Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Fall 1st Page Critique Blog Hop


A special thank you to Michelle Hauck for putting on this fun blog hop! And also to anyone that critiques the first 249 words on my National Novel Writing Month project SAMANA'S FLAIR.  

YA Fantasy

The gentle tug of fingers raked through Samana’s black hair. She let out a breath, glancing around the dim adobe room, and soaked in the melody filling it. What once was somebody’s thatch-roofed pueblo now embraced her and Dimirez.

The haunting song faded into the shadows, and Samana turned to her Wanderer-sister.

“Do you have to stop?”

Dimirez’s cheeks bunched as she smiled. “Singing or brushing your hair?”

“Both.” Samana gathered her locks over one shoulder and began to braid them. “Your songs are so beautiful, especially the one you sing all the time. No wonder your flair came in as birds.”

Dimirez touched her chest, where a swirling trio of birds cascaded down from her shoulder in black lines. Then she fastened Samana’s braid with a leather tie. “Music beckons the soul from its darkest places.”

“Where did you hear that?” Samana asked.

Dimirez paused. “I don’t remember, but I wish I could. It was a long time ago, before I was dropped at the North Chawe house with a few other children.”

Samana nodded repeatedly, as though that could somehow shake away their family-less status.

“But look at us now!” Dimirez swept from their place on a pile of empty cloth sacks. “We finally have a place to call our own! If I can keep finding places to sing for trade, we can make a life here. All we have to do is avoid getting snatched up and sent to the mines for a little while.”

15 comments:

  1. Almost the entire segment is exposition, even the dialogue. I don't think any of this information is really necessary for us to enjoy the story (at least not in the first pages). Nothing of importance happens. It's all very pretty, but it's a painting, not a story, if you get what I mean.

    I think there's probably a better place for you to start the story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comments. This is actually my second attempt at the opening. The first was the Samana being chased by one of the enforcers about to drop in on her and Demeriz. But my CPs told me that it went too fast and didn't give them a reason to care about Samana. I rewrote this scene so the reader could get to know her and care about her and Demeriz (another POV in this novel) before the action took off. I'm not sure where else to start.

      Delete
  2. I agree with Mark, it is very well written and "pretty" as he says and, although I'm OK with more exposition than most, I have to agree again that there is a little too much & too much back story for the first page.

    If I were to make a suggestion, I would suggest you start with :

    “Music beckons the soul from its darkest places.”
    Its such an interesting line and so poetic and seems to be the point at which you first connect whatever is the past with whatever is the present.

    I would suggest you keep the hair braiding but remove the waking up. Aside from being loathed by most agents and editors, it is kind of dull. The hair braiding shows their affection for each other, which is why I like it & the line is powerful and deep, suggesting something hidden behind it.

    I would also suggest concentrating on this:
    "All we have to do is avoid getting snatched up and sent to the mines for a little while.”

    Clearly there is a threat to them and I'd like to also know what era this is, is it this world, is it a fantasy world, are the mines real places or something you've created, what is the age of the MC's

    Now, I know you can't give me all of that in 250-words but I need some of it. I don't need to know about a empty sack of clothes, I need to know about the environment and who might snatch them for the mines and why...

    ...I hope this makes sense and hasn't deterred you too much, as its clear you can write lovely scenes, you simply need to figure out which one(s) begin your story :)









    ReplyDelete
  3. To the previous commenter: I don't get waking up from this scene. I get a girl having her hair brushed by her singing sister.

    To the writer, if this is this year's NaNoWriMo, work, it's not bad for a first draft :) For me, the first paragraph is the roughest. You need better transitions to move from sentence to sentence. They don't feel like they belong together. Better, I think, would be to move the first two paragraphs and start with:

    Do you have to stop?”

    Dimirez’s cheeks bunched as she smiled. “Singing or brushing your hair?”

    These two lines pull me right in. I want to know what's being stopped, then I find out, and I need to know more. I keep reading. Your current opening doesn't do that for me.

    I am curious about where you're going. Sounds like you've got an interesting, multi-layered story. Good luck getting to 50K words :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your feedback. I actually like your idea about starting at "Do you have to stop?" Thank you, hope you make it to 50k as well!

