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First Page: Unnamed Paranormal

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***

"I will not give this assignment to just anyone."

Caroline Deteroit groaned inwardly. Dr. Alan Carruthers, loved to lord the fact that he was in charge over her. A short, squat, slightly balding man in his mid-forties, Carruthers believed that he held his employees’ very lives in his hands, and expected them to act accordingly.

"The request for a Reader came down from the highest level of the Baris family." He droned on. "I am hesitant to send someone who is ill-prepared for what they may encounter."

Caroline stifled her sigh by drumming her red-lacquered nails on the worn armchair. "Drop-Dead Red" was her current favorite polish, though she had been known to favor "Perfectly Purple" on occasion. So few jobs had come her way over the last two months she had started painting her nails daily in the office, feeling like a rip off of some 1940s movie secretary. All that was missing was for her to start cracking bubble gum. Her second coat of the day had just finished drying when she’d been summoned to the Big Giant Head’s office, which could be found on the fifth floor of the London Branch of the Foundation for Unseen Cooperation through Knowledge and Understanding.

The F.U.C.K.U. (an acronym that had to be pronounced letter by letter for reasons the staff found hilarious) was an organization run by a conglomeration of Witches, Vampires, and Keverèk. Generally speaking, they were a research lab that gathered and housed information about all things that went bump in the night.

Caroline watched as Carruthers surveyed her over the brown rims of his glasses, clearly waiting for the awesomeness of his words to hit her. She arranged her face into what she hoped passed for some kind of enraptured expression. The routine never varied when it came to him. First he had to let her know how lucky she was that a lowly flea like her was being given the chance to have assignments like these. Then she had to act extremely grateful for his consideration.

It was like some tedious, constantly hyped film that no one really liked but it was shown on television over and over again anyway because it was "acclaimed." Like Apocalypse Now. The Redux version.

"I love the smell of nail polish in the morning." She muttered under her breath in her best imitation of Robert Duvall.

"Ms. Deteroit, are you even listening to me?" Carruthers asked, his voice taking on an irritated edge. She straightened in her chair.

"Of course sir." She lied. He scowled, clearly not believing her.

"Perhaps I should send Samantha Cicero instead?"

I will not roll my eyes, she swore to herself. I will not. Caroline knew his threat was empty, as Sam was currently out of the country. Still, she played along. "Please sir, I truly want this job." She insisted. "I swear I’ll accomplish whatever task the Baris family wishes."

"I cannot afford failure in this." Carruthers pulled a small note from the folder on his desk and held it out to her. "Your record has been impeccable thus far, which is the only reason I trust someone of your age to handle the matter."

Her inward groan turned into an audible growl. His dull brown eyes snapped up at her, but she managed to keep her expression innocent.

Note to self: If you want the most rewarding job to come through the Reader Dept. in months, don’t piss off the boss by growling at him.

"Did you say something?" Carruthers prompted.

Her reply was immediate. "No, sir."

"Well, anyway, despite your young age, I feel you will do well with this." She went to take the piece of paper from him but he pulled back at the last second, his eyes locking with hers. "Don’t make me regret this."

"No, sir." She said, finally wrestling the page from his hand. Despite her young age? She was twenty nine years old, but to a crusty old barnacle like Carruthers, she guessed that meant she was practically an infant. As she turned and exited the office, she gave in to the urge and rolled her eyes, cursing herself that this was the only job she’d been able to find.

***

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35 Comments

  1. Ann Somerville
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 04:22:08

    This piece has a number of problems, technical and stylistic, which I’ll address first. The author needs to bone up on punctuation stat – the first line has an error in it:

    Dr. Alan Carruthers, loved to lord the fact that he was in charge over her. – delete that comma
    And the next para:
    “The request for a Reader came down from the highest level of the Baris family.” He droned on. Should be …family,” he droned on. – though it might be better to drop the speech tag altogether. This error is repeated a number of times in this short excerpt.

    You do not need to repeat the character names over and over when there are only two people of different sexes in the conversation and the room.

    The text has way too much padding, e.g.:
    All that was missing was for her to start cracking bubble gum. – could be ‘All that was missing was her cracking bubble gum.’

    She was twenty nine years old, but to a crusty old barnacle like Carruthers, she guessed that meant she was practically an infant. -> At twenty nine, to a crusty old barnacle like Carruthers, she was practically an infant.

    And so on.

    “Ms. Deteroit, are you even listening to me?” Carruthers asked, his voice taking on an irritated edge. She straightened in her chair. [This should be on the next line, next to her dialogue]

    “Of course sir.” She lied. He scowled, clearly not believing her. [This should be on the next line, next to his dialogue]

    “Perhaps I should send Samantha Cicero instead?”

