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First Page: Random Memories – Romance

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It’s sunset time. Birds are flying home. The city is lighting up, will it rain or no?

“Is it going to rain?” Emily wants to know. Nat and Ram shrug, who cares? It’s around 8.p.m., Emily, Ram and Natasha are up in their usual place: Lying flat on the terrace, eyes glued to the sky. Anything seems possible here and now. You just lie down watching the sky with stars, clouds and random objects. You can lose yourself in smoky dreams or get into a heated conversation in the dark emptiness.

Today, Emily feels talkative. Something is disturbing her.

“What’s the plan tonight?” Emily wonders.

“What about booze and fun?” Natasha suggests. The day is dead, time for some booze to kill the night. The beers are in a puddle of fresh dew trickling from the surface of the cans. Ram throws a can each to Nat and Emily. Cheers!

This is their last semester together, and looking back it has been a bland experience.

“Do you think sometime in future, maybe we three will meet?” Emily wonders.

“Why wouldn’t we?” Ram rewonders.

“We should stay in touch forever” Nat asserts feeling nostalgic and drunk.

Emily is cupping her beer can, lost and uninterested. So Ram wants to know if she gave up booze. “No, just don’t feel like tonight” Emily replies sounding sad. It is disturbing to see Emily being so sad these few days. Ram downs his can at one go to drown the uneasiness rising in his stomach. “Well girls, how about a picnic before exams?” Ram suggests.

Nat and Emily look on curious.

“We can go off-roads, to the lake, waterfalls, forests, do some trekking.” Ram explains.

“That would be great: miles and miles of greenery, blue skies and sparkling water” Nat replies. It sounds sarcastic though her mouth is bent into a smile.

“So when do we slot this trip?” Ram asks eagerly.

Emily is disturbed and her senses are pleasantly numb to her environment. Nat senses Emily’s aloofness and it intrigues her. Emily always kept stuff to herself: bottle up and burst out, that’s her.

“Emi, how is Brian?” Nat inquires. His name shoots into Emily’s heart and she can see Emily fold tighter into a bud.

“He is good” Emily replies non-committal. Nat doesn’t want to dig deeper right now or Emily might just close up.

None of them feels like talking. Emily’s brain is flooded with a whirlpool of thoughts. Ram’s mind feels empty so he looks for something to think. And his mind just stays empty. So he lets it be. He instead distracts his mind contemplating Em and Nat, trying to guess at their thought processes. Seeing a lot of each other these past three years, Em and Nat seem to have developed a remarkably similar body language. Em is leaning her head to the wall, eyes closed just like Nat, hands hugging the body. He feels bored after a while so walks up and down the terrace.

If he looks down, he can see a bunch of people hanging around and he could barely recognise them. He stares skyward, it is an empty box after all the jewels are removed. He wonders when was the last time he seen some stars. It seems ages ago. He plonks himself on the wall of the terrace far and away from anyone’s view.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. reader
    Jun 07, 2014 @ 06:06:39

    I get a strong sense of real writing ability in this submission. There are interesting insights into character and some turns of phrase that are well done and could make me want to read more.
    I felt like I had a grasp of who these people are and the potential adventure that lies before them.

    Saying that, I couldn’t read an entire book written in this style. I don’t know how well this works for other readers, but it doesn’t immerse me into the characters’ world very well at all. It reads like these are your draft notes or outline for your story. I feel weirdly distanced, rather than drawn in. Even the showing kind of feels more like telling, with this writing style. Which is frustrating for me, because I did enjoy the potential I felt here. (I also don’t care for the omniscient style of bouncing from head to head, but again that’s just reader preference. I prefer to fall in with one character and connect with her. There’s enough that interests me here that I wish it were written in one person’s POV in a more conventional style. I guess I’m just an old-fashioned reader.)

    On a technical level, you’re missing a few commas here and there.
    Good luck with your work!

  2. Marianne McA
    Jun 07, 2014 @ 06:30:41

    ‘rewonders’ may be my word of the day.

    My overall problem with the page is that these aren’t very interesting people, and I don’t need to read more about them.

    I’m not a writer, so I don’t normally think about things like dialogue tags, but even a reader can’t help but notice them here – asserts/explains/inquires etc.

    Also, even the few questions the pages poses – will it rain?, will they go on a picnic? – aren’t answered. That might be deliberate – what I like about the page is I do feel slightly sozzled just reading it – but the rest of the writing needs to be just so, so that I’m sure it’s a stylistic choice, and that it’s worth reading on.
    And I’m not sure, because I do have quibbles with the writing throughout – I don’t even like the first sentence: ‘It’s sunset time’ because the word ‘time’ shouldn’t be there. And it’s not dew on the cans, it’s condensation and Emily feels talkative, but none of them feel like talking.

    Sorry, that all sounds harsh. To reiterate, what I like about the page is something subtle about the feel of the page – disjointed, a bit detached, rather pointless – feels like being slightly sozzled at nineteen. But practically speaking, it’s a hard sell – even if I’d no quibbles about the writing at all, I’m not sure I would buy a book about people who are so uninteresting that they find their own lives bland.

  3. theo
    Jun 07, 2014 @ 07:48:58

    First, I need to say that this is definitely not my type of narrative. It makes the characters too detached and I don’t get drawn in enough to care what they want or who they are. I need something to make me read more and other than three people laying around thinking, this doesn’t have anything else that would make me want to know more about them.

    If he looks down, he can see a bunch of people hanging around and he could barely recognise them. He stares skyward, it is an empty box after all the jewels are removed. He wonders when was the last time he seen some stars.

