Karin Tabke | Author of Contemporary, Historical, and Paranormal Romance: Author of Sensual Romance
Karin Tabke | Author of Contemporary, Historical, and Paranormal Romance: Author of Sensual Romance


Why/Why Not?
December 16th, 2009

Good Morning!   Sorry for the late post, I was up late writing last night.

So I’m posting two first pages today.

Here’s the first one:

     Jolie Burke stepped onto the outdoor walkway of the Regal 8 Motel on her way to get ice. And stopped cold.

     At the end of the walkway, near the ice machine’s lighted alcove, stood a figure. 

     A man or a woman?

     Impossible to tell. Flip a coin. Woman. 

     Maybe.

     The woman wore shades—unusual for the outside of a Regal 8 in the middle of the night.  She wore dark slacks, and a suit jacket. The suit jacket looked a little big. Thick material, one button, closed.  An impassive face and a pale complexion.  Hair trimmed tight to the skull.  Medium height and slim, even in the bulky jacket.

     They locked eyes.  Rather, they locked eyes and sunglasses.  The woman-who-looked-like-a-man made a negligible move, pulling back the cuff of the suit jacket to look at her watch.  The action raised the coat on the other side and under it Jolie thought she saw an underarm holster.

     The woman let the sleeve drop and put one foot up on the bottom rung of the walkway railing and casually lifted the cuff of the slacks.  Just a quick check to make sure everything was there.  It was.  Light bounced off the ankle holster. 

     Then she straightened up and set the foot down on the walkway next to its mate. The shoes were black lace-ups, men’s shoes, buffed to a deep shine. 

     Jolie held up her ice tub.

     The woman-who-looked-like-a-man nodded briefly, then turned the corner. She seemed to have evaporated away. 

Y numero dos:

 Suffolk Coast, 1812

      “Something is amiss at the Hall.”

     It was an understatement of the matter, if ever there was one. 

     Ravencrest Hall sat on the edge of crumbling cliffs, a stone gargoyle clinging to the land like some dying beast spat out of the sea. It devoured all who entered and sucked the last drop of joy, laughter, and life out of them as surely as the worms in the grave. She hated the place.

     Madeline Carston glanced up from her seat on the rickety gig and realized the old Welsh groom was indeed correct. The ancient mansion appeared monstrous enough in its normal darkened state. As it stood now, candlelight aglow in every window, it took on the aspect of a smiling, hungry demon.

     “I’m sure you’re mistaken, Mr. Hughes,” she said primly, even as a fierce shiver ran up her spine. “Please hurry. We’re already late.”

     The gig continued up the long, graveled drive under the watchful eye of the ancient oaks. Their leafless limbs rattled ominously in the throes of a salt-tinged wind off the nearby North Sea. For a moment the skeletal sentries seemed to point at her – in warning or accusation, she knew not which. The closer the gig and sturdy pony drew to it; the more ravenous the stone mansion appeared.

 May the critiques commence!

 Karin*

14 comments to “Why/Why Not?”

  1. Edie
    December 16th, 2009 at 1:48 pm · Link

    I really like both of these, but I did see problems with both. I’ll do the first one here:

    The first two sentences got my attention. But the next few fell flat:

    At the end of the walkway, near the ice machine’s lighted alcove, stood a figure.

    A man or a woman?

    Impossible to tell. Flip a coin. Woman.

    Maybe.

    What made her stop cold? Because someone was dressed weirdly? It wouldn’t stop me cold. The weapons part… Yes, that would stop me. lol I’d probably be walking backwards, very quickly. But she didn’t see the weapons until after that bit.

    It did sound like the person was silently communicating with her. Is she feeling a mental force right away? Or am I reading too much into this. But that would stop me.

    In any case, it’s intriguing and I’d read on.



  2. Edie
    December 16th, 2009 at 2:07 pm · Link

    The second one is very good, and I think it just needs to have the paragraphs rearranged. I’ll do a mini-critique here.

    “Something is amiss at the Hall.”

    A good first sentence, but we don’t find out the groom is speaking until the 4th paragraph. That’s awkward. That could be easily fixed by using a dialog tag: “the old Welsh groom said.”

    And the next line is obviously in the heroine’s mind, but she’s not even been mentioned yet. The reader is lost. You should put the paragraph with Madeline on the rickety gig next. Then the paragraph about Ravencrest Hall sitting on the edge of the crumbling cliffs.

    Very good writing in those two paragraphs!

    The rest is perfect. You could cut this sentence and I don’t think it would be missed:

    It was an understatement of the matter, if ever there was one.

    Good luck with this. I think it’s a great beginning.



