First Page Friday #41: Romantic Thriller

About First Page Friday

First Page Friday is a blog series where I provide a free edit and critique of the first 500 words of an unpublished novel. Read the excerpt without my notes first and leave your vote in the poll. Afterward, feel free to leave a comment for the author. Feedback is always helpful!

Romantic Thriller – by Amber S. Brown

***Contains Sexual Content***

He thinks I’m Kim, a former bikini model doing a stint as a hairstylist while I work on debuting my acting career.

I came up with that less than an hour ago.

I’m naked on exotic high-count sheets except for my clipped-on Brigitte Bardot-blonde bob and smudged red lipstick, the way this evening’s mark left me before he rolled off the curve of my sweat-shined backside.

Before I decide whether my exhausted target’s name is Derek or David, he slaps my ass hard enough to leave a print the size of a catcher’s mitt. “Wow.”

I want to roll my eyes, but instead I laugh the way I think a Kim would laugh, high-pitched with my tongue showing. “Guess what they say is right…”

I pause, bite my lip as I drop my eyes to his erection. It’s still serviceable against his strong stomach.

“Forties are the new twenties,” I whisper with a glance into his hazel eyes.

“I’m fifty-one, sweetheart.”

“Guess that makes me…” I move to my side so he can see me better. “Impressed.”

He looks at me the way any man would look at a girl half his age, his grin crooked, his gaze hungry.

But it’s no use. Before he can invite me to sin with him in another luxurious suite, I take his mouth and kiss him the way I imagine a former bikini model doing a stint as a hairstylist would kiss a man she met only minutes ago. Open mouth, deep tongue, my hipbones pressing into his groin, creating fire.

Tonight, my lies came as easily as his hard-on came between my legs.

I can feel that he wants to get inside me again, but I roll away from his sweaty skin, grab my iPhone from the adjacent nightstand, angle his penis in favor of its lens.

He grins and asks, “What are you doing?”

“About to make all my friends jealous.”

“Are you…” He chuckles. “Kim, that’s not a good idea.”

“Why not? Yours is the biggest I’ve ever had.” I hum. “Let me take a picture so I can show my girls what a real man looks like.”

“Look, I told you on the way here, I’m married and I have two teenaged girls in the house. I can’t have a photo of my genitals circulating around. Sorry.”

I look at him. An unfaithful husband who won’t really be sorry until he gets caught.

“You’re not running for congress so calm down and let me get a shot. I only want to send it to one friend in particular anyway, see if she recognizes it.”

I tap my thumb a few times, get multiple shots just in case.

He moves to his elbows and chuckles. “I doubt any of your friends will recognize my dick in a photo.”

“My friend Susan.” I flip my phone around. “I’m sure she’ll recognize this.”

He jerks up fast, his grin replaced with a strong frown as he reaches for my phone. “How do you know my wife’s name?”

Reader Participation – What Do You Think?

Before reading my take on this novel opening, please take a moment to record your thoughts in the poll below.

Your thoughtful critiques and suggestions for the writer are also welcome in the comments section. Explaining your vote gives the author even more insight into where they’re hitting the mark and where they can improve.

My Feedback

 Critique Key

Original Text is in italics. (Author is already using italics, so my comments are going to be underlined this week)

Red is text I recommend removing.

Green is text I recommend adding.

Blue is my comments.

Orange is highlighting.

Romantic Thriller – by Amber S. Brown

He thinks I’m Kim, a former bikini model doing a stint as a hairstylist while I work on debuting my acting career. < I really like this opening line because now I want to know why he thinks she’s someone she’s not. Is he confused? Did she lie? I have to read on.

I came up with that less than an hour ago.

I’m naked on exotic high-count sheets except for my clipped-on Brigitte Bardot-blonde bob and smudged red lipstick, the way this evening’s mark left me before he rolled off the curve of my sweat-shined backside. < I first read this line as if her mark completely left, so the next line jarred me when he was still there.

Before I decide whether my exhausted target’s name is Derek or David, he slaps my ass hard enough to leave a print the size of a catcher’s mitt. “Wow.” < At first I thought the narrator said this, but on the second read-through, I think it’s her mark that said this. It could be clearer.

I want to roll my eyes, but instead I laugh the way I think a Kim would laugh, high-pitched with my tongue showing. “Guess what they say is right…”

I pause, bite my lip as I drop my eyes to his erection. It’s still serviceable against his strong stomach.

“Forties are the new twenties,” I whisper with a glance into his hazel eyes. < These last three paragraphs could all be combined into one paragraph since the speaker doesn’t change.

“I’m fifty-one, sweetheart.”

“Guess that makes me…” I move to my side so he can see me better. < I’m not sure how she was positioned before that moving to her side would make her more visible. Wasn’t she facing him when she glanced into his eyes?  “Impressed.”

