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First Page: Deep Blue Eyes on the Greek Isles

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The Harvard Business School Application

 

Paul ended his call with Sophie, a younger woman and a candidate for the two-year Harvard MBA program. Sophie had called and asked for his help and guidance with her Harvard Business School application. His sister Leeann, who was Sophie’s best friend, had asked him for this favor. He could not refuse Leeann and so they arranged a meeting for the following week. He took a sip from the Diet Coke he was drinking.

“Oh,” he thought, “I like the sound of her voice, I will help her out.”

Paul graduated from the very same school and had successfully helped many applicants from his home in Athens, Greece. Paul was always the giving type of character; he helped, on a voluntary basis younger students who wanted to study in the States.

Living alone in downtown Athens near the Presidential palace, Paul’s only companion was his Labrador, Ben. His penthouse on the fashionable Herodus Atticus Street had a splendid view of the Acropolis. The sprawling national gardens covered with trees and flowers from all over the world were just below his penthouse. Paul often enjoyed absorbing the verdant beauty as it relaxed him so much. He was very happy with his successful career at Procter & Gamble. His parents, Mike and Elizabeth lived in the family villa near Athens, as did his younger sister Leeann.

It was eleven o’ clock one night and Paul was at his penthouse balcony absorbing the beauty of the superbly all lit up Acropolis. Paul was very touched as he thought, “What a spectacle! Built from bright white marble, it combines ethereal harmony with pure simplicity. Grace. Aesthetics.  Such a wonder of art, and to think that the architects deliberately didn’t use a single straight line in the building. The Acropolis. It all represents to me so many values.  This is the cradle of democracy, philosophy and so much more. I’m proud to be a descendant of the ancient Greeks.”

 

A few years earlier, while an MBA student at Harvard business school, Paul had a very serious relationship with Wendy, a girl from Chicago. Paul was falling hard for Wendy but was disheartened to discover she had cheated on him three times. Even worse, he found out through friends that Wendy was investigating him and had found out he was extremely wealthy. A fact that he had intentionally kept hidden from her. In total desperation, he had called Drew, his best friend and mentor in Greece. Reflecting on that conversation, he wished he had listened to Drew.

“Drew, what shall I do with Wendy?” Paul asked.

“Stay away from her, think with your mind not with your heart. I don’t like her character at all; she is not an honest person. I remember when I visited you at Harvard; the three of us were having lunch. She openly flirted with me, right in front of your eyes, amazing. She cheats, she lies and she has a plan. Obviously, she’s after your money. Wendy is an untrustworthy person. Paul, be careful.” Drew warned him. He was worried about his friend.

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

13 Comments

  1. Kate Sherwood
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 06:31:37

    A LOT of infodumping here. Trust your readers a little, and leave some mysteries for them to worry about. This reads kind of like a character sheet – background that some authors figure out before they start writing, but that they keep for their own use rather than dumping it all on the readers on the first page.

    Make something HAPPEN on your first page.

    You’ve got some smaller technical issues as well, but I think you can worry about that later. For now – cut the backstory and get to the CURRENT story!

    ReplyReply

  2. SAO
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 06:58:25

    This is a synopsis, not a scene and nothing is happening.

    I presume you’re trying to show Paul is a nice guy, but you’ve made him sound kind of stupid: 1) he agrees to help someone based on the sound of their voice? Was he going to refuse his sister if Sophie had an unmelodious voice? 2) Wendy cheats three times and is only after his money, but he needs to ask his mentor what to do about her?

    Your time is confused all through this page. Take para 1; what happens in chronological order:
    1) Sister asks for favor, 2) Sophie calls, 3) he likes her voice and 4) he can’t refuses Sis, 5) he agrees to help, 6) he arranges meeting and 7) he ends the call. Your order is 7, 2, 1, 4, 6, 5, 3. It’s hard to follow.

    This kind of jumping back and forth in time happens in the other paras, making it very confusing. Perhaps Paul isn’t so dumb that he needs a friend to tell him a gold-digging, two-timing cheat is someone he should dump, but the order you’ve presented the information in is off, giving that impression.

    To summarize, make it a scene where something happens (and not friends/relatives talking, but real conflict) and get your chronology right.

