First Page Feedback – A Shot At Forever

A Single Title Contemporary–so HQN!–from @AvaQuinnWrites. This heroine has some interesting rules…


Rules. Sheridan Ward lived her life by three. It was because of those rules that she sat in this nameless bar on another Thursday night somewhere in West Texas.

Her gaze swept the honkytonk and she sighed, feeling as worn down as the sole of a rancher’s boot. Most of the time she liked rules. They helped her make her way alone in this crazy world. Everything worked out in the end if you followed the rules. That’s what old Jim had taught her. And he’d been right. Mostly. Only now they’d become more like a cage that locked her away from the life she really wanted. A life that would soon be within her reach.

Sheridan tamped down the ridiculous flare of hope that lit inside her at the thought and concentrated on the real reason she was here.

Rule number one: Know the game better than anyone at your table. She flicked a glance over her shoulder at the crowded bar. After an hour casing the place, she was damn sure she knew the game better than anyone in here.

Besides, even though the honkytonk was jumping like a grasshopper in a chicken coop, she’d snagged the third stool on the left at the bar—her lucky spot no matter what dive she walked into. Right now she’d take luck anywhere she could find it. Lord knew it  was the one thing her rules couldn’t counteract.

She picked up her beer and took a long swallow then placed it back on the coaster—right in the center, with the label facing her.

Rule number two: Know your marks better than they know themselves.

She swiveled around and leaned an elbow against the top of the bar as she took in the joint. Everything she needed to know about the people who frequented this place was
written all over it. Dark wood paneling covered the walls. Steer horns and elk antlers vied
for room among the tattered sports pennants from glory days long past.

Neon signs threw their unnatural light across the smoky dance floor as couples shuffled their feet to the mournful rhythm of the country music. Others nursed their beers as they slouched at the waist high tables that corralled the dance floor.

But sitting pretty at the far end of the room was the real reason she was here. Half a dozen competition grade pool tables with cowboys at each and every one of them. From her seat, she had the perfect angle to note stances, grips, follow through, though she barely took in the men themselves.

Not tonight. Tomorrow she’d choose her marks after studying each player—the skills, the eyes, the body language. That part she’d been a natural at from an early age out of necessity. Now it helped her to survive in a different way. She shook off the depressing thought and focused on the present and her most important rule.

Rule number three: Trust no one. Especially the law.

First Page Feedback from Allison Carroll

Full disclosure—I’m a country girl. I love the personality in this first page. From the colorful colloquialisms to the rustic setting, I was on board. Thinking about the market, though, I realize too much of this kind of “flavor” can be a turn off for readers. I think you stay on the right side of that very fine line, and you do it by making the heroine multidimensional. She’s not just colorful colloquialisms. She’s smart and resourceful, perhaps devious, definitely a loner, and these are all compelling characteristics. That said, I’d recommend being mindful of how heavily you use this country vernacular as the story progresses. You want to leave a little salt in the shaker (ok, clearly not as good with the expressions as you are;).

The rundown of the rules gives this opening structure and momentum. I like how we see the heroine utilizing them as she sets up her con. I’m intrigued by her, but I don’t quite feel sympathetic toward her. Is there a way to soften her a little more for the reader? She’s alone, living on the wrong side of the law, feeling caged, but hopeful. Perhaps tease out a bit more what she’s hopeful about, giving the reader even more reason to root for her.




7 replies on “First Page Feedback – A Shot At Forever”

Hi Ms. Carroll. Thank you so much for taking the time to give me your feedback. I appreciate your generosity so much.

I do throw in some colloquialisms throughout the story, but hopefully the right amount. You’re absolutely correct. It’s a very fine line!

As for sympathy, I hear you. Sheridan’s tough, but she’s got some determined dreams. In the next paragraph I reveal she’s a pool hustler on her way to her last big score so she can get out of the life for good. Next three quick paragraphs give her hopes and dreams in counterpoint to what her life’s been like. She craves a stable home and life. And her biggest dream is to find someone to share it with.

Bam. Enter hero.

I was afraid with the small word count and having to cut it right before getting a glimpse of her true motivation she’d come off as unsympathetic. Dang! lol!

I really hope I don’t wait too long to get to that softer side with this opening. I may need to revisit that.

Again, thank you very much for your time and expertise.

Great opening! This might be my favorite yet, and I’m only a country girl wannabee. I’d definitely keep reading – wonderful job. 🙂

Hi, Ava! It sounds as though your next few paragraphs and pages will deliver on just what I was itching to see–that softer side of Sheridan. You clearly know your heroine well!

Loved this opening, the pace was great and it was obvious she’s a pool shark from the opening words. Could have done without the similes, but they’re a pet hate of mine and American readers seem to love them.

Nicely done.

@Kristen- Thank you so much! 😀

@Allison- ::blushes:: Thanks!!

@KJD- So glad you got the pool shark vibe right away. I was afraid some might think she was part of the oldest profession at first. So that’s really good to know. And yes, I agree, similes aren’t for everyone. Thanks for your feedback! I appreciate it.

A most enjoyable first page.
Nothing much to say except I would keep turning that page 🙂 Not any any stage did I think she was part of the oldest profession, the pool shark came across perfectly.
I didn’t feel the need to be sympathetic toward her at this stage. In the first lines with her feeling like being locked in a cage gave me enough of a tweak that I would be routing for her later down the track.
good luck with it.

Thanks, Brenda. Glad you thought the pool hustler vibe came through and that she was sympathetic. I appreciate the feedback!

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