He looks at me the way any man would look at a girl half his age, his grin crooked, his gaze hungry.

But it’s no use. Before he can invite me to sin with him in another luxurious suite, I take his mouth and kiss him the way I imagine a former bikini model doing a stint as a hairstylist would kiss a man she met only minutes ago. Open mouth, deep tongue, my hipbones pressing into his groin, creating fire.

Tonight, my lies came as easily as his hard-on came between my legs.

I can feel that he wants to get inside me again, but I roll away from his sweaty skin, grab my iPhone from the adjacent nightstand, and angle his penis in favor of its lens. < Personally, I almost always prefer “and” before the last item in a sequence of events because it lets the reader know that the sequence is over.

He grins and asks, “What are you doing?”

“About to make all my friends jealous.”

“Are you…” He chuckles. “Kim, that’s not a good idea.”

“Why not? Yours is the biggest I’ve ever had.” I hum. < I’m not sure what this humming is signifying. Is she thinking? “Let me take a picture so I can show my girls what a real man looks like.”

“Look, I told you on the way here, I’m married and I have two teenaged girls in the house. I can’t have a photo of my genitals circulating around. Sorry.”

I look at him. An unfaithful husband who won’t really be sorry until he gets caught.

“You’re not running for congress so calm down and let me get a shot. I only want to send it to one friend in particular anyway, see if she recognizes it.”

I tap my thumb a few times, getting multiple shots just in case. < Since this is happening simultaneously (her tapping her thumb and getting multiple shots), “getting” is clearer and reads smoother.

He moves to his elbows and chuckles. < Perhaps “props up on his elbows” would be clearer here. “I doubt any of your friends will recognize my dick in a photo.”

“My friend Susan.” I flip my phone around. “I’m sure she’ll recognize this.”

He jerks up fast, his grin replaced with a strong frown as he reaches for my phone. “How do you know my wife’s name?” < This is a great line because all the pieces click together for the reader, plus we’re seeing a “bad guy” get taken down right away, which lets us know this protagonist is the real deal – active, smart, and capable.

My Overall Thoughts

I actually woke up early this morning not feeling well and this first page still kept my interest from beginning to end. It has the right amount of intrigue to keep people reading without feeling as if you’re withholding information without reason.

I like that it jumps into the action without stuffing in back story or a bunch of meaningless descriptions. I also love that the protagonist is active right from the start.

Key Places to Improve:

  • There were a couple places I marked above that could be clarified for an easier reading experience.
  • I struggled a bit to understand their physical placement/positioning. For some reason I imagined the man as standing through most of the conversation. I wouldn’t go overboard describing their positions, but a couple indicators early on would help with clarity.
  • Some have mentioned in the comments that this is too explicit for the genre. This could be the case but depends a lot on how exactly it’s marketed. Traditional vs. self-publishing will make a difference, as will how the plot continues from here. If it’s mostly a thriller, it may do better with that label only. It’s difficult to say if this should be tamed down without more info. Personally, I would hesitate to call this erotic fiction because it does not seem to be intended to titillate. That said, romance, erotica, and its sub-genres are not an area of my expertise.

Connect with Amber

You can connect with Amber on Twitter:

@ambersharelle

The Writeditor’s Grade (out of 5): 4

This kept my interest from beginning to end, which is the goal of any first page. I feel like you understand your style and are comfortable in it. The voice is clear and solid – I don’t sense any waffling or uncertainty. Clarify a few areas of confusion and I think this will be good to go.

A note on the grading scale: The rating of the first chapter does not indicate the rating of the novel as a whole nor does it indicate the writer’s overall ability.

Submit to First Page Friday – (currently OPEN to submissions)

***Please read this entire section before submitting***

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Submissions will no longer be accepted on a first come, first serve basis, and I will no longer be scheduling posts in advance. I will review submissions once a week and choose a first page that I feel provides the best learning opportunity for readers. This means that as much as I would love to respond to every submission, you probably won’t hear from me if I don’t select your first page. It also means that I may select your first page months after you submit it (you are responsible for updating or pulling your submission as needed).

To Submit, send the following information to ellenbrock@keytopservices.com or if you have trouble with that email address (as has been the case for some of you lately), send it to editorbrock@gmail.com:

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About the Editor

Ellen Brock is a freelance novel editor who works with self-publishing and traditionally publishing authors as well as e-publishers and small presses. When not editing, she enjoys reading, writing, and geocaching. Check out her freelance novel editing services and mentoring.

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9 thoughts on “First Page Friday #41: Romantic Thriller

  1. Ella says:

    I was, frankly, a little upset to find such explicit mention of sexual organs in a book labelled ‘romantic thriller’. Might ‘erotic thriller’ be a better genre? If not, be aware that you may turn away many of your more old-fashioned readers on the first page.

