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First Page: Pierre and Claire / Historical Fiction

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He pulled Claire closer to him. They were laying down now. He sensed the immediate danger was over and began to relax. He could feel her sigh as her sobbing stopped and it felt like she was melting in his arms. He felt the strong connection and his energy level perked up. She arched towards him and her soft wonderful breasts pressed against his chest. She seemed to become a part of him just then, an extension of his being, of his whole. He gave her a delicate kiss on her cheeks and her lips moved over to find his and they kissed, lightly at first and then with more energy and compassion. Her skirts had worked themselves up her bare legs and Pierre could feel that she was naked underneath. Pierre very softly stroked the inside of her thigh and Claire uttered a sigh that filled Pierre with longing and desire. It was like they both realized that this would be their last day on earth and this would be the last opportunity they would have to embrace and kiss each other. The kiss was full and long. He heard Claire sigh and whisper. “Oh Pierre, my little Kisser, oh Pierre. Don’t ever let me go. Don’t ever let me go.”

Pierre and Claire lay together under the August sky sharing each other in lovemaking that reflected their love and compassion for each other. Being close to death had a way of adding life to their compassion that was hard to explain. Two unmarried persons from different worlds and cultures sharing intimate relations in those times was taboo, but what hold can cultural taboos have on two persons who did not know whether they would be alive another day. After all, there is no cultural controls that are more powerful than the fragility of life. As Pierre touched and caressed Claire in their passionate embrace, he no longer feared the consequences of his action. He only knew that he loved Claire and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, whether that was one day or many. For Claire, her willingness to make love to Pierre was her surrender to him in all aspects of her life. She was now his, and she could only hope that her assessment of Pierre as a wonderful loving companion was made with sound judgment.

Pierre and Claire fell asleep in each other’s arms around 2 in the morning after making love to each other for a good three hours. It was the most wonderful three hours in Pierre’s life, even though the tragedy of the day would stain his memory forever. He melded with Claire and also felt like he was one with the moon, the stars, the ocean, the grass, the rocks and the trees surrounding him. It was a feeling of exhileration that he had never felt before and maybe would never feel again. The sweetness of that three hours would forever equalize his painful memory with a wonderful one.

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

35 Comments

  1. Jayne
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 04:12:32

    Lots of telling here. It also felt very distant to me as if the writing was keeping me at arms length.

  2. Katie T.
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 04:45:25

    So confused. This is historical fiction? It feelslike a contemporary. Writing is poor, and lacks a smooth flow. I don’t know who the characters are and what they’re doing and where they are. There are grammatical and spelling errors. This reads like a fan fiction.

  3. Irish Lass
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 05:47:51

    Hoooo-kay, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say someone is satirizing the romance genre. “Oh, Pierre, my little Kisser, oh Pierre. Don’t ever let me go. Don’t ever let me go.”

    Sheesh, dude, if you’re going to poke fun at us, at least show some more ingenuity and sharper humor. Study a “Mad” magazine or check out The Onion.

    No matter how much you may jeer, romance sales still dominate the publishing industry. I’m a huge fan of “The Walking Dead,” and a zombie apocalypse is the last place you’d expect to find romance – but it surfaces now and then.

    If I’m wrong about this being satirical, then I apologize in advance. But this smacks of ridicule, my humble opinion.

  4. Cara Ellison
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 07:30:08

    No.

    This is awful by every metric. The writing is deplorable, the language hackneyed, the characterization nonexistent. Just no. If this is a joke, it needs to be much sharper. If it is not a joke, please go do something else because writing is not your thing.

  5. cleo
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 07:47:37

    I’m not sure that it’s helpful to say what this reads like (fan fic, satire), but for me it *doesn’t* read like a first page. It doesn’t feel like the *beginning* of a story. I did like the first three sentences – they drew me in, I wanted to know more about the danger they were in, where they were lying, etc. And then – none of those questions were answered, and the action kind of came to a halt while they had sex. And I still don’t know who these characters are, or what’s going on, or why I should care about their lovemaking. If you’re going to start the story mid-action, the action should be compelling enough to make me want to stay and figure out what’s going on, and that’s not happening here, yet.

