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First Page: Stars and Rainbow – adult fiction

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A Desert Storm Veteran, Jerry Pruitt, sometimes known as JP, thinks about changes. He glances up to the sky satisfied to be living in a ghost town, Litton, Kansas. Barney, Jerry’s white Labrador trots unencumbered ahead of his master. JP enjoys the warm early June morning, but this is a work day. He calls Barney, “Come. Let’s head home.”

JP walks down Front Street and looks to his left, the vacant lot once held the largest building in town, Litton Junior and Senior High School. He remembers he and his best friend, Derek Lawson were the town’s athletic stars, of the day. Now, Jerry thinks, the sixty-five year old building is gone, Lawson is the County Sheriff and Jerry is Postman of Litton and whatever else needs to be done.

Living in a ghost town isn’t all bad or lonely. He has a town full of friends, though few residence, he has Barney and much more. There are other changes in his life. JP, no longer a forty-two year old bachelor, he and Edie are ready to begin their first work day as a married couple; he postman and she, school teacher. Jerry strolls down the dirt road looking forward to his favorite lawn chair in the backyard garden. He needs to prop up his leg. He anticipates the relief of pain from the menacing combat wound. Damaged ligaments cause an occasional limp, a constant reminder of the past.

Mrs. Portman, across the street, looks up from her constant tangled garden hose. “Hello Jerry. Lovely morning isn’t it!” He doesn’t answer, but waves. Poor old thing couldn’t hear a car back-fire if it were in her house.

Litton once supported several businesses, a population of a couple hundred residences within a square mile. Today the census may stretch to less than fifty. JP dreams of putting Litton back on the map. His first attempt started by reestablishing the post office, rebuilding the gas station; the drug store and revamping the old fashioned soda fountain.

The next change is the World War II historic museum. Third generation world war veteran, Jerry intends to honor all veterans, especially his grandfather Gerald F. Pruitt. JP doesn’t remember his father who was killed in the Vietnam War. His mother never recovered from her loss. From age ten, raised by his grandparents, JP learned responsibility early and clings to old eras and personal fears.

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

9 Comments

  1. SAO
    Mar 02, 2014 @ 05:38:15

    Between the present tense and the back story, this reads like an ad for adopting a special needs kid. Google “Sunday’s Child Boston Globe” to see an example. Or maybe a summary of a story. It does not sound like the beginning of a story.

    Okay, I’m one reader, but present tense doesn’t put me in the here and now, it distances me. Why? Because simple present is used for general truths or repeated actions. “JP walks down Front Street” could be something he does every day, a general fact about JP, rather than something he is doing today.

    Adding to the general sense of distance is the lack of emotion. He dreams of restoring the town. Well, I dream of a lot of stuff that doesn’t make it beyond a daydream. He’s a newly-wed, but he thinks about his bride. Her existence seems secondary to the fact that he’s no longer a bachelor.

    Ditch the present tense and start where your story starts, which isn’t with a stroll down Maine street.

  2. Jane Lovering
    Mar 02, 2014 @ 06:10:07

    If you took out the comment from Mrs Portman, this could be a synopsis, rather than a first page. It’s all about JP, thinking about things. Now, if I listed out to you all the things that I’m thinking right now, it would be interesting (honestly…) but it wouldn’t be a story. It wouldn’t be a ‘grabber’ (unless you are really interested in my thoughts on cutting the lawn or whether my back hurts today). Before we can be interested in JP’s thoughts, we need to be interested in him as a man. It’s hard to relate to the internal monologue of someone we don’t know. So, instead of starting with a man walking his dog down the road, maybe start with something that shows us JP from the outside. Maybe him doing a favour for Mrs Portman, or something that gives us an insight into his character. We don’t need to know on a first page that he’s a postman, trying to save a small town, all about his high school days, that he’s just married, that his best friend is now the sheriff…that’s an awful lot on one page, and not much is about JP himself.

    Introduce him slowly, let us see who he is through what he does. Read, read a shed load of novels that you enjoy and see how they do the ‘introducing character’ thing. Although I have to say that I do love Barney!

  3. Jamie Beck
    Mar 02, 2014 @ 07:24:39

    Hi author,

    Thanks for sharing your work. As the others noted, I think you need to reconsider this opening. It is reading like a summary packed with specific details that aren’t yet needed because nothing is showing us action or trouble or anything else about this character, or why we should care what happens next.

    You are “telling” us a lot (eg., Jerry enjoys the warm early June morning, but this is a work day) instead of showing us (eg., Jerry limps past the shuttered storefronts with his smiling face tipped toward the sun as he saunters to work.). I’m not saying my quick example is great, but do you see how it shows us (a) something is wrong with Jerry’s leg, (b) he’s enjoying the warm sun, c) he’s on his way to work, and (d) he lives in an economically depressed town? This info was all conveyed in two short sentences and leaves us with some questions that might make us read on, like (1) why is he limping, (2) why is he living in this sad town, and (3) what does he do for a living.

    You might want to consider what his story is going to be…what’s about to change everything for him and kick off the action…and then start the story with that scene. You can slowly fold in the little details of back story (about his service, his dog, his wife, etc.) once you hook us with some interesting action/premise.

    I hope this is helpful. Good luck!

  4. Holly Bush
    Mar 02, 2014 @ 07:59:33

    Thanks for sharing your work with us. The storyline, hero veteran wants to save his hometown, is a great plot line. There are plenty of towns like this across the US that readers can relate to but this first page is telling the reader the story instead of showing the reader what happens. When I’m writing and I find myself telling instead of showing, I try to imagine the scene I’m writing as a movie playing in my head. That exercise forces me to write exactly what is happening, and what the characters are saying and how they are interacting with each other. Good luck!

  5. wikkidsexycool
    Mar 02, 2014 @ 08:49:40

    Hello Author,

    Thanks for having the courage to submit this. I think you’ve got something here once you clean up the tense and get a firm grasp on writing in the first person, because right now Jerry’s “voice” is simply a synopsis, like Jane Lovering stated. But still, as you figure out which suggestions will make your work stronger and also read other works (not necessarily in military fiction, but writers who can give you insight on the best way to draw readers into your work). That way readers will be able to bond with your characters.

    But here’s what I did pull from your first page. There are a number of changes in Jerry’s life. Changes that on the surface, would make it seem like he’s got it all together, even though he’s returned from war with injuries and possibly PTSD. His wanting to rebuild the town could mirror his own need to rebuild his life, since he’s come back a changed man. I think that could be a heart warming and powerful tale. I’ve written a few ebooks that deal with individuals (both men and women) returning from military service, so as I read your first page, I could see where the dialogue and characters can propel your story. I loved the small clue you gave to his current profession of being a postman and his wife being a school teacher. He now goes door to door, just like he may have done overseas.

    Is he apprehensive because his current job reminds him of searching for insurgents? Or perhaps he developed a friendship with an interpreter, and they would introduce american soldiers to villagers, but something goes terribly wrong. Or perhaps he was part of a rebuilding process overseas, and he wonders if he can do the same thing at home. There are so many ways you can go, and while his wife may not understand why this is such a passion for him, you could reveal his mindset, and what happened while he was enlisted.

    I wish you all the best with this, and I love your title, as the rainbow signifies hope to me. If you get a chance, please pop in and leave a blurb on where this is headed,

  6. theo
    Mar 02, 2014 @ 09:31:43

    I agree with the other comments here. This goes nowhere really. By the time I got to “ready to begin their first work day as a married couple” I was bored and had no reason to continue.

    This tense is so very hard to write in and pull the reader into it. It’s very easy to turn it into a laundry list of Jerry does this, Jerry goes there, Jerry sees this without ever letting the reader feel anything Jerry does, goes to or sees. Right now, it’s a present tense news article that I am indifferent to.

    I know I’ve said this before, but read this out loud and pay attention to the cadence, the flow and the emotion in the piece. The try reworking it in other tenses and see what happens.

