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Monday, March 12, 2012

First Chapter - Not her Mother's Fate (part one)

Last month I asked for your first chapters and I got more than than I could handle at the time! But because of the response I'm doing it again this month, starting with Donna Hole's first chapter from her novel  NOT HER MOTHER’S FATE. My comments are in purple and I hope you'll all tell Donna what you think in the comments below. Also, what genre do you think this is? I'll post the second half of this chapter tomorrow. 

Amy Thompson  pressed her back against the wall as another noisy group of drunken revelers stumbled their way towards the awaiting beer keg.  This was exactly the scene she envisioned when her roommates approached her with the idea of a birthday party.  On St Patricks Day, no less.
“Just a few friends, Sweetie,” Joy had cooed.  “No one turns twenty-one without a celebration, including you.”
The “few friends”  arrived with a few friends of their own, and before she knew it, the house was bulging with strangers.  Amy grunted in disgust as Todd and Arney stopped to lavish come-on lines and playful kisses to her roommates.
Amy didn’t mind being ignored by these men.  Regular visitors to the house, they knew Cienna (Is this another roommate? I wonder if she could say something after Joy, above. That way their names are linked and it’s more obvious that these are Amy’s roommates.) to be a sure bet for a good time - she spent a night alone by choice, and rarely.  Joy was friendly and outgoing; her relationships tended to last a few months at least.  She was currently involved with Todd’s roommate, but he’d made no secret he was willing to settle for one-night tryst.  But Amy was a challenge to get as much as a hello from.  Really love the voice but all these names made me go back to the beginning. Just sayin…
A chill breeze stirred the stuffy air as the front door banged open, and Todd and Arney pumped their fists in the air as a fresh keg was rolled into the crowd.
“Loosen up kiddo,” Arney chided as he made to swat Amy on the rear.
Amy scooted out of reach, sloshing a bit of her drink on Cienna.  Cienna shoved her away, and Arney grabbed Amy’s elbow to keep her from falling.
“Thanks,” she said with a lopsided grin.
“Must be your lucky night.” Arney winked, drawing Amy close enough to smell his aftershave beneath the beer breath.  She ducked away, and he scooted off with the rest of his sloshed friends. 
Nobody stood in one spot for long at Joy’s parties.
“Got anything besides disco and punk rock,” Amy asked as the stereo suddenly went dead.
“It’s your party, we’ll play anything you want.  Don’t tell anyone, but Brad has a couple Lynyrd Skynyrd records.  And I’m sure Danni left some Billy Joel and Elton John behind.”  Joy tugged at Amy’s long, black French braid.  “Don’t be a bore tonight, dear heart.  It wouldn’t kill you to dance with somebody.”
Amy crossed her arms against the subtle rebuke.  Joy had been dropping hints for  weeks that she thought it past time for Amy to rejoin the dating game.  Amy’s birthday was an excuse to shove her into “the realm of romantic possibilities,” as Joy had put it when she informed her reclusive friend of the pending festivities.  Amy’s consent, and cooperation, had been unnecessary.
“Beat it Stud,” Cienna ordered as a very handsome, very wobbly young man stumbled to a halt directly in front of Amy.  Cienna made a shooing motion, and he grinned and shambled away.
“Is he even old enough to be out this late,” Amy worried, watching the boy delve into a large cooler full of canned beer.
“Geek,” Cienna sneered.  “Only virgin in our graduating class.  Doesn’t look as if he became a man in the last year.”
As well rounded in hips, thighs, and breast as her worldly attitude, (this physical description feels a little awkward to me. Do we need it all right here or could there just be a partial description here?) it was easy for Amy to forget that Cienna was only nineteen.  Cienna had officially moved in five months ago for practical reasons; she spent so much time there anyway, she may as well contribute to rent and groceries. A relation of some sort to Danielle - Danni to her friends- who’d moved out when she married her high school sweet heart, she’d left Cienna behind much as a person leaves a useless piece of furniture that is in too good shape to throw away, but nobody wants. This was a little confusing: too many words I think. I counted 49. I wonder if this bit of back story is necessary here. Does it matter how they became roommates? If so maybe this bit might work better in chapter two. Just asking.
That was Joy’s way, taking in strays.  Three years ago, when they’d worked at the video store together, Amy had been a stray herself.  A runaway, homeless and hopeless.  Joy had taken her aside one day, draped a comforting arm around her shoulders, and invited Amy to move in without asking a single question about why she was washing her hair in the bathroom sink.  Desperation forced Amy to accept Joy’s offer, and she’d done so with every intention of leaving as soon as she could afford anywhere else on her own.
Joy had still not asked those questions, but occasionally, Amy had felt safe enough with the girl to volunteer some answers.
“Why don’t you take care of that for him Cienna?” Joy chided her tactless roommate, drawing Amy’s attention back to the present.
“Even I won’t touch a baby.”
“You were once a virgin.  Have you forgotten what innocence feels like?”
Cienna stuck her tongue out at Joy. 
Neither girl was paying any attention to Amy, and already she was planning her escape.  She spotted Brad slithering through the crowd, stopping here and there for a word or hand shake.  His eyes strayed constantly beyond whoever he was speaking to, as if he didn’t trust the revelers to have fun without his diligent attention.  Indeed, several people leaned close, as if to tell him a secret, and frequently, he was pulled from one group into another, his hands never far from the many zippered pockets of his pants.
“There he is,” Cienna said excitedly, adjusting her boobs in her push up bra.  She smoothed her hands down her too short, lace lined skirt, smacked her ruby red lips, and struck a seductive pose.
The room erupted in a roar of hoots and catcalls, and Amy followed everyone’s gaze towards the figure emerging from the gnat infested darkness at the front door.  A little short for a guy, Amy mused to herself.  Maybe 5’6, but a nice, stocky build, and shocking curly red hair that covered his ears.  A wide, amused grin split his full lips as he waved to the crowd, bowed at the waist, and blew a kiss to the room at large.
“What a show off,” Amy grumped.
“Yeah,” Joy and Cienna said together, sporting identical grins.
A smile slipped Amy’s guard as the redhead strolled through the milling crowd. Just as Brad had done a few minutes earlier, the new-comer also stopped to shake hands, punch a shoulder, kiss a girl on the cheek.  Several people held up a bottle of whiskey or cup of mixed drink for him to sample.  Others tried to entice him with a joint, pipe, or crude gestures at their noses.  Amy assumed those to be offers to sniff a line of something.  (I don’t think you need this line; it’s obvious what the gesture meant.) He accepted several drink offers, but laughed and firmly shook his head against the drugs.
A point in his favor, Amy thought, and instantly wondered why she was impressed.   It wasn’t like her to be interested in any man, at least not at first sight. 
The mystery intrigued her.
“Fuck this,” Cienna exclaimed impatiently.  “Robert!”
He looked up, around, and finally spotted Cienna’s waving arms.  He paused long enough to accept a can of beer from Brad, lean in close to say something that made Joy’s boyfriend roar with laughter, then he zig-zagged his way across the room.  Grinning, his green eyes glittering with mischief, he ignored Cienna, said “Hi,” to Joy as he handed her his unopened brew, squared his wide shoulders, and began to sing the birthday song.
Amy stared at him in stunned silence, her face heating, her toes and fingers going cold with embarrassment.  When he finished the second chorus - by then, the entire room was facing her direction, singing along- he grabbed her roughly, dipped her across his bended knee, and kissed her full on the lips. 
His arms were strong and steady as he held her, his lips warm and smooth.  His tongue did not invade her mouth, his teeth did not nip at her lip; yet his kiss had all the passion of a lover, full of intimacy and promise.  He kept his eyes closed as he pulled back slightly; his tongue continued to caress his bottom lip as if to savor the taste of her.
The room thundered with its approval.
“Happy birthday,” he whispered in her ear as he smoothly set her on her feet.  Then he smiled, winked, retrieved his beer, and moved off into the crowd, leaving Amy breathless, confused and slightly aroused.