  3. Theresa
    December 17th, 2009 at 6:39 pm · Link

    Page One

    There was a lot I liked about this first page. It certainly grabbed my attention and I would have kept reading to see what was going on.

    But there were also a couple of problems I had with it. I thought the opening line started with a suspense or ominous tone, but that wasn’t maintained until you hit the sunglasses in the middle of the night..(which I loved!!) I’d consider reworking the opening lines to maintain that tone of suspense. I couldn’t quite figure out what had caused her to stop cold, just because there was someone in front of the ice machine.

    I also thought this page could have been much edgier/ more ominous if the main character was almost to the ice station when this man/woman rolls out from behind it and sort of plants herself there–almost like she is blocking the main character’s approach. I could see the protagonist stopping cold in that kind of a situation. Then going into the whole description thing with the sunglasses and the suit and the man/woman question. To me the non verbal signals were almost like this other character was warning her not to come any further — but I also felt that if this was the approach you were going for, you didn’t quite take it far enough.

    The other thing that bothered me about the opening is the lack of what this character is feeling/thinking. There is no reaction either internal or external when she sees the weapons. I really wanted to see some reaction both in her thoughts and in her actions. I would have been like Holy Crap!! that’s a gun…what’s she doing with a gun…is that gun going to be pointing at me? And started backing up. And then when this character shows her ankle holster, i would have been going through every scenario I could think of in my mind as to why somebody would be standing in the middle of the hall, in a motel, in the middle of the night—armed with two guns. I would have also been wondering why this person was showing them to me…. But this page reads more like a camera catching an image/exchange on film. There is no real sense of characterization since I don’t get a peak at her thoughts or feelings.

    The only other thing that really jumped out at me was the mechanics of showing the shoulder holster. I couldn’t quite see that just pulling her cuff back is going to lift her jacket up enough for the protagonists to see the gun. At the most such a moment might lift the jacket up an inch, certainly not enough to see the gun in the holster which would be up much higher. From what I read, the jacket was closed. If the jacket was open, maybe lifting her left arm to pull back the cuff would cause the jacket to flap open there bye exposing the holster and gun…

    Anyway, I would have liked a much deeper look into the protagonist’s thoughts/feeling through this. But it was intriguing enough I would have kept reading.



  4. Theresa
    December 17th, 2009 at 8:41 pm · Link

    Page two

    I agree with Edie’s rearrangement of these paragraphs. Part of the reason I think the current fourth paragraph should go second is because it not only introduces the MC immediately, but it also responds to the first line. She looks up and sees all the windows alight which does indicate something is wrong.

    But the way it reads currently it is much more unfocused..we’re told something is amiss– but rather than responding to the statement the MC goes into a description of the place. And nothing that is being described feels like it fits that first line that there is (as in currently) something *amiss.*

    There was some wonderful foreboding images in this (smiling, hungry demon. & leafless limbs rattled ominously ) but I would have liked an indication as to whether they were actually headed up to the mansion or just passing by. It could go either way.

    NIce job though and I would have keep reading.



  5. J. Carson Black
    December 18th, 2009 at 3:56 pm · Link

    Thanks, Edie and Theresa. Edie, I neglected to say right up front that Jolie is a cop. She’s ultra-aware of her surroundings at all times and alert to potential trouble. And because I neglected to say that at the very beginning of the story, it led to confusion and questions. Thank you both for making me aware of that, and the other potential trouble spots. This was a quick first stab, so it’s good to see how it’s received by others. Theresa, darn it – you’re right about the holster. I’ll either switch it to a hip holster or unbutton her jacket.



  6. Theresa
    December 19th, 2009 at 5:41 pm · Link

    Hi Jake,

    I’d really like to see where this goes once you’re finished revising it. Definately intrigued me.



  7. Amie Stuart
    December 19th, 2009 at 5:55 pm · Link

    I think this has a lot of potential and despite my nits (LOL) I’m very intrugued. Hope this helps!
    (I put most of my comments in caps so they’d be easy to see)

    At the end of the walkway, near the ice machine’s lighted alcove, stood a figure.

    A figure stood at the end of the walkway near the machine’s lighted alcove.

