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  1. #1
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    first thread

    Hey everyone,

    So this is the first chapter of a story that I've been working on for a while, on and off. I'm sorry if there's some parts that don't make complete sense. I just recently revamped it and I may have missed a few spots where the old plot is still in place. I'm hoping I caught them all though, since it's very different than when I first started writing.

    A little about my style of writing: I'm not a "deep" writer. That is to say, you're not going to find all sorts of symbolism or hidden meanings in my words. I write the kind of stuff that I like to read. I have a lot of respect for people who are able to write like that, but I'm not able to. If I could one day make anything of myself as a writer, it would definitely be in teen/young adult fiction.

    Anyways, I'm looking for any type of critique, whether it's grammatical or on the content itself. This is the first time I'm posting a significant amount of my writing on this site, or any site for that matter. I've always been shy about my writing, but I figure I'll never get better unless I step up and let people tear my work to shreds. I think I need it.

    The part that I mostly want some suggestions on is the part when Rayne (my main character) is being shown the vision. If there's any way I can better word when she's watching her three-year-old self, I would like to hear it. I'm not particularly happy with how it sounds right now.

    I hope that those of you who read this at least kind of enjoy it! And thanks in advance for anything you have to say.




    Chapter one

    The oil lamps that lit the muddy street flickered in the wind as a storm slowly rolled towards the city. Dark clouds blocked out the final rays of the setting sun. Lightning flashed, followed by a peal of thunder. The few vendors that were left on the street hurried to close their carts, yelling of low prices to rid themselves of their last lingering products. Most people had already run for shelter, either to their homes or ducking into nearby restaurants or pubs. Couples hurried down the street, the men putting protective arms around their women’s shoulders or waists, as if they could shield them from the lightning that was now flashing every few seconds.

    I flipped the hood of my cloak up over my head, and pulled the rest of it tighter around my body. I lifted each leg a few times in an attempted to warm them up. I thought longingly about how much warmer I would be if I had stockings or boots without holes in them. I stared down at my poorly dressed feet and sighed. I had never known what it was like to have anything more expensive than stolen clothing and a cheap loaf of stale bread. Even when my parents had been alive, we had been poor and living in the slums. My father worked eighteen hours a day only to come back with a few copper pieces for all his efforts.

    I looked up to see that a few of the street lamps had blown out as the wind picked up. Most of the vendors had closed and were making their ways home, except for one. It was a fortune teller’s cart, covered in vibrant drapes that billowed in the wind and black symbols painted on the wood. A woman sat inside it behind a small round table that was covered with a purple cloth that had large gold tassels attached to the corners. I studied the woman; she had wavy black well past her shoulders and dark eyes made even darker by the way she lined them with kohl. Her lips were small but full and under an equally small button nose. Her cheeks were rosy and her skin was dark with an olive undertone to it, suggesting that she was from across the sea. She had on a low cut, dark green dress that tied behind her neck. A black shawl covered her shoulders, a small piece of modesty clothing. The inside of her stall was covered in charms and strange tapestries, with words and symbols that matched the ones decorating the outside. A small candle burned at the center of her table, shielded from the wind by the walls. I could see that her hands were busy sorting through her tarot cards, flipping them this way and that.

    Suddenly, her head snapped up and she scanned the street until her gaze landed on me. She flashed me a kind smile, showing off two rows of straight, white teeth. With one long graceful finger she beckoned, inviting me to join her. I hesitated, taking a step back further into the shadows. In all my twenty years, I had become a sceptic and I was hard pressed to trust people that I did not know. However, against my better judgment, I found my feet shuffling across the narrow street towards the booth. Her smile stayed in place as I got closer. I paused outside the shelter, still wary. She kept smiling as she motioned for me to take a seat on the stool across from her. Nervously, I stepped into the stall, glad in spite of myself to be out of the wind. It was just large enough for me to be completely shielded from the wind, and now from the rain that was starting to fall in large drops. Again, the fortune teller motioned for me to sit on the stool, so I sat, clasping my hands in my lap. I flipped my head back so that my hood would fall and I would be able to see things more clearly.

