another eighteen years of my life looking after your bastard.”

“Sophie? Are you alright?”

I look up from the spot on the wall where I’ve been staring while my thoughts wander, and give Stacey Carver a smile. I have perfected the smile that says I’m fine, even though most of the time, I feel far from it.

“I’m fine.” I tell her, turning my attention back to cleaning a shelf, which is what I should have been doing in the first place. “I was just thinking.”

“You’ve been doing that a lot.” Her voice is so full of concern that immediately I start to feel guilty. She is my boss at the gift shop where I work as an assistant, and she worries about me, more than she should. I wish she wouldn’t, she has enough things to worry about without adding me to the list.

She has already done too much for me. When my Aunt Josephine died very suddenly, a little more than four months ago, and I found that I had little money, no home, and absolutely no plans, she literally became my guardian angel. While her husband, my aunt’s lawyer, took care of discharging the will and settling the estate, which Aunt Josephine bequeathed almost entirely to the local library, Stacey helped me find a small apartment in town, and gave me a job working as an assistant in her gift shop.

“Really, I’m fine.” I smile again for good measure. She nods and turns towards the front of the shop. She is a pretty woman, small, brown-haired, and always nicely dressed.

I can’t see her face anymore, but I can tell that she is frowning. She is worried because the gift shop cannot afford to keep me much longer. Business is worse than usual, but she doesn’t know how to tell me. For some reason, she feels responsible for me, maybe because she was friends with my mother all those years ago, but it’s time for me to be responsible for myself.

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

11 Comments

  1. Kate Sherwood
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 06:44:02

    This is all back story. I don’t care about the character yet, so I don’t yet care about the back story.

    Where does the character’s life change? She’s working in a gift shop, about to lose her job… but she’s been in that situation for some time, right? So spending your precious first page telling us about something that’s been going on for a while, AND about something that happened in the distant past isn’t that compelling. Start where the story starts.

    You’ve also got some grammar issues. Look for comma splices, capitalization after dialogue, who’s vs whose, and unclear antecedents.

    You also need to spend some time reading your words and ensuring they’re as clear as possible. Your very first sentence is potentially ambiguous… Is there a picture-of-a-girl hanging in her room, or a picture of a girl-hanging-in-her-room? I mean, we’re pretty sure which it is if we think about it for half a second, but that half a second catches our brains and distracts us from your story. Similar issue with “the spot on the wall where I’ve been staring”. Less obvious with ” turning my attention back to cleaning a shelf, which is what I should have been doing in the first place” – she should have been cleaning in the first place, or she should have been turning her attention back in the first place?

    You also seem to have a psychic MC, with lines like “I can’t see her face anymore, but I can tell that she is frowning. She is worried because the gift shop cannot afford to keep me much longer.” I know it’s tricky when you’re working in first person POV, but one solution to this is to give us much less back story. Your MC doesn’t HAVE to be psychic, because she doesn’t HAVE to tell us all this. We can figure it out for ourselves as the story progresses, your character can reveal it through dialogue as it becomes important, etc.

    Good luck with this!

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  2. Carol McKenzie
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 08:10:04

    I don’t know what this is, or what it’s intended to be. It is a huge information dump about someone who, after all I’ve read, I only know as Sophie, who had a sad childhood with a mean aunt and is now a precarious…young adulthood?

    Your story starts somewhere else and I don’t think it’s even on this page. It probably starts the day the gift shop owner tells her she’s no longer needed. All of this can be woven into the story in pieces, and some of it may not even be necessary.

    And I’ll echo Kate’s advice on the grammar and other issues.

    Thanks for sharing. It’s hard putting your work out there, but it’s how we all get better. Good luck!

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  3. QC
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 08:41:23

    I agree that there are some grammar issues, but I like the feel of this and I would read on. I do get a sense of character and I want to know more. That said, the opening setup is cliche and I’m already wondering if there’s a billionaire in this heroine’s future. If so, then I would stop reading, because I feel I already know the story. However, if something happens to stray from the waif-cast-out-in-the-storm ordinary and the dangerous man turns out to be something more interesting than a damaged billionaire, I’d continue reading.