    I immediately took against Caroline’s voice – she’s whiny and judgmental. She’s bored, but when a job appears, she can barely keep her attention on her boss and spends more time thinking about her nails. I also dislike the awkward comparisons – really, a 1940s secretary and Apocalypse Now is a bit much in a short space. (The comparison between Carruthers and Apocalypse Now is also not very apt.)

    The “F.U.C.K.U. (an acronym that had to be pronounced letter by letter for reasons the staff found hilarious)” joke is terrible. In a world with Apocalypse Now, what govt department would be so unaware that it would call itself by that acronym? Speaking of obvious, ‘Carruthers’ – it’s a cliché name, and actually not very common in Britain. How about something a little fresher?

    So we have poor punctuation, padded and awkward writing, an unappealing narrator…and nothing happening. A page of snotty observations and no actual action does not make me want to read more. The interesting bit is this “an organization run by a conglomeration of Witches, Vampires, and Keverèk. Generally speaking, they were a research lab that gathered and housed information about all things that went bump in the night” but it’s buried under the whining about how boring it is and how crappy a boss Carruthers is etc. It’s not making me think Caroline is a gogetter of a heroine.

    All in all, I think the elements might be intriguing but it’s not presented well. Tighten it up, tidy it up, and consider ditching this scene and starting at a more active point in the story. Presentation counts so buy a style guide and learn how dialogue etc is punctuated correctly.

  2. Gail
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 04:34:52

    Really engaging voice. What we can see of the concept in this short format is a fresh take on paranormal for me. Bravo.

    There is no clue if this is a romance, young adult, or other genre. If its a romance, this first page did not hook me. If it’s a mystery, I think it works better. If the heroine were younger and it’s a young adult novel, first page is a home run for me.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

  3. Anion
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 05:40:14

    Sorry, I have to agree with Ann here. Technically immature writing with a technically immature and bitchy heroine and some technically immature humor (F.U.C.K.U.? Come on, especially since the meaning of the acronym makes no sense at all) don’t make for anything I want to read. Is the heroine twenty-nine, or thirteen? There is no way in the world this woman sounds like she is almost thirty. No way.

    Also, get rid of 90% of your dialogue tags, and fix the ones you keep. There is nothing wrong with “said”. To the reader, “said” is invisible, our eyes pass right over it. You have:

    droned on
    muttered under her breath in her best imitiation of Robert Duvall (not necessary, btw; your readers are not stupid. They will recognize the line.)
    asked
    lied
    insisted
    prompted

    In fact, you only use “said” once here. Please use said, and drop those other words. They are amateurish. Also as Ann pointed out, correct dialogue format is:

    “I’m a brat,” she said. NOT “I’m a brat.” She said.

    This is the sort of mistake that makes people wonder how many books you read.

    Also, was the Big Giant Head a reference to Third Rock From the Sun?

    I liked that this wasn’t in first person, but still had the same problems with it as with so many first-person heroines in this genre. She’s just plain unlikeable. Selfish, rude, immature. I don’t want to keep reading about her. It would be bad enough if she were twenty or twenty-one, when I would understand better her arrogance, rudeness, and selfishness. But I don’t believe this woman is twenty-nine years old, not at all. I certainly don’t believe she’s twenty-nine and has an impeccable record, not when she cares so little about her work. Or is this supposed to show that she is Teh Best Evah and waaaay more powerful and smart than everyone else? Because if it is, sadly, it doesn’t work. This seems to be a common fallacy, that if you make the heroine a moron it will demonstrate how instinctively powerful she is, but we just don’t believe it at all.

    I did like the line about being a 1940s secretary though. I thought that was cute.

    Yep, give us an opening with some interest. Do away with FUCKU completely, it’s terrible. Give the heroine some maturity and likeability, and fix those dialogue tags.

    Good luck! I sincerely wish you well. This can’t be easy to read/hear.

  4. Leah
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 07:11:10

    I like the premise, because I adore things that “go bump in the night.” But I have to agree with the others about your heroine. I don’t know what her problem is. If she’s been bored, and she’s about to get an assignment that she wants–wouldn’t she show more interest than this? Also, we all know that, even if a boss is annoying, you don’t show him/her you think that. It would be better to show the reader her feelings briefly, and then move on to the point of the scene, which is to give her her assignment because, (and I can’t believe I’m going to say this), nothing seems to be happening. Perhaps if you tighten your sentences just a little more, like the others have suggested, you’ll have room to tell us a little more about her assignment. As to whether or not I like this or would buy it–I am intrigued, and might go ahead and pick it up.

  5. loonigrrl
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 07:23:28

    I completely agree with Ann and Anion re: Caroline. There’s attitude and then there’s attitude. Right now, she’s got all the wrong kind of attitude. If I were Carruthers, I would have fired her ass long ago.

  6. AnimeJune
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 07:35:57

    I have to agree with Ann as well. The first sentence alone is too convoluted – try revising the wording.

    I also noticed you do a lot of telling instead of showing. I know it’s the first page, and you want to get the straight facts about your story done so that people can comment on it, but blocks of exposition turn a reader off, and it’s definitely not in your best interests to turn the reader off on the FIRST PAGE.

    For instance, the sentence, “Carruthers clearly didn’t believe her” – what about him made it clear? His stance? The expression on his face?

    I know you won’t be able to show all this on the first page, but try to work the explanations about FUCKU into the action. It’s best to start a novel with an action scene than an exposition scene – I’m not talking explosions or gunfights, I mean scenes where people are DOING their business as usual and THAT is what explains to the reader how their world is shaped.

    Also, I have to say, the acronym FUCKU would NEVER, EVER become public. Even if the organization was totally clueless, you’d still have plenty of angry parents and teachers and other protectors of public decency who would be more than willing to point it out to them and demand it be changed.

    Also, keep the tone of your writing consistent. The word “awesomeness” popped out at me and jerked me out of the writing. It sounded like something a younger person would say to describe something rather different than your protagonist was attempting to.

  7. theo
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 07:42:44

    I’m sorry. I know hearing things like this can be so disheartening, but I too see the above problems mentioned. I think as authors, we all love our words and cutting any from a manuscript is hard for the best author so I realize this will be very difficult for you, but you’ll have to be ruthless in how you tighten this.

    Beyond that, a couple of things struck me. A Reader, with a capital R. So, does she read minds? Palms? Crystal balls? The first time I saw Reader, I thought she was taking an assignment to read books to a blind person. I want to know what her special talent is and why, if it’s so good, she’s getting such a grudging nod from the boss. I can’t buy that it’s just her age.

    The other, and this I’m sure is just me, but I need to mention it; I’m from suburban Detroit and that’s all I kept reading your heroine’s last name as, Ms. Detroit. Unless that last name has great significance to the story later in the book, I’d change that.

    Best of luck to you. The premise is good, but at this point, I don’t think it would be one I’d buy.

  8. AnonReader99
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 09:08:10

    I liked it, for the most part (the F.U.C.K.U. has to go). Why should we have to like the heroine from the first page? The point of romances or really any book is that the characters grow and change. It’s enough to be interested and I was.

    A lot of the complaints above are just stylistic differences of opinions. They like it one way, but I personally found it easy to read and engaging, and for me, that’s all that matters. If there’d been more offered I’d have read it.

  9. Barbara Sheridan
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 10:06:24

    I thoroughly agree with #8–AnonReader99.

    I’m a very “tough sell” these days and and I didn’t find anything that made me stop and think- noooo this is not the best way to write it.

    This opening sets up a lot of reasons to want to read on and find out who these people are and “what happens next”.

  10. Libby
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 10:15:18

    This was one of the first First Pages that’s kept my interest past the first sentence. I agree that you could tighten it up a bit and work on the dialog tags, but I think that for somebody who clearly hates her job and who says it was the only one she could find, your depiction of Caroline was right on. I’m sure most people here *heart* their jobs and have never had to go through the rigors Caroline has, but as a person who has been in truly crappy ones with equally crappy bosses, I have to say the voice was perfect. I’d rather see her hate her job than to mooch off her friends or sit around and feel sorry for herself.

    And FUCKU? I loved it! Yet another reason the organization has to remain secret, as far as I’m concerned. The F word has been around for a very long time, so there’s no mistaking the acronym. However, there might be a good story behind it, like the higher up who formed it hated some aspect of it or something. You might also want to consider using the T in through, but have it be an office joke to leave the T out intentionally. Just make it work with the story. My only suggestion on that is to work with the words a bit more because they do feel random.

    I really like what AnonReader99 has to say about liking the heroine right off the bat. I like growth and change too, but that doesn’t mean the heroine has to be Pollyanna 2.0 by The End. I actually like the snarkier characters (even the bitchy ones) because they’re so much more interesting to read. If romance readers don’t like her, take a look at the story and see if it would work in urban fantasy or another genre.

    Best wishes to you!

  11. Deb Kinnard
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 10:21:38

    I agree with all the above comments except those that say “liked it.” I think this is a very good first stab. It needs a good general dusting off and tidying up.