    “Welcome, Rayne,” she said warmly. “I’ve been waiting some time for you.” I jumped when she said my name. Had we met before? I think she could read the confusion in my eyes because she chuckled and added, “I’m a fortune teller, dear one. I have Seen our encounter happening in my cards and in the tea leaves. I have also had vision-like dreams, preparing me for this moment.”

    I frowned at her, but stayed silent. I didn’t trust normal people, never mind someone who does something as unnatural as See the future. All that magic did was hurt people. I had seen it enough to be sure of that.

    The woman gave me a moment to absorb what she had said before continuing. “My name is Dria. I am a Seer.” She smiled and added “I can tell that you are not comfortable in my presence and it is not just because I am a stranger.”
    I met her gaze evenly, even though my hands shook. She was perceptive, I gave her that.

    She smiled at my bland expression. “Do not fret, child. I am no threat to you. I was sent to help guide you down the right path, so you may start your life’s true journey.”

    I couldn’t help but ask, “My journey?” I was a street rat, scum, nothing. My one lot in life was stealing to stay alive. I had no skills, no education. The only reason I was able to speak proper English and not lower city cant was because my mother and father had hoped for better things for me. They had thought that maybe if I sounded rich, it would one day happen—a lot of good that had done me.

    “Yes, Rayne. You are meant for better things than living on the streets and fighting every day for your life. You have unexplored talents. It is up to you to discover what those talents are. Search yourself, Rayne. Search your past. All the answers are there, once you realize what you’re looking for. Look into your family history; you’ll find more clues there as well.”

    I couldn’t speak. All I could do was stare at her, baffled. What on earth was she talking about? I had no potential. I had no talents. I was nothing; the only things that I hoped for were to live through the coming winter, and to find a pair of stockings, or a pair of boots without holes.

    She reached across the small table and placed a gentle hand on my shoulder. A shock went through me as my vision blurred. My surroundings twisted and folded until I was suddenly in a small room. To my left, a woman lay on a bed, with an infant in her arms. She rocked the child back and forth gently while a man stood protectively, but lovingly over them both. I went cold. I recognized where I was and I knew I didn’t want to be here. Panic started to bubble up in my throat and my palms started to sweat. Watch carefully, Rayne, a voice said seemingly from inside my head. I then realized that Dria was showing me a vision. It had to be her; there was no other explanation. I swallowed the lump that had formed in my throat; it was suddenly clear to me what she meant by my abilities.

    I could hear soft singing coming from the young mother. It was a pretty lullaby, one that was common throughout the lower city. It was a song asking the gods for protection and good luck for a mother’s child.

    Suddenly, she stopped singing as a deep chest cough tore through her. The man held a dirty towel to her mouth. His eyes were sad, but his movements were decisive. She had been coughing up whatever was in her lungs for quite some time. He steadied her with one arm around her shoulders while she continued to cough. Finally, the fit ended. Tears streamed down her face as she fought to breathe.

    The baby in her arms did not stir. I of course knew why; it was dead. An invisible force moved me closer to the bed so that I was able to see the baby’s blue lips and grey-tinged skin.

    I heard a floor board creak behind me and turned around. A young girl, no more than a toddler, stood in the doorway that separated the parents’ room from the rest of the house. She had black hair with odd blue streaks in it that reached down to the middle of her back and startling sapphire blue eyes framed in dark lashes. Her skin was pale and porcelain like, with full red lips and a straight, proud nose.

    I stared at my three year old self and wanted to cry; I didn’t want to relive this. I had spent years trying to repress the memory and now Dria had dropped me right back into it.

    I remembered this night vividly. My mother had taken sick after giving birth to my younger sister, who died when she was only a few weeks old. I was now watching the night of her death.

    My mother looked up and spotted young me. She smiled a shaky smile and said quietly, “Oh, Rayne, I’m sorry if my coughing woke you up. Just go back to sleep. Everything is okay.”

