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First Page: Virgin in the Truckstop

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Staring at the bread knife she held in her hand, Angie wondered how long it would take her to die if she were to jam the pointed tip into her eye. The serrated edge ought to do maximum damage, but the very thought of touching anything to her eyeball made her shudder. Still, it was one way to end the miserable night she was having. It would be quick if she hit the brain. But with her luck, she thought with a wry twist to her pink lipsticked mouth, she would end up lobotomizing herself and drooling into a fruit cup for the rest of her shitty existence. She dropped the bread knife into a bucket of soapy water and wiped her hand on her apron. Mac, the short order cook and shift manager, looked up from the burgers flailing on the grill and gave her the stink eye before jerking his head toward the dining area.

Angie returned the cook’s glare and held up a can of lukewarm Diet Coke. "I’m on my break."

"You’re the only waitress I’ve got on shift, missy. I don’t want to hear about you taking a break. I’ve been on my feet for sixteen hours today."

"Have you ever heard of the Arizona labor laws, Mac?"

The cook shifted the baseball cap on his head and sneered. "You ever seen that unemployment line at city hall, girlie? Quit giving me lip and get back to work."

She gritted her teeth and seriously considered walking out. She had some savings which she could live on for at least four months; it was the money she had been putting away steadily, so she could buy a car and get out of this shit-hole town. Her best friend Eileen had a room waiting for her in Los Angeles. The only thing that held her back was Grandma (though Grandma was actually great-grandma). The woman had tirelessly cared for her since Angie was a baby and Suzanne, her grand-daughter, had ran away with some guy and was never heard from again. As Grandma herself had told her, she was eighty-five years old and would not be long for this world. Well, what if Grandma died tomorrow? She squelched the ugly thought and sighed. She was probably going to go to hell for thinking of ditching Grandma and running off to LA. That had to be a sin of some kind. Hopefully when the day came that her soul was dragged to the lake of burning fire by a bunch of screaming shadow creatures like in the movie Ghost, it would not be for bigger things like killing her boss, strangling a customer, or throwing herself in front of a speeding truck on the Interstate.

Cursing Colleen for the umpteenth time that evening for calling in "sick" on a Friday night, Angie pulled her hair back into a ponytail and stormed off to the counter where Mac had placed a plate of sloppy joes soggy with chili. The grease sloshed dangerously close to the edge as she picked it up, beaded droplets of the stuff skating on the surface of unnaturally orange cheese, but she managed to deliver it to Joe-Bob without incident. At least that was the name stitched on the right chest pocket of his ill-fitting short-sleeved button shirt. She didn’t think he was one of those trendy types who would go into an Abercrombie store to buy a faux-Goodwill gas station attendant uniform that costs forty-five dollars. Not with the business-up-front, party-in-the-back hairdo he was sporting. She couldn’t help but stare in awe at the ratty yellow nest, which held a particular sheen under the fluorescent lights above. It looked so dirty and oily she was half-expecting a cartoon louse to lift up a lock and say hello. He did not even glance up from the battered copy of Yuma Gazette he was reading even when she set down his plate in front of him, merely lifted his coffee mug for a refill.

Angie looked at the pot in her hand, then back at the greasy head. Tiny shards of glass had to be a bitch to dig out of someone’s skull, but she doubted they could get past the shield of the yellow mullet. The thing looked shellacked. Gritting her teeth, she filled the mug with the putrid mud Mac called coffee three-quarters to the brim and tossed a few crumpled packets of cream and sugar she had dug out of the pocket of her apron. The man brought the mug to his chapped lips, slurped a mouthful, and gargled it before swallowing it. Angie did not bother suppressing her shudder of disgust as she stomped back to the faded orange counter that she had been half-heartedly polishing before she had retreated to the kitchen for a quick sip of the Diet Coke she had been nursing for half the evening.

