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First Page: Distract Me – Contemporary Romance

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In the last three hours, Neil had pulled off the interstate for gas, fast food, a farmer’s market, and Indiana’s largest plaster snowman. He was desperate for distractions. When he saw the woman standing on the side of the road, he didn’t even think twice. No one who had suffered through Frosty the Hoosier and come away with a souvenir fridge magnet could afford to pass up a redhead with a gun.

She had, he was guessing, corkscrew curls, but somewhere between the snowman and her broken-down car, he had hit a downpour, and her hair was plastered to her head. There were two defiant loops hanging on for dear life just below her chin. It was nice hair. He didn’t know enough about guns one way or the other to have an opinion on it, besides that it was an almighty big one and she didn’t look like she knew how to use it.

She jogged over to his passenger side once he came to a stop. He rolled down the window about an inch, because there was a difference between being intrigued and being the eleven o’clock news.

She said, “I thought you’d be a cop.”

“You’re a few miles north of the last speed trap.”

“I took this out of the trunk twenty minutes ago,” she said, looking almost forlornly at the gun, as if it had disappointed her. “I thought if someone wouldn’t call for a stalled car, they’d call for a possible homicidal maniac.”

It was too hard to hear her through the window, so he climbed out. She smiled at him and came around the front of the car. The rain still sheeted between them so that she was gauzed over even when she was close and the soft focus look of her gave him ideas he didn’t want to be having on the side of the road. He looked somewhere over her shoulder.

He said, “Your cell died?”

“Just terrible signal.” She pulled her wet hair back from her face like she wanted a better look at him. “Nobody else stopped. I didn’t even think anybody would stop, I just thought they’d call the police and I could get a ride from them. Or just get them to shoot Darryl for me. Why did you stop, anyway? Are you suicidal? I was waving a gun around and you, one, stopped, and two, got out of the car, and now I’m talking about shooting people and you’re just Captain Non-Reaction. Are you a sociopath?”

“No,” Neil said. He thought he sounded pretty convincing for someone who technically had a dead body in his trunk. “You just don’t seem like the killing-people type.”

“Neither did Ted Bundy.”

“I’m confused. Are you trying to ask me for a ride or trying to convince me you’re going to kill me?”

“I’m not going to get in the car with you if you’re this confusing. I was thinking you could just call a tow truck for me.” She looked at her car, which Neil had to admit looked like the vehicular equivalent of one of those small, perpetually-shivering dogs. “It’s going to fall apart, isn’t it? Shit. Fucking Darryl.” She bit down suddenly on her lower lip and squinted, hard, and it was such an unlovely expression, so squished and pug-like, that it took him a minute to realize she was trying to cry.

“I stopped because I’m on my way to scatter my dad’s ashes,” Neil said. “And the moment I get to where I’m going, and do that, he’s—” Gone, he had meant to say, but the word closed his throat up. “That’s why I stopped. You looked like a really good excuse.”

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

14 Comments

  1. Upstart
    Mar 22, 2014 @ 06:13:53

    I thought this was good and I’d definitely read on. The only thought I had was you could try cutting everything from ‘Why did you stop anyway?’ to his response. It seems a bit chit-chatty, the sort of banter they might exchange later on perhaps.

  2. Kate Sherwood
    Mar 22, 2014 @ 07:19:32

    I’d read on.

    I thought the first paragraph was trying a bit too hard, but then I got in the rhythm of things.

    In terms of nitpicks – I don’t really buy that he could tell that this was a redhead with corkscrew curls when her hair ISN’T curly and, given the rain, probably isn’t looking too red (my red hair looks closer to brown when wet). Especially driving by at interstate speeds with a ‘gauze’ of rain to interfere with vision.

    And I’d be careful about making this any MORE wordy… if you were able to prune it back just a little, that’d be good, to my taste. Not a lot, but just a little less.

    Other than that, I think you’re doing well! Yay!