    Young me, with her thumb in her mouth, ignored my mother’s suggestion and walked to her bedside. I got out of the way too slowly; the young girl walked right through my body. Apparently I wasn’t a solid being here.

    “Mama, what’s wrong with Leah?” young me asked, resting her chin on the edge of the bed. “She’s a funny color.”
    My mother looked up at my father with panicked eyes. Quickly, he answered. “She wasn’t healthy, Rayne. She wasn’t able to stay awake.” My mother glared at him and he shrugged. He had always been brutally honest, even if it was hard to hear. I had inherited that trait from him.

    “Can’t you just shake her like you do me when I have to get up? All gentle like?” Young me placed a small hand on Leah’s cold cheek. “Papa, why is she so cold?”

    My father sighed. “Rayne, do you understand what death is?”

    My little head nodded. When you lived in the slums, you were acquainted with death at a young age. “That’s why she won’t wake up?”

    “Yes, dear. She wasn’t strong enough. She was born too small.”

    “Oh.”

    My mother looked down at me, worried. “Are you okay, Rayne? I know it’s a sad thing, but it’s all a part of life; especially for people like us. We are just thankful that we were able to have and keep a beautiful little girl like you.”

    Young me smiled weakly back at her. “I’m okay, Mama. Just sad. She was fun, when she wasn’t sick.”

    “I know baby. We’re all going to miss her.” She was about to say more, but she broke into another fit of coughs that shook her so badly she almost fell to the floor. My younger sister’s body fell from her arms and onto the bed next to her, closer to young me.

    Young me rested a hand on my mother’s leg, and one on Leah’s body. I remembered what was about to happen and turned away, squeezing my eyes shut, but it did no good; the memory was burned into my mind. I knew at that moment my mother would gasp and turn a ghostly grey color to match Leah’s. All the skin would pull tight to her bones, like she was rapidly losing weight. The veins in her face and arms would become visible, squeezed tightly between her bones and skin, almost to the point of bursting. Then, she would collapse, wide eyed and staring blankly.

    I heard what I was waiting for next; the cry of my little sister, Leah. I opened my eyes to look back at the horrific scene in front of me, but when I did, I was back in Dria’s booth. She was watching my face intently.

    “That is but the beginning of your abilities,” she said quietly. “There is more to that ability than just the transfer of life, however. The rest, I will leave for you to discover on your own. But I will tell you this; there are three more for you to remember, and all can be found by looking in your past and your family’s history.”

    A look of sympathy crossed her face. Slowly, she moved her hand from my shoulder and to my face. She ran her fingers gently just below my eye. I realized that she was wiping away tears. I had no idea when I had started crying. I jerked away from her touch and wiped at the tears roughly with my sleeve.

    “I know that was a terrible loss, and what followed was even worse—” I cringed away from her words. Shortly after my mother had died, my father had blamed me and my sister. He had drowned my sister and then killed himself, leaving me on my own at the age of four. “—but you must learn from these memories. It will be a painful road, but many things in your future depend on them. Do not be afraid to receive help from those around you. Your abandonment and trust issues will only hinder you on your path. Learn to trust and to love.”

    I looked up at her, startled. “Love? I have no plans on loving anyone. Love only leads to heartache—just look at what happened to my family!”

    Dria shook her head. “Yes, what happened to them was indeed tragic. But, if you were able to ask your father, I am willing to bet you that he would not give up the time he had with your mother for anything, even though it meant his eventual death. And when I speak of love, I do not only mean the intimacy between lovers. I refer to the love between friends. You will need the support of others to complete the tasks ahead of you. You are a strong girl, Rayne, no one can deny that. But believe me when I say that you are not strong enough to face your future alone. I can see many outcomes, but the ones when you are by yourself do not end well. Learn to love, child, in all ways. You will need the strength that it can give to you.”

    I didn’t want to believe her. Something in her words, or the way she said them made a chill run down my spine. The thought of having to depend on other people made me break into a cold sweat. Needing someone else and not being able to accomplish things on my own was my biggest fear.

