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First Page: Shadow Rider, Futuristic Romance

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.

Added note: Last week, our comment thread moved quite astray from the original point which is to provide critique on the first page offered here. Any comments about the critiquers do not add value. It is up to the author to decide what commentary is useful and what is not. That said, I do hope that everyone watches the line between blunt honest criticism (which is absolutely welcome) and insulting (which you can be but I think your message gets lost and the purpose of posting is negated, unless the purpose of posting is to be, well, not helpful).


The Anatta left her alone to watch Bren die. Cyri Naadhira, caretaker of the young Lourvain prince, stood by his bedside, her legs barely keeping her upright. A trembling hand brushed across Bren’s hot cheek, her fingertips smoothing the damp, copper strands. He moaned under her touch, his head moving from side to side. Agony etched deep lines into his skin making it appear as if he were an old man instead of a young boy.

Her head bowed. Pulling her hand back, she folded her arms about her waist, holding tight. Anguish seared her heart and tightened her throat. Unable to watch his pain, she closed her eyes.

Bren wouldn’t last much longer. His wails, soft now, came farther and farther apart. Each ragged breath drew him from her. When he died, she’d have no one.

He made a slight choking sound and for a brief moment, silence hung heavily in the room. Except. . . a tiny noise, a whisper of silk against stone, grabbed her attention. She jerked her head up and pivoted, her gaze seeking the sound\’s source. Nothing. Faint light from two luminas cast numerous shadows on the smooth, granite walls of the large chamber. Flickering darkness mocked her attempts to see what secrets they hid.

"Who . . .," she began then stopped. Swallowing around a tight throat, she asked. "Who is there?"

As the words left her mouth, one of the darkest shadows moved. Cyri gasped, flinching backwards. Her heart leaped into her throat. Before her wide eyes, the approaching shadow drifted into the light, materializing into a tall humanoid figure dressed in stark, light-absorbing black.


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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. Kristie(J)
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 06:13:29

    As a reader I like it and I’d definitely turn the page to read more.

  2. Angela James
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 06:34:56

    I like this. Catchy first line. I’d keep reading to see if the hook continues.

  3. Val Kovalin
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 06:35:20

    We’ve only got 273 words here, but you definitely set a mood. Just so you know what came across to me as a reader, I’ll set down my impressions (however obvious, ha, ha!):

    The young prince Bren is dying, and his caretaker is Cyri. Not sure of her age.

    If the Anatta are the people to whom prince and caretaker belong, they’re harsh people: they don’t seem to be easing the prince’s pain, nor do they care to keep him company (i.e., only Cyri is present at his death bed).

    Cyri’s future definitely seems in doubt once the prince is dead, and her anxiety comes through along with her grief. Strong emotions: I’m involved with her as a reader.

    Interesting that this is labeled a futuristic romance! I would have read it as a pre-industrial fantasy if I hadn’t been told mainly because poor Bren seems to be dying under primitive conditions.

    The arrival of the humanoid figure definitely intrigues! I think you’re onto something good with this first page. The only improvement I’d suggest is in your second sentence: change “A trembling hand brushed” to “Her trembling hand brushed.” Good luck with this.

  4. Kathleen MacIver
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 07:27:31

    It’s good! There’s a few things I’d cut out, because I think it would read stronger with it. They’re the same sort of showing then telling again mistakes that I tend to make. Here they are, as thoughts to consider.

    First sentence… I’d cut it. I think it read stronger if you begin with the second sentence for several reasons. The fact that the Anatta left her alone can be slipped in there as a deeper POV thought somewhere appropriate. “Why had they left her alone with him?” (or something like that)

    Next sentence… I’d say her trembling hand, or his trembling hand, whichever it is. Also, this sentence reads as though the copper strands are part of his face. Normally, we’d assume you’re talking about his hair, but you don’t say that… and if it’s futuristic… well, I simply think it would be better to clarify that.

    Here’s an example of how I’d edit that first paragraph:

    Cyri Naadhira, caretaker of the young Lourvain prince, stood by his bedside, her legs barely keeping her upright. Her trembling hand brushed Bren's hot cheek, her fingertips smoothing the damp, copper strands of his hair. He moaned under her touch, his head moving from side to side. Agony etched deep lines into his skin, making him appear far older than his eight years.