 I like this. The atmosphere feels like a real party although I do think it could be improved by more specific smells (beer, hard liquor?) and sounds (are there any specific songs playing? I heard a bass but that’s about it. Telling what song is playing or giving a better idea of how it sounds will help place the reader deeper in the scene.) Love this last part. Definitely want to know who this brazen guy is. I'm not sure but I think I like him...

Now, what do you guys think?


Huntress said...

I love the action in this submission, the feel and setup. But there so much going on and I don’t mean physical. Since the reader doesn’t know what is going on, who these people are or why they should like them, try using less words to convey the same message. Simple nouns, simple verbs.

Amy Thompson pressed against the wall as another noisy group stumbled towards the awaiting beer keg.

“Just a few friends for a party *on St. Pat’s Day*, Sweetie,” Joy had cooed. “No one turns twenty-one without a celebration, including you.”

The “few friends” arrived with a few friends of their own, and before she knew it, the house *bulged* with strangers.

Try cutting every unnecessary word. As Marcy suggested, use names sparingly. Remember, the reader must form a connection with each person and too many is confusing.

Be careful about describing the same action more than once. Note how the MC ‘envisioned’ how a party would end up. Then you say essentially the same thing with ‘before she knew it’. Combine the party day in Joy’s dialogue to cut wordage and improve the flow of action.

Again, this is a great scene but it is lost in all the words. Cut and trim. Then see what you have after you do.

Madeleine Maddocks said...

I can see what you mean from the comments in purple. I'm enjoying Donna's writing development from what I've read so far.

Donna Hole said...

Thank you Marcy and Huntress. Your comments are greatly appreciated. I was sure there would be a lot more to correct :) I've been working on the names thing, and I neveer thought about the smells. Good call there.

Maddie you comment made me smile. Thanks for reading.


N. R. Williams said...

Hi Donna
I'm guessing this is fantasy if I understand your genre preference but it feels like romance. For me this is too busy for a first chapter. Since you read my story I will use it as an example. In the beginning, Missie met friends after her recital at a pizza place. My critique group said, anyone you introduce in the first chapter must continue in the story. I deleted all friends and then people didn't like my heroine. So I added one character as a way to give the readers a better feel for Missie.

Keep in mind, we need to get to know the MC. It is their story. I don't really know much about your MC except that St. Patrick's Day is her birthday, she has a sexy over the top friend and is hesitant in many ways about a relationship with men.

Specifics: The word slosh, sloshing is used twice too close together and pulls the reader out of the story.

I had a lot of trouble keeping all the names straight.

I agreed with the critique given.

I hope that helps you Donna. Thank you for the wonderful review.

Donna Hole said...

It has been suggested by others that I change the opening to something where Amy is alone and getting ready for the party. Her distaste for being in a crowd, especially as the center of attention could be used to introduce Amy, then maybe the two roommates.

No, it is definitely NOT fantasy, and the content of the continuing novel knocks it out of the romance category. I've queried it as women's fiction, or mainstream. I'm thinking I may need a magic wand or spell to shape it up though :)

Thanks for the feedback Nancy. Every comment helps.


Brooke R. Busse said...

I agree with all the above comments, except for perhaps N.R. William's where she says that it is too busy. I feel like it's a party. It should be, no? That's one of the things I love about mass groups of people.

The only thing I have to add is watch out for commas when people address others. For example, "Why don’t you take care of that for him Cienna?" There should be a comma after him and before Cienna.

I like this. Can't wait to read the rest tomorrow.