    Suddenly, Dria was by my side. I jumped and looked at the chair where she had been sitting. She smiled that kind smile of hers. “I have a few extra talents of my own, child.” She took my hands in hers and kissed my forehead. I closed my eyes, surprised by her sudden show of affection. What was more surprising was how much it comforted me. “I must go now, before the others realize I’m here. I’ve risked much to show you what I did, but I felt that you needed guidance to find your true path and to start along it. Good luck, Rayne. Once you find your second ability, I will come to you again.” She vanished then, but I could still hear her voice and feel her presence. “Follow your instincts, child. They will lead you in the right direction. And don’t forget about love. You will need it.” With her last words, all trace of her vanished.

    I opened my eyes and watched in shock as the shelter around me started to fade; first the candle and the charms hanging from the ceiling, then the table disappeared. The entire stall and its contents quickly vanished. With a hard thud I was sitting in the muddy street, the stool having disappeared from underneath me. I gasped as the frigid rain and wind attacked me. Thanks for that, I thought sarcastically. I doubted she could hear my thoughts, but just in case, I wanted her to know my disdain. I struggled to my feet and took off running down the nearest ally, finding scant protection from the wind.

    Within seconds I was soaked to the bone. I knew that if I didn’t find somewhere to dry off soon, I would become sick, and illness in my way of living could easily lead to death. I groaned when I realized that there was only one place I could go. With a sigh, I turned left down the next street and picked up my pace, heading to the tavern called the Donkey’s Ear. The name itself made me hurt a little inside.

    A heavy stream of light was pouring from the crack between the front doors of the Donkey’s Ear. Even the heavy rain and thunder couldn’t drown out the sound coming from the inn. It was always full to the brim with people; a mix of lower city folk, off duty guards and some people who didn’t always walk on the right side of the law. Mostly they were pickpockets or petty thieves, but every once and a while I would recognize one of the men from the wanted posters. I always steered clear of them.

    It wasn’t the mix of people or amount of noise in the tavern that made my skin crawl, even though I detested crowds; it was the owner. I walked through the open doorway and saw him leering at me from behind the bar. It was like he could sense me whenever I was nearby. I sucked up my pride and walked towards him. I could see that disgusting smile of his slowly pulling at the corners of his mouth. I wove through the throngs of people until I came to the counter in front of him. He was balding, with what little hair he had pulled over to try and cover his shiny head. He was fat, always sweating and had drab eyes that constantly leaked. I could single out his nauseating odour even when I was surrounded by other sweaty people. He was repugnant. I couldn’t begin to understand why this place was so popular, given that the owner was vile, rude and misogynistic.

    “Hey, Gil,” I said through gritted teeth. He ignored my tone and winked. I shuddered.

    He stared at me with that revolting smile plastered on his face until I blurted out, “I need a room for the night.”

    He broke out into a bellowing laugh that made the people that were standing nearby frown and lean away. If I wasn’t so desperate for a place to stay his laugh would have made turn and run.

    “What do I git outta it this time, li’l girl?” he asked greasily.

    I glared. “You know exactly what you get out of it. Can I have the room or what?”

    He chuckled. Chuckles are supposed to be happy sounds, but he made it sound grotesque.

    “Fine,” he finally replied. He reached into his pants—not into his pocket, but into his actual pants—and pulled out a small brass key. I resisted the urge to vomit when he slid it across the counter towards me. I pulled my coat sleeve over my hand before picking it up. I made a mental note to take my jacket to a priest to have it purified later.

    He leaned forward across the counter and murmured, “I’ll come t’the room in a bit. Dry off, rest yer feet an’ try to make yerself look presentable, would ya? I like my girls t’be properly dressed.”

    I rolled my eyes and pushed away from the bar, refusing to answer him. I knew what was expected of me; I’d done it enough times.

