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First Page: Paranormal Contemporary

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***

Even before Virginia Shepherd got mauled by a werewolf and turned into a creature of the night, it had been a lousy evening.

* * *

The heady blend of spices wafting up from the bag of takeaway curry in her hands made Gin’s mouth water as she sashayed down the street towards Graham’s house, her new shoes clip-clopping loudly on the uneven paving. Gin loved the way high heels looked, but mostly she stuck to something less life-threatening because she never had quite acquired the knack of wearing them. Or at least, not sober: she had a theory that the alcohol-induced wobble somehow cancelled out the inherent instability of high heels, making walking in heels easier when plastered.

Surprisingly, most of the time it seemed to work.

The fact that she was striding over dodgy paving stones without stumbling once despite the four inch spikes strapped oh-so-sexily to her feet was a pretty clear indication of how many tequilas she’d inhaled by this point in the evening.

This, Gin reflected, as her stomach growled, had been one of her better ideas. Sure, she’d been tempted by the prospect of test driving her fabulous new Little Black Dress around the clubs with the rest of the girls, but surely a hot boy in the hand was worth two in the bush? Or – well, no, upon reflection that sounded a lot more pornographic than she’d been intending, and now she was conjuring up the kind of vivid images that were just going to lead to a broken ankle. Focus.

Anyway, she was pretty damned certain that Kate wouldn’t even notice her absence at this point. There had been a manic gleam in Kate’s green eyes as they downed tequila slammers; she was already drunker than Oliver Reed in a distillery and she seemed hell bent on doing her liver as much damage as possible, and snogging as many random blokes as she could before she finally said ‘I do’ the next day, regardless of their levels of personal hygiene. Which was all well and good, but the only person Gin wanted to be getting horizontal with was at home. Alone. Available. Which was a once-in-a-blue-moon kind of thing these days. So what the hell, Gin finally asked herself, was she doing in Soho when she could be licking parts of Graham that one couldn’t lick in public?

When she thought about it like that, everything seemed suddenly simple. She made her apologies, bought Kate another drink and legged it to Graham’s.

Thus her belated presence on Aspadistra Terrace with pillar box-bright lipstick, fabulous fuck-me shoes and hot little black number under a lightweight scarlet summer coat, bearing a bag of biryani and beer. Not the picture of elegance, perhaps, but what self respecting British bloke could resist his fiancee showing up in a balcony bra and hooker-style heels, carrying fresh curry and a couple of cold beers? Surely that was the very definition of irresistible? The kind of thing that Englishmen fantasized about? When they weren’t dreaming of their team topping the Premier League, at least?

Truthfully, though, Graham had been finding her charms entirely too resistible of late. But then, he hadn’t seen the shoes. Gin felt sure that nobody could resist the shoes.

One hundred and fifty three. The lights were on; Graham was probably watching the Sports Channel again. Gin felt her mouth curl into an involuntary Cheshire Cat grin as she pushed the little wrought iron gate open and stepped up to the front door. In the darkness the green paint looked almost black. She pressed the doorbell, feeling like a naughty schoolgirl bunking out of class to smoke illicit cigarettes and snog behind the bikesheds.

Footsteps pounded down the staircase inside. Gin raked a hand through her red hair and bounced a little on her toes at the thought of the look on his face. She glanced back at the empty street, abruptly feeling self-conscious. This particular look was more appropriate to 2am in a club than nine fifteen on a quiet suburban street, and she found herself pulling the coat a little closer around her shoulders. It was quite a little little black dress, and Graham’s mum really wouldn’t appreciate it if the neighbours started gossiping about him having strange women over in the middle of the night. She wasn’t Gin’s number one fan in the first place. The woman was a teacher, and somehow every time Gin spoke to her she ended up feeling like a thirteen year old faced with the task of trying to explain that her dog really had eaten her homework.

"Hurry up, hurry up," she muttered, on the brink of giggling as she heard the bolt draw back. The door opened and Gin blinked in the sudden flood of light, and for a baffled and mortified moment she thought that somehow she’d got the wrong house.

She was a hundred times more baffled and mortified when she realised that she hadn’t.

***

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33 Comments

  1. Ann Somerville
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 05:47:11

    Very Douglas Adams-ish in tone, which is no bad thing, though I was getting a tad tired of the shoes by the time anything happened. [is not a shoe fan, sorry.]

