16 August 2009

First Page Critique Game # 6

Sorry for the delay in posting more these. Life and writing has interfered. I'll try not to let so long go between posts in the future. We've got several more and are still accepting vict...er, pages.

So. Lets get on with it.


The Guitar

“Dude, please, you gotta take me with you this time.”

Kalek perched on a low branch of a Platinum Oak, his Elven ears poking through a massive mound of ragged curls. I cringed at the way his onyx eyes gleamed. He’d convince me, I was sure, but I wouldn’t go down without a fight.

“No way,” I said, “I’m going camping. Alone. That means without you, so forget it.”

He jumped down from the tree, lithe as a panther, and stood in front of me. “C’mon. I’ve never been off the island. Just this once.”

“You’re father will be furious.”

“I know, dude, all the more reason.”

I should have known he’d say that. He’d never admitted it, not outright anyway, but that was pretty much the reason he’d befriended me. There wasn’t a person on the island his old man hated more than me. Why he’d stayed friends with me, I’ll never know. Tattooed Elven rockers and homebody farm boys generally have little in common, but somehow we’d become brothers. My camping trips were the only times I insisted he stay away.

“Uh-uh. Nope. Not a chance,” I said, shaking my head and turning to leave the clearing. As I walked across the carpet of grass and leaves, the forest trees surrounding us began to sway like sentinels.

I suddenly felt trapped by my own will to stay.

Intriguing bit here. I like me some angsty elves and it's feeling urban fantasyish, something we're not seeing a ton of. Nice, easy voice, too. It doesn't get in the way of the story.

I do have a couple of issues that mostly could be revised away. First of all, who's who? The author mentions a rocker elf and a farmboy, but I can't really tell from this piece which is which. A little more specific language would help. Are they both elves? Is one of them human? (I never assume a character is human in spec fic. That's part of the fun.)

We also have the common problem of an unnamed first person protag; that's an easy fix and doesn't have to be immediate. I recently sold a first person story with an accidentally unnamed protag. I didn't realize until after it was sold. My bad. Actually, it could matter less to some stories, but a writer should omit things intentionally.

"He'd convince me, I was sure, but I wasn't going down with out a fight." Okay line, but that sort of summary could be better shown, especially so early on. Show him protesting and then giving in. Let the reader take the measure of your character rather than a character spitting it all out for us. If you feel the conflict isn't strong enough on the first page without that statement, then tighten up the scene to better show it.

There is some conflicting info in the narrative that confuses me. Kalek wants to go off the island and camp with the protag; the protag is trapped by his own will to stay. Our protag is not staying if he's going camping off the island, right? So why is he trapped by his will to stay?

Also, Kalek befriends him because his father hates him. Nice conflict, but I'm confused by their being like brothers and the protag wondering why Kalek remains friends with him. All that doesn't quite link up in my mind.

I like the foreshadowing of the swaying trees. It feels all elfy and dangerous to me. Cool.

I don't see an utterly clear conflict on this page, but I do see hints of one, so I'd probably continue reading to find out what happens. Good work on this and thanks for playing! More to come.


lesleylsmith said...

Thanks for playing, Author! We appreciate it. I must say I agreed with what Betsy said here (!). I'm unclear on the species of the protags and their relationship and who's going and/or staying. However, I do love unique stories. And elves with a modern 'tude is unusual so I would keep reading.
Good luck with this piece, Author!

Anonymous said...

This is such great feedback. I'm beginning to see the issues with this piece--why it keeps making the short lists when I submit it, but not going all the way through.

Kalek is a character in my (unpublished) YA fantasy novel--my favorite character as a matter of fact--and the story is a significant event in his life from before the timeline of the novel. I guess I was holding back a bit too much--trying not to delve into the plot structure of the book, and that must have hindered my characterization. I need to step back farther than I did and look at this even more from the perspective of someone who has no flippin' clue who Kalek and his friend are, reading this for the first time. I did try, but it's hard when the characters have been imbedded in my brain for so long :).

And just so you know, the reason the mc is trapped by his own will to stay is revealed in the very next paragraph, but I'd already pushed the 200-word limit with what I sent. I'm really glad to see that you would have wanted to read on and find out!

Betsy Dornbusch said...

I can't say that line in particular wants me to read on. In fact, it stuck out as a bit of a red flag among the other contradictions.

But you have to take that from our view. We see a lot of stories that are not well developed. So we need know any contradiction or discrepancy is not an accident. I can't tell either way from this small bit.

But the premise was good enough I would've kept reading for a little while. Any more issues, though, and I would've set it down.

If it's getting shortlisted, then the plot must be pretty good. So I'd take a look scene by scene and see where you can cut, tighten, or clarify, especially early on. Think of every scene and line as a promise to the reader: I'll deliver on these issues I'm raising and make it fun for you while I do. Of course, that's just from this piece, so take that advice as you will. Also, feel free to resubmit a new version to this game if you like.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Thanks--I think the scene-by-scene is great advice. I'm definitely going to go through this with your comments in mind--especially "clarify."

KM Wilsher said...

Wow! I am learning so much from all this. I too would be interested in this story, author. And I think with some of the suggested fixes, I'd be hooked!

I was able to apply this advice to my work and hope that it fixes some of the problems I have. The words clarify and "confused!" come up in so many of the feedbacks I receive.

My friend just directed me to this site, and I am so glad she did. What a learning experience!

Betsy Dornbusch said...

Yea! That's what we love to hear. Thanks for stopping by!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Gack! I am so far behind on commenting on these.

I love the attitude. I love the interaction. I'm not in love with the last line. Even if it's explained in the next paragraph, it just confuses me and takes me out of the story.

I also had a bit of a time figuring out who was speaking and that interrupted the flow for me.

Great start, needs tweaking.