  6. LisaCharlotte
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 08:30:42

    I agree with Cleo, this doesn’t read as a first page. It feels like the middle of a scene from the middle of the story. Also, some of the word choices made wonder if the writer was a native English speaker. Most notably “compassion” when I expected “passion” and “melded” instead of “melted.” Finally, the author repeats herself in a never ending loop using very purple language. It does read like bad fanfic to me as well.

  7. Shelley
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 08:41:24

    Ummm…is this a real story? At the risk of offending I’m going to say it’ not.

  8. Jane
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 08:43:21

    @Cara Ellison: I don’t think this is a joke, although I could be wrong. We see quite a bit of this type of writing with books submitted for review (and which we don’t end up reviewing for lots of reasons).

  9. Gwen Hayes
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 09:13:18

    The first thing I noticed was the rhyming names.

  10. Patricia
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 09:21:23

    I agree with the advice given by others, especially that this does not feel like the beginning of the story. You seem to have jumped to the emotional climax and skipped all the pesky work of making us care about the characters.

    Additionally, I recommend you take a look at your sentence structure. You have started many, many of your sentences with [pronoun] [verb] and it becomes very repetitive.

    Finally, I missed that this was labeled historical fiction and the talk about being from “different worlds and cultures” had me thinking this was science fiction instead. That indicates, I think, that you need to do more work setting the scene.

  11. Avery Shy
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 09:58:06

    - Rhyming names? No. No, no, no.
    - Lots of repetition.
    - Big paragraphs, no breaks.
    - Nothing happening.
    - All telling, no showing.
    - Zero characterization.
    - Opening with sex? Ick. If you want to show affection, why not have them basking in the afterglow instead?
    - Read that dialogue out loud and tell me if someone would ever say that. (Spoiler: no, they would not.)

    Comb through the paragraphs and delete any (absolutely any) repetition. That should cut your paragraph sizes in half. After that, go back and look for unnecessary or cliched adjectives, and delete those, too. THEN you will have something you can possibly work with.

    If that fails, start over.

    To be honest, this is bad. Very bad. But I’ve seen worse first pages posted here, and there’s much more terrible writing elsewhere on the internet. Everybody starts at the bottom. Keep writing, but know that you’re got a ways to go.

    @Lisa Charlotte: I disagree. Purple prose and odd word choice seem very much like normal mistakes a native English speaker would make.

  12. Carolyne
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 10:22:46

    I’m fresh from a month of writing a paranormal romance for Nanowrimo, so I thought I’d read some First Pages before submitting a First Page of my own (if that’s a done thing–I’ve submitted one before, though it was a long time ago, and the experience was very valuable). Plus, the “historical fiction” tag caught my eye.

    But, as a first page, it’s not going to fly. Some editors/readers wouldn’t get past the second sentence and the lie/lay mistake, I’m afraid, while others would stop at the “telling not showing” of simply saying “his energy level perked up” (meaning he feels peppy? his batteries have switched from a red light to a green one? he’s drawing in her essence vampire-style? or just that the blood is rushing you-know-where?).

    Unfortunately for the author, if it isn’t meant as a parody, it comes across as one, but not a strong one; as an attempt to write either romance or parody without sufficient experience of what constitutes either. Such as, for romance for example, the need for intriguing characters and a vivid setting, not just dropping the reader into the set-up for a sex scene so we can get right to the sexy-times and to saying the characters feel like they’re meant for each other (how would the reader know whether that’s true? I’m not taking Pierre’s word for it, I just met the guy). In the three paragraphs before we find out it’s night and they’re on the beach near some trees (I guess?), I’d already imagined them somewhere completely different. Some authors can get away with a sex-first, details-later opening, but the reward for the reader is to be enmeshed at once in intriguing first tastes of a world and its people, its sights and sounds and smells, so that we’re drawn along to find out just why this couple is going at it full-passion and what sort of danger they’re in–some of which we might guess by getting snippets of where they are (making love on an old box frame in a basement with boarded-up windows; or on a balcony under the bright blaze of a sun that means no enemy can approach; or even with the muffling of the three doors between them and the chaos outside they still have to be silent; or etc.). Creating that sort of opening is, as Dan Savage might say, varsity-level writing.

    My advice would actually be to step back from writing for public consumption, and read, read, read. And read. Not fanfic, not books selected on the basis of what’s popular and trying to mimic them–but find the best of the books reviewed here, the A and B+ reviews, and read them until you get a better sense of the many varied and wonderful approaches that make for good prose. Read beyond the romance category–read good science fiction and good horror and the best of historical fiction. If it’s parody you want, then read the best parody you can find, in any category. Read young adult and read books for middle readers. A feel for the building blocks of storytelling isn’t there yet, and that’s not something that can be workshopped onto an unsuccessful manuscript or gleaned from how-to books. To write a story the reader is going to love, find the stories you love and then don’t just mimic, but find your own voice.

  13. dick
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 10:27:56

    I agree that it reads like satire, a la Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” in which one is almost convinced the author is serious. As satire, it’s not too bad. As a serious effort? Yuk.

  14. Carolyne
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 10:51:30

    @dick: I’m trying to be gentle with the author in my comments, but… As a satire of a type of unedited book that some authors rush onto Amazon, then, yes, it’s not too bad. Swiftian–achieving that moment where you think not “wait, is this serious?” but “wait, is this actually good?”–it is not. But I’ll give you satire. Though I’m not sure what the point would be, other than “there exist poorly written stories.”

  15. dick
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 11:39:06

    @Carolyne:

    I would agree that the author’s not quite sure how to go about it if it’s intended as satire, but the excessiveness of it, the confusion of passion and compassion, whether deliberate or not, the concentration on sex in the opening scene, the vagueness of purpose point more toward parody/satire than serious effort to write romance–or to blatant ineptitude. I find it difficult to believe that even the most inept of writers would expect it to be taken seriously, especially when directed to an audience of readers of romance. Or perhaps I’m being kinder than I ought?

  16. Sunita
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 11:43:21

    I agree with Jane; I’ve seen plenty of self-published writing with these types of flaws, so I’m not sure why commenters are thinking this is supposed to be satire or parody. The word choices and grammatical errors aren’t obviously indicative of an ESL writer, either.

    This feels post-apocalyptic to me, if it’s supposed to be the beginning, but I suppose it could be during a period of war or other social upheaval. If so, a hint of the context would be good. Paragraphs of telling, of having two people in a scene but no dialogue, is not effective. I’m also confused by the reference to different cultures when both the characters have French names. Maybe one is colonial French and the other is French-French, but it would be more helpful to have the only thing we know about the characters right now not contradicting what you’re telling us.

  17. Lori
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 12:05:15

    I’m going to assume that this is a begining writer simply because it reads like one. My first serious attempt at writing a novel was a romantic/suspence where the H/h traveled to three different states, fell in love, visited an AIDs hospice and got shot at…. all in 75 pages.

    Writer, you aren’t ready. The best advice I can give you is to determine what you want to write and read, read, read those who are doing it successfully. Recognize how they use dialogue, watch how they pace: copy their structure to learn how it’s done and then as you learn you’ll stop copying and start doing it for yourself.