    I went through the door that was to the right of the bar and down a series of narrow hallways. The Donkey’s Ear was bigger than it appeared from the outside. Once I found the door I was looking for, I carefully pulled the brass key from my pocket with my hand still covered by my sleeve, afraid that it might be contaminated, and unlocked the door. Inside, the room was well lit with oil lamps in each corner. The furnishings were simple, made of dark polished wood. The couch was upholstered in a lavish red material, with various sized pillows decorating it. A small cot was pushed against the opposite wall, covered with a simple wool blanket and a single pillow.

    I shut the door behind me locked it, and then dropped my jacket to the ground. I quickly peeled my damp clothing off and kicked my boots into a corner before wrapping the blanket from the bed around my shoulders. I went to the dresser that was across from the door and searched the drawers until I found fresh under garments, black leggings, a black blouse and a black tunic. I also found a clean pair of black socks. I put those on first—I adored socks. I knew I wasn’t going to be allowed to keep the clothes for long, but I always relished when I was able to wear them—even if they came at a cost.

    Once I was dressed, I fell to the bed with a deep sigh. It was too bad I wasn’t willing to work for Gil full time; he definitely knew how to take care of his employees. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t allow myself to stoop to his level...at least not that often; only when I was truly desperate. I had been sleeping on the streets for the past two weeks, and with the weather quickly on the decline, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I would be at the Donkey’s Ear a few times a week.

    I let my thoughts drift to my encounter with Dria. I had so many questions; why had she come to me now? What was “my journey” supposed to mean? What other abilities did I have that were so special? What was coming in the future that I would need to use them for? What was so special about my family? Did I inherit something from one of my relatives? What good could come of me being able to kill my mother when I was three? And why did she show me only one of my so-called “powers” and not all of them?

    I dull ache started to pound behind my eyes. Whether it was from all the thoughts in my head or from the cold, I wasn’t sure. I tried to let my mind empty, but every time I closed my eyes I saw my mother’s drained, limp body.
    A knock on the door snapped me back to reality. “Who is it?” I called, knowing very well what his reaction would be.

    “Who th’ hell do ye think ‘tis? Open up!” Gil yelled.

    I sighed and slowly walked to the door. My slow pace didn’t impress Gil. He banged on the door with both fists.

    “Give me a second you ogre!” I yelled as I unlocked the door.

    He scowled as he pushed his way into the room. “I don’t like t’be kept waitin’,” he grumbled.

    “For whatever you’re about to make me do, I think I’m allowed to make you wait a few seconds,” I snapped back.

    He snorted and sat on the couch with a sigh. I stayed standing, waiting impatiently for him to tell me what he wanted this time.

    “This time is gunna take much longer, girlie. A few weeks at least, more’n likely a couple months. I’ve been watin’, hopin’ that ye’d come t’ me soon, so that I could offer this job t’ ye.” He watched my face as he spoke. He could clearly see the confusion in my eyes because he smiled.

    “Since when do I ever get assignments that take more than one night?” I asked. Any time I had to repay him for letting me stay at his bar, I only ever had to do petty thieving. Usually it was some sort of merchant who had some money to spare, but once and a while he would send me to the castle to steal something from there. I was the only person who was able to get in and out undetected. Everyone else he had tried had ended up caught and thrown in jail.

    “Nay, this one be a big job. People have been askin’ aboutchya, girl. They been hearin’ ‘bout whatchya been doin’ up at th’ palace. They like yer style. They want t’put ya wiv some o’their other people—”

    I interrupted him. “Oh no, no, no. Come on, Gil, you know I don’t work with others!” Dria’s words rang in my mind; you will need the support of others to complete the tasks ahead of you. I glared at Gil and pushed the words away. I didn’t deal with people, even if some mystical lady told me I had to.
    “Dun be a fool, girl,” Gil snapped. I frowned, taken aback; he had never sounded so serious. “There’s t’be good money in it, if ye succeed. Yeah, yer to be paid, this time. Not jus’ wiv a room, but wiv real coin. Lots o’coin. So, dun be stupid an’ say no. Suck up yer pride, and join ‘em.”

    I backed up and sat on the bed. I blinked several times at Gil, completely baffled. Never had he done something that wasn’t in his best interest. This time, it actually sounded like he was doing something for me.

