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First Page: Epic Fan

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“If I never see another half caff, soy milk, sugar free vanilla latte again, it will be too soon.” I grumbled and popped a lid on top of the paper coffee cup in front of me. Suck it up Rose. You’ve got twelve more hours of this. I turned the coffee cup to read the name scrawled on the side.

“Uh, Thor?” I yelled over the din of the tightly packed crowd. A stocky guy, dressed in an ill fitting comic hero costume barged forward. His stubby fingers made grabby hands as he elbowed through the crowd to claim his order. He snatched it from me, causing hot coffee to spill out of the lid and onto my hand.

“Have a great day!” I said, forcing a smile even as I rubbed the burn. Asshole.

I grabbed the next cup and shouted the name.

“Loki!”

Another cos-player, dressed as a mythical hero strode towards me to retrieve his coffee. Black, no sugar. Now this guy knew how to work a costume. Tall, pale and handsome with a dark cloak that swept behind him dramatically as he walked, I recognized his character at once. I also recognized an opportunity. Trickster God of Asgard indeed.

“My Lord!” I greeted him.

He raised an eyebrow.

“Your nemesis, your brother – he went that way.” I thumbed towards the side door.

“He’s drinking a soy vanilla latte.” I whispered conspiratorially and waggled my eyebrows. The cos-player tipped his considerable head gear towards me in thanks, grinning in anticipation of what promised to be an exciting confrontation.

Shame to miss the fun. I thought, amused at the idea of a superhero battle instigated by conflicting tastes in caffeinated beverages. But this throng of customers wasn’t going to serve itself. I kicked into auto pilot. Read names on cups, hand cups to customers, repeat. I was bound to be at this for a while. New York Sci-Fi and Comic Convention was on it’s first day of a three day weekend of all things geeky and awesome. As a die hard geek, I would’ve preferred to be spending the weekend at the con myself. Unfortunately, spending money on collectibles and comics is not a good financial strategy when one is drowning in debt. Four years of higher education got me a degree in English Lit, a gazillion dollars in student loans and a job managing a coffee shop. There were bills to pay, hence I would be working the whole weekend, double shifts. The stench of a thousand geeks sweating through polyester costumes as they chain-drank cups of overpriced coffee would be my only exposure to the fun.

Read names on cups, hand cups to customers, try not to die of soul-crushing monotony…repeat. I raised two fingers to my temple and mimed shooting myself in the head. This was going to be a long day.

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

17 Comments

  1. Kate Sherwood
    Apr 13, 2014 @ 06:16:05

    Well, you’ve established voice and setting, and got a good start on characterization. Those are important things, and I think you’ve done a good job with them.

    It’s not a voice, setting, or characterization that grabs me, but it may be intriguing to others, so I don’t think you need to change just for me!

    But for most readers, I think you’d better get to the plot pretty soon. I feel like you’re going to – we don’t have a genre for this, but assuming it’s a romance I think Hot Man is about to enter the coffee shop. If he isn’t, or if WHATEVER it is that’s going to happen doesn’t happen soon, I think you may be starting in the wrong place.

    (My totally unsupported wish for this piece? I hope it’s a mystery, and the coffee shop girl is somehow called upon to solve a murder among the cosplayers. That’d be fun!)

    PS – on ITS first day, not IT’S.

  2. Carol McKenzie
    Apr 13, 2014 @ 08:03:07

    This is something I’d read a few more pages of, to see where it’s going. I like your voice, the setting holds promise (Geek seems to be everywhere right now and cons are big) and Rose has personality. You have only one obvious error (its, not it’s) and you write well.

    And because I like this, I get picky :) If it’s so crowded Thor has to elbow his way through, how can she see Loki’s cape sweep dramatically behind him as he walks? Is the coffee shop she works at at the venue, or did she rent the space?

    I don’t think stories always need to start in medias res, if the writing is strong enough, if something interesting enough is happening in the first pages to keep me curious. This has me curious, so I’d keep reading.

  3. Mary
    Apr 13, 2014 @ 09:00:35

    I liked this, so two nitpicks:
    1) Loki isn’t really a “mythical hero”. If you’re doing the Marvel character (which seems most likely at a comic con), then he’s a villain. The most recent films have made him a villain that everyone loves (thanks to Tom Hiddleston), but he is still definitely a villain. And even if you are doing traditional Norse mythology, still not really a mythical hero. It’s a small thing to change-and it would make all the comic book fans happy.
    2) I would be very alarmed if my barista, for no reason that I could discern, just decided to mime shooting herself in the head. This action seems very out of place and unprofessional. Yes, when you are in her POV it makes sense, but still, I think it’s an unwise thing to do. (Also I don’t really appreciate jokes about suicide, but that is a completely personal thing and I try not to impose this opinion on others.)

