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First Page: Driven to Distraction

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***

Lannie Bryan panicked and slammed on the brakes as her Mini began to slide down the hill outside the hospital.

Big mistake.

Nine years of living in temperate North Carolina combined with the fatigue of the past twenty-four hours had caused her brain to short-circuit and she’d forgotten the first rule of winter driving. Never, ever brake in a skid.

As the car slid sideways down the drive, her lessons from Drivers Ed kicked in and Lannie managed to gain some control. Instead of rear-ending the car in front of her, she sideswiped it, bouncing almost gently off the rear bumper, jumping the curb and coming to rest half-on and half-off the tree lawn

I can’t deal with this now, Lannie thought as she stared at the car she’d hit. It was a Mustang like Joe Santoro’s old one. She shuddered. Home for less than two hours and he was already in her thoughts.

When she’d had left River Valley, Lannie had planned on never returning. Of course, she’d realized later that wouldn’t work. But, her volatile relationship with her father had disintegrated at the announcement that she’d been accepted to the University of North Carolina’s library school. She had refused his offer to pay for her graduate degree in business from an Ohio college and left that August.

But not before managing to humiliate herself with Joe Santoro.

Lannie shook her head as she searched for her driver’s license and insurance papers. She couldn’t think about that now.

As she got out of the car with purse in hand, she shivered. In her rush to leave, she’d forgotten her winter coat and gloves and hadn’t spared the time to stop to buy them. Her thoughts had been focused only on getting home.

While nervously waiting for the other driver’s approach, Lannie noticed the decorations on the light poles and the bouncing inflatable Santa on the children’s wing. Sure, the sick needed holiday cheer too but the decorations felt out of place to her. It couldn’t be Christmas. Not when her father was dying.

“Lady, what the hell were doing? Don’t you know how to drive?”

Oh, no! It couldn’t be. It had to be someone else. There was no way she had just hit Joe Santoro’s car.

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

24 Comments

  1. Danielle
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 04:41:36

    I have no comment except if this book ever gets published please let us know. I love this “theme.” And this story sounds good.

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  2. Tiffany
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 06:10:07

    This is good. I’d continue to read. A few things could be tightened.

    This for instances has a break in flow and it’s repeating the she couldn’t think about that now: Lannie shook her head as she searched for her driver's license and insurance papers. She couldn't think about that now.

    I’d also include a small sentence as to who Joe is when you first mention him. Because I don’t know why she’s shuddering. Is it a high school boyfriend? An old crush?

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  3. Tammy
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 06:13:20

    I have to agree with Danielle, this sounds like a hoot, please let us know when/if it gets published.

    The only thing I noticed and this is probably only my opinion but this sentence isn’t really necessary Of course, she'd realized later that wouldn't work

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  4. joanne
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 06:31:34

    I’m not sure I would continue to read this story.

    For me it reads more like an info-dump first draft than an enticing first page. I like to ‘see’ the protagonists, rather than their history, in the opening, but that’s just one reader.

    Thanks so much and much good luck.

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  5. whistledom
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 06:32:19

    I agree with what the others had to say. This story seems to have a great potential but I think it’s not quite delivered strongly. IMO, a little tweaking can make a huge difference to the story.

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  6. Stephanie
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 06:45:20

    Interesting premise for an opening, but the info-dump about the heroine’s fight with her father and her history with the hero kind of spoils the immediacy of the scenario. Would she really be reviewing her past in that much detail when she’s just been in a car accident?

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  7. Jinni
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 08:01:48

    Where is River Valley? I got pulled out of the story just wondering where she is if not NC, or Ohio or whatever. Setting is important to me. Also too much introspection during a car accident. I’ve spun out in the snow and my first thoughts were not about an ex-boyfriend or my father. The adrenaline rush cuts off a lot of that rational thought.

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  8. Martha Flynn
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 08:11:56

    I feel like you put an amazing amount of information in the first page (primary characters, setting, quick history bite, familial relationship) without overwhelming me – and more importantly, I connected with Lannie having this super sucky low point.

    I feel there’s one missing detail – even though the accident wasn’t serious, I feel the physical response the body has to being in a skid and then making it out (and uh…yeah…maybe this is from experience) is overwhelming – the adrenaline rush, the way your fingers shake – so when she gets out of the car and shivers from the cold my first thought was that shivers would be the last of what her body’s going through right now.