      Delete
  4. I like the tone of the piece and there are little hints that interest me, but like the others have said, there wasn't really enough happening to pull me in. The hints were a little too vague, so I had trouble getting the feel for the story.
    - adobe, pueblo, North Chawe house, make me think southwest U.S., but other than that I have no clue of time frame or even if it's a fantasy world. Wanderer-sister is just confusing to me.
    - the 'snatched up and sent to the mines' comes out of nowhere and the whole line is light-hearted, so I'm not sure if it's serious or silly.
    - You have a little bit of "Well, you know Bob..." dialogue going on. Where two people are talking about things they both already know just to inform the reader. It doesn't feel natural.
    - The dialogue about the singing felt real. The connection between your two characters is the strongest part of this, but it's lacking in story.
    - I'd also like more about the personalities of the characters. Dimirez can sing, Samana has black hair, they have a deep relationship, but I don't really know what type of people they are. Your descriptions are evocative, but there isn't much voice in there. I need something to make me want to read more, and two vague women sitting around an adobe house talking about their great future doesn't do it for me.
    Think about why we're starting here. What does this scene have to do with the rest of your story? What is an important aspect of Samana's character that relates to her arc? You don't need to give away the farm, but make sure that the opening has meaning that's clear to the reader - we want to invest, but need to know it's worth our time. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your suggestions. I think I may have made the setting unclear and will have to work on that. The relationship is what's most important about this scene, that and the music beckons line.

      Delete
  5. I'm afraid I have to agree with other commenters. I think you'll find as your story fully develops that there will be a better place to start. There's something about this tender scene that I really like, although a few parts seem unclear to me. I do like the exposure of a deep bond between these girls. Maybe this belongs a little later, or can be woven in with a little more clarity on the stakes for the protagonist. I've rewritten my first 250 at least 20 times, so if this is your Nano writing, I know you'll keep tweeting it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I agree with these comments. Specifically, Blair's points aligned perfectly with my thoughts.

    Your writing is beautiful and visual. And there is something haunting and special about their relationship.

    I was removed from the story because of the unnatural dialogue that had too much exposition and things like Wanderer-sister.

    Those are easy to fix so you are well on your way! Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  7. The writing's good but nothing is happening. This could be a sequel to a scene in which something happens, but as an opening it doesn't work for me. No story questions are raised, there's nothing to puzzle over, and there's too much backstory. Where's the conflict? Start with an inciting incident. Make the reader ask questions. Make them want to read on to find out the answers to those questions. AT the moment nothing here grabs me or makes me want to find out who or what or why.

    It is a lovely scene. It just isn't your start.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Emily!

    I think this is beautiful and I love how you set up the girls' close, sweet relationship. You may want to start in a different place per other commenters' reactions. For me, only the last paragraph was a bit clunky and could be refined. Also, I'd take out the exclamation points as they make the writing seem too dramatic.

    I can't wait to see how this shapes up and see you soon!!
    Shari

    ReplyDelete
  9. Like the other commenters, I don't think this is the best opening for this. You prose is beautiful and the scene is well-imagine, and I like the sister's relationship, but none of this truly grabs my attentions. There's a whole lot of nothing going on plot wise, and I'm far too confused right now to keep reading. That said with your talent for creating wonderful prose, I'm sure you can start at a different place and have it be fantastic. I loved the line about music beckoning the soul from it's darkest place. That would be a great first line because that's when I perked up and got interested.

    If this is first draft, especially for NaNo, great job! And I would not at all recommend to get rid of this scene entirely, but this just isn't the right place to start. But I'm sure you can find the right place. The starting point can be one of the most difficult things to figure out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your suggestions and encouragement. That line about music beckoning the soul is vital to the entire story, and this scene is supposed to show the relationship. I guess I just need to make it more... something. I'll figure it out in revisions in December.

