Friday, July 31, 2009

Critique Session #5

Genre: YA fantasy
Name: Tricia J. O'Brien
First page below:

The blue marble floor stretched before Fiona like creaking ice in a frozen river. She was ordered to attend the King's Gathering. To herself, she called it the King's Harvest, his right to pluck sixteen-year-old maidens from their families and place them where he pleased.

She was accompanied by her only relative, Great Aunt Celia. Several noble families were in front of them, and Fiona thought the girls' stiff smiles meant they were as frightened as she. The king could marry them to any of his allies; some old, some cruel.

Great Aunt Celia, who rarely left her fireside chair anymore, clutched Fiona's elbow tightly. The opulence of the royal hall felt oppressive as they moved toward the velvet-draped dais upon which King Cadric and his new bride sat in gilded chairs.

To ease her anxiety, Fiona studied a porcelain vase on a side table. It must come from the far realms, brought by sailed-ship and wagon, tucked in straw to keep it safe. The twining vines and flowers were unknown to Fiona. She tried to hear the plant's song even though it was painted, not real. Softly, she hummed a possible melody.

Great Aunt Celia's fingers bit into Fiona's arm like teeth. "Stop at once!" she hissed.

Fiona stifled the notes and glanced around. Her aunt forbade her to sing or play her most prized possession, a small harp, for others, but no one could have heard her humming. They all were focused on the king as he conversed with an unfamiliar girl who didn't live in the castle as Fiona did.


Unknown said...

First line: did you mean "cracking" ice? Because I can see marble looking like it was cracked, with the lines running through it, but if it's creaking, I'm wondering why/how.

GREAT way to show the conflict and tension right in the first paragraph! GOOD JOB!!!

I wonder about the new she 16?

Hmmm...the idea of a plant's song confuses--but intrigues me. This is something I would want explained in further detail within the next page or so.

Why does Fiona live in the castle? As a servant? Or something more like a ward?

All my questions are signs that I'm very interested in your work. I think this is really well done, and pretty polished. I'd definitely want to read more!

Abby Annis said...

The "creaking ice" kind of threw me too. Other than that, I think your writing is tight and you did an awesome job building tension. I'm totally hooked. I would definitely read on to see what happens to Fiona. Great job!

MeganRebekah said...

I love this start. I'm always a sucker for historical fiction, and the absolute power of kings has always fascinated me.

I would definitely keep reading.

Natalie Allan said...

Dear Tricia,

I love your sentence structure. Your voice is very active and the sentences are clear and easy to read.

You use the right amount of punctuation, and don't make your lines too wordy which makes your work enticing on higher levels than just a good story. Sometimes, a reader really likes a story but are unable to read it because the lines are too wordy, and there's so much punctuation (sometimes incorrectly used)and it makes the page appear as it it's just one long droning sentence. So well done with this - bonus points for being clear to read and punctuating properly.

The story is fantastic. I'm hooked and I want to read more. However, I'd re-structure this:

"stretching before Fiona like creaking ice".

I understand the marble is a large expanse like the expanse of frozen ice on a lake, however the marble would not creak, nor would the ice unless something very heavy and in jepardy was in the dead centre of it. Try making this a little more clear.

Well done, I enjoyed your story and would love to read more.


Erin said...

This is well written and interesting. I'm curious to know what happens next. Most everyone else has already asked the questions I have, so... keep up the good work!

Steph Su said...

Oh my goodness, this is fantastic! I love the tension that literally crackles in these first few paragraphs. I was just sorry that you didn't send in a query letter: I would've loved to read a synopsis. I don't have much to say because, if the rest of your novel is as good as this first page, I think you're ready to send it out to agents. Great job!

Bontemps said...

Tricia, that is great, it reads really well and looks very polished.
I really liked the atmosphere you created and the way several questions were raised about Fiona.
I'd definitely read on after that opening.

Eric said...

I have purposely not ready other comments, so this may be repetition. I like the writing, it's fairly well done. I get a sense of the main character very well. As a starting page however, it doesn't really grab me. If this is your hook, I would have to say that I am not hooked. Other than the poor behavior on the part of the king to marry off young women, there's really not alot here. My advice would be to put this just a bit later, following a section with more emphasis on why we're here and where things are going. The quality of your writing however, is very good IMHO.

Stephanie, PQW said...

Okay then!! You found your beginning. I love it. The 'plant song' and her humming in this way told me right off that this is likely a fantasy. Keep going. I love they way you made it yours.

Mim said...

The writing is clean and sharp. There is a nit of the conflict and Fiona's power. that is great. It helps to pull you in. The creaking ice through me off as well.

The writing is very descriptive, and really draws you in. Good job!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Thank you all for these great comments and to Beth for giving me the opportunity to do this. It was scary but also important to my growth as a novelist to put work out in front of strangers and see what sticks. You are all awesome.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed it too. "Creaking" confused me too for a second, then I realised it should have been "cracking". Good job. I don't read a lot of fantasy, but I would read this.

Donna said...

I love your first page for the same reasons others have noted. I like the analogy, but I'd choose either creaking ice or harvest. If it is ice, can Fiona take a step onto the marble to complete the analogy?

C. Lee McKenzie said...

Nice set-up for your story. As far as the "creaking/cracking" ice issue, I'd forget the adjective and entirely and let it be ice. That's a strong image when tied to the marble floor.

I'd love to read the rest, so I think you've done a great job.