Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

First Page: Romantic Fantasy

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.

***

I jolted awake when the ice water hit my face. Blinding pain radiated out from my side when I reflexively jerked back to avoid the second bucket. I flung up my hands to deflect the water, or tried, but my wrists and ankles were bound to the chair I was sitting on.“Who sent you?” A man stood over me, face set in grim lines. He wore a topknot, dark blue trousers, leather boots that laced up to mid-shin and not much else.Presumably the better to throw water on me.

Adrenaline flooded my mouth with a metallic taste even as I fought off the dizziness to look around. Stone walls surrounded us, the only way out a door of metal bars. A silver globe of light directly above didn’t do much to illuminate the cell, just made the shadows starker and gave the impression of things moving in the corners.

I shook my head and tried to blink the water out of my eyes, certain I was seeing things. Or at the very least, please gods, hallucinating.

“What were you doing in Lord Anyang’s chambers?”

Breathing sent shards of pain through my chest. Even sitting slumped in the chair hurt. I felt as if I were one big massive bruise that got bruised some more.

“Speak, or I will force it from you.” He laid a hand on the handle of the coiled whip attached to his belt.

“I don’t know. Where am I?” I pushed the words out with an effort.

His eyes narrowed. “Playing the fool will get you nowhere. Seeing as you are a woman, I have been lenient, but do not overestimate my capacity for mercy.”

“Don’t worry. With how much I hurt, I don’t think I’m in any danger of overestimating your mercy. I really don’t know what you want. I don’t even know where I am, much less who your lord Anyang is.”

His head reared back slightly, an insulted look on his face. “I have done nothing to you. Yet. I don’t beat women when they are unconscious.”

I tried not to think too hard about what he would do to a conscious woman.

He sent me a considering look, “You speak of pain. Where?”

“Everywhere?” At his piercing look, I hurriedly revised my answer. “It hurts to breathe and my right side hurts.”

He crouched beside me and lifted my t-shirt up. A large blood-purple splotch covered my side and halfway across my ribs. I stared at it, trying to figure out when and how I’d gotten that particular bruise. He let my t-shirt fall and raised his eyes, “You didn’t get that at my hands.”

“I don’t know where I got it then. On top of not knowing what the hells is going on or where I am or who you are or anything.”

He stood, “You expect me to believe that you don’t remember or know anything?”

“No.” I winced. “No, I guess I don’t expect you to. But could you tell me where I am anyways?”

“Tavaneth.” With that, he walked out of the cell, locked the door carefully behind him, and walked out of sight.

I hurriedly closed my eyes as the world swam before me.

Tavaneth.

Muttering a prayer that I’d heard wrong, I let my head fall forwards as I grew lightheaded from hyperventilating.

Tavaneth. The setting for all of my bedtime stories growing up.

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

25 Comments

  1. julieid
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 06:01:20

    This worked for me. I want to read the rest of it. Is it finished?

  2. Anonymous
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 06:22:53

    I like the setup, and the instant-drama. I’m not clear on a few things, like… she was unconscious…so obviously something had happened to her… so why did the torturer seem surprised that she was injured? If someone’s beaten badly enough to lose consciousness, surely some bruising isn’t too surprising.

    I also wasn’t sure on the description of the bruise. You make it sound like it’s all one colour, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a large bruise that wasn’t mottled several different colours.

    I would have liked to have seen a bit more of a reaction from the woman about her Tshirt being lifted. I don’t know what culture you’re in, but a Tshirt suggests modern day, and the torturer must have lifted her shirt pretty high to see the bruise. Is he exposing her breast? How does she feel about that? Also, if he’s lifting the Tshirt, unless he’s pressing it down against her so that she can see (which seems uncharacteristically considerate, really), I don’t think she’d be able to see past the fabric.

    “big massive” also caught my eye as a redundancy.

    These are mostly fine-tuning, though. I like the general set-up, and I think you did a good job building tension.

