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First Page: More Than Meets the Eye

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Thea’s mouth dropped open as the bank of monitors in front of her sent out pictures, his dazzling face filling the room. She knew who he was; anyone who had glanced at a newspaper or turned on a television would have recognised Justin Anderson. Being this close to a mega-star had a strange effect on her. He was attractive, yes, but her interest wasn’t concerned with that. Ideas buzzed around her head as she went through possible scenarios for an interview with him had she been the one who had been asked to do it. Ha! What an impossible thought that was. She’d only been working here for a short time and was very much a junior. Through the headphones, she listened intently, recognising the voice of the interviewer. They weren’t the sort of questions Thea would have asked.
Long after his image disappeared, Thea’s gaze remained on the monitors as she thought about Justin Anderson. Then she became aware of an acid tone enquiring, “What kept you? I’ve been waiting for those.”

Bringing herself back from her dream world to the present, Thea stammered, “I’m sorry, Hermione,” before slipping the armful of papers onto the interviewer’s desk.

“Get a grip,” commanded Hermione Clutterbuck. “He’s a here today, gone tomorrow sort. I should know, I’ve seen enough of them.”

“Of course you have, Hermione, you’ve been here since the year dot.” The director approached them, pausing to drop a wink in Thea’s direction. “As Hermione appears to have a deskful of work, I’d like your help please, Thea.” He strode to his office with Thea trailing behind him, anxious to make up for her lack of attention.

She’d been ecstatic when she landed this job as a gopher on a new pilot TV channel. It would give her experience, a good reference and the ability to move onwards and upwards after her apprenticeship. The good reference could be put on hold though, judging by the look on Hermione’s frosty face. She wasn’t usually interested in office tittle-tattle, but had heard various whisperings about why Hermione was such a hard case. At first Thea had made attempts at being friendly even inviting Hermione to join her for lunch, but there were only so many rebuffs she could take. She’d had to accept that her line manager was aloof. As they entered the director’s office, she was determined to do her best. Thea would throw herself willingly into anything Chas Filbert, asked of her.

“Sit down,” invited Chas. “Let me get you a juice or something. What’s it to be?”

Flustered, Thea started up out of her chair. “No, it’s my job to get you what you’d like.”

“Heck, I’m not so bone idle or helpless that I can’t pour a glass of juice.” He opened the fridge, extracted a carton and tore at the top rather too viciously and orange liquid flowed onto the pale carpet. Chas pulled a face. “Perhaps I am that helpless, eh?”

Thea laughed as she pulled a wad of tissues from a box on his desk and mopped up the stain, leaving no trace of the accident. She re-seated herself, waiting to find out what Chas had to ask her.

“You’re a very resourceful girl, young lady, woman or whatever it is I should call you nowadays,” said Chas, “and I’d like to see you having more responsibility. Do you think you could handle it?”

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. Lil
    May 12, 2013 @ 08:42:48

    Generally, I thought this was very good, but a few things bother me.
    1. I hope Justin Anderson isn’t going to be the hero. Thea sounds much too young and naive for that.
    2. She asked her boss, Hermione, to join her for lunch? That sounds off to me, even if Thea is naive.
    3. I hope Chas is supposed to come across as a bit creepy and predatory, because that’s the way I’m reading him. (I don’t think it’s just because I dislike the name.)

    There’s maybe a bit too much of that paragraph about how ecstatic she is to have landed this job as a gopher, etc. You’ve already said that she’s new, and she’s behaving enthusiastically, sort of like a friendly puppy. I think you could cut out just about all of that paragraph. You’ve already shown. You don’t need to tell.

    I think you have a good start here. Keep it up.

  2. hapax
    May 12, 2013 @ 09:51:36

    It’s an interesting set-up. Aloof supervisor, kind of creepy boss, dreamboat interview — there are a lot of different ways this might go. I do like it when I can’t predict the entire plot from the first page!

    Your grammar is all technically correct, but it’s a bit stylistically awkward. Just from the first paragraph:

    “his dazzling face filling the room.”
    Whose face? I first thought “his” referred back to “Thea”. Better make this “a dazzling face”, or even “a dazzling male face” or “a famous dazzling face” or something like that. (Warning: “dazzling” male faces are pretty much trademarked “Edward Cullen” right now, so you might want to re-think the adjective)

    “Being this close to a mega-star had a strange effect on her.”

    She isn’t that close — she’s seeing him on a television screen like anybody else could. Or is she monitoring the security cameras for the green room? Or maybe supervising the raw footage for interview room next door? And in either case, surely the “mega-star” was booked way in advance, and she should hardly be surprised to see his face.

    Also, “strange effect” is a content-less phrase in this context. Be more precise; was she exhilarated? Her professional instincts sharpened? Actually, since you go on to explain, I think you could cut this sentence entirely.

    “He was attractive, yes, but her interest wasn’t concerned with that.”

    Either “she wasn’t interested in that” or “she wasn’t concerned by that.” Both together is awkward.

    “Ideas buzzed around her head as she went through possible scenarios for an interview with him had she been the one who had been asked to do it.”

    Totally lost me in that last clause. How about two sentences: “Ideas buzzed around her head as she went through possible scenarios for an interview with him. If only she had been asked to do it!”

    “They weren’t the sort of questions Thea would have asked.”

    Not a *bad* sentence, but again you miss the chance to bring urgency to the scene. Maybe something like, “They weren’t the questions Thea was burning to ask” or “They weren’t the questions Thea knew most viewers cared about” or something like that.

