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First Page: Historical Regency

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Gabriel caught the rotted branch before she broke it over his head. A moment passed. Bark crumbled between them. He stared into her frightened blue eyes. Eyes the color of waters he hadn't seen in a year. They jerked him to his past, a place he didn't want to leave then and now a place he never wanted to visit again. He waited. She waited. Time suspended with their arms overhead and only the bit of wood connecting them.

Had his father sent her?

No. Father wouldn't risk anyone knowing of his plans and Gabriel had not broken his cover in a year. Father still thought he was dead. Even if his father would risk sending someone, he would not have sent someone incompetent. If his father had sent her, Gabriel would be dead.

She was-he didn't know, but he couldn't stop seeing fear in her eyes, in the shake of her arms and slight tremble of her jaw as he towered over her. Her teeth took her lower lip and she raked the reddened plump swell. Her eyes shifted.  She was going to run.

She released the limb and did just that.

"Wait!" He tossed the branch aside and chased after.

Her hair flew loose behind her, her dress dragged through the mud. She jumped to the right, low hanging limbs surely slapped her in the face, but she pressed on as though the very devil were at her heels. She wouldn't be far off in that thinking, but he followed her path. His longer stride closed the distance between them. He reached out and dove, catching her about the waist and brought her to the ground. Her heels kicked his thighs and her elbows  jabbed  his shoulders. He winced under the digs, but didn't release her.

Trapping her against the ground with this body, he forced her wrists with bloody pointy elbows to the muddy forest floor. "What do you want with me?"

She tensed under him, her struggling halted. "You don't know who I am?"

"A mad woman who attacked me?" It wasn't everyday he pinned a woman to the ground, let alone had he been attacked in a long while. Even longer since it was a woman looking to see his head off.

"You're not-oh, dear." Her breath eased out. Her body limped beneath his and all but her bones seemed to mold to the forest floor. "You have my deepest apologies. I mistook you for someone else. Please release me."

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

34 Comments

  1. Ros
    May 29, 2010 @ 04:49:35

    Well, I like it!

    There are some sentences that don’t read very easily – I would recommend that you try reading this aloud and see if you can find ways to streamline some of your prose. But I’m definitely hooked.

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  3. Marianne McA
    May 29, 2010 @ 05:02:00

    I was confused by “Eyes the color of waters he hadn't seen in a year.” On first reading, I read it as he hadn’t seen the waters for a year, but then immediately made a genre assumption and assumed the intention was to indicate he hadn’t seen the eyes for a year, and that this was a reunion scene. My misreading, but perhaps it is a bit ambiguous.

    The next part, I liked: ‘Father still thought he was dead’. Just throws up lots of interesting questions – that paragraph would be the one that sold me the book.

    The rest – without context, it’s hard to know. But given that he decides she hasn’t been sent by his father, it doesn’t seem heroic to hurl yourself on top of a frightened woman. Couldn’t he just have caught her arm? For myself, if he has to pin her down, I’d like him to feel conflicted or embarrassed at the necessity – he has to do this because his life is at stake, but the reader would know that normally he’d be out there protecting the weaker sex with the best of them. Though, really, unfair to say that, because it’s just my personal preference – maybe he’s meant to be a hardened type.

    And these sentences:

    “It wasn't everyday he pinned a woman to the ground, let alone had he been attacked in a long while. Even longer since it was a woman looking to see his head off.”

    both read awkwardly to my ear.

    Anyway, good luck. I’ll hope to read it some day, to find out why his father tried to kill him.

  4. Danielle D
    May 29, 2010 @ 05:43:15

    I’m hooked, I want more.

  5. Maili
    May 29, 2010 @ 06:40:44

    He stared into her frightened blue eyes. Eyes the color of waters he hadn't seen in a year.

    Not important, but in case it is, I’m guessing he’s talking about the Caribbean sea or elsewhere, because the colour of the sea around Britain is usually grey (or grey-green). Either way, it’s made me stop reading to wonder what it really meant.

  6. Jane O
    May 29, 2010 @ 06:53:23

    Definitely intriguing.

    There seem to be some awkwardly worded passages, already mentioned, and some ambiguities you don’t really want.