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  9. anon_rdr
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 08:19:49

    I really could see myself liking this, but like other commenters feel like it could be a lot stronger. Where was that physical reaction to the crash? (it’s a big one!), I don’t like the daddy info dump – that took me out of the story, and finally the whole snow/what/where is she thing made me confused for a minute as well.

    I’d look at a few more pages before I decided, but this could be fun…

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  10. Lynne Connolly
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 08:26:26

    Loved it. A little tightening and you’re good to go. Definitely a book I’d consider buying. And such a relief after all those fantasy romances!

    her lessons from Drivers Ed kicked in and Lannie managed to gain some control.

    I think this bit slows down the sentence and you could leave it out.

    I can't deal with this now, Lannie thought

    thought tag. I’d skip the “Lanie thought” and change it to “She couldn’t deal with this now.”

    When she'd had left River Valley, Lannie had planned on never returning. Of course, she'd realized later that wouldn't work. But, her volatile relationship with her father had disintegrated at the announcement that she'd been accepted to the University of North Carolina's library school. She had refused his offer to pay for her graduate degree in business from an Ohio college and left that August.

    This is too early. It stops the flow and stops the forward narrative. Things are happening in this scene and it’s a shame to hold it up. You could drip the info into the rest of the chapter instead and it might come out more naturally in conversation, as in something like him saying, “Still got that dipstick Dad?”
    “Same Dad, same job.” or something because then you have a bit more character and a bit of forward impetus.

    She couldn't think about that now.

    Change “that” to “Joe.”

    The bit about her Dad dying – great. Dropped in like that, it works really well. But I missed it in my first read, so you might need a follow-up.

    But it’s in good shape. Good job.

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  11. DS
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 11:20:03

    I had a friend who took his MLS at Chapel Hill and I don’t think he ever referred to it as Library School. It was School of Library Science– actually, I think it’s Information and Library Sciences now. You might want to double check that.

    Also, I knew whose car that was when you mentioned first and last name, Joe Santoras but it seemed wrong. I’ve been in enough wrecks to know that “Hey that car looks like Larry Smith’s old car” is the last thought in my head as I’m trying to hang onto the steering wheel.

    I couldn’t visualize this:

    Instead of rear-ending the car in front of her, she sideswiped it, bouncing almost gently off the rear bumper….

    How did she not rear it, sideswipe it and then bounce “almost gently” off the rear bumper?

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  12. Moth
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 12:16:40

    When she'd had left River Valley, Lannie had planned on never returning. Of course, she'd realized later that wouldn't work. But, her volatile relationship with her father had disintegrated at the announcement that she'd been accepted to the University of North Carolina's library school. She had refused his offer to pay for her graduate degree in business from an Ohio college and left that August.

    But not before managing to humiliate herself with Joe Santoro.

    um. Massive infodump here. Felt really clumsy to me right now. Is there a way to incorporate this more organically into the story? Later. Also, I agree with the person above who said she probably wouldn’t be thinking that rationally during a car accident. I’ve been in one and you’re not thinking about your dad or your ex or Christmas. You’re usually thinking “F*ck. F*ck. F*ck”.

    This reminded me a bit of Victoria Dahl’s Talk Me Down. Hometown girl coming back and running to inconvenient ex five minutes in town. Of course, this opening is a bit more action packed.

    This probably has some good potential, I just think it needs a little tweaking.

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  13. Jane O
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 13:02:12

    I really like this and would very much like to continue.

    You know, everyone seems to complain about info dumps, but I have to tell you, as a reader this rarely bothers me. The only time it yanks me out of the story is when one character starts telling another something they both obviously know, like “Hey, I see Veronica is back in town, your ex-wife who cleaned you out in the divorce and with whom you are now in a bitter custody dispute over your adorable two-year-old daughter with the severe medical problems.”

    I do have one problem with this, though. I grew up with Joey Santoro, and by now he is MUCH too old for your heroine. :-)

    ReplyReply

  14. Another One
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 14:25:52

    One minor nitpick- it snows in North Carolina all the time. I lived in the Blue Ridge Mts and we had plenty of snow, even in March sometimes. That pulled me out a bit. Maybe just a note that she’s from central NC?

    It’s a tiny little thing, honestly. I’m just a picky reader like that.

    ReplyReply

  15. hapax
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 15:22:17

    You had me at “Library School.”

    And yeah, Chapel Hill grad myself. *Everybody* called it “Library School.” The only people who called it “Graduate School of Information and Library Science” were Deans, at fund-raising time — and we made fun of them for it.

