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First Page: unpublished manuscript (chick lit mystery)

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“Sunny and 52 for a high,” the meteorologist said as I tried not to look too lustily at the screen. I knew many other women across the DMA were gazing upon the same eye candy, but none of them worked with him every day. And they weren’t sitting in a control room waiting for the forecast to wrap up so they could give the next standby cue.

Speaking of… “Standby camera one three shot. Mic everyone. And take camera one,” I said as Chris finished his forecast. He was now supposed to make chit chat with the news anchors before they read the tease and tossed to break. Before our new blond anchor Janet had started that’s exactly how things would’ve gone, but now…

“A rain snow mix, Chris? Sounds like we don’t know what the weather’s going to be like!” laughed Janet. Chris was off camera now, but I could see him glaring at her in my preview monitor for camera three. Janet hadn’t even been with us for a month, but she’d already made enemies out of most of the staff. She’d started off by making it known that her time was far more valuable than ours (she’s arrived on time for promos exactly once) and then moved on to semi-veiled insults like the one she just did on air. Janet’s fortunate that Chris is professional enough to not retaliate on air—although that could be because his contract is up for renewal soon.
Once Chris was off the set, I was able to go back to concentrating on the task at hand—directing the newscast. It was a bit distracting having a silly crush on a coworker. I hoped that I kept up a decent façade of professionalism, but it was a little difficult when it appeared Chris was flirting with me when I talked to him over IFB. I tried to watch how he interacted with others to see if it was just me, but with all the other directors being male, it was hard to gauge. There were times I wanted to ask our promotions producer, my closest friend at the station, what she thought, but I always chickened out. Jen had been friends with his last girlfriend who left the station shortly after he broke up with her. I should probably focus on my career anyway. After the show ended and the promos were recorded, I went into the break room to heat up my dinner.

“Oh hey,” I said with a smile to Chris, “what the hell was with Janet?”

“Who knows? Guess she thinks she’s better than all of us with that expensive degree of hers. Not that having a master’s means she can read a prompter better than anyone else.”

“Two year contract, right? Maybe we’ll get lucky and she’ll leave to have a baby or something.”

“Maybe.”

Chris finished adding creamer to his coffee just as the microwave beeped that my food was ready.
“See you next show, Rian,” Chris said as he headed back to the weather center.

One of these days I really was going to work up the courage to ask him out. I probably shouldn’t do it at work though; it’d be better to do it on of those Friday nights when we’re all at the bar drinking and shooting pool after the 11pm.

It was weird to think about maybe dating again, but it was also time. It had been a year since my four-year relationship had ended, but it was a little hard to trust after what I discovered once it was finally over. A few months after I broke up with him, I heard he’d had a baby with a woman he eventually married. The math didn’t exactly work out. Which is why I’d watched Chris closely since his relationship ended. Unlike our skeezy morning show director who had dated nearly every woman in the building (myself NOT included), he appeared stable and trustworthy. At the very least there was no salacious gossip about Chris.

After finishing yet another oh so delicious frozen dinner, I wandered back to the newsroom. In the hallway by the studio doors I ran into one of our reporters, who, insanely enough, was carrying a rifle.

“What the hell is that?”

“It’s for a piece I’m working on given all the recent shooting deaths,” Jeff said. “We’re going to demonstrate a bit of gun safety.”

“Just keep that thing away from me,” I said with a laugh. “Janet and Adam are both in the building and I can’t be held responsible for my actions.”

“Don’t say that! Now if something happens, I’m going to have to go court. I’ve got kids; I can’t lie on the stand.”

“Aw, if anything ever happened, I’d be the first suspect and you’d be called in anyway. See you later, Jeff.”

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

14 Comments

  1. Willa
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 05:51:54

    As a first page to me, it just reads a little bland. There isn’t a strong hook to get me turning the page, to find out what is going to happen. I have assumed that Chris is the hero but describing him as

    appeared stable and trustworthy

    makes me think boring. Not what I want in a romance. Through the whole page Rian is saying how much she wants to ask Chris out, that she is attracted to him and yet when they have page time together that is bland too . . . her heart is not pounding, she is not thinking how gorgeous he is – she just heats up her dinner, passes comment on Janet and he leaves . . .

