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First Page: Shackled (Paranormal Erotic Romance)

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It was time for the ritual. Ashlan glanced around with a mixture of fear and anticipation. Her inner wolf stirred and her skin rippled while she continued her short walk toward the ceremonial field. The she-wolf in her began to rise; an ache like a taunt muscle in need of a stretch overtook her. She clenched her hands into fists to hold herself back from shifting. She longed to transform and face the ritual in her altered state, but knew that the Copine Rite demanded she maintain control. The ceremony insisted that she remain in her more vulnerable human form.

The dense woods blocked out all light from leaking through the thick branches of the trees. Ashlan continued to walk steadily toward the faint glow of the clearing where the ceremony would be held. The leaves crunching under her soft slippers seemed deafening in the reverent silence that surrounded her.  The wind sang of the upcoming cold that would soon hit the mountains and she shivered despite the warmth of the white, velvet cloak.

Her stomach churned and for a moment her steps slowed. Uncertainty of how the night would end hung over her in a thick cloud that she tried to dissipate. After tonight things would never be the same. She took a deep, calming breath and quickened her pace. Women before her had gone through the ritual, and many women would follow.

She heard the excited voices of others in the pack talking of the night ahead even before the trees thinned and the meadow came into view. She glanced at several of the women in the distance. Those unmated friends would soon find themselves in her place within the year. She lifted her chin in preparation of entering the clearing. She would not allow the turmoil within her to be viewed by the rest of the pack when she left the protection of the dark woods.

Many of them fell silent and watchful as she made her way toward the center of the group. The full moon loomed overhead. The torches illuminated the old stone table the pack surrounded and gave it an orange tint. The restraints that would soon hold her in place reflected the soft light.

She approached the table and trembled as her gaze landed on the metal shackles lined with leather. Her anxious thoughts were surpassed by her growing excitement. Heat ran through her limbs and curled low in her belly. She imagined the leather biting into her flesh, keeping her captive against the table while she withstood the sensual test necessary to find her mate. Her gaze darted to the group of men at a distance toward the right behind her pack’s alpha. One would be bound to her by sunrise.

“Ready?” Cage’s deep voice questioned as he approached her.

Ashlan opened her mouth to respond when the voices around her rose and then fell silent again. A small group entered the field from the woods to the north. Instinctively the pack made a path for the man leading the others behind him toward where she stood with her alpha. Ashlan’s chest tightened and her breath caught when the deep blue eyes belonging to the group’s leader met hers before moving back to rest on Cage.

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. Courtney Milan
    Mar 03, 2012 @ 22:14:50

    There’s a lot that I like about this. I have a very clear image of what’s happening, and you deliver us deep in Ashlan’s point of view really well. You convey tension well, and I have a strong sense of your voice. I would definitely read on if I got this as a sample page.

    But I’d read on with trepidation, because there’s a lot of repetition.

    For instance, this:

    The she-wolf in her began to rise; an ache like a taunt muscle in need of a stretch overtook her. She clenched her hands into fists to hold herself back from shifting. She longed to transform and face the ritual in her altered state, but knew that the Copine Rite demanded she maintain control. The ceremony insisted that she remain in her more vulnerable human form.

    You’re telling us the same thing many, many times: she wants to change, but can’t. Tell us once, and move on.

    There are a handful of times when you do this. The end is that this feels a lot less subtle, and it prevents me from truly sliding into the story. This is good, but I think you can make it a lot better by asking yourself what each sentence is really adding.

    There are a handful of slightly awkward constructions above, but given your skill level, I think you’ll find them on a reread.

    ReplyReply

  2. theo
    Mar 03, 2012 @ 22:19:00

    This is in serious need of some heavy editing. This line in the first paragraph:

    an ache like a taunt muscle in need of a stretch overtook her

    almost made me stop. It’s taut, not taunt. Taunt is something you do to someone you’re picking on. Taut is a bowstring ready to snap.

