Most Evil Critique Master: Sarah
Working Title (kind of): Hope of a Far-Off Land
Astrith fled through the streets of Praeston, dragging her best friend Nolus behind her as she tried to maintain the exhausting misdirection spell keeping the city guards off their tail. He stumbled on a gap between paving stones, but she yanked him upright, almost off the ground, and they were off again, pushing through the evening crowds packing the market district. The heat and humidity felt almost unbearable, but she couldn’t stop, couldn’t let the spell drop, couldn’t think about nice cool water and ice and snow and—
She crashed into the corner of a stand selling fish, sending brakenlaegan everywhere, the fishes’ silvery scales flashing in the dying rays of the afternoon sun. The spell faltered as she stumbled over one of the fish, blinking as she came back to reality. The hrata fishwife noticed her with a start and let out a yell, shoving a customer to the ground to lunge for her as she shouted about wizard thieves. It was Nolus’ turn to save them then, sidestepping adroitly to send the merchant stumbling past into a clump of surprised humans at the next stall. They took off again, not looking back at the chaos they'd created.
“Are they gaining on us?” Nolus, a hrata, was much shorter than her, barely half her height, but he doggedly kept up with her long stride, his bare feet pounding the sun-warmed stone of the plaza with at least two steps to each of hers.
Strong Points –
Well, I can definitely already tell that I’m going to like these two main characters. I don’t know what it is, which is probably awesome in itself. I think it has something to do with how I like the roles they’ve had so far. I like their partnership, and, I mean, I’m a sucker for characters that work together, especially in high-tension scenes. It’s one of my greatest weaknesses.
Also, I like their names. They’re pretty cool.
There’s also little tidbits of detail in regards to setting and world building, but I’ll get more into that down below!
Some Tips –
I already want you to revise and resubmit to me, because if you’ve been hanging around the Tumblr blog since you sent in your intro to us, you might have seen the pacing exercise and a couple tips on writing fast-paced scenes. I love pacing and I know it well, and I think both these posts will help you restructure the pacing side of your intro.
As an example, long sentences with many commas will automatically make reading and comprehension slower. Brief sentences keep things crisp and dicey. Finding a balance between the two will help make the passages fast and also flowing.
Secondly, that moment where the fish scales catch the light draws a strange amount of attention to the fish when the attention should be on the chase, or on the path straight ahead. This sort of leads me into my biggest point.
The world terminology and laws trump the physical setting description. There’s sooo much in the first 250 words, and yes, it’s important, but during a chase scene, the description should focus more on the where and less of the why. The intro tries to teach the reader so much in as short amount of time as possible, when I’m trying to make sense of where these two characters are running and what the place looks like around them.
There’s no need to explain everything at once. Supply it with time, focus on what the scene is demanding of the setting. Readers can fill in gaps or make guesses until the best time for organic elucidation happens. Then, explanations can be given more effectively as well.
As an example, I wasn’t sure what “hrata” was, but given the context of how it was used, I assumed it was a curse word, as in “The damn fishwife”. When I got to Nolus’ description, I had to take a step back and go, “Wait.”
So, in short, I can see a lot of potential once the pacing is fixed and the information isn’t so rushed. Try the exercise, see the comparative examples I wrote so you can get a better feel for how short and long sentences affect the pacing, as well as gaining a sense of words that carry the most weight in regards to describing just enough to create a blur of a picture. You don’t need much. Just enough. Then, I want your resubmission, yes I do.
Would I Keep Reading?
Not yet. Strengthen your narrative so I can say yes.