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First Page: New Adult

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Grace

“How ‘bout you, Grace, who’s your perfect man?” Amy Swanson, my cousin Lana’s sorority sister, stood with Lana and a couple of other Alpha Phis exchanging tidbits on the new freshman and junior college transfers as well as who did what to whom over the summer.

“I’m not getting married. I plan to live a life of bachelorette hood, sexing up old men now and younger men when I’m older. I’ll be eccentric, have nine cats and wear blue eye shadow and fur in the summer.” I was looking at Amy but could feel the weight of Lana’s disapproving glare. Whenever I was asked about why I hadn’t had a boyfriend, ever, I always responded in this manner. Lana thought it was a self fulfilling prophecy and blamed it on the unhealthy attachment I had in high school to a Marine whom I had written to for four years. Self fulfilling and self destructive behavior were two of the many therapy speak phrases that Lana enjoys whipping out. At first, these were terms she learned in her own therapy sessions. Now it’s from classes she takes as a psych major.

“Who’s the old man you’re sexxing up now then?” Lana challenged me. No one, but just for the crowd I made up a story.

“Got my eye on a student over at the osteopath school. Met him at the convenience store. I was getting a slushie and he was picking out condoms. I told him if his current partner didn’t like the ribbed ones, he could give me a call.” Lana liked my faux sex talk even less.

Other than a few drunken hookups, the closest I had ever come to condoms was finding a placket of them lying next to my brother Josh’s gym bag. But like my cat and blue eye shadow story, it planted the idea that I was a modern female, fully embracing my sexuality even though that was a fiction more fake than the boobs on three of the Alpha Phis in front of me. It was all perspective. Give people some small delicious detail to focus on and everything else faded away.

Swiveling in my chair, I turned to view my favorite expanse in the library. The reference and circulation desks sat on a balconette above the library’s entrance. The distance was just enough to provide the perfect perspective. I stood up and tilted my head down to peer through the viewfinder of my camera. I always set up my tripod when I worked. Some people studied. Others gossiped. I took time lapse images shrinking scenes into miniature, shutting out the peripheral noise, highlighting the minute details and making everything seem unreal and toylike.

I felt a nudge at my arm. “Let me see.” Lana was there, offering up an apology in the form of interest. I moved away and she peered through the lens, careful not to touch anything. Lana knew how particular I was about the setup of my camera. She stood up and huffed “I never see what you do.” It was both an accusation and a complaint.

Shrugging, I looked down again. Two guys had entered and paused at the monitor’s desk. Their heads were diametric opposites. One was blonde, one was dark haired. Both were tall. I quickly moved the camera up the rails and retilted the lens. I took one photo and then looked again. The dark one had knelt down on a knee to tie his shoe. No, a boot, while the other waited patiently. The composition made them look like toy soldiers, particularly with the uniformity of their jeans, the dark plain t-shirts, and the heavy soled boots. I took three pictures more in rapid succession.

“So Grace,” Amy called from behind me, “are you still coming over tomorrow to take rush photographs?” Her voice must have carried because through my lens I could see the dark haired boy’s head jerk up. My heart beat stuttered and I moved my hand up to spin the focus on the zoom for a closeup but the blonde haired guy bent down and obscured my view. I heard my name again but didn’t move, eyes glued to the scene in the lobby.

I felt something sharp in the region of my heart. I lifted my hand almost unconsciously and pressed a fist against the upper flesh of my left breast, as if I could physically to press the pain away. I thought I had stopped envisioning every brown haired soldier as my Marine last fall. This wasn’t Noah Jackson, my penpal of four years, and his blonde haired best friend Bo. These were just two random college guys. Probably on the lacrosse team by the looks of the muscles on their arms. I blinked rapidly and resolutely turned my back on the entrance and walked across the short distance between the desk and the railing. Between reality and make believe.

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

12 Comments

  1. Katie T
    Mar 24, 2013 @ 04:46:50

    The writing feels very juvenile, and trying too hard to sound young and fitting to a late adolescent audience. This is how my mom would try to speak if she were imitating college students speaking. There needs to be done serious polishing on the surhor’s writing skills. Further than that, there were numerous spelling and grammatical/syntactical errors. Run on sentences like the first, and sentences without a subject are but a few of the errors I can see. For example “The dark one had knelt down on a knee to tie his shoe. No, a boot, while the other waited patiently.”

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  2. SAO
    Mar 24, 2013 @ 05:43:57

    I’d start with para 6. Para 1 is a confusing jumble of (I’m guessing) unimportant relationships. Paras 2, 3 and 4 makes Grace look silly. She doesn’t have the confidence to not care what people think of her life so she makes up stupid stories. Para 5 makes her look mean. I hate the meme of silicon-enhanced shallow girls, barely worthy of our or our heroine’s notice. And how many girls in college have the cash to get implants?