  18. Lynne Connolly
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 12:32:32

    Got to agree with the others. There are lots of grammar, syntax and spelling mistakes, too many to list. There is no history in this excerpt. No sense of where they are and what the crisis is. Or why their love is forbidden. Or anything to make them interesting, really.
    Romance is all about the characters. Pierre the little Kisser and whatsername aren’t memorable, they aren’t special, so I don’t care what they do.
    Putting sex early in a book is sometimes called “frontloading” and you can only do it if you can involve the reader in the situation, the characters or provide a hook of some kind. Sex for its own sake isn’t enough.
    I started one book with a menage where the hero is bored (what, bored?) and another where the couple are watching another couple getting it on.
    There’s no hook in this, and you really need to correct your mistakes. These days, if you start with sex, it needs to be more detailed, more graphic and less purple.
    Take “the kiss was full and long.” Tongues? Did they kiss open mouthed, did he taste her, did she taste him? Maybe he teased her, darting his tongue into her mouth? (like a frog with a fly, lol!) Just go for it, think about it, visualize it and go there. As it is, that sentence just kind of sits there and does nothing. You’re asking the reader to do all the work that you won’t, or can’t.
    And one of my current bugbears, done by multipublished authors as well. In the first sentence, you can leave out “to him.”

  19. Lucy Woodhull
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 12:55:06

    As a writer of both satire/parody and romance, I can say that this works on neither level, and for the same reason — the writing it too immature. Satire must be perfectly, wittily on point to work; bad grammar and word repetition do not a parody make. I daresay a parody or satire must make itself known, even if in a small way, and it can’t read as a mistake.

    This does read as fan fic to me, and there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that… as fan fic. Schmifty Schmades of Schmey has told the world that poorly-constructed &^%$ can sell, unfortunately. I hate to feel like I’m helping to pile on the submitter (and not in the fun way), but, brave author, I encourage you to keep working. Buy a craft book or two, or study a fabulous novel (not fan fic — a novel) and really, really study the structures, grammar, characterization, etc. You have work ahead, but heck, we all do. No writer stops trying to get better. You’re not ready to submit this for publication, but keep doing what you love to do and it will bring you joy no matter what. Good luck!

  20. romsfuulynn
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 12:58:49

    Lost me on the second sentence. You can get away with failure of lie/lay in dialog – but this stopped me cold. I went back for another try and found it unreadable, for all the reasons above.

  21. SAO
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 13:16:58

    I’m going to assume this was serious, not a parody.

    “He pulled Claire closer to him.” Who’s he? And who is Claire? And why is he pulling her closer?

    “They were laying down now.” It’s lying down. But where? The now implies this just happened, but I didn’t know their position before.

    “He sensed the immediate danger was over and began to relax.” What danger?

    When I get to the end of the page, I still don’t know the answer to these questions. In fact, I know less as your comments, “From different worlds” and “in these times” makes it clear that they could conceivably be from any point in history or from any galaxy in the universe.

    You need to show us these answers and you need to do it immediately. For example:

    “Pierre Orlov pulled Claire closer, lying back on his camp bed. The drum beat of cavalry hooves receded and the cannons were silent. Sensing the immediate danger was over, he relaxed, focusing on the beauty in his arms. She sighed and melted into him. In this crude tent they weren’t a Russian soldier and a spy for the invading army, but two lovers, stealing a few moments of bliss.”

    I’m not going to pretend my version is great prose, but it gives an idea of what the book is about (the book I just imagined, I have no clue what your book is about). You need to do this.

    Without it, your book is about as enthralling as someone droning on about the plot of a movie that you haven’t seen. “There was this guy and this girl and they were from different worlds and kind of had an affair. Oh, and there was some kind of danger.” It could be Star Wars, it could be the Philadelpha Story.

    Another point: When you say, “he felt,” “it seemed,” or “He could feel” you are distancing us. The words add nothing.

    Don’t get discouraged. The way most writers learn is by doing and getting critiques. Read books about writing, keep at it, and find a good critique partner.

  22. Christine
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 20:15:04

    I’m curious–does Pierre work for people as a romance hero’s name? I clicked because I’ve been working on a historical romance set in France, and it’s hard to come up with masculine French names that would appeal to American/English-speaking readers of romance. At least, I think it is… It all starts sounding kind of twee.

