Jennifer M Eaton’s doing a blog hop critique–250 words (plus the end of the last sentence)–you post, critique others from the list, and critique back anyone who gives you a critique.

sunday_snippets2

I’ve chosen a snippet from the beginning of the second book in my Witch of Atlas series.

Background: Humans found out 23 years ago that the fey–nonhuman creatures like unicorns, elves, and pixies–are real, and so is magic. Althea Raven is a witch (a magic using human), who works as a consultant, dealing with the problems that arise from supernatural creatures interacting with humans.

UPDATE: Addressed some, though not yet all, of the critiques. It’s no longer 250 words, sorry!

*    *    *    *

Three hard raps sounded from the door.

“Coming!” Althea called. She swung open the door to reveal a man and a woman, both wearing suit jackets nearly covering guns at their belts. She recognized them from the image the nerieds had shown her—her stalkers from last week. “Hello?”

“Althea Raven?” The man’s height could easily intimidate, and his rugged features weren’t improved by the bump in his nose from an improperly set break. From the gravel in his voice and the intensity in his eyes, Althea judged he used his looks to his advantage.

“Yes. Can I help you?” Having faced down an enraged dragon, Althea found his attempts to frighten her with a glare amusing.

“We need to talk. May we come in?” His question sounded like a demand, and he leaned forward, shifting his weight to take the space without waiting for permission.

“I don’t think so.” Althea stepped back, sweeping the door closed.

“Wait!” The man stepped forward, and caught the door before she’d closed it more than halfway. As soon as his fingers touched the painted wood, the bronze dragon door guardian coiled around the doorknocker screamed. The little dragon’s eyes blazed green as her house’s defensive spell activated, and it stretched its neck, metal claws scrabbling across the wood as it headed for the offending digits. The man retreated, his eyes on the dragon’s open mouth and metal teeth. The woman’s hand dropped over her gun, her blue eyes fixed on Althea, assessing whether the witch was a greater threat.

“Whoa, peace,” Althea stepped onto the porch. The door swung shut behind her, and her guardian fell silent, watching the man closely. As an animated statue, the guardian couldn’t feel emotion. Althea, on the other hand, was growing annoyed. “Do you have a warrant?”

“Only criminals want warrants to invite in the FBI,” the woman said.

“You didn’t say you’re FBI,” Althea said. “Did you, Agent…?” She paused expectantly.

The man glanced at the woman, and she nodded. He opened his mouth to speak, but a shriek sounded from the backyard before he could answer.

“What’s this, break-in day?” Althea grumbled.

She circled around her house, the two agents following her.

___________________________________________________

Click on over to these great writers to check out and critique what they’ve posted!

http://mermaidssinging.wordpress.com/

https://caitlinsternwrites.wordpress.com/

http://ileandrayoung.com

http://wyrmflight.wordpress.com/

http://www.mandyevebarnett.com

http://womanbitesdog.wordpress.com/

http://jennykellerford.wordpress.com

http://jennifermeaton.com/

http://richardleonard.wordpress.com

http://jordannaeast.com

http://letscutthecrap.wordpress.com

http://writerscrash.blogspot.com/

Advertisements

About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

28 responses »

  1. I like the premise behind the story and I love the idea that the world requires consultants to handle the interactions between humans and fey. It reminds me of Laurell Hamilton’s Anita Blake series (which I’ve always loved).

    In your second paragraph I found myself a little confused over whether the nerieds were the stalkers, or the man and woman at the door, perhaps it’s possible to clarify that a little with a little jiggle in the text.

    The door guardian is a great touch; for anybody coming to the series from this book rather than the first, it is an immediate clue to the reader as to what sort of world they have entered. And of course a name like Althea Raven also does a brilliant job of that.

    The first section of dialogue back and forth feels a little heavy in speech direction, but I hasten to add, that that is personal preference and not a reflection on the writing itself, which I’ve really enjoyed.

    Also, I cannot be certain, so I wanted to ask; is the series adult, or young adult? The main reason I ask is that is has a feel of young adult and I just wanted to know if that was correct.

