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First Page: Paranormal Romance Untitled

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“Katrina, you worthless piece of fucking white-trash bitch.”

The door opened with an echoing bang. The man walking in was as ominous as the black clothes he wore. Tall, dark and extremely handsome, he brought with him an air of fear laced with danger. Anger and rage preceded his words spoken with a sharp piercing accent on his displeasure. Throwing the tabloid he gripped in his hand at the woman standing at the counter cutting vegetables, her wide, violet eyes betrayed her fear. Slender and statuesque, she raised her body to her full height. Long, dark, silky hair flowed over her shoulders, covering her breasts. Keeping her poise, she did not speak to the man’s insults.

Her right hand gripped the large kitchen knife as her left hand picked up her cell phone. Hitting “1” on her speed dial, she sent the call as she backed away from the man.

“So, I read in the rag paper that you have accepted a modeling assignment in Paris, after hearing it from a ‘friend’ that couldn’t wait to rub it in.” The very tone of his voice made her jerk with fear.

“Tomas…” She was still on the move to get as far away from him as she could. “…it just happened this afternoon. I was preparing a fine meal for us to celebrate.” Waving the knife towards the chopped food.

Her first instinct to come home, pack and escape was now looking like the better choice.

Her back hit the wall as he reduced the space between them. With one swift move he backhanded her. The knife and the cell phone flew from her hands as she slid down the wall to the soft white carpet.

The explosion in her head put flashes of light in front of her eyes. The cell phone was within in her reach, the knife was not. Snaking her hand out she tucked the cell phone next to her, careful not to hang up.

Tomas picked up the knife and slammed it on the counter. “I hope I have made my point. Now call that vamp agent of yours and tell her the deal is off. Now.” His command was like another slap across her face.

Lifting herself up slowly, the sting of his abuse still radiating on her skin. “But it’s my job, it’s what I do.” Standing wobbly against the wall trying to clear her head of the pain. “It’s a rich paying job.” Her hand with the phone hung at the side she turned towards the wall.

His sinister laugh told her it was the wrong thing to say. “You have a job. Pleasing me. And you don’t need money. I meet your needs.”

His advancement towards her again made her move away from the wall. “Okay, I’ll call Stella.” She turned towards the bedroom, walking unsteadily.

In the room her bags were packed and ready to go. With the caller still on the phone, she picked up her bag and purse. She had to escape. To get away from this madness.

Wheeling her suitcase behind her, she shook her head again to clear it and went out to face Tomas.

Still behind the counter, his eyes flashed with a more intense fury as he watched her come out of the bedroom with her luggage.
“I see you are not taking me seriously. Do I need to make my point clearer?”

Karina stopped, raised her head and squared her shoulders. “No, you made yourself perfectly clear. I am leaving. You and this toxic relationship. Good bye Tomas.”

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

38 Comments

  1. Gianisa
    May 19, 2012 @ 07:55:58

    This excerpt makes me wonder if English is the author’s first language. There are several phrases that read like they might have been translated:

    “Anger and rage preceded his words spoken with a sharp piercing accent on his displeasure.”
    “It’s a rich paying job.”
    “So, I read in the rag paper…”

    There are three things that really stand out to me:

    1. There’s definitely a lot of action going on but it’s all very removed from the reader. “he came, she was scared, he yelled at her, she dialed a cell phone, he hit her, she got her luggage”. I don’t get feelings from what’s going on – it reads almost like a documentary.

    2. If she really is an in-demand model, don’t have him hit her in the face and give her a concussion unless you need her to not be able to take the job. Facial blows can result in swelling that lasts between 3-5 days, and sometimes up to 3 weeks or a month depending on how bad the injury is.

    3. You need a beta reader/editor. I had no trouble parsing what was going on, but there’s something really off in the way you’re using the language.

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  2. Renda
    May 19, 2012 @ 09:12:47

    I am out with the first sentence. It shows me there is more rage/angst/power/brutality than I want to read about.
    Good luck. I always appreciate the authors who put themselves out there.

