Saturday, June 25, 2011

Shelley Watters First Page Contest!

Here we go! Time to post your entries for critiquing! Here's mine:

Title: Thornbriar
Genre: YA Fantasy Retelling
Word Count: 75,000

The first arrow nearly killed Beauty. If she had not had the good luck to trip over her injured coachman at just that moment, it would have pierced her breast. Instead, the black shaft of the arrow passed through her ruby curls as she staggered sideways. The coachman cried out when she trampled his broken leg in an attempt to regain her balance. Beauty ignored him, turning to look in the direction from whence the arrow had come.

She could see the archer then, facing her, a second arrow aimed at her heart.

Although he stood what seemed a great distance away, his features were inexplicably defined. It was as if some magic brought clarity to what ought to have been impossible to see. His long hair danced in a breeze that touched nothing else, the silver-blond strands sparkling in the few patches of sunlight that broke through the canopy of trees. His ivory skin glowed luminously, eyes solid black. He seemed a spirit, rather than a mortal man.

“Lady Beauty!” The downed coachman pulled on the skirts of her gown, breaking her trance.

Beauty heard the hiss of air and swirled, throwing herself to the ground. Three arrows whistled, following her motion with astonishing speed. All missed their mark by only fractions.

When her coachman pushed himself onto one elbow to shield her, she caught sight of the archer, again with an arrow directed her way. He held this one though, his unearthly face contorted in rage.


  1. eeeeeenteresting. I like it. One suggestion though: most of the sentences in the first paragraph have the same structure, and it makes the story start out a little stiff. you may want to change it up.

    Good luck!

    <3 Gina Blechman

  2. Interesting stuff! I like that's it's a more action-oriented version of the fairy tale. My only quibble is that the final sentence is a bit confusing. Maybe: "He held it in his hand" instead of "He held this one though"? It just doesn't have the same flow and clarity as earlier sentences.

  3. I love the addition of comedy to this retelling...having the good luck to trip.... :0) Although, for me, I thought the words 'good fortune' would have read better for me. Also, I would leave out luminously in this sentence: 'His ivory skin glowed....' Luminously is implied and w/o it you eliminate one of those pesky -ly words. I'm curious why he's enraged, because he continues to miss her? She's obviously entranced by him, and interesting conflict right off the bat. :0) christy

  4. Hi there! A couple of things:

    "His long hair danced in a breeze that touched nothing else, the silver-blond strands sparkling in the few patches of sunlight that broke through the canopy of trees. His ivory skin glowed luminously, eyes solid black. He seemed a spirit, rather than a mortal man."
    This passage is lovely, but it completely breaks the action-omg-we're-about-to-get-shot! flow. Surely you can disperse this information more evenly over the course of a couple stolen glances rather than having it all in one lump; otherwise I picture Beauty with a deer-in-the-headlights expression.

    Last sentence - missing comma. "He held this one, though, his face..." Actually, I don't even think you need the 'though'.

    Nice action-y beginning! I agree about the similar structure of the first paragraph's sentence. Try breaking some shorter clauses off and connecting some longer ones. A variable length is great for smoothing flow.

    Best of luck!

  5. I love the first line--it puts me right in the moment plus turns the Beauty and the Beast story right on its head--great! One quibble on the opening paragraph--I read ruby curls and immediately thought bright-red, like fakey-dyed or otherworldy. Which, if that's what you were going for, is cool. But if you just mean "normal" red hair--you should know the impression it gave me :) Plus, for better or worse, it made me stop at that point and think.

    My only other issue--while the paragraph of description--the third paragraph--felt out of place. If I was being shot at with arrows, I wouldn't have time to take in the details. I would keep this section action-oriented (but that's just me!).

  6. Verrry interesting! I love it! :) I like the world you've built so far.

    Is this a retelling of Beauty and the Beast?

    My one critique is: I kind of feel like the looong description of the archer is kind of cliche. I realize the need to make him seem hot, but it feels a bit early in the story for that. Also, the description seems kind of like "purple prose".


  7. First question: Where's Beast?
    (you knew someone would say this. Wait--it's the Archer?)
    Interesting start, lots of arrows flying.

    "The first arrow nearly killed Beauty."-Who is saying this? Also I'm not a fan of negative sentences that tell me something that didn't (or almost did) happen.
    "The first arrow whistled through Beauty's beautiful locks of beautiful hair as she tripped over that clumsy oaf's feet."
    "Cried out when she trampled" is out-of-order. Always try to keep cause-and-effect in order. "She bitch-stomped his leg, eliciting a cry of woeful pain"
    I liked the zoom-in on the archer but the time felt off to me. While she's stare-balling him he should be able to shoot her eyes out.
    Unless you're saying he's captivated by her, which begs the question of whether he missed on purpose.
    Not sure why the archer is enraged at the end. Why doesn't he keep shooting, or run up to them for an easy kill-shot?
    Fun start, want to know what happens next!

  8. The first sentence is kick-ass.

    Leave it as-is. I don't mind the overdone description of the archer because you clarify that something magical is making the definition of his features stand out far more than they should in that moment, as if his own other-worldly beauty is charming our "beauty" into standing still as a sitting duck. I like it.

    If this is a re-telling of "Beauty and the Beast", I would change your protagonist's name to something less on-the-nose. If Beauty from "B&B" is just a minor character, than keep the name. If this isn't Beauty from "B&B", than why use the name to begin with. Change it in that case; the name carries too many implications if you're not trying to make that inference.

    Nicely done. Keep it up. Keep writing! - Tom H.

    Check out my first 250!:

  9. A great effort, throwing us right in the action. It had me intrigued and wanting to read on.

    With respect to the opening line, I agree with Andrew. Start with action. Make this tighter and eliminate repetition (you say she tripped over the coachman then she staggered sideways in the next sentence - its the same thing repeated twice and unnecessary). For example: Beauty tripped over her injured coachman and the arrow whistled through her ruby-red curls. The coachman let out a strangled moan beneath her petticoat. She ignored him and turned to look in the direction of the archer.

    You need to vary your sentence structure throughout the entire piece not just the 1st paragraph. Add some 'and's to break up all those commas.

    'The arrows missed their mark' is telling. How about the arrows struck the wheel/door of the coach or her luggage?

  10. I'm intrigued. Why is the archer trying to kill her? I'd read on to answer this question. The writing itself is lovely, especