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First Page: Pierce the Darkness

Welcome to First Page aka Query Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page (or query) read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. Published authors may do so under their own name or anonymously.

Readers, though, the way that I look at it is this: Would the hook itself interest you in reading the book. If yes, what interests you and if not, what would you change to make it more appealing?

***

Prologue

Cresna- year 1623

“Where is she?” Draven roared lethally as he swung open the solid oak doors, almost ripping them off their hinges, and stormed into his amora’s bedchamber. The sight before him only amplified the foreboding chill he felt deep within his soul.

Several guards lay dead in their own pools of blood. A handful more looked severely beaten and on the verge of collapse. And one sobbed uncontrollably into a fuchsia bed sheet drooping lifelessly over the empty bed.

Frustrated and angry, Draven called upon the Power of Light and blasted the fiery, white energy ball congregating in his left palm into the nearest object. What was left of the victimized table fluttered through the air as gray ash and mixed with the thick, dark liquid pooling on the marble floor.

Rushing forward to the guard clutching the bed sheet, Draven gripped his right hand tightly around the guard’s neck, and lifted him several inches off the floor. “Do NOT make me repeat myself again!”

“She has been taken by the Lycans, sir.” The guard gasped sharply, as Draven loosened his sturdy grip long enough for him to choke out an answer.

Just then he heard his amora’s voice stabbing through his mind like an accumulation of a thousand thrown knives. Don’t hurt me. Please… just let me go. Feeling the anguish of his amora’s presence transmitting through him, Draven screwed his eyes shut and rubbed his forehead with the ball of his free hand as though he had a head-splitting migraine. Images of her being bound to a stone altar and manhandled burst into his brain, making him growl out with sweltering rage.

He tried to communicate to her, to reassure her that he was on his way, but she wouldn’t open her mind to him. Her unyielding sense to shadow her fear left him gritting his teeth and pulling his hair in piqued frustration. His jaw went rigid from the strain, and he popped his eyes open to reveal the smoldering anger turning his amber irises blacker than obsidian.

“Why didn’t you protect her?” His voice was exerted and taut as he seized his fingers around the metal brim of the guard’s collar, forcing him to face his smoldering eyes.

The guard’s face paled as he saw Draven’s power flowing out of his glowing hand, seeping into his throat. He struggled to breathe as his esophagus began compressing tighter and tighter, threatening to slowly suffocate him. The intense burning sensations prickling underneath his skin felt as if it were going to melt right off of his body like candle wax. As the Power of Light intensified, his flesh started to catch fire making him scream out in excruciating agony. “I’m sorry sir. We tried to reach her in time, but they flashed her out of here before we could get to her.”

By the time Draven grappled for control and recalled his magick back, the guard’s entire body was marred in a thin layer of cinereal ash. Loosening his hold, he let the guard drop to the floor and left him to suffer his wounds until sleep healed them.

Draven help me…Oh god, please help me. Hearing his amora’s desperate cry for help, Draven turned around in fervent ire and punched the wall behind him, splintering the hard wood from one end to the other with the force of his vicious blow.

***

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28 Comments

  1. Ann Somerville
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 04:29:43

    “Where is she?” Draven roared lethally as he swung open the solid oak doors, almost ripping them off their hinges, and stormed into his amora’s bedchamber. The sight before him only amplified the foreboding chill he felt deep within his soul.

    ‘Roared lethally’?

    This sentence is flaccid. "The sight before him only amplified the foreboding chill he felt deep within his soul." Also, Draven is one of the most overused names in fantasy. Right up there with Kel and Kai. It’s great to start in media res, but this is a bit too media, really. This reads like the opening to the second chapter, not the first page. I feel like I’m missing a whole lot of plot and exposition.

    Several guards lay dead in their own pools of blood. A handful more looked severely beaten and on the verge of collapse. And one sobbed uncontrollably into a fuchsia bed sheet drooping lifelessly over the empty bed.

    Is the detail of the fuschia bedsheet important?

    Frustrated and angry, Draven called upon the Power of Light and blasted the fiery, white energy ball congregating in his left palm into the nearest object. What was left of the victimized table fluttered through the air as gray ash and mixed with the thick, dark liquid pooling on the marble floor.

    "congregating in his left palm" – omit

    Rushing forward to the guard clutching the bed sheet, Draven gripped his right hand tightly around the guard’s neck, and lifted him several inches off the floor. “Do NOT make me repeat myself again!”

    Actually, he hasn’t repeated himself yet, so he can’t do it ‘again’.

    “She has been taken by the Lycans, sir.” The guard gasped sharply, as Draven loosened his sturdy grip long enough for him to choke out an answer.

    Lycans. You mean, like the Underworld Lycans? Didn’t we have a query a little while ago which also used them?

    Just then he heard his amora’s voice stabbing through his mind like an accumulation of a thousand thrown knives. Don’t hurt me. Please… just let me go. Feeling the anguish of his amora’s presence transmitting through him, Draven screwed his eyes shut and rubbed his forehead with the ball of his free hand as though he had a head-splitting migraine. Images of her being bound to a stone altar and manhandled burst into his brain, making him growl out with sweltering rage.

    "as though he had a head-splitting migraine" – it’s his POV. Does he have a migraine or not? It’s being described as if someone is watching him, not from inside his head. And how does rage ‘swelter’?

    He tried to communicate to her, to reassure her that he was on his way, but she wouldn’t open her mind to him. Her unyielding sense to shadow her fear left him gritting his teeth and pulling his hair in piqued frustration. His jaw went rigid from the strain, and he popped his eyes open to reveal the smoldering anger turning his amber irises blacker than obsidian.

    "piqued frustration" – doesn’t really go with him being in a sweltering rage. ‘Popped his eyes open’ made me giggle. The rest of that sentence is another POV violation.

    “Why didn’t you protect her?” His voice was exerted and taut as he seized his fingers around the metal brim of the guard’s collar, forcing him to face his smoldering eyes.

    "His voice was exerted and taut" – um, yeah. Not good writing there.

    The guard’s face paled as he saw Draven’s power flowing out of his glowing hand, seeping into his throat. He struggled to breathe as his esophagus began compressing tighter and tighter, threatening to slowly suffocate him. The intense burning sensations prickling underneath his skin felt as if it were going to melt right off of his body like candle wax. As the Power of Light intensified, his flesh started to catch fire making him scream out in excruciating agony. “I’m sorry sir. We tried to reach her in time, but they flashed her out of here before we could get to her.”

    " The intense burning sensations prickling underneath his skin felt as if it were going to melt right off of his body like candle wax." POV switch. And he sounds kinda calm and coherent for someone in agony, don’tcha think?

    By the time Draven grappled for control and recalled his magick back, the guard’s entire body was marred in a thin layer of cinereal ash. Loosening his hold, he let the guard drop to the floor and left him to suffer his wounds until sleep healed them. Draven help me…Oh god, please help me. Hearing his amora’s desperate cry for help, Draven turned around in fervent ire and punched the wall behind him, splintering the hard wood from one end to the other with the force of his vicious blow.

    "in fervent ire" – another odd description. I have to say this wouldn’t win me over. It’s a fast paced introduction but it’s confusing, and the writing is florid (and the POV switches are a no-no completely for me.) The clichéd names aren’t going to do the book any favours either. It’s not horrible, but it’s in need of editing.

  2. The Writer
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 06:56:53

    Just before everyone starts the whole Underworld thing again, I would just like to say that it has NOTHING to do with Underworld. Not in the slightest. I don’t believe Underworld has vampires who use magic or an evil goddess that manipulates both the Shadow Dwellers and the Lycans for her purposes. Although, everyone who posted about the Lycan name on my query- I took that under consideration and am going to change the name(I just didn’t change it here). And I wanted to mention that I did have one of the big NYC literary agencies request my full manuscript so wish me luck!

  3. Kimber An
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 07:28:29

    Great scene, but you’re trying so hard to convey its power that you’ve cluttered it up with extra words. I’m lousy at line-editing, except when I have a massive head-cold and can be absolutely ruthless because of it. I’ll let the more talented commentors rip it apart. I just wanted to say, you’re on the right track. Now, roll up your sleeves and make this baby work.
    ;)

  4. bettie
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 07:51:39

    Dear Writer,

    It’s very brave of you to submit your writing for public comment and critique. I admire your courage and your determination to improve your craft.

    In order to make the story more appealing, I would first recommend that you review and reconsider the specific phrases Ann pointed out above. Kimber An also had a good point about the extra words.

    I would also advise you to replace some of your adverbs (“ly” words) with more descriptive words or phrases. Adverbs are often a prime example of “telling, not showing.”

    Try to reduce the number of present participle verbs (“ing” verbs) in this passage. To be blunt: there are too many. These words are not always bad, but they rarely pull their weight. Instead of supplying the aura of immediacy one might expect from actions related in the present tense, they slow your pacing by forcing the reader to mentally rearrange a number of distinct actions which may or may not have happened at the exact same time.

    Consider:

    Rushing forward to the guard clutching the bed sheet, Draven gripped his right hand tightly around the guard's neck, and lifted him several inches off the floor.

    Is Draven still rushing forward as he holds the guard’s neck? Is the guard still clutching the bed sheet? Or did it happen like this: Draven rushed forward, wrapped his right hand around the guard’s neck, and lifted him several inches off the floor.

    Because the rewritten sentence does not allow for confusion about the sequence of events, it reads faster than the sentence with the present participle verbs.

    When used too often, or in proximity, present participle verbs begin to stand out to the reader. I counted 23 present participles in your selection.

    I hope these notes are helpful. Good luck and happy writing,

    b

  5. Bernita
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 07:56:32

    This has the potential to be a powerful scene, but your prose needs a clean-up.
    Take for example:
    “By the time Draven grappled for control and recalled his magick back, the guard's entire body was marred in a thin layer of cinereal ash.”
    I see a redundancy ( “recalled…back” – recalled means to call back) and a case of passivity (“was marred”)
    Please consider:
    Draven grappled for control. By the time he recalled his magick, a thin layer of cinereal ash marred the guard’s entire body.
    And the very best of luck to you!

  6. Kathleen
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 08:58:54

    I agree with the others. The adjectives and adverbs and descriptions are actually too much. It’s hard to find the action among them, almost. For example, in the first sentence, “roared” adequately describes how his voice sounds. “Tore open the doors” describes what he did much more concisely and it’s quick and to the point… which matches his actions. No need to say that they almost came off the hinges.

    I think what’s happening is that the extra description is slowing down the reader, so it’s not matching the pace of the action. Your descriptions need to be more… sneaky… for lack of a better word. For example, if you want to also add a hint as to his strength, then you could say that he “tore open the heavy oak doors.” That adds two adjectives, but they’re quick and simple, and combined with the “tore” conveys the impression that this guy must be powerful in order to open heavy doors that quickly. I like the end of that sentence.

