Writing, promotion, tips, and opinion. Pour a cuppa your favorite poison and join in.

Friday, July 6, 2012

First Chapter Critique - part three

Hovering on the corner of her vision sat the form a cat scuttling across the eaves. Down on the road, another slinky beast swiped at a dog in passing. The mutt, scrawny and half bald from neglect, let out a whimper as it cringed under the remains of a stall. This feels like filler, unnecessary. 

Hearty scuffling came from the alley on her left, no doubt the product of a hungry dog. Her gaze lingered at the alleyway’s dark opening. She’d heard of other places where muggers roamed the streets, assaulting people at will then being dragged off to whatever punishment awaited them.

Nothing so exciting happened in Everdark. At least, not with the same criminal. There’d be whispers of those from afar avoiding the Lord’s men for days before they got caught. But not here. Not for that long.
The snort of a horse brought her attention back to the street ahead. Nothing barred the way between her and the corner where her home sat. Carts (if horses are rare what pulls the carts? Just asking…) rarely took this route through the village since the streets were only wide enough to allow one through and there was little need of them as transport for either people or goods. Thoughts of the black carriage invaded her mind, followed by the old man’s words.

Shrugging off the chill in her spine, Clara peered round the corner. Naught to be seen except the way home. Silly girl. (Now this bit of inner dialogue sounds more like 17. She’s scared, but she’s chiding herself for acting childish. This is good.) She chuckled and resettled her burden. (I don’t think we need to hear any more about her ‘burden,’ no offense. Personally, I’d give her a basket – unless these items are going to serve a purpose.)  Just a little further down this end of the street and she’d be off the streets and away from the rumours. Even if their new Lord was, in truth, sniffing about for whatever reason, he wouldn’t be doing it here down these streets. He’d be (first say what part of town, maybe name the street to make it feel familiar) after women like Brenna, the mayor’s spoilt, harlot of a daughter. This seems a little harsh. Not Clara’s judging of the mayor’s daughter as spoilt, which she might very well be, but labeling her as a harlot seems a little harsh unless there’s some serious history between the two, plus I suspect isn’t true. Why does Clara hate her so? And why would a Lord want a spoilt harlot? 

Yes, that would be the sort of woman a lord would fancy. (which sort? A Mayor’s daughter or a harlot?) Not someone with a seamstress for a mother. Her boot skittered a pebble across the cobblestones. Not that she’d any desire to be taken from family and home. Still, it would’ve been nice to get a peek at the inside of the citadel. If only so she could say she’d seen it. Now I’m a little curious. Are you perhaps deliberately making Clara a little bit unlikeable? It could be a clever device…But if not then I would suggest she appear a little less self absorbed. Again, just my opinion. 

A hoof scraped the ground behind her, the sound akin to the sharpening of a knife. Now we’re getting somewhere. I would strongly suggesting some serious slash and burn to get to this point sooner. This chapter could be quite tense…

Clara froze, her heart thudding. Taking a deep breath, she stared at the empty road stretching ahead. She could even make out the doorway to home. Mind your own business, she reminded herself. She took a shaky step forward, steadfastly refusing to look behind her.

“You there!”

Unable to resist the cry, she turned. The carriage, its black panels naught but a darker patch within the shadows, stood on the other side of the junction. One of the horses stamped a shaggy foreleg, the other bobbed its head as if in reply. By the goddess, how she hated the beasts. Unlike the dogs and cats she was more familiar with, horses always seemed to have a superior glint in their eyes, like they were secretly laughing at everyone. I love this. I personally would never think of horses this way but because Clara isn’t used them she fears them. This is good.

The driver gently slapped the reins, stilling the creatures. He leant (leaned) forward in his seat. Piggish eyes, dark like little coals, peered down at her. His lips twisted into a sneer. “She’ll do.”

Clara didn’t fancy waiting to find out why she’d do and what for. (Good for her! I’m glad you didn’t make her pause stupidly and wait for danger to approach) Dumping her burden, she ran down the street. (comma instead of period) Racing for the shadowed doorway that led to safety.

The clatter of hooves followed her. Black horseflesh ran alongside her, then fast pulled ahead to let the carriage trundle even.

She glanced at the shut doors and grimy windows flanking her other side, madly searching for a closer haven. Sudden movement on the edge of her vision turned her attention back to her pursuers. She caught only the briefest flash of a horse sliding to a halt right in her path before crashing into the beast, forcing the air from her lungs.

Shaking and fighting to regain her breath, she clung to the horse’s harness, the heavy strap under her touch strangely soft and firm at the same time. This couldn’t be happening. Everdark had always been safe! She pushed off the barrelled body, gasping as her chest ached anew.

Hands grabbed her, their fingers digging into her arms. They hauled her back from the horse.
A scream ripped up through her throat, exploding out her mouth to echo down the street. Her boot heels scraped against the cobbles. They lifted her clear of the road. She struggled to break free of the grip, howling her frustration when the hands stayed fast. Tears threatened to blind her. She blinked hard, shaking her head in an attempt to free them.

Her captors, strangely silent in their movements, turned to face the carriage. The driver still sat atop the vehicle. A third man stood near the door, holding it open in a mockery of the mayor’s footmen.

My only other comment is that this chapter could be streamlined to excellent effect. There are a lot of extra words that slow things down. I think you definitely want to introduce us to Clara a bit slow to start, with a few insights into her character but then get to what's going to happen; the old lord dying and her attempted kidnapping. Like I said, this first chapter could really crackle if the pace was a little faster. 

Now, what do you think?

Thank you Aldrea Alien for submitting! And thank you to everyone who comments! The fourth and final part will post on Saturday.


Karen Baldwin said...

I'm new to your blog so I won't comment today, but I love what I see.

Angela Brown said...

I've really got to get back up on my blog visits. You guys changed the banner, which looks great by the way. Since it has been a while, and I need to get back in the swing of things, I'll refrain from commenting today. But I'm ready to get back in the swing of things.

Huntress said...

'...extra words...'
Oh my yes. Please, try this: Take this section and cut every adverb and adjective. You'll see a huge difference in readability.

This is the two sentences:

A cat scuttling across the road and swiped at a dog in passing. The mutt cringed under the remains of a stall.

Now add descriptions that 'show'. Don't 'tell' me the dog is scrawny. Give me Voice to make the scene come to life.

'...Bones made ridges down its hide. Like a hairless whimpering sack of skin...'

Another suggestion: Use sentence fragments. It is a way to show Voice.

Huntress said...

ACk...'scuttled' not 'scuttling'.


Unknown said...

MSH still rocks.

I wouldn't try to take out all the adverbs and adjectives, only repeated ones, like "black."

If you're going to put in description at the beginning, in order not to make it seem like "filler" you need to make it atmospheric and foreshadow the trouble to come. Like have a stray dog growl and then inexplicably whine, turn tail, and run away. Or have her see something icky, like a dead rat. Description works if it helps with the overall tone of foreboding.

A particular:

Nothing barred the way between her and the corner where her home sat.
For some reason, the last clause feels clumsy to me. Try:
Nothing barred the way between her and the corner by her home.

Liza said...

Like you, I think we can get to the gist of things quicker. There seems to be a fair amount of passive language in addition to unnecessary words (adverbs.) However, it's an intriguing start! Perhaps the right place to begin would be the line: "Nothing so exciting happened in Everdark..." Delete "so" though, it's an extra.

I am wondering why she's being kidnapped and interested in reading more!