As she parked her butt on a hard plastic stool and resumed her futile attempts to erase the "Fuck you, Amy" that some broken-hearted young man must have scrawled on the counter with a black permanent marker, she wondered what Colleen was doing. Sick, my ass. It was a Friday night, for God’s sake. If Colleen wasn’t out partying in a hot nightclub in San Diego-‘which was almost three hours away-‘Angie would take over toilet cleaning duty for a whole week. She knew this because Colleen had pestered her in the past to go with her, provided Angie pitched in with gas money. It was why the woman’s dream to move to Vegas to become a showgirl would never happen: all the money she was supposed to be saving was wasted on gas and clubbing clothes.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. SusieQT
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 05:30:17

    Can’t say that I’d read on. Too much information, too much description. Nothing at all is being left to my ‘reader’ imagination. I’ve known people with crap lives who think suicide might be an option but I can bet that sticking a knife into their eyeballs was never one of those options.

    I’m not a writer so I won’t offer advice as such but I would like to say that for me, I wouldn’t read past the first couple of sentences. But well done on submitting and maybe someone else will find this kind of story right up their alley.

  2. Alisa
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 06:18:26

    I wouldn’t read further.

    Character comes across as lazy skanky brat whose too busy being miserable and blaming the world than do anything. And disturbing as hell besides. Start off with suicide by eyeball gouging and then on to bashing people in the head with coffee pot? Uh no. Not interested in reading this type of self-involved petty-vicious/violent trash-character. There’s nothing sympathetic or any remote shred of decency in this character to try to find sympathy for her.

  3. Barbara Sheridan
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 06:42:13

    she thought with a wry twist to her pink lipsticked mouth,

    This definitely has to go. It breaks the flow of the snarky pity party which I rather like. I’m also not sure the burgers would be “flailing”.

    I’ve worked in foodservice and general retail and I do understand Angie’s mindset. If you’ve worked enough days in a row or had a string of customers who just can’t be pleased all manner of mayhem springs to mind for a few minutes anyway.

    Angie might be a bit more sympathetic if you let us know it’s been one of those kind of weeks and each annoying thing is pushing her to the edge of burnout. Also, you can tighten this up a bit in general. We don’t need all the greasy food customer description or grandma info. Just the fact that she finds this customer particularly irksome or that no matter what crazy thoughts she’s harboring at this moment Angie wouldn’t act on them because she cares too much for grandma.

    I’m waffling on the last paragraph. It seems too much on top of the load of description and whatnot you have already. I think it works if you have Angie’s internal grousing stopped dead by someone important to the plot entering the diner. Then again that bit of business may be too much and predictable.

  4. Jessica
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 06:52:27

    Can a burger “flail”?

    Heroine is not sympathetic to me. Stereotypes of working class America are off putting. As a reader, I would not continue, personally.

  5. DS
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 06:56:50

    I’ve never run into anyone outside a vintage paperback or old movie who said “girlie” without irony. I would probably keep going to see what happens, but I would be on the lookout for signs that it was about to descend into cliche.

  6. Naomi
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 06:58:53

    she thought with a wry twist to her pink lipsticked mouth

    I agree with Barbara, this has to go. It’s very much an external observation of the character, not one she would likely think to/of herself, which takes us away from Angie’s POV.

    since Angie was a baby and Suzanne, her grand-daughter, had ran away with some guy

    This is a bit ambiguous. I know the granddaughter referred to is the grandmother’s, but the “her” would seem to refer back to Angie since she’s the last named character.

    Overall, it’s not something I would read on with, simply because it doesn’t appear to be a genre that interests me. I found myself skipping over the last few paragraphs because of the amount of unbroken detail. Angie herself came across as very abrasive, and while that in itself wouldn’t put me off a character, I couldn’t find anything on this page that would make me sympathise with her abrasiveness.

  7. Lynne Connolly
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 07:09:20

    It’s well written enough, but you’re starting with a “sequel” and not a “scene.” Nothing happens, there is no inciting incident that gets the story going.
    Cut this right down, relegate it to another chapter, or cut it out completely.
    The “pink lipsticked mouth” jolts because it’s like a pov switch, it reads as if someone is looking at her. In a way that’s good, because you’ve nailed the pov in this extract. If you think of your mouth as having pink lipstick, it’s because it’s sticky, or smooth or feels different to her, or it’s her little rebellion against the world.
    About the character – what the others said. There’s nothing about her that attracts me right now. I wouldn’t read on.