    Next sentence… it’s too long and reflective for the action. This sentence might work if he’s mulling over something, but it doesn’t work when he’s desperately searching for someone. It’s also not very deep POV. Try a simple, “He stopped short.” Or… “The scene before him halted him in his tracks.” Both are very description of the action, and both allow the reader to see and experience the foreboding chill along with him. As it is, you’re almost telling us what we’re supposed to feel before we have any reason to understand why we’re feeling it.

    Similar types of editing can improve it throughout, but I don’t have time to go through right now. I’ve got to leave the house.

    Good luck!

  7. Lynne Connolly
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 10:03:08

    Okay, Writer, brace yourself…

    Readers, though, the way that I look at it is this: Would the hook itself interest you in reading the book. If yes, what interests you and if not, what would you change to make it more appealing?

    No. It doesn’t seat itself firmly in any time or place. 1623 to me means early Stuarts, Charles I making a mess of ruling Britain, extravagance and civil war in France, lots of satin, swordfights.
    Fuschia bedsheets indicates that the narrator, presumably Draven, knows what a fuschia is. So were are we? Medieval, Chinese, a different planet where fuscias bloom before the Victorian era? It’s all very well plunging into the action, but you need to take care with your language. And this man also knows what a migraine is, which tends to indicate a technological culture (migraines were known, but not described as such until the 20th century). Carelessness with language ruins the image. So I’m floundering from the start.

    The narrative style isn’t polished enough (see below). I don’t care about the characters – why should I bother with a man who rages and storms? Where has he been?

    “Where is she?” Draven roared lethally

    Ick. That adverb is horrible. Lose it.

    as he swung open the solid oak doors, almost ripping them off their hinges, and stormed into his amora's bedchamber.

    He has time to notice that the doors are solid oak? Is that likely? And “amora” – so is this Latin? Italian? Because I’m floundering for the setting, my mind is looking for clues.

    The sight before him only amplified the foreboding chill he felt deep within his soul.

    Several guards lay dead in their own pools of blood. A handful more looked severely beaten and on the verge of collapse.

    All this is “telling not showing.” Make me care. Stop describing and take us into the action.

    And one sobbed uncontrollably into a fuchsia bed sheet drooping lifelessly over the empty bed.

    A wuss. And fuschia? A sophisticated society that doesn’t just know what fuschias are, they can dye bedsheets to that color?

    Frustrated and angry, Draven called upon the Power of Light and blasted the fiery, white energy ball congregating in his left palm into the nearest object.

    Okay, not Kansas then. Or maybe Kansas. By now I’m thinking another planet and ditching the date at the top of the piece. Because if we’re on another planet, the date is irrelevant, since I have no frame of reference for it. And you’re “telling” again. I don’t see it in my mind, I get no sense of how hard he has to work to get the energy ball, where it comes from and what it looks like.

    What was left of the victimized table fluttered through the air as gray ash and mixed with the thick, dark liquid pooling on the marble floor. Rushing forward to the guard clutching the bed sheet, Draven gripped his right hand tightly around the guard's neck, and lifted him several inches off the floor. “Do NOT make me repeat myself again!”

    So our boy is rushing and gripping and shouting all at the same time? Rushing is a vague word that gives me no sense of place or of the character.
    That’s about all you’re getting from me. It’s fantasy – not my thing, though I’ll read a good one if it comes highly recommended. A table isn’t victimised – a person is. And who in their right mind has marble in the bedroom? Cold, slippery, very uncomfy.

    Nope, I’m moving on.
    The process above is one way an editor can tell that the book is not for them. They’ll read the first page or two with that kind of critical approach – “show me why I shouldn’t put this aside,” and that’s why it’s so hard to get in. Because they receive so many positions every week, they are looking for reasons to reject.

    I do think you are awfully brave putting your book forward to this process, something I wouldn’t do, and if you work a bit harder, refine, polish and think a bit harder about your fantasy world, you have a good chance. You haven’t started the story by delving into backstory, you’ve tried to immerse us in the story from the word go – very difficult in the fantasy genre. If you keep going, you have a good chance.

  8. Kim
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 10:28:54

    I agree with what the others said regarding critiquing. However, from a reader’s POV, I’d not be able to read this simply because I feel as if Draven is a overly dramatic – a bit of a drama queen. The reason for that is it feels as if you are trying to hard to get the angst and darkness that you are over doing it. As a hero, despite his obvious love for his amora, I wouldn’t like him. He’s attacking (and killing) his retainers, blowing things up, etc. I read for the hero’s and the story line (action versus sex). He’s not very sympathic and I’d be disappointed in him as a hero.

    On a final note, I know you don’t like the Underworld comparison but you have two right out front – Draven and Lycan. And if Draven is a vampire – well, you’ve clinched it. It’s all fine and dandy that you said yours is different but for us avid readers and watchers of the “dark” genre, we are going to make the connection – despite your protests. There are a lot of cool other names you can give your hero – besides while I love the name Draven (I wanted to use it in one of my stories), I can’t get past the Underworld reference and as you well know (if you don’t, I suggest you rent the movie), that Draven was NOT a likeable character. Be creative – I suspect you can do it.

    Good luck!