    Other phrases I’d cut:

    grabbed her attention
    If we’re really in her POV and she heard them, then we already know they grabbed her attention. Especially because you portrayed that very well. :-)

    sound’s source
    I’d change to “it’s source.”

    then stopped and she asked.
    Both are unnecessary. I think it pulls us it more if you said:

    “Who…” she began. She swallowed against a suddenly tight throat. “Who is there?”

    As the words left her mouth.
    Again, this isn’t needed since the movement is written immediately following her words.

    Cyri gasped, flinching backwards. Her heart leaped into her throat. Before her wide eyes…
    I wouldn’t cut all of this, but I’d cut almost all of it. Choose one (except the wide eye part… that doesn’t fit well with her POV) and cut the rest. It takes us too long to read so many words that essentially mean the same thing, and it slows down your story ever so slightly. Consider:

    One of the darkest shadows moved. Her heart leaped into her throat as the shadow drifted into the light, materializing into a tall humanoid figure dressed in stark, light-absorbing black.

    These are just ideas, of course… but it’s good!

  5. Leah
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 07:27:51

    Hey, I saw this in Romantic Times! (And if I remember, it did well there, too). You paint a very vivid picture here, and it’s emotionally involving. Sometimes it seems a teensy bit wordy. For instance, instead of “her gaze seeking the sound’s source,” you could just say, “seeking the sound’s source.” And maybe “She bowed her head” would read better than “Her head bowed.” You could also just stop at “Flickering darkness mocked her,” and maybe leave out “As the words left her mouth.” But it’s not obviously verbose, and others may have a different opinion. I tend to avoid books set in the future, myself, but I am sure you will be successful. Great job! Keep it up!

  6. Sarabeth
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 07:44:49

    I didn’t like the first sentence. Beginning with the second sentence would be better. Kathleen MacIver said some of the same things I would point out. If this is futuristic, I don’t understand why the prince’s passing isn’t eased. If I hadn’t read the title of the blog post, I would have thought that this was an earlier era.

    However, the beginning intrigues me. I would read on.

  7. Mrs Giggles
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 08:03:55

    That’s a short excerpt even for a first page, isn’t it? If the intention is to make me want to know more, however, then the short excerpt has done its job well!

    The Anatta left her alone to watch Bren die. Cyri Naadhira, caretaker of the young Lourvain prince, stood by his bedside, her legs barely keeping her upright

    What’s an Anatta? A nursemaid? A guard? Why not just use “guard” and “nursemaid” then? What’s a “Lourvain”?

    The first paragraph is not the best place to bombard the reader with made-up names with meanings that only the author knows at that point. World-building isn’t just about the number of made-up words present in the story, it’s about how well you convey a sense of the otherworldly to the reader. If “Anatta” is a nurse, call her a nurse. That helps the reader fully understand the impact of this “Anatta” letting the prince to die. If “Anatta” is the dying prince’s father or mother, then make this clear to the reader – the scene will be even more heartbreaking and we can sympathize with the heroine more if we know this to be the case. As it is, because I have no idea who or what “Anatta” is, I feel nothing but mild curiosity (and maybe a stray thought – “Great, yet another care-giving heroine in a fantasy romance…”) as I read that paragraph.

    I personally do not believe that every word has to be replaced by a made-up word in order for a fantasy story to feels like one. A wife can still be called a wife, there is no need to obfuscate things by calling the wife some capitalized made-up word. I believe that you should only make up “exotic” names for truly otherworldly elements in the story. For example, a futuristic job that the reader has never come across before. Use made-up names sparingly and only as necessary. Remember, it’s in the description, not in the names.

  8. Mrs Giggles
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 08:11:30

    To add to the above, what I mean is that, it is better to introduce and show the reader the meaning of a new word created by the author instead of merely dropping the word in the middle of the paragraph. For example, if the Anatta is the title of the queen, have the characters engage in a conversation discussing the Anatta where it is clear to the reader that the Anatta is the queen. Or have the heroine meet the queen and address her as Anatta.