  8. anon
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 07:12:39

    I can get no sense of what this book is going to be – my hope would be that it turns into something more than a waitress feeling sorry for herself in a truck stop – but at this point I’m already rooting for her to have a miserable life.

    The grandma, no wait it’s “great-grandma” part has got to be cut down. Just say her great-grandma who raised her. That’s enough until later on. A lot of this page I kept saying “sheesh, that’s enough show me the point.” I’m thinking lighten up on detail just a tad and give me reason to want to spend hours in this girl’s mind…

    Really that’s my bottom line – I have no real feeling of why I should care or continue reading.

  9. Cindy from Michigan
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 07:22:34

    Hi First-Page Author.

    In your very first paragraph, you’ve got lots of good words you can work with. My only thought when I read it is, “Please get to the point faster.”

    For instance:

    Angie aimed the bread knife at her eye. “I wonder how long it would take me die?”

    Mac, the short order cook and shift manager, looked up from the burgers sizzling on the grill. “Hey, drama queen. Kill yourself on your own time.” He jerked his sweaty head toward the dining area. “You’ve got people waiting.”

    She dropped the bread knife into a bucket of soapy water. “What I’ve got is a shitty existence.”

    I like your sense of the little things, like what’s written on the countertop.

    Something I’ve learned is, unless it’s an occasional narrative paragraph, put most of the rest of it in dialogue.

    I can tell you have your storyline in your head. Now give it to your characters and let them tell me what’s going on.

    One of the hardest things I ever had to do was to take my manuscripts and start chopping out the weeds. Once you get started, though, you discover you have a tighter plot and your eyes fly across the page then. There’s no time to get bored because the words move faster and your brain is more satisfied.

    I encourage you to keep going! If you really believe in your story, don’t let anyone stop you from writing it. Good luck, and thank you for having the courage to put yourself out here and let strangers have their say.

    Cindy from Michigan

  10. Fae Sutherland
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 08:01:59

    My first thought was that bread knives, in general, do not have pointed tips. They’re almost always sort of squared off at the end. I can’t imagine anyone thinking it’d be productive to shove one in their eye. So, from the first sentence, you’ve got me looking for other errors.

    Burgers flailing on the grill? Burgers don’t flail on grills, they just…you know, kind of lay there. Flail is Kermit the Frog, not burgers. I get trying to use interesting descriptions, but they have to be ones that flow right past without making your readers tilt their heads and go “Bwuh?”

    This is a pet peeve of mine, being from Arizona and having lived there for 27 years…Arizona is not populated by rednecks. Nor is there such a thing as an Arizona accent. We don’t drop our g’s or name our kids Bobby Joe or Jim Bob as is the cliche view of southerners. Because we’re not southerners. So it really, really grates me when I see people writing the southwest as if it’s the same as the south. Very much not.

    I wouldn’t read on. In fact, I wouldn’t have read past the bread knife thing. I’m sorry, you seem to have a decent grasp of the mechanics of writing, barring a few tangles here and there, but the story itself is so far boring, the characters you’ve shown me are people I’d want to get as far away from as possible in real life, and I don’t have any hint of anything interesting showing up any time soon. It’d be back on the shelf for this one, I’m afraid.

  11. Stephanie
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 08:07:05

    I’d pass. Too many info dumps–almost every thought the character has in the present seems to be a jumping off point for a digression into the past. I find the main character’s angry, miserable, self-pitying tone hard to take as well. I kept waiting for something to actually *happen* in this selection, rather than just emotional wallowing in how crappy her life is.

  12. Hero Material
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 08:12:55

    What Cindy and Fae said. Also, it’s “had run”, not “had ran”… unless of course you’re going for more of that faux-Arizona dialect that doesn’t actually exist.