  3. Ros
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 06:43:56

    I just wanted to let DA readers know that my First Page Saturday from a while back is due to be (self) published today!!! Read more here.

  4. ang
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 07:02:53

    Aside from a few ‘that’s’ that could be deleted and hell is not hells, and anyways is anyway, (unless the protag is 12 living in Jersey,) I thought the voice was pretty good.

    That being said, it sounds like an episode out of Law & Order. Yeah, she got beat up, yeah, she’s hurt but “Not by my hand” (Sorry that line is so cliche). The only intersting line that does anything in this page is

    Taveneth. The setting for all my bedtime stories growing up.

    Now that’s interesting.

    You also don’t give us any other descriptors other than the stone walls, a barred door, and a metallic light throwing shadows. What kind of stone walls, moss covered? dripping with water? dry? red? brown? what kind of bars? black? rusty colored? and the light throwing shadows? What’s behind them? Can she hear things scurrying in the darkness? What does it smell like? Dank? Cavelike? Dusty?

    I think you’re on the right track but it needs something ‘more’. Like I said, I like the voice, but you need to strengthen it.

  5. JL
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 08:58:44

    I liked the last line a lot, but it didn’t really grip me enough in the beginning to want to keep reading. I think there are a few things that could be changed to help the flow.

    1) The protag’s sentences seem a bit too long and coherent for someone waking up from a beating. For someone wincing, it takes an awful lot of breath to say “No, I guess I don’t expect you to. But could you tell me where I am anyways?” The dialogue reads artificially and takes me out of the story right away.

    2) The protag sounds like she’s from a different time/culture than the guy throwing water at her. I’m guessing this was purposeful and if so, done well, but then I’m curious why she’s not more surprised by what he looks like, where she is, etc.

    3) I second Ang’s suggestion of more description. You’ve only given us a sense of the physical pain the protag is in, and nothing else. What is she afraid of most in this situation? Does it smell like must or sweat or disinfectant? Is she shivering from having water thrown on her? All these things would draw me in better than hearing how much it hurts.

    4) I’m not exactly sure how she’s staring at a bruise on her right side when she’s bound in a chair. I would think she’d be straining to get a look at it.

    5) I think you might be trying to hard to establish that the protag is tough, maybe even foreshadowing some snarkiness, and it doesn’t really work for me in this predicament. Part of that is that I’m just tired of the too-tough heroines and would rather read about someone who is actually afraid to find out themselves beaten and bloody and tied to a chair with no memory. The other part is that you describe at length the pain she is in and then only show her toughness. Regardless, you don’t need to overdo it. Her personality will come through in later pages. Give us some other emotions and dimensions to the scene and characters, which also help establish the setting in subtle ways.

    I hope you don’t take these suggestions as negative criticisms, as I did like this page, and the hook at the end definitely hooked me. A little tightening and tweaking and I’d be gripped all the way through.

  6. Bettie
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 09:17:15

    The set up is great. You start with action, and give the reader and narrator lots of questions to ask and answer. However, I do think there are some words that could be trimmed and word-choices that could be changed to give this opening scene even more punch.

    For instance, the first paragraph:

    I jolted awake when the(1) ice water hit my face. Blinding(2) pain radiated out(3) from my side when I reflexively jerked back(4) to avoid the second bucket. I flung up my hands to deflect the water, or tried, but my wrists and ankles were bound to the chair I was sitting on(4)…

    1) “the ice water” I would delete the article here. She wakes because ice water hits her face. What ice water? From where? She doesn’t know. Use of the article seems to me, to imply a greater level of familiarity.

    2) “Blinding pain” I’m assuming this is just a somewhat cliched figure of speech, not a literal description. The narrator hasn’t given us any visual descriptions–or any indication at all, besides being awake, that her eyes are open and she can see. I’d choose a different, more descriptive word.

    3) “radiated out” when something radiates, it, by definition, moves out from its source. Really. The definitions of “radiate” include, “1: to send out in or as if in rays” & “3: to spread abroad or around as if from a center.”

