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First Page: Untitled- Futuristic

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“Another husband?” The mocking voice came from behind her, but she didn’t need to turn to know who spoke. If the sudden nausea and light-headedness weren’t clue enough, his was a voice she’d heard every day from the time it first cracked and deepened until just over a year ago.

When it had promised to love her forever and return from his business out West as soon as possible.

Instead it had married another.

So she wouldn’t turn. She refused to acknowledge the voice or the man behind her. She stared straight ahead, studying the faded and chipped paint on the wall. There were patches of cheery yellow here and there, but the majority was a dingy, faded white. If she counted the chips of yellow on the section of wall directly in front of her, she’d be able to avoid looking at him with the added bonus of forgetting why she was in a room that smelled of day old chili left a little too long on the burner.

“How many times has it been?” His voice burned down her spine, the disdain easy to hear. “Seven or is this number eight?”

Her breath caught. So unfair. She hadn’t broken her promise. She hadn’t left him with no protection and no recourse but to become a professional wife. She didn’t make the rules, she didn’t require men to be married before they died.

“You specialize in the death bonds, do you not? How do you meet them? Trolling the wellness center?”

She gave up trying to count the chips in the paint and looked down at the wilting plastic buttercup in her hand. The magistrate had thrust it at her before leaving the room. She supposed it was to make the experience more festive.
Its bedraggled state showed more clearly than the lack of witnesses the mockery this ceremony would be. If her latest groom couldn’t breathe well enough to say “I do”, would they toss this in the incinerator with him? Or would they retain this flower for the next ProWife? She sincerely hoped it wouldn’t be her holding it. Once in this particularly depressing office was more than enough.

She hadn’t wanted to become ProWife. It was, well, not exactly respectable – young girls didn’t aspire to be a ProWife – but it was better than other choices and it paid extremely well in chocolate. And she needed all the chocolate she could get. Getting away from Scion had been expensive. She had two more payments until their bond would be completely dissolved.

Another indignity to lay at the voice’s doorstep.

The magistrate darted out of a side room. Thin and wirey, he acted as if enforcers were beating on the door. He constantly looked over his shoulder and the fingers of his left hand twitched without pause.

“ProWife? You’re needed in the chamber, he’s not going to make it.” He hurried away without a glance. No escort or courtesy for her. No matter, she wasn’t here for the décor or the great service. The only thing that mattered was its proximity to the restaurant they’d been in and the lack of questions asked.

She took a deep breath. The scorched air burned her lungs and made the nausea rise once more. She tamped it down as she trailed behind the magistrate. She hoped against hope she could leave him behind, but knew her luck wasn’t that good.

“The ceremony will take place here.” The marriage man waved a hand at her. “Stand here.” He indicated the bedside of the man she was to marry today.

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

15 Comments

  1. SAO
    Dec 29, 2012 @ 08:53:29

    This has an intriguing premise and is well-written, BUT — huge but here — referring to the invisible guy as “the voice” is just strange. The voice hadn’t married another. The guy did.

    I was confused as to where they were. I guess the day-old chili made me assume the kitchen of the home she shared with hubby #whatever. Then there’s the magistrate and the adjacent restaurant. And the dying guy in a “Chamber” meaning hotel? Hospital? I’ve been to a few ceremonies in E. European wedding palaces, where the bridal couple had their fifteen minutes of ceremony and then are shunted to a reception room, while the next couple is filing in, but you didn’t draw that picture for me.

    I didn’t know why the voice was there in whatever place we are in. But more importantly, Prowife (I don’t know her name, which is not good, either) doesn’t wonder why HE came back. There’s plenty in the backstory you gave us to give her a lot of emotion, but it’s not on this page. Nor why she doesn’t confront him.

    In fact, I think you’d have a far better scene if she did confront him. Instead of giving us backstory and visuals of chipping paint, let her show her emotion and let us see how he reacts to being accused of jilting her.

    The Scion was too much. It just sounded like backstory and distracted me from the scene.

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  2. LisaCharlotte
    Dec 29, 2012 @ 09:02:16

    I liked this and was intrigued enough to want more. Biggest fear is that “the voice” will be the hero that treated heroine bad, but she just can’t resist him. That trope just drives me nuts. I require a huge grovel to get over that.

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  3. Avery Shy
    Dec 29, 2012 @ 10:38:11

    I liked it. IMO, this is a lot better and more interesting than some of the First Pages I’ve seen in a while. Good writing, good conflict, and a fun world to explore.

    I second the confusion over the setting. At first, I thought it was somewhere official, like a courthouse. Then I read the bit about the service and no questions asked and thought, oh. It’s more like a place of business? Interesting. And then I got to the end, where the old fiance is in bed, and I was utterly confused. Are they at a home? Or a courthouse; why would a courthouse have a bed? Or is it a skeevy courthouse/business that caters to ProWifes and dying old men, and therefore has a bed?

    And if it’s a plastic flower, how is it wilting? Or is it just bending a little in the heat?

    And I hesitate to disagree with SAO, who, I imagine, has more experience in such matters, but: I liked that you didn’t have your heroine confront her ex-lover yet. I’d love to read such a scene, true, but that’s what would keep me reading: the desire to see the confrontation.

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  4. Becky Black
    Dec 29, 2012 @ 11:25:59

    I like this, but think the bit with the Voice guy could be cut out and maybe moved to after the marriage thing. For one thing, it’s backstory that it’s probably too soon to reveal. For another it doesn’t seem to have any follow up. Personally I’d go with showing her doing the Pro Wife gig, let it’s wonder what thats all about and how she ended up doing this non-respectable thing (giving us questions instead of the answers) them have her encounter the ex afterwards.

