Monday, September 3, 2012

First 250 Words Smash! #4x2

Most Wonderful Author: Kendra || Hintsloveswords @ tumblr
Most Evil Critique Master: Sarah
History: First submission

Original Post:

The keep was burning.

House Morier, the most powerful house in the kingdom besides Marlow itself, had fallen.

The true culprit of the act will never be determined, but anyone with any mind knew that Syson was behind it. Syson, the man who made it very clear that he hated his brother, King Rogan, and wanted the throne for himself.

It was well known to the people of the kingdom that House Morier was very close with House Marlow. Why, the young prince himself was betrothed to Morier's infant daughter. It was really no surprise that Syson chose Morier as his first victim.

The screams of the dying could be heard for miles. All of the servants and minor nobility who lived in Keep Morier were burned alive. Lord Raffin and Lady Tara were already dead, of course, killed by Syson's assassins before the fire. Their three children, two adolescent sons and one very young daughter, were said to have been forced to watch their murder, and then killed themselves.

This was not certain, however. There was much confusion that night, and the next morning the keep was silent. Smoke drifted from the blackened ruin of the once magnificent structure like fingers reaching for the sky. The nobility wanted nothing to do with the place, and the lower class kept well clear of it.

Only one strange old woman approached the fallen keep that day, drawn by the weak, pitiful crying of a child.


Tavia clutched the hard hunk of bread and dried meat strips to her chest as she darted through  the countless pairs of legs, her small mouth stretched in a grin. Nothing could dampen her  excitement, not even the few people swatting at her when she bumped into them. The bronze and copper coins jangling in her pocket made her do a little skip in delight. She felt rich. The  coin, along with the food, was going to feed the two of them for at least two weeks. Jorah was  going to be so proud of her!

She was heading into the most crowded part of the market street now, and she had to slow  down in order to get through. Merchants and workers alike shuffled through the street, eyes  downcast and dull, faces drawn and streaked with dust and dirt. Their clothes were tattered  and dirty, just like Tavia’s. Her own sturdy coat had holes worn in the elbows and her trousers  in the knees. The men and women around her paid no attention to the little beggar girl running in their midst, and Tavia liked it that way. Jorah always told her that the less notice you got, the  less likely people would hurt you. Tavia was glad that she was so small, able to slip through  crowds without so much of a second glance.

Finally Tavia happened upon the small abandoned building that she and Jorah called home.

Strong Points
This is much better! Right away I'm drawn into the world you're creating, and as a reader chasing after a character, this is a natural opening and easily lures me into your story without really thinking about it. The questions in the opening are good ones, "Who is Tavia and how did she acquire her hull and what will Jorah think?" Starting out your opening with questions is key, and you've done this well. It's definitely much better than your initial prologue as the beginning!

Also, I like the small sips of world-building you give, what with the coins jangling and the merchants and the workers. You've managed to sneak some atmosphere in there that I really liked without cramming it down the reader's throat! That's tough to do in 250 words.

Some Tips
The passive voice is still getting to you. You've got some moments of it that work, such as: "Their clothes
were tattered and dirty, just like Tavia’s." This is an organic usage of passive that works in context and doesn't take away from the strength of the narrative.

Here's an example that you can tweak:

"The coin, along with the food, was going to feed the two of them for at least two weeks. Jorah was going
to be so proud of her!"

A basic fix for this is very simple:

"The coin, along with the food, would feed the two of them for at least two weeks. Jorah would be so proud of her."

Fewer words, and more power in each word. Also, I eliminated the exclamation point. The emphasis of Tavia's joy is already taken from the context of the sentence. Children are happy when parents/guardians are proud of them. Most of the time, exclamation marks aren't needed in narrative outside of dialogue, because if you're pouring the requisite emotion into the passage, then the exclamation can be inferred.

(I've been told not to use exclamation points in dialogue either, but pfff, I like my exclamatory dialogue!)

Also, be aware of inconsistencies. In the first paragraph, you note that Tavia gets swat at. The second paragraph, no one notices her.

One last tip: repetition. A way to trim down the fat of your manuscript is to look at whether or not you're repeating yourself needlessly. Here's an example:

"Her own sturdy coat had holes worn in the elbows and her trousers in the knees."

The above is implied when you mention the following beforehand:

"Their clothes were tattered and dirty, just like Tavia’s."

I used to have this problem too, and I spent a long time trimming down unnecessary fat from my manuscript. What happened in the end was a quicker, sleeker pacing. I suspect this is a MG (middle grade) or early YA (young adult) novel, in which case pacing is key.

Would I Keep Reading?
I actually caught my eyes moving on looking for the next lines before I was like, "Oh, that's it? Is that really only 250?" which is a good thing. So, in this case, I would have tested the next few pages. Your content is solid so far, all I'd recommend are a few tweaks to your style, which are easily fixed.

Good luck! Lots of ♥ ♥ ♥!

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