    Para 6 shows us an interesting and unique char and you move pretty rapidly to an intriguing start. You have a few too many dangling details (Amy, Lana, Noah and Bo), but reduce the extraneous detail and you’ll have an interesting char to whom I can make an emotional connection and the beginning of a promising story. I’d read on with enthusiasm, if I didn’t have to start with Grace lying about blue eye shadow in an effort to appear “modern” to some girls she doesn’t seem to respect.

    As a side point, you want to think about the details of your scenes. More than once, the details didn’t make sense to me. She has an array of Alpha Phis in front of her in a college library on a balconette, but there’s plenty of room for an expansive view? That didn’t gibe, nor did the few other details, like her walking away (where did those sorority girls go?) when she had been, I presume, behind a desk. And did she forget about the camera?

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  3. Kate Sherwood
    Mar 24, 2013 @ 06:17:26

    There were parts of this that I really liked and I think I’d read on for another few pages to see where it went, but those pages would need to be pretty good. I felt like there was too much emphasis on establishing the MC’s rebelliousness on the first page, and probably too much backstory as well. It felt like the character was being pushed at me without giving me time to reach for her. I didn’t like her much (for reasons similar to those already mentioned by others) but I think I might have warmed to her if I’d had a little more time before it was all thrown at me.

    I know it’s a tricky balance, trying to make the first page intriguing and giving readers enough information to care without overwhelming them with details. For my taste, you went a bit too far in the direction of the details. I think I’d agree with the person who suggested dropping the first five paragraphs – you can always add that scene in later after we’ve gotten to know your MC. You could even flip the scene around, having her see the soldier/lookalike and then being weird and flippant with the sorority girls as a way to cover up her reaction. Snarkiness and lying with a cause are one thing, but what we have in the current version is just snarkiness and lying, with no real reason for it.

    That said, I like some of your phrasing and am intrigued by the cliffhanger, so as I said, I’d probably read on further, even without the changes.

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  4. Jane Lovering
    Mar 24, 2013 @ 06:29:39

    This is probably a completely pointless comment (and I actually quite liked the content and style), but, to a British person, that entire first paragraph is completely meaningless. Sorority sisters, Alpha Phi’s, junior and freshman college…nope, sorry, no idea. I may just be feeling a bit that way out, having had to ‘Americanise’ my most recent novel for the American audience though, so feel free to ignore me, but just bear in mind, if you’re releasing to a Worldwide readership, some specifics like this can turn a non-US reader off the second we pick up the book.

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  5. wikkidsexycool
    Mar 24, 2013 @ 08:34:35

    Hello author,

    Your story started for me once she picked up her camera. It also gives a plausible opening for focusing on the two guys entering the library. The beginning paragraphs read as backstory, and as other commenters have stated, the focus is too much on her friends. I’d like to state that “showing” the reader about your main protag’s personality is better than just dumping info about her life, even if it is inner dialogue.

    Also, the ability to just snap anyone’s photo whenever the urge hits isn’t realistic imho. These days even if you work or go to school with potential subjects, you can’t just photograph people at will. If the photos are used in some capacity, then the subjects must give permission, usually in writing (although you get around this by saying she miniaturises what she shoots, but how would those she focuses on know this?). Even if she doesn’t use them, pointing a camera someone’s way could result in an angry exchange, because not everyone likes getting their picture taken. These are the main things I wondered about in your story. I did like your writing, aside from the spelling errors. I’d probably read further based upon her interest in photography and the Marine pen pal. Thanks for having the courage to share this with the public, and I wish you the best with your writing career.

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  6. Marianne McA
    Mar 24, 2013 @ 08:52:23

    I agree with the other comments – I didn’t like it until paragraph 6, but that pulled me in.

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  7. Mary
    Mar 24, 2013 @ 09:48:31

    As a college student myself, I don’t find this conversation believable. I don’t know, something about it sounded like slightly older people, not people still in college. Also, I’m not a sorority girl myself, nor do I want to be, but I think that the stereotyping here is definitely going to annoy potential readers who are/have been/want to be sorority girls. If the “dumb, boy-obsessed, fake boobed” sorority girls get more depth and become less stereotypical throughout the story, that would keep me reading, but if I’m halfway through this book and they’re still being characterized that way, I’m out.
    The two things I did like, were that a) her story about being an old lady with nine cats. It’s a cute story and one I use when people are badgering me about not dating anyone. The other thing was that the psych major was someone who had been through therapy herself. For whatever reason, every single psych major I know was in therapy themselves as a teen. However, the way it’s presented here does make your main character seem kind of mean…so I don’t know. If your main character is supposed to be slightly mean, then fine, leave it, but if you want her to come off nicer then change the wording maybe? I still think it’s a nice detail.
    I would probably keep reading, I’m intrigued by the pen pal–> boyfriend relationship. I can however, imagine several ways this plot could go that I’ve read before, so again, I would keep reading past this first page, but I don’t know how much further.