  3. Lynne Connolly
    Mar 22, 2014 @ 07:52:52

    I liked this. There’s a strong Susan Elizabeth Phillips vibe going on here.
    it’s fun. Needs a bit of cutting here and there. Just read through and see what needs to be there. She’s wet and fed up, so is she really going to be chatty with rain pouring into her mouth? Stand under the shower and read the scene (I know, the things we do, eh?)
    Rather than stop for a redhead with a gun, wouldn’t he speed up a bit? He might be bored, but I’m not convinced by that, though I like her response. Beef up his reaction. Like maybe she’s standing in the middle of the road? No, if she was doing that, he might try to run her down. Maybe he’s a cop? And is she suicidal, because what if somebody takes a pot shot at her from their car?

  4. Carol McKenzie
    Mar 22, 2014 @ 08:08:52

    I like this…but I feel the need to point out the world’s largest stucco (plaster) snowman is in Minnesota, not Indiana. There’s a site dedicated to roadside attractions. I apologize if I’m wrong, and if there is a really large snowman in Indiana, they’re not advertising it, which means, the other person who looks that stuff up may leave you an Amazon review complaining your story is inaccurate :)

    http://www.roadsideamerica.com/

    Your female reminds me of Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black…albeit a really watered down version of Miriam. Your lady has a strange, loopy feel to her conversation, like there’s a really big story behind there somewhere (I hope), but getting to the point isn’t part of her act.

    I think her dialog could be tightened up a little. While I do like it, and her, there’s just too much of her talking. She comes across as too scattered, too loopy. I don’t mind they’re standing in the rain at the side of the road, and I like the premise (and want to know who Darryl is) but if I were Neil, I might have driven off by now. While she does have a point about why Neil stopped, I’d like her to get to that point a little sooner.

    Thanks, Author, for letting us take a peek at your work. I’d read on just to find out who this woman is. It’s refreshing to read from a male point of view as well.

  5. wikkidsexycool
    Mar 22, 2014 @ 08:13:20

    Hello Author,

    Thanks for having the courage to share this. I really enjoyed your humorous take on the kind of day Neil is having. The plastic snowman was a brilliant touch, and I’d read on because I like your main character and the little twists you’re giving the reader on his thought process and dialogue.

    Love this also:
    “No,” Neil said. He thought he sounded pretty convincing for someone who technically had a dead body in his trunk. “You just don’t seem like the killing-people type.”

    You’re painting a vivid picture with your words.

    I’m wondering if it would be overkill (no pun intended) to have her exasperated at not having people stop, so she stands in front of the car and points the gun to make him stop, especially since he’s already distracted by her good looks.

    I guess I’m wondering how he’d be able to view the gun as he’s driving by. I’d think he’d have to back up to make certain his eyes weren’t deceiving him. But I like that he was still ready to jump into danger with this stranger carrying a gun.

    You’ve got something here, and sure, there’s more editing and tightening to be done, but I hope you’ll post a short blurb on the premise and follow up with how its progressing in the event you land an agent or decide to self-pub. I wish you all the best with this.

  6. Mary
    Mar 22, 2014 @ 09:06:43

    @Carol McKenzie:
    I grew up in Indiana. As far as I know, there is no giant plaster snowman. If there was, though, I could almost guarantee you it *would* be named Frosty the Hoosier.

    I like this, although I am also kind of judging your hero. All of my mother’s words of warning against stopping for strange people on the highway/hitchhikers/hitchhiking is coming back to me.
    I liked how “dead body in the trunk” was his father’s ashes.

  7. Jamie Beck
    Mar 22, 2014 @ 09:35:12

    I think you definitely have a fun style/voice and a few great lines in here. Unfortunately for me, unlike others who seem intrigued by this premise, I’m having a hard time with the fact he stopped on the highway for a girl waving a big gun. It makes me think he’s stupid, not just “looking for distractions.”

    Perhaps if he were a cop or in the military and thought he could control/diffuse a potentially dangerous situation, then I would be thinking “yay hero.” But since that doesn’t appear to be the case, the “meeting” seems very contrived and illogical, so I’m not that interested in knowing more about what happens to either of them yet. But, obviously, I’m in the minority. Again, I think you have the skill to write this story…I’m just not your audience.

    Good luck!!

  8. theo
    Mar 22, 2014 @ 10:18:08

    @Jamie Beck: You’re not alone. That was the first thing that struck me as well. I know nothing about Neil so the first thought I had was, stop for a chick with a gun? TSTL for me! I kept thinking about that on my first read through so it was very distracting for me.

