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First Page Saturday: Inspirational Contemporary

“You go first.”

Her voice was soft and nudging in his ear, and he recognized the sound of it immediately. Without even glancing towards his right, Christian Wallace was certain of the identity of the woman who stood there, despite not having heard Rosie Donovan’s voice in more than four years. He knew instinctively who was motioning him to go forward through the tight, crowded aisle of the Stop N’Save. He had somehow known it the moment the earthy fragrance of patchouli oil first caught at his awareness a few seconds before she spoke.

He allowed himself a quick look in her direction. Rosie’s short pixie-like hairstyle was as he remembered, its brown spikes standing in stiff disarray. Her equally dark brown eyes slid to meet his, momentarily dancing with inner amusement. He regarded her and arched his eyebrows at the getup she was wearing. On her feet, Rosie wore bright orange flip flops. This was topped by fluorescent pink sweatpants and an oversized neon green t-shirt emblazoned with a huge fish hook and the words, Hooked on Jesus.

He sighed. Yep. Irreverent. Bold. It was Rosie alright.Rosalind,” he corrected silently. By now she had doubtless shed the childhood abbreviation and adopted her full given name. And grown up.

He snorted outloud. “It seems like I’ve heard those words from you a few times before, Rosalind. And the suggestion is still a bad idea, almost two decades later.”

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. Faye Hughes
    Aug 14, 2010 @ 06:45:22

    I don’t read inspirations as a general rule but I thought the opening was very well cone and pulled the reader into the story. I would keep reading.

    My only quibble is with the last paragraph.

    “He snorted outloud” stopped me. First, just say, “He snorted.” The out loud part would be implied. Second, the word “snorted” seems a bit out of place here. “Grinned”, “smiled” or “He met her gaze and xx.” work better IMO. Also, the dialogue that follows doesn’t seem natural to me. I’d move the “two decades later” info to the earlier paragraphs to show the passage of time, and then I’d change the rest to something like, “I don’t know, Rosalind. My going first always seemed to get us into trouble.” (This isn’t the best line, of course, but I want the dialogue to sound realistic and still intriguing.)

    Faye

  2. Scarletti
    Aug 14, 2010 @ 07:42:42

    I don’t read inspirationals generally, either, but I have read and enjoyed some.
    The hero’s name turned me off.
    “Christian” just seems too obvious.
    And the description of the outfit made me think “crazy church lady.”

    But I did like the writing style. I liked the hinted-at past. It gave a nice time span to think about. Again, the “hooked on Jesus” t-shirt coupled with the “Christian” makes me think this will have “too much” of a religion component that will get in the way of the story, for me at least.

    Not being a huge inspirational reader, though, it could be that both of those things that take me out of the story would put the targeted audience more into the story.

  3. okbut
    Aug 14, 2010 @ 07:47:23

    Thanks for submitting today.

    I’m not sure what ‘inspirational’ means, religious? philosophical? your first page does not give a clue either.

    From what I have studied regarding the most effective construction of a fictional story’s first page, it requires several elements. ACTION. CONFLICT. INTRODUCTION OF A MAJOR CHARACTER/S. A COMPELLING HOOK. SOME INDICATION AS TO THE STORY’S PREMISE.

    I think you would agree, that your effort is tepic in these areas, the reader is left confused and not compelled to keep reading…

    A lot of your text is redundant as already pointed out: “he (his name) recognized her soft voice immediatly” instead of “her voice was soft ……

    “Without even glancing towards his right, Christian Wallace was certain of the identity of the woman who stood there” and “He knew instinctively who was motioning him to go forward”, both already implied and stated.

    “He had somehow known it the moment the earthy fragrance of patchouli oil first caught at his awareness a few seconds before she spoke. The scent information could be worked in the first sentence, “Christian recognized her soft voice and patchouli scent immediatly”.

    You get the idea.

  4. Jane O
    Aug 14, 2010 @ 08:11:37

    I like this. I’m intrigued by the hints of the past, and I get a sense of the characters even in this brief passage. They come to life.
    I would make a few suggestions:
    In the second paragraph, scratch “instinctively.” He recognizes her voice and her perfume -’ that’s not instinctive.
    In the next paragraph, I find the description of her hair confusing. I think of pixie hair pointing down, but the spikes are pointing up.
    In the next paragraph, I know “all right” is morphing into “alright,” but it still looks wrong to me.
    In the final paragraph, “two decades” just doesn’t sound like something someone would say.
    Those are all minor points, and I find this a very appealing beginning.I would definitely read on.

  5. theo
    Aug 14, 2010 @ 08:24:55

    I do read inspirational, but this first page does little to draw me in. The writing is good, though I agree, redundant in places. But what I am really reading here is a guy, a girl and a laundry list of what she looks like. Spiky hair and fluorescent clothing aren’t very unusual in this day, so rather than tell me what she’s wearing, I’d rather know what his reactions to her are.