    “Trapping her against the ground with this body, he forced her wrists with bloody pointy elbows to the muddy forest floor.”

    He’s using his elbows to force her wrists down? Or are those her elbows? In either case, how did they get bloody?

    Also, it may just be me but I think of tree limbs as pretty hefty things, not the little twigs that slap you as you run.

    But it sounds as if you have a good tale to tell here, and I would want to read it.

  7. DS
    May 29, 2010 @ 06:58:25

    I did wonder why she had picked up a rotted branch to hit him with instead of something sturdy. I hope the heroine improves because at this point I am sensing TSTL.

  8. Lynne Connolly
    May 29, 2010 @ 07:24:04

    I’m on a campaign to bring back the historical into historicals. Having said that, there isn’t much historical here.

    “Gabriel caught the rotted branch before she broke it over his head.”

    As a hero’s name, Gabriel is a bit overdone and so I groaned at the very first word.

    “Bark crumbled between them.”

    That’s “telling” not “showing” which means I get no sense of it. I don’t feel it, or see it, or even get the smell of rotting wood.

    “Eyes the color of waters he hadn't seen in a year.”

    Nice – if he’s been to the Mediterranean. it indicates that he’s been abroad. As someone said earlier, the sea around Britain is grey or greenish.

    ” They jerked him to his past, a place he didn't want to leave then and now a place he never wanted to visit again.”

    Bit of a groan because it’s awfully cliched.

    “broken his cover”

    A bit of a modern phrase for a historical.

    “as he towered over her.”

    He’s going to think that she’s small, rather than he’s tall.

    ” Her teeth took her lower lip and she raked the reddened plump swell.”

    cliche.

    “Her eyes shifted.”

    Make that “gaze,” otherwise you have disembodied body parts.

    “She released the limb and did just that.”

    Since this is the first move, you might want to make it more active. Let’s ‘see’ her run, feel it.

    “Her hair flew loose behind her, her dress dragged through the mud.”

    “dress” in Regency times indicated everything you had on, not just one garment. She’s wearing a gown? A riding habit? “dress” is a boring word, apart from being anachronistic, it doesn’t give any indication of what she looks like. You could have popped in a thumbnail here and given more colour to the piece.

    “She wouldn't be far off in that thinking,”

    Is he twirling his moustache here? Seems an odd time to be thinking that.

    “He winced under the digs, but didn't release her.”

    Again, the story of the chase is “telling,” not “showing.” Take the reader there, make her feel it for herself, otherwise you’ve lost her. And since you mentioned mud earlier, you’d better follow through and have them covered in the stuff!

    “Her body limped beneath his”

    bodies don’t limp unless they are standing.

    If this is set in Britain, forests are very rare here, and were in Regency times. We have woods. And unless it’s been raining hard, wood floors tend to stay dusty and dry.

    Two main comments here. There is no sense of involvement, no sense of drawing the reader in because you’re “telling” not “showing.” No pain when she kicks him, no vivid mind-pictures.

    Second, I get no sense of history. It’s easy to pop little details in without bogging the reader down, and it adds to the vividness of the scene. Does she look shabby, like a maid, or like a young lady? Is she wearing a bonnet, and if not, why not, since that was the norm then, even in the country? The flat, boring word “dress” doesn’t say anything, except that she’s wearing something with long skirts. Her hair – brown, blonde, up, down, what?
    Is he in military uniform, country dress, is he wearing country breeches or town pantaloons? All of this is relevant because it indicates what kind of person he is, and where they are, and how fast he can run.

    And I know I’m presuming, but please, please don’t make him a duke’s heir. Because duke’s heirs don’t and can’t disappear in that way, even if there are other heirs. There’d have to be a hue and cry after him at the very least. He would be found, make no mistake. England’s a small country. I might be going off on one here, but recently I’ve read too many books (or rather, started them) about duke’s and duke’s heirs to care much about another one. And above all, I want new historicals to read.

    If I picked this up in a bookstore, I’d put it down again, simply because it doesn’t engage me enough. But that’s easily fixed by making it less general, and using all the senses, together with a tiny bit more detail (but don’t bog it down) to make it real.

    And think yourself into him. And maybe change his name? George would take the reader into the right period and be a perfect name, but if you can’t bear that, look up the census of the time and pick something else.