    You’ve told me and told me, but haven’t really shown me anything at all. You’ve spent so many words telling me things when you could have shown the first five paragraphs in half the word count. She glances, she walks, she clenches, she longs, she remains…I’m not trying to be harsh, but it reads like a litany of “things” and that’s just in the first chapter. This goes on for another four before you get to something interesting; her stepping forward to the circle awaiting the ritual to begin. Start there. Or better yet, start where Cage asks, “Ready?” Ready for what? That sparks my interest. All the rest could be cut completely, because if I get the gist of where this is going, we’ll find out in a hurry that the man entering with the entourage is her betrothed.

    Your word count is precious. Don’t waste it on unnecessary adjectives and descriptions that aren’t immediate to your character’s predicament.

    “Ready?” Cage’s deep voice questioned.

    Ashlan glanced around the fire at friends who awaited the same ritual she now faced, then to the table where she would soon be strapped. Would the leather bite into her flesh as she writhed against it during the sensual test? Would she prove herself honorable when it was over?

    “Remember to keep your inner wolf in check, Ashlan, lest you fail the test and be bound to one not worthy of you.”

    How did Cage know exactly what her thoughts were?

    She opened her mouth to respond when a small group entered the field from the woods to the north. Instinctively, the pack made a path for them. Ashlan’s chest tightened and her breath caught when the deep blue eyes belonging to the group’s leader met hers before moving back to rest on Cage.

    All the other stuff? Unnecessary.

    Get yourself a good set of eyes who won’t be “kind” in that they’ll help you ruthlessly cut what you don’t need. You’ll have a much better story when you’re done.

    Kudos for putting it out there and good luck to you.

    ReplyReply

  3. Pluto
    Mar 03, 2012 @ 22:35:16

    I think you need to trim some fat here. Identify the sentences, images or feelings that cannot be left out and delete the rest. If it reads too thin, or the pace is maybe faster than you’d like it, build it up from there.

    Also, your sentences could do with some structural variety. Here’s a slight rewrite of the first paragraph to illustrate my points:

    Ashlan’s wolf-blood stirred, rippling her skin as she continued her short walk through the forest to the ceremonial field.

    It was time for the ritual.

    Like tight muscles in need of a stretch, her body ached to transform. She wanted to face the ritual in her dominant form. But the men required her to be vulnerable.

    That might not be the structure or rhythm you’re looking for, but take note of the phrases I left out.

    ReplyReply

  4. JL
    Mar 03, 2012 @ 22:35:43

    To me this is a quite overwritten, which makes it tedious to read. Some of the sentences, like “The dense woods blocked out all light from leaking through the thick branches of the trees,” strike me as illogical. I think saying “the thick tree branches blocked out all light from leaking through to the dense woods” would make more sense. You’ve basically taken one entire paragraph to tell us her wolf wants to be release but can’t, another entire paragraph to convey that she was excited, and a third paragraph just to say she was nervous.

    When I read so very many descriptions, I find that the pace slows down too much and I stop feeling nervous and excited along with the character. I’m not an expert, but personally I would cut back on the adjectives and try to condense the extraneous sentences where possible.

    Good luck.

    ReplyReply

  5. Bren
    Mar 03, 2012 @ 23:49:38

    Once again, I agree with Theo. Author, your main problem here is that you didn’t start in the right place. Don’t give us 5 paragraphs showing the heroine walking through the woods and ruminating. Take us right where the action/dialogue starts and hook us in.

    You write well! Just don’t overwrite it. Sentences like: The dense woods blocked out all light from leaking through the thick branches of the trees. need to GO.

    Keep your language flowing, easy but not necessarily simple.
    No light filtered in through the dense screen of branches. (or something to that effect)

    ReplyReply

  6. BlueRose
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 00:05:53

    What Theo said, you completely lost me with ‘taunt’

    ReplyReply

  7. SAO
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 02:22:53

    I wanted to know what she was doing and why. Presumably, she has opinions about the guys. I’d buy needing to stay human to ensure she got hot guy, not pimply loser, but that aspect is completely missing. So, this didn’t seem real to me.

    Or maybe it’s just that without knowing the stakes, I can’t care with whom Ashlan is matched, so I’m passively watching her struggle for control, not actively rooting for her.

