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First Page: Unnamed Urban Fantasy

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***

I managed to shoulder my way inside the last Boneyard transport just before its deeply scarred doors slid shut. Breathless and relieved, I snagged a cracked strap and did my best to ignore the dull ache of a cramp throbbing under my ribcage. Then the crowded car pulled from the station with a lurch that sent me stumbling.

"Watch it, bitch!" someone snarled. A hard shove connected with my shoulder blades.

Cue face plant into greasy trench. Nice. I grimaced at the men in apology, backing away and trying hard not to gag while the vinegar of old booze and recycled sweat burned through my nose. Well, tonight certainly got off to a less-than-spectacular start. And it’s headed nowhere but downhill, Lane. You expected otherwise? I thought. I turned my head to watch Capitol City flash past the graffiti-coated windows.

The sun had just dipped below the crumbling skyline in a florid display of gauzy pinks and reds and oranges by the time my date had staggered drunkenly down the safe Old City sidewalk. I’d stopped to admire the nuclear watercolors even though I knew how quickly it could become dark. I hadn’t been in a hurry, not then; the vision had shown me what would be waiting on my stoop when I returned home.

As the rail car rocketed through the outer Wards, I tried to ignore the bittersweet tang of burnt chemicals and the twisted fantasies of junkies high on sparkler. Counted the pores, pockmarks, and whiskers on my neighbor’s face and felt someone\’s stale breath whispering against my neck. Wished desperately that I was anywhere but there.

Suck it up, you moron. You knew better than to be out so close to curfew alone.

I adjusted my weight, bracing myself against the door. When I brushed back the heavy edges of my coat, the gun and wakizashi strapped underneath did a bit to dissuade everyone from the idea I was soliciting. But it apparently didn’t discourage one very interested onlooker.

He’d moved to lounge on the tattered vinyl seat at my right, the rancid cologne of body odor and sparkler still an olfactory assault, his rumpled tweed suit stained from too many nights spent sleeping in cardboard boxes. Body swaying to the rhythm of the car, the man’s mouth gaped slightly, spittle drying on his chin. He loosened his grimy tie as he stared. Blew me a messy kiss before we disembarked at the end of the line.

The junkie then proceeded to stalk me for five blocks, but only because I didn’t bother to shake him.

Not altogether unusual or unexpected. Subtle, he was not. Perhaps he thought I couldn’t smell him. But even if I hadn’t been aware of his stench or his interest – my vision after dinner had prepared me well in advance.

At least the odds were in my favor this time. That I felt grateful for – the junkie wasn’t something much worse. Nobody’d seen a draugr in Cap City for a few months, and this guy certainly wasn’t a demon or revenant. A stupid, solitary human I could handle. Though the gaps in the vision had me worried. What happened during and after.

What I would do.

Dusk settled its heavy, shadow-laden mantle over Tenth Ward, over the empty storefronts and the vacant streets. Trash fluttered and swirled around my legs like tumbleweeds as I stopped in a pool of the streetlamps’ sulfuric light. I breathed in the faint, acrid smells of neglect and decay, tugged away a lock of hair stuck to my lips.

Heart rapping double-time against my sternum, I turned. My fingers moved to brush against the comforting weight of the short sword and .45 M&P from habit. Mortals not packing, day or night, courted disaster. I was well acquainted with danger, on intimate terms with catastrophe- but not entirely stupid.

Or maybe so. People have often told me otherwise. “Come on out,” I said. “I know you’re there.”

***

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26 Comments

  1. Anion
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 05:15:17

    Nothing’s happening here. She’s in a smelly subway car, thinking about stuff in her Snarky First-Person UF Heroine voice.

    There ARE UFs out there in third person, folks, and I can think of three more being released in the next six months or so and am gagging for them because they’re already getting amazing buzz. Please, you don’t have to write in first!!!