  9. The Writer
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 10:38:05

    I appreciate eveyone’s comments so far, and can’t wait to put them into action. Just thought that I should add that the setting takes place in a make believe world. It doesn’t take place in the world as we know it, but in a parallel world (so the year 1623 doesn’t correspond with the year as we know it). Cresna is made up city as long with the other places that I have created for this book. And I guess that I should admit that there is actually a page before this called “In the Beginning” that says this, but I wanted to submit this page for review.
    Sorry :(

  10. The Writer
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 10:54:01

    I love the “dark” genre as well. Kraven was the name used in Underworld, not Draven. But I can kind of see where you could get confused. I actually took the name from Eric Draven from The Crow (and a wolf hybrid pet I used to have).

  11. Kim
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 12:46:50

    Oops, yeah, my bad! :D It’s been a while since I’ve watched the movie – maybe I need to! And you know, that Draven from The Crow – I knew this but just didn’t put the two together. I guess you can tell what movie/show had a bigger impact on me. :D

    Can you blend what you submitted and “In the Beginning”? I think this is one of those cases where it seems as if you need more world-building up front. That aspect didn’t bother me (re: hero’s and action versus sex) but it some others.

    I think you totally have a good start here. You should post again when you’ve worked on some suggestions. I know I’d love to read it again.

  12. The Writer
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 13:17:12

    I took this from an email I sent (I’m at work and don’t have my manuscript on this computer)so there really isn’t any paragraph form here. Sorry:( This is actually the first page.I hope this clears things up a little bit. I’m open for advice on this as well. Thanks. You guys rock!!!

    The Beginning of the End

    In a world that parallels our own, from the dirt on the earth to the stars in the heavens, a great and terrible war was brewing. The hatred between those differing in color, shape, form and religion were a constant reminder that the world is jealous with want. It is because of these discrepancies that both Vampyran and Lycans became mortal enemies. Each race claimed to be the most powerful of the Magick Kind and sought to prove their vindications by lashing out with fang and claw to justify their means.
    The bickering turned into fighting, the fighting into killing, the killing into war. A war that would have been won by the Vampyran over a thousand years ago if not for a deceitful betrayal.
    On the battlefield of Isden Valley, the two races merged and descended upon one another in a wild rage. Swords clashed and blood soaked the earth, filling the buzzard-ridden skies with the putrid smell of death and magick. The Vampyran showed no mercy when it came to slaughtering down their Lycan enemies. They blasted them with their magick, filling the sky with deafening bursts of color, then smiled as they watched their beastly forms writhe in agony on the ground.
    After hours of brutal fighting, the Lycan leader knew all was lost and sought out the Vampyran King to surrender his defeat. As the Lycan leader knelt in front of the king with his sword raised in submission, sweat pouring into his hate-stained eyes, an unlikely twist developed. One of the trusted Lumni Warriors stealthy crept behind the Vampyran King and brought down the wrath of his sword to sever the king's head from his body.
    Pandemonium unleashed throughout the Coven and the Lycan leader saw his chance to escape from the deadly outcome. Using the chaos to his advantage, he howled to his pack, commanding them to flash back to their stronghold to recoup and finish the war another day.
    To show his dominance over his brethren, the Vampyran traitor lifted the king's dismembered head up in one hand, and spit into its face. Raising his sword high in the air, the traitor bellowed a great battle cry to Halvara, the resting place of all Vampyran, and claimed his domination over the Vampyran race. The traitor declared that those who ruled under his power would live, and those who didn't would be hunted down and slaughtered.
    Less than half chose to stand behind him.
    Seeing the remaining Lumni Warriors and Coven members standing rigid and ready to attack, he hurled the mutilated head at them and charged.
    After a tiring battle was fought and blood was spilled on both sides, the race split apart, and gave birth to two Covens. One good. One evil. But to defeat the Lycans in a future war would require an impossible union between the two, or all Vampyran would be lost into Halvara.

  13. JoB
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 13:32:26

    I’m repeating what other folks have said so well.

    Trust yourself. Lay your verb or noun out on the altar all naked and alone.

    roared lethally = roared
    almost ripping = rattling
    only amplified = amplified
    foreboding chill = chill
    deep within his soul = in his soul
    Several guards = guards
    their own pools of blood = pools of blood
    severely beaten = beaten
    sobbed uncontrollably = sobbed
    drooping lifelessly = drooping

    .
    So –
    “Where is she?” Draven roared as he swung open the solid oak doors, almost ripping them off their hinges, and stormed into his amora's bedchamber. The sight before him amplified the chill he felt within his soul.

    Guards lay dead in their own pools of blood. A handful more looked severely beaten and on the verge of collapse. And one sobbed uncontrollably into a fuchsia bed sheet drooping lifelessly over the empty bed.
    .

    becomes –
    .
    “Where is she?” Draven roared as he swung open the solid oak doors, rattling them in their hinges, and stormed into his amora's bedchamber. The sight before him amplified the chill he felt in his soul.

    Guards lay dead in pools of blood. A handful more looked beaten and on the verge of collapse. One sobbed into a fuchsia bed sheet drooping over the empty bed.

    .
    .
    .
    That is stripping off those modifiers. Only that.

    To me, the stripped-down version builds the same picture. Builds it better, I think.

    .
    .
    May I add one further, idiosyncratic, tiny niggle ….
    The Cessna is the most widely sold airplane in history. ‘Cessna’ gets nine million Googlehits.

    I don’t know why I read Cresna as Cessna, but I do.
    This is probably just me. Ignore it.