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  3. Caro
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 09:01:50

    What is Paul’s problem? What does he want? What is his goal? What’s keeping him from that goal? Why is that goal important to him? What’s his conflict?

    I don’t have to like Paul – though he seems like a likable enough guy – but I do have to become engaged in his life. Right now, it’s very nice that he’s close to his sister, that he likes his job, and that he lives in a great penthouse. But why should I care? You have given me nothing to latch onto. No crisis or conflict or dream or desire.

    I don’t read a story to listen to characters tell me how great their life is. I honestly don’t want their life to be great. I want them to be upset about something or impassioned over someone or determined to change something.

    I don’t get any of that with Paul.

    ReplyReply

  4. wikkidsexycool
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 09:29:50

    Hi Author,

    This puts me in mind of directions for a scene in a screenplay more than the start of a novel, or like SAO said, a synopsis. I also have to agree with what others have stated, that nothing happens in this first page that engages the reader.

    But imho I don’t think you’ve found your writing voice yet. For example:

    “I like the sound of her voice, I will help her out.”

    Think about how people talk. Instead of “I will help her out.” You may want to use “I’ll help her out.”

    Also, I’m no expert, but his thoughts read more like spoken dialogue. You may want to read up on the proper way to show internal thoughts. The best way to write well is to read the work of other writers. I can’t stress that enough. And vary your reading tastes so you see how other authors create scenes and dialogue. Once you combine your passion for writing with technique and your own unique voice or writing style, then I think you’ll revisit this piece and make it even stronger.

    Thanks for having the courage to submit this, and I wish you the best with your writing. I hope you follow up and re-submit this after mulling over the advice from other commenters. It’ll be interesting to see your progression.

    ReplyReply

  5. Caro
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 09:41:20

    I’ll blather about one more thing because I’m stumped on writing my own scene. LOL

    You might want to think about taking a class on Showing not Telling. For example:

    Paul ended his call with Sophie, a younger woman and a candidate for the two-year Harvard MBA program. Sophie had called and asked for his help and guidance with her Harvard Business School application. His sister Leeann, who was Sophie’s best friend, had asked him for this favor. He could not refuse Leeann and so they arranged a meeting for the following week.

    Could be…

    “No way, Leeann.” Paul tapped his fingers on his laptop, trying to ignore his sister’s insistent voice. “I’ve got too much to do.”
    “Come on, Paul,” his sister wheedled. “I’ve already told Sophie you’d do it.”
    “Well, that’s on you. You should have checked with me–”
    “Here she is!” Leann’s crow echoed in his head. “Sophie, come over here.”
    Paul gritted his teeth. He was going to kill his sister. She always did this. Setting up situation after situation with friend after friend. As if he needed help finding female companionship.
    But that wasn’t his sister’s aim was it? Nope. She wanted him to find a female ball and chain.
    “Hello?” A tentative voice came on the line.
    “You and my sister can go to hell.” Paul clicked off his cell phone with a sharp tap.

    I’m just playing around here, but I do think it might show you that the 2nd example is much more active and thus, I hope, more catchy.

    Okay. Back to my ugly scene.

    ReplyReply

  6. Lori
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 09:53:09

    This is far from ready. The writing is stiff, there’s no flow to the scene. I know what you’re trying to do but you’re far from acheiving it.

    Keep at it. You’ll get there but this isn’t it.

    ReplyReply

  7. Lynne Connolly
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 10:23:40

    You need to take classes in most aspects of writing – narrative, dialogue, plotting, motivation, how to hook in the reader, to name a few. It’s fantastic that you want to write and you feel the need, but you have to know you’re not ready yet. There is so much to sort out here, any critique isn’t really going to help you much, although SAO had a really great crack at it.
    Come to RT Booklovers’ Convention and take the Boot Camp course, a two day intensive course for writing. Or find another, similar course. It will help you no end.
    Having googled you (you just have to google a phrase from the story, it wasn’t difficult), I see that you’ve already self published a version of this book.

    ReplyReply

  8. NCKat
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 17:20:48

    Your dialogue is awfully stiff and old-fashioned. For example, ‘ “Oh,” he thought, “I like the sound of her voice, I will help her out.” ‘ sounds like Little Lord Flaunteroy in one of Frances Hodgson Bennett’s books, which were written in the late 1800′s. You need to spiff it up a bit, make it shorter and less dated.