    The author can write, but the main problem for me is that I just wouldn’t spend time with this character. Not in real life unless I absolutely couldn’t avoid it, and certainly not in fiction where I have a choice.

  13. KatS
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 08:17:41

    I agree about the pink lipstick – it reminded me too much of Dashiel Hammett’s writing or perhaps the 1950s el-cheapo paperback mysteries. So does sticking the serrated knife in the eye bit.

    The burgers flailing on the stove? That must be a typo. Do burgers actually do anything?

    I think you have way too many adjectives and adverbs here. Cut them down to the bare essentials and I think this would be much better. The action gets bogged down in the verbosity of your description.

    I’m from the South myself and I don’t go to places like this but I can tell you this is full of outdated Southern stereotypes and it sure does sound like “Alice,” the old TV series (which did take place in the Southwest, by the way). Most Southerners aren’t like this and most of us wouldn’t care for meat so greasy it’s swimming in the grease. Ugh.

  14. Nadia
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 08:18:14

    I too thought the author can write, but I didn’t care for Angie. She said nothing nice or positive about anything or anyone! I guess the mention of her grandma/great-grandma was supposed to make me feel sorry for the Angie, but even that felt like she was just whining about how she has to stay in the shitty town b/c of her g-ma. I didn’t feel that Angie really loved the woman or felt grateful or anything. The heroine seems to care about nothing except how miserable she is.

  15. KristieJ
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 08:42:58

    Sorry – the knife in the eye thing is a complete turn off. I’m TERRIBLY squeamish when it comes to eye stuff so that took me right out and I couldn’t read on.

  16. Castiron
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 09:29:13

    Agree on the ick factor of the knife, but if it’s accurately reflecting the rest of the story’s tone/humor, it should stay as fair warning.

    Also agree on the lipstick. If it’s important to know that she wears pink lipstick, there’s other ways to get that across — have two lipsticks in her purse and have her put on the wrong one, have her realize she’s out of her favorite color, etc.

    The great-grandmother bit, if intended to make Angie more sympathetic, doesn’t work. “Awww, she’s so noble to stay in crappy town to care for great-grandma” — not. Now, if you actually showed her in a later scene taking care of her g-gm, paying attention to her, and not making a mental fuss about it, that _would_ make her more sympathetic in my eyes. The exposition given, though, doesn’t work.

    Especially when she’s thinking whiny thoughts about the coworker. Being angry that the coworker’s called in sick when she isn’t — sure, I can buy that. Thinking snippy thoughts about how the coworker is never going to achieve her dream because she spends all her money and time clubbing — that just makes Angie sound whiny; it’s not like Angie has a leg to stand on when it comes to making a better life.

    There’s a lot of interesting imagery in this excerpt (the graffiti on the countertop was particularly memorable), but nothing in the way of plot, and while Angie definitely has a personality, it’s not one I’d want to spend much more time with. I don’t want good things to happen to her; I want her to decide that enough is enough and start making herself some bootstraps to pull herself up by, and if it doesn’t happen in the next couple paragraphs, I’d be putting the book back.

  17. Barbara Sheridan
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 10:06:34

    I guess I’m the only one who rather likes disgruntled waitress Angie.

    Obviously I have no idea what her whole story is but I hope that by the end she’ll be seeing life from a whole new perspective.

    I think I might enjoy her journey if it’s a lighthearted one with Angie falling for a guy who comes across as her total opposite with an always sunny outlook on life.

  18. Likari
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 11:05:08

    This reads like a first draft to me. You’ve got an almost stream-of-consciousness collection of factoids and descriptions and — well, an infodump.

    All I know is Angie is a whiny self-centered woman who doesn’t care about anybody about herself. She’s angry and wants to change her life and everybody else is an asshole. wah wah wah.

    I think the problem with the infodump is you’re trying to write the whole book in the first page. You’ve got explain-it-itis. You mention something, then you have to tell its story. I don’t need a dissertation on the customer’s clothing. Do I really need to know San Diego is three hours away?