    It’s good writing–absolutely–but I’m just not seeing anything different or original here and you’re not giving me any action to *show* me anything different. Gritty city, check. Crowded subway car, check. Heroine carrying fancy weapons, check. But telling me about sunsets and dusk and smelly people and something waiting for her at home just isn’t grabbing me, I’m afraid.

    While I still love UF more than anything–I love love love it, seriously–I’m really tired of Interchangeable First POV UF Women. If something were actually happening here it might not have bothered me so much–you could have a very unique world and very unique creatures or situations–but they’re not in this excerpt; as it is this just kind of feels like a dozen books I’ve already read, sorry.

    ReplyReply

  2. Leah
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 06:32:37

    Not a UF reader, so I’m not familiar with its conventions. I do like the writing–it is very easy to see, hear, and smell everything you mention. But I think you could trim a few adjectives and not lose this effect. Right now, it’s a little slow. For some genres, this is not fatal. But I’m thinking that with UF, your readers will want you to pick up the pace. I’m assuming the drunk is significant, and not just a device to show the heroine can kick *&^? Because if he’s not that important, you might want to start where she’s approaching the door, to find whatever her vision warned her about. You’ll have plenty of time in the rest of your book to show us how crappy the city is. As it is, you mention the vision, then go back to the decription, then the vision, then the drunk, etc., when I think the main point is the vision. Again, I really admire your skill with description, but this might be the stuff you write for yourself, to get to where you want to go, that ultimately ends up on the cutting floor.

    Keep it up!!!!!

    Leah

    ReplyReply

  3. Lynne Connolly
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 08:42:24

    Good, needs a bit of tightening, for instance getting rid of speech and thought tags, for example:
    ““Watch it, bitch!” someone snarled. A hard shove connected with my shoulder blades.”

    Could be:
    A hard shove connected with my shoulder blades. “Watch it, bitch!”

    Anyway, very little wrong with the writing. But nothing happens. Nothing new, anyway. I’m getting a bit tired of the kick-ass bitch, I want someone with a bit of humanity about them. I know, a dirty word in UF, but still, someone with a few doubts about themselves.

    UF is getting as crowded as vampire romance was a year or two ago, so you have to try that bit harder to get noticed. There’s nothing here that would make me think “Wow, that’s different, I want more!” but then again, if this was a new book in an existing series, I’d read on.

    ReplyReply

  4. shenan
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 09:43:16

    —–I snagged a cracked strap and did my best to ignore the dull ache of a cramp throbbing under my ribcage.

    Why the cramp? What’s going on there? At no point in this excerpt is that explained. Is she sick? Hurt? Did she get into a fight? Is she hatching an alien? What?

    —-Cue face plant into greasy trench.

    What’s a trench? A trench coat?

    —by the time my date had staggered drunkenly down the safe Old City sidewalk. I’d stopped to admire the nuclear watercolors even though I knew how quickly it could become dark.

    If the sidewalk is safe — and by that I assume you mean that area of the city is safe — then why should the heroine worry about it getting dark?

    What does the drunken date have to do with anything? How’d she get from the date to the tram?

    ——I hadn’t been in a hurry, not then; the vision had shown me what would be waiting on my stoop when I returned home.

    Why wasn’t she in a hurry earlier, but apparently is now that she’s on the tram/train/whatever? What changed?

    ———felt someone\’s stale breath whispering against my neck.

    If the guy doing the breathing is behind her, how does she know his breath is stale? And if he is so close that she can feel his breath on her neck, why doesn’t she move? Or plant an elbow in the breather’s stomach? And maybe it’s just me, but “whispering” seems to be an odd word choice to describe the feel of stale breath. I can see a lover’s breath whispering. Not so much a bum’s.

    ——I adjusted my weight, bracing myself against the door.

    I’m not familiar with public transportation, but do trains, etc, have straps for people to hang onto right by the door? Close enough that they can hold onto the strap and lean against the door at the same time?

    —-When I brushed back the heavy edges of my coat, the gun and wakizashi strapped underneath did a bit to dissuade everyone from the idea I was soliciting.

    Where did she get the idea that anyone thought she was a hooker? Why did she feel the need to display her weapons?