  23. Carolyne
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 20:31:41

    @Christine: No offense to the Pierres of the world, but it seems like a too-common choice. I’ve always had a weakness for the name Etienne, myself. I suppose the “enne” might seem feminine to English-language readers, but couple it with a rugged hero and I’m sure the appeal would follow. Maybe the trick is in teaching the reader to love an unfamiliar name, and the more unfamiliar the more intriguing :)

  24. Bren
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 20:57:11

    @Christine: Charles, Guillaume, Gustav, Guy, Alexandre, Richard, Jacques, Julien, Victor, Simon, Marc, Antoine, Armand, Eric, Fernand, Edmond, etc., etc. There are tons of masculine sounding period French names.

  25. Christine
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 23:25:18

    @Bren Those are all good names (I’m especially fond of Armand). But a lot of them can signal a variety of nationalities on paper–I guess I’m thinking about names that are uniquely French, or at least signal it very strongly, and would also sound “heroic” in a romance novel context. (Obviously, in practice, you can just say “This guy is French and his name is Charles” and it’s fine. No need for every male French character to be an Yves or a Pierre or a Jacques.) Just wondering what kind of mileage people get out of “Pierre” in particular…

  26. Christine
    Dec 01, 2012 @ 23:35:06

    @ Carolyne I think you could definitely sell people on Etienne in the end! Personally, I love the names Yves, and it sounds really strong to me in a French context/when speaking French (also, by happy coincidence, one of my husband’s middle names!), but I think it loses something in English. Wouldn’t people hear “Eve”? (Can’t get much more feminine than that!) I couldn’t sell my husband on it when we named our son…

  27. Carolyne
    Dec 02, 2012 @ 00:27:36

    @Christine: One paper, I don’t think anyone would hear “Eve” (in their inner voice), and Yves St. Laurent I’d think is pretty familiar to most people as being a French male name… But if I didn’t know the name or didn’t know French, my first inclination might be to pronounce it “Ives.” And I’ve now officially been staring at the name for so long it just looks like a bunch of random letters.

    Marcel? Maxime? Matthieu? Auguste? Léopold? Noë? Théo? Toss an accent over something? :)

    I liked Bren’s suggestion of Julien. Armand very strongly suggests French to me, but also suggests “author was looking for a very strong and romantic French name”…if you know what I mean.

    I hope some of this discussion helps!

  28. SAO
    Dec 02, 2012 @ 01:00:12

    I love the name Raoul and like Anatole and Anasthaze (not sure about the spelling). The Anasthaze I knew was very masculine and slightly dominating. Pierre is fine as a hero to me. From reading French Cosmo whenever I take Air France or fly through CDG, Ludovic is a popular French name, at least now. Whenever readers write in, there’s always a boyfriend named Ludovic.

    Yves is up there with Nigel on my personal list of masculinity. I suspect my husband wanted to avoid saddling our daughter with either my name or my mother’s name, he found a very nice formula for avoiding it, without ever suggesting he doesn’t love my name — which admittedly is awful with his last name.

    You might be able to get a lot of mileage out of nicknames. What is Nicholas called in French? In Russian, Nikolai is typically nicknamed Kolya, and never Nick. I think Italian might be Nico.

  29. Katie T.
    Dec 02, 2012 @ 01:36:22

    I go weak-kneed for French-sounding names :D

  30. Jane Lovering
    Dec 02, 2012 @ 07:43:39

    Author, I wonder if you’ve missed the point a little? Romance is, basically, about character. It’s a study of two people who happen, despite all life’s trials and tribulations, to fall in love, almost a psychological work, in a way. Readers like to get to know these people, so they can identify with, and feel for, their struggles – it’s not a matter of ‘here’s a man, here’s a woman, this is a romance so they’re in love – GO’, it’s empathy and wanting to see good people win out over the odds. It’s not description of what they are doing, physically, but an insight into the way they feel about life, about each other, about what is happening to them.

    Go back to the first time you fell in love (you have been in love, right? If not, this might not be the genre for you). Remember how your heart triple-timed when you saw the object of your affection? How you felt slightly sick? How your ears buzzed and your palms sweated and your lips went all gummy when he (or she) looked your way? Write that. That is what we all relate to, that is what we want on a page. You’ve written a list, as it stands. Put some real, honest, emotion in there, and then you may have a start.