    Good grabbing opening, and the voice is very engaging. It’s funny and wry, the observations very apt. What this needs is to be a little tighter and shorter. If you could dispose of the two paras starting here “Anyway, she was pretty damned certain that Kate wouldn't even notice her absence at this point.” I think you would achieve that. Maybe examine if the stuff about the mother is absolutely necessary here.

    Not fond of the repetitions of Gin’s name (and why two different ways of referring to her?), or of this “Footsteps pounded down the staircase inside.” because disembodied objects are clumsy.

    Do stilettos clip-clop? Never worn them, so no idea – the description struck me as a bit odd.

    But over all, a nice bit of writing, and as a huge fan of Adams’ humour and voice, you’ve hooked me. Well done!

    ReplyReply

  2. pm
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 07:01:23

    Great hook, great voice, great protagonist. A*.

    ReplyReply

  3. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 07:44:34

    Liked the voice. I’d definitely keep reading.

    There were some rather long sentences and the writing could be smoothed out, tightened up, I think. But nothing really major jumps out at me.

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  4. joanne
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 07:46:29

    My first thoughts were that everything was in this first page. Everything but some periods; full stop and the kitchen sink. There was no place for the reader to breath at the beginning. No place to want the next sentence. Maybe the writers who read this piece will see it differently or be able to tell you how to fix it if they agree. As a reader it just made my head hurt with all the cute information being dumped.

    When I started it at your

    Graham had been finding her charms entirely too resistible of late. But then, he hadn't seen the shoes.

    then it really worked well for me. Only then could I hear you and care about your lead protagonist.

    The English slang is also off-putting to an American reader. Even after Bridget Jone’s Diary many of those words are jarring.

    I think there is a lot of good story here but that it needs editing and saving something for the next page to keep me reading.

    Thank you and much good luck!

    ReplyReply

  5. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 08:43:29

    I’ve read this before, haven’t I?

    ReplyReply

  6. Jane
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 08:45:19

    @Lynne Connolly Have you? I did a search and I haven’t posted it before.

    ReplyReply

  7. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 08:59:15

    Not here, Jane, sorry if I misled you. Probably on a crit group. I just didn’t want to repeat anything if I have critted it before.

    FWIW, I did like it. Needs a tidy up, but it moved along nicely.

    ReplyReply

  8. DS
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 09:09:32

    I’d suggest take out everything between “lousy evening” and “Truthfully, though,” then maybe add it back in smaller bits. However, I really didn’t see anything particularly lousy about the evening except she probably has blisters from walking in four inch heels. I would have taken a cab. My interest picked up the last few paragraphs.

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  9. Moth
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 09:19:24

    The first sentence smacks of manipulating the reader with an exciting hook to reel them in and then pulling back to actually start the story. It irritates me when authors do this. I say cut that and just start with the curry. Trust your writing and your characters to keep the readers hooked until the exciting stuff happens.

    The heady blend of spices wafting up from the bag of takeaway curry in her hands made Gin's mouth water as she sashayed down the street towards Graham's house, her new shoes clip-clopping loudly on the uneven paving.

    Break this up into two sentences. There’s too much going on for me to track. So, something like: The heady blend of spices wafting up from the bag of takeaway curry in her hands made Gin's mouth water. Her new shoes clip-clopped loudly on the uneven paving as she sashayed down the street towards Graham's house.

    There had been a manic gleam in Kate's green eyes as they downed tequila slammers; she was already drunker than Oliver Reed in a distillery and she seemed hell bent on doing her liver as much damage as possible, and snogging as many random blokes as she could before she finally said ‘I do' the next day, regardless of their levels of personal hygiene.

    This one is also rather unwieldy. Change that semi-colon in the first part and just make that its own sentence. I would say cut either the Oliver Reed line (which is mean but hilarious or the liver line. Having both is redundant and your writing seems a bit on the unwieldy side. Make the snogging its own sentence too.

    I liked the humor in this and the voice is really good. It’s a bit too wordy, though, and the sentences go on and on and on. Also, might just be me but I’m a little over the “girl finds her fiance with another lover” schtick. Of course, the then getting eaten by a werewolf bit is probably a nice fresh spin on the old trope.