    I find it a bit of an odd contrast between the gun-toting chick and the earlier examples of her as a kind of a wimp. Someone calls her a not-so-nice name and shoves her — and she apologizes? Plus, nothing about how she reacts on the tram or on her date shows her as a Take Charge kind of gal. But maybe that’s just me.

    —-He’d moved to lounge on the tattered vinyl seat at my right,

    The tram is crowded, yet the drunk easily finds a seat open?

    ——-his rumpled tweed suit stained from too many nights spent sleeping in cardboard boxes.

    How does she know he sleeps in cardboard boxes? How does she even know for sure he’s homeless? Because he’s smelly and his suit is rumpled? Maybe he is just hygienically challenged.

    —–The junkie then proceeded to stalk me for five blocks, but only because I didn’t bother to shake him. Not altogether unusual or unexpected. Subtle, he was not. Perhaps he thought I couldn’t smell him. But even if I hadn’t been aware of his stench or his interest – my vision after dinner had prepared me well in advance.

    The heroine is used to being stalked? She even expects it? This whole bit has me confused.

    Did she lose him at some point? Did he lose interest and wander away? Is he the one she senses or whatever at the end?

    —–Heart rapping double-time against my sternum, I turned. My fingers moved to brush against the comforting weight of the short sword and .45 M&P from habit.

    Why did her heart start pounding? Why did she turn? Sounds like something must have alerted her to possible danger — yet nothing appears to have happened. Plus, she assures herself her weapons are close at hand “from habit.” So it sounds as if nothing happened to put her on alert. Which is it?

    —–”Come on out,” I said. “I know you’re there.”

    Okay, so something did alert her to possible danger. What? And if she thinks she is being followed, why is she brushing her hand against her weapons out of habit rather than grabbing them and displaying them to whoever might be intending to do her harm?

    I’m with the poster who pointed out that nothing much happens in this excerpt. We get hints of the setting and the heroine, as well as hints that something is going to happen. But the story focuses on a lot of stuff that I assume has nothing to do with the actual plot, like the subway ride and the drunk and the colors of the sky during her date.

    I also vote for too many adjectives and too much description — and too much overdescription. I don’t read Urban Fantasies, but I would think they would lend themselves well to more of a minimalist style. Short. Sharp. Gritty rather than flowery. (But hey, I could be wrong.)

    ReplyReply

  5. Ginger
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 09:50:49

    The last 7 paragraphs (going by spaces between paragraphs to count) work much better for me than the preceding ones.

    As the action picks up, the description seems to get simpler and more straightforward. Each individual piece of description in the earlier paragraphs seemed well-written, but taken together I felt confused – I expect detailed description to point me toward significant plot or character elements, so when every piece of the train car gets a detailed description I have trouble focusing.

    One piece of info did strike me as odd, though it could definitely have been drawn from a specific observation, it still felt off to me – the homeless man’s tweed suit and tie. At least in the city where I live, most homeless people are not in tweed suits. Not that it could never happen, but it felt very strange as a detail to me. The standard here is more work boots or sneakers with jeans or work pants or sweatpants and tshirts/hoodies/sweatshirts etc.

    The character now reads for me as a composite – part leering businessman, part unsettling homeless person.

    As I said, it’s very possible that the homeless people in your area come from different demographics than those in mine, but the image you’ve created, while visceral, doesn’t make sense to me from an economic level.

    ReplyReply

  6. JulieLeto
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 11:31:33

    This first page reminds me of the phrase, “Kill your darlings.” You have some very evocative writing, but as Anion pointed out, nothing is happening. It’s really just description and character. And honestly, that’s not enough for many modern readers (and editors!) who have very limited time and make a decision to buy a book in one page. There’s nothing particularly compelling about your world or character yet…they’re both pretty standard issue UF, which is okay. But what will make your work stand apart (or should!) is your conflict/plot. So get that in a little sooner. Start with whatever is waiting for her on her doorstep. That’s probably where your story really starts.