    — Just flip it around to make a little more dymanic.
    A man or a woman?
    Impossible to tell. Flip a coin. Woman. <-sug italicizing woman so we definitely know her decision.
    Maybe. [LOL cute.]
    The woman [Sug. SHE SO IT DOESN'T FEEL QUOTE SO REDUNDANT] wore shades—unusual for the middle of the night –DESPITE THE SONG, SUNGLASSES AT NIGHT ARE ALWAYS UNUSUAL LOL]. She wore dark slacks, and a suit jacket [YOU COULD JUST SAY 'THAT HUNG ON HER' TO IMPLY IT'S TOO LARGE AND CUT THE NEXT SENTENCE].
    The suit jacket looked a little big. Thick material, one button, closed. [YOUR CHARACTER HAS AN EYE FOR DETAIL–NICE] An impassive face and a pale complexion. Hair trimmed tight to the skull. Medium height and slim, even in the bulky jacket.
    Great description but what does it tell the heroine? Does it set off alarm bells??
    pulling back the cuff of the suit jacket to look at her watch-SUG CHECK THE TIME].

    The action raised the coat on the other side [SUG. ‘TO REVEAL AN UNDERARM HOLSTER’ OR ‘TO REVEAL WHAT LOOKED LIKE AN UNDERARM HOLSTER’ THEN CUT THE REST OF THE SENTENCE] and under it Jolie thought she saw an underarm holster.
    The woman let the sleeve drop and put one foot up on the bottom rung of the walkway railing and casually lifted the cuff of the slacks. Just a quick check to make sure everything was there. It was. Light bounced off the ankle holster.
    [SUG. TIGHTENING UP THE PREVIOUS PARAGRAPH—SHE DROPPED HER SLEEVE –AND ‘THE WOMAN’ IS STARTING TO FEEL REDUNDANT SO CONSIDER SWAPPING IT AROUND WHEN YOU CAN—DROPPED HER SLEEVE, THEN HOOKED THE HEEL OF HER SHOE ON THE RAILING. LIGHT BOUNCED OFF THE ANKLE HOLSTER.–OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT]
    Then she straightened up and set the foot down-SUG.D ELETE DOWN SINCE IT’S UNDERSTOOD] on the walkway next to its mate. [BEFORE YOU GET TO THE PART ABOUT THE SHOES CONSIDER ADDRESSING THE FIREMARS? TO ME, THIS IS A POWER MOVE ON THE PART OF THE STRANGER SO WHAT’S YOUR MAIN CHARACTERS REACTION TO IT?]
    The shoes were black lace-ups, men’s shoes, buffed to a deep shine.
    The woman-who-looked-like-a-man nodded briefly, then turned the corner. She seemed to have evaporated away. –SUG DELETING LAST LINE. SHE DIDN’T SEEM TO EVAPORATE SINCE SHE WALKED AROUND THE CORNER.
    I think the thing that’s missing here is the main character’s reaction at the sight of the stranger. How does she feel? Is she scared? Is she on the run? Is she annoyed because all she wants is some ice for her Johnny Walker? LOL This can also help to set the tone for your story—is it a quirky mystery? A dark one? FWIW I don’t think you need a LOT but a few extra lines would let the reader know where you’re going with it. Again i hope this helps and (caveat) my suggestions are ONLY suggestions. Use whatever works and toss the rest 😀



  8. Amie Stuart
    December 19th, 2009 at 5:57 pm · Link

    I wouldn’t change a thing on the second first page. It’s got a lovely atmospheric description and feels very gothic-y. Okay maybe one–watch you don’t overdo the descriptive stuff. Use it like seasoning because a little goes a long way. Or ignore me 😉



  9. Amie Stuart
    December 19th, 2009 at 5:58 pm · Link

    I agree w/Edie here–a wee bit of scene setting or insight from the narrator would clear this up in no time.



  10. Amie Stuart
    December 19th, 2009 at 6:02 pm · Link

    If I said “I should have known it was you, Jake” will you please take it as a compliment? Damnit woman sell some books so I have something new from you to read! LOL



  11. J. Carson Black
    December 20th, 2009 at 8:08 am · Link

    Working on it, Amie!



  12. Carol Luce
    December 20th, 2009 at 9:53 am · Link

    I knew Jolie was a cop, so it didn’t occur to me that her reactions, or lack thereof, would seem odd to a reader who didn’t have that knowledge. However, the shoulder holster issue was a good catch by Teresa and Edie, it got by me.

    Jake, you rock when it comes to setting a scene, and this one is chilling with the androgynous character that oozes menace by his/her sheer presence. I can’t wait to read more.



  13. Carol Luce
    December 20th, 2009 at 9:59 am · Link

    Page 2. I liked this very much. So reminiscent of the Mary Stewart classic, NINE COACHES WAITING, a compelling gothic novel that was a favorite of mine. Oops, did I just date myself?



  14. J. Carson Black
    December 21st, 2009 at 2:28 pm · Link

    Amie — good suggestions, and pretty simple to execute—I like pretty much all of them. I’m copying yours, and the other critiques, to file.

    Thanks,

    Jake



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