    • caitlinstern says:

      I love Hamilton, too. Urban fantasy makes me happy. 🙂
      I chose to skip over a scene where the ‘stalkers’ are introduced, which was possibly not a good idea… but with only 250 words, I did it anyway. I’ll totally tweak that sentence, though.
      The series is meant to be adult, though my fondness for keeping it clean probably means it would be YA appropriate.
      Thanks for your feedback!

  2. Amy Diamond says:

    i am certainly intrigued! You got my attention! I am not sure how and when the man and woman got into Althea’s house in order to follow her around though. I would need to see more to give a proper critique to your writing! But at a glance I would say clear, interesting with snappy dialogue and good pacing! Nice job!

    • caitlinstern says:

      I wanted to pick 250 words from where the action really started, so I skipped over a chunk of background that happens at the very beginning that shows the man and woman following Althea to a park. Looks like my choice for conciseness led to a little less clarity…
      Thanks for the comment!

  3. I really enjoyed that! Easily read, good flow. Intriguing enough to make me want to learn more. The dialogue was very character-specific, too, always an indicator of good writing. Good job and I look forward to next sunday!

  4. Very intriguing…I would love to read more. A lot of elements in these first few sentences that had me wondering – which is very good.

    • caitlinstern says:

      I hope I didn’t sacrifice too much background in my search for an interesting snippet to post. I think I still need to work on getting back-story in, spread out throughout the beginning, but not distracting.
      Thanks for the comment!

  5. Three hard raps sounded from the door.
    “Coming!” Althea called. She swung open the door to reveal a man and a woman, both wearing suit jackets covering guns at their belts.
    IF THE GUNS ARE COVERED HOW DOES SHE KNOW THEY ARE THERE?
    She recognized them from the image the nerieds had shown her—her stalkers.
    Police, maybe, she thought. HMMM — THAT THREW ME. THE STACCADO THERE SLOWED DOWN THE SCENE. IT MIGHT JUST BE ME THOUGH “Hello?”
    “Althea Raven?” The man asked. INSTEAD OF “THE MAN ASKED” GIVE US A MOVEMENT ACTION INSTEAD. IT WILL HELP THE FLOW.
    “Yes. Can I help you?” She replied. OH NO! PLEASE DON’T USE DIALOG TAGS ON ALMOST EVERY PEICE OF DIALOG. IT TURNS IT INTO “TELL” AND KEEPS US FROM GETTING IMMERSED INTHE SCENE.
    “We’d like to talk to you. May we come inside?” His question sounded like a demand.
    “I don’t think so,” Althea said. gET RID OF THE SAID HERE.
    “It’d be more comfortable, and we won’t attract attention,” the man stepped forward, crowding into her personal space.
    I BELIEVE THAT IS ILLEGAL, UNLESS HE HAS SHOWN A WARRANT.
    As soon as his foot hit the threshold, the bronze door guardian screamed. The little dragon uncoiled from the knocker, eyes blazing green as her house’s defensive spell activated. The man retreated, and the woman’s hand dropped over her gun.
    WOA – THAT WAS A SURPRISE. UP UNTIL HERE I HAD ENVISIONED MY OWN HOUSE. I THINK YOU NEED A LITTLE SCENERY TO LET US KNOW WHERE WE ARE.
    “Whoa, peace,” Althea stepped onto the porch. The door swung shut behind her, and her guardian fell silent, watching the man closely. “Do you have a reason to be in my house? Or a warrant?”
    WHAT DOES THIS GUARDIAN LOOK LIKE? I HAVE NO IDEA AND I THINK I SHOULD.
    “Honest citizens don’t need warrants to invite FBI agents in,” the woman said WHAT DOES SHE LOOK LIKE?
    “You didn’t identify yourselves before you tried to force your way into my home,” Althea said. “Did you, Agent…?” She paused expectantly.
    The man glanced at the woman, and she nodded. He opened his mouth to speak, but a shriek sounded from her backyard before he could answer.
    “What’s this, break-in day?” Althea grumbled.
    She walked around her house, the two agents following her.