  9. DS
    May 29, 2010 @ 07:44:20

    I didn’t look at the title of the post and actually thought it was contemporary and/or urban fantasy. The urban fantasy thought came in because of the waters he hadn’t seen in a year– I thought he had become a vampire or something and hadn’t been out in the daylight.

    Well, there goes my comprehension skills.

  10. Courtney Milan
    May 29, 2010 @ 08:20:29

    I (personally) would put this down for a number of reasons.

    First, and most subjectively, sentence variation. This whole thing feels clunky to me, because the sentences mostly run to the short–sometimes truncated–variety, and take the same loose form: Subject Verb. Sometimes it’s Subject Verb, Subject Verb. It just makes me tired reading it. That being said, there are some very very famous authors who do the exact same thing, so if that’s the way you feel most comfortable writing, and it feels right to you, I may just not be your natural audience. So if you read this and think, “Nuts to you, Courtney,” this particular element is easily the most subjective of the things I’m going to say, so take it with as much salt as you like.

    Second. I’m not a huge describer. I don’t need a huge amount of description. But I don’t have a clue where they are until we get to “muddy forest floor.” Ballroom? Maybe. Town market? Could be. I know that you don’t want to slow the action down to describe anything, but the trick is to use description to up the pace: to make the details around them fit into his emotional state, and the sense of some kind of danger.

    Third. Lynne mentioned this above, too, and I want to echo this–this is a very shallow third person point of view. There’s no tactile sensation, no smell, no sound. And the things that are described–the few of them–are described as if we’re in a movie, not as if we’re experiencing it. When you press someone to a forest floor, you don’t experience it as a “muddy forest floor”–that’s the impersonal version. You think: “mud squelching through the fabric of my knees.”

    It’s not even clear to me that he doesn’t know who she is–I had to reread several times to figure that out.

    Part of the reason for my confusion about whether he knows her is this line: “Eyes the color of waters he hadn't seen in a year.” Which can be parsed out as either eyes = “color of waters he hadn’t seen in a year” OR as eyes = “color of water,” which particular eyes he hadn’t seen in a year.

    And that brings me to my fourth thing. The diction isn’t careful. Yes, I can figure out what you meant by “eyes the color of water he hadn’t seen in a year.” I figure it out by going back and rereading. Any time I have to read back in order to read forward, I’m annoyed, and I’m not paying attention to the story. That’s a bad thing for you. Others have pointed out a number of things along those lines, too, but there are many, many more.

    Some of the ways you’ve written this suggest to me that you’re spending more time following rules about writing than looking for what feels natural. When I see something like “her body limped beneath him”–when you clearly mean “her body went limp beneath him”–that suggests that what you were trying to do was remove what looks like a “passive” construction. What you got was something that does not make sense.

    And this brings me to the thing that most feels like you’re following rules blindly: The point where the story starts. It feels to me as if you think you have to start in media res, so you start in the most media res-nick place you can think of. But you’re starting so quick on where the moment of action comes on, that the reader can’t even feel it.

    You’ve skipped the tension: He doesn’t see this woman sneaking up on him, doesn’t wonder who the heck she is. You don’t get any sense of what he thinks of her, what he’s waiting for. You don’t have that moment of, heh heh, pretty women sneaking up to me in deserted location, wonder what she’s got for me?

    And you don’t get that sense of outrage and holy crap what! when he realizes that what she has for him is a smack upside the head with a branch.

    This passage shouts to me that you are good and competent writer–but that your writing is not quite there yet.

    And one aside to Lynne: they would not raise the hue and cry in order to find a duke’s heir. You raise the hue and cry after criminals, not after any old person you want found. They would search for him, yes, and would advertise after him, but you would not call the search “the hue and cry” (and the advertisement would not be in the official Gazette, which in Regency times was “The Hue and Cry and Police Gazette”), except as a fanciful, figurative description–and in the time period, it would have extremely negative implications.

  11. Lynne Connolly
    May 29, 2010 @ 08:41:31

    @Courtney Milan:
    Hands up, you got me. Yes, I realised when it went through that I’d got it wrong, and it’s a prime example of using a phrase without thinking it through properly – mine, this time! There’s an old British film called “Hue and Cry” which showed how it worked – haven’t seen it for a long time!