  7. Shaya
    Mar 02, 2014 @ 10:05:43

    In addition to the problems with present tense, you have a significant number of grammar and sentence structure errors in this page. That alone would prevent me from reading any more. I hope that if you fix the other problems to make a more compelling read, you also hire a professional editor. You will need one before attempting to publish the manuscript.

  8. Carol McKenzie
    Mar 02, 2014 @ 10:25:13

    As others have mentioned, the tense isn’t working. You may be confused between first person point of view and the present tense of verbs. They are two different things, but reading this, I somehow get the impression you wanted this to be a first person story but used the present tense. Or the other way ’round. In either case, you may want to rethink how this is written. You also have comma issues, which would need to be addressed regardless of your POV or tense choice, and some odd word usages.

    “…his best friend, Derek Lawson were the town’s athletic stars, of the day. ” Misplaced comma. “…his best friend, Derek Lawson, were the town’s athletic stars of the day.” You need one after the name, but not one before ‘of the day’.

    “He has a town full of friends, though few residence, he has Barney and much more.” Possibly you wanted “residents” rather than “residence?” Residents are people; residences are what they live in. You may also want to make that two sentences, or use a semi-colon, or take out the middle section.

    “He has a town full of friends, though few residents; he has Barney and much more.”
    “He has a town full of friends; he has Barney, and much more.”
    “He has a town full of friends, though few residents. He has Barney and much more.”

    Aside from that, there really isn’t a hook her to keep me reading. Jerry is just married, a veteran, and apparently a superhero, if he managed to get a post office reestablished in a small Kansas town, plus revive a gas station, a drug store and soda fountain, with plans to open a museum. All in a town of less than fifty residents.

    And that’s where I put the book back on the shelf. I think you need to do some solid research. Unless you can explain, logically and compellingly, how a man can do that single-handed, your story no longer has any credibility with me. The Post Office is currently bankrupt and closing offices. Getting one opened in a tiny town would probably be enough of a challenge. But add a gas station (which, if it were closed, in most cases, would have had its underground gas tanks torn up and removed, hence they’d need to be replaced), and the rest, and it’s beyond my capabilities to suspend disbelief. Who’s buying gas? How much gas can fifty people use in a week? Who runs the gas station? (Please don’t make it JP on his lunch hour) Who’s shopping at the drug store?

    Also, it’s June; school would be either just closing or closed for the summer, unless she’s teaching summer school, but teacher contracts (to my knowledge) usually run the term, not start at the end. So the wife wouldn’t be starting a new job. It’s bits and pieces like that which pull readers out of the story, when something doesn’t ring true.

    So, unless there’s something immense and compelling–a really BIG hook–that’s going to pull me in, and really, really soon, this is too much sunshine and rainbows to be realistic. It reads like Mayberry and Andy and Barney (and there actually is a Barney) and I expect Aunt Bea to be making lunch, because everyone eats lunch at noon. And that’s not where our country is at the moment.

    Were this first page back story telling me about his struggles to accomplish this, then maybe I’d be interested. But all that is glossed over in a sentence or two. To me, that could be an entire book itself.

    Thanks, Author, for sharing. If you can, stop by with a blurb about where this story is headed, why it’s listed as adult fiction (which gave me the idea it would be adult in nature, as in some kind of erotic fiction…but that’s just where my mind goes when I read adult) and any other thoughts you’d like to share.

  9. Carol McKenzie
    Mar 02, 2014 @ 11:05:36

    @Author: None of what I said was with the intent to discourage you. In reading it through, it does sound harsh. But it’s with encouragement that I offer you my opinion and thoughts.

    It’s never easy to read something less than positive about our writing. I know from experience it’s no fun. But it is instructive. And if you can set aside the personal and remain objective (no easy feat) even the most negative critique may have some buried nugget that can help better your work.

    Above all, never give up. Keep writing, continue seeking feedback, until they pry the pen from your fingers.

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