Thursday, July 26, 2012

July Anything #9

GENRE: Young Adult Fantasy First Page

I’d never killed a man before, or been this close to one. My nose
brushed his shirt and wrinkled. It was messier than I thought, and
smelled of sweat and blood. He’d been a bear of a man, standing in
front of me, but the dagger slid in right between the ribs, slick and
easy. I tugged it out, and it was all blood and bits of flesh clinging
to the blade. Flecks of bright red freckled my face, and he fell
across my dusty boots. His sword clattered against the stones. Glass
glittered as it fell. It was simple.

I stumbled. My laces were tangled in his fingers. He dragged me back
towards him, blood pooling under his chest, and I kicked out. His neck
cracked and blood bubbled between his broken teeth. Shaking my foot,
his hand fell away. I prodded his cheek, his nose, and held my palm
under his nose. Nothing, and my shoulders slumped. I touched his nose
again. A boy’s face on this barrel-chested body. He’s my age; he was
my age. He was still warm, but my chest was chilled. He was big and
well-fed, and I knew Isaak would never be that tall.  Isa and Isaak
Agnes, wiry and thin like the rest of rabble.

Broken glass littered the ground around him. It sparkled and flashed
in the dying sun. An arrow, black and cracked with age, rolled by his
feet. I reached over him and ran my fingertips over the shaft.
Fire-hardened wood painted black and a steel tip painted over with


  1. The first sentence was a bit confusing to me because of the ambiguity of "one" and what it means. My guess is it means "a dead man."

    So for me, the first sentence would work better by being more specific:

    I'd never killed a man before, or been this close to a corpse.

    However, more confusion is introduced by what happens afterward... the man she's just "killed" is still on his feet and falls over dragging her down with him.

    So I'm left wondering as a reader whether the man is really dead until after she cracks his neck. Also how does he fall across her boots and still have a hand tangled in her laces?

    There are also other contradictions in what happens to the corpse. He falls across her boots and blood pools under his chest, which seems to imply falling forward. Yet, he's described as dragging her back towards him, she's described as kicking his neck and breaking teeth, and prodding his cheek and nose, and looking at his face, which hints at him falling backward.

    I'm sure the image of this scene is vivid in your mind, but these conflicting details are confusing the image for the reader.

    Perhaps this is a case where less description will make for a more evocative scene.

    However, one thing is for sure... you certainly know how to make a memorable first impression. Just be careful about how you describe your main character's reaction to the killing of the man. Right now she seems a bit heartless and violent. Perhaps knowing why she killed the man would help.

  2. To paraphrase Joseph, your character certainly knows how to make an entrance! Paragraphs 1 and 3 are strong, but I had a little trouble visualizing paragraph 2 and had to read it twice. I thought the man wasn't fully dead and had grabbed her laces and then dragged her, and she fought back with the kick in the teeth, etc. When I read it again I realized his dead fingers had tangled in her boot laces. Also, when you add Isaak and Isa to the mix, it's another layer of information to absorb after a highly detailed encounter with the dead man. An alternative would be to pare the details, which would focus our attention more on the mc, and less on the dead man. Maybe like this:

    My laces were caught in his dead fingers. Shaking my foot, his hand fell away. Blood pooled under his chest. I prodded his cheek, and held my palm under his nose. Nothing. A boy’s face on this barrel-chested body. He’s my age; he was my age. He was still warm, but my chest was chilled. He was big and well-fed. Isaak would never be that tall.

    It's more resonant with an ending that only mentions Isaak. Think about adding information about Isa later.

    The writing is smooth and evocative, well done! My overall suggestion is to simplify. You've introduced four characters in three paragraphs: the mc, the dead man (almost has the weight of a character since the original version has so much focus on the details of his corpse), and the mention of Isaak and Isa, who we sense will become significant.

    Best wishes with this!

  3. Wow, what a stirring scene! I love the action and the details. As the other critiquers said, you have a way with showing!

    I read through this twice and agree with Skywriter and Joseph, I would double check details to make sure they read smoothly from one action to another and save Isaak and Isa for another page.

  4. Thanks you guys. This is a new project still and the works, and you guys are right. It's confusing. Reading back through it I can see where it's just too much. Thank you for the great suggestions.

    Hilariously, the MC in this is Isa Agnes who was just referring to herself. Yeah, that needs to be less confusing.

    Thank you again. I'll rewrite it with your critiques.