  31. Cervenka
    Dec 02, 2012 @ 08:46:33

    I agree with those who say this misses the mark as a romance. If they’re already together when the book starts, where’s the romantic tension going to come from?

    My initial reaction was that this had been put though some kind of online translator.

  32. Lynne Connolly
    Dec 02, 2012 @ 09:46:20

    Isn’t it strange how names have different connotations in different societies? It was the name “Nigel” mentioned as a masculine one that made me want to comment! Over here in the UK, “a nigel” is a loser with no friends.
    We have Hooray Henrys, the ones who have silver spoons in their mouths, and probably up their noses, too.
    Eric, too, is a bit of an iffy choice, although it’s losing it a bit. Never call a hero Gilbert (“Gilbert the filbert”), Felix (a brand of cat food), Wayne (Harry Enfield made Wayne forever bad). But it’s societal expectations and connotations, not the name itself that’s bad.

  33. Carolyne
    Dec 02, 2012 @ 10:03:43

    @Lynne Connolly: One of my heroes (my fave) is called Felix, in spite of Felix the Cat and other associations. I fully intend to win that name back for tough manly heroes forever!

    I suppose I have a perverse streak–sending characters out into the world with whatever crazy name their (imagined) parents gave them, and making them do a little hard work creating a new connotation.

    That said, I doubt I’d ever have a Wayne–especially not as a hero’s middle name. Here in the US, no good ever comes of that.

  34. Helena Fairfax
    Dec 02, 2012 @ 11:37:55

    Two unmarried persons from different worlds and cultures sharing intimate relations in those times was taboo, but what hold can cultural taboos have on two persons who did not know whether they would be alive another day. I’d reached this sentence in the first page and I’m afraid I just couldn’t continue. There are so many reasons why this sentence is all wrong. It’s completely killed any action dead because we hear the author’s voice. It’s showing not telling. What time are we talking about in this story anyway? It hasn’t been made clear. ‘Sharing intimate relations’ – does anyone still actually say this? (Even a couple of hundred years ago it would have sounded odd.) The repetition of both ‘two persons’ and ‘cultural taboos’ in the sentence is unwieldy. There is no question mark. There are a lot of other things I could say about this one sentence, but you get the gist.
    This sentence alone leads me to think that the author isn’t a native English speaker, in which case, I have every admiration for her (or him) for trying to write outside her own language and for submitting it for critique. My advice would be to do as others have suggested: read a lot of English romance novels. You will need to immerse yourself in the language and make yourself perfectly fluent before you can even begin to address the other problems in this first page.
    I wondered if this was a parody too, at first, but now I don’t think so. This is what I’d call a good parody: http://thehairpin.com/2011/10/how-to-write-romance-novels/

  35. Laura Florand
    Dec 02, 2012 @ 11:51:23

    @Christine: There are French name sites, the same as English, where you can find what names were popular at a certain time period. Like this one: http://meilleursprenoms.com/site/EnVogue/EnVogue.htm

    In my third book, CHOCOLATE TOUCH, the hero is called Dominique, so I may not the best one to ask. :) It’s an awesome name in French, very strong, but we’ll see how it goes over in the U.S. I just tend to assume my readers are smart and worldly and can handle a few cultural differences, or, if they pick my books up in the first place, probably love reading about cultural differences.

    But just go through a list of French names and see which one hits you right for that character, if you don’t think of one instinctively. Even I have to do that, and trust me, I am entirely immersed in France and the French most of the time. :)

    Oh, the nickname for Nicolas is Nico in France as well, usually. Cola(s) gets used sometimes, for babies and small children. (As in the lullaby, Fais do-do, Cola mon petit frère). It would be very inappropriate to call someone Nick as a nickname, by the way. It’s the equivalent of a very nasty word. Not saying the closeness to that nasty word never gets abused in schoolyard name-insult exchanges, but you probably want to avoid dealing with it yourself. Good luck!

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