    Interesting scene. I think it is a good base, but it needs a little “oomph”
    Description and scenery is missing. Please add it from all angles. There is also no emotion so we don’t know if the MC is scared, indifferent, or what emotion she is feeling. I also didn’t have any setting at all until that magic guardian suddenly appeared. It was jarring.
    Unfortunately, for me, the dialog didn’t feel realistic at all. This could be your world, though. I would suggest having two people read it out loud to you and see how it sounds. I think you might be surprised.
    With a little fluffing, and adding the needed scenery, emotion, and brushing up on the dialog, this could be a gem

    • caitlinstern says:

      Wow, you’re so much better at this feedback thing than I am… I can tell you have experience.
      I see my choice to trim out little bits of description to make the scene 250 words was not a good one… I can fix that, though.
      You know, I didn’t have dialogue tags on everything, and then I read somewhere that you needed them, so I went back and added them in. (Argh!)
      Thanks a bunch for your critique!

      • I actually had an editor recently challenge me to remove 95% of my dialog tags. I replaced them with things like “Maya turned away” or other movements like that to let you know who it was who was speaking. I was amazed how much better the story flowed!

  6. Thank you SO MUCH for not immediately describing your protagonist as the most gorgeous female ever to step upon the Earth! Although, perhaps you did, and that’s just part of what got trimmed. I enjoyed seeing Althea stand up for herself without bravado.

    I was looking for a little more sensory information, smells and textures in addition to sounds and visuals. No doubt another thing you trimmed.

    I’m not sure I would have gotten everything about her being a witch if I hadn’t had your intro first. However, this is just a snippet, I know. The magical elements such as the door guardian interested me. I definitely wanted to read more. Good work!

    • caitlinstern says:

      I don’t see her as the most beautiful woman, because I agree with you that’s so annoying.
      I am, as you noticed, a little bad at putting in enough description. I worry about distracting from the plot and I get cut-happy.
      Thanks for the comment!

  7. Hi, Caitlin,

    Thank you for putting yourself and your work out here for all of us. I, too, found the whole “250 word” limit daunting (as you probably noticed ;p.)

    Most of my comments have already been described by Jennifer, so I won’t say much else other than, “Yep, I second that.”

    Her suggestion to ask someone to read it to you is a good one. (I’m gonna use it when I get the nerve.) I too found the dialogue overworked.

    Personally, I like the urge to “keep it clean.” Profanity can be effective, but only when used sparingly, so save it for when the world is ending and everyone’s wands are broken and guns are out of ammo. It takes skill with vocab to express emotion and rhythm without relying on cussing.

    My only other idea at this time is this: trust your readers to fall into your world. I like the idea of consultants who help people navigate the magic and non-magic. As you show us your story, we’ll feel and see for ourselves who the thugs and heros are.

  8. HI Caitlin. I’m new, green and late this week, but want to join the group. Not to repeat what has been suggested before, I’ll be short. This sentence isn’t clear: ‘The man glanced at the woman, and she nodded. He opened his mouth to speak, but a shriek sounded from her backyard before he could answer.’ I know it’s the witch’s backyard the shriek came from, but this sounds like it belong to the ‘woman’ the man glanced at.

    Maybe use stronger verbs in the last sentence because she’s ticked off, right? I had no trouble getting into the story. Now I want to know what’s going on behind the house.

    • caitlinstern says:

      Dang pronouns… they always get me!
      Hmm… I don’t actually mean for her to be ticked off, just annoyed at that point. The situation is still under control–she knows exactly what’s happening in the backyard
      Thanks for the comments!.

  9. […] a link to Snippet 1, should you be curious. But I respect your time, […]

  10. […] a link to Snippet 1 and Snippet 2, should you be curious. But I respect your time, […]

  11. Judith Post says:

    This a good hook to start a story. I liked it that Althea didn’t cave and invite the agents in–told me about her character. I wish she’d have been a little sterner with them, even when they announced they were FBI–they were still using bully tactics. Loved the little dragon protector spell.

    • caitlinstern says:

      She does want to know why they’re there, so too much scolding would be counter-productive. I would’ve folded, myself. She’s made of sterner stuff than me!
      Thanks for your comment!

  12. […] a link to Snippet 1,Snippet 2, and Snippet 3, should you be curious. But I respect your time, […]

  13. […] a link to Snippet 1,Snippet 2,Snippet 3, and Snippet 4, should you be curious. But I respect your time, […]

  14. […] a link to Snippet 1,Snippet 2,Snippet 3,Snippet 4, and Snippet 5, should you be curious. But I respect your time, […]

What are your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s