    “They be payin’ me a pretty sum to procure ye as well,” he said smugly. I rolled my eyes—okay, so he hadn’t changed. “But wiv yer portion alone, t’will be a hundred gold pieces, mayhap even more.”

    He let me mull that over in silence. I was sorely tempted to take the money; that much gold would mean I was good for years. However, the fact that they were offering that much was what put me on edge—how dangerous was this job going to be?

    “I need details,” I said at last.

    “I dun got details.”

    “Wait, what? I’m just supposed to go and work for people that I don’t know, doing a job that I know nothing about?” I asked, shocked.

    Gil nodded. “Tis said t’be right up yer alley, though.”

    “Do you at least know who wants me?”

    “Aye.”

    “Well, who is it?”

    “Can’t be sayin’.”

    “You can’t be serious.”

    Gil sighed. “Look, girl. All I can say is that ye should take th’ job. These folk mayhap ain’t th’ most righteous of sorts, an’ it ain’t gunna be honest work, but ye’ll be good at it. Jus’ do it.”

    “They must be offering you even more the one hundred gold pieces if you’re pushing so hard for this,” I said blandly.

    He smiled his full mouth smile which always made me want to throw myself out a window. “Ye caught me. Still, ye should take it.”

    “Can I sleep on it? Give you my answer in the morning?” I asked hopefully.

    He glowered at me. “Ye jus’ wanna sleep in a bed t’night.”

    I smiled. “You caught me.”

    He grunted and stood. “Fine, but I be needin’ yer answer first thing. Gotta let ‘em know right away.”

    I nodded. “First thing, got it.”

    He rolled his eyes and opened the door. “Sleep tight, girlie. Ye’ll need yer strength when ye go.”

    I was already curled up on the bed under the blanket. I flapped my hand at him to show that I understood, but wanted him to go away.

    I could hear the smile in his voice when he said, “G’night, girl.” I didn’t roll over until I heard the soft click of the door shutting. I lay on my back and stared at the ceiling. I was beginning to wonder if Dria’s sudden appearance in my life and this new assignment had any connection.

    The events of the day suddenly caught up to me. It was all I could do to drag myself from the cot, lock the door and blow out the lamps. Enough lightning flashed through the closed shutters over the bed that I could still make my way back without tripping. When my head finally hit the pillow once more, I instantly fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.
    Last edited by sarah.nichole; 10-30-2012 at 01:59 PM.

  2. #2
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    Congratulations on taking this first huge step. You're right in saying that if you hope to progress as a writer you need to take on board feedback from other writers, and more importantly impartial readers.

    As far as the mechanics of writing are concerned, you seem quite capable of stringing words together to form sentences. So that's a start.

    A few sentences read rather clumsily:
    I didn’t trust normal people, never mind someone who does something as unnatural as See the future.
    My younger sister’s body fell from her arms and onto the bed next to her, closer to young me.
    and
    I knew that if I didn’t find somewhere to dry off soon, I would become sick, and illness in my way of living could easily lead to death.

    and try to avoid unintentional repetition whenever possible:
    'You have undiscovered talents. It is up to you to discover what those talents are' - unless it's meant to underline something like here:
    'Search yourself, Rayne. Search your past.'
    or
    'He broke out into a bellowing laugh that made the people that were standing nearby frown and lean away.

    But problems like this are easily remedied when you get round to editing it. And you will have to sooner or later.

    If you're writing purely to entertain yourself then what you have come up with is excellent. You've created your own world and your characters are behaving the way you want them to. But if you're looking to get published and aiming to satisfy a particular market you need to approach things from a different angle.

    For what it's worth here's my response - commenting as I read through:

    First bit of free advice - publishers don't like stories that kick off with a weather report. It's amazing how many aspiring writers believe this is the way to start a story or novel - set the scene. But what we really need is something to grab the reader's attention - a hook to keep them reading beyond page 1.
    By all means describe the setting once we have established who the main players are and what is going to happen later in the story. You are quite at liberty to have your market traders packing up as soon as they hear the first clap of thunder, but is that the start of the real story? Or are you spinning your wheels?