  14. Rebecca J
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 15:33:10

    I have to clean out part of my basement. I’ll post my critique later.

  15. Ann Somerville
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 16:22:46

    I actually took the name from Eric Draven from The Crow

    Which is an excellent reason *not* to use it, since it will evoke that character and I don’t think you want to do that.

    Draven is one of those cool names that everyone nicks – do yourself a favour and call this guy something else. The second you use a famous name from someone else’s canon, you make your stuff look recycled and it’s a barrier in an editor’s mind to accepting a piece.

  16. Annabel
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 19:22:37

    Sorry, but it lost me at the fuchsia bed sheet. I was instantly distracted into wondering when the fuchsia got its name – I haven’t looked it up, but I’m pretty sure that it was long after 1623. Then the image of the guard sobbing into the fuchsia sheet made me laugh, which I doubt is your intended audience reaction.

    I agree with the replies that suggested changing the name Draven. It’s been used before (and it always makes me think of detergent, or carpet cleaner).

    I wouldn’t keep reading – it’s just too busy a scene, with all that violent emotion. Cutting some of the adverbs might help.

  17. kirsten saell
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 20:06:24

    His jaw went rigid from the strain, and he popped his eyes open to reveal the smoldering anger turning his amber irises blacker than obsidian.

    I agree with pretty much everything already said, and would add, if you’re in Draven’s POV, he would hardly be thinking about his own eye color, or use the phrase “as though he had a head-splitting migraine”. Putting it that way, takes us out of his POV. And the word “popped” for his eyes doesn’t seem to fit the mood of the scene. The word “congregating” reminds me of churches. “Coalescing” might be a better choice in describing his gathering power, and no one really cares whether it’s his left palm or his right.

    This really needs a serious trim. You could pare it down by 1/3 to 1/2 without losing anything but flab.

    I actually took the name from Eric Draven from The Crow (and a wolf hybrid pet I used to have).

    That’s what I thought of immediately, but I loved Eric (from the comic books, not so much the movie) and I do not love this ranting, bombastic Draven as he is presented here. I really think you need to tone him down.

    becomes -
    .
    “Where is she?” Draven roared as he swung open the solid oak doors, rattling them in their hinges, and stormed into his amora's bedchamber. The sight before him amplified the chill he felt in his soul.

    See, I’d pare this down even further, and chop up the sentences more: “Where is she?” Draven roared, slamming open the solid oak doors. What awaited him in his amora’s bedchamber chilled him to his soul.

    Many people believe longer sentences convey immediacy, but usually the opposite is the case. Short, terse sentences, using powerful verbs, a minimum of description, and even sentence fragments, will serve you better.

    This bit as it’s written would not compell me to read further, even setting aside my predisposition to dislike vamps and weres. I do admire your balls in putting this up for critique. I’ve only ever done something like that once, more than a year ago prior to my first three sales, but it still stings a bit to think of it. I wish you good luck! :)

  18. Natalie
    Jun 08, 2008 @ 00:11:54

    I just want to say that I’m learning soo much from everyones comments. I’ve found myself reading through going “oh I soooo do that” and “oh no I have to cut that out!”, so now I’m inspired to go back once again and re-edit my manuscript.
    To the writer, I wouldn’t be upset by the comments here, take it as happy deconstruction of an interesting story. If what others suggest makes it a better story that will reach a greater audience, then Hooray!
    And now I’ll have to go through rip open my first page with all the suggestions and then post it.

  19. Rebecca J
    Jun 08, 2008 @ 01:04:08

    Hi folks, here’s my critique.

    1. ON THE USE OF PARALLEL WORLDS

    It doesn't take place in the world as we know it, but in a parallel world (so the year 1623 doesn't correspond with the year as we know it).

    In establishing your story in a parallel universe, you need to fully understand the concepts of the Multiverse and the Many-worlds interpretation in quantum physics.

    Basically, you can’t have a world that is parallel to ours with vastly different characteristics. Physicist Hugh Everett III’s many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics proposes the existence of multiple universes, all of which are “identical”, exist in possibly different states. All SciFi and Fantasy authors honor this concept and it makes for immediately recognizable worlds with that we readers can dive into with relish.

    This means that in your world in 1623 mirrors everything in 1623 in our known world but for the presence of robust communities of supernatural beings who seem to be the main populations of your parallel world.

    These communities or nations though, would exist in a 1623 that follows some of the same historical and technological timeline and trajectory as ours in 1623, so, there might be a different kind of gun but there wouldn’t be a car or plane. Perhaps your world had a version of Leonardo da Vinci and his inventions were actually created and used….

    This is a very important point in the credibility of your world for the reader. The most recent rendering of a parallel history is that of Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series. There, the integrity of our world history is honored, but we are given a delightful twist with the inclusion of dragons. Novik is successful for many things, not the least of which is her willingness to explore what it means to have a world with a population of sentient dragons.

    Another recent example of a parallel Earth is Dr. Who episode 176 a) Rise of the Cybermen and b) The Age of Steel.

    Star Trek also dealt with the concept of a parallel Earth.

    2. OPENING SENTENCE

    “Where is she?” Draven roared lethally…

    I would never buy your book based on these three words: “Draven roared lethally.”

    A) Draven? As others have said, the Underworld reference cannot be escaped. There are some great name resources online. You can find sites devoted to Merovingian names, names found in the Doomsday Book,…here’s an Italian Medieval Naming Guide Web site.

