Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Page Critique Thursday!

Here's how these babies work. If you would like to nominate your page for a future Page Critique Event, please enter it in this thread in the Forums. As with past page critiques, I'll first post the page (this post) so people can leave their initial thoughts without being swayed by mine, and then I'll weigh in later with my thoughts and a redline.

As you offer your thoughts, please be exceedingly polite and remember the sandwich rule: positive, constructive polite advice, positive.

Random numbers were generated, and congrats to Regan Leigh, whose page is below:
Title: Mallory
Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance

“Rise and shine, pretty boy!” I shout at him, but he doesn’t respond. Of course not. Almost two months have passed and I’m still dead.

Evan rolls over with a sigh and slaps in the wrong direction for the alarm. I suppress a smile, as if he could see my expression. He stumbles out of bed yawning and stretching. His boxers make a tent and I laugh, feeling awkward as usual.

I follow him into the bathroom, but spin to face the wall when he strips off his plaid underwear and steps into the shower. The hooks clink across the shower rod and I turn back around to wait. Evan has been naked in front of me before, but it always felt too invasive. I choose to look away whenever possible now.

It takes a minute, but soon his ritual morning sounds begin. Evan busts out a few notes that are too sparse to make a real melody, a gruff bird lacking a tune. I chime in with him and try to morph it into a song. Really, he’d be surprised at how good we are at this.

His shower lasts longer than normal, or maybe it just feels that way to me. Time is a funny thing to judge when it’s all you have. All you have, and yet you still tend to lose track of it.

I'll be back at Noon Pacific with my thoughts.


BECKY said...

I have never read paranormal, which many of you may find totally crazy, but it's true. I really liked this first page. It intrigued me. I could visually see everything. I would definitely keep reading!

Christina said...

I love paranormal novels and am always on the lookout for paranormal fiction for adults (although I read YA paranormal as well:))

This excerpt really hooked me as I want to figure out the relationship between the ghost-girl and Evan. Did they know each other before hand? Was there some sort of secret crush that existed prior to the girl's death and is now manifesting itself? Did the two date at one point?

All these questions make me want to read more:)

Samantha G said...

This is great! I'm hooked even though I cannot usually stand present tense...

There are a couple of sentences in there that are comma spliced (but that may just be me) and it stops the writing from flowing so well. Take another look at those again

Other than that, this really made me smile! Want. To. Know. More.

A.M Hudson said...

Well, I'm going to go check this blog out. The present tense voice was interesting, but I can't say I was that comfortable with it, though badly done past tense annoys me more.

I am definitely intrigued and would like to read on.

Chelsey said...

My issue here is that we don't know anything about the POV character. We've learned a bit about Evan, and we know that she's (she?) dead, but that's it. A few more hints would intrigue me more about who she is and what her relationship is to Evan.

Starting with dialogue is always chancy, though here I think it serves to draw in rather than to alienate.

A. C. Crispin said...

Nicely done! I teach writing workshops and write s.f. and fantasy, so I've had some experience with this sort of thing. I'm impresssed. This is well written, and a good, solid narrative hook.

-A.C. Crispin
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom
Disney Editions
May 17, 2011

Regan Leigh said...

LMAO. The irony...

I'm finishing my very last bit of editing on Friday so I can query this book in June. :D This page is an older version. (The new one is similar, but better in my opinion.) But I can't wait to hear what you all say! LOL :)

Thank you, Nathan. I'm excited to participate even if it made me sweat a little. :D

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

I want to know more about the narrator. That's the biggest thing for me. It's well written and I'm curious as to where it's going to go.

Nathan, is starting with the "I'm dead" thing like the "It was all a dream" thing?

Stephanie Garber said...

I am so glad page critique is back!

I actually really liked this one. I loved the part where narrator sang along with Evan and said he'd be surprised at how good they were. And in general I felt almost the whole page was clever without being forced.

The only line that struck a negative chord with me was when she said, "Of course, I've been dead for two months." I think this fact could be revealed in a more subtle way and the page would be a lot stronger.

But I really did like it! Good Job!

Diana said...

The writing is solid; the prose compelling to read.

My reaction to the opening paragraph was, "Oh, it's the faked you out I'm really dead opening."

This first page is intriguing enough to keep reading and find out what is going on here.

lac582 said...

I don't typically read this genre, so absolutely take my comments with a grain of salt, but to me this POV felt more like a "YA" voice than an adult one. That may just be because so many YA novels are first person present tense, so it's not necessarily a problem.