  9. joanne
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 08:21:07

    Leah on September 20th, 2008 at 7:27 am:
    Hey, I saw this in Romantic Times! (And if I remember, it did well there, too).

    Maybe it’s the not-enough-coffee-yet-blues but this has already been critiqued in RT? I find that… I don’t know.

    Anyway, I liked it but have to agree with MrsGiggles that sometimes, in futuristic or any paranormal story, a community can just be a community or a friend can just be called a friend.

    I’m interested enough as a reader to want to read more, and I’m very interested in the mysterious dark figure.

  10. Lori
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 08:40:42

    The Anatta left her alone to watch Bren die. Cyri Naadhira, caretaker of the young Lourvain prince, stood by his bedside

    I thought it spelled it out that Cyri was the caretaker, no question on her role. Who the Anatta is we don’t yet know but starting a story like that immediately puts images/thoughts in the reader’s mind that are compelling.

    Some of the sentences were wordy

    She jerked her head up and pivoted, her gaze seeking the sound\'s source.

    but I don’t know if She jerked her head up and pivoted, seeking the sound’s source is better. It’s the same thing with less words but not naturally better.

    I like the immediacy of the scene and the jump into action. I’d be interested to read more. I think it reads very professional.

  11. Jill Myles
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 08:50:01

    Short and Sweet: I like it and I was sad when the snippet was over. I’d definitely keep reading.

  12. DS
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 09:32:13

    The thing that jarred with me was the word “humanoid”. I would go with human shaped or just let the reader assume that it was human shaped– a tall figure dressed in light absorbing black. If it has some physical differences then those could be pointed out later.

    Humanoid is just so 1950 sci-fi or 1970’s UFO sounding.

  13. Tori
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 09:33:53

    I liked the mood/tone of this section. I agree with what Kathleen said about watching POV and the way certain phrases are worded. I also think the first line could go without altering the pacing, since the term isn’t explained on the page and might confuse the reader. I think its good that you avoided an info dump in this section. The pace moves right along and I had no problem understanding how Cyri feels without knowing everything about the world you created first. I think that’s a frequent problem with any kind of fantasy/futuristic story-the need to explain the background before the story. I’d like to read more.

  14. Karen Kennedy
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 09:59:07

    Wow! What a great opening page! I would definitely read more. Though I agree with some of the other comments about wondering why a prince is dying in such pain if it’s the future. My thought was that he was in exile or outcast or something, so dying without the attention generally paid a prince’s passing. Maybe wondering that isn’t a bad thing.

    The Anatta left her alone to watch Bren die. Cyri Naadhira, caretaker of the young Lourvain prince, stood by his bedside, her legs barely keeping her upright.

    I did stumble over the first couple of lines. I liked the first sentence, though if Anatta is something ordinary–wife, queen, nurse, whatever–it might be easier on the reader to say that. It was the second sentence I stumbled over. I wasn’t sure at first that Cyri was the “her” mentioned in the first sentence or that Bren was the “young Lourvain prince.” It was all cleared up fairly quickly, but it did cause me to have to read the sentence a couple of times.

    Great work! Good luck with it!

  15. Jill Sorenson
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 10:02:12

    I like it.

    I had to read the first couple of lines over again to understand whose POV we were in, but I can’t say I would change them. Maybe Mrs. G is right and the capitalized terms added to my confusion.

    Anyway, good job, I’d keep reading.

  16. Anon76
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 10:08:28

    I liked this.

    Some changes people have suggested I agree with, and others I don’t.

    The only one I will address is the first line. LOVED IT!

    I assume the Anatta are a certain race, or it is the title of an individual in a certain race. Personally, I don’t need to know the details of that on this first page. It is enough for me to know that “The Anatta” cares nothing for this fading boy, and this is some kind of backhanded privelege…i.e. Cyri being allowed to be with the child at his death. No other comfort has been provided, be it other-worldly or not.

    Just my take.

  17. Jessica Kennedy
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 10:17:03

    I liked it. I was quickly drawn into the setting. I was confused by all the fantasy words and would have loved to have known what they meant.

    I was totally hooked to finding out about the mystery shadow.

    I agree with the previous posters about switching some of the sentences in the first paragraph. I believe doing that would make the intro a bit smoother.