    I personally also find it irritating to have every statement backed up with back story, for example Janet had made enemies of most of the staff . . . launch into explanation. That Rian’s relationship had broken up . . .launch into explanation. All that text pulls me away from the core of the story. By not explaining straight away, it would make me curious to find out why people hate Janet and why Rian’s relationship had ended. This could also feed into the mystery element of your storyline . .

    Good luck.

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  2. Cervenka
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 06:10:10

    Too much clunky backstory, not enough hook. I’d give this a pass, unfortunately.

    Also: it is almost physically impossible to laugh an entire line of dialogue and have it be intelligible. Dialogue tags should involve verbs that imply speech–and “laugh” doesn’t.

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  3. Ros
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 06:27:16

    I like it. I think the setting is interesting and you’re laying the ground work for several potential conflicts. I agree that I’d like a bit more about Chris than solid and reliable. Tell us why she’s swooning over him. And you can save some of the back story for later. But I’d carry on reading.

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  4. Cara Ellison
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 06:54:11

    I like the protagonist has an interesting job. That was enough to hold my interest for a moment, but the scene quickly devolved into backstory and rather bland storytelling. For instance, the para about deciding to date again was well-trod territory. “About time to date again” and “hard to trust” are both extremely worn out ideas and exactly what every fictitious female protagonist thinks right before she’s about to score. Even if the sentiments are genuinely grounded in real life experience, it sounds dull to read them.

    The names are a bit discordant. Chris, Janet, Adam, Jeff….Rian. Are these of the same cohort? Rian just seemed a little jarring.

    The sarcasm of the frozen dinner didn’t quite succeed because nobody expects frozen dinners to be delicious, unless you set it up in a way that maybe her mom lovingly gives her a dish to freeze, and you find out that her mother is a horrible cook who believes she’s the next Wolfgang Puck.

    Her lust for Chris is unexplained. Give some details. Interesting ones.

    I guess my problem with it is that it seems very ordinary, and doesn’t seem to move forward at all. Literally at all.

    I think you have an idea here, but you need to sharpen the writing and add some zest to it.

    Thanks for putting it out there.

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  5. wikkidsexycool
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 09:29:27

    I like the setting. I also see how you’ve inserted clues such as the heroine coming out directly and stating “Aw, if anything ever happened, I’d be the first suspect and you’d be called in anyway.” And also ““Two year contract, right? Maybe we’ll get lucky and she’ll leave to have a baby or something.”

    I focused on the “or something” as a foreboding for Janet’s fate.
    I sort of cringed at the leaving because of a baby reference, because I’ve known anchors who have children and come back to work, so I’m not sure that would be a reason for competely leaving. I’d think with Janet coming across as superior then she’d leave for a better paying or more high profile gig.

    I agree with what the others have stated on too much backstory. I wanted to know more about the heroine Rian, and all she seems to be doing is running down a laundry list on many of her co-workers and their history. It may be that too many characters were introduced in this first page when you could focus on Rian, Chris and Janet’s interactions during the newscast. Perhaps having Rian play referee between them during the live broadcast could be expanded. Also, giving the reader more on how Rian views/admires Chris might help. What is it about him that attracts her? If he’s that hot, then let the reader know what he’s got going on that makes Rian drool over him, as well as other women. I wish you the best with this.

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  6. DS
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 10:04:07

    “lustily” or should it be lustfully? Also I wasn’t sure what was so insulting about the remark made by the anchor. I used to do a once a week midday feature at a local TV station and that sort of throw away comment was encouraged to make the program seem more informal.

    Weather readers, male and female, tend to be eye candy.

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  7. HK
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 10:11:44

    I have nothing particularly helpful to say (sorry, author!), I’m just glad the genre is listed again. It really changes how I read the first pages to know which genre the author is going for.

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  8. Jinni
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 10:58:42

    I’d read on. I once had an internship at a TV news station and I like the setting. Solid and reliable is OK with me. I just had a brunch with my friends yesterday and we discussed all the bad boys we dated and discarded. Our DH are solid and reliable – and that’s just fine!