    Overall I liked this enough I would keep reading a little longer.

    Best of luck.

    ReplyReply

  10. Moth
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 09:21:01

    and the spam filter ate my comment….

    ReplyReply

  11. shenan
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 09:27:21

    —-Even before Virginia Shepherd got mauled by a werewolf and turned into a creature of the night, it had been a lousy evening.

    I really like the opening line — except for the fact that it’s set off completely by itself. I come to a dead stop at the end of it when I’m eager to keep reading. (Or at least I’d be eager to keep reading if I liked werewolf stories — or any other kind of Paranormal Romance.) I then have to start all over again with the story in the next line.

    —–The heady blend of spices wafting up from the bag of takeaway curry in her hands made Gin’s mouth water as she sashayed down the street

    The use of two different names for the same character in the first two sentences gets a bit confusing — especially since neither the full name nor its nickname are all that common. Maybe you could start out with the nickname and keep to it for a while before introducing the heroine’s full name?

    —–Anyway, she was pretty damned certain that Kate wouldn’t even notice her absence at this point.

    Who’s Kate? Again I’m stopped as I try to figure out if I missed something.

    —-she was already drunker than Oliver Reed in a distillery

    Who’s Oliver Reed? I’m guessing this is a cultural reference. One I don’t get at all. Is this something most people would recognize?

    —–Footsteps pounded down the staircase inside. Gin raked a hand through her red hair and bounced a little on her toes at the thought of the look on his face. She glanced back at the empty street, abruptly feeling self-conscious. This particular look was more appropriate to 2am in a club than nine fifteen on a quiet suburban street, and she found herself pulling the coat a little closer around her shoulders. It was quite a little little black dress, and Graham’s mum really wouldn’t appreciate it if the neighbours started gossiping about him having strange women over in the middle of the night. She wasn’t Gin’s number one fan in the first place. The woman was a teacher, and somehow every time Gin spoke to her she ended up feeling like a thirteen year old faced with the task of trying to explain that her dog really had eaten her homework.

    She goes on and on — and on — about how sexy she is and how she wants to wow the boyfriend with that sexiness. Then she starts to worry that she’s TOO sexy? And since when is 9:15 the middle of the night? Wouldn’t someone used to staying out all night clubbing consider that way early in the evening?

    I have to say that I was disappointed after that opening line. I like the voice, but I don’t at all like the heroine. She came across as shallow and slutty. (Is this erotica?) She goes on and on about her clothes and sexy shoes and getting drunk and how sexy she is and how she wants her boyfriend to take advantage of that. (Or how SHE’D like to take advantage of that.) Plus, she seems kind of snotty when it comes to Brits. (Is SHE a Brit? She doesn’t read that way, despite the location and her use of “bloke” and other Britishisms.)

    Too, there was too much musing about inconsequentials. The shoes. The color of Graham’s front door. Kate’s impending nuptials. Graham’s mum. The shoes. Getting drunk. Sex. The lack of personal hygiene in snogging partners. The little black dress. And — oh, yeah — the shoes. Where’s the story?

    Even if I were a fan of paranormals, I still wouldn’t be the target audience for this. This opening is all about sex. Sexy shoes. Licking the boyfriend. The balcony bra. The friend getting as much sex as she can before she gets married. Is THAT the story? (Sex, I mean, not the friend snogging as many nasty guys as she can. And again I ask — is this erotica?) To me, when an author relies so heavily on sex to sell her story — especially right off the bat — it makes me think there IS no story.

    ReplyReply

  12. Tallie
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 09:37:30

    The first sentence felt tired and manipulative. I’ve read its sort before. Reads like the author didn’t trust the real beginning or her voice to engage the reader, which is a shame. I think the narrative works without this gimmicky opener.

    ReplyReply

  13. LindaR
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 10:16:55

    (sorry if this posts twice — it seemed to get lost?)

    If I were your writing teacher (and that’s among the more arrogant sentences I’ve ever written), I would tell you to put away your keyboard for an hour

    and contemplate Christina’s World.

    Your excerpt gives me the opposite experience of looking at Wyeth’s painting. In Christina’s World, I have to pull meaning out. It seems at first that nothing is going on in the picture — I can’t even see the girl’s face. But then, the work is not called Christina.