    Good Job!

  18. Leah
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 10:47:07

    That’s what I thought, that Anatta was plural, referring to a nasty group that had overthrown the ruling family of your heroine.

  19. Leah
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 10:55:11

    Oh, and it just dawned on me–this page was reviewed in an RT feature similar to this one–it’s not a published book. And in the RT feature, you get only one viewpoint, and she picks out parts of the page to use more as teaching examples, it seems to me. People who respond to pages on DA are more thorough, and the author gets more opinions. I didn’t mean to cause trouble for this author by mentioning this.

  20. Kim
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 11:23:16

    Leah, no worries but I do want to clarify further.

    Yes, this was reviewed in RT but by an agent. For the last several months, the wonderful Jessica Faust of BookEnds has picked apart the first pages of various submitters (unpublished I believe only but I’m not sure) and offers up comments – an idea of what an agent thinks/sees when she reads a first page. I was fortunate enough to have her do this one.

    But, this is from an agent perspective, not from the terrifically helpful perspective of the readers and authors on this board.

    I’ve been debating about what to work on next and since this one is nearly finished – I put it out to get looked at by the agent and then by all of you. Your opinions, and Ms. Faust’s, have just solidified that while there are some things I need to work on, this is the story I need to finish up and get out there. That it’s bein well received not only by one of my fav agents but by readers/authors/editors (Hi Ms. James!) I respect.

    I appreciate all the wonderful and thought provoking comments – this is why I continue and will continue to feel fortunate to have my works posted here – so I can get honest opinions. The good, bad and indifferent. :D

    Thanks a bunch everyone! Kim

  21. Maya
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 11:33:11

    “A hand” implies to me that it is neither hers nor the prince’s, but belongs to someone else in the room.

    Two uses of ‘young’ in the first paragraph seems repetitive.

    Leaving him alone with her to die does seem unexpected, according to expectations of our own culture – I wonder if it is worthwhile to add a little so its clear what the motivation is. Do they desert the pair because the culture really is so cold to a dying person? Or maybe they do so as a sign of respect, to, I don’t know, allow that person the dignity of passing without witnesses to their final agony, or something? Would be helpful to know from their perspective rather than just guessing from our own. At this point, we have no clue how the heroine thinks of their leaving. She is grieving yes, but is she calm at their departure or resents it?

  22. Jessica Barksdale Inclan
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 11:33:53

    I wanted to know about the figure appearing out of the gloom, so I’d keep going for that alone.

    I do want to know how old Cyri is–and on the first read, I missed “young” boy, so I was thinking he’d be her contemporary. Unless she’s a “young” girl, too, and they are going to grow up together and then unite somehow. So maybe establishing that age thing would he helpful.

    I didn’t know what “the annatta” was, but I didn’t really care. However, I create worlds myself, so I could be the type of reader who allows for some confusion as I know things will unfold. And the good news is that you didn’t do the info dump to tell us the history of annattas and such. I was caught up with the ill boy, the girl who was nervous and caring, and the figure that appeared.

    Good luck!

  23. Kristie(J)
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 11:55:03

    I liked the first line too and would leave it. And being a reader of furturistics and/or SciFi – even though it is a ‘futuristic’ it doesn’t necesarrily mean it’s an advanced world. I learned that watching Captain Kirk and the gang many, many years ago now. (Thank goodness I didn’t go to the Captain Kirk school of acting – though considering how well Mr. Shatner seems to be doing – he has overcome)
    I think it sets a tone and lets us know quite a bit in a short amount of writing.

  24. Robin
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 12:02:44

    Count me in among those who like the first line. And I don’t mind the temporary disorientation of now knowing some of the terms, either.

    This sentence keeps drawing my attention, but I’m not sure whether it’s in a good or bad way: “His wails, soft now, came farther and farther apart.” It’s intriguing, but what does it mean?

    Overall I feel there are some fresh elements here, and a nice voice, as well as some things, especially in the language, that feel less fresh and compelling to me, like this line: “Anguish seared her heart and tightened her throat.” It feels more like melodramatic telling than emotionally wrenching showing. Same with this one: “Flickering darkness mocked her attempts to see what secrets they hid.” Can darkness flicker?