    Is the downpour over? If not, I’m surprised he can get any real detail of her at all.

    He rolls down the window just a bit because he doesn’t want to be on the 11 o’clock news but glass isn’t going to stop a bullet so though cute, it was another huh? moment for me.

    Then I started asking myself, if it’s an ongoing downpour, wouldn’t he see her getting out of the car rather than standing there as he comes up on her? I’d sit in the car until I saw headlights and then get out at the last possible moment because it’s human nature. Doesn’t matter in a downpour if I’m going to get soaked in the first 10 or 30 seconds. It’s how people think.

    And I agree with Lynne as well. Read this aloud in the shower. You have no description of what they’re trying to do while carrying on a conversation in the pouring rain. Would she be wiping her face off? What did he do when the rain hit him? Did he shake like the dog he describes the car to be? Did he pull his collar up in an attempt to keep the water from rolling down his back?

    Your voice is entertaining, but the first distraction led to too many others for me and because of that, I’m not in the scene with them at all.

    I know I’m in the minority here, but as entertaining as your voice seems to be, it wasn’t enough for me. They could have been standing in a snowstorm or on a sunny roadside for all the senses I got from this. Sorry.

  9. Willaful
    Mar 22, 2014 @ 10:43:10

    This has a lot of potential… you have a really good way with an image. I’d definitely read on.

  10. Shaya
    Mar 22, 2014 @ 11:13:33

    I also agree that the fact he stopped for a woman with a gun makes him an idiot. We don’t have enough information about him for it to be believable. I like the style you have going if the dialogue could be tightened up. This is a personal pet peeve, but watch the use of words like “even” and “just.” Most of the time they are unnecessary and distracting. You used the word “just” five times in this brief first page. If that carries through the next pages, it would be annoying by page 3.

    I would read at least the next few pages to find out why Neil would stop for a woman with a gun, but if a good reason is not given soon, I would put the book down for the hero being unbelievable.

  11. Lori
    Mar 22, 2014 @ 13:44:12

    I really liked this. It didn’t bother me that he stopped for a woman with a gun because Neil sounds quirky and it just worked for me.

    I would love to read more.

  12. cleo
    Mar 22, 2014 @ 14:32:54

    I think you have something here, but I agree with all the comments that it needs to be tightened.

    Do you really need the gun? For me, the gun made both characters seem TSTL. Who’d think pulling out a gun on the side of the road was a good idea? And who’d think stopping to talk to someone with a gun was a good idea?

    Not to mention, I’ve driven a lot in Indiana – I think someone would’ve stopped for her before she got to the gun waving stage. We do that in the Midwest.

  13. Christine E
    Mar 22, 2014 @ 16:18:38

    I liked that! It got my attention, and I would continue reading. This line was pretty funny : He rolled down the window about an inch, because there was a difference between being intrigued and being the eleven o’clock news.

  14. SAO
    Mar 23, 2014 @ 00:54:08

    I liked the beginning of this, but then it went off into loopy for the sake of loopy territory. It’s raining, she’s drenched and been standing on the side of the road for a long time. What would I be saying? “I know I look scary, but my car’s broken down, cell phone reception is crap and I really need help, can you?” And then if I didn’t get the right response (Okay, get in, or hand me the number and I’ll call in a few miles), I’d be begging.

    Neil is comfortable and warm in his car. The minute he opens his window, a few raindrops land on his arm. He knows getting out of his car is going to make him wet, too. But he gets out and stands around getting drenched to chat. Plus, she has a gun and in his car, he’s reasonably safe, but the minute he gets out, she can carjack him with ease.

    I like loopy, so there’s a lot to like here, but I hate characters who don’t act in realistic ways. If you make sure no char is doing something for the sake of humor, not their life, I’d be on board and looking forward to reading this.

    Why isn’t she trying to convince Neil to give her a ride? Or to call a friend the minute he gets into territory with better reception?

    I like loopy, but I hate characters who don’t act in realistic ways.

    and they are both drenched. She’s drenched, she’s been on the side of the road for a long time, she

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