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  3. Jane
    May 19, 2012 @ 09:14:47

    @Gianisa – I’m sure you don’t mean this to be offensive, but the phrase “English is the author’s first language” is really off-putting. I hate to write this comment directed toward you because I am sure that you had no intention of being anything but helpful and kind to the author. However, it is a frequent comment made by various critiquers on the DA first page post so I feel moved to make the following statement.

    To presume that the non native English speakers have poor grammatical or structure skills isn’t fair to them. How many non native English speakers have you met? How do they talk/wrte? How many native English speakers have you met and how do they talk/write? I wish we would eliminate that accusation here on the first page day. Just because the writing is poor shouldn’t automatically lead to the conclusion that the writer is non native English speaker. When you learn a foreign language, you don’t learn to write poor colloquialisms. You learn to write formalistically and if you make mistakes, you make them in subject / verb tense or verb conjugation. Or you have a difficult time figuring out the correct word replacement. It’s not really the type of mistakes that you’ve outlined.

    Moreover, this writer is a native English speaker so the assumption is a) wrong and b) an offense to non native English speakers.

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  4. DM
    May 19, 2012 @ 09:40:19

    I read the first sentence and stopped, but for different reasons. You don’t know how to write action.

    “The door opened with an echoing bang. ”

    The events are in the wrong order. The echo doesn’t happen before the bang.

    If you want to write immediate and gripping action, you have to get the order right.

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  5. evie
    May 19, 2012 @ 10:25:09

    You’ve been very brave to put up your work on First Page. Writing, in itself, is a brave act. So congratulations. These are my thoughts:

    Opening with that line of dialog is a bold move, but it also issues a challenge. You’re saying to the reader that this is going to be intense, and this is going to be ugly, but nonetheless you’re still asking them to trust you and keep reading. You’ve got to earn that trust in the lines that follow.

    As the page is now, that trust doesn’t unfold, mostly because of poor writing mechanics. I believe in your voice, but the spirit of your story can’t shine through the awkward phrasings and outright grammatical errors. I struggle with grammar, too, so this isn’t coming from a Grammar Diva. I was never taught it in school. Like me, you need the help of outside eyes and grammar books. Have you heard of The Transitive Vampire? It might be the ideal manual for this story! ;)

    Read these three sentences out of context, pretend you’ve never seen them before, and ask yourself if they make sense. Try reading them aloud. I find reading aloud helps ferret out mistakes.:

    Throwing the tabloid he gripped in his hand at the woman standing at the counter cutting vegetables, her wide, violet eyes betrayed her fear.

    “So, I read in the rag paper that you have accepted a modeling assignment in Paris, after hearing it from a ‘friend’ that couldn’t wait to rub it in.”

    Lifting herself up slowly, the sting of his abuse still radiating on her skin.

    Keep working on this story! Good luck!

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  6. Gianisa
    May 19, 2012 @ 10:43:52

    @Jane: I know a whole bunch of non-native English speakers, myself included. English is my third language. This is your blog and if you don’t want people using that critique on it, make it clear. Your list of mistakes that indicate that a writer is not a native English speaker is lacking a number of common ones, including words being in the wrong order.

    “an offense to non native English speakers.”

    You are not the Non-Native English Speakers Spokesperson. The only offensive thing on this post is you telling me that you totally know how offended I would be by what I said.

    Good luck, author. You won’t be hearing from me again.

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  7. Karenna Colcroft
    May 19, 2012 @ 10:50:02

    Kudos for putting your story out here, author.

    Kudos as well for giving us action and characters right off the bat (I’m assuming Karina is your heroine). There have been a few first pages lately where one of the biggest criticisms has been too much backstory/not enough characterization.

    I had trouble reading this, however. The phrasing is very stilted and formal, and that along with a lot of telling and not much showing detracts from the urgency of the situation. Unfortunately, some of it also makes Tomas read like a cartoon villain; I keep picturing him twirling one of those weird mustaches and wearing a black cape. There’s very little emotional reaction on the part of the characters, and I don’t know whose point of view we’re in. (The point-of-view character should be reacting to what’s going on; for example, if it’s Karina we should see her shaking, trembling, asking herself if she’s going to survive, etc.)

    @Jane: I know this may be asking a lot, but when an author puts out a front page that includes domestic violence, etc., as this one does, would it be possible to include a trigger warning?

