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First Page: Paranormal Romance, Sci Fi style

Welcome to First Page Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously.   The queue is empty so email me your first page for critique: jane at dearauthor.com

***

It was Emma's  first  time, and she was blowing it already.   She'd  missed most of Vi's brief.   Couldn't help herself, really.   The utter  blandness of it deadened her, forcing her mind to wander just to stay  awake.   Guilt crept over her, but she soothed it away knowing she'd  stay with the transport as support staff.

She had definitely over-glorified the life of an Aegis.   Emma imagined  the room should have been grand, maybe with a round table and  comfortable chairs.   The damn place didn't even have windows.

"Scared?"

Emma turned to the man flashing a reassuring smile at her.

"Not in the least," she lied.   Dave shook his head.

"Right.   Me neither," he laughed. "First  time I went out with the  Aegis, I was so terrified I should have worn a diaper.   But I’ll be in  good spirits knowing you’re with us tonight.   Won’t be my time to  die."

"Glad to see you have so much faith in me," Emma replied wryly.

"And not just in your medic skills.   I've heard stories about your  legendary aim.   If it's a little action you're looking for, don’t you  worry.   You’ll get your chance to plug a couple."

Emma smiled to herself as Dave wandered away to gear up for the hunt.  She'd waited for this chance too long to let a little fear get in her  way.   Most of her childhood, she'd wanted nothing else but to be an  Aegis, just like her grandfather Daniel, but he'd been quick to push  her in other directions.

He'd done his best to keep her from going out with the Aegis this  time, too, but with the medic shortage, he didn't have much choice but  to allow it.   She loved her grandfather dearly, but he really knew how  to suffocate her.   His efforts didn't matter much anyway.   Everything  around her seemed to lead her right back to the war.

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

16 Comments

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    May 22, 2010 @ 08:17:02

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  2. Gwynnyd
    May 22, 2010 @ 08:57:25

    On the whole, it sounds like you are setting up an interesting universe. The Aegis hunts something dangerous that has to be shot. It’s dangerous enough to need a medic along. It’s a threat that has been menacing for generations. OK, that intrigues me.

    But –

    Did you intend the double entendre in the opening line? I got a nice giggle out of it, but I’m not sure that’s what you meant and it does not completely suit the tone of the rest of it. From that I was expecting something more flippant.

    I was annoyed that “the utter blandness of it” in the first paragraph was not defined. I was still stuck on the sexual aspects of “blowing it” and suddenly “it” was bland? That confused me, then I realized that not only was “it” two different “its,” you probably hadn’t meant “it” that way at all and I had to go back and start over.

    How can she be both so bored her mind has to wander just to keep herself awake and afraid of dying at the same time? Strong men need diapers where she’s going, she’s unprepared, and she’s bored to a stupor? I’d think that if she was imagining all the horrible things that could go wrong on this hunt, or worrying that she’d missed something vital to her survival in Vi’s briefing -as apparently some one of the group dies or needs immediate, serious medical attention more often than not – she’d have no trouble staying awake.

    And did Dave wander in before he wandered out again? Or is there survival gear in the – bland – room somewhere?

    What does she normally shoot that Dave has heard about her “legendary” aim and, uh-oh, is that Sue-ish?

  3. job
    May 22, 2010 @ 09:17:32

    I do love to see SF as part of Romance. You’ve got that going for you right off. There are a lot of us Romance + SF fans out there. And this is an interesting exciting concept you’re setting out.

    I have a couple of thoughts though.

    You open with a mission about to start and everybody sitting in a briefing room listening to a dull speech.
    Then we get some backstory.

    Perhaps you have not started in the right place. This is prologue to the action. This is introduction.

    Can you start with something important actually happening under our eyes?

    Can you reveal the characters through action? Can you not tell us Emma is a good shot with a gun, (or whatever)? Can you instead show her drawing on a distant target and Dave leans back to give her a clear shot because he knows she is legendary for pinpoint accuracy?

    Couple of minor writing thoughts.