    The description isn’t all bad; there’s just too much of it, and a lot of it unnecessary. And some of it is wrong. Someone already mentioned the bread knife shouldn’t have a sharp point. Also, sloppy joes aren’t chili. I think the green stuff in sloppy joes are green peppers. And it sounds wrong and a violation of health codes that a food server would have toilet-cleaning duty.

    Finally, my main complaint is that this is just too hard to read. It’s so dense, so full of meandering detail, that I was always aware I was reading and working too hard to figure out what the story was. I actually still don’t know what the story is.

    I wonder if this would help — and I’m stealing this idea from someone and can’t think of who at the moment. Think of your whole story and ask yourself this question:

    For Angie, when is the moment that everything changes?

    Start your story there. Start simple, in that moment, then move outward. And get into the action as soon as you can. Use your eye for detail, yes, absolutely, but not at first. Tease the reader into your world. Don’t bombard her with it.

  19. Kinsey W. Holley
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 11:40:51

    Definitely has potential. Like everyone said, there’s way too much description and exposition, not enough dialog.

    Drop the lipstick line for sure.

    Maybe she can take a phone call from her great grandma? That will make the cook pissed off, and it will show (not tell) the reader about Angie’s conflict about staying or going, and show that she loves the old lady.

    I think the bread knife thing can be saved if you make it funnier. I think there’s humor hidden in here, but you need to cut out a lot of the words to bring it out.

    Make her wryer, funnier about her predicament – yes, she’s unhappy stuck in this shit job in this shithole town, and she wants out, but she’s got pluck and grit and humor and the kind of personality that makes the reader want to root for her, instead of thinking “whiny bitch. Next!”

    I don’t get a Southern sterotype feel off of this, since it’s not Southern – it’s Arizona. But yeah, the diner imagery is a little heavy. Although – no offense, folks – only readers of a certain age (and I’m one of them) would think of “Alice.” It’s old, and it’s not a Lucy-type classic.

    Finally – I LOVE the title. I’m a sucker for titles – cut the exposition, describe more through dialog, but Virgin in the Truck Stop is an awesome title.

  20. JoB
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 13:14:41

    What everyone else said.

    — Break up the paragraphs to give us some white space.
    — Get rid of the infodumps.
    — Remove half the descriptive modifiers.
    — Use dialog and action to tell the story.

    I find the squick level quite high — so high it severely limits your potential market.
    I don’t want to mess with voice, but you might think upon what the squick accomplishes in terms of your story.

    In terms of story organization.

    It is not so much that something significant has to happen on page one. But I think you need to promise the reader something is going to happen.

    What I mean.

    If Angie contemplates poking out her own eye
    and then doesn’t,
    the possibility is over and done with
    and it’s sort of a let-down that so much drama is expended and nothing happens.
    That piece of stage business doesn’t draw the reader to the next page.

    If Angie sets the knife handy on the counter in case her no-good boyfriend Horace walks in,
    it’s not big stomach-churning ‘action’,
    but the reader races to the next page, wondering when Horace is going to show up.

    being general and IMO here,
    opening stage business shouldn’t be the door to a closet
    (although maybe Fibber McGee’s closet is an exception,)
    where you open the door and take out your hat and close the door.

    The opening business should be the door to a long twisty corridor
    of somethings that could happen and the slither of unseen tentacles on the linoleum.

    A character can be unlikable or vulgar or in need of reformation.
    But a character cannot be dull.
    The world, unfortunately, is full of lazy, self-centered, foul-mouthed, resentful teenagers. It takes great skill to make them interesting.

    May I suggest …?
    Connecting the reader to your Angie may be less a matter of what could be taken away,
    and more
    what can be added.

    –If you show Angie thinking, in technical detail, of the karate blow needed to destroy the formica counter,

    –or Angie being angry at the way the food is dunked in oil because she could make really good food out of the same ingredients,

    — or hating the damn noise because she’s trying to keep a line of melody in her head till she gets home to pluck it out on the guitar,

    — or saving meat scraps for the colony of feral cats out back,

    — or planning to rob a bank in the next town over,

    . . . you have not changed your basic character, but you have added something intriguing. The reader will forgive all the rest because Angie has become interesting.