    I tend to believe your story doesn't begin until the fortune teller invites your main character to her stall and speaks the first line of dialogue.
    What does this alternative opening scene achieve? It introduces your MC by name early in the tale - important if your reader is to engage with her. It also sets up a possible conflict. What could this woman possibly have in mind? What might she discover during the card reading? If it's something worth sticking around for your readers will continue to read. I also like the portrayal of the fortune teller's cart - an image that the reader can focus on as Rayne is drawn into the plot. Just be wary of feeding too much in the way of description - it can cause a sensory overload. Sometimes it works better if the reader is forced to fill in some of the blanks for themselves - if they're doing this they're participating in the story (so - you've got them hooked).

    For instance, the details regarding the way Rayne is dressed or how much she gets to eat can be fed in later as the story unravels. We're anxious to find out what kind of story is on offer - especially in YA fiction where it's necessary to tweak your reader's curiosity as quickly as possible. There's no time to break the reader in gently - you have to cut to the chase.

    What's going to get them rooting for your heroine? Paragraphs like 'I couldn’t speak. All I could do was stare at her, baffled. What on earth was she talking about? I had no potential. I had no talents. I was nothing; the only things that I hoped for were to live through the coming winter, and to find a pair of stockings, or a pair of boots without holes.' are more effective than telling us she doesn't trust certain people. You're inviting the reader to see life through her eyes - using specific examples of how her life is different to theirs. It's good writing.

    You say you're unsure about the wording in the 'vision' scene. I thought it worked well enough. But I'd be tempted not to switch focus half way through. We know what Dria is doing - showing her a vision. Stick with what she's seeing rather than any internalised thoughts.
    It's a pivotal scene in the story and you need to maximise its effectiveness.

    With that in mind I'd consider tightening it up. The mother's dialogue seems a little weak. Would she apologise for coughing? And would a child comment on the baby's colour? It seemed a little off. I think her parents would have told her that her sister had gone to sleep or something similar without evading the issue.
    Also, Dria's lecture on 'love' went on too long. People don't speak in vast blocks of text and she ended up sounding like a lifestyle guru.

    As for 'what followed' - I think dismissing the drowning of the sister and the father's suicide in a single sentence is a mistake. Perhaps there's a way of feeding the reader this information piecemeal as Rayne reflects on the vision later in the story. It's important we discover how these events shaped her character. Play to the strengths of your plotting whenever possible.

    In contrast I thought the scene at the Donkey's ear dragged - spending a lot of time reinforcing the fact that Gil is an unpleasant creature and that your MC would rather be elsewhere. Your reader will get the message - don't make things tedious by over-writing. It's important the plot keeps moving forwards.

    A few other things jarred - assuming this is set in some mythical past. Words like 'okay', 'baby' (as a salutation) and 'assignments' or phrases like 'trust issues' or 'willing to bet' didn't sit comfortably for me. They brought me back to the present day with a jolt.

    And a couple of spots:

    I struggled to my feet and took off running down the nearest ally alley, finding scant protection from the wind.
    Mostly they were pickpockets or petty thieves, but every once and in a while I would recognize one of the men from the wanted posters.
    I A dull ache started to pound behind my eyes.
    '...but once and in a while he would send me to the castle to steal something from there.

    Overall an interesting opening chapter. Be warned, however, that it needs cutting by at least 25% to get rid of the repetitions and the speed bumps.
    That's the hardest part of writing - knowing what to take out despite the fact you sweated blood writing it in the first place. It's all about maintaining the flow or momentum.

    And if you find that not many others bother to respond on here, it's no reflection on your writing skill. You're doing fine. But 5000+ words is a lot to chew over.

    H

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    See? This is exactly why I asked you to take a look at it. You've definitely given me a lot to look over. I know I'm quite green still when it comes to writing and that's why I came here. It's also why I want to go to school for it so I can really learn how to do it properly and in a way that will actually attract readers.