I do wonder why we're starting the story here. If this is so routine for the narrator, why would she choose to begin telling her own story here? Along with the throwaway "btw I'm dead" hook, it feels a bit.... trite?

I would keep reading a bit longer though to see where it's going. Some of the lines made me smile, especially the tent and the "Really, he’d be surprised at how good we are at this." Her feelings about this guy are very clear and believable.

Erik said...

I don't read much paranormal, but the clever writing has me wanting to read more. I like the voice so far.

I would like to know if the POV character is male/female, girlfriend/wife, etc. I know it's only the first 250 words, but that seems important to know from the get-go. The character could be a wife of 20 yrs or a friend who saw Evan naked in the locker room.

I am intrigued and curious how the story plays out. Nice work!

Anonymous said...

I like the voice. A lot.

Feel like there is some conflict btw the fact that she sees "the tent" as usual, but then only says he's been naked in front of her before. Before doesn't sound like "as usual." So we're not really getting a good clue as to what the relationship was before, and I think it's good enough that you don't need to keep that a mystery. I think it would ground us more. But I would read on, definitely.

Anonymous said...

I really liked this one. I'd say almost excellent! And, I'm not one of those people who think there are set rules about starting a book with dialogue. I see nothing wrong with it.

The writer shows more than tells, which is good. But there's a small detail that's been left out.

When men get up, the first thing they do is go to the bathroom and relieve themselves, whether they have pitched a tent in their boxers or not. After that, they step into the shower.

Of course, this could be incorporated with the shower scene, where the guy relieves himself in the shower. But it should really be mentioned. It's one of those little things people notice, especially men.

nataliefaybooks said...

It flows well; dots and commas are in the correct spots. I got nothing bad to say about it. It is really compelling.

Hillary Jacques said...

I'm not normally a fan of present tense, but did not find it distracting with this voice, in this unusual situation.

Yes, there is some mystery to the narrator, but there's no sense of false mystery. I just want to read more.

Robbin L. said...

I liked the writing and would definitely read more. There were a few places that slowed me down. "Rise and shine, pretty boy!" At first I thought you were referring "pretty boy" to a dog or bird, not a person. What age is Evan? He is the son or husband to the dead woman/girl? The relationship is missing, and the reader needs that information. The line: "Really, he'd be surprised at how good we are at this." What are you referring to? Is she singing harmony with Evan? Good job!

Josin L. McQuein said...

Very nice exception to the "don't start with waking up" advice usually given.

D.G. Hudson said...

Thanks to Regan Leigh for submitting the page! (Nathan's crit helps us all as do some of the reader comments).

The beginning of this story seems to read more like YA rather than Adult, and it might just be the embarrassment the 'dead' narrator is feeling while watching the guy in the shower. (But if she knew him before, this seems a bit out of place).

This is a long description of a shower, does it serve a purpose in the story - to lead us into something else? (perhaps following this excerpt?)

What's the connection between the boy & girl - sister or lover? Perhaps this could be implied or inserted into her thoughts?

The story reads easily, and does make me curious as to where this is leading. I would probably read more, even though paranormal is usually off my radar.

Mira said...

How fun! Someone I know from the forums - yay! :)

Regan, this is great. Smooth flow, easy read, light tone, sets up a great tension of ghost/human. How WILL they get together? And very sexy! My oh my.

Eeensy, tiny point - I liked the phrase "pretty boy", but it did make me think it was her son at first, and it took me awhile to re-orient. Don't know how important that is.

As a romance novel reader, paranormal or otherwise, you've got me hooked. Let me know when it's published, I'll buy it. :)

Jenny Maloney said...

Hey Regan! Great page.

To comment on the present tense--it's definitely a pet peeve for some readers, but to me, it seems appropriate for the story. Like the narrator says,"Time is a funny thing to judge when it’s all you have." All the narrator has (and I'm going to assume it's a 'she') is the present moment, so it reads rather purposeful.

My main issue is that I want the answer to the "Why today?" question fairly quickly. Why is Evan the guy she needs/wants to follow around? This can be answered in the spots where the personal life is touched: "I've seen Evan naked before" (when? just a quick explanation will solidify the relationship enough for the reader to go on) or when she's feeling "awkward" but not "awkward" enough to watch in the bathroom. Why is that?

And just a nit-picky bit: Is she shouting at the same time as his alarm going off, or is he responding to her shout as if it were an alarm?