    4) “jerked back” & “the chair I was sitting on” The information here is implied, and these words could be cut to speed the flow of the story. Plus, the last part about the chair is awkward and reads poorly.

    I know this may seem counter intuitive after you’ve labored for so long to get as many words as possible written on your story, but now is the time to cut, cut, cut. Pare the unnecessary, and strengthen descriptive words to give them more punch.

    A good example of giving descriptions more punch is “the coiled whip attached to his belt.” How is it attached? is it tied? clipped? buckled? hooked? there are any number of words you could use instead of the minimally-descriptive “attached” to add detail without making the sentence any longer. And the method by which the whip is attached to the belt would give the reader a clue as to how–and how often–he used it. If tied, perhaps less often, since he would have to untie it every time he needed to use it. If hooked, perhaps more often, since it would be more easily detached.

    Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough. You’re already off to a great start. Happy editing.

  7. jch
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 09:20:25

    I was drawn in enough to want to know why Tavaneth is important and why she is there at all. However, her tormentor did not ring true for me; made no sense that he would be threatening one moment and so conciliatory, almost compassionate, the next. Maybe he is being set up to become the hero, but in this first scene it comes off as ineffective characterization to have him jump from one extreme to another so quickly.

    I agree that there needs to be a bit more description in terms of setting, and also more attention paid to phrasing in your dialogue (as ang mentioned, the use of “anyways” rather than “anyway”, for one).

    A couple of other things you might want to consider: she mutters a prayer at the same time she is hyperventilating? One or the other would likely be better. As it is, the flow may be interrupted here while your readers pause to wonder how one can mutter anything while struggling for breath. A small thing, maybe, but it did stop me for a moment. You want readers to be invested enough at this point to care about the next line, not preoccupied with your heroine’s ability to speak while fighting to breathe…

    Also, the line where Tavaneth is referred to as “The setting for all of my bedtime stories growing up.” Sentence construction seems a bit off there, though it did leave me curious as to whether they were good stories or bad stories, so in that sense it works.

    I hope my comments aren’t too harsh, and that some of them are useful to you. Best of luck with this, and thanks for sharing your work! :)

  8. Bibliotrek
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 13:49:03

    I agree with the above comments, and also, I was completely thrown off by the name Anyang. All I could think of was Arrested Development: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNqEIGdl3

  9. Bibliotrek
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 13:51:35

    I agree with the above comments, and also, I was completely thrown off by the name Anyang. All I could think of was Arrested Development.

  10. Bibliotrek
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 13:54:08

    I agree with the above comments, and also, I was completely thrown off by the name Anyang. All I could think of was Arrested Development, when Lucille Bluth adopts a Korean kid and the whole family calls him Anyang without realizing it’s not actually his name but rather means “hello.”

  11. Bibliotrek
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 14:01:11

    Yikes, sorry for the comment spam! I’m on my phone (using the Dolphin browser on Droid Incredible), and every time I submitted it I got an error message saying it hadn’t been accepted. Then all three showed up when I switched to desktop view from mobile view! Apologies!

  12. Gianisa
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 14:39:54

    Bibliotrek got my biggest concern, which is that having somebody named “Anyang” is hilarious but most likely not what you’re going for. Anyang esayo = hello and anyang hikasayo = goodbye, in Korean. Anyang = quick way of saying “hello” and “goodbye”. The name Lord Anyang sounds like it’s out of an Austin Powers film.

    I have unfortunately experienced pain that was so bad it was literally blinding*. Your description doesn’t come close to what is was like. If your protagonist is in that much pain, she won’t notice what the guy is wearing, where she is, what the lighting fixtures are like, what the walls are made out of, or how cold the water is. She definitely won’t be speaking in anything resembling complete sentences. The last time I was in that much pain I couldn’t hear what people were saying to me and they had to repeat themselves multiple times. I also had a hard time thinking complex thoughts.

    You’re not aware of what’s going on around you at all when you’re in that much pain. It’s hard to describe, but it’s like your brain just stops functioning beyond what’s necessary to stay alive. You breathe and that’s it. It can take minutes to even realize that you’re sweating.