      Delete
  10. Hey, I made my comments in line (in all caps so they stand out, not because I'm yelling):

    The gentle tug of fingers raked [I THINK I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE GOING FOR HERE, BUT "THE GENTLE TUG OF FINGERS" ISN'T CAPABLE OF RAKING, SO THIS SENTENCE, WHILE PRETTY, IS A LITTLE JARRING TO START.] through Samana’s [IF SAMANA IS THE MC, AND I THINK SHE IS, I WANTED THE FIRST SENTENCE TO BE ACTIVE AND SEMANA TO BE DOING THE ACTION] black hair. She let out a breath, [THIS IS ALSO PASSIVE] glancing around the dim adobe room, and soaked in the melody filling it. What once was somebody’s thatch-roofed pueblo now embraced her [THE PUEBLO EMBRACED IS ALSO PASSIVE BECAUSE THE MC ISN'T DOING IN ACTION. NOT THAT CRAZY STUFF HAS TO BE HAPPENING, BUT THIS FEELS LIKE BACKSTORY THAT ISN'T IMPORTANT HERE, SO IF SHE'S THINKING ABOUT THE HOUSE, I WANT TO KNOW WHY HER THOUGHTS ARE GOING THERE. I THINK BACKSTORY THAT'S IMPORTANT SHOULD BE INTRODUCED WHEN THE CHARACTER WOULD BE NATURALLY THINKING ABOUT THAT SPECIFIC THING] and Dimirez.

    The [INSTEAD OF USING "THE" HERE, I THINK A SPECIFIC DETAIL WOULD HELP SET THE SCENE BETTER] haunting song faded into the shadows, and Samana turned to her Wanderer-sister [NOT SURE WHAT THIS MEANS SINCE THERE ISN'T ANY CONTEXT. WHY WOULD SHE BE THINKING OF HER SISTER THIS WAY RIGHT NOW].

    “Do you have to stop?”

    Dimirez’s cheeks bunched as she smiled.[:) GREAT IMAGE] “Singing or brushing your hair?”

    “Both.” Samana gathered her locks over one shoulder and began to[I THINK YOU CAN LEAVE OUT "BEGAN TO" braid them [WHY DOES SHE BRAID HER HAIR IF SHE WANTS HER SISTER TO KEEP BRUSHING IT?]. “Your songs are so beautiful, especially the one you sing all the time [WHICH ONE DOES SHE SING ALL THE TIME? IS THIS THE SONG SHE WAS JUST SINGING?]. No wonder your flair[DON'T KNOW WHAT FLAIR MEANS. IT MAKES ME THINK OF CHAIN RESTAURANTS AND THE PINS AND BUTTONS THE SERVERS WEAR AND I'M PRETTY SURE THAT'S NOT WHAT YOU WANT ME TO THINK. ] came in as birds.”

    [Dimirez touched her chest, where a--I DON'T THINK YOU NEED THIS] A swirling trio of birds cascaded down DIMIREZ'S shoulder AND ONTO HER CHEST [in black lines-I THINK THERE MIGHT BE A BETTER WAY TO DESCRIBE THIS]. [Then-OMIT] She fastened Samana’s braid with a leather tie. “Music beckons the soul from its darkest places.”

    “Where did you hear that?” Samana asked.

    Dimirez paused. “I don’t remember, but I wish I could. It was a long time ago, [before I was dropped at the North Chawe house with a few other children.--THE WAY THIS IS WORDED MAKES IT FEEL LIKE 'AS YOU KNOW, BOB' AND I THINK JUST LEAVING OUT 'WITH A FEW OTHER CHILDREN" MIGHT FIX IT]”

    Samana nodded [repeatedly-OMIT], as IF that could somehow shake away their family-less status.

    “But look at us now!” Dimirez swept [ from their place on a pile of empty cloth sacks--I'M NOT GETTING A CLEAR PICTURE HERE, SWEPT MAYBE ISN'T THE BEST VERB HERE, I THINK]. “We finally have a place to call our own! [I'M NOT A FAN OF EXCLAMATION POINTS, BUT ALSO, CAN YOU GIVE A FEW CLUES HERE RE SETTING. AS IT STANDS I CAN'T PICTURE EITHER CHARACTER OR WHERE THEY ARE] If I can keep [finding places to] singING for trade, we can [make a life here-OMIT] STAY OUT OF THE MINES". [All we have to do is avoid getting snatched up and sent to the mines for a little while]. [THIS LAST LINE WOULD FEEL STRONGER, I THINK, IF IT WAS SHORTENED.”

    I think this is a good start, but I don't get a strong feel for the setting and I can't tell where it's going. I think making the opening more active would get the reader more invested in the characters right from the start. Hope this helps.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your suggestions. I really appreciate your detailed line edits. They've helped a lot.

      Delete