    Thanks for all the pointers. I'll probably go back over it later today and fix the things that you pointed out.

    I figured not many people would want to read this because it's so long. But I thought it wouldn't hurt either. There's always people like you out there that are willing to help!

    Again, thanks

  4. #4
    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    I can't promise the detailed criticism that Hill provided above, but I will give one reader's 2 cents, or pesos...whichever works.

    I think the greatest strength going for this story so far is your writing. You may consider yourself green when it comes to writing, but it doesn't show in your sentence structures. Your story has a good voice to it, both in the narration and dialogue. I would caution you about the accents: they can be tricky and some of Gil's lines come out a bit too....fake.

    I don't think you have to scrap the opening. i think setting the scene can be effective: you just have to rearrange the priorities. In the first few paragraphs you go from the chaotic frenzy of evacuating during a storm to the eerie quiet of your narrator and the Seer: you can really capitalize on this. Take the focus off the weather and put it into the chaos: frame the evacuation from the perspective of your narrator, and take us through the change that your establish.

    I would also caution you as you continue, watch out for the fantasy traps. The Seer laying out in one sentence "you are not just a poor girl, you have a heritage that destines you for a great journey" is a red flag for cliché. The trope is fine, but you have to approach in a way that doesn't make the the reader think: "why don't I just go watch Aladdin?"

    Overall this is enjoyable, and I wish you luck as you progress.
    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

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    I agree with Charles that if Gil is to appear in this story more than once the way he talks will quickly become tiresome. By all means have his dialogue instantly recognisable, but too many 'ye's and 'th's isn't that great an idea.

    One other thought - for YA fiction it helps if the opening chapter is not too long. I'd consider breaking this in two - begin a new chapter after the fortune-teller disappears.

    H

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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Darnay View Post
    I would also caution you as you continue, watch out for the fantasy traps. The Seer laying out in one sentence "you are not just a poor girl, you have a heritage that destines you for a great journey" is a red flag for cliché. The trope is fine, but you have to approach in a way that doesn't make the the reader think: "why don't I just go watch Aladdin?"
    This actually made me laugh out loud. Thank you for the tips though! Like I said, I'm looking for any critiques people will give me if they're willing to read my writing.

    I do like my opening, but I probably should make it a bit stronger. I've done some editing to it, but not enough (especially if you look at how hillwalker tore it apart! Don't worry, not complaining, I did find it very helpful).

    As for the cliche warning, I wasn't planning on doing "oh, you're actually a lost princess" kind of thing. It's more that she's inherited certain abilities from other people in her family, she just needs to look and find out what. So hopefully I'll be able to avoid and Aladdin references. She also will not end up marrying a prince...or a princess for that matter.

    I'll also try to change the accent a little bit. Maybe take out some of the choppy words. I take a lot of inspiration from my favorite writer Tamora Pierce, and she's absolutely amazing at making you hear the accent in someone's voice. I'm reading over her books again anyways, so I'll take a closer look at her style and see if it'll help me fix mine.

    I'm currently, and tentatively, working on a second chapter to my story. I completely deleted all the other things I had written a while ago when I went back over it, so I'm kind of starting over. If I get stuck, I hope you're both willing to help me out again!


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    Quote Originally Posted by hillwalker View Post
    One other thought - for YA fiction it helps if the opening chapter is not too long. I'd consider breaking this in two - begin a new chapter after the fortune-teller disappears.
    I actually had been debating this already. Or at least have one of those space breaks if I don't actually make it into a separate chapter. It's good to see that someone else feels the same. Thanks!

  8. #8
    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sarah.nichole View Post
    This actually made me laugh out loud. Thank you for the tips though! Like I said, I'm looking for any critiques people will give me if they're willing to read my writing.

    Just to be clear: I wasn't accusing you of anything - just suggesting that these things do happen.
    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Darnay View Post
    Just to be clear: I wasn't accusing you of anything - just suggesting that these things do happen.
    Oh I didn't think you were! I appreciate you pointing out the hazards of falling into cliches. I just enjoyed your example.

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