    And for some reason the last paragraph seemed anti-climatic to me. I don’t know if it’s the long build-up or the abstracted description of the figure. I like that we don’t know the gender or identity of the figure, but would still like to see more intensity in this description, more like the first half of the excerpt.

    I would still turn the page, though, to see what comes next.

  25. JoB
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 13:02:08

    It’s good. It’s dramatic. Nice cadence to some of those sentences.

    May I add three thoughts:

    — There’s a general TMI problem.

    Look at the opening sentence. Too many unfamiliar terms. Too many distractions from the story.

    The Anatta left her alone to watch Bren die. Cyri Naadhira, caretaker of the young Lourvain prince

    May I suggest you be simple when your open the story. Be strong, plain, engaging, direct. Grab the reader.
    Fill in the details later.

    Maybe start with …

    Bren wouldn't last much longer. His wails, soft now, came farther and farther apart. Each ragged breath drew him from her. When he died, she'd have no one.

    Look at the clear emotion of that. Grabbing, isn’t it? We don’t need any of that extraneous information.

    — Strip off 90% of your adjectives and adverbs. They’re not doing you any good.

    He made a slight choking sound and for a brief moment, silence hung heavily in the room.

    He choked and stilled. For a moment silence hung in the room.

    Faint light from two luminas cast numerous shadows on the smooth, granite walls of the large chamber.

    The luminas cast a hundred shadows on the granite walls.

    — Give yourself more time.

    The first emotional truth is the dying child. This is a big deal. Linger.
    You don’t have to jump to the surprise visitor 200 words in.

    Instead … slow down. Enrich the nurse-child relationship. Give us her thoughts and memories;
    Did she nurse Brem at her breast?
    Did she carry him on her back in a sling when she went to market?
    Did she teach him how to swim?
    Is the toy he’s holding one that she made for him?

    Show us the relationship,
    and you won’t have to hit the reader over the head with … Anguish seared her heart and tightened her throat
    … which is a shortcut, telling us how she feels.
    You’re working too hard. It gets a bit purple-ish.

    Use a page or two. Work to let the reader ‘see’ that anguish.

    You have a second spot where you’re going purple because you skimp on the preparation.

    Somebody walks in quietly. Swish swish. So Cyri gets scared.

    Swallowing around a tight throat
    Cyri gasped, flinching backwards.
    Her heart leaped into her throat.

    Which is a lot of shock and awe to greet a serving maid wandering in with a comforting vente hazelnut latte, skinny, no foam … which is what I’d expect to walk into a palace chamber.

    Cyri’s physical reaction … her throbbing heart and the column of cold in her throat … are trying to carry the entire burden of this threatening visitor.
    But if you’ve laid some groundwork … if you’ve built up some atmosphere … her physical reactions will feel more natural.

  26. Kathleen MacIver
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 13:15:43

    I’d like to add a bit more.

    First… when I suggested cutting the first line, it’s not because I don’t like it. It’s actually fabulous! The problem is that it doesn’t flow well with the rest of the paragraph. And, since the second line is ALSO a fantastic first line, and it flows better, that’s the one I’d go with. :-)

    Also… I’d like to counter JoB’s suggestion of cutting 90% of the adjectives and adverbs. Quite frankly, if you’d cut that many, I wouldn’t have liked it. I know extremely tight writing is the “style” now, and a LOT of what’s being published is written that way… but I honestly don’t care for it. Books written in that style usually turn me off before the first page is done. It comes across (to me) as clipped and rough. I suppose I like a more musical and rhythmic story-telling style.

    I say that, not to say that JoB is wrong. She’s right, if you want to get published by agents and editors who also prefer that style. However, there are also those of us who do NOT like that style. So go with whichever fits your voice. That’s really what I’m suggesting.

    The best of everything to you!

  27. Janine
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 13:18:36

    I loved the first line and in general I think this is a very strong excerpt. One thing I wanted to point out, though, is that there is an awful lot of things happening simultaneously here:

    Cyri Naadhira, caretaker of the young Lourvain prince, stood by his bedside, her legs barely keeping her upright.