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  8. Yttar
    May 19, 2012 @ 11:06:50

    The first sentence was very off-putting. But in a way it was very good because it told me exactly what to expect from the rest of the piece.

    When ignoring the first line, I thought the next couple of paragraphs were very interesting and made me want to read more. Then it went into the “this is the end of an abusive relationship” that was told in the first line and I lost interest from subject matter alone.

    I thought the writing was good, but kept wondering where/when the paranormal element was going to come in. Unfortunatly, I wouldn’t want to read a paranormal romance where the first page seems anything but paranormal or romantic.

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  9. Lynne Connolly
    May 19, 2012 @ 11:43:31

    This piece is very poorly written. Sentences don’t make sense, or are incomplete. Take this one:
    “Lifting herself up slowly, the sting of his abuse still radiating on her skin.”
    It starts with a dangling participle and there is no verb. It should be, “She lifted herself up slowly, the sting of his abuse still radiating on her skin.” to make any sense. There are run-on sentences, sentences that start with dangling participles, and sentences with no verbs.
    The very first sentence is wrong, even as a speech it’s wrong.
    “Katrina, you worthless piece of fucking white-trash bitch.” She’s a piece of a bitch? Leave the last word out. You overcooked it. Besides, by that sentence I’d have been long gone. I don’t want that kind of violence upfront in the romances I read. I want someone to sympathise with first.
    The second paragraph is authorial point of view and should be revised for impact.
    Your heroine (is she the heroine?) is a doormat who should have left a long time ago. I don’t really care for her. Saying goodbye as she goes through the door isn’t a good idea for an abuser. He’ll drag her back and kill her for that, and it’s a switch of her personality. She’s scared, isn’t she? Abusers do not let their victims leave like that (that’s why there are so many women’s refuges).

    At the risk of raising the ire of Jane, I also thought that the writer was a non-English speaker. Not because of the quality of the writing, but the syntax. It reads like the writer’s first language is a Latin one (English is a Germanic language, Spanish, French and Italian are Latin ones). Their qualifiers come in a different place in the sentence, and some of the sentences here read that way. The names Katrina and Tomas are both more common in Eastern Europe than in Western, and the formality of the sentences might also be a small indicator, but not that alone. I would actually have given higher kudos to someone writing in a language they don’t speak every day. I admire people who do so, because that skill is way beyond anything I can do. Maybe the mindset is different in the US, I don’t know. Here in Europe there is far more “getting by” than there is flawless communication.

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  10. Patricia
    May 19, 2012 @ 12:36:00

    I found the first sentence very alarming, and not in a good way. At that point we had not met any character to identify with or root for. There is just disembodied abuse filling the space, looking for a target to attach itself to. I need to see at least one of the parties, abused or abuser, before the attack makes emotional sense to me.

    There is also something odd about the insult itself, as if elements were randomly chosen from a list of demeaning phrases and strung together, rather than reflecting the way people actually speak.

    At the end of the page, I wound up being very frustrated with Katrina (or Karina — you call her both). Tomas has already beaten her, threatened her, and is armed with a knife. She manages to put a little physical space between them but does she take the opportunity to flee? No, she calmly collects all her things and returns to him, announcing that she’s leaving instead of actually doing it. Is she deluded enough to think he won’t attack her again? Her plucky words about ending their toxic relationship are not going to stop a seasoned abuser. If she had much sense she would have abandoned the suitcase and run or barred the bedroom door and waited for help to arrive. At this point she’s verging on TSTL.

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  11. Jane
    May 19, 2012 @ 12:44:52

    @LynneConnolly how does speculating on the writier’s national origin help the writer in becoming better? I’ve already said, although you may have missed it, the writer is not ESL. We don’t immediately say “English is your first language” based on a person’s writing. Why do we assume every native speaking English person is a competent writer. Haven’t we seen scores of examples proving that assumption incorrect?

    We also know that one of our most beautiful writers in the genre is ESL. Sherry Thomas.

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  12. Des Livres
    May 19, 2012 @ 12:46:29

    The writing gets in the way of the story. There is a disjunction between the immediacy of the action and the curious prose. “Advancement,” for instance, has a different meaning from “advance”. In addition, there seems to be an excess of adjectives, adverbs and gerunds.