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  16. Maura
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 15:48:09

    Another librarian chiming in here– yep, I too say “Library School.”

    ReplyReply

  17. Kym
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 16:13:43

    Hi everyone, the author here and I’d like to say thank you very much for all the helpful feedback. The only thing I’ll nitpick on is I’m a librarian and every librarian and library school student I know still calls it “library school.” The rest of the criticism is straight on and I appreciate you all being so gracious in taking the time to read and critique.

    Some of the things mentioned have been dealt with in the time between sending D2D and it being posted. During that time I actually learned that having the hero and heroine meet in a car accident is a big cliche. So, sorry for that. I’ve actually finished this manuscript and it’s “resting” and waiting for a big re-write while I work on two other projects.

    Thank you, thank you, one million times thank you–even those who didn’t like it. All criticism is good criticism when given in such a constructive manner. Oh and to the one who went to school with Joe–he might be too old for Lannie, but probably not for me!

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  18. Alessia Brio
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 16:54:40

    Lannie Bryan panicked and slammed on the brakes as her Mini began to slide down the hill outside the hospital.

    To me, panicked and slammed is a rather clunky combo. I’d prefer: “In a panic, Lannie Bryan slammed…”

    Big mistake.

    In a first person POV narrative, sure. As a thought, sure. In this context, I think it’s unnecessary given the paragraph that follows.

    Nine years of living in temperate North Carolina combined with the fatigue of the past twenty-four hours had caused her brain to short-circuit and she'd forgotten the first rule of winter driving. Never, ever brake in a skid.

    Living in “temperate North Carolina” contributes to brain short-circuiting? For clarity, I think that sentence should be broken into two. The first about fatigue & short-circuiting, the second about North Carolina and forgetting how to drive in winter conditions.

    As the car slid sideways down the drive, her lessons from Drivers Ed kicked in and Lannie managed to gain some control. Instead of rear-ending the car in front of her, she sideswiped it, bouncing almost gently off the rear bumper, jumping the curb and coming to rest half-on and half-off the tree lawn

    I would replace “lessons from Drivers Ed” (which may be possessive, btw) with “Drivers Ed lessons.” Hell, I’d probably ditch the Drivers Ed altogether and just use “memory.”

    You’ve got two complete sentences there, so there should be a comma after “kicked in.”

    You cannot “rear-end” a car in a position other than “in front of” you, so I’d strike “in front of her.” And, I agree with the earlier comment about bouncing gently off the rear bumper.

    If you’re half-on (check hyphenation, there), it stands to reason you’re also half-off. Thus, the latter is extraneous. (Kudos, though, for not using “off of.”)

    Full stop after “lawn.”

    I can't deal with this now, Lannie thought as she stared at the car she'd hit. It was a Mustang like Joe Santoro's old one. She shuddered. Home for less than two hours and he was already in her thoughts.

    I would juggle thusly:

    Lannie stared at the car she’d hit. I can’t deal with this now! The Mustang looked just like Joe Santoro’s. She shuddered. Home for less than two hours, and he’s already in my thoughts.

    When she'd had left River Valley, Lannie had planned on never returning. Of course, she'd realized later that wouldn't work. But, her volatile relationship with her father had disintegrated at the announcement that she'd been accepted to the University of North Carolina's library school. She had refused his offer to pay for her graduate degree in business from an Ohio college and left that August.

    The info dump doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the overabundance of the word “had.” Most can be excised without compromising the past-of-past clarity.

    I read the “volatile relationship” sentence a couple times before it registered. I think “disintegrated” should be replaced with “worsened,” and “at the announcement that” would be smoother as “when she informed him” or “when she announced.” Then, I’d tweak the last sentence to indicate her father’s umbrage at her refusal. I’m assuming River Valley is in Ohio.

    But not before managing to humiliate herself with Joe Santoro.

    I believe “managing to humiliate” would be better as just “humiliating.”

    Lannie shook her head as she searched for her driver's license and insurance papers. She couldn't think about that now.

    The “She couldn’t think about that now.” so close to the above “I can’t deal with this now!” is too much for me. I recommend:

    “Lannie shook her head, pushing thoughts of him from her mind, as she…”

    Also, I don’t think she’d have to search for her driver’s license.

    As she got out of the car with purse in hand, she shivered. In her rush to leave, she'd forgotten her winter coat and gloves and hadn't spared the time to stop to buy them. Her thoughts had been focused only on getting home.

