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First Page: Romantic Urban Fantasy

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Tarnished

Rap-tap-tapping at the chamber door is never a good thing. It usually means the failsafes have, well, failed.

The C door is made of wolfram, titanium, and silver the alloy most likely to repel and stand against any ass-hats attempting to enter the chamber without the codes. Its gleaming metallic surface was a stark contrast to the bare white walls and carpeted floors that enclosed her, completely cutting her off from the outside. The C door was a necessary evil according to the US military. How else could they control her? Study her? Imprison her?

The interior of the chamber looked benign. Like any other of a million hotel rooms across the globe, it sported a double bed in one corner butted up against a table with a light. A flat screen dominated one wall, with the entrance to the bathroom next to the bed. A bit austere but it did not appear hideous. Of course, appearances could be deceiving.

Silver backed away from the door as it began to show strain at the hinges. The bulging center section popped each pin in slow motion until the door lost its support on the right side, falling in with a booming thud.

The scent filled the room first. Meaty, piquant, the aroma filled her senses. Saliva pooled in her mouth as hunger ravaged her for the first time in months. A hand threw a small package around the partially supported door. Before she could stop herself, she was on it. The taste filled her senses with pleasure, the meat raw and full of the sweet iron reek of fresh blood.

She could hear the soft whining filling the room but it wasn’t until the room began to fill with vapor that she realized the sound was coming from her, and by then it was too late. She staggered towards the doorway, her vision blurred from the vapor and whatever had been hidden in the meat.

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

13 Comments

  1. Cathy
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 08:21:53

    This page drew my attention, but I felt like I was walking into the middle of a story. I think overall it needs to be tightened up, and re-focused before it would really keep a reader turning the pages. I’m sure other commenters will offer far better advice than I can.

    One question – what’s the country of origin of your protagonist? Wolfram is only called “wolfram” in a few European countries/languages. In English and in the US (where I’m assuming this scene takes place, since you refer to the “US military”), it’s called tungsten.

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  2. LauraB
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 09:25:33

    Ditch paragraphs two and three (or at least condense them quite a bit). Nothing happens here, and I think all a reader really needs to know is that the door being opened should have been impossible to open w/o the right keys. Also the allusion to Poe’s “The Raven” seems a bit heavy-handed and as a first line makes your story appear less than original.

    Once the action starts it’s really readable , and I’d be likely to keep reading. : )

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  3. SAO
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 09:27:25

    I really liked this, the writing was excellent. However, the first few paras seemed to be from the point of view of someone on the outside and then we switch to Silver on the inside, who, presumably is a lot more interested in getting out and the fail safes failing, so that produced an awkward change of POV for me.

    The other thing is that this meant that I didn’t end up with the same sympathy I would have had for Silver if it had been in her point of view. In fact, the POV from the outside made me wonder if maybe she needed to be contained.

    If Silver is the heroine, I’d start the book from her POV and view the door from the inside.

    Also, the use of the metal Silver as part of the door made me not quite get the first time around that Silver was also the name of the character.

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  4. theo
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 09:55:15

    First, I have to say, I am definitely not your target reader here, but there are a few things that I think still hold true regardless.

    I have to agree with the Poe comment. I was expecting something more Poe like.

    I have no idea why ass-hats bothered me, but I had an immediate picture of the front page of the SBTB blog. Yanked me right out of the story. No one else mentioned it, I know, but it’s something to consider. Your intention is to immerse the reader, not throw them off the story.

    I got confused with the whole US Military studying her (at least, I think with your description, I was supposed to understand it was them) and then your explanation of the room being so innocuous except for the door, and then someone subduing your hn with gas and tainted meat. If she’s being studied, where are the cameras in the room? Or is this how she’s fed all the time? Removed from the room for study? I understand you’ve made the comment that looks can be deceiving, but you go into such detail about the room, then toss out the deception as an afterthought.

    When the door fell in with a ‘booming thud’, I took that to mean it had fallen forward into the room and onto the floor. The next paragraph tells me it’s half supported. So how did it have a booming thud?

    The voice is great! The contents, at least for me, not so much. I think your details are focused on the wrong things. I’d rather know what she’s thinking about what’s going on than what the room looks like. And right now, since I don’t, I don’t care what happens to her.