    The paragraph (your second, I believe) stopped me short. What I like to see as a reader, on your first page, is action. If you must stick the part about the nailpolish in (and in truth, what does it say about Ms. Detroit except “I’m bored”?), keep it to a single sentence after “He droned on.”

    And I don’t get any sense in this snippet of Ms. Detroit’s (yes, I too pronounced it that way in my mind)feeling of competitiveness between her and Samantha — all I’m getting is boredom & superiority, and that’s boring.

    Give this a fresh look with an eye to action, and it’ll read much better.

  12. cecilia
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 10:25:38

    I’m with people on the wish for a more mature heroine and the dislike of F.U.C.K.U. However, as silly as it is, it’s not absolutely implausible. When the Reform Party and the Progressive Conservative Party created an alliance back in the 90s (I think), their first (and publicly announced) new name was the Canadian Reform Alliance Party. It took the media to point out their new name was C.R.A.P. Unfortunately for truth in advertising, they changed it.

  13. Candy
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 10:27:30

    Three things that stood out – the last name, being from and living in Detroit, I missed read the last name several times.

    Also, the Robert Duvall reference, I didn’t get it (and still don’t) until someone pointed it out. So I would say watch your quotes and references because it can go over some readers heads.

    the F.U.C.K.U part has to go in my opinion.

    I’m willing to give it a chance and give the heroine a chance to grow, learn and for me to like her.

  14. Darlynne
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 10:27:50

    As soon as I read

    Dr. Alan Carruthers, loved to lord the fact that he was in charge over her

    I was immediately thrown out of a story that had intrigued me with the opening line. This and other similar points raised, especially Ann’s, are not just stylistic differences of opinion; grammar and consistency matter.

    As a reader, I would be interested enough to keep reading. In general, however, I wonder why so many heroines in urban fantasy and other genres have to be monumentally pissed off all the time. Conflict can be created a number of ways and needn’t always rely on a character’s short fuse or rebellious attitude.

  15. Val Kovalin
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 10:42:32

    This has potential but in its 704 words, it’s slow to start with not much real information conveyed.

    I get from the tone that it’s a humorous paranormal, and from the information revealed, I understand the following: the setting is modern-day (from the slang) London. Our heroine is 29 years old and irreverent, and she doesn’t often get jobs. Her boss is pompous. She’s a Reader (we don’t yet know what that is) and this new job is for a client the boss considers important.

    I would have liked to have found out a little more about either the assignment or the Baris family. I’d advise working in this info here, and cutting much of the worker-boss interaction: the sentence

    Caroline Deteroit groaned inwardly. Dr. Alan Carruthers, loved to lord the fact that he was in charge over her.

    tells us all we need to know with their relationship. Paragraphs like

    Caroline watched as Carruthers surveyed her over the brown rims of his glasses, clearly waiting for the awesomeness of his words to hit her. She arranged her face into what she hoped passed for some kind of enraptured expression. The routine never varied when it came to him. First he had to let her know how lucky she was that a lowly flea like her was being given the chance to have assignments like these. Then she had to act extremely grateful for his consideration.

    aren’t offering anything new because we’ve got the picture with that previous sentence.

    This paragraph

    The F.U.C.K.U. (an acronym that had to be pronounced letter by letter for reasons the staff found hilarious) was an organization run by a conglomeration of Witches, Vampires, and Keverèk. Generally speaking, they were a research lab that gathered and housed information about all things that went bump in the night.

    read to me like info-dump. Caroline wouldn’t start musing on this in the middle of getting an assignment. This info needs to come later on. Maybe you can have Caroline leaving the building in the next scene and see the acronym on the sign and find it funny as always.

    I like this vivid and funny paragraph:

    “Drop-Dead Red” was her current favorite polish, though she had been known to favor “Perfectly Purple” on occasion. So few jobs had come her way over the last two months she had started painting her nails daily in the office, feeling like a rip off of some 1940s movie secretary. All that was missing was for her to start cracking bubble gum.

    It takes courage to offer your work for critique and the people here are giving you some invaluable feedback! Good luck.

  16. Tracey
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 10:52:09

    I have to agree with everyone else. There are far too many technical errors, as well as a thoroughly unlikable protagonist and an organization that sounds very familiar.

    Caroline is, in a word, obnoxious. In one page, we learn that she sits around polishing her nails at work, is tempted to start cracking bubble gum as well, and rolls her eyes at and growls at her boss–who doesn’t come across as a bad person, merely one who wants the work done. She seems to regard simple courtesy as sucking up to the boss, and has a truly odious sense of entitlement.