    Tagging dialog is tricky. Substitutes for ‘said’ should be used with great wariness. Likewise adverbs attached to ‘said’. Little twitchy movements are also iffy.
    Be careful with stuff like:

    turned to
    flashing a reassuring smile
    she lied
    shook his head.
    he laughed
    replied wryly.
    smiled to herself
    wandered away to

    I figger one only gets a half dozen ‘he turned’ or ‘he walked across the room — and its brothers’ in the whole manuscript. You’re entitled to maybe two dozen examples of the smiled/grinned/laughed family.

    And I was puzzled by some word choice.

    ‘she was blowing it’
    to plug a couple.
    strike me as very Twentieth Century slang.

    brief = briefing?

    And, yes, the first line was unclear.

  4. KristieJ
    May 22, 2010 @ 12:19:51

    I would be so bad as a critique partner. I rarely find any technical type errors.
    But I do love SciFi Romance so I say yes to this one.

  5. Maura
    May 22, 2010 @ 13:56:59

    I thought this was going to be a lighthearted excerpt based solely on the first sentence- I immediately took it as double entendre and was puzzled to find the rest of the excerpt had a serious tone. Also, I’m hard pressed to see exactly how she’s “blowing it”- all we know is that she didn’t listen to the brief and she’s in a windowless room with Dave. Speaking of the briefing, is Vi still talking? “She’d missed most of the brief” suggests the brief took place in the past, yet that’s not clear. How bland could a briefing that involves things to be hunted and medical transports be? If Emma’s taking her job at all seriously and this is her first mission, adrenalin should be keeping her awake anyway. Could the urgency of the situation, and how she’s “blowng it,” be played up so that the reader can see it better, without fully revealing the details yet?

    I’m wary of the amount of tell-not-show that’s going on in just these few paragraphs. We have Dave here to inform us that Emma is a legendary shot and an awesome medic. All we really need to know at this point is that Emma is a medic, which the mention of her being pulled in due to the medic shortage covers for us. You can show us she’s a great shot when she needs to shoot something.

  6. Anion
    May 22, 2010 @ 16:50:14

    So… She’s wanted to do this job her whole life. Worked for it her whole life. Now she’s actually in the briefing room, about to go on her very first mission, the moment she’s worked so hard for and dreamed about since childhood…and she’s bored and not paying attention?

    And figuring that’ll be okay because she can just go along with everyone else?

    Does she expect that the environment on this hunt is going to live up to her sartorial expectations?

    I apologize, but I’m putting the book down now. I am not remotely interested in someone this irresponsible, selfish, and annoying.

    And yes, this is all tell. Start with the mission itself. Start with action and/or at least something at stake.

  7. Megan
    May 22, 2010 @ 18:35:12

    So… She's wanted to do this job her whole life. Worked for it her whole life. Now she's actually in the briefing room, about to go on her very first mission, the moment she's worked so hard for and dreamed about since childhood…and she's bored and not paying attention?

    For these reasons, I thought it must be a young adult romance when I started reading. If an adult woman is thinking this, then she’s not the type of woman I probably want to read about.

    Also, she’s bored at a briefing, her mind is wandering, she suffers a little guilt for it…and yet she’s terrified and apprehensive about the upcoming mission when Dave asks her how she’s feeling? It doesn’t compute.

    It seems like you’re cutting your character off at the knees in order to relay the worldbuilding details. Bland room, she’s bored. Oh, but they are going somewhere she can hunt, so she’s scared!

    Her reactions to her surroundings should inform us about character, and they should be strong and consistent (even if the character is a ditz). Instead, her surroundings are forming her character, and she’s looking wobbly in this scene.

    I agree with the others that this needs a stronger starting point. Maybe some action or a stronger conflict for her to immediately face would help the reader nail her down more easily?

  8. Mary G
    May 22, 2010 @ 19:32:08

    I thought it was good. I wanted to keep reading. This is too short an excerpt (shorter than I normally see here) to be asking too many questions. I think it would have started to gel soon. However, I was caught on the most minor detail. Dave is too mundane a name for sci-fi paranormal. Sorry.

  9. theo
    May 22, 2010 @ 20:25:04

    I’m sorry, this just didn’t hold my interest for all the reasons Anion mentioned. I’d be wiggling all over the seat with excitement if I’d worked toward this moment all my life and it was finally about to come true. Your character is too blase for the moment and it makes me wonder if she’ll be that way throughout the story. Not a strong trait to have as the Hn.