    But if he was a duke’s heir, they’d hunt him down. Advertisements, hired men, even Bow Street, though I doubt that, since that was concerned with criminal activity. But Bow Street men didn’t work for salaries, they worked on commission, for the rewards (or had that changed by the Regency? I work mainly in the 1750’s). They’d find him, or put the missing persons thing into train.
    I was just pre-empting, anyway. He’s probably nothing of the sort, except that his father seems to loom large in his thoughts.

    You got it on the nail, Courtney. Yes, please, more depth, and a bit more of a hint as to where we are.

  12. Courtney Milan
    May 29, 2010 @ 08:54:31

    I think that they had the first salaried people in Bow Street in the late 1790s? But I write in the late 1830s/early 1840s, when they actually had a nascent metropolitan police force, so this is not my time period of expertise, either.

  13. Ros
    May 29, 2010 @ 08:58:25

    In defence of the British seas – they are sometimes blue! On sunny days they can be as blue as the Med. I admit that’s not very many days, but still I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think of the sea as blue, even in England.

    Also, Courtney, I wonder how many rotting branches there were in ballrooms or market places? I felt like I was in the countryside from the opening line.

  14. theo
    May 29, 2010 @ 09:18:41

    I have to agree with everything @Lynne Connolly and @Courtney Milan said. Those minor details especially, such as her skirts or a shawl she’d had round her shoulders might drag in the mud, but not her ‘dress’. Those kinds of things might not apply to a novice reader of historicals, but to anyone who reads them regularly, and you want to appeal to a broad audience here, those kinds of details would jar.

    Also, and no one else mentioned this but it really made me go ‘hmmmm’, this one line:

    Her heels kicked his thighs and her elbows jabbed his shoulders.

    made me stop and wonder how that’s possible. Maybe I’m not picturing it the way you mean it, but if her heels are digging into his thighs, I’m picturing her back to his front. If her elbows are digging into his shoulders, I’m picturing her front to his. So either you’ve got a Barbie who spins at the waist and only her bottom half was running forward while the top half was facing him, or you need to rethink that description. Because I even asked my DH to help me on this one and though he’s 6’5″ and I’m only 5’8″, there’s no way I can get my heels at his thighs and still jab him in the shoulders with my elbows. I’d have to be a contortionist.

    So, that long explanation is to say, if you need visual and physical props to help with your descriptions, please use them. That alone would make me put the book down because I wouldn’t be able to trust that other active descriptions would be any better.

  15. Maili
    May 29, 2010 @ 09:37:37

    @Lynne Connolly:

    “Gabriel caught the rotted branch before she broke it over his head.”

    As a hero's name, Gabriel is a bit overdone and so I groaned at the very first word.

    Give it up. :D I talked (or rather, whined) – about historical romance authors’ tendency to give British characters odd, modern or ‘non-British’ names – to someone last night and while I was having a breather during this whine, I realised it’s something that will never die. The British naming system (and its traditions, trends and styles) have consistently been underused or ignored by those in the Historical romance genre, and probably always will be.

    @Ros: Heh! Are you thinking of places like Cornwall? Blue, true, but still grey. Blue-grey. It wouldn’t be British otherwise. :D I’d go as far as to say that Great Britain’s middle name is Grey.

  16. Ros
    May 29, 2010 @ 12:07:03

    @Maili: No! Seriously, the sea around Britain can be as blue as anywhere ON THE RIGHT DAY. You do have to have sun and that’s what we’re often lacking. But I’ve seen blue seas on east and west coasts, on the south coast and in Scotland. In fact my favourite beaches in north Norfolk have been used in films as stand-ins for the Caribbean because the sand is so white and the sea so blue and the beaches so deserted.

  17. Stephanie
    May 29, 2010 @ 13:26:14

    First off, I would read on. I honestly finished this wishing there was more! That being said, I think that some of the advice that you’ve been given already would improve what you have. You have a great set-up but rush into it way too quickly. I think that Courtney’s advice is great–lead up to her taking the swing with his thoughts/him preparing himself for an attack/etc. Let the reader feel every moment of an exciting scene.