  4. Shaya
    Apr 13, 2014 @ 09:16:45

    I like the beginning of this concept and am interested in seeing where it goes. If this is romance, I assume Loki is your Hero and Rose your Heroine, and possibly Thor and Loki are not cosplayers but the “real deal.”

    I do have a few nitpicks in the writing. There are places where a comma should be used in your dialogue/inner monologue:

    “…it will be too soon,” I grumbled…
    “He’s drinking a soy vanilla latte,” I whispered…
    Shame to miss the fun, I thought, amused…

    With a bit more proofreading on the punctuation and tightening of the sentences, I think you have a very good start here. I like the voice and the venue you have established. Good luck!

  5. Cathy Pegau
    Apr 13, 2014 @ 10:03:48

    @Kate Sherwood: Have you read “Bimbos from the Death Sun”?

    Author: I like your voice and the character here. Good luck with it!

  6. Kate Sherwood
    Apr 13, 2014 @ 12:57:50

    @Cathy Pegau: I haven’t read that! Off to investigate…

  7. hapax
    Apr 13, 2014 @ 13:48:32

    Wow.

    Umm….

    I really really hate your heroine.

    I don’t know what audience you’re planning on selling this too, but I don’t know many self-professed “die hard geeks” (and shouldn’t “die hard be one word, or at least with a colon?) who would refer to a “Sci Fi” convention (most geeks use that only as a term of contempt, pronounced “skiffy”) or to “sweaty geeks in ill-fitting polyester outfits” (most cosplayers spend a great deal of time, effort and yes money on making gorgeous, detailed costumes that fit very well indeed).

    In fact, your heroine’s contempt for her customers and her job make her very unlikable to me. I know that rude and condescending baristas are for some reason considered hip and trendy, but I’d expect better of the manager of the coffee shop.

    However, my raised hackles certainly indicate that you’ve done an excellent job conveying your heroine’s character and voice! This may be a sure-fire sell to those who don’t share my own prejudices.

  8. Lori
    Apr 13, 2014 @ 14:19:27

    I like the voice and with a daughter who is currently turning my home into a fashion studio as she creates her own Deathstroke cos-play costume, this is something that works very well indeed.

    My only niggle is that I don’t know what this story is going to be and you could lose me quickly if something doesn’t happen quickly to give me an idea of what I’m reading. Traditional romance? Murder mystery? Paranormal?

    I’d keep reading based on this, most assuredly.

  9. SAO
    Apr 13, 2014 @ 14:38:30

    Interesting setting, but nothing is happening on the page. You’ve said the confrontation will happen off-stage, while we’re stuck with Rose, handing out coffee and Rose whines. It’s her job and, given that the con is only for 3 days, this has to be a lot more interesting than her average day. Further, she can chat with the con-goers, who, if she’d like to be at the con herself, have to be her type. So, as I said, Rose whines, rather than enjoying herself.

    You write well, the scene is real, but given that you’ve said a long day of soul-crushing monotony is coming up, I have no reason to turn the page.

  10. cleo
    Apr 13, 2014 @ 15:27:04

    I’m intrigued, but I think Rose’s characterization is a little all over the place. I’m having trouble getting a handle on her – she’s judgmental, she’s whiny, she resents her customers, she’s playful with a customer, she’s trying to psych herself up for soul crushing boredom. I don’t know who she is. I like the woman who sends Loki after Thor. I don’t much care for the rest of her character.

  11. Marianne McA
    Apr 13, 2014 @ 15:52:43

    I think I’m the wrong generation for this one. My problem is that I can’t imagine what the ‘exciting confrontation’ she’s instigated would be like, so the only positive thing she does on the page is lost on me. Apart from that she comes across as very negative: “I grumbled “, “soul-crushing monotony”, “mimed shooting myself in the head”.

    I did like the “try not to die of soul-crushing monotony…repeat” negativity, because she’s being funny, but the miming shooting herself in the head – if it’s not a consoling gesture to a co-worker, or a blow-some-steam-off response to a difficult customer behind their back – it’s just self indulgent. She chose to take the job. She’s getting paid.

    (Thing is, you may be portraying a realistic mindset – I haven’t done that sort of work – but it doesn’t entice me to spend more time with her. So far, only the “try not to die” comment makes me warm to her.)

    Good luck.