    Before I had finished your first paragraph, I felt bombarded by words and phrases. By the time I got to the end, my readerly brain was tender with defensive wounds and images of Oliver Reed in stilettos with an old teacher lady berating him as he stood at the door with a bag of Indian takeout. And there was a werewolf, once.

    I guess I’m trying to say, with mixed metaphors: your writer’s palette is loaded with great turns of phrase, but don’t forget the interstices.

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  14. Courtney Milan
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 10:20:40

    Loved the voice and the hook. All that introspection, though, takes up a lot of time and I found my attention wandering. I think it could use a substantial tightening–like reduce it by 50%.

    Get to the hook faster. It’s a good one!

    ReplyReply

  15. theo
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 10:45:34

    I’ll probably get raked for this but;

    My stomach never growls when I’ve had a lot to drink, my four inch stilettos don’t ‘clip-clop’, certainly not if they’re strapped on, and my head was reeling by the time I got to the house number.

    Combine those along with all the ‘hads’ and it’s just not for me. Sorry. But I’m only one person. Many here were intrigued and that’s a good thing. :)

    I would suggest though that rather than this sentence for example:

    There had been a manic gleam in Kate's green eyes as they downed tequila slammers; she was already drunker than Oliver Reed in a distillery and she seemed hell bent on doing her liver as much damage as possible, and snogging as many random blokes as she could before she finally said ‘I do' the next day, regardless of their levels of personal hygiene.

    you could break it up and tighten it more.

    Kate’s green eyes held a manic gleam as she and Gin downed tequila slammers. Already drunker than Oliver reed in a distillery, Kate seemed hell bent on doing her liver as much damage as possible. Not to mention snoggin as many random blokes as she could before finally saying “I do” the next day.

    Q and D but at least you can see what I mean. And I’d leave the ‘personal hygiene’ out of it. Unless it adds something to the story later on, Kate catches thrush from one of the blokes, it has little bearing.

    And I’m with someone else who mentioned the Oliver Reed reference. I know who he is, but have no idea what the distillery comment relates to.

    Personally, I’d have to pass on this one unless you really tightened it and took out a lot of the info dump.

    Kudos for posting it! And good luck :)

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  16. Lori
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 11:45:47

    It hooked me from the start. Although as much as I loved the opening sentence, it really needed to not be stand-alone.

    I will disagree with many of the comments that felt there was too much info. I liked it that way. It was full of information, yes, but I didn’t think it was random and I enjoyed the humor and the voice. A lot.

    The only thing that I didn’t get was the small bit about Kate and getting married; maybe expand the info or take it out if it isn’t important.

    And I think a slightly drunk woman who is looking to get laid is going to think she’s the hottest thing in high heels.

    I really want to read more. You completely owned me with this first page.

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  17. Julie Trevelyan
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 11:56:40

    I pretty much agree with all comments above:

    As a reader, I’d definitely feel overwhelmed with too many details and British references that I don’t completely understand. I also agree that nothing about Gin particularly causes me to relate to her. So far, she’s a caricature–a character rather than a real person, so to speak. And, she does seem a bit obsessed about the shoes, which I happen to read as shallow, and that makes me less inclined to be interested in her. (Of course, the very next page might change that!)

    As an editor, I would also be put off by the same. Considering the amount of tightening the opener needs, I would wonder about how “loose” the rest of the ms. and not want to deal with the amount of work possibly involved. The suggestions of breaking up sentences into shorter ones makes the piece punchier, easier on the eyes, and seem to go more quickly–which translates to a reader’s eyes as being gripping. Also, what’s presented here does seem like more backstory than actual story. Know the details about Gin in your head, but put only the salient points on the page.

    I do like the opening hook in some ways, although I can also see how some might consider it gimmicky. Maybe following the hook with another sentence or two about becoming a werewolf would work better? Or not using the hook: just giving us Gin as she is, setting up her normal life, before we discover she gets suddenly turned and everything (presumably) changes.

    Small point, not sure if s/o else noted it: In this sentence,

    It was quite a little little black dress, and Graham's mum really wouldn't appreciate it if the neighbours started gossiping about him having strange women over in the middle of the night.

    if Gin is Graham’s fiancee, surely the neighbors would be accustomed to seeing her and would therefore not classify her as a “strange woman” on his doorstep? Unless this just means that Gin never ever dresses this way…but even so, she’d still be recognizable, yes?