    I was also confused about whether there was an omniscient narrator or whether the story was from the female’s point of view. I agree with the earlier point (which pulled me out of the story yet again) that in the face of such immediate violent abuse and the terrorising situation, the female leaving the way she does is unlikely – unless she gets murdered in the next paragraph?

    The disadvantage of it being first page, (in terms of critiques) is that it is not clear what the purpose of this initial scene is. Is it a pursuit novel? If it is to render the female more sympathetic, brave or feisty, it does not work. She comes across as either stupid or a bit wrong in the head, and completely lacking any survival instinct. Why is she still with this person?

    Is the rest of the book as intensely violent? Domestic violence is quite wide spread, so unlike pirate sword fights or space battles, there is a high likelihood that a proportion of your female readers will have direct experience of it, and may find reading such material distressing. This is not to say that domestic abuse should not be written about in fiction – merely that it should be done with care, bearing that in mind. Carrie Vaughn (the Kitty series) and Patricia Briggs (the Alpha and Omega series) are two authors who spring immediately to mind as doing wonderful engrossing books about abuse survivors, where the abuses involved are made very clear.

    It is very brave of you to put up a first page for feedback. Good luck!

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  13. DM
    May 19, 2012 @ 13:32:52

    Count me as someone who is always offended and embarrassed by the “English must be your second language,” comment.

    If you don’t see what’s wrong with it (besides it offering nothing constructive to the writer), imagine you are enrolled in a semester long writing workshop with a dozen other students. Now imagine saying to one of them: This makes me wonder if English is your first language.

    Crickets…

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  14. Lynne Connolly
    May 19, 2012 @ 15:23:56

    Does the language you speak every day define your nationality or even national origin? I don’t think so. I know several Welsh people. One of them doesn’t speak English very well. Doesn’t make him less British-born. Swiss people speak German, or French, or Italian, or all three. Many Italians speak French every day. Belgians can speak French or German as their first language, or may be bilingual.
    I speak excellent English and appalling French and Italian. Am I insulted if I write a letter in French and someone says “French isn’t your first language, is it?” No, why should I be? It’s the truth.
    Maybe a cultural thing. I have a strong suspicion that it is.
    In this piece, if English had been the author’s second language, then some of the sentence construction and formality would have made more sense and wouldn’t necessarily have meant that the author put a piece so obviously not ready up for crit. As it is, if this is the author’s first language, it’s just plain bad. Maybe I wanted to give the author of this piece some allowances for the frankly bad grammar, and I was looking for some way of doing it.

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  15. Loreen
    May 19, 2012 @ 15:48:00

    Assuming that Tomas is going to be sticking around as the villain of the story, I think you need to back up a little to let the reader understand the relationship. Like others, I found this beginning to be way too violent and abrupt. I would put the book down based on the first line alone.
    I don’t find this very convincing in terms of the psychology of domestic abuse. Katrina has already made up her mind to leave the relationship; she knows the relationship is toxic. So why does she stick around to chop up vegetables? It would be more convincing if somehow she thought that she could sweet talk Tomas into letting her go to Paris. In general, I think women stay with abusers because they think “he only lost control that once and he really loves me,” “he’s just really protective,” “I deserved it” and “I can change him and heal the wounds of his painful childhood.” I don’t see any of that deluded thinking here. Katrina knows Tomas is a villain and she doesn’t love him. So why stick around and let herself be beaten?
    Maybe you need to start the story with Katrina trying to decide whether or not to go to Paris and how to tell Tomas. She loves him, but he has such a temper etc….

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  16. Jane
    May 19, 2012 @ 15:49:57

    @lynne Connolly

    Maybe I wanted to give the author of this piece some allowances for the frankly bad grammar, and I was looking for some way of doing it.

    So to make someone feel better, it is okay to insult a whole class of others?

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  17. requireshate
    May 19, 2012 @ 17:31:14

    @Lynne Connolly:

    Am I insulted if I write a letter in French and someone says “French isn’t your first language, is it?” No, why should I be? It’s the truth.