    B) A person can only roar lethally if 1) they breathe fire 2) they have halitosis so bad that they can lay people out simply by exhaling or 3) they reach a decible level deep or high enough to burst ear drums.

    A great book to buy to help you think through the minutae of character development is Noah Luckman’s The Plot Thickens. Luckman, an agent, makes the point that the plot is more than simply the stringing together of incidents.

    3. CHARACTERIZATION

    The guard's face paled as he saw Draven's power flowing out of his glowing hand, seeping into his throat. He struggled to breathe as his esophagus began compressing tighter and tighter, threatening to slowly suffocate him. The intense burning sensations prickling underneath his skin felt as if it were going to melt right off of his body like candle wax. As the Power of Light intensified, his flesh started to catch fire making him scream out in excruciating agony. “I'm sorry sir. We tried to reach her in time, but they flashed her out of here before we could get to her.”

    By the time Draven grappled for control and recalled his magick back, the guard's entire body was marred in a thin layer of cinereal ash. Loosening his hold, he let the guard drop to the floor and left him to suffer his wounds until sleep healed them.

    What a jerk.

    I forced myself to read the entire entry and was so turned off by Draven that I would have given the book away rather than finish reading it. I found him immature, bellicose, reactionary, needlessly violent, oh, and dumb…not attractive or interesting or loveable. Not even likeable. And usually, I can finish a book based on the likability of the hero.

    4. ANACHRONISM

    Be careful of anachonism. Weed it out of your manuscript. If you are placing the work of the book in 1623, you absolutely *must* know and understand world history and the state of technology in the early 17th century. All that knowledge will help ground your characters and their actions within the world.

    Fuschia bedsheets would NOT be around in the 17ths century. Not in silk or cotton. Fuschia is a color that was available after the discovery of the analine dye process – in the 1850s. Fuschia is a member of the Magenta color family: “The name magenta comes from the dye magenta, commonly called fuchsine, discovered shortly after the 1859 Battle of Magenta near Magenta, Italy.” (Wikipedia)

    And, more from Wikipedia:
    “Rich magenta (1860)

    “Before printer’s magenta was invented in the 1890s for CMYK printing, and electric magenta was invented in the 1980s for computer displays, these two artificially engineered colors were preceded by…*the color originally called magenta made from coal tar dyes in the year 1859.*[2]

    “Besides being called original magenta, it is also called rich magenta to distinguish it from the colors electric magenta and printer’s magenta shown below.”

    Here are some books on the history of color: pg 245 The Dictionary of Colour.

    Pigment Compendium (great book) by Nicholas Eastaugh, Valentine Walsh, Tracey Chaplin, Ruth Siddall

    A recent book by a well-known author who has steeped herself 16th century history is Sarah Dunant’s novel The Birth of Venus.

    5. OVERALL SENSE OF CRAFT

    I regret to say that, in this iteration of your manuscript, your writing is clunky and overwrought. Indeed, I get the sense while reading this excerpt that you haven’t put a lot of thought into the words you have chosen.

    Here are some examples I’ve parsed:

    a) “…roared lethally…”: See note above. This isn’t possible. No roar is lethal. It is loud, angry, pained, whiny, piercing, scary, etc. Noone comes to any bodily harm from a roar.

    b) “…bed sheet drooping lifelessly…”: Bed sheets aren’t alive. Therefore, they cannot be lifeless. Though sheets can droop, a nicer construction to use is “limply draped” as sheets can be draped. If the woman was pulled out of the bed by force, you could simply describe the sheets being all pulled toward one side or another, or completely off the bed, or that there is evidence of her fighting her captors.

    c) “…white energy ball congregating…”: Energy doesn’t congregate, people do. However, energy can coalesce, combine, merge, mix, fuse….into something, a sphere, etc.

    d) “…victimized table…”: Tables cannot be victimized. They are inanimate objects. Simply clean up the sentence to read,”..into the nearest object, the remains of a side table. The blast of energy reduced those remains to a fine gray ash…” or something like that.

    e) “…gasped sharply…”: 1. The adverb is not needed. 2. If you must keep the adverb, think about the shading: Do you mean sharply or quickly? This shading is important because to speak sharply to someone is to be harsh or caustic. Based on the way you wrote the scene, and the fear with which D inspires, “quickly” fits better.

    f) “…voice stabbing through his mind like an accumulation of a thousand thrown knives…”: 1. This is overkill. 2. Voices do not stab. People do. But, even if I suspend my disbelief long enough to allow for the possibility that telepathic communication could hurt, why would his love’s voice hurt him? Let’s dive deeper here. I think that what is hurting D is his inability to get to his love and that knowledge hurts him when he picks up her protestations telepathically. This is the core of the feeling.

    g) “…sweltering rage…”: This description makes me think of The Hulk, another guy with anger management issues.

    h) “Her unyielding sense to shadow her fear…”: What does this mean? I don’t understand it. “Shadow her fear…” does this mean that she is shielding her fear from D? If it does, then call it what it is: Shielding her fear. How is it sensible for her to shield her fear form the very man who can rescue her? It doesn’t matter what your intentions are past this page. I need to understand on this page why it is sensible for a woman to make it impossible for her lover to rescue her. I read that and I immediately think TSTL. This is not a good way to be introduced to a character.

    i) “…piqued frustration…”: I think I understand why you chose to put these words together. But this shading isn’t needed. They are redundant here. D could be piqued (a feeling of irritation or resentment, as from a wound to pride or self-esteem: to be in a pique.) by her not opening up and frustrated that he can’t get to her or get through to her. And even then having made the plain, I find the combination redundant.

    j) “…he popped his eyes open…”: Not needed. Simple is best. Simply write, :”He opened his eyes…”

    k) “His voice was exerted and taut…”: First of all, really awkward construction. Voices aren’t exerted. Energy is. Voices aren’t taut, vocal chords are. What are you really trying to say here? Keep it simple. Perhaps you are trying to convey D’s anger? Worry? Need for a speedy answer? Need for action? If so, then describe that. And to do that, describe the look in D’s eyes, the color of his face – is his face red from all the blood rushing up there interfering with his thinking? If so, that is a livid face.

    l) “…as he seized his fingers around…”: This is an incorrect use of the word seize. A person seizes an object. So, D seized that man’s throat. Or he crushes the metal collar, or he seizes the metal collar and pulls the man to him…

    m) “…the metal brim of the guard's collar,…”: This is an awkward use of the word brim. Rather, use rim, for it better describes the edge of a collar.

    It took a lot of guts for you to put this excerpt up, I think you have a fine idea, your execution though does need some work. I wish you the best regarding the intereste displayed by the agency.

  20. kirsten saell
    Jun 08, 2008 @ 01:55:22

    I just want to say that I'm learning soo much from everyones comments.

    The thing about critiques is it’s often just as valuable to pick apart someone else’s work–or observe from the sidelines–as it is to be the, ah, victim, for lack of a better term. Critiquing trains you to look at writing from a different place in your head. Opinions can often differ, but you know when many posters have similar comments, those are the important bits to file away and apply to your own writing.

    Only problem is when you’re so deep in critique-mode that you nitpick every book you’re trying to read for pleasure. There are a bunch of authors I can’t read anymore because their mistakes/mediochre prose/repetitive phrasing/etc leap off the page and throw me out of the story. I’m not gonna name any names, tho, lol!

  21. Jill Sorenson
    Jun 08, 2008 @ 09:52:39

    I was also jarred by fuschia and some of the adverbs, but I like the energy of the piece and think the story starts in an interesting place. If the hero is already in love with his “amora,” I’m wondering how the romance develops. Or is this a romance?

    I have to admit I find it hard to cold-critique a first page, not knowing genre, basic story structure, etc. I usually read the back cover before I start a book.

    Anyway, kudos to the writer for submitting this. If I were an unpublished author just starting out, I don’t think I’d be brave enough to submit my work here.

    I was an English teacher (very briefly) and I learned that marking every mistake in a student’s paper was not a good idea. I didn’t have time, for one. Also, I felt it was better to highlight the most important errors and make positive comments when I could. The writer is lucky to get so many in-depth critiques, but sometimes a pageful of “red ink” is less effective than a few pointed remarks.

  22. Gemini
    Jun 08, 2008 @ 10:28:13

    anyone ever watched Underworld….DRAVEN…LYCANS….all the additional unnecessary details…nope..I’ll pass.

  23. Seressia
    Jun 08, 2008 @ 11:14:18

    I think the critiques have been in depth enough, so I’ll approach it as a reader.

    1623: I immediately tried to equate your story to Earth, and earth history. If this is on another planet, the date doesn’t help the world building.

    Draven: immediately went to The Crow, and Lycan made me think of Underworld. I don’t know if either franchise has trademarked these words but they are so ingrained in people’s consciousness (at least the people who would be likely buyers of this) that it may be hard for the readers to look at your story without those filters in place.

    Fuschia is one of those words that draw the eye. I wondered if there was some significance to the color. And the guard sobbing into the sheet was a bit over the top. This is who Draven has protecting his amora? No wonder she got taken.

    Your hero comes off as unheroic. I know this is supposed to show how his power, his fury, his devotion to his amora, but he seems like a bully. I finished reading and my first thought was “Where the hell was he during all of this and why didn’t he drag his happy a$$ in to protect his amora?”

    Which led to more questions: If they can communicate telepathically, why didn’t he know sooner that she was in trouble–and therefore get there faster? Where was he that he wasn’t protecting her–and why did she need to be protected? Why would she not want him to come get her, especially if he’s as badass as you’re making him out to be? Oh wait, she does at the end, so you might want to make that first “shadowing” of her thoughts something else. She’s got to know that if people are kidnapping her from her bedroom, it’s not to do brunch. (and wow, it would have been nice if she’d taken one of them out before they got away with her. Even if it’s all about the alphaness of the male, can’t we have a female who does not go gently into that good night? If Draven’s all that, why can’t his amora be too? Sheer numbers overpowered her, not being weak and waiting for her hero to rescue her. Okay, end rant…) Also is amora his intended or his wife? I think there’s a way drop this in to make this clearer for the reader and let them know if they’re going to have a romance or something else (cause we know the spine of the book sometimes lies…)

    All these guards–I would assume they are elite if they’re assigned to protect the amora–and none of them got a lick in on the bad guys? Not one incapacitated enemy? Then again, maybe all the guards are lying in pools of blood because they cracked their heads slipping on the marble floor and the enemy have sticky feet.

    Your voice is very dramatic, and that can work. But by the time I finished reading this sample, I was exhausted and emotionally drained. Same with the prologue. I would have to be in the mood for a drama-filled story to add this to my book basket, and I love paranormals and urban fantasy. I think reducing the adverbs and chopping up some of the sentences will drive the action and also ratchet up the tension.