    I would likely read on if the opening were tightened more. Best to you with this! Hope the comments help.

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  18. Meljean
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 12:50:50

    I love the voice. I don’t mind all of the info (I imagine that whatever she’s seeing is going to catapult the story either into action, or a lot of questions, and I’d rather have the setting solid before I get there) although I agree it can be tightened up. Great entry. I’d love to keep reading.

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  19. Leah
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 12:55:23

    Everyone has pretty much commented on the technical stuff that stood out for me, so I won’t bother, except to say that you might be surprised what you could delete and still keep the scene you’re striving to create. Also, in your opening sentence, you imply that Virginia’s just experienced one of those nightmarish chick-lit days, but don’t really follow through. Other than that, I liked your voice and I would read more.

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  20. Kathleen MacIver
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 13:44:36

    Everyone’s said so much, but none of it is quite what I saw, so I’ll offer it for what it’s worth.

    Your voice is very distinctive. Most of your writing is very strong POV, too. That said… there were certain sentences that jumped out at me as being very weak writing. Those sentences also pulled me out of her POV, and were more telling than showing. I found myself wondering why, when you can write so well in other sentences, you left those in.

    What were those sentences? Well… almost every one that had her name. Somehow those sentences sound like you’re jumping back to a narrator, instead of the strong POV that the rest are in. Combined, I think the effect is the “too much” that others are mentioning. ie: if you stick to sentences that are deep in her POV it won’t seem like quite so much.

    That’s my opinion of your writing and your voice in general. Not everyone will like it… but those who like it will love it. I think you’ve got skill… but that you need to recognize where that skill lies so you use it to it’s full potential, rather than water it down with weak sentences scattered among great ones.

    Now, as to the set-up and plot, here. I think you need to think of a new beginning sentence or two… a new way to introduce her… but then, I thought that the rest of your first paragraph, and the following “Surprisingly” sentence worked really well. They give a quick sketch of the character and her frame of mind. If you could somehow slightly re-word that “surprisingly” sentence so it shows that now is one of those times, you’d have the added advantage of getting rid of the telling paragraph that follows.

    After that, however… well… what’s the point of this scene? First it seems to be heading in one direction, then it suddenly turns in another direction. I don’t think you want that. I think you just want to give a clear portrayal of who she is and what she wants, to set the reader up for the disappointment she’s about to be slammed with when that door opens.

    Think about her goals and motivation at this point. Is she REALLY all excited about this first idea… and then does she REALLY toss it all to go get Graham? First she really wants one thing, then she really wants another. The result of this is that we don’t end up caring whether she gets either, because we decide that her definition of “really” wanting something is subject to change moments later. You don’t want to do that to your readers.

    I hope this helps, somehow!

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  21. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 19:02:43

    This is a long entry. More like three or four pages.

    I think the first line would be punchier like this:

    Even before Virginia Shepherd got mauled by a werewolf, it had been a lousy evening.

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  22. Maura
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 21:35:07

    My try on the first line:

    Even before Virginia Shepherd got mauled by a werewolf, she’d been having a lousy evening.

    There’s something about changing the subject of the sentence halfway through (first clause talking about Gin, second clause talking about the evening) that doesn’t work for me.

    Paranormal isn’t my thing, but I also like your voice, with the agreement that it would still come through if you trimmed some of the extra padding. I do know who Oliver Reed was, and I liked the joke, but as you’ve seen, anybody who doesn’t will be baffled and pulled out of the narrative.

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  23. HK
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 23:39:18

    I really enjoyed this. I loved how it started (setting me up for the action to come) and I enjoyed the hold on my seat feeling of the rest of the entry.

    Since we were deep in her POV, I thought your sentences worked well for a slightly drunk girl weaving down the street. Her thoughts weaved along with her feet. I loved the dry humor of her voice and would totally keep reading.

    BTW and FWIW I didn’t assume strange/naked girl opening the door of her boyfriend’s flat. I imagined a more fantastical scene based on the very first sentence setting me up.

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  24. EC Sheedy
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 01:42:05

    Enjoyed the voice.
    Would definitely read on.
    Loved the Brit tone/slang phrases.
    Some excellent writing here.