    One suggestion – “Hm…I like the sound of her voice. Think I’ll help her out after all.” Short and to the point.

    ReplyReply

  9. Maura
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 19:21:47

    It seems a little like you’re going for a Presents kind of feel, with that title. My suggestion to you is that you find as many examples as you can of the kind of genre romance you’re looking to write, and read. Read books by writers you like and by publishers you want to work with. See how they make their dialogue flow, how they hand out expository information to the reader, how a contemporary romance feels. Arming yourself with a lot of reading is a great way to help get your writing to a commercially viable stage.

    ReplyReply

  10. Liz Mc2
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 23:00:19

    I am confused. This story is set in Greece, and the wealthy hero and family villa suggest hints of a Harlequin-Presents type world. But everything else about it–the character names, the labrador, working for P&G–screams United States. So even if the writing issues that others have pointed out were addressed, I would pass on this after reading the sample, because the world you’re building is not plausible to me. Are these a whole family of Americans (and an American mentor) transported to Athens? Why?

    ReplyReply

  11. Mary
    Mar 31, 2013 @ 23:18:46

    I agree with most of what everyone has said here. You’ve got a very awkward first page, and that comes from three things:
    1) Your protagonist doesn’t sound like a person
    It was eleven o’ clock one night and Paul was at his penthouse balcony absorbing the beauty of the superbly all lit up Acropolis. Paul was very touched as he thought, “What a spectacle! Built from bright white marble, it combines ethereal harmony with pure simplicity. Grace. Aesthetics. Such a wonder of art, and to think that the architects deliberately didn’t use a single straight line in the building. The Acropolis. It all represents to me so many values. This is the cradle of democracy, philosophy and so much more. I’m proud to be a descendant of the ancient Greeks.”
    Is this really what someone would think? Why is he superbly touched by this? It sounds like something a tour guide would say, or something you would say to somebody to try and impress them, NOT something a person would just think about.
    2) A lot of your sentences are awkward, like this one :” Paul often enjoyed absorbing the verdant beauty as it relaxed him so much.” Again…not really something you think, or even really say. I understand what you mean, but surely you could rephrase it. I’m no author, but something like “Paul could relax, absorbing the verdant beauty”. That’s still awkward, but it fits better in the paragraph.
    Which brings me to 3) flow. Your paragraphs don’t connect, and within the paragraphs the flow from sentence to sentence seems off. Example: “Drew warned him. He was worried about his friend.” Well, part of the problem is you’ve shifted perspective, but this would work better as: “Drew warned him, looking worried” or “Drew warned him, worrying about Paul”.
    More flow problems:
    ” His sister Leeann, who was Sophie’s best friend, had asked him for this favor. He could not refuse Leeann and so they arranged a meeting for the following week. He took a sip from the Diet Coke he was drinking.”
    I see how these are connected, but at the same time, it just sounds awkward. You can probably completely eliminate the Diet Coke sentence. Then…I don’t exactly know, but at the moment if I read it in my head, it sounds like someone listing in a monotone everything they did yesterday. You know?
    Caro’s comment about showing instead of telling should help with all of these things
    One last thing…contractions. Contractions are your friends in fiction. In formal papers, no, but here they help. Especially in a contemporary with dialogue. It just sounds really formal/stilted with contractions.
    I’m sorry if this comment became really long/harsh sounding! Don’t get discouraged. I’m sure there is a great story here, you just need to work on the actual writing. Think about how you talk, other people talk, etc, and then write that way. Just because your characters are fictional doesn’t mean they can’t act/talk like real people. Kudos for sending this in and being brave enough to get feedback! Good luck!

    ReplyReply

  12. Loreen
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 00:59:05

    How many times do you mention Harvard ? Once is enough. Otherwise it is just name dropping and makes him seem a little arrogant. So he went to Harvard? So what? I know a lot of Harvard guys who aren’t exactly romance hero material. What makes this one special?

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  13. Shelley
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 18:29:48

    Honestly, I thought this was an April Fool’s joke, a day early. From a reader standpoint, this is very, very boring with no sign from the writer that he/she is interested in engaging my interest. Dick and Jane Meet the Greek Billionaire?

    ReplyReply

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