    Good luck with this and thanks for posting.

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  4. Sylvie
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 11:33:29

    I like the voice here, but there’s too much time shifting in this first page. The flashback is written in first person present tense, then it’s four months (or more) later, and same tense. I think the story starts later and Josephine, mom, etc., should be woven in. Starting a story is often the hardest part. Most authors I know revise the beginning more than any other part. Just my 2 cents. Thanks for submitting. I always love reading these.

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  5. Kaley
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 12:20:46

    I agree with all of the feedback above in terms of starting in the wrong place and the time change. There’s too much back story, and the shifting time (it looks like the MC is 12 at the beginning, then it forwards to when she’s a young adult?) is confusing. Phrases like “even six years later” or “it may have happened six years ago but felt like it was yesterday” are great ways to clue the reader in to what’s happening.

    In terms of writing first-person POV, I try to imagine: how would I know that if it were me? How would I know someone is worried if she hasn’t said anything and I can’t see her face? Whatever I’d use to know, that’s what I write.

    The other big thing I noticed is that there’s a lot of telling, not a lot of showing. Rather than tell us someone is mean, SHOW them being mean. You have some great details here: the snippy comment, leaving her niece penniless while leaving her estate to the local library tell us a lot. Remember, at the beginning you want to entice so the reader keeps reading, not answer all the questions right away.

    The grammar issues can be fixed in revision or with the assistance of a good copy editor. This does sound interesting, however, so I hope you keep writing. Good luck!

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  6. Serena
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 13:13:04

    Wow!

    First of all, thanks to DearAuthor for posting this. Secondly, thanks everyone for your comments.

    It’s been a while since I applied for this first page posting, and since then there’s been some revision to the text, but going through your comments I can see I may still need to do some work on my writing.

    ReplyReply

  7. SAO
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 13:30:05

    As people have said, this is backstory. However, the biggest issue is that you are telling us what was done to your MC, not what she does or plans to do or even how she reacts to it. Auntie Jo is mean, but how does Sophie react? There’s a huge range of reactions, which might tell us who she is.

    Then you tell us about Sophie’s current situation and touch on a need to be independent, but it’s vague. Is she going to look for a job at Walmart?

    You really need Sophie to take action on the page not to be the passive recipient of other people’s actions.

    ReplyReply

  8. theo
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 15:33:53

    @SAO: I think ‘passive recipient’ is a great phrase for this page.

    It’s boring because there’s nothing happening that moves the story forward. Your MC is flat and unemotional. So she had a bad childhood. Lots of kids do. It’s how they react to it that shapes them. Right now with the way this is written, nothing has shaped her except that she’s learned to smile without showing anything. Perhaps that should be the theme of this page. Nothing is showing.

    You can pat a flat table and all it does is sit there. You can pat a dog and take the chance that it will bite. Right now, this is a flat table. It needs to be the active dog.

    ReplyReply

  9. Sandra
    Sep 07, 2013 @ 23:25:47

    wait.what?..your blurb says Individual authors anonymously send in a 1st page for critiquing.. I confused at how this is anonymous when a) the title is posted and b) this is available to purchase on amazon.com «granted its free right now»

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  10. Carol McKenzie
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 08:47:32

    I’m not speaking for the author, but @Sandra, the answer may lie in the author’s post above. She says it’s been awhile since she submitted this page for critique. I doubt she sat back while waiting for it to appear here and did nothing with the story.

    If you look at the publication date on Amazon, it’s June of 2013. I take events to read she submitted her first page here sometime before June, finished her story, published it and possibly forgot she’d submitted a first page here.

    She probably was anonymous when the first page was submitted.

    And I’m a writer of fiction, which means that whole story may not be true :) But that’s how I see it. I don’t see any manipulation of Dear Author or the First Page submission process.

    ReplyReply

  11. Jane
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 08:58:23

    @Sandra: We do have about a three month lag time in posting these. I didn’t realize that it had been published or I wouldn’t have put it up. That’s all on me.

    ReplyReply

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