    Now pay attention, because I’ll be polite and explain this just the once–there is a difference in play: power dynamics. English is one of the languages of imperialism. There are large swathes of people today who have to speak English thanks to a history of colonialism, and today’s present, ongoing cultural hegemony. You, as an Anglophone (especially a pasty-skinned one), benefit from this dynamic–you are not one of the oppressed, but one of the oppressors. You enjoy Anglophonic privilege. When you question, “Is English your first language?” or even exclaim “Goodness, your English is just excellent, where did you learn it?” (note: the latter is NOT a compliment) you are exercising this privilege, contributing to hegemonic oppression, and demonstrating a deep and thorough ignorance of how the world works. You don’t understand that most of the world speak English because we have to: we don’t learn it as a hobby or to “round out” our education. We learn, speak, and read it to survive. In contrast, the French have no linguistic privilege over you or indeed privilege of any sort. French is not a global language the way English is, and the UK today isn’t forced to speak French as its primary language. There’s no lasting legacy of colonialism. You are not in any context forced to speak French.

    Given the tenor and content of your comment I imagine my explanation will whoosh over your head at great speed, but let it not be said that I never attempt to educate occidentals.

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  18. Gillyweed
    May 19, 2012 @ 17:46:58

    I was less bothered by the poor grammar than by the lack of a strong point-of-view. This is a violent, emotional scene but the omniscient style of narration doesn’t allow the reader to connect with the heroine. For example,

    “The man walking in was as ominous as the black clothes he wore. Tall, dark and extremely handsome, he brought with him an air of fear laced with danger.”

    Katrina/Karina is scared shitless, right? Is she going to be noticing how handsome Tomas is? Or how his dark mood matches his dark clothing? And later in the paragraph, do we need to know that Ka(t)rina has long, silky hair and violet eyes? Those details don’t help me to connect with her character. I want to know what emotions she’s experiencing as the scene unfolds, not what she looks like. A physical description such as “her wide, violet eyes betrayed her fear” just doesn’t have the emotional punch of an internal reaction told from Ka(t)rina’s POV: “Terror clutched at her throat, constricting the flow of air to her lungs. For a moment, she couldn’t think, couldn’t even breath. The bastard was going to kill her.” It’s not great writing, but you get the idea.

    In addition to reading a few grammar guides, I would suggest re-reading/examining some of your favorite romances to look at (A) the mechanics of forming beautiful, readable sentences and (B) how authors use character POV to fill every scene with emotion. You have natural talent, so don’t get discouraged. Thanks for sharing your work!

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  19. Avery Shy
    May 19, 2012 @ 17:52:10

    Is this argument productive? I still remember the last one. It sounded exactly like this, and apparently, it didn’t solve anything, because here we are again.

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  20. Avery Shy
    May 19, 2012 @ 18:06:02

    There are lots of people who will tell you that, instead of dumping a character’s physical description into one paragraph, you should “hide” the information and be “stealthy” by inserting small bits here and there.

    Generally, I disagree. Both methods – describing the character outright, versus breaking the description into stealthy chunks – require skill. You went for the “stealthy” approach, but it doesn’t work here. Why? Because you put it in the wrong scene.

    You may feel that your reader needs to know immediately what your characters look like. This is not true. The reader can go along quite happily with no mental image of the character. So wait until it’s an appropriate time. Later, during a quieter scene.

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  21. Jane
    May 19, 2012 @ 18:16:44

    @requireshate – as you have seen before, I try to allow differing opinions, but your opinions are often laced with ad hominem attacks. Perhaps you can make your comments less personal in the future so that I won’t have to edit them. If you are not able to do this, then I will edit them for you.

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  22. Jane
    May 19, 2012 @ 18:17:43

    @Avery Shy – Yes, this argument should be made. It’s an important one and I’m sorry that it bothers you and I’m sorry that it takes away from the author’s posting. It shouldn’t but I would hope in the future that the accusation regarding someone’s nationality / origin is not brought into question because of the writing.

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  23. Gillyweed
    May 19, 2012 @ 18:26:38

    @requireshate:

    Now pay attention, because I’ll be polite and explain this just the once

    Wow, condescending much? If that’s you being “polite” then I would hate to see you when you’re being impolite. Yes, Lynne Connolly made an ignorant comment and then defended it using an inapt analogy. You could have pointed out the inefficacy of her argument without making things personal. I think it’s actually the tenor and content of YOUR comment that will cause it to whoosh over her head. And that’s coming from someone who agrees with you.