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  8. Patricia
    Mar 24, 2013 @ 10:30:44

    I agree that paragraph 6 is the place to start. The photography is the most interesting part of the story. We learn more about the main character by looking through the camera with her than by listening to her spew made-up stories about blue eyeshadow and older men.

    Additionally, there were a number of places where your word choice and sentence structure confused me. This was less of a problem after paragraph 6 (where I think you should start), but even there the phrase “paused at the monitor’s desk” puzzled me. Is ‘monitor’ a person whose job involves sitting at the desk, or is there a desk in the library with a computer monitor on it? In my day-to-day life, ‘monitor’ usually means a piece of computer equipment. I decided you probably were referring to a person, but stopping to think about it took me out of the story.

    Your second sentence gave me even more trouble. You write, “Amy Swanson, my cousin Lana’s sorority sister, stood with Lana and a couple of other Alpha Phis exchanging tidbits on the new freshman and junior college transfers as well as who did what to whom over the summer.” There is so much going on in this sentence. We get two named characters, the relationship between them as well as the relationship between one of them (Lana) and the narrator, a supporting cast of unnamed sorority sisters, and a conversation we don’t actually witness about yet more people who aren’t present at all. And all of this is only tangentially related to the first sentence in the paragraph, a straightforward question directed at the narrator. In a published work, I would probably stop reading right there. An avalanche of details only frustrates the reader. If this information is truly important (by the end of this page it does not appear to be), then dole it out in smaller pieces so the audience can make sense of it.

    I find your main character intriguing. If you can focus more on her experience and what makes her interesting, this could be a compelling story. Good luck.

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  9. theo
    Mar 24, 2013 @ 10:39:30

    Call me stupid, but what is New Adult? Is this a phrase for 18 to 25 year olds? Sorry, had to ask.

    I was ready to give up and had decided to just look at the comments when I read SAO’s advice to start at paragraph 6. She’s right. I’d started to glaze over around the middle of para 2. Starting at para 6 gave me enough interest to read on, but I agree that there were things that didn’t ring true. Is she on a balconette? Then she would be more likely to see only the tops of the boys who entered. There would have to be something more then that drew her attention to the dark haired one and made her think he was her lost marine. The way he moved, stood, whatever, but unless she’s on par with him, how would she really see that? And she would have references to those things since she knows what he looks like. His stance in pictures he’d sent, that kind of thing.

    Also, I still go to the library and unless the rules have changed, I wouldn’t expect anyone to ‘call out’ unless they were in trouble. Or does one no longer speak in low voices when there? They do at mine. Since she’s not directly over the entrance but across from it, I would think the calling out would be quite loud and attract not only the boy’s attention, but that of everyone else which would embarrass the heck out of me. Yet you overlook her response to that in lieu of her reminiscing about her marine. I think both can be combined in that para. It just doesn’t read right to me. Then again, I’m not your target audience here if this is for a much younger age group than me and is also first person which I rarely read.

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  10. Mary
    Mar 24, 2013 @ 14:39:04

    @theo:

    If she’s in a college library, then you are completely right and she would not be yelling in the library. Most libraries have one floor where you can talk quietly, a floor where you can talk a little, and one floor that is completely silent. At most of the colleges I visited, the first floor was the loudest and the top was the quietest. Except one college where most of the floors were underground so the lowest floor was the quietest.
    But regardless, calling out does seem an odd phrase for a library

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  11. carmen
    Mar 24, 2013 @ 18:47:34

    About photography: In the United States, “it is legal to photograph or videotape anything and anyone on any public property. Photography on private property that is generally open to the public (e.g., a library) is usually permitted unless explicitly prohibited by posted signs. However even if no such signs are posted, the property owner or agent can ask a person to stop photographing, and if the person refuses to do so, the owner or agent can ask the person to leave the property.”

    Photographers only need a written permission, aka model release, if they intend to publish a photo. They don’t need one to take a photo.

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  12. The Author
    Mar 24, 2013 @ 18:52:36

    Thanks for all the feedback. I definitely don’t want to make it seem like the female protagonist is mean. Your input has been really helpful.

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