    He tells me her name, that he hasn’t seen her in four years and what she looks and smells like.

    So what?

    What is his gut reaction to her? Is he shocked? Angry? Elated? I don’t get a sense of anything like that here.

    And as a side note, and this is JUST ME! but patchouli reminds me of my hippie days…not something I tend to think of as a current scent. Then again, it’s just me, but that scent was often used to cover the odor of grass. So unless your hn is a toker, that scent would be off-putting to me. Again, that’s just me.

  6. Lori
    Aug 14, 2010 @ 09:45:38

    Wonderful voice and tone. I liked the writing, it felt/sounded very friendly and comfortable.

    Didn’t like the hero’s name because that name is off-putting to me. Just the Jewish girl in me, I guess. And I always think what if the son named Christian becomes a pagan? Or a Catholic. Is he being given a chance for his own identity by his parents? (Really, the name gives me slight issues.)

    Loved her t-shirt. I was actually intrigued by what he said to her in the last line.

    I would read more. I liked the voice that much.

  7. Ros
    Aug 14, 2010 @ 10:16:31

    Well, I’m always happy to read a heroine called Rosalind. ;)

    I quite liked this. I don’t really read inspirationals but I would be tempted to keep reading this one. I like the blast-from-the-past meeting and I’m looking forward to finding out what’s in their past and in their future. Good job.

  8. Aoife
    Aug 14, 2010 @ 10:36:22

    I don’t read inspirationals, but aside from that, I never got past

    “Her voice was soft and nudging in his ear….”

    How is a voice “nudging”? Even if that were correct, it sounds like it might be painful.

  9. Lucy Woodhull
    Aug 14, 2010 @ 12:18:18

    Thanks for submitting!

    As other said, there’s redundancy.

    He regarded her and arched his eyebrows at the getup she was wearing.

    “Regarded her” is unnecessary – we’re in his POV, it’s always him who is regarding. Could be “He arched his eyebrows at the getup she wore.”

    On her feet, Rosie wore bright orange flip flops.

    I’m glad she was wearing them on her feet, for I find they never stay on my head :) Could be simplified to: “Bright orange flip flops, …” and continue the rest of the outfit.

    He sighed. Yep. Irreverent. Bold. It was Rosie alright. “Rosalind,” he corrected silently. By now she had doubtless shed the childhood abbreviation and adopted her full given name. And grown up.

    This part confused me. If she looks the same, smells the same, and says the same things why would he conclude she’s changed, grown up, and shed her nickname? Would it not be natural to assume she hadn’t?

    I enjoyed the last bit if dialogue best – it shows he’s got some charm.

    I agree with Theo – I’d love to have more gut reaction from him about the feelings. You might get to them on page two though. Might fit on page one if you tightened a bit.

    PS Ditto on him being named Christian, and about the Patchouli oil. I said “ew” aloud to that. Sorry – I might be a weirdo.

    Nice start and good luck!

  10. Marianne McA
    Aug 14, 2010 @ 15:08:44

    I thought the first paragraph was a bit repetitious:

    “he recognized the sound of [her voice] immediately”
    “[He] was certain of the identity”
    “He knew instinctively”
    “He had somehow known”

    I liked the description of the heroine, and I liked: “He sighed. Yep. Irreverent. Bold. It was Rosie alright.”
    But I agree with Lucy, I can’t see why he’d assume that she’d have started using her full given name. In my experience, people don’t often do that – and she comes across as a friendy, informal type of person. It just seems an odd thought to cross his mind, particularly at that juncture.

    The last paragraph, I loved. That hooked me in completely.

  11. Julia Sullivan
    Aug 14, 2010 @ 20:26:19

    I think that using “Christian” as a given name is actually a no-no for the CBA market, because some denominations think it’s not appropriate.

    This is too clunky. Fix the errors (“all right” and “out loud”) and lose the “Firstname Lastname saw Firstname Lastname” cliche. Jump right in—we can find out the characters’ last names later, or even never.

    Similarly, jump right in with Christian. You’re filtering here with the “he thought” and “he knew”: just let us know what he’s experiencing. “Same old Rosie. Or maybe she was Rosalind now that she’d grown up.” You’ll get it.

  12. Jenna
    Aug 15, 2010 @ 06:16:21

    Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful and very instructive comments. I am glad that there were bits that were likeable, and equally glad there are portions I can rework to make better. Thanks for taking the time!

  13. Twila
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 08:37:52

    While I agree that the repetition was a bit annoying, I kind of liked “Christian” as a first name. Of course, my son named his eldest “Christian” and the newest one “Bishop”, so I am kind of biased. :-) (And he and his wife are Baptist, so I think it’s okay in re: the attitudes of people likely to read inspirationals.) I also enjoyed the implied backstory and the humor Christian showed.

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