    ReplyReply

  7. JoB
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 13:00:37

    Let me say right off that we’ve got some fine use of the language here. I would read on a while to look at the wordsmithing even though the story itself has not yet ‘caught me’.

    General Advice.
    Simplify sentence structure. Pull out maybe a select 5% of the modifiers. Strip the prose down.

    .
    eg.

    The sun had just dipped below the crumbling skyline in a florid display of gauzy pinks and reds and oranges by the time my date had staggered drunkenly down the safe Old City sidewalk.

    Might pack more punch as.

    I was headed home alone. Not my original plan, of course. But just about the time the sun dunked under the crumbling skyline of Old City, my date staggered up, drunk and incompetent.
    Story of my life.

    .
    When I brushed back the heavy edges of my coat, the gun and wakizashi strapped underneath did a bit to dissuade everyone from the idea I was soliciting.

    Could be simplified to:

    I unbuttoned my coat. The honking great 45 on my belt and the wakizashi strapped underneath told the public I wasn’t soliciting.

    .
    Even the relatively blunt,

    Suck it up, you moron. You knew better than to be out so close to curfew alone

    Might hit harder as

    Suck it up. Just suck it up. You’ll be out after curfew. Deal with it.

    .
    .
    Overall, I get a slight ‘too much description’ and ‘doesn’t hit the ground running’ and I don’t immediately see what’s important’ feeling about the segment.
    This comes, I believe, because I’m not getting a sufficient sense of the protagonist.

    Technically, your POV stays tight. You use internals and body awareness. Immersion in the scene — check. Focus — check.
    My failure to connect with the character may have to do with ‘an inconsistent voice’.

    .
    Now I love an intellectual, precise, educated voice in a rough setting. One signals the reader that this is happening and it works fine. I’m also cool with a hard-boiled and laconic voice. But I feel like you’re mixing them. You don’t get to do that so much in First Perfson POV.

    .
    What I mean. Lookit this spot:

    A hard shove connected with my shoulder blades.
    Cue face plant into greasy trench. Nice. I

    and,

    Well, tonight certainly got off to a less-than-spectacular start. And it's headed nowhere but downhill, Lane. You expected otherwise?

    .
    Those internals are in an edgy, clipped style.

    But then we got:

    the bittersweet tang
    Trash fluttered and swirled around my legs like tumbleweeds
    Dusk settled its heavy, shadow-laden mantle

    which is not in that clipped style. I lose my sense of character voice. I don’t feel like it’s the same person speaking, In First Person POV, it should be.

    .
    First Person needs the same style of voice clean through.
    FWIW, Third Person POV is less exigent in its demands for a single character voice.

    ReplyReply

  8. theo
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 13:11:44

    Dusk settled its heavy, shadow-laden mantle over Tenth Ward, over the empty storefronts and the vacant streets. Trash fluttered and swirled around my legs like tumbleweeds as I stopped in a pool of the streetlamps' sulfuric light. I breathed in the faint, acrid smells of neglect and decay, tugged away a lock of hair stuck to my lips.

    Heart rapping double-time against my sternum, I turned. My fingers moved to brush against the comforting weight of the short sword and .45 M&P from habit. Mortals not packing, day or night, courted disaster. I was well acquainted with danger, on intimate terms with catastrophe… but not entirely stupid.

    Or maybe so. People have often told me otherwise. “Come on out,” I said. “I know you're there.”

    UF is not my thing. I read very little in first person because most of the time, I never get to know the other characters other than on a very shallow level because I’m only seeing their reactions to the *first person* and not the reasons why they’re reacting the way they do.

    That said, if this story started with the above paragraphs, since the cramp, rail car, drunk boyfriend and ‘stalker’ really have nothing to do with this last section. You used your first 535 words to get to the hook which consists of the last 125. By the time I got to that last 125, I had no interest in reading any further.

    **edited to add because the DH interrupted me: I probably would have read more and given it a chance beyond that 125, had it started there**

    Sorry.