    Now, I have met Carolines. I’ve even worked with them. They’re lazy, rude, immature, arrogant and behave as if they are doing both bosses and clients a favor by doing the job that they are being paid to do. They are thoroughly unpleasant people to work with, and I would not spend one iota of time reading about one. I would prefer to have a likable protagonist, thank you. It is possible for a character to be strong, independent and capable without behaving as if everyone else is beneath her.

    Then there is the organization. Much has already been made of the acronym FUCKU. I am more interested in the organization itself. A group that investigates the supernatural sounds like a cross between the organization in the Thursday Next books, Anne Rice’s Talamasca, The X-Files and Torchwood. I’ve seen the idea of such a group dozens, perhaps scores of times already, both in published works and in fanfic. I don’t mind an unoriginal concept if the main character is engaging, but under the circumstances…well, the book has two strikes against it as it is.

    Then there are your errors with punctuation and grammar:

    1) Dr. Alan Carruthers, loved to lord the fact that he was in charge over her.
    What’s that comma doing after Carruthers?

    2) “The request for a Reader came down from the highest level of the Baris family.”
    I have an intense dislike for random capitalization. At this point, I have no way of knowing if the word “Reader” is an actual title in the organization or if it’s a common noun incorrectly capitalized. However, having seen a LOT of random capitalization in the past few years, I’m going to assume the second.

    3) feeling like a rip off
    Rip-off. Please remember the hyphens.

    4) The F.U.C.K.U. (an acronym that had to be pronounced letter by letter for reasons the staff found hilarious) was an organization run by a conglomeration of Witches, Vampires, and Keverèk.
    Again–why are these last few words being capitalized? They shouldn’t be. They’re common nouns, not proper nouns.

    5) Generally speaking, they were a research lab that gathered and housed information about all things that went bump in the night.
    To whom does “they” refer? The conglomeration of witches, vampires and keverek? If so, “they” can’t be a laboratory. The organization–FUCKU–can be. But people can’t be a thing. “They” should be “it.”

    6) “I love the smell of nail polish in the morning.” She muttered under her breath in her best imitation of Robert Duvall.
    NO. The sentence isn’t complete until the vocal tags end. So the correct way to write this would be:

    “I love the smell of nail polish in the morning,” she muttered under her breath in her best imitation of Robert Duvall.

    This is basic English punctuation that you can pick up by reading. PLEASE LEARN IT.

    7) “Of course sir.” She lied.
    Correct form: “Of course, sir,” she lied.

    8) “Please sir, I truly want this job.” She insisted.
    Correct form: “Please, sir, I truly want this job,” she insisted.

    9) Note to self: If you want the most rewarding job to come through the Reader Dept. in months, don't piss off the boss by growling at him.
    Spell out the word “Department.”

    10) “No, sir.” She said, finally wrestling the page from his hand.
    Correct form: “No, sir,” she said, finally wrestling the page from his hand.

    11) She was twenty nine years old
    No, she was “twenty-nine.” Don’t forget the hyphen.

    That’s a lot of problems in just one page of writing.

    It’s possible that the story might be salvaged. The acronym for the organization has to go, though; the joke isn’t particularly funny the first time around and it really won’t be funny after three hundred pages or so of repetition. Caroline needs to become more likable and sympathetic and less snotty. And you really, really need to get hold of a good guide to punctuation, as you’re clearly having a great many difficulties in punctuating dialogue.

    Good luck.

  17. Jill Myles
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 11:17:50

    Kinda lost me at FUCKU. That would never fly, ever. :) Sorry.

  18. Anion
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 11:58:05

    The problem I have with the acronym isn’t so much that it’s just kind of a dumb joke, as it is that the name itself makes no sense. “Foundation for Unseen Cooperation through Knowledge and Understanding”? What does “unseen cooperation” mean? If you mean to promote understanding and cooperation between the Unseen, you would call it the Foundation for Unseen Cooperation, or the Association of Unseen Cooperation, or the Association to Promote Cooperation, Knowledge, and Understanding for the Unseen”, or any other of a dozen names that actually mean something.

    Honestly, I’d name the association something else and then, if you’re absolutely enamored of the FUCKU joke, mention they’d originally tried to name it that but someone pointed out what the acronym spelled, and thought they chose a different name FUCKU stuck among the members. Which would also give you the opportunity to have your heroine refer to the group as FUCKU and have her superiors be disapproving.

    As far as her being likable, yes, characters should grow and change. But we’re not going to want to stick around to see it if there’s nothing redeeming about her to begin with. Again, if for example Carruthers had hit on her when she was training, and now constantly uses his position to get revenge on her for turning him down (a cliche idea but you see my point) that would give her a reason for being so rude about him. Or if he was promoted over her beloved mentor because Carruthers’s wife donated a bunch of money, or something–which would also give us a reason to sympathize with her and put us on her side. But as someone else pointed out, he seems here like a normal man who expects her to take her work seriously, and she’s pissed off at him for that, which makes her unlikeable.