    Basically, I think you might be too close to your own story to edit it objectively. Could you find a good, critical beta reader? Failing that, try reading the words aloud and listening to them from outside the story. Very often that will make awkward phrases and unclear scenes jump out at you.

  3. Lynne Connolly
    May 12, 2013 @ 11:16:39

    It has promise.
    Justin is the hero, I just know it, since he’s the first male the reader ‘meets’ and his introduction is a tad intrusive to the main story. If he’s a rock star, please, please make him a proper rock star with a rock star lifestyle and make her more than a waif! Believe me, in that world, waifs are only good for one thing. They can’t keep up. And that goes for boy bands, too.
    Her boss is definitely creepy.
    Cut the backstory. It should come out naturally during the course of the story.
    And Hermione Clutterbuck? Would any professional interviewer keep that name? It looks here like she’s being set up as the standard villainess, so it would be nice if she wasn’t.

  4. Mary
    May 12, 2013 @ 12:02:05

    I agree with hapax that this is a very awkward sounding passage. There were a lot of things that drew me out of the passage, from the very first sentence. Here are two things that I don’t think have been previously addressed by other commenters.
    These three sentences:
    She’d had to accept that her line manager was aloof. As they entered the director’s office, she was determined to do her best. Thea would throw herself willingly into anything Chas Filbert, asked of her.

    The first relates to the rest of the paragraph. But the next two should be in a different paragraph, and also transition awkwardly. Maybe if you added an additional sentence or something saying that Chas had been nicer to her than Hermione and for that reason, she would do whatever he asked. Or maybe he’s mega-important and she wants to impress him to get promoted. Or maybe she has a crush on him. At the moment, her motivations for wanting to help him aren’t clear and that’s kind of adding to the creepiness factor that others have mentioned. (And as a grammar note, the comma in front of “asked of her” isn’t necessary”.

    The second thing is the whole orange juice scene. He tears off the top and it spills on the carpet? It’s a little implausible for me, but I’ll go with it. Then she’s on the floor mopping it up…and it leaves no stain on a pale carpet? Maybe this is a nitpick but it struck me as odd. And also I feel like Chas weirdly disappears from the scene while she’s doing it. They’re about to have a meeting, he spills orange juice, and she mops it up, and then they continue as normal? It’s a weird sequence of events. I think it would work better if she attempts to mop it up, but then her boss stops her and says something like, “you can do that later” or “don’t worry about it, the cleaning staff will do it”.
    On the whole, I’m interested to see what you’re going to do with these characters. BUT, I think you’ve got some reworking to do with grammar. If the first page is clunky, I’d be worried that the rest of the book would be just as clunky.

  5. cleo
    May 12, 2013 @ 12:42:39

    My last couple attempts to post seem to have gotten lost, but I’m going to try again.

    About taking a date to a wedding – as an American, I think it varies a lot, probably by region and other factors. I live in the Midwest (as does Min) and my mom grew up in southern Ohio. I’ve been to weddings (including some in Ohio) without a date (both when I was single and when I had a partner) and no one seemed to care much. Sometimes *I* cared about me not having a date – when I was feeling insecure about being single.

    I always felt like Min’s desire to have a date to her sister’s wedding had more to do with her relationship with her mother than any thing else – and her desire not to feel like the poor single sister destined to be alone. (I bought beautiful shoes for my cousin’s wedding for similar insecurities – I didn’t want to feel like the token plain looking relative standing next to my beautiful cousins – not that any of my cousins have ever, ever treated me like I’m plain)

  6. SAO
    May 12, 2013 @ 13:34:05

    I had trouble reading the first para. It wasn’t stated that Thea was just sitting in front of the monitor. So when the monitor in front of her did something, I assumed she’d done it at her computer. Then she thinks about the sort of interview she’d like to do, but it doesn’t say that on the monitor, an interview is going on. So I spent too much time piecing this together.

    I only read page 1 and I want to shake Thea. She daydreams about interviewing the hot star, suggesting she wants to be a journalist. However, she tells the director that it’s her job to fetch and carry for him and, without being asked, mops up his spill. If she wants a job as personal maid, this is the way to go.

    When Chas tells her she’s very resourceful after the mopping, it makes me think he wants her to assist him because he likes his coffee made just so, and she’ll be a damned good barista, when she’s not on her knees in front of him mopping up the mess he made. Or maybe that she just looks good on her knees in front of him.

    I’d like at least some hint on the page that the MC is competent and smart. I didn’t see it.

  7. Daisy
    May 12, 2013 @ 16:34:06

    I think the scenario is promising, but the page itself was pretty boring. Far, far too much stuff about her bosses (and do both of them need to be introduced in detail this early? I feel like all the info about Hermione could be left until later, she doesn’t really do anything here).
    I didn’t really understand why Thea was so dumbstruck by Justin, since she doesn’t seem to be a fan of his particularly. Presumably they’ll have had other guests on while she’s been there? And she knew he’d be on? Going all daydreamy just made her seem dizzy and not that bright. I’d like to like her more.
    As someone said above, ‘his dazzling face filling the room’ was confusing when no ‘he’ had been mentioned yet.

  8. Iola
    May 12, 2013 @ 16:43:32

    ““Get a grip,” commanded Hermione Clutterbuck.”
    ““Sit down,” invited Chas.”

    Replace creative attributions with ‘said’ or an action.

    Clutterbuck? No. Please, no. It should be something posh, like Deveraux.

    And the brief description of Justin Anderson reminded me of Christian Grey, and not in a good way. I’m over the too-experienced man and the naive little girl plot.

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