    On a completely separate note, my previous comment should read “breathe” not “breath.”

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  24. theo
    May 19, 2012 @ 18:35:33

    I agree with the others regarding your character’s actions. Though my abuse only goes to the verbal which was escalating, once I made up my mind to leave, I didn’t stick around to make dinner. That coupled with the fact that your villain, at least I’m supposing he is, didn’t follow her into the bedroom to make his point, makes this page not ring true to me. The abuser would not back off and give his prey a chance to gain the upper hand. He would go on the attack and in this case because it’s physical, beat her into submission. Then maybe toss her bags out the window just to make sure.

    Because I don’t have a basis for any redeeming qualities in your Hn at this point either, this is not something I would read.

    Kudos for putting it out there. It takes a lot to do so. But you need an impartial reader to help guide you through making the story stronger and an editor to help you with your errors as DM makes a perfect point about action/reaction in her first comment.

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  25. Lynne Connolly
    May 19, 2012 @ 19:19:09

    Definitely a cultural difference, and I wholeheartedly apologize if I’ve offended anybody. I thought French and German were also languages of imperialism and oppression, and it’s certainly something I learned at school. But it’s obvious that this goes deeper than my initial misunderstanding and I don’t think that a brief discussions on a blog will resolve it.
    Jane and Gillyweed? If we’re ever in the same place at the same time, I would absolutely love to take this discussion further. Bottles of wine might prove helpful additions, but this difference in cultural perception is fascinating, and both of you have really interesting points to make. I want to learn more.
    Most of all I apologize to the author. We should be talking about your submission, not if English as a first language is an insult or not.

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  26. Gillyweed
    May 19, 2012 @ 21:09:30

    @Lynne Connolly: Well said. But for the record, I’m no expert on the matter and I wasn’t offended by anyone but @requireshate. I certainly don’t think that you, personally, are contributing to the oppression of the non-native English speaking world. His/her statement to that effect was ridiculous.

    When I said I agreed with @requireshate, I should have been more specific about what I was agreeing with: that I could see how an innocent and even well-intentioned comment might be offensive to someone who lives daily with the messy legacy of English-speaking colonialism, as he/she apparently does. Too bad @requireshate isn’t able to present his/her perspective in a less personal and demeaning way.

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  27. Des Livres
    May 20, 2012 @ 02:47:24

    You know, it would be very interesting for DA to put up some first pages of already successful published novels for critique, without mentioning that they are already published – it might make the aspiring authors feel a bit better. The only problem would be the risk of the readers recognising the book, and the questionable ethics around lying to the readership. Otherwise it would be an interesting experiment!

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  28. Peta
    May 20, 2012 @ 03:28:12

    The biggest problem I had with the exerpt was when Katrina walked back with to face the guy with her suitcase. To me that is verging on TSTL since the guy obviously has no qualms about physically hurting her. Unless she is in an apartment a number of floors above ground level I would have thought it more logical for her to escape through the window. It may just be because this is only the first page and there is more to come but her actions did not feel like someone who just got hit and threatened.

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  29. requireshate
    May 20, 2012 @ 07:10:47

    @Lynne Connolly:

    Definitely a cultural difference, and I wholeheartedly apologize if I’ve offended anybody. I thought French and German were also languages of imperialism and oppression, and it’s certainly something I learned at school. But it’s obvious that this goes deeper than my initial misunderstanding and I don’t think that a brief discussions on a blog will resolve it.

    Yes, but the French and German cannot oppress you. They don’t wield power of any sort over a British. Now, someone saying “is French not your first language??” to a citizen of a former French colony, that’d be offensive. To you? Of course it very well isn’t. Google up “post-colonialism.” You have Internet access; self-education is neither hard nor takes any real effort.

    @Gillyweed:

    When I said I agreed with @requireshate, I should have been more specific about what I was agreeing with: that I could see how an innocent and even well-intentioned comment might be offensive to someone who lives daily with the messy legacy of English-speaking colonialism, as he/she apparently does. Too bad @requireshate isn’t able to present his/her perspective in a less personal and demeaning way.