    A trembling hand brushed across Bren's hot cheek, her fingertips smoothing the damp

    He moaned under her touch, his head moving from side to side.

    Agony etched deep lines into his skin making it appear

    Pulling her hand back, she folded her arms about her waist, holding tight.

    Swallowing around a tight throat, she asked

    the approaching shadow drifted into the light, materializing into a tall humanoid figure

    Cyri gasped, flinching backwards.

    As the words left her mouth, one of the darkest shadows moved.

    IMO these sentence constructions aren’t as strong as they could be. In Renni Browne and Dave King’s excellent book, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, they give a similar example, using the following sentences:

    Pulling off her gloves, she turned to face him.


    As she pulled off her gloves, she turned to face him.

    Here’s what they say about it:

    Both the as construction and the -ing construction as used above are grammatically correct and express the action clearly and unambiguously. But notice that both of these constructions take a bit of action (“She pulled off her gloves”) and tuck it away into a dependent clause (“Pulling off her gloves…”). This tends to place some of your action at one remove from your reader, to make these actions seem incidental, unimportant. If you use these constructions often, you weaken your writing.

    They suggest “She pullled off her gloves and turned to face him” or even “She pulled off her gloves, turned to face him” as alternatives.

    John Gardner, in his book The Art of Fiction, also talks about sentences that start with infinitive-verb phrases (verbs ending in -ing), which he says “one is wise to treat…as guilty until proven innocent.”

    Generally it comes about because the writer cannot think of a way to vary the length of his sentences. The writer looks at the terrible thing he’s written: “She slipped off the garter. She turned to John. She smiled at his embarrassment,” and in a desperate attempt to get rid of the dully thudding subjects and verbs he revises to “She slipped off the garter. Turning to John, she smiled at his embarrassment.” The goal, sentence variety, is to be admired, but there are better ways. One can get rid of the thudding subjects and verbs by using compound predicates: “She slipped off the garter and turned to John”; by introducing qualifiers and appositional phrases: “She slipped — or rather, yanked — off the garter, a frayed, mournful pink one long past its prime, gray elastic peeking out past the ruffles, indifferently obscene” (etc.) or by finding some appropriate subordinate clause, perhaps: “When she had slipped off the garter, she turned to John”

    Gardner, Browne and King all say that these sentence constructions have their place, and aren’t always necessarily bad. And to throw in my own two cents, I don’t believe there are any rules in fiction that can’t be broken, if they’re broken skillfully enough. But I do think it’s a good idea to watch for overusing these constructions and for having a lot of things happening simulatenously in a scene.

    As I said above, I think the excerpt is very strong. I encourage you to finish it and applaud you for your courage in posting it (especially after last week’s brouhaha).

  28. Anon76
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 13:50:11

    Wow, again, this is only a one page deal here. And if measured by the old 25 lines per page, double spaced, this is the right length. (Don’t blame me, blame Harlequin. LOL)

    So, Miss author, all being said and done, I found your sub engaging. I’d ask for a partial or full, if in that position.

  29. Moth
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 15:03:35

    The first para has me intrigued although I’m confused at first by who is who. Which one’s the caretaker, which one’s the dying prince.I had to read it again to get that Bren was the Prince and Cyri was the caretaker.

    I like this. I think it’s pretty well done: competantly written, good hook. I’m engaged and I would turn the page to see what happened next.

    I agree with Mrs. Giggles and the others about the weird terms in the beginning “anatta” and “Lourvain”. In the interest of orienting the reader maybe save those for later. You don’t have to build the whole world all at once.

    I liked the first line. It caught me and made me read more. I kind of assumed the prince was in exile or imprisoned. I thought the tone of the whole piece kind of implied abandonment to his fate, not respect. That’s just me, though.

    I must say I think this is one of the best first pages we’ve seen so far. Best of luck with it. :D

  30. Bev Stephans
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 15:49:35

    As a reader, I was hooked. I wanted to find out what or who the ‘dark humanoid figures’ were and how they fit into the story.

  31. Susan/DC
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 16:52:20

    I actually liked the first line and thought it forcefully set the scene. You know immediately Cyri is alone and Death is near. I don’t know who the Anatta are, but they clearly are powerful but aren’t sympathetic. I think the second sentence wouldn’t be nearly as strong a beginning.

    sound's source
    I'd change to “it's source.”