    BTW, what is the “highest level” of a family? Or is it like a crime family?

    I recommend you grab a copy of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. Not expensive but extremely helpful. As Darlynne says, the punctuation and structure issues are not stylistic differences, they’re just plain wrong.

    I do want to say, though, that you do show some flair and humor. Writing anything that incites strong reactions in people is a good sign; I bet with a better grasp of the technical aspects of writing and a little more polish, you could really go somewhere. So don’t be discouraged. We really are trying to help.

  19. AnonReader99
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 12:26:41

    Yes, the punctuation matters. The grammar matters. A lot of the complaints don’t have to do with that. Use of names instead of pronouns. So what? It didn’t distract or bug me even on a second read-through. The sentence structures? Need tightening? In some of your opinions, not mine. Things like that are individual preference. Following a book for grammar is correct. Following one for style is, IMO, foolish. It’s worth considering, yes, but not a bible.

  20. TarotByArwen
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 12:42:04

    The beginning bothered me. I immediately thought, “Oh no. Another short fat bald boss being a dick to the poor heroine.”

    I like parts of this very well but not enough to have kept reading. You made me dislike your heroine and want whatever beasts were out there to WIN. Soften her up a bit. Make her and her boss less stereotypes. It feels like Hill Street Blues Ghost Hunters.

  21. Leah
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 12:44:31

    Ok, but Elements of Style is not really about voice, or that nebulous “style,” that we all hope to develop. It’s really about punctuation, grammar, usage, spelling, clarity–all those nuts and bolts that can be so boring to read about, yet are necessary if we hope to communicate with readers.

  22. The Author
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 12:46:38

    I was a little iffy about sending this in to DearAuthor, since my previous query letters were put through the ringer (all useful criticsms, though). But these critques are extremely helpful. I completely missed the comma error in the second sentence, which is glaring now that I look at it here. As far as FUCKU goes, I thought it was funny, but if it seems to juvenile, then I don’t have problems removing it. I wanted to clarify that “Unseen” is a term I use in the book to denote vampires, werewolves and so on. I go into greater detail about it later. Again, thank you all so much for taking the time to look at my work. It’s easier and better hearing from people actually in the industry instead of just friends and family.

  23. vanessa jaye
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 13:23:14

    My $0.03

    1. Yes, the grammar needs to be cleaned up. Lots of examples were already given so I won’t belabor the point.

    2. It would be better to play down the repetition of the heroine’s boredom. Ditto for the boss being a blowhard.

    3. A lot of this could be tightened up-‘some paragraphs cut completely from this section or trimmed. Ditto for a lot of the dialogue tags.

    4. Contractions. Show me them. *g* Srsly, some of this is a bit stiff/too formal because the lack of contractions.

    5. If the assignment is so important it's odd that he just hands over the envelope and she leaves? Your hook in this scene is the assignment (and by extension the nature-‘and name-‘of the secret organization). That’s what is going to push the plot forward, and that’s what should be the focus of the scene once you’ve introduced the characters and the set-up, rather than going on about the heroine being bored by a bore.

    You can show/tell more about her dissatisfaction (and his personality and physical description) as the story progresses.

    I trimmed/re-arranged some of the paragraphs below as an example of what you could do in terms of tightening the pacing/focus of the scene. I only added one line, the rest is all your material/words. (unfortunately my trimmed got rid of a lot of your humor, which I did like):

    “I will not give this assignment to just anyone. The request for a Reader came down from the highest level of the Baris family.”

    Carruthers surveyed her over the rims of his glasses, clearly waiting for the awesomeness of his words to hit her. Caroline arranged her face into what she hoped passed for some kind of enraptured expression.

    “I am hesitant to send someone who is ill-prepared for what they may encounter,” he droned on.

    Oh for the love of god just get on with it already. She stifled a sigh, drumming red-lacquered nails on the worn armchair. “Drop-Dead Red” was her current favorite polish, though she had been known to favor “Perfectly Purple” on occasion. So few jobs had come her way over the last two months she had started painting her nails daily in the office.

    “Ms. Deteroit, are you even listening to me?”

    “Of course sir.” She straightened in her chair.

    “I cannot afford failure in this.” He pulled a small note from the folder on his desk and held it out to her. “Your record has been impeccable thus far, which is the only reason I trust someone of your age to handle the matter. Despite your young age, I feel you will do well with this.”