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  5. Lori
    Dec 29, 2012 @ 11:55:44

    I was intrigued and would read more but because the idea was really interesting. Still it needs a lot of cleaning up.

    I agree that the voice is part of a man and you need to indicate that. Also, if she hasn’t seen him in ages since he married another, I find it hard to believe she wouldn’t turn around in shock, surprise or curiosity.

    You really need to give a better sense of place. I have no idea where they’re at since it seems to be a justice of the peace one minute, nursing home the next or restaurant. And why would the man who left her be there? And why isn’t she asking the same thing?

    Seriously brilliant idea. Just give more setting besides the prerequisite peeling paint and it’ll be so much better.

    And I really really want to read more. It’s a damned good idea.

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  6. Loreen
    Dec 29, 2012 @ 14:05:38

    Interesting…I would read on. It is a little weird that she doesn’t turn to look at her ex, though. I assume she is going to either marry him or someone close to him…maybe save the confrontation until have set up the conflict a little. I was also a bit confused about the setting. Slow down a little….
    But it is promising!

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  7. Mary
    Dec 29, 2012 @ 14:12:30

    I’m in agreement with the other posters, this is a clever idea and I would be interested in seeing where you take it-I love futuristic stories.
    But, I also agree that maybe this isn’t the strongest opening. I think referring to the man as a voice works until this line: “Instead it had married another.” All the other situations, you are talking about something the man said, so the idea of his voice works. It’s a nice device that pulls the reader in, and I think it gives a interesting tone to the book. But, the voice isn’t marrying anyone unless the person is actually a disembodied voice, or something, which could also be an interesting twist. However, as you refer to a “man behind her”, I’m assuming that the man is the voice, so that sentence should read something like “Instead its owner had married another.” Something like that.
    I’m also confused on the setting, you should include something to make it a little clearer exactly what type of building the story takes place in.
    The only other thing I noticed is that it seems odd to me that the voice seems to vanish halfway through the page. He’s talking to her, and then the magistrate comes in and the voice as a character goes away, becomes a passive idea rather than someone actually talking to her. I’m assuming that this gets addressed in subsequent pages, but it does strike me as a little odd.
    All in all, I think you have an interesting story, I didn’t notice any grammar/editing issues, and even the things I mentioned wouldn’t stop me from reading on. So I would keep reading, with the assumption that you would explain setting/characters in more depth soon!

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  8. Melissa
    Dec 29, 2012 @ 14:54:42

    I would keep reading. And I mentally groaned when I saw “Untitled- Futuristic.”

    With the futuristic label, references to the voice initially gave me a mental picture of some kind of communication device. Re-reading has not left me 100% certain that the voice is coming from a person who is in the room with the heroine.

    I agree that the setting is not entirely clear at this point. I would hope it’s made clear shortly.

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  9. LisaC
    Dec 29, 2012 @ 15:49:20

    I liked it a lot and hope to read the rest of it soon.

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  10. Angela Booth
    Dec 29, 2012 @ 16:10:40

    Disclaimer: I never read futuristic stories these days. I overdosed on them when I was younger. So please take my comments with a grain of salt.

    That said, I loved your opening few paragraphs. Very promising, and intriguing.

    You lost me however when the magistrate arrived, and the voice… What? Vanished? Where’d he go?

    The voice must be real I thought, otherwise why this sentence: “She refused to acknowledge the voice or the man behind her.”

    Is the voice the man behind her? Or is someone else behind her?

    If I were reading an excerpt, I’d stop reading as soon as the magistrate appears, because there’s no explanation of the voice, or the man.

    This kind of teasing of the reader is just irritating because it’s confusing.

    I love the concept of a Pro Wife, though. :-)

    Good luck with the project; it could be really good.

    Cheers

    Angela

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  11. HelenK
    Dec 30, 2012 @ 01:47:21

    Thank you all so much! This was a bit of a writing departure for me (more mystery than romance), so I’m grateful for each and every comment.

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  12. Katie T.
    Dec 30, 2012 @ 02:26:16

    I like it. The premise is interesting enough to hook me, although I really hope the guy speaking is not the main interest, because he sounds like a douchebag and I hate him already. There is not much else to criticize; no glaring grammatical or syntactical error that I can see upon a quick readover. I’d read this if it came out.

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  13. Lia
    Dec 30, 2012 @ 10:46:39

    @HelenK: I liked it a lot! It definitely gripped me and made me want to read on.

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  14. GeckoGirl
    Jan 02, 2013 @ 11:43:45

    I LOVED the idea, and agree with many of the suggestions of the other posters.

    The one thing that pulled me out of the story was the reference to being paid in chocolate. Wha…? Was it supposed to be a joke? I was confused.

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  15. Cassie Knight
    Jan 02, 2013 @ 12:00:35

    Hi HelenK! I’m the senior editor at Champagne Book Group and I loved this. I’m a huge fan of futuristic (ah, brings back memories of the nineties) and science fiction romance and am intrigued by your beginning. The others gave you great advice as to the voice/the ex as well as the confusion about location and name of heroine (which is easily fixed by simply having him say her name as he speaks to her). Otherwise, things were immediate and I liked the idea of a ProWife. The piece left a lot of questions which is good as it would compel the reader to keep reading. If you are interested, I’d love to see more and you can contact me directly at [email protected]. I know this is somewhat unorthodox — I usually email Jane and she forwards my information but she has given me the okay to do this.

    Whatever you do, good luck. I look forward to seeing the published some day.

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