    Actually, I think it should be “its” source, not “it’s” source, since it is a possessive, not a contraction of “it is”.

    OTOH, I don’t much like the name Cyri because I dislike names that I haven’t a clue how to pronounce. Is the C hard or soft? Is the Y pronounced like an English long E or long I? Wondering about such things and other made-up names distracts from the story. Of course, if it turns out that Cyri is a traditional Welsh name or some such, I’ll just say “never mind” and skulk back into my corner (but I’d still have to ask how to pronounce it).

  32. Kim
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 17:23:06

    I just love these comments!

    Just to clarify in case anyone is still interested. The Anatta is not a wife, nurse, etc. It is the name of a parasite race of aliens. And you bet, they are a nasty, hungry race. Yes, this is indeed a futuristic universe and takes place nowhere near Earth. In fact, very shortly space travel will ensue. :D

    Lourvain is Cyri’s (Sear-ri pronunciation) and Bren’s homeworld. I could probably take that out. Bren is being taken over by one of the parasites and his soul is being forced out. Yes, it’s very painful and the Annatta left Cyri alone to watch him die. She’s, in Earth terms, mid-twenties and has lived a sheltered life but is by no means a weakling. Part of the arc is her growth – finding out who she is and what she’s made of. I don’t want to give too much away, obviously, but certainly more is explained.

    For the most part, I don’t use any more made up words then most others do when writing for the paranormal/futuristic genres. Maybe they seem worse because there are a quite a few in the beginning? I’ll take a look at that.

    Thanks gang! This was fun! I appreciate all the feedback!

  33. Cindy
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 19:44:37

    I was disappointed when it ended! I love a good futuristic and it sounds like this one is right up my alley.

  34. Seressia
    Sep 20, 2008 @ 21:31:21

    I love to read scifi, fantasy, futuristics. Glad to know I got the heroine’s name right in my head, but I don’t need to know how the author pronounces it–like Robert Jordan’s Aes Sedai. Have no idea how he’d pronounce it, and don’t care. I expect to see words or phrases that are unfamiliar to me. I don’t know who or what the Annatta is/are, but I do know he/she/it/them are cold-hearted.

    First line worked, identify who’s hand is doing the brushing, and limit her reactions to the intruder. Some of the emotion is a bit purple; as long as it eases up, I wouldn’t mind in this scene.

    I would read on.

  35. Julia Sullivan
    Sep 21, 2008 @ 13:26:08

    I think this is really interesting, and I’d read more. I agree with everyone who’s said that there’s some overwriting that needs to be cleared away to let the story shine.

    As I look at the first paragraph, I think it’s cluttered with names and a little confusing.

    My editor-hat tells me that something like this would work better:

    The Anatta left her alone to watch Bren die. Cyri stood by the bedside of the young Lourvain prince, her legs barely keeping her upright. Her trembling hand brushed across Bren's hot cheek, fingertips smoothing the damp, copper strands of hair. He moaned under his caretaker’s touch, his head moving from side to side. Agony etched deep lines into his skin, lending his young features a momentary illusion of age.

    You can give Cyri’s last name (or locative or patronymic or trade name or whatever it is) later.

  36. Lauren Bethany
    Sep 22, 2008 @ 08:11:05

    I liked it! It defnately sucks me in as a reader. I do agree that there is some ‘word clutter’ happening here, things are overdescribed – like the “humanoid figure, which can just be a figure, and black is light-absorbing, so that seemed a bit redundant to me – but that’s a fairly basic clean-up.

    I’m not sure if it’s been mentioned (I tend to only read the first few comments) but as a reader I don’t want to get too many introductions on the first page. It makes me feel as though I need to sit down and take notes. Skip the last name and gve me a proper introduction later in the chapter.

    Along the same note, I also want names to be easily sounded out. If you feel the need to explain the pronunciation you’ve lost me. TBH, it doesn’t matter how the author WANTS it to sound, I’ll read it as I see it. I’m a very visual person and if it’s not something that makes sense nearly instantly, I don’t process it as sound, I see it as an image. I have problems with futuristic/sci-fi that have a lot of funky names and spellings because of this. It’s just hard to track who and what everyone is/are, especially of spellings are visually simular.