    I’m not a fan of paranormal, so I don’t know the conventions.

    ReplyReply

  8. galwiththehoe
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 04:11:17

    Please disregard my comment, author, if the following is obvious to a regular reader of the genre you write in:

    Like SAO before me, I have no idea what the character’s situation and intentions are and why she is doing what she is doing. As a reader, I feel a little lost.

    If your first scene is a common trope, however, in your genre and others will understand immediately, then I suggest filling this with the individual character’s views and struggles and intentions to make this particular character stand out.

    Thank you for sharing and good luck.

    ReplyReply

  9. Abbie Rhoades
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 06:45:58

    Hi Author of Shackled!

    Great job! I enjoyed reading this and would definitely want to read more. I’m in total agreement with Courtney Milan’s comments. So I won’t repeat them: )

    Usually, I’m a fan of starting with action, but I enjoyed the build-up. IMO–once you trimmed the repetition this could be awesome.

    And one other minor thing. As a reader, I imprint on the first male as being the hero of the story. So I’ve imprinted on Cage as Ashlan’s hero, and I’m not sure if that’s the route you’re going. If it’s the other guy–the one with the deep blue eyes–maybe have Ashlan notice him first so the reader imprints on him rather than Cage. LOL–but this is an erotic romance, maybe she’ll be with Cage and the new guy! : )

    Good luck and keep writing!

    ReplyReply

  10. Melissa
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 07:33:18

    I agree with most of the previous comments.

    One additional thing that bothered me as I read the piece was the heroine’s name. “Ashlan” was rather too similar to “Aslan” from the famous The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, especially since Aslan also got bound to a stone table in a rather important scene.

    ReplyReply

  11. Author on Vacation
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 11:32:51

    Dear Author of “Shackled,”

    What a nifty story! Tell me less, show me more.

    You’ve managed to convey a strong sense of dread into the atmosphere. I’m not sure that’s appropriate; the read felt more like horror than PR to me. I like horror, so I’d keep reading. : )

    Ashlan strikes me as curiously withdrawn from the ritual and her own involvement. Is she frightened? Wary? Anticipating? Is there a male (or several males) she covets as a prospective mate or mates? Ashlan’s friends are present but she’s emotionally distant from them, too. Is she worried a male dear to one of her unmated friends might be her own mate?

    When it comes to scene and setting, share more with us. The wolf is stirring within Ashlan but what does the wolf feel, see, and smell? What beauty exists in the moonlit clearing beyond our poor, human eyes and noses? Are other animals.witnesses present? Are they allies, enemies, or neutral observers?

    Trim away sentences that don’t add to the reading experience. Read your sentences aloud and evaluate how they sound. If they sound clunky, too long, etc., they read that way, too.

    This is a good opening. You are a good writer. Take your page and trim the fat but write in more meat. Bring us closer to Ashlan and her world and her experiences. Best luck.

    ReplyReply

  12. Rosa E.
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 12:42:34

    I have to agree with JL–the word “overwritten” applies here. There’s some awkward phrasing (wind doesn’t sing, and certainly not of upcoming cold) and you’ve added some details that actually weaken the scene rather than strengthen it. For example, the cloak: if you’d just said “white cloak” it would have been fine, but velvet is not very warm in winter and it makes the reader stop and go “wait, what? Is this part of the ritual? She should seriously be freezing at this point.”

    I don’t think this is bad, but it definitely could use some trimming and cleaning. “Polish, repolish, every color lay/ Sometimes add, but more often take away.”

    ReplyReply

  13. Mohini
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 23:23:47

    Agree with the ‘overwritten’ part. Evocative prose doesn’t necessarily need a lot of adjectives. What Theo wrote is far more gripping while being the same as what you wrote. The good thing is that I would have continued reading this. The bad thing is, I would’ve skipped out on a lot because needless description bores me though I don’t know about other readers.
    Also, I’m assuming that Cage is her pack alpha but it’s really not very clear.
    I don’t read a lot of paranormal romance so I don’t know whether the premise of your story is common but it’s certainly interesting me.
    Good luck!

    ReplyReply

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