    I was also confused about Gabriel’s relationship with the heroine. When I read that line comparing her eyes to the ocean I thought that they’d known each other as children and had lived by the ocean together. But then I got confused when he had her pinned down she didn’t recognize him (or, at least it was easy to convince her that she didn’t know him). Then I got even more confused. Wouldn’t she make sure she was going after the right guy before taking a swing? Especially if she was alone with him in the woods?

  18. Castiron
    May 29, 2010 @ 14:07:34

    I generally agree with the comments that’ve been made already.

    There’s no sense of place; yes, a rotted branch might suggest a forest, but my first thought was a woodpile near a house. I don’t know whether he’s in England or a foreign country, in a familiar place or an unfamiliar, whether they’re in the middle of nowhere or whether there’s houses just over the next hill.

    There’s no sense of time; this could be a Regency, a paranormal, an alternate history, or a fantasy that isn’t even on our timeline.

    I’m confused by a lot of the action and the pacing. A random woman tries to clonk Gabriel over the head, and it takes him a whole paragraph of thought to get to “who the heck is this and what’s she doing here?” — doesn’t work for me. I think I get what you were trying to say with the pointy elbows line — that she’s jabbing him with her elbows — but I shouldn’t have to stop and think about it.

    What does work for me is the heroine’s final statement; I’m a sucker for politeness in ludicrous situations. And the general scenario could definitely hook my interest — why is this strange woman going after Gabriel with a stick? who does she think he is? what is Gabriel’s background? If the writing were smoother, I’d be hooked. Even as it is, I might give it one more page before I give up and put it back on the shelf.

    I’ll also join in on the “why do Regency characters always have unlikely names?” plaint. I’d actually tolerate Gabriel — it may not be a likely name in England, but I’ve seen it enough in Maryland in the late 1700s/early 1800s (granted, mostly among Germans) that it wouldn’t ping my bogometer. Some other books I’ve read, though, have me wishing I still had my Ancestry subscription so I could check whether that name actually showed up anywhere at that time.

  19. Jen D
    May 29, 2010 @ 14:09:34

    I really liked this. I would read on once it’s polished up.

    I’m a sucker for mistaken identity combined with near-braining.

    I do agree that it would be so much more powerful with a bit more sensory input. What does this forest smell like? Is it musty? Is it cold and damp from October rains?

    I also agree that some of the sentences made me groan. They were just a bit too over the top for my taste. I’m not sure if it’s the sentences themselves, or that they seem overly emotional within the current situation.

    I really enjoyed what I have read so far- I’d love to read it once you’ve finished with a bit of polish. I have a feeling your story is going to take me on a really fantastic ride.

  20. Verona St. James
    May 29, 2010 @ 14:50:23

    Good voice. Fairly strong writing on the whole with just a few awkward word choices (like the “bloody pointy elbows” thing…) and I agree with the others who said they’d like more sensory descriptions and historical details. I kept thinking, “What time period is this?” until I looked at the post title.

    I think my biggest problem is really this feels WAY too abrupt. I feel like I’m coming into the middle of a scene, not the beginning of a book. Even just a little set-up with Gabriel wandering through the forest before getting attacked might be nice to acclimate me to your world and your character.

    That said, I’d probably read on, abrupt beginnings and all, because I think the writing was pretty engaging. :)

  21. adobedragon
    May 29, 2010 @ 15:41:41

    I don’t read historicals and don’t know anything about the various eras and the cultural distinctions therein.

    But the first thing that struck me was the total lack of sense of place and time. As someone else noted, this could just as easily have been the first page for a paranormal, contemporary, etc.

    The language, which is a bit flowery for me, suggests something other than a contemporary setting. But there’s a total absence of detail.

    “Eyes the color of waters he hadn't seen in a year. They jerked him to his past, a place he didn't want to leave then and now a place he never wanted to visit again.”

    The above really didn’t work for me, placed as it is in an introductory paragraph, splat-dab at the start of an action oriented scene. She’s just tried to smash his head open. I doubt her eyes, no matter how pretty and blue, are going to send him on a trip down memory lane.