  21. katieM
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 14:22:50

    He did not even glance up from the battered copy of Yuma Gazette he was reading even when she set down his plate in front of him…

    Using the word even twice makes the sentence clunky.
    You might also consider leaving out the word “down.”

    How about He didn’t glance up from the battered copy of Yuma Gazette he was reading even when she set his plate in front of him…

  22. wendy
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 16:14:07

    I liked this and would read on. I liked the main character and the setting up the author is doing. Yes, it needs editing, but the writing is good.

  23. Marianne McA
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 16:44:06

    I agree – both the pink lipsticked mouth, and the great-grandma threw me out of the story. I’d an aunt, who wasn’t really related to us, just a friend of my mum’s, and when I recall her I think ‘Auntie Joan’ not ‘Auntie Joan (though she’s not really an aunt)’ – you know that, so you don’t explain it to yourself.

    The other sentence I didn’t like was:

    Hopefully when the day came that her soul was dragged to the lake of burning fire by a bunch of screaming shadow creatures like in the movie Ghost, it would not be for bigger things like killing her boss, strangling a customer, or throwing herself in front of a speeding truck on the Interstate.

    I’ve a feeling I saw the film, but I don’t recollect any details, so that reference doesn’t work for me. Also the ‘it would not be for bigger things’ just reads awkwardly to me. So I’m tripped up twice in one sentence – first by trying to imagine fire-lake dwelling creatures, and straight afterwards by having to memorise three possible sinful scenarios then having to reverse back down the sentence and work out what she doesn’t want to happen.
    At the moment, it reads to me like she hopes to be dragged to hell for small sins, which seems counter-intuitive.

    My favourite phrase was the “the “Fuck you, Amy” that some broken-hearted young man must have scrawled on the counter” – that’s just funny.
    A bit more of that would leaven the passage.

    You would have lost me when she thinks about battering the customer – I could like a character than on a bad evening fantasised about killing herself, or a character who on a bad evening fantasised about crowning a customer with a coffee pot – but not one who fantasises about both in one page.

  24. jmc
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 17:46:22

    Was the title tongue-in-cheek? I expected to read a potential Harlequin or M&B category first page, as they seem to have a lock on “virgin” titles, but this…is clearly not category material.

  25. Maura
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 19:07:43

    I’m HORRIBLE about this kind of thing, so apologies in advance- but the very first line threw me out of the story, because every dedicated bread knife I’ve ever owned had a squared-off, blunt tip.

  26. JenD
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 20:49:08

    I liked the snarky waitress. Having worked in food service for years I can relate to the general bitchiness that comes with the territory.

    I can’t add on much that hasn’t been said already, and better, by others. One thing that is giving me a case of the ‘Hmmms’ is that it seems that you have two characters here instead of one.

    I could be reading way to much into this or it could just be that I haven’t slept in a day- but something about Angie seems more like two people. Like you have two characters in her that are fighting for dominance. I’d say pick one and RUN with it.

    Is she snarky? Then give her more snark. Is she an exhausted do-gooder? Then have her be more kind. I think, for me anyway, the problem of the ‘whiney’ factor comes in when she’s not enough one way or the other.

    Just my two cents.

    Oh, amost forgot- I REALLY REALLY REALLY hope that the hero is the guy in the mullet. That would make me pick this up in two seconds. Espescially if it’s a disguise.

  27. Julia Sullivan
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 21:22:14

    I’m 100th-ing the “bread knives have blunt ends” and the “she’s not looking at her own lipstick or describing the twist of her mouth as ‘wry'” comments. If you want to get the lipstick in, do it through feel–“her lips felt gummy, welded together by that new Fuschia Surprise lipstick”–or whatever.