    Kudos for putting it out there!

    ReplyReply

  9. DS
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 13:18:06

    This sort of screamed post apocalyptic sf to me. I liked it. I would keep reading.

    ReplyReply

  10. Lori
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 13:24:14

    Well I’ll be the lone voice of dissention *g* and say your writing hooked me in immediately. You have an obvious talent and more than many other First Page’s I was drawn in by the craft.

    People choose to keep reading for many different reasons and sometimes I’ll stay with a book because the writing is excellent enough to keep me hooked. And since I don’t believe that every first page needs to start with wham bam action ma’am I was grabbed and wanted to keep reading.

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  11. joanne
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 13:25:58

    To JULIELETO: I’d like to buy you a cup of coffee and possibly some flowers.
    Kill Your Darlings, indeed!

    To the author:

    I’m going to do something I never do here but I love the rhythm of your writing. Even though I generally dislike first person writing and I’m not a big fan of UF —I liked this enough to want to see more. I edited the whole page so you may want to just skip this if you find me to be presumptuous and/or insulting to your efforts.

    I managed to shoulder my way inside the last Boneyard transport just before its deeply scarred doors slid shut. Breathless and relieved I snagged a cracked strap and did my best to ignore the dull ache of a cramp throbbing under my ribcage. I turned my head to watch Capitol City flash past the graffiti-coated windows. Then the crowded car pulled from the station with a lurch that sent me stumbling.

    “Watch it, bitch!” someone snarled and a hard shove connected with my shoulder blades pushing my face into a greasy trench coat. Nice. I grimaced at the man in apology, backing away and trying hard not to gag while the smell of old booze and recycled sweat burned through my nose. Well, tonight certainly got off to a less-than-spectacular start and it's headed nowhere but downhill, Lane. You expected otherwise? was my only thought.

    As the rail car rocketed through the outer Wards, I tried to ignore the bittersweet tang of burnt chemicals and the twisted displays by junkies high on sparkler. I counted the pores, pockmarks, and whiskers on my neighbor's face and felt someone's stale breath whispering against my neck. I wished desperately that I was anywhere but here. I knew better than to be out so close to curfew alone but I wasn’t in a hurry to get home; the vision had shown me what would be waiting on my stoop when I returned there….

    I adjusted my weight, bracing myself against the door. When I brushed back the heavy edges of my coat, the gun and wakizashi strapped underneath did a bit to dissuade everyone from the idea I was soliciting. But it apparently didn't discourage one very interested onlooker. He'd moved to lounge on the tattered vinyl seat at my right, the rancid cologne of body odor and sparkler still an olfactory assault, his rumpled suit stained from too many nights spent sleeping in cardboard boxes. Body swaying to the rhythm of the car, the man's mouth gaped slightly, spittle drying on his chin as he blew me a messy kiss before we disembarked at the end of the line.

    The junkie then proceeded to stalk me for five blocks, but only because I didn't bother to shake him. Not altogether unusual or unexpected, but subtle he was not. Perhaps he thought I couldn't smell him. But even if I hadn't been aware of his stench or his interest – my vision after dinner had prepared me well in advance.

    At least the odds were in my favor this time, the junkie wasn't something much worse. Nobody'd seen a draugr in Cap City for a few months, and this guy certainly wasn't a demon or revenant. This stupid, solitary human I could handle, but the gaps in the vision had me worried…what happened during and after… what I would do.

    Trash fluttered and swirled around my legs like tumbleweeds as I stopped in a pool of the streetlamps' sulfuric light. I breathed in the faint, acrid smells of neglect and decay, tugged away a lock of hair stuck to my lips. Heart rapping double-time against my sternum, I turned. My fingers moved to brush against the comforting weight of the short sword and .45 M&P from habit. Mortals not packing, day or night, courted disaster.

    “Come on out,” I said. “I know you're there.”

    Much good luck and thank you!