    “Speak, or I will force it from you.” He laid a hand on the handle of the coiled whip attached to his belt.

    “I don’t know. Where am I?” I pushed the words out with an effort.”

    In my experience, the scene would go something like this (warning: I’m a terrible writer):

    There was a noise somewhere overhead, alternatively louder or quieter. I blinked, watching my toes fade in a out of focus, trying to breathe around the spike of pain in my left (right?) side but not succeeding very well. The noise got louder and louder until the bottom half of a face suddenly appeared in my sight. The mouth was moving, matching with the noise. Speaking! The person was yelling. I tried to concentrate on what the person was saying.

    “What were you doing in Lord Hilariousness’s chamber? What were you doing there?” The person was enunciating clearly, taking the time to spit out each word carefully. I had no idea what he was talking about.

    I took as deep a breath as I could around the pain, and asked “What?” I was surprised by how softly I was speaking. It felt like I was using a huge amount of air but even I could barely hear what I had just said. I tried again. “Where am I?” Even that effort had exhausted me, and I could feel sweat trickling down the side of my neck.

    etc.

    When you’re hurt that badly, it takes an incredible effort just to do a very small action and it wipes you out immediately.

    *Don’t commute on a bicycle in Los Angeles.

  13. theo
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 15:06:32

    I have to agree with Gianisa here (in my case, it was stepping off a curb onto a broken – though unmarked! – sewer grate) in that your Hn is way too alert and mindful of where she is. Also because of her injuries, I wouldn’t expect her to be that sassy and confrontational. All you want it to do is stop hurting.

    If I’m picturing what you’re portraying, she wouldn’t be able to see the bruise on her body because her jailer wouldn’t make sure to hold the shirt out of her way. He’d pull it up in front of her face so if she got any look at all, it would most likely be a glance through the neckline. Maybe.

    She got hit in the face with water and she’s not choking or at the least, sputtering and hacking away?

    Adrenaline actually decreases the amount of saliva you have and the adrenaline itself wouldn’t flood your mouth so that was a big no-no for me.

    She has to force her first line out and then carries on a sassy exchange with her jailer?

    There were just too many things that didn’t ring true for me. I do understand it’s fantasy, but the reality in it was just too skewed.

    Kudos for putting it out there. It takes courage. I know.

  14. Wahoo Suze
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 17:07:52

    I liked it. I’d keep reading.

  15. Wahoo Suze
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 17:18:18

    Also, congrats, Ros!

  16. DM
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 18:17:05

    Muddled. Words and actions in the wrong order, starting with the first line:

    I jolted awake when the ice water hit my face.

    No, you didn’t. Jolted here is a transitive verb. It takes an object: you. You might BE jolted awake by the ice water, if you insist on placing “I” at the beginning of the sentence for emphasis, but that’s passive, and a weak way to start an action scene.

    The ice water jolted me awake.

    Simple, direct, visceral, and it introduces the information in the right order. The ice water comes first, before the wakefulness. In your version we meet you (I), we learn you are awake, and then we encounter the ice water. Is this how it happened in the scene? No. Ice water is thrown at you and wakefulness follows.

    Blinding pain radiated out from my side when I reflexively jerked back to avoid the second bucket.

    Again, it’s all in the wrong order. Did the blinding pain radiate out (sic) and then you jerked back? No. You jerked back (we don’t need to know that it is reflexive, and the adverb only slows down the action) and the jerking caused the pain.

    I jerked back to avoid the second bucket. Blinding pain radiated from my side.

    It probably didn’t radiate, because that implies it went in all directions, and it is in your side.

    Action writing requires precision. It relies on cause and effect on a line by line level. It does not tolerate lines like this one:

    I flung up my hands to deflect the water, or tried, but my wrists and ankles were bound to the chair I was sitting on.

    because readers are seeing the scene unfold in real time. They are watching a movie in their heads. Imagine this sentence playing out in a film. What does it look like? Does she jerk her hands up, and then stop, make a wry, “Well what do you know?” expression, and put them back down because they are really tied to the chair? No. Save the wry voice for narrative summary, where events are collapsed. Action is an event expanded.