    Add to that the fact that the name Dave conjured visions of Hal speaking to Dave from 2001: A Space Odyssey and you’ve completely lost me as a reader because that movie was brilliant and I will expect the same from this Sci-Fi entry. Very few that I’ve read have come close to that.

    Sorry.

  10. Julia Sullivan
    May 22, 2010 @ 21:40:43

    Is an Aegis a person, or a group, or a ship, or a kind of military offensive?

    Because this passage confused me a lot. Her grandfather was “an Aegis” but Dave asks “is this the first time you’ve been out with the Aegis” so does he mean “the Aegis group” or “the Aegises” or are they accompanying one person who is “the Aegis” and, if so, what is their role?

    The exposition could be more effective, too. On the one hand, Dave knows all about her strengths in combat, but he doesn’t know that it’s her first time “out with the Aegis.” This seems implausible in a high-tech military operation; chief pilots are generally briefed quite thoroughly about the experience and capabilities of their seconds-in-command before missions.

    Start farther in, maybe. Or make Dave an antagonist rather than just an interlocutor. “Why do I have to get another rookie? Well, at least you can shoot” or whatever. Make Dave’s dialogue tell us something about his personality, not just reveal how OMGawesome everyone thinks your protag is.

  11. rigger
    May 22, 2010 @ 21:41:55

    I think the opening is the weakest point — I kept waiting for it to titillate or inform and it failed on both points.

    I’d start this story at ‘Scared?’ and go from there, but something as simple as Emma jumping at the comment, to show her nerves, would illustrate that she is keyed up and nervous/excited. There should be a sense that she is fulfilling a dream rather than going out for a carton of milk.

    ITA about the Mary Sue vibe — tell us that she became a solid medic working on the ranch/farm/industrial space station/whatever and let us learn more about her other skills as they are needed. Actually, the first time I read the line about not being worried, I laughed aloud, figuring the guy was hazing her a bit with a Red Shirt reference, but no such luck. Frankly, I think that would have been better — a little sense of her being the newbie, needing to prove herself, not the Savior of the team.
    [quote]For these reasons, I thought it must be a young adult romance when I started reading. If an adult woman is thinking this, then she's not the type of woman I probably want to read about.[/quote]ITA, the lack of professionalism and focus, make the protag seem like a young girl — or someone really arrogant who I wouldn’t want on a dangerous mission.

    Somehow the reference to Grandfather’s protectiveness enhances the idea of her being relatively young — now I’m picturing her being raised by him after her parents died/disappeared as part of her Tragic Background.

  12. Mireya
    May 23, 2010 @ 10:39:42

    @Jake: depends on what you call “paranormal”. I don’t believe in werewolves or vampires, I do believe in certain other things, though, and yes, I have had a bit of experience. I will not share those experiences online though, I consider them as highly personal experiences and as it is, I’ve said enough.

  13. Anion
    May 23, 2010 @ 11:06:06

    @Jake Lewis: Yes.

  14. Ros
    May 23, 2010 @ 13:02:47

    @Jake Lewis: I don’t see how that’s relevant to the discussion.

  15. Mina Kelly
    May 24, 2010 @ 02:31:01

    Has someone deleted a comment? I can’t see anything from Jake, but the replies have got me all curious.

    Personally, I wouldn’t normally put Sci Fi in the paranormal category, but if this actually is a genre-blender my interest is definitely piqued. Though it depends on the blend, I guess. Vampires in space wouldn’t do it for me.

    I also got a very young vibe. I didn’t mind the boring briefing, but it does jar with the fact that (a) she’s obviously not in a briefing when the scene gets going and (b) being scared and bored are usually considered mutually exclusive. I think if it was played straighter, sticking to the first few paragraphs with a new, young Aegis just joining the ranks, whose mind is wandering to the adventures she’ll have in the future rather than the mission she’s being briefed for right now, I’d be more compelled to read on. The second half destroys my interest – she’s a bit Mary Sue, she’s info-dumping about her past, and it doesn’t offer anything unusual.

  16. Jane
    May 24, 2010 @ 07:08:41

    @Mina Kelly I deleted his comment. It appeared to be spam by the way that the website link looked. Essentially “Jake” said something like “have you ever experienced paranormal in real life.”

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