  12. theo
    Apr 13, 2014 @ 16:35:55

    I don’t know that I’m the right or wrong audience for this, but I wouldn’t read on. I’ve been in similar situations and I can tell you, nothing is happening here. Nothing but drudgery. I understand you’re trying to convey that, but there’s just too much. If this is a romance, I’m hoping the Asgaard cos is the one but you give me no indication. If someone ends up dead because this is a mystery, you give me no indication. The only thing I know is she’s in debt, managing a coffee shop currently teeming with cosplay people and wishes she were at the convention instead of waiting on it.

    Beyond that, I have to agree with some of the other comments as to the two-fingered shot to the head, the whining attitude, etc. I’m sorry, if I have to read pages of soul-crushing monotony from someone whining that much, it’s a no-go for me.

  13. nasanta
    Apr 13, 2014 @ 22:04:32

    I was intrigued. I do agree with a lot of what the other commenters wrote, including the ones regarding grammar/spelling/punctuation. I think the most interesting part of this first page was what cleo said: ” I like the woman who sends Loki after Thor.”

  14. Nancy
    Apr 14, 2014 @ 00:00:17

    I enjoyed Rose’s voice and would read on. I’m not one of the people who needs the major plot point to begin on the first page so this opening doesn’t bother me. If this is suppose to be New Adult, then I think the tone is a good fit, as are most of Rose’s characterizations. I’m in my mid-20s and Rose’s situation and complaining is pretty accurate to baristas I know. NA readers tend to be more forgiving of a heroine’s faults so I don’t think you have to worry too much about making Rose more palatable. Although, with a main character who is a self-described geek, you might what to find real-life self-described geeks to beta so you don’t get any of the con-culture wrong. And I do agree with other commenters that the head gun is a little much, especially because she’s not doing it in a conversation with anyone.

    Good luck!

  15. Arabella
    Apr 14, 2014 @ 04:21:27

    First off, I’m intrigued enough that I would certainly turn the page.

    That said, I would recommend a beta reader (like someone else mentioned, someone who is into comic-con would be best–and having a little bit of experience with comic-con goers, I don’t know anyone who would have added the sci-fi part. It’s just New York Comic Con/convention. People, especially your target audience, will know what that means.
    Also, referring to Loki as a hero. I love Loki, but I agree with the person who pointed out this may rub fans the wrong way, since it stuck out to ME, and I am no comic authority.
    Also agree with the gun to head gesture. I get it, she doesn’t want to be there, it’s really just beating a dead horse at that point, plus you risk offending some people.
    Additionally, having Thor being stereotypically stocky/stubby-fingered/icky-sounding…probably not how I would start. Comic fans tend to get annoyed with being pigeon-holed like that, so if it isn’t important, I probably would have him be more average and avoid the first page stereotyping.
    Overall, don’t make the mistake of making a for-fans story, but getting the fan stuff wrong.

    :) Good start! I would definitely keep reading. My assumption at this point is that Loki is actually Loki and he may be the love interest in this adventure? I don’t know, but I would certainly read on to find out.

  16. Author
    Apr 14, 2014 @ 07:54:47

    Thanks for all the great feedback! I so appreciate all the thoughtful comments, and the time it took for each of you to share them.

  17. Julie C
    Apr 14, 2014 @ 08:00:52

    As for what the other commenters said:
    I only kind of agree with the “Sci Fi” argument, although I have a feeling you did that to change the name from ComicCon. I would not use the name “ComicCon” in any form as it is probably trademarked or something along those lines. But being a geek, the term Sci-Fi doesn’t bother me, although readers of the sf genre never refer to it that way.

    Look, I’ve had that job (after getting a degree as well) and when you are slammed like that, it really is kind of horrible. I don’t see the contempt for the customers as does one of the other commenters – only the one that caused the character to burn her hand. (BTW, do we even know her name??) And the miming thing doesn’t bother me. (Maybe just make sure that people know it was a joke.)

    However, I do agree with the others in that you need to get to the point soon. I’m sure it’s coming up. But I finished not knowing where the story was heading.

    A few of my thoughts:
    I’m sure you added “your nemesis, your brother” to let people know the relationship between Loki and Thor but you really need to think of another way of saying it. It’s a bit clunky. And I sincerely doubt there would be a ‘confrontation’ between them.

    I know there’s a whole “To Oxford Comma, or to Not Oxford Comma” debate, but I’m definitely and Oxford comma person. I’m begging you…. ;)

    But it is a really cute story so far. I like it. You definitely know how to build the scene, and it flows well. I want to know what happens from here. Good job.

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