    I love me some tone arguments. I might understand if I’d let loose with the profanities, but I daresay I explained it all quite calmly. What I’ve said are neither “demeaning” nor personal; the reception of it is however particularly telling–a code of etiquette is prized over content. It is preferable to be offensive than to violate politesse: Connolly’s comments (and those like it, in this post and elsewhere, with regards to speculating as to someone’s nationality/first language) are in the grand scheme of things far more insulting than anything I’ve said (which at the very most was mildly condescending), but because I haven’t coded my words in a way tailored to preserve everyone’s feelings, policing my tone becomes the priority. What you’re saying is, “It’s understandable if you, requireshate, are offended. But can’t you be offended in a polite, comfortable way? Why do you have to be so mean?” Thus focus shifts from Connolly’s words to scrutinizing mine: you’re setting up a standard that says it’s okay to dismiss me due to my tone. You are saying that though Connolly has stepped on my toe, I don’t have the right to snap at her or dislodge her from said toe. That I need to wait for her to lift her foot, at her convenience, and only if I’ve told her in a gentle, sweet and meek manner: “Please, oh madam, please oh please lift you lovely foot, it is causing me some distress. But it’s all right if you don’t, really, you have the god-given right to step on my foot as many times as you please.”

    This is how privilege functions, and how privilege is enforced–and where privilege is enforced, so is oppression. Have a good day.

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  30. Jane Davitt
    May 20, 2012 @ 09:10:41

    @Des Livres:

    I’ve often read one of these posts, then gone and looked at the first page of one of my books and wondered if it would past muster here if people didn’t know it had been edited, proofed and published. It’s interesting to consider to what extent perceptions alter opinions.

    One first line that’s always stuck with me and was a brilliant opener to a book, was “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.”

    To the author of this page, I agree with others that you need to work on the grammar/POV and read it aloud to see where the structure falls down; there’s nothing like hearing the words spoken to spot a flaw. I do think it’s an arresting opening, but it was violent enough to make me almost back away from the page. I guess that’s a compliment of sorts. It’s certainly a gutsy choice of first line.

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  31. Lucy Woodhull
    May 20, 2012 @ 13:01:09

    To the author,

    I think what might help is deciding exactly what is happening here, who it’s happening to, and settling on a direction. If your fair model is the heroine, a great place to start would be to root this solidly in her POV. She must be freaking terrified. Next, perhaps decide on a solid course of action for her. I don’t like victim blaming, so I would read on whether she made a decision to stay or go, but have her make one decision — here she seems to be deciding both with a result that it’s muddy and meandering. The stronger, action-oriented, dynamic opening choice, to me, would be to have her decide to leave and then he comes home early in the middle of it. But that’s just me. If you have her stay, then have her stay and raise the stakes when she realizes the consequences.

    I highly recommend The Owl at Purdue (google it) for all grammar and punctuation needs. I have it bookmarked and often refer to it when I have a comma or tense question.

    To the DA Community and Jane,

    Thank you very much for this discussion about ESL and privilege. I’ve learned something about how offensive it is and the privilege that wields the argument. The internet can be an ugly place, but it’s groups and places like these that, I think, can help us all grow and learn from the vast wealth of different people who come together here. I would hate for this discussion to devolve into the tone argument — it’s Derailing 101 and it serves no purpose but to silence. Here’s a great link I like about it: http://www.observationwindow.org/2011/12/the-tone-argument-a-101/

    Thanks to the author for having the ovaries/balls/hutzpah to put this out there, and thanks to the group for the discussion. Have a great Sunday, everyone!

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  32. Des Livres
    May 20, 2012 @ 13:45:54

    @Jane Davitt: I was thinking of the first page something like what I’ve posted below – also engrossing popular fiction but from a wee while back. Reviews since it was written have been rather mixed:

    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
    it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

    How many would keep reading? (Actually it’s pretty good read aloud).

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  33. SAo
    May 20, 2012 @ 14:04:47

    Author:

    While you, like many people, could brush up a bit on grammar, your basic problem is getting the order of events backwards.