    I believe “to leave” should be replaced with “to get on the road” or just stricken altogether.

    While nervously waiting for the other driver's approach, Lannie noticed the decorations on the light poles and the bouncing inflatable Santa on the children's wing. Sure, the sick needed holiday cheer too but the decorations felt out of place to her. It couldn't be Christmas. Not when her father was dying.

    Until this point, I’d assumed the car she hit was parked, and I’d assumed (since she was going downhill) that she was far enough away from the hospital to make notice of its holiday decorations impossible.

    “Lady, what the hell were doing? Don't you know how to drive?”

    “Lady, what the hell were you doing?”

    Oh, no! It couldn't be. It had to be someone else. There was no way she had just hit Joe Santoro's car.

    Italicize as thought (and trim), or do more show with Lannie noting the familiarity of the voice, whipping her head around, etc.

    Although I’ve been very nit-picky, I do like the story’s start. I’d be careful not to overdo or rely on the internal dialogue. There is usually a more evocative way of conveying her thoughts. (Think cinematically, such that – unless you’re Ally McBeal – those thoughts aren’t available to the audience. What would she DO to convey her internal struggle? Write that!)

    Thanks for playing naked on the Internet. It can’t be easy. I applaud your courage!

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  19. Julia Sullivan
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 22:26:58

    Everyone’s already said all the nitpicky things but this: “tree lawn” is an Ohio-ism; I’d never heard it before I married someone who grew up in Cleveland Heights, and I bet it will confuse any agents/editors who’ve never been to Ohio.

    I think that the noticing the car she had hit and having it remind her of Joe Santoro’s car could work, but it needs some fine-tuning. “The car she had hit was an old red Mustang, just like the one Joe Santoro used to drive. Oh, lord, she was only back in Ohio for two hours, and already she was thinking of him.”

    After all, this is a minor fender-bender, and the weirdest things go through your mind at those times (at least in my experience). It’s after the really bad accidents that you blank out.

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  20. Jeannie
    Jun 13, 2009 @ 23:03:53

    I see a great setup here, but I do agree there is a lot you can streamline.

    When she'd had left River Valley, Lannie had planned on never returning. Of course, she'd realized later that wouldn't work. But, her volatile relationship with her father had disintegrated at the announcement that she'd been accepted to the University of North Carolina's library school. She had refused his offer to pay for her graduate degree in business from an Ohio college and left that August.

    Important info, but it’s not needed on page one and it slows the pace. Right now, we don’t know enough about HER to care about her relationship with her father — I was suggest easing us into that and instead focus on the moment. Is this her first drive back into town? If yes, what a stellar re-entry. LOL

    I’d like to know that first before knowing anything about her reasons for leaving.

    I have to say on the point about Joe’s car — I can see her thinking of a boyfriend’s old car when she sees it. Although it does make me wonder if she’s been IN that car, if she’s well-acquainted with making out in that car. :)

    You did a good job of pulling me right into her head. And my hats off to anyone who puts themselves up here for public critique.

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  21. The Profane Angel
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 02:46:23

    I enjoyed it, and would read more, especially, as a Tarheel, the author chose the proper school and not the University of New Jersey at Durham (all UNC alums will understand). Won’t add my minor criticisms, as it’s been done so well before me, but I would love to read the rest of this. TPA

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  22. Rei
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 13:08:30

    I'd also include a small sentence as to who Joe is when you first mention him. Because I don't know why she's shuddering. Is it a high school boyfriend? An old crush?

    I actually think it’s better that we’re not told this right off the bat. Gives you something to find out later. That’s just me, though.

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  23. Leah
    Jun 14, 2009 @ 20:39:24

    You’ve had lots of comments, and I’m late to the game….but I like it and would read more. And honestly, I had a bad relationship burn once upon a time. He had a distinctive car–and orange chevette with pin stripes. I know that car is long junked…but if it hadn’t been, and I’d hit a car like that due to a slide in the snow–my first thought after–oh crap and is everyone ok–would be “that looks like…oh no, don’t let it be….”

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  24. blabla
    Jul 11, 2009 @ 08:24:39

    I’m sorry but Lannie sounds too stupid to live to me. I hadn’t read the others comments because I find I get influenced if I do. Anyways, from my previous experience novels with this type of plot end up making the hero a real ass hole and the heroine never gets any upper hand. I hope you are smarter than that seeing as you are in DA and what not.

    ReplyReply

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