    And if your hands are tied to the chair, readers can do the math and figure out that you are sitting in it.

  17. kyrias
    Aug 27, 2011 @ 23:00:57

    Thank you, DA, for this opportunity. I really appreciate it. :) Thank you to everyone else for the encouragement and feedback.

    @julieid: Yes, it’s finished, but it’s in edits.

    @Ang: It’s hells because in Chinese mythology, there’s at least 18 levels of different hells.

    @bibliotrek: It’s more than slightly unfortunate that the surname Anyang reminded you of that. Thank you for bringing that up, however.

    @Gianisa: Anyang is a Chinese surname and it’s really unfortunate that it would call to mind Arrested Development, but since the meaning is tied into the story, I might keep it anyways. Thank you, however, for the clarification.

    Again, thanks so much for the feedback.

  18. Nadia Lee
    Aug 28, 2011 @ 04:28:59

    @kyrias: Anyang didn’t remind me of the Korean phrase “An-Nyung”, and I speak the language fluently.

    But I thought the name sounded very Asian — most likely Chinese or something — and the interrogation scene felt so…odd for something w/ Asian flavor.

    (Oh and I agree with everyone’s comments so far (except for the Korean phrase thingie))

  19. LeeLee
    Aug 28, 2011 @ 19:15:22

    The setup sounds interesting – and the last line is definitely one of the best. I’ve added my comments in bold. I’m a published author and reviewer.

    I jolted awake when the ice water hit my face. When you jolt awake, you don’t immediately know why. Let this come after with some description on the feel of the ice, then what she sees it to be.
    Blinding pain radiated out from my side when I reflexively jerked back to avoid the second bucket. In writing, I would suggest subject then verb. E.g. “I jerked back to avoid….,and a blinding pain…
    I flung up my hands to deflect the water, or tried, but my wrists and ankles were bound to the chair I was sitting on. – Redundant
    “Who sent you?” A man stood over me, face set in grim lines. He wore a topknot, dark blue trousers, leather boots that laced up to mid-shina comma should go here and not much else.Presumably the better to throw water on me.

    Adrenaline flooded my mouth with a metallic taste even as I fought off the dizziness to look around. This reads as if literal adrenaline flooded into her mouth?Stone walls surrounded us, the only way out a door of metal bars. A silver globe of light directly above didn’t do much to illuminate the cell, it?just made the shadows starker and gave the impression of things moving in the corners.Add some more description on the room here to give the reader a feel for where she is.

    I shook my head and tried to blink the water out of my eyes, certain I was seeing things. Or at the very least, please gods is the plural “gods” deliberate, also the ‘G’ should be capitalized if referring to a deity and small letters if referring to a man, hallucinating.

    “What were you doing in Lord Anyang’s chambers?”

    Breathing sent shards of pain through my chest. Even sitting slumped in the chair hurt. I felt as if I were one big massive bruise that got bruised some more.This last sentence doesn’t read well. Try to avoid using the words “I felt” too much. E.g. Instead of “The knife felt cold at her throat”––You could say “The cold knife pressed into her temple”.

    “Speak, or I will force it from you.” He laid a hand on the handle of the coiled whip attached to his belt.

    “I don’t know. Where am I?” I pushed the words out with an effort.

    His eyes narrowed. “Playing the fool will get you nowhere. Seeing as you are a woman, I have been lenient, but do not overestimate my capacity for mercy.”

    “Don’t worry. With how much I hurt, I don’t think I’m in any danger of overestimating your mercy. I really don’t know what you want. I don’t even know where I am, much less who your lord Anyang is.”As another reviewer mentioned, her sentences are too long and coherent considering her predicament and evident pain.