    Again, take into consideration, this is one person’s opinion and like I said, I’m not your target reader. But I’ll read UF if the story is compelling enough. This one just left me scratching my head.

    Good luck.

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  5. Helen
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 10:39:04

    Thank you for the comments!
    I have actually changed a few things since I submitted this first page. I wasn’t sure when I started writing it if urban fantasy would sell to young adults, but I think that is the direction the book is going (rather than the adult market I first thought the book was headed towards). I think the awkwardness from the point of view are because I started out with this book in third person and then went back and changed everything to first when it seemed more suitable for my main character. Apparently I did not do a very good job with it! I have already nixed the us military thing, although at this point I am not sure what I am replacing it with. I have also changed the first paragraph to start with a prologue of sorts. Although I still think it is not quite there. I haven’t edited the first part of the book much other than switching things around, every time I try I end up stuck for weeks so lately I’ve just been trying to forge ahead. Anyway, here is how it looks at present.

    The End
    If there is one thing I'm not, it's a writer. If you don't like to read first person accounts, now is the time to toss this book into the nearest circular file. I just couldn't think of any other way to tell this story. My story. I mean, I'm the one who went through it. It was my feelings, my thoughts, and my actions that caused the whole damn world to change. So, here it is. You can blame it all on Sean. He's the one who told me I had to write it all down.

    Rap-tap-tapping at the chamber door is never a good thing. It usually means the fail safes have, well, failed. The C door was made of wolfram, titanium, and silver the alloy most likely to repel and stand against any ass-hats attempting to enter the chamber without the codes. Its gleaming metallic surface was a stark contrast to the bare white walls and carpeted floors that enclosed me, completely cutting me off from the outside. The C door was a necessary evil according to the ——. How else could they control me? Study me? Imprison me? I looked around the room, impatiently waiting for my unexpected visitor and realized for the first time how benign the interior of my room looked. Like any other of a million hotel rooms across the globe, it sported a double bed in one corner butted up against a table with a light. A flat screen dominated one wall, with the entrance to the bathroom next to the bed. A bit austere but it did not appear hideous. Of course, appearances could be deceiving. I backed away from the door as it began to show strain at the hinges. The bulging center section popped each pin in slow motion until the door lost its support on the right side, falling in with a booming thud. The scent filled the room first. Meaty, piquant, the aroma filled my senses. Saliva pooled in my mouth as the growling pain of hunger ravaged me for the first time in months. A hand threw a small package around the partially supported door. Before I could stop myself my body leapt forward, landing on the package, lips pulled back from my teeth, fangs exposed. The taste filled my senses with pleasure, the meat raw and full of the sweet iron reek of fresh blood. I could hear a soft whining filling the room but it wasn't until the space began to fill with vapor that I realized the sound was coming from me, and by then it was too late. I staggered towards the doorway, vision blurred from the vapor and whatever had been hidden in the meat.

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  6. foolserrant
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 10:42:51

    It looks like you have a definite sense of the world this is set in, and I applaud you for that.  It would probably take more than this to get me interested in reading more (I’m suffering the same paranormal burnout as everyone else).  However, the construction needs some work. First, you switch tenses in the second paragraph, stating the door “is” and the room “was”. Personally, I would stick to past tense — present tense is hard to maintain and you can’t foreshadow; plus, it doesn’t necessarily go over well with readers.  However, it does make the situation read as being urgent, so if you use it judiciously, it can be an effective tool.

    Also, your POV seems to be all over the place.  It jumps from 3rd person omnicient when describing the room to Silver’s POV a few sentences later and then back again.  I would describing the room to Silver’s POV a few sentences later and then back again.  I would recommend sticking to Silver’s POV — how does the room make her feel?  Is she groggy because the tapping on the door woke her up?  Is she frightened that the fail-safes failed?  There’s a hint of a really strong voice in the opening lines, but you need to carry it through the rest of the story.

    I couldn’t tell if the vapors at the end were literal vapors being pumped into the room or metaphorical vapors clouding her mind.  Again, tightening up the POV would help clear that up Way to go for putting yourself out there with this, and I really think that if you clean this up it would be just the kind of story that a lot of people would enjoy.

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  7. foolserrant
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 10:49:09

    Your updated version fixes the POV and tense problems and the voice comes through much clearer, bravo! But I’m left wondering whether she actually is in a hotel room and if she’d really think about that while waiting for a most likely violent person to break through the door. Unless you’re trying to convey that she might know who is breaking in and that’s why she isn’t afraid. Also, you need a comma after the silver in the description of the alloy. I don’t think this first page would sell me on the book — there’s nothing here that really piques my interest — but because your voice is good I would probably read a few more pages at least. The new intro para seems a bit too spelled out, but it is intriguing. Good job on the edits!

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  8. Lori
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 11:19:53

    My feeling from both versions is that you’re offering too abbreviated a version. The room description takes the most information and yet, it’s the least important thing.

    It might be more immediate if you started with something closer to I hadn’t fed for months. The steel door was probably between me and them because otherwise I might be apt to rip the heads of those who were studying me and feed till my hunger finally sated.

    Well, that’s crap writing and not your heroines voice but it’s much more immediate and whacks your reader into the story. I think if your heroine is a were-whatever, you might want to strengthen your beginning like a whack in the reader’s head.

    Shock my interest into reading. Then describe.

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  9. A
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 13:51:32

    Hello, Helen. Thanks for sharing your first page with us. I have two things to say:

    1. You’re onto something. You’ve included sufficient elements to catch some interest on my part.

    2. Your “something” is a bit elusive. I’m unclear as to what’s relevant in this scene. I’m wary of your protagonist for her eagerness to take the meat/blood offered to her. If she’s a lycanthrope, vampire, or other supernatural creature, wouldn’t she smell “whatever is in the meat?” Even taking hunger into account, it looks like she’s easily captured and easily re-captured. What if she was smarter than that?

    You’ve got something here. Work on it. And best luck.

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  10. hapax
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 15:37:51

    It’s a huge cliche to start with your protagonist in a room, and describe the room. At least you’re not falling here into the trap of having her wake up and see white walls, but it’s close. I’d start with the package of meat — it caught Silver’s interest, it would catch mine! (If you’re going to keep the description of the door, you need some punctuation here — “wolfram, titanium, and silver the alloy most likely to repel”
    between “silver” and “the alloy” — a colon, a hyphen, something.)

    Also, please do not begin the story with the narrator apologizing for telling it. I don’t mind first person stories, but I sure do mind being told to throw the book away — I might just take the advice!

    If you are still planning to market this as YA, ditch the “ass-hats”, unless you feel it absolutely necessary for the character. It might get through, but it will make a harder sell.

    If it sounds like I don’t like this, I actually did. I’m a bit burnt out on paranormals, but I like the hn’s voice and am always open to something fresh and new.

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  11. Darlynne
    Nov 21, 2009 @ 16:51:47

    Helen, I enjoyed both versions and would definitely read more. I like the possibilities you’ve brought up, and also agree with the observations from the other posters. For myself, I’ll just add that you need a word other than “fill” and its variations for much of what’s going on your last paragraph. Also, I don’t know what a C door is and “flat screen” is an adjective to me, needing a noun such as TV, panel or monitor, unless you mean it’s a room divider. Definitely showing my age with that one.

    Good luck!

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  12. Julia Sullivan
    Nov 22, 2009 @ 13:00:33

    It definitely works better in first person!

    Your punctuation isn’t there yet. I’d encourage you to swap edits with another writer who’s good at punctuation.

    “Asshats” is one word. No hyphen.

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  13. silvia
    Nov 23, 2009 @ 01:43:30

    I’m a sucker for books that start “in media res” – in the middle of the action. And That those first 2 lines really grabbed my attention – excellent opening!

    However, I would encourage you to question the name you’ve chosen for your character – Silver? I actually had to backtrack and re-read a bit because I couldn’t figure out that sentance. Giving the character a common noun for a name is really distracting, especially when it’s a color/material and you’re describing a room!

    And besides that… Honestly, it really turns me off when book when the heroine is given a weird fantasy-esque name. Silver’s a little too silly for me. Generally, people don’t name their kids that. (and before 10 people say, “hey, I knew someone named ‘Silver’, I’m speaking generally. and I find that kind of abnormal name distracting in fiction. Makes me worry your character will have violet eyes and glossy silver locks of hair.)

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