    Advice?
    About 2 cents worth.
    Tighten it up.
    How?
    Ease up on the shoes and booze.
    But do carry on!
    As a reader, I would.

    ReplyReply

  25. MissusFinkle
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 10:04:20

    As much as I hate to say this, as I’m a Brit myself and write pararom too, if you want to get this out there you’re going to have to cut out a lot of the slang, if only because the widest market (atm) for urban fantasy/paranormal romance, etc., is of course, American, and although Brits are used to American slang, the same doesn’t wholly happen in reverse.

    As has been said previously, an overload of the vocab will pull the reader out of the narrative as they’re left puzzled as to who’s who and what’s what. Instead, try a more careful approach to getting the message across, so break up your references. Keep “snogging” as it’s a well known British word, but the more ‘obscure’ references [Oliver Reed] would probably have to go.

    If/when you get a contract you can add in more ‘Britishness’ to the second/third/fourth books, but your opening one has to be a little more generic, and a little more targetted at the wider market of readers – America.

    IMO though, I absolutely loved it, found it hilarious, can picture myself doing something similar (I guess I’m just that shallow, lol) and actually love that whole, ‘My day started bad and got worse in a hurry’ thing, lol. I think one of the comments above struck something important – this opening does leave the reader expecting some ‘nightmarish chick flick’ day, and so it throws you a little to be thrown into the action so quickly.

    Not that I’m against getting into to the good stuff as soon as poss, it’s just that if you start off using a well known opening, as you have, you’re leading your reader to think a certain way – and when that doesn’t happen, it throws the reader out of the narrative as they’re left thinking, ‘So what was so bad before she was mauled by the werewolf? Seemed like a good enough night out to me..’

    Those are just my thoughts on it, but overall, I’d keep reading.

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  26. Julia Sullivan
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 12:22:47

    You’ve got a smart, funny voice. Don’t try too hard. Think of the advice about jewelry: take one item off. OMG SHE’S DRUNK! OMG SHE’S JUST COME FROM A HEN NIGHT (US: bachelorette party)! OMG SHE’S WEARING STILETTO SHOEZ! OMG SHE WANTS TO GET SEX! OMG FROM A GUY THAT LIVES WITH HIS MOTHER! OMG OMG!

    And what everyone else said about the “Gin” v. “Virginia Shepherd” thing: we don’t need to know her legal name at the outset if you’re going to call her “Gin” throughout.

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  27. Jeannine
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 19:11:01

    I’d agree with those who suggested cutting back on some of the detail here.
    And that there’s not enough transition, really, between the initial “grab the reader with a hook” first sentence, and the rest of it.

    I’d lose some of the shoe focus too. ;)

    Just one small, nitpicky thing to add — I was just a little confused by your mention of her having a man “…at home. Alone. Available.”, which led me to expect she lived with someone who was home waiting for her, and then finding that the man she referred to lived with his mother (I think?)…
    (and the idea of her indulging in the aforementioned “licking parts of Graham” with his mother around…well, just no – kind of an unappealing image! jmo). If he does not live with his mother, you might want to save the comments about her for another scene.
    Just something you may want to clarify a bit in future drafts.

    Thanks for sharing it, and best of luck. :)

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  28. Nic Frances
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 20:37:08

    I've read this before, haven't I?

    Oh dear – that’s a little disheartening. Because I haven’t sent it to a crit group or the like, and I don’t belong to a writers’ workshop or what have you. Which rather implies that, if it strikes you as familiar, it’s a bit too generic.

    Knickers.

    Thank you all very much for your input, though – I’m chuffed to bits, as we say in the UK – or rather, I’m delighted. (Speaking of which, I particularly appreciate the points about trying to make my language use and cultural references more generic – although we’re very used to Americanisms, I gather that the reverse is not true. I don’t want to alienate potential readers right off the bat, particularly if the majority of the audience for this genre is American. Curses! I was really thinking primarily of trying to sell to a UK audience initially, but I guess the smart money’s on trying to minimise the UK-specific stuff in the hopes of selling abroad too.)