    His head reared back slightly, an insulted look on his face. “I have done nothing to you. Yet. I don’t beat women when they are unconscious.”Consider italicising the “yet”.

    I tried not to think too hard about what he would do to a conscious woman.

    He sent me a considering look, “You speak of pain. Where?” Try to use strong verbs for “look” instead of using an adverb to describe the way he looked at her.

    “Everywhere?” At his piercing look, I hurriedly Same as above. Try not to use “ly” words as much. A few sprinkled here and there are fine, but not too many on one page. revised my answer. “It hurts to breathe and my right side hurts.”

    He crouched beside me and lifted my t-shirt up. A large blood-purple splotch covered my side and halfway across my ribs. You can’t describe it before she sees it. Also how would she see the entire bruise considering her tied up position on the chair?I stared at it, trying to figure out when and how I’d gotten that particular bruise. He let my t-shirt fall and raised his eyes, “You didn’t get that at my hands.”

    “I don’t know where I got it then. On top of not knowing what the hells is going on or where I am or who you are or anything.” “Hells” should be “hell” maybe?

    He stood, “You expect me to believe that you don’t remember or know anything?”

    “No.” Put the action before the dialogue as humans physically react before they speak I would think, in this particular situation.I winced. “No, I guess I don’t expect you to. But could you tell me where I am anyways?”

    “Tavaneth.” With that, he walked out of the cell, locked the door carefully behind him, and walked out of sight.

    I hurriedly closed my eyes as the world swam before me.You used “hurriedly” before, try using a stronger verb to describe the action, e.g. “snapped my eyes closed” or “clenched my eyes shut” etc.

    Tavaneth.

    Muttering a prayer that I’d heard wrongDoesn’t read quite right, I let my head fall forwards should be “forward”as try to avoid using “as”, it slows the pace of the thought and is distractingI grew lightheaded from hyperventilating.

    Tavaneth. The setting for all of my bedtime stories growing up.Love this.

    Apologies for all the comments in bold. I just think it’s helpful to give you specifics rather than a general “I love it” without anything constructive.

    I think it’s an interesting premise. Would definitely make me want to read on just to know the where, why, how, who etc. There are a few good books that cover the basics on grammar etc that will improve your writing skills. You have the seed of a good story so I’m sure it could do well. Good luck :)

  20. kyrias
    Aug 28, 2011 @ 23:16:28

    Thank you for the detailed feedback, LeeLee.

    Nadia: Thanks. :)

  21. Klio
    Aug 29, 2011 @ 08:17:45

    I was offline this weekend, so I didn’t get a chance to comment before others covered anything I would mention. But I did want to add that I LOVE books where the heroine travels into a world she used to imagine, or read about, or what have you. THE SECRET COUNTRY trilogy was one of my favourites when I was younger. Aside from the “every reader’s wish fulfillment” aspect, I enjoy seeing the premise explored in unexpected ways–especially when the imaginary land turns out to have lots of warts, wrinkles, and unexpected corners and depths.

    Wishing you the best of success with your story, so I can read it someday :)

  22. kyrias
    Aug 30, 2011 @ 00:42:40

    @Klio: Thank you for your kind words. And believe me, there’s plenty of warts and wrinkles in this world she’s come to. :)

  23. Rachel
    Sep 01, 2011 @ 12:28:38

    Everyone else has covered my main thoughts, but I do have one suggestion.
    This line: “Tavaneth. The setting for all of my bedtime stories growing up.”
    It’s great in terms of what it says about where the story is going to go, but it’s clunky. Right now “growing up” seems to be modifying “bedtime stories” when it should be referring to her.
    You might try something like:
    “Tavaneth. The setting of all my childhood bedtime stories.”

  24. kyrias
    Sep 01, 2011 @ 14:41:26

    Thank you. :)

  25. Kyriacities » Blog Archive » Mary Sues and various ramblings
    Sep 01, 2011 @ 16:56:10

    […] submitted the first page of my story at DA about five weeks ago, and yesterday it went […]

%d bloggers like this: