Saturday, October 29, 2011

CT First Page #10

Title: The Ash Plague
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

The soldiers locked Flynn’s family in the house and set it on fire in
the night.

Climbing through the cracks of the shattered door, Flynn grabbed his
four-year-old sister from his mother’s battered hands and ran from the
flames, the cracks too small for his parents to escape through. He
flew down the fire-lit streets of the snowy mountain town and
struggled to stay upright amongst the bloody slush beneath his feet.
His country’s army, dressed in bronze and green, trampled through the
streets between the houses and snatched up the people running from
their burning homes while those still trapped in their houses screamed
and thrashed against the walls.

Gagging on the smoke, Flynn held her closer to his chest and skidded
onto the last street of the town, ducking under an arrow and slipping
on the ice. Another arrow flew by his face as his sister sobbed into
his shoulder. Her hands clutched his neck and hair.

Laughter rang out behind him. He turned and saw his elderly neighbors,
dead and splayed out in the dull red snow filling their basement
doorway. The laughing soldiers kicked the bodies back into the
smoke-filled basement. Flynn blinked and turned away. Skidding across
the ice, he twisted his body and darted between two shouting soldiers
standing between him and the safety of the woods. His sister screamed.


  1. Brilliant! Especially the first line! All I have is nitpicking. If the door is shattered it implies glass, which makes me think his parents could smash out a bigger crack - maybe splintered would be better?
    And you have two uses of the word skid - maybe use slid for one?
    Otherwise I'm hooked.

  2. I really like this! My only comment would be that it might be easier to read if his sister has a name, instead of just referring to her in pronoun form. Maybe there's a reason why you don't, and that's fine, but I think it would be nice to have a name.

  3. Love this opening scene! Very powerful. My only suggestion would be to remove those -ing verbs. It removes us from the action and makes it wordier than it should be. Action scenes work best with terse sentences to move the pace along. Would definitely read on though. Sounds exciting!

  4. Very powerful beginning page! I agree with Rebecca - I'd like his sister to have a name, especially in the second paragraph. Good luck!

  5. This is a very gripping beginning to your story! My suggestions are quite nit-picky, as your writing is very solid.

    - I think it'd pack more emotion if you added the following words (in caps for you to see, but don't put them in caps) "...ran from the flames, KNOWING the cracks WERE too small for his parents to escape through."

    - "Gagging on the smoke, Flynn held her closer to his chest..." You need to say "his sister" instead of the pronoun "her." Be careful when you use pronouns; the last person referred to almost always has to be the subject of the pronoun (and the last "person/people" you mentioned were the people running. But I agree with the others: a name for the sister would make this much more personal.

    - "His country’s army, dressed in bronze and green, trampled through the streets between the houses..." I'd omit "though the streets." It makes sense without, and then you don't have to repeat the word "streets" too soon.

    - Also, try to think how your MC would be thinking at a time like this. Would he be thinking, "My country's army is wearing bronze and green"? Probably not, because it's something commonplace for him that he wouldn't think twice about. But it's a nice detail for the reader to know, so it's good to find a way he'd naturally think of those colors. Maybe he would notice the colors if, in his panicked state of mind, he sees flashes of those colors, the colors of his country's army, streak by him in the bedlam and confusion of the death and destruction all around him.

    - I agree that "shattered door" read as a glass door to me. I do like "splintered" better.

    - "The soldiers locked Flynn’s family in the house and set it on fire in the night." Though I like this first sentence, it feels like a big jump of time or in some way needing a transition into your second paragraph. It's almost like first sentence is a narrator speaking and then we jump into the moment with your MC with the next sentence. Can you make the first sentence more in-the-moment with your MC? How does he come upon his house burning? Was he watching in the distance when the soldiers locked the door and set it on fire? Or was he rushing home, knowing the village was under attack, and didn't make it there on time to prevent the soldiers from burning it?

    - I do wish there were at least one or two moments where I knew what your MC was thinking/feeling--something more to ground me in his character. I know more about what's going on in his village than I do for him as a character. If I knew what his sisters/parents/villagers meant to him, this would be a more powerful read. It IS very exciting action, but I want it backed by some more interiority from the MC. I think you have room to spare for this. To me the most compelling drama in this 250 is that he has to pull his sister from his burning house and leave his parents to die. If your 250 ended with that, I would still be hooked--even more so.

    - I'd consider saying "burning" or "blazing" streets instead of "fire-lit" streets. When I read that at first I assumed you were talking about fire-lit lanterns lining the streets and didn't immediately realize it meant the whole village was on fire.

    Again, this is all quite nit-picky. You are a strong writer!

  6. This is a very strong opening. Following Kathryn is hard. I agree with her advice, so ditto that. I also wanted more detail on the first statement because on first reading I didn't know the MC wasn't inside, then thought maybe he climbed through a bedroom door vs the outside until he didn't go through another one to reach the streets.

    Start 2nd para. with: At age_, Flynn was small enough to fit through the cracks in the splintered front door... We need some clue to his age.

    Also, why didn't the parents just open the door? Locks are on the inside. You may have meant barricaded, barred, or nailed boards across from the outside. But then the cracks would be too small unless he finds a place they missed.

    The verb "flew" threw me because I thought you meant it literally until I got to the end of the sentence. At that point I didn't know if the MC had wings. It's a fantasy.

    1st paragraph last sentence should be cut in two. Lose "while" to start the 2nd.

    Replace 2nd "basement" with "tomb" or just say the soldier kicked them back inside.

    Killer last sentence. I'm very anxious to read more.