    There’s a lot of distance between the character’s experience, as you present it, and the character’s voice. The character sounds like someone from a middle-class background who graduated from a private college with a degree in English, but you’re not presenting her as someone with that life experience, and so the distance is coming across as a bit patronizing. Most people for whom waiting tables at a low-end restaurant is the best available job aren’t people who are self-absorbed and whiny in the particular way your character is coming across right now.

    This, for example:

    At least that was the name stitched on the right chest pocket of his ill-fitting short-sleeved button shirt. She didn't think he was one of those trendy types who would go into an Abercrombie store to buy a faux-Goodwill gas station attendant uniform that costs forty-five dollars. Not with the business-up-front, party-in-the-back hairdo he was sporting. She couldn't help but stare in awe at the ratty yellow nest, which held a particular sheen under the fluorescent lights above. It looked so dirty and oily she was half-expecting a cartoon louse to lift up a lock and say hello

    is something I would expect from someone more like Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City, not someone who was saving up for months to buy a used car to get the hell out of Yuma.

    Lots of people working low-wage jobs in the US are as witty and acerbic and trenchant and insightful as anyone from the Algonquin Round Table or the Bloomsbury Group. But they’re not immersed in the current trend of precious New York hipster ironic detachment, which is how Angie is coming across right now. I know you can fix that, because you’ve obviously got a sharp eye for detail.

  28. Sherry Thomas
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 21:42:44

    I have a fairly high tolerance for flawed heroines. For most of this excerpt, I was more or less fine with Angie, who at least has a certain energy to her thoughts and attitude, something that can’t always be said of “nicer” heroines.

    But I do think the writer went slightly too far with poor Jim-Bob. Shouldn’t a man be allowed to sit in a truckstop at the end of a long week and read his paper without becoming an object of rage for the waitress?

    Yet I might have been okay even with that if Angie displayed some more self-awareness. If she realized that her frustration with everyone who came into her path was but a reflection of her frustration with herself. If she could view herself from a certain distance and see how immature she might appear to someone like the Cook, even as she is unable to stop herself from thinking a torrent of bad thoughts about him.

    Or some such.

    Without that self-awareness, she becomes just a woman with anger-management issues looming in her future.

    And JoB is right, the writer needs to give us at least a hint of what’s about to happen. At this point, a cop, a werewolf, and a pair of guys looking for the missing component in their menage are equally likely to walk into that truckstop.

    And we don’t even know which one of them will be the titular virgin. Heh.

  29. sarah mayberry
    Oct 03, 2009 @ 22:38:47

    I really like your voice. The first paragraph made me laugh out loud. Like Ms Thomas, I was more than happy to like Angie up to the point where she wanted to hurt the mullet man. Perhaps a little too much on the physical expression of frustration…? I would definitely keep reading because your writing is very nice and the voice so fresh, but I would probably want a hook pretty soon, a sign that something is gonna happen in this truck stop. Thanks for sharing, and keep writing!

  30. Ciar Cullen
    Oct 04, 2009 @ 10:28:03

    I’m with Barbara. This cracked me up. Maybe too much info dump, maybe lighten up a bit, but haven’t we all been in this mood before? I think I was about four days ago. It goes on a little long, but aside from that, I really enjoyed it.

  31. Kate McMurray
    Oct 05, 2009 @ 09:48:30

    I’m basically in agreement with what’s been already said, especially as pertains to the infodump: too much text and description, not enough action for a first page. Hardly anything happens, we’re entirely in Angie’s head. Let’s have something happen first, then fill in the details. I also don’t find Angie especially sympathetic, but I’d be willing to go with that if she grows over the course of the novel. I can deal with an unlikable character if that character is unlikable in entertaining ways (especially if she’s snarky, and if I find that snark funny… I don’t think this is all the way there yet, but that’s one angle worth thinking about).

    Most of my nitpicks have already been covered, but the bit of dialogue about the unemployment line struck me is odd, too, since in these modern times, there is not a physical line so much anymore (unemployment claims are mostly handled online or over the phone, at least in the state where I live). The image works and serves a purpose, but it jumped out at me as being inaccurate, assuming this is set present day.

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