    She went to take the piece of paper from him but he pulled back at the last second, his eyes locking with hers.

    “Don't make me regret this.”

    “No, sir,” she said, finally wrestling the page from his hand.

  24. Jage
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 14:49:22

    I have to agree with the people who said they thought she was a younger heroine. When I read it she came off like the girl who’s father found her a job for the summer so she was doing everything she could to get fired without *doing* anything, so when she gets called on it she can have deniability.

    Other than that, although it didn’t grab my attention it didn’t turn me off like it did others, depending on the back blurb I’d probably continue reading to see if it picked up.

    I suggest you find a critique partner who won’t mind helping you go over your manuscript. Or even someone who’ll go over it once with a red pen, show you all your mistakes and then you can learn what you do repeatedly and break yourself of the habit.

  25. Jessica
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 15:23:40

    I liked it, and agree with #8.

    Grammar, unless it’s egregious, I ignore otherwise I’d never get through many books.

    I thought the voice was strong enough that the stylistic things could be ignored.

    Dialog tags are a matter of choice, I expect. Some people use something other than ‘said’ endlessly. My hated one is he ‘gritted.’ But bestselling authors get away with it. He said/she said can get boring, but I think it’s a matter of author/editor/reader taste.

    Keep submitting.

  26. Shiloh Walker
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 15:31:44

    I liked the voice and for me, that’s the most important thing.

    I do see a lot of the addressed concerns. To me, they are cosmetic issues, grammar and the character’s repetitive thoughts about her boredom, and these are definitely issues that can be corrected. I do feel it’s important they be corrected, but since the voice is interesting enough, I’d want to read more.

    I’d say smooth out the heroine some, clear up the tags ( I still fight with my dialog tags) ~yep, get rid of the acronym, and keep writing.

  27. One More Anon
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 15:52:31

    Well, first I want to applaud the author for having the courage to post and being gracious in the face of some pretty tough criticism.

    To me, it boils down to this: This is the first page (and in this case, our only page) of the book. As readers, we have nothing to go on but what you give us, and we can feel nothing except the emotions of the POV character. If you give us a character who is bored, impatient, and disinterested – we readers are bored, impatient, and disinterested. We are Caroline to your Carruthers. We’re drumming our nails, rolling our eyes, wondering just how we got into this. We start nitpicking your commas and dialog tags. (Not that mechanics aren’t important, but they’re fixable.)

    Personally, I think this shows you’re a good writer, in that you have a knack for evoking emotions with words. You really had me feeling Caroline’s frustration. :)

    My advice, for what it’s worth –
    Author, don’t doubt yourself. Just try writing an opening scene where Caroline is interested, engaged, and invested in the outcome. Chances are, your readers will be too.

    Best of luck!

  28. Val Kovalin
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 16:29:55

    One More Anon said:

    … being gracious in the face of some pretty tough criticism.

    Yes. Very classy! Not many could have had the good attitude you did.

  29. Lynne Connolly
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 17:33:09

    What they said. Grammar, tidying up, all needed, plus a drastic downscaling of your heroine’s age by about 10 years.
    A lot of the problems with the piece will go as you write more. Keep writing, don’t just go over the same piece again and again. It will come.
    Learn the difference between “may” and “might.” It’s fast becoming one of my bugbears, together with the lay/lie issue (not in this piece) and the use of “it’s” for “it is” when it should be “it was” to keep tenses consistent (also not here, but I enjoyed the mini vent).
    Your heroine is plain dislikeable. She’s complaining about having nothing to do and then the minute she gets something to do she’s sarcastic about it? Even if she was 18 and not 29, I’d give her a wide berth.
    And this is a ‘kitchen table’ scene when characters gather around a table and discuss things. I always write them, then, when I’ve done, I cut the scene out and realise I never needed it in the first place!
    I’d cut this and go straight to where the story starts.
    You’re on your way, though. Keep going.

  30. Lauren Bethany
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 18:45:39

    I’ll start by saying I like the writer’s voice. It’s engaging. That’s the good points… sorry. :(

    I agree that the heroine sounds immature. I was very suprised when the age came up at the end because I was expecting someone in the barely-legal range. She’s got a bratty attitude and does not garner my respect. I’d rather see the boss refer to her experience level than age. If he is as self-important as she claims I can’t see him making an unprofessional comment about her age.

    Too many TV/movie references for such a short snippet. Spread them out or cut some out. I didn’t like the FU acro. It’s a cheap joke. Also mark me in agreement concerning punctuation.