    And this is a good example of why this type of narrative is so hard to write in. You have two different tenses going on in three sentences. The whole example above is littered with these.

    It should read: If he looks down, he can see a bunch of people hanging around and he can barely recognize them. He stares skyward; it’s an empty box after all the jewels have been removed. He wonders when the last time was that he saw some stars.

    In the moment for him is present tense. The act of looking down is now so he can barely, not could barely. But his wondering is past tense so the word is saw, not seen. Not in this case. If you’re trying to give a sense of the character by using the word seen, then this is written in the wrong narrative because the narrator wouldn’t change styles per character.

    This needs editing and I’m just suggesting, write it in a different narrative. Third or first person. Try it and see what happens to the story then.

    As it stands now, there’s just nothing that would make me read more.

    Good luck.

  4. theo
    Jun 07, 2014 @ 07:53:53

    I came back to say, you could also say ‘he barely recognizes them.’ That probably works better here since it’s even more immediate. More in the moment. There is a technique called Line-by-line editing that’s often used. It would serve you well here, especially with this narrative style.

  5. Carol McKenzie
    Jun 07, 2014 @ 10:06:11

    Hi Author and thanks for sharing.

    Maybe I need more coffee, I’ve read this a few times and it’s not growing on me. The style isn’t something I enjoy at all. The multiple points of view distract me. The overabundance of dialog tags would be enough for me to put it down, and I rolled my eyes at the “rewondered” tag. There’s no deep point of view writing. I’m not drawn into your story.

    Aside from the style, tags, and missing commas and periods (at the ends of dialog, before the quote…you’re missing a few), I’m with Ram; I’m bored. Nothing happens. You wrote their time together was bland. They’re continuing to be bland. If, in three years of being friends, they couldn’t generate some excitement, why do I think they’re going to suddenly do something that’s going to be interesting enough for me to read?

    Go find the part where something happens, where the action starts, and start your story there.

  6. Lucy Woodhull
    Jun 07, 2014 @ 11:47:46

    I agree that you have an interesting turn of phrase here and there, and I think you have talent that could be honed. But the weird tenses, the detached nature, the crazy dialogue tags (yes, “rewondered” made me LOL) all mean that this reads as unsophisticated writing. I suggest a writing class or some books about the nuts and bolts of what makes a good modern writer. Once you have the basics down, together with your interesting word play, you’ll be on your way. Good luck!

  7. Katie
    Jun 07, 2014 @ 15:24:14

    There are major POV issues. First thing is to decide the POV for the scene. As the reader, we should only know what that character is feeling. You can show us how the other characters are feeling through things we observe them doing and saying but we can’t know for certain as we are not in their head. Once you cut out the head hopping, the scene will be tighter.

    Another minor issue is the repetitive use of words but that is easily sorted.

  8. Brandon Shire
    Jun 07, 2014 @ 15:32:45

    There’s no hook in your first paragraph and it sets the tone of detachment.
    “Sunset” is a time particular to a reader’s geographical location, let them fill in that visual. There is no need to say “time.” Are the birds important, the rain? Already I don’t care and I haven’t even gotten past the third sentence.

    “Today, Emily feels talkative. Something is disturbing her.” Here’s where you should be starting from. But don’t tell me she feel’s disturb. Make me ask why, make me WANT TO KNOW why.

    …”fresh dew trickling from the surface of the cans” No. An attempt at purple prose is not going to help me remain interested, and there’s a lot of it throughout.

    Everybody in the ms is ‘wondering’ but no one is acting. No character has an impulse based upon their ‘wonder/curiosity’ and so the writing feels contrived.

    There’s some bones here, but it needs a lot of work.

  9. jamie beck
    Jun 07, 2014 @ 20:47:42

    Thanks for sharing your work.

    In addition to some of the grammar issues (commas, verb tense changes, etc.), POV issues, and other comments made above, I have a question. What, exactly, is this story about? Right now this reader feels like I’m a bit buzzed at a post-college party, trying to follow a conversation without success. Random Memories is a good title, because that’s how this comes off at this point. But a story (especially a romance genre story) needs some structure. Also, you’ve labeled this a romance, but right now I’m not seeing any hint of romance (except for Emily’s fleeting thought/pang about Brian).

    Who is the protagonist (I think it might be Emily, but it is difficult to tell because there seems to be an omniscient narrator giving equal weight to all the players and head-hopping a bit in terms of the various characters thoughts/feelings)? In a romance, you need a hero and heroine. Who are they? What are their respective goals, motivations, and conflicts? We need to have some understanding of this early on in order to care about what happens next. It is hard to get excited about these friends’ future when their past is described as “bland”…(“This is their last semester together, and looking back it has been a bland experience.”)

    Perhaps this isn’t the right starting point. I’d suggest opening in your hero or heroine’s POV, and put him/her in a sticky situation that gives you an opportunity to tell us what he/she wants, and what is in his/her way. Then we can jump on board and root for them to succeed.

    Hope this is helpful. Good luck!!

  10. Daisy
    Jun 22, 2014 @ 10:12:59

    These don’t seem like real people. They’re friends, in their twenties, hanging out and drinking beer, right? Then why are they all talking like unhappy middle-aged characters in a Russian play? “It’s been eight years since Uncle Pasha died.” [Silence.] “Eight”. [Silence.] “And yet nothing has changed.” [Sound of shotgun in the barn]. If they’re all going to be ‘uneasy’ and ‘disillusioned’ you need to give a reason why earlier on; as it is it just seems odd.

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