    ReplyReply

  12. hope
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 13:37:04

    Lori isn’t the only dissenter. I liked it. I liked it well enough that I would give you the time to make this UF woman into more of an individual. I liked the layered adjectives and didn’t find them excessive. But I think that taste varies. I avoid UF for exactly the things that some other commenters are asking for– a fast developing, easy read. I am willing to work harder and be more patient, if you are going to provide a pay-off that is worth my effort. Your writing makes me think you would do so.

    A slower pace and more layered description is unconventional for UF. The problem with being unconventional is that you reduce your audience. There’s a reason for those conventions. In me and Lori, you have an audience of, um, two.

    What I didn’t care for was the intrusions of the POV character’s angry comments to herself. Someone else commented that this clipped hard-nosed style clashed with the rest of the prose, and I agree. I prefer the more lyrical, thoughtful voice, and would prefer less of the edgy, clipped voice.

    ReplyReply

  13. LindaR
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 14:18:20

    Even with the “solicitation” comment, it took me a while to decide whether the protagonist was male or female. I’m the only one who mentions this, so it might not be a useful comment. But that delay in knowing kept me from being able to make pictures in my head — disconcerting!

    I agree with JoB — JoB always seems to give great input! — and the others about POV.

    I would add, you seem to have “say it twice-itis” — something I have to be on the alert for myself. For example:

    Well, tonight certainly got off to a less-than-spectacular start. And it's headed nowhere but downhill, Lane. You expected otherwise? I thought.

    When you add “I thought” at the end, I remember that I’m reading.

    And then right after that:

    I turned my head to watch Capitol City flash past the graffiti-coated windows.

    How about: Through the graffiti-coated windows, Capitol City flashed by.

    These are all about technique, though, not story. As for story, I’m not hooked. Why do I care? tuf guy/gal in the scary city wears armor going home through mean streets after leaving yet another crappy date.

    hm. been there done that.

    now that thing on the door step Lane doesn’t want to deal with . . . that’s interesting.

    ReplyReply

  14. Kristie(J)
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 14:41:59

    I’m just starting to read more UF and I really liked this first page – I’d keep reading.

    ReplyReply

  15. Maya Reynolds
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 15:04:12

    You’re a terrific writer and you do a great job of painting the environment. I did get a bit weary of all the “smell” references on one page:

    **vinegar of old booze and recycled sweat (really, really liked that one)
    **bittersweet tang of burnt chemicals (again, nicely done)
    **felt someone\’s stale breath whispering against my neck (as already pointed out, “stale” is a smell, “felt” is tactile. However, the reason I’m being picky about it is because, by now, I’m getting a wee bit tired of smells)
    **rancid cologne of body odors (really tired)
    **even if I hadn’t been aware of his stench (really, really tired)
    **the faint acrid smells of neglect and decay (okay, I liked this one)

    I think Ginger put her finger on it when she said:

    The last 7 paragraphs (going by spaces between paragraphs to count) work much better for me than the preceding ones.

    I would cut out most–if not all–of the description of Lane’s ride home and get right to your hook.

    The description is great. Sprinkle it in throughout your first two chapters in dribs and drabs, not in one long info dump. An urban fantasy really does need to start at your point of action.

    Don’t be discouraged. You’re a great writer. Keep on writing.

    ReplyReply

  16. Maya Reynolds
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 15:05:27

    Congratulations on having the courage to post. It’s not easy to do.

    You’re a terrific writer and you do a great job of painting the environment. I did get a bit weary of all the “smell” references on one page:

    **vinegar of old booze and recycled sweat (really, really liked that one)
    **bittersweet tang of burnt chemicals (again, nicely done)
    **felt someone\’s stale breath whispering against my neck (as already pointed out, “stale” is a smell, “felt” is tactile. However, the reason I’m being picky about it is because, by now, I’m getting a wee bit tired of smells)
    **rancid cologne of body odors (really tired)
    **even if I hadn’t been aware of his stench (really, really tired)
    **the faint acrid smells of neglect and decay (okay, I liked this one)

    I think Ginger put her finger on it when she said:

    The last 7 paragraphs (going by spaces between paragraphs to count) work much better for me than the preceding ones.