    You’ve given me a lot of food for thought. I don’t know that my writing style will ever be in danger of approaching terse, but I can certainly work on breaking up some of the longer sentences more, and be conscious of the fact that this is an issue. And clearly there’s a lot of trimming of the fat that needs to be done, and tightening up. In fact I may even just chuck this section out entirely, and cut to the chase.

    Alas, this snippet does stop just short of explaining the lousiness of this earlier part of Gin’s evening – namely the discovery that the fiance is shagging someone else, and Gin’s dumping of said fiance.

    I wonder – would it be terribly bad form to send in the original first page, for comparison? It’s a very different kettle of fish, and set later in the evening, so I don’t think it would be repetitive for readers (well, other than my writing style). It would be very helpful for me, certainly, to see whether the original beginning works better – as I rather suspect it does. Hmm. I guess it can’t hurt to send it in on spec, can it? Because the Ja(y)nes can cheerfully hurl it into the trash, if it’s inappropriate of me – and now I’m intrigued to know what you would have made of the original beginning. It’s a lot more cut-to-the-chasey.

    Sincerely – thank you for your input, and any further constructive criticism would be much appreciated too.

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  29. LindaR
    Jan 11, 2009 @ 22:05:46

    @Nic

    Speaking for myself, I love “Britishisms” in things. But I’m not really alone. After all, Masterpiece just cut “Theatre/Theater” off the end of its name — so they can market more cheaply on both sides of the pond maybe?

    My point is, the word Anglophile exists for a reason.

    Maybe you could give your character a reason to use British English? Transplant the story to Cambridge, Massachusetts and have Gin come over to study or track down a missing doodad or something?

    Or leave the story where it is. Do Americans refuse to read Harry Potter? Isn’t it common knowledge that JK Rowling regrets giving in to the pressure to change Philosopher to Sorcerer in the first US title?

    Thanks for submitting your first page, and good luck with your story!

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  30. Theresa Sand
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 14:27:49

    GREAT first sentence–but then you lost me when the story seemed to drift into a paragraph about curry.

    I suggest that if you start with such an action heavy sentence, you continue through with that. Basically stick with Who, What, Where, When, Why. Virginia, walking down the street, going to meet Graham, etc.

    While the prose is very witty, I felt like I wasn’t really getting to the heart of what was going on, it just felt really weighted down. Ask yourself: Is it really important for the reader to know all of this? Does it add or take away from the story?

    With such an enticing first sentence, you need to keep up with that speed.

    Good luck!!!

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  31. Liz English
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 19:25:47

    A slightly different take: I almost stopped reading after the first sentence, but decided to give the rest a glance–and was very pleasantly surprised. My beef with the first sentence? It sounded really familiar–isn’t there a vampire series that starts out almost exactly the same?

    Yes, it could be tightened up a bit. Found my attention briefly wandering in the middle, but not enough to hit the back button, and then it picked up again. Loved the British-isms and strongly disagree with those who advise you to change them. Sure, America’s a big market, but that doesn’t make us the center of the universe! It’s ridiculous to expect all characters, regardless of their origins, to think and speak in tems that are familiar to us. Using language that reflects the culture is part of establishing your setting and I thought you used that technique very well indeed.

    Bottom line: you’ve got a whole lot going for you. If I picked this up in a bookstore, I would certainly turn the page to see where it was going next. If a few more paragraphs didn’t disappoint, I would buy it.

    Here’s wishing you an editor who feels the same.

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  32. AnneD
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 20:29:54

    On the british-ism front – I was advised by an editor that as long as its set in the country the slang comes from then go right ahead, but make sure that the reader from any other country can easily understand what the slang means without having to rush off to the internet.

    In other words, go with what fits the location, but at the same time don’t overdo it so it appeals to a wider audience.

    On the first page front – I liked the premise and would read further, although I felt there were areas that needed tightening as they rambled a little. The british-isms didn’t worry me, being a Kiwi and all :D

    The funny thing is, you don’t know half the time what is local slang, or a local saying (well barring the very obvious) until you use it and your editor sends back a WTF is a XXX? email :)

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  33. Ann Somerville
    Jan 12, 2009 @ 20:57:44

    you don't know half the time what is local slang, or a local saying (well barring the very obvious) until you use it and your editor sends back a WTF is a XXX? email :)

    Absolutely true. The things my Canadian editor was stumped by, really astonished me.

    ReplyReply

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