Overall, I'm interested to find out more about the relationship between these two, why she's following this guy around, and what will happen during this 'normal' day--because you just know today's gonna shake things up. Nicely done.

cole said...

I love this. Great voice!

Mira said...

Oh, and I like how things are unfolding slowly. Wanting to know more about their relationship, and everything, that's what keeps me reading.

Just my two cents.

Bryce Daniels said...


I agree with the posters who have commented about the voice. GREAT! Pulls me into the character's skin..err...aura immediately. And the line "Really. He'd be surprised at how good we are at this."
Hooked. Sign me up.

Patrice said...

Wow. I'm really likin' this. The alive feeling of the writing (ironic, eh?) and the clear voice of the dead protag. We get a bit of her sense of humor and her feelings for the guy, and the writer includes some cute sexy winks.

I think it's very accomplished, and I'm interested in finding out where this story goes.

My only concern is "The Lovely Bones" similarity. But the voice is quite different.

Melissa Landers said...

I love it, Regan! Especially the funny details like the "pitched tent." That's exactly the kind of thing a young narrator would notice.

J. T. Shea said...

My sandwich is the best kind, all positive. Plus mayo.

I love the matter-of-fact way the narrator drops in the simple fact that he/she's narrating from beyond the grave. Plus the limitations on her POV. She isn't omnipresent.

I didn't even notice the present tense until I read the comments, which I think is good. Like other commenters I'd definitely read on to discover more about the character's relationship and what happens next.

Interesting that some commenters disliked the very things I liked most. As always, there's no accounting for taste! In particular, and as usual, I disagree with commenters who want just about everything explained in the first page. Not possible, people, and shouldn't even be attempted!

Anonymous 8:52 am, you mean there could be an invisible woman watching when I piss in the shower? Yikes!

Thanks, Regan, and best of luck with querying! Thanks to Nathan too!

Skipetty said...

I didn't notice any details about the writing technique as I was drawn into the story straight away - great stuff!

This bit I particularly savoured:
" I chime in with him and try to morph it into a song. Really, he’d be surprised at how good we are at this."

Truthfully - would love to read the whole book!

ribaldriggishredhead said...

I really liked it! I don't ever read paranormal but I would definitely keep reading this. The one thing I would suggest is that we don't know anything about the speaker, but if you have a really great way to tell us that soon then I don't think it is a problem. You should really keep working on it because you have a great style and a compelling story.

The Pen and Ink Blog said...

Very intriguing opening. Congratulations. I would read on to find out more about their relationship. At the moment it seems more wishful than close. Love to see where it's going

Kevin Lynn Helmick said...

Nice, well done. You put me in the scene with the right amount of detail, but too much.
Her reaction to him slipping off his boxers said a lot about her, but again, not too much. I liked the timing of it.
She seeemed very calm... for being dead. lol

Regan Leigh said...

Thank you all for the comments. :) It really helps to hear as I start the query-go-round. Thanks for taking the time to read!

Peace, Lena and Happiness said...

I like the present tense, although it sounds more like YA to me as well. Nothing wrong with that. I love YA.

However, I dont see a grown woman who has seen a man naked before having such a strong reaction to him taking off his boxers. I could see if she turned to give him some privacy, but the spinning around and the level of embarrassment read to me like a teenage girl (YA).

Also, I'm wondering why she went in the bathroom with him. If she's his guardian angel or ghost, she could just wait outside the door. It seems strange that she doesn't want to violate his privacy and yet goes in the bathroom while he showers.

Maybe other people don't notice these kinds of things, but I have to know the motivation or the logical inconsistency would drive me nuts. If she has a legitimate reason for following him into the shower, like something big happens in there in the next few pages, I'd keep reading. Otherwise, it seems inconsistent with her embarrassment.

But hey, I'm sure lots of people wouldn't even notice that if you nailed the voice, which you have. Good job!

Susan Antony said...

Great job! I am jealous.

Kim said...

Is "I'll be back at noon Pacific with my thoughts" part of the first page? I didn't think so but...
Compelling page. I love this sort of thing. Speaker does sound young, playful, silly, funny and I suspect we're in for some laughs.
There were a few microscopic things like "doesn't respond" then does. Awkward at laughing? Is that what you meant?
Love the second to last line and i would leave out the last one 'tend to lose track of it'.Sounds kinda Cecilia Ahernish.

Brittany said...

Great job! I definitely want to keep reading, and like Nathan said later, it really felt natural to have the shocker beginning. Once again, great job!

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