    “Her teeth took her lower lip and she raked the reddened plump swell.” I imagine this sentence is supposed to be sexy, but I just find it weird and out-of-place in an action-oriented intro.

    Both of the quoted sentences seem to be a means of showing his instant attraction to her. Mileage may vary, but at this stage, the two characters just need to be interesting. I don’t need them to be instantly attracted to each other. Especially in an adversarial situation like this one.

    I really do like the energy you project in your writing. And the mistaken identity bit at the end is very intriguing.

  22. Julia Sullivan
    May 29, 2010 @ 19:54:09

    I think that you’re trying to be mysterious and instead being confusing. Why not “Eyes the color of the Barbados seas he hadn’t seen in a year” or whatever it is? The convention in Regency is for pretty thorough and upfront incluing; the vagueness of this first page smacks more of a paranormal mystery than of a Regency to me.* Take advantage of the leeway you’re given: in a genre where it’s fine to write something like “Without vouchers for Almack’s, she’d never be received by the highest echelons of society” there’s no need to be coy about what “waters” your hero hasn’t seen in a year and why not.

    “Broke cover” is an absolutely period-accurate phrase, though, pace Lynne Connelly (presuming that the writer is referring to a physical place of concealment). It’s a hunting term and goes back to the 12th century.

    *Note: I am not crazy about the current convention of “let’s not actually reveal that the hero/heroine is a wereslug/revenant/zombie tax accountant until the end of the first chapter” in paranormal, but I understand that it works for some people; carrying that approach over into Regency seems unnecessary at best, though.

  23. KristieJ
    May 29, 2010 @ 19:54:18

    I was hooked and as others have said, with a bit of polishing up, at least so far, you seem to be on the right track.

  24. Lynne Connolly
    May 30, 2010 @ 06:11:49

    “I'll also join in on the “why do Regency characters always have unlikely names?” plaint. I'd actually tolerate Gabriel -‘ it may not be a likely name in England.”

    Likely, but not usual. It’s the name of an archangel, which is Catholic, and I guess had vaguely Catholic meaning. I only groaned because it’s used so often these days. There was a time when every other vampire was called Gabriel. Somebody should do a collation of names used by authors in all genres, see which are the most commonly used. I do like names that the author has researched and investigated. I was delighted to call my latest historical heroine “Sapphira,” because it was used at the time, and, well, I thought it was pretty. I found it in an old parish register. I have been known to put books down because the name of the hero, in particular, is wrong, makes him sound more like a cowboy than a duke, for instance, and knowing that name is going to be repeated throughout the novel makes me sure I can’t read it. If I buy it in unlocked ebook format, I can change it for myself!

    Jane – I just hesitated at “broke for cover” and left it for someone else, preferably the author, to look up. I spend half my life in my Chambers Eytmological, and I really need to get on, yet I know once I get my nose stuck in that thing time kind of gets away from me.
    BTW, online, Etymology.com is an excellent resource. I’ve puzzled over one or two things, but on the whole, it’s spot on, and since a lot of editors use it to check anachronisms, it’s a good idea for authors, too.

  25. Jo Vandewall
    May 30, 2010 @ 08:36:06

    I agree that there were so awkward sentences. A few other things bothered me. In the third paragraph, “father” is repeated four times. There’s only 5 sentences here, so the repetition hit me harder each time.

    That said, there are hints of voice in this that I liked a lot. I love the inference that she’s an incompetent assassin. I laughed out loud at that. Since I read for voice, I found this promising piece even with the awkward sentences.

  26. Susan/DC
    May 30, 2010 @ 09:49:34

    I like the setup and the characters have potential — heroes estranged from fathers who wish them dead and heroines who remember their manners while pinned underneath a strange man in the woods pique my interest. However, the language is awkward in ways described by others, and much as I want to learn more about these two, I wouldn’t read much farther if the writing did not improve. Here’s hoping the author has a good critique group or that this is an early draft.

  27. LisaCharlotte
    May 30, 2010 @ 13:14:27

    I’ve changed my name a million times on this site. There are a lot of Lisas out there. Nothing on this first page really grabbed me. I’m def getting burned out on regency era. The biting the plump lip sentence made me actually roll my eyes. I’ve been reading romance since the late 70s and I’m afraid there is no going back to prose that purple and clichéd.