    I would cut out most–if not all–of the description of Lane’s ride home and get right to your hook.

    The description is great. Sprinkle it in throughout your first two chapters in dribs and drabs, not in one long info dump. An urban fantasy really does need to start at your point of action.

    Don’t be discouraged. You’re a great writer. Keep on writing.

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  17. Maya Reynolds
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 15:06:56

    Sorry for the duplicate post. I’m a little off today.

    ReplyReply

  18. Greer (the writer)
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 15:57:39

    *winces* Oh, yeah… this actually already hit the cutting room floor during a drastic revision of my MS. I submitted this excerpt back in October (?), and sent a revised first page a few weeks ago to Jane. No worries that this got posted instead; this is a super popular feature, and I’m just happy to have been able to participate at all!! This just reaffirms exactly why it had to go! *grin* And, it’s been hugely helpful in pointing out the bad habits my crit partners don’t scold me on often enough.

    I completely agree with the majority of comments–it’s slow/lacks immediacy, nothing really happens, and I got carried away with overwriting (it is a bit… lavender, eesh. But thank you to those who said it did work. *g*). I’m also a little too in love with the setting (yes, it’s definitely post-apocalyptic–and no ‘sexy’ supernatural creatures here), so I guess you could say this was a bit of worldbuilding that went awry. :) The voice inconsistency’s also a huge bug-a-boo here, and I never liked it because it didn’t ‘flow’ as easily as it has elsewhere in the MS.

    I, too, have been looking for something different when I read in the genre. I’ve gotten awfully weary of the stereotypical snarky ‘kick-ass’ chick without a heart, but I suppose I haven’t fallen very far from the tree after all. :D

    Thank you, thank you, thank y’all for commenting. I loved everyone’s feedback, and definitely plan to keep it in mind.

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  19. Maya M.
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 17:22:58

    Really liked it. Enough that I’d read past the following “?” points, but mentioned to you since that is why you posted here, right?

    Didn’t get the trench reference – why would there by trenches in a public transportation type thing? The cramp she’s trying to ignore – signifies that she had to run to make it onto the bus thing, or that she’s menstruating (which, if she is – wowza, never read anything that refers to that biological fact of life in first page, let along first paragraph, before).

    Confused about the date situation.

    The curfew lends urgency, and is one of those kinds of things that can all too easily become draconian reality in situations classed as public emergencies – that then somehow don’t ever get lifted again.

    Good job, overall! I’d keep reading.

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  20. Ciar Cullen
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 17:29:43

    I absolutely, positively loved this. More than anything I’ve read on this feature. Right up my alley. I don’t think there’s anything that couldn’t get smoothed over by an editor or crit partner. If I were standing in a bookstore and this had a cool cover, I’d snatch it up in a second! Best of luck.

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  21. Ciar Cullen
    Feb 21, 2009 @ 17:31:14

    Oh, ps, I would be so upset if you made anything happen or cut out the setting. So I am definitely in the minority with those points.

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  22. mia madwyn
    Feb 22, 2009 @ 02:24:53

    To Joanna, who edited the first page–

    I think it would have been helpful if you’d explained what your edit was accomplishing. I started reading it, but felt like the large blocky paragraphs actually destroyed the rhythm that you said you liked. I went back to try and compare what you’d done with what the author originally wrote, and found myself lost in the “back and forth,” so I’m not quite sure what you were pointing out. But I definitely felt like you hurt the rhythm, and like others, it was the style of writing that sucked me in, not the content.

    With the rewrite you gave, I was less interested.

    Which isn’t a slam against you, but just a comment. And also, if I knew what point you were making with your edit, I might agree with you, even if the way you edited didn’t work for me.

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  23. Charlotte Stein
    Feb 22, 2009 @ 08:15:01

    Count me in with Lori and Ciar and others who liked and didn’t want that many changes. A bit too flowery in places, but I loved the set-up of the world, I didn’t think it lacked action, and I don’t want lots of questions answered on the first page. I want to be hooked and drawn into the action, and if you add lots of answers to everything I fear it would look forced, info-dump-y and slow it down.