    The setup is great and I would keep reading, even with the word-clutter.

  37. KMont
    Sep 22, 2008 @ 12:09:40

    I cannot resist. Futuristic romance is a favorite of mine.

    I agree that the first line could be cut, to preserve the flow, which is great from there on out.

    And as much as I do love futuristic romance, the immediate intro of the new words, i.e. Anatta, only make me want to figure out who/what that is. Worldbuilding and such is key in these types of stories, along with the romance, but is there, perhaps, a better way for you to introduce your book’s unique words? Without info dumping of course. I wish I knew a good way for you to do so, but I’m sure you can tell I’m new to critiquing.

    Well, maybe by giving the English word it represents right after. So, say if Anatta means bodyguard to us, that first sentence could be: The Anatta, the bodyguard, left her alone to watch Bren die. I know that may not be the best solution, but it could be a possibility.

    I immediately assumed since Cyri is the young prince’s caretaker, that she is old (just a knee jerk kind of reaction I suppose), and I’m not sure if she’s meant to be the heroine or a character that the humanoid figure meets at first, in effect starting the book off with the hero instead.

    Your description of the humanoid figure is great – with very little description, that light-absorbing black garb they wear is all the description I need to get a first impression – that this person is imposing and dangerous.

    And part of that first impression is I wish there was more because I do want to continue.

  38. Deb Kinnard
    Sep 22, 2008 @ 21:14:52

    I would definitely read more of this. I didn’t have a problem with the Anatta not being specifically identified — from the context, they are a group with some degree of authority and that was all I needed to know. From there, the focus justly centers on Cyri and her dying prince. I like to see “teaser” terms in fiction, and not have info dumps in the first few lines, that explain everything. I’d rather splash right into the emotional content. Sure, there are places that are phrased less skilfully than they’ll be in a later draft. But I submit this author has the craft to do that next draft well. I’d like to read the whole after it sells.

  39. Amie
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 11:50:05

    I like it. Not sure I’d read more though–or much more. Something bugs me…I almost want to say you’re trying too hard? It doesn’t feel natural. It doesn’t flow for me–as weird as this sounds, it feels like you’ve put too much thought into each and every word.

    I see the same problem with manuscripts that authors have contested a lot with–they enter a contest, they tweak, add water, rinse until the story loses whatever shine it had that made it special in the first place.

  40. Jill N. Noble
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 17:30:17

    Great job. I didn’t read any of the other suggestions, so if some of this is repeat, I apologize.

    The Anatta left her alone to watch Bren die.

    Excellent first line.

    A trembling hand brushed across Bren's hot cheek, her fingertips smoothing the damp, copper strands.

    No disconnected body parts, please. :-) Attach her hand to her arm… *She brushed a trembling hand across Bren’s hot cheek, smoothed back his damp, copper-streaked hair with her fingertips.*

    Her head bowed.

    Here, too. “She bowed her head.*

    His wails, soft now, came farther and farther apart.

    I wouldn’t really think of wails as soft…ever. Perhaps something like: His pitifully soft moans came farther and farther apart?

    Each ragged breath drew him from her.

    Not sure how his ragged breath could take him from her.

    He made a slight choking sound and for a brief moment, silence hung heavily in the room.

    Add “then.” *He made a slight choking sound and then, for a moment, silence hung heavily in the room.*
    Otherwise, his choking and the silence happened at the same time, and that’s not possible. :-)

    “Who . . .,” she began then stopped.

    Incorrect tag. Make the dialogue and the punctuation do the job. “Who–?” She cleared her throat and tried again. “Who is there?”

    As the words left her mouth,

    A little awkward. I’d just delete it. Just go with the moving shadow…

    Before her wide eyes, the approaching shadow drifted into the light, materializing into a tall humanoid figure dressed in stark, light-absorbing black.

    Beginning is a little awkward. *She watched, wide-eyed, as the approaching shadow drifted into the light, materializing into a tall, humanoid figure dressed in stark, light-absorbing black.

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