    I have no problem with the concept of an egotistacal boss and staff who dislike him, (sounds like my day job) but that’s just about all we get here. We have no taste of what she does as a Reader. I’d like to see some of the page space redirected to moving the story forward instead of harping on what a prig he is. There is minimal story or world building on this page. My interest as a reader is not being tweaked and I don’t feel any curiosity or pull to turn the page because of it.

    If I had the book in-hand I’d probably read it, but I wouldn’t buy based on this page.

  31. Maya Reynolds
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 23:01:22

    Add me to the group who admires the author for handling a tough critique well.

    When you’re starting a manuscript, it’s sometimes hard to get the character’s voice right. I can think of several paranormals I’ve read where what was intended to be a kick-ass heroine came across as a pain-in-the-ass instead.

    I suspect this is the latest version of the old mistake in which romance writers confuse bad temper with conflict. Most readers have encountered books where the heroine (or hero) keeps picking fights for no discernible reason beyond that of keeping the story going.

    Author, I admire you for trying humor, which is difficult to do well. Don’t give up. Keep writing and keep getting critiques.

    Good luck.

  32. LauraB
    Sep 06, 2008 @ 23:34:22

    Hey Author,

    Thanks for sharing…. I felt the general concept is sound but agree with the many that the grammar and expression need polishing up. Someone above pointed out a lack of contractions which deprive the passage of a more even flow.

    Another of example of labored writing can be found here: “loved to lord the fact that he was in charge over her.” Please when you revise the passage omit “the fact that”! Such phrasing sounds as if you’re trying to be writerly and deaden the prose.

    Also, is she British? Neither speaker sounds English. “Awesomeness” brings to mind Valley Girls not Sloane Rangers (as does gum cracking and bored grooming).

    All said and done, you’ve got the backbone of an interesting story. What it needs is some generous revision and editting. All books start somewhere.

  33. Moth
    Sep 08, 2008 @ 00:49:18

    “I will not give this assignment to just anyone.”

    And you’ve lost me on the first line. Who says “will not”? People say won’t. This is stilted and unnatural. All the dialogue in this is really too formal and stilted. Read it out loud. Trim accordingly.

    The second paragraph doesn’t get any better.

    “Dr. Alan Carruthers, loved to lord the fact that he was in charge over her….Carruthers believed that he held his employees' very lives in his hands, and expected them to act accordingly.”

    Man with the infodump. Can you just show us this stuff with the rest of the scene? To me, sentences like these insult my intelligence and they wreak of the inexperienced writer who feels the need to spell everything out for the reader. Not good. Show not tell.

    This just feels really overwritten. You’re trying too hard. The Big Head ref, the FUCKU thing, the apocalypse now thing…Ease up a bit. In fact, as I continue reading this whole page is pretty much a fat load of infodump. It’s not polished and it’s not engaging. I wouldn’t read this.

  34. Cauterize
    Sep 10, 2008 @ 11:44:16

    Author, don’t give up! Everybody has different tastes. This is the first First Page submission that I really liked and laughed while reading. I thought the voice was funny and not “immature”. Maybe that’s saying I’m immature (at 27) but the:

    because it was “acclaimed.” Apocalypse Now. The Redux version.

    really cracked me up. Met too many indie boys who felt it was “acclaimed” as well. The Redux version.

    Another view I have is while others criticized the character’s boredom which leads to reader boredom, I thought the jokes were helpful to offset reader boredom. Obviously, the pace of such jokes should be dialed down as the book goes along and plot takes over, but they were funny enough to me to keep going on this first page. I probably am the only person commenting so far who even enjoyed the FUCKU joke. I thought it was a jab at institutional bureaucracy in the vein of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; that people shouldn’t be surprised an acronym like that could be pushed through without nobody noticing until it’s too late and then you’re stuck with it.

    I didn’t feel the heroine was unlikable and bitchy; I rather thought she was valiantly trying to hold back her sarcastic and snarky side and I love sarcastic women who deflate the egos of men. Of course until they meet THE GUY and their soft side comes out. With the all the pop culture references, I thought that she really was thinking like someone my age who’s watched too much TV and would throw that mashup into their thoughts. I would have read this book until I found out what a Reader does and then decided whether I would continue.

    I will agree with the others though, that the technical aspects and the dialogue needs to be cleaned up, but all-in-all, I’m a reader who reads for voice and I liked yours.

  35. Nony
    Sep 21, 2008 @ 01:09:46

    The voice is okay. The grammar and syntax are not. Don’t try so hard to be funny. Humor should come naturally in the course of storytelling.

    I liked the plot, but seriously? Start IN the action. Don’t begin with ennui. There are very, very few authors who I can think of who could start with ennui and keep me interested.

    In fact, the first name that comes to mind is Vonnegut, and he’s dead. That should tell you something.

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