    You start with “Katrina, you worthless piece of trash.” There’s no attribution, we don’t know who spoke, or who Katrina is. Next, you say, “The door opened with an echoing bang. The man walking in. . .” Normally, we’d assume the person who spoke was in the room, therefore, it’s not obvious that Tomas is the speaker. So, it’s like we have a line of unattributed speech and then move on to something else. A sentence or two later, you tell us “the anger and rage PRECEDED his speech.”

    Now, it’s not too hard to do the puzzle and realize that
    1) Katrina was cutting veggies then,
    2) the door opened with an echoing bang, then
    3) Tomas walked in full of rage and anger, then
    4) he said she was worthless trash.
    But what happens is instead of experiencing it with Katrina, we’re figuring out the puzzle. It’s confusing. You have a lot of this in the first para.

    Another example: “Throwing the tabloid he held in his hand.” If he threw it, it’s not in his hand any more. So, we can’t see it flying, because we have to rearrange the events.

    So, what the reader gets is a sense of awkwardness and it’s easy to say, ‘this is awful,’ but I think it is easy enough to fix if you know what the issue is.

    On a different note, you’ve convinced me that Tomas has been abusive for a while, so why was Katrina making a celebratory feast instead of leaving? In fact, why wasn’t she long gone? I wouldn’t tolerate anyone calling me one of the names he threw at her in the opening sentence.

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  34. Jennifer Armintrout
    May 20, 2012 @ 17:50:19

    What stuck out most to me, and if someone has already mentioned this, I apologize, is that there are very few contractions in the dialogue, so it seems stiff and kind of formal. Also, some of the phrases strike me as a little odd, like “vamp agent” and “rich paying job”. It’s like this very calm argument is happening during very violent actions, and they don’t quite match up.

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  35. Jane Davitt
    May 20, 2012 @ 21:55:23

    @Des Livres:

    Heh, I think it’s kind of cool but then I know what it is so I can’t judge it impartially. It has a lovely, tongue in cheek rhythm going.

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  36. Des Livres
    May 21, 2012 @ 02:00:43

    @Jane Davitt: I know what you mean about impartiality. But lots of people dislike the author’s work!

    I suppose an ethical way for do it would be to put up a first page of a published book/unpublished first page, invite the critiques and add “guess if this is a published work or not.” The process might help unpublished authors (and me because I’m interested) what sort of changes get made to an author’s work as part of the publishing process. In some cases it might illumine part of what makes a truly fantastic book.

    I must say, many of the comments coming through on this thread about the anonymous first page seem to me to have been incredibly clever and helpful. It would be fascinating to see what the author does to the text as a result.

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  37. Eileen
    May 21, 2012 @ 12:16:39

    The challenge with writing is that there’s always differing advice. I suspect this author has heard to open with action. For me as a reader the problem is that I don’t yet know the main character or fully understand the dynamic in order to care that she’s at peril. How long has she been with this idiot? Is it hard for her to leave? She seems to just go in the back room and take her thing, but if this has been a longer term relationship the decision to finally leave is a big one. What was the tipping point that makes her leave now? As others have suggested going a bit more into her POV would help and perhaps back up a scene where her agent is convincing her to take the job and the conflict is that she knows if she does her relationship is likely going to bust up and he’ll be mad and at the same time she wants to take the job because….

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  38. akaria
    May 22, 2012 @ 09:01:53

    Author, you might want to check out the movie Sleeping With the Enemy with Julia Roberts. It’s an older movie about a woman who escapes her abuser and it might give you some ideas on how to make Karina more believable. I didn’t feel connected to her at all. The violence didn’t feel real and it seemed like it was thrown in to manipulate me into liking Karina. Trust your characters to stand on their own. You don’t need a gimmick.

    Also, I’m looking for some paranormal here and not finding anything. Are Karina’s violet eyes a clue? Perhaps the vamp agent is a vampire? I like my PNR to get to the supernatural bits pretty quickly otherwise I feel like someone’s trying to sneak a plain ole contemporary past me. The first page is not too soon to introduce some sort of paranormal element that makes the reader realize s/he’s not in Kansas anymore.

    Good luck and keep writing!

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