    Best first page I’ve ever seen on here- kudos.

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  24. Ann Aguirre
    Feb 22, 2009 @ 11:31:01

    I liked it too. Some of it could use tightening / paring down, but really, that’s up to an editor if / when it sells.

    My one comment is this: I think you ought to re-think the name of the place. Capitol City? The first thing that pops into my head is Underdog. This has been used in many permutations / spellings in various cartoons and comic books. I’d choose something a bit more unique and memorable (unless you’re trying to evoke retro cartoons and old comic books).

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  25. Maura
    Feb 22, 2009 @ 16:09:15

    Agreed with Ann on the city name. Is this postapocalyptic Earth? If it is, it’s unlikely that place names would have changed. Even if it’s not– of all the many capital cities on earth, even those that were designed and built specifically to BE capital cities, none of them are just called “Capital City.” They’re planned with names like Washington and Brasilia. Watch the homonym, too– a “capitol” with an O is a building, but a “capital” with an A is a seat of government.

    First-person doesn’t do it for me on the whole, and I think it may be a little over-relied on in UF. If you’re going to do it, I agree with other commenters that it’s very important to know your protagonist’s voice, and to use it to communicate to the readers what kind of person s/he is right off the bat. I have a lot of sympathy for UF writers– the balance between exposition/worldbuilding and infodump can be very hard to establish. In this case, the sense I get is that all the details are being thrown in not because the narrator is really taking note of them, but because the author feels she should be for the benefit of the reader.

    In all of this, I’m having such a hard time not pointing to my personal favorite SF novel, “Bone Dance” by Emma Bull– it’s postapocalyptic, and while the setting is a recognizable American city, you don’t need to know which one it is to read it. It also uses an extremely effective and well-written first-person voice, with the narrator someone who is one hundred percent the product of that place and time; so it’s through that narrative voice that the reader is dropped into the story. If you haven’t read it (though I suspect you have), do!

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  26. Greer (the writer)
    Feb 23, 2009 @ 20:48:20

    @Maura–Thanks for the rec! I’ve only very recently read Bull’s “War for the Oaks” (shame on me) and loved it, so I’ll definitely check out “Bone Dance.” And great catch about Capitol/al City. D’oh! It is a post-apocalyptic future earth, and to your point, this does read infodumpy and could’ve been sprinkled in a little more subtly.

    @Ann–Fangirl squee! *composes self* Good point about the city’s name. I’ll definitely keep looking for something else, because I wasn’t intentionally trying to evoke that kind of setting.

    @Charlotte, Kristie, hope, DS, Ciar–Thank you. I’ve been struggling with balancing action/boring the reader to death by prose, especially in the first page… looks like I’ve got about a 50/50 shot from the sampling here, lol. :) Something to think about.

    @Mia, Joanne–Perhaps Joanne’s trying to smooth the prose (I could be wrong)? At least it seems that way to me… mine reads choppier in contrast. I may’ve gotten a teensy bit carried away with fragments.

    @Maya M.–Oh, ugh… yeah, the cramp is a stitch not the ‘other’ kind of cramping, lol. Could be clarified. :)

    @Maya R.–Wow, I never caught that. Sure is stinky, isn’t it? Less smell, check. :D

    @Shenan, Lynne, Julie, Ginger, JoB, Linda R–Thanks for pointing that out. :) ITA that the voice is reading inconsistent (snark versus authorial voice intruding), and I could absolutely stand to murder my darlings.

    @Anion, Leah, theo–Thanks for the honesty! All great points–and balancing action with worldbuilding and UF reader expectation is definitely something to keep in mind upon [yet another] revision.

    Thanks again to everyone for their invaluable advice and their kind words… and thanks to Jane for this feature. I’ve still got a lot of work cut out for me, but this was super helpful in trying to determine what is/isn’t working.

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