She checked her gear one last time, made sure all was ready for a hurried departure, coded the biolock on her bags with a thumbprint, and sketched a glyph of aversion across both possessions and the rickety door. Then, in a ritual as old as her freedom, she checked the rubies at forehead, wrist, ankle, neck and navel, ensuring they remained bound against the golden semiconductors tracing her skin.
Here's an instance of personal editorial bias: this writer has hit upon a favorite of mine. Well written epic-style fantasy, sword and sorcery, and medieval-esque worlds are not something we see a lot of in our slush (well-written being key). I love me some magic and swords and folks getting around on horses.
I have a hunch this will be a well-written tale. We're in a new world, and I'm grounded and intrigued by the clever use of contrasts (what she's wearing verses why she doesn't want to wear it and how it alludes to her past; expensive, disposable clothes verses rickety doors). We suspect she's in some danger, not because the author ever mentions it but because this is a classic example of showing: the care with which she dresses and protects her belongings indicates some threat.
Plus there's nary a line of internal narrative in sight. That's another personal bent--I'm not crazy about a ton of internal narrative, especially when it stands in for showing a character in action. To me, internal narrative often stops the story and feels too intrusive. However, some editors greatly favor well-written internal narrative, even editors on staff here at Electric Spec. :)
In a couple of hundred words I know a dozen things about this character and setting:
- She's in an ancient city
- at twilight
- it's windy (Hemmingway says "don't forget the damned weather")
- she lives in a world with distinct castes
- she's a careful, capable character
- likely adult
- she used to go to Temple--there's religion (briefly mentioned details flesh out a world)
- she's a she (you'd be surprised)
- she's in potential danger
- with a past she doesn't want to return to ("a ritual as old as her freedom")
- she has money or means of some sort (expensive, magical clothes, bags, rubies)
- she does her own magic,
- indicating a level of education and sophistication
What I don't know is the story problem. That's okay so far because the action strongly alludes to one.
Now, all that said, there are questions I'd be asking myself as I read, especially if a problem didn't present itself pretty quick. Starting a story when a character wakes up is ancient cliche. Would the story work better if it started when the character was fully awake? Next, we learn a lot from her getting dressed, true. But you have, say, 3-5K words to get your entire story across. If the narrative continues in this leisurely pace I'd start wondering if only mundane stuff was going to happen for pages and pages. (Showing mundane action in great detail is something Lesley aptly calls "walking the dog".) This is something we notice in those 6999 word tomes in which every action and outfit is outlined in exhaustive detail.
There were several unfamiliar words to this editor: sirocco, kameez, chadri, salwar. Big, made-up, and unfamiliar words makes fantasy fun! And it's a sign of confidence in a storyteller, dropping slang and world-specific terms in-text without explanation. But think carefully about how many you want to throw at a reader at once.
A couple of elements in the last graph threw me as SF over F, which were biolock and semiconductors. I like when genre elements mingle. Heck, my own WIP is a futuristic multi-world fantasy with a ton of SF weaponry and a mix of ancient and future socio-economic conditions. But I think you have to warn a reader early on that the combination of elements is not going to be standard fare. Is this early enough? I don't know. Like I said, I noticed it. But I wouldn't stop reading for it.
All in all, I'd definitely read on.
Thanks for playing and keep 'em coming! We have several, but there's always room for more, so tell your friends. :)