    I agree, somewhat, about the back story issues. I’d at least get rid of the acronyms. DMA (I’ll assume metro area – Detroit, Denver?). Also IFB? I also know what she likes about Chris or I’d least like to be shown some kind of encounter that presages an interesting future.

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  9. Lori
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 11:26:35

    Your idea is good (like the news producer as an interesting job) but unfortunately it’s boring. Trim it like a bad haircut, give some emotion somewhere and toss out all the banalities.

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  10. Lia
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 14:53:49

    Setting is Nice, but too much narrative makes for an information dump. Having the heroine getting into an argument will do a far better job explaining she’s a bitch than just plainly stating it.

    Don’t share the heroine’s failed relationship on page 1.

    In general, my impression is that the writer is trying to get us hooked on the first page by giving us a lot of info, but it’s too much of an info-dump with too many people and too Many interactions between different characters at the first page.

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  11. Jacques
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 19:07:18

    I agree, too much backstory, not enough hook. Also, “lusfully”–drop the adverb and show some lust! Do that elsewhere, a lot.

    I hate spelling it Rian. I know, it’s good to be unique, but that’s just androgynous. Unless… you meant to make it ambiguous. Is Rian a guy? Or a transsexual? Now it’s getting interesting.

    And my personal bugaboo: some erratic use of narrative tenses, especially the pluperfect. First, get your tenses straight. Second, too much precision parsing of temporality makes the story starchy. Leave some temporal relations to be sorted out through context.

    Finally, maybe it’s just me, but I can’t figure out who’s talking in the last line. Is it Jeff or Rian?

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  12. SAO
    Sep 30, 2012 @ 13:36:39

    The writing is nice, the setting promising, but nothing happens.

    On the romance front, Rian hasn’t gotten around to asking Chris out and he isn’t interested enough to ask her out. So, rather than launching in to a romance, you’re asking us to hang around to see if Rian will ‘work up her nerve’ to ask Chris out. From the level of passion here, I’d bet Chris says no, Rian shrugs and I yawn.

    There’s no mystery yet. Maybe you’re working up to having Julia killed. You’ve shown her being a jerk and annoying people, but you haven’t shown any real damage. Rian makes a joke with Jeff, meaning Julia hasn’t really made her furious. Chris glares, but there’s no hint that Julia is doing more than digging her own grave.

    This reminds me a little of Crusie’s Charlie All Night, which is set in a radio station. It starts with Allie who was dumped by the Radio’s star telling the ex she’s dating someone new, so she has to pick up a guy in a bar fast (just for long enough for the ex to see). Picking up the guy isn’t a huge part of the plot, but it starts us off with a goal for Allie, something we’re eager to watch her do.

    If, for example, you opened this with Rian deciding today is the day she asks Chris out, you’d have a goal and we’d be turning pages, as long as 1) she doesn’t just say, ‘hey, how ’bout a beer after work and he says yes, or 2) she has long tedious monologue about her dithering or working up her nerve.

    Alternatively, start with a dead body. That immediately gives us a goal.

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  13. Loreen
    Sep 30, 2012 @ 21:19:32

    What’s with the anti-intellectual quips about having 2 masters? Frankly, everybody and their sister these days has a masters degree and it doesn’t mean you are privileged or even likely to get a job. I imagine even entry level interns in local stations have masters degrees in English, considering this economy. Also, the comment about how she might leave to have a baby seems jarringly sexist, especially in an industry known for picking women based on looks and then dropping them when they get older or have families. So far, I am not liking your heroine much.
    The setting is interesting and it seems like you know a lot about it, but I am weary of novels where the heroine has to compete with another woman as the main conflict.

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  14. Catherine
    Oct 01, 2012 @ 05:44:13

    I agree completely with Jinni. I got a bit lost in the jargon and abbreviations. It’s the Curse of Knowledge. The easy fix to this is to have a friend who isn’t in the industry beta-read for you and point out where the scene isn’t as clear as it could be.

    ReplyReply

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