  2. Roman says:

    I like the way this story is going. I would definitely read on. In fact I think I read this during novel boot camp.The only thing that knocked me a little off balance was the strong sexual language. when I saw romantic thriller, I was thinking of something a little lighter with respect to sexual language. The comment above me is right, this should be labeled as an erotic thriller.

  3. Julie Griffith says:

    I remember this from Novel Boot Camp. It reads much better now that it’s been revised, so good job on taking in the critiques and making changes for the better. I do agree with what Ella mentioned about the genre–romance doesn’t come to mind when reading this. It is pretty explicit, so hopefully the novel would be presented in a way that the reader would expect it– like with those Harlequin erotic fiction novels, you just look at the cover and know what you’re in for. Reading this, I wondered why she would forget the man’s name. If I’ve got it right, she sought him out to set him up and reveal his status as a cheater, so it seems like she’d know his name well by then. It is well written and held my interest, but to be honest this is not a character I could connect with. While she’s exposing a cheater, which is a good thing, she had sex with him in order to reveal that, which seems wrong. I don’t know what her backstory is this early on, or why she would so freely have sex with a stranger, but that would be a big hurdle for me to get over if I was going to care about this character throughout the rest of the novel. That’s just a personal taste thing, so others might not be as bothered by it as me. If she exposed him just before the act, when it was clear he was there for sex, I’d like that much better. Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer a heroine that has a little more self-respect than that.

  4. River Cameron says:

    Where I was confused is that she calls him a mark and knows his wife’s name, which makes me think this is work or at least a planned take down, but she isn’t sure of his name and just made up the back story an hour ago, which makes this seem like a heat of the moment encounter.

    I am interested in seeing what happens next.

  5. Kelly says:

    Hi Amber. I’m keen to read on.
    I think the sentence starting ‘I’m naked…’ is saying too much for one sentence. Thinking about the thread count at this point doesn’t seem that likely?? Maybe break it into a few sentences and include a mention of their positions at this point – it would set the scene strongly. Also, lighting, what’s on the bedside tables pictures/photos on the wall – I gather they are in his and Susan’s bedroom so showing stuff like that could be effective to drive home how invasive she is being.
    I agree with Julie that she’d be unlikely to forget his name in the circumstances – I’m wondering if exposing him isn’t really her aim, her target is Susan. Her other thoughts like not knowing his name, sending the photo to Susan makes sense if that is her intention.

  6. Jenna says:

    I also remember this from Novel Boot Camp. Great improvements. Overall, the flow was quite smooth. The one part that made me go back and reread was the sentence that ends with “in favor of its lens.” You could be talking about the camera, but since it was so near the word “penis,” I did a double take. Nice dialogue. I felt that the guy was icky (for lack of a better word), so the part where she mentions his wife’s name is priceless. Because all of this happens in the first 500 words, I think you could keep an agent’s interest! I was confused about the word “mark” because it seems like that would make her a private detective or a spy… I’m assuming that’s made clear later. She is truly dedicated to catching him at something. I didn’t notice the genre before I started reading, but maybe Ellen can shed some light on what term (romance or erotic) would be appropriate.
    Again, nice job! I would keep reading. Very interesting.

  7. Lara Willard says:

    While I can’t say I like the content, I think the writing is spot on. Really, really good. There are a couple of blips with the dialogue (I thought he spoke first, too, and yes, those three should be combined).

    Personally, I love parataxis (making a list without adding a conjunction) as a literary device. Without it, we wouldn’t have “Veni, vidi, vici.” I wouldn’t add an “and” in that list, and I wouldn’t change “get” to “getting.” But I’m trained as a literary writer, so readers that aren’t used to parataxis might consider it an error. For me, it shows me you know your salt.

    I’d probably flip through the pages to see if it had more explicit sex in it. If it didn’t, I’d definitely keep reading, though this isn’t my favorite genre. If it did, I might just read up until the next one.

  8. Filip says:

    I really liked the very opening “He thinks I’m Kim”, the rest of that sentence I found to be rather clunky though: “former…”, “stint as…”, “while I…” is it all really first sentece material? Am I supposed to keep track of her inventeed career trajectory?

    I found the sentence starting with “I’m naked on….” to be similarly clunky. I don’t know if it’s maybe your style of writing and it gets better once you get used to it, but I found that for me there were too many pieces of trivial information tightly packed in to these sentences. I just read it as “I’m naked on blah, blah, red lipstick blah, blah, mark blah,blah sweat-shined backside”

    I agree with Ellen in that the ending to the piece is also very good.

    • Filip says:

      I just wanted to add that I thought the sentence starting with “I’m naked on…” had some very nice wordings, particularly “Brigitte Bardot-blonde bob and smudged red lipstick” sounded very nice, so the “blah, blah” wasn’t meant to be derogative, just that my mind lost a lot of the sentence on reading it.

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