  28. Lucy Woodhull
    May 30, 2010 @ 17:17:13

    @Courtney Milan: It feels to me as if you think you have to start in media res, so you start in the most media res-nick place you can think of. But you're starting so quick on where the moment of action comes on, that the reader can't even feel it.

    You've skipped the tension: He doesn't see this woman sneaking up on him, doesn't wonder who the heck she is.

    Oh, yes! I agree with all of CM’s analysis, but this is the bit that bugged me the most. Action without context reeks of false suspense to me. I feel the same when I read (yet another) MS where the protag is running from something right away. If I don’t know who it is, why do I care? I don’t need their life’s story, but just a little something to give the action meaning.

    I agree with Ros as well – print this out and read it aloud. That might help the clunkiness and the confusion in most the prose, as well as the repeated words.

  29. Joe G
    May 30, 2010 @ 19:25:07

    I feel like I was turning channels and came in the middle of a scene of a story that began 15 minutes earlier. There’s nothing to hang on to, and the writing is a little purple. If I don’t really care about Gabriel yet, why should I care about some mysterious “her”? Gabriel is still a mystery to me, much less Miss Pronoun.

  30. The Author
    Jun 01, 2010 @ 07:25:49

    thanks all! clunky bits in my writing has been pointed out which is one of the reasons I wanted this posted.

    I do read aloud, change the font, print out, ect, I’m just not seeing it. I was looking for specific setentence examples and you gave me that plus so much more. thanks all! -keri ford

    Courtney–thanks. yes, I think you’re hitting it just right. the ‘rules’ are always there pressing and I can’t seem to forget about them and just write.

  31. Lynne Connolly
    Jun 01, 2010 @ 08:09:19

    “Gabriel caught the rotted branch before she broke it over his head. A moment passed. Bark crumbled between them. He stared into her frightened blue eyes. Eyes the color of waters he hadn't seen in a year. They jerked him to his past, a place he didn't want to leave then and now a place he never wanted to visit again. He waited. She waited. Time suspended with their arms overhead and only the bit of wood connecting them.”

    Since you said you wanted examples and I’m desperately waiting here for Capello to get his act together and name the squad – here’s my version of your first para – just for fun, take it or leave it, as you like:

    That rustle didn’t sound like squirrels in the undergrowth. Gabriel spun around, pivoting on one foot on the thick carpet of leaves and loose earth, his hand going up to defend himself. Years of living on the edge had taught him to be on constant alert and even here, in an English wood, it seemed that danger lurked.
    He caught the branch just before it landed on his head. Gritting his teeth, he stared at his would-be assassin.
    A woman. a delicately built, scared woman. Blue eyes filled with fear stared into his. Bits of bark and wood showered between them from the rotted branch she’d swung at him. Gabriel blinked and narrowed his eyes, unsure of the vision before him.
    Even here his father’s agents found him out and tried to kill him. This one wouldn’t get far enough to report back.

    Or something like that.
    Wow, Theo Walcott out.

  32. The Author
    Jun 01, 2010 @ 17:12:40

    thanks so much, Lynne! this is excellent. I’ll be studying these comments in the morning while the kiddo is at school.

  33. Cindy
    Jul 22, 2010 @ 18:00:18

    There are a lot of action bits here that don’t make sense. Others have mentioned the difficiencies so I won’t repeat their points. I suggest, though, that you move the action in the first scene somewhere else that doesn’t lead you into so much syntax trouble. It could be a move as simple as moving it to a grassy area– anywhere where you can squeeze in some badly needed context.

    The first page, and especially the first sentence, is so important and you waste an opportunity to really hook the reader. The threat of a rotten piece of wood over his head just doesn’t cut it. And the lack of a strong start is not the only thing to worry about here– you give the reader almost no information to allow him/her to decide whether to go on and read the book, and that doesn’t build up enough tension to make the reader care.

  34. My First Sale by Keri Ford | Dear Author
    Dec 27, 2010 @ 04:01:54

    […] a page for me, pointing things out and how to fix some issues. I sent a page into Dear Author for First Page Saturday. I reviewed feedback given to me from submissions. I took in and analyzed every comment, thankful […]

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