  24. The Writer
    Jun 08, 2008 @ 15:26:42

    This amora (wife) dies brutally at the end of this prologue. But I will tell you that the woman he does end up with later in the story is not some helpless whelp. She’s actually a slayer who doesn’t take crap from anyone. I really don’t have any female characters who are weak- I hate that.

    Thanks so much everyone for your comments. I’ve got my manuscript right here and am working on changing a bunch of stuff as we speak- just needed a little break. My prologue has been the weakest link of my manuscript. For some reason my writing style in the prologue is completley different than what’s in the rest of my manuscript. It’s not as exhausting to read. However, I’m going to go through my entire manuscript with the finest tooth comb I can find.

    Oh,I changed the Lycan name to Vilkasin. Still not sure if I like that, but it works until I can come up with something different.

    Thanks

  25. Karen Templeton
    Jun 08, 2008 @ 15:33:16

    Yeah, what everybody said about having the guts to do this. You go. :)

    But frankly, I couldn’t see the story for all the words, either (this heightened by my being in edit mode, m’self). Ideally, writing should be as invisible as possible; the more words used, especially in a scene that should be all about shock and outrage, the less impact. IMO, the writing should be terse almost to fragmentation in order to suck the reader into the horror the protagonist feels. Explanations can come later (you don’t have to cram everything into the first page), and certainly more languid prose has its place — in the story’s more languid moments. Not here.

    The good news is, most new writers mistake “more” for “good,” so you’re not alone. Unpublished contests are rife with overwrought prose. The better news is, it’s an easy fix. You may still find yourself doing the slash-and-burn thing during edits even after many, many books (she said, rolling her eyes and whistling), but you can certainly train yourself to spot/delete the over-verbiage.

    I highly recommend SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Renni Browne and Dave King.

  26. Kathleen
    Jun 09, 2008 @ 13:15:43

    I’m going to add one note that no one has mentioned.

    To me, calling the doors “solid oak” is NOT in his POV. Unless he has X-ray vision, or some sort of special skill that allows him to know in an instant what the inner makings of the door are, there’s no way he’d know that! It doesn’t read as though he’s been in this location before, either.

    So those words alone put me more in the position of listening to a narrator tell the story, rather than watching the story unfold through his eyes. That’s why I changed “solid” to “heavy”… because “heavy” is an adjective that you CAN tell very quickly without having to notice. “Oak” is noticeable to some people, so it doesn’t pull me out of POV like “solid” did. This isn’t much different than what someone said (above) about the fact that a character doesn’t think about what color their eyes are. You’ve got to wait to tell your readers that until you give ANOTHER character reason to notice it or think about it.

    Anyway… keep these kinds of things in mind as you write, to make your POV stronger. You want to color and flavor your world, but you want to do it through the eyes of your characters.

    The best of everything to you!

  27. Gail Dayton
    Jun 09, 2008 @ 16:42:43

    victimized table…”: Tables cannot be victimized. They are inanimate objects. Simply clean up the sentence to read,”..into the nearest object, the remains of a side table. The blast of energy reduced those remains to a fine gray ash…” or something like that.

    I’m going to critique the critiquer for a moment. Far too many crits forget that literature–which this is, at least nominally–can use Figurative Language. Personification “is a figure of speech that gives an inanimate object or abstract idea human traits and qualities, such as emotions, desires, sensations, physical gestures and speech. In English literature, personification is oft-used as a literary device.”

    I do not have an issue with letting the table be victimized. (Though I wasn’t sure why he victimized the poor table…) I have an issue with the over-abundance of personification used here, along with all the other overdone verbiage. Go ahead and use personification. But don’t use it too much. Let stuff stab through your hero’s mind, because, you know, that’s what it feels like to him. But don’t overdo. I ditto Karen T’s recommendation of SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Browne and King.

    Also–it sounds to me like you’re not using an Actual Parallel Universe. You’re using a Fantasy Universe which correlates with our own universe only insomuch as it has a feudal government and the inhabitants look like us. And in that case, yes, the date is irrelevant, as is the name of the city.

    My question now is–why start here? Apparently, this is backstory. So why put it on stage? Why not begin at the actual beginning of the story you want to tell? Honestly, this feels like a fish head to me. (I heard the description from Britta Coleman, author of POTTER SPRINGS, who got it from someone else, but I don’t remember who.) A lot of stories don’t start in the right place. There’s this whole inedible fish head before you get to the meat of the story, and you have to cut it off and toss it out. It’s important to your story (like the fish’s head is important to the fish), but it’s not necessary to eat the fish/read the story. If this amora is not the heroine of the story, if the story is about your hero’s relationship with a whole nother woman, why not begin the story with Her and feed in this loss with the rest of the back story??

    I’ve read the openings of only two stories that opened too late in the story rather than too early. One began just after a big Fight, where the hero was attacked, and the other began just after the hero and heroine made love for the first time. Most other rookie authors tend to start too early. You might need this prologue, but I’m thinking you’d probably be better off starting on The Day That’s Different–where the fate of the actual Heroine gets tangled up with the fate of the hero.

    Squeeze the purple out of your prose and take a critical look at your fish–er, story–and see whether the fish head needs to be removed.

  28. Lynne Connolly
    Jun 09, 2008 @ 17:23:26

    Gail, I love the fish head thing!
    I tend to chop off my first three chapters when I write. I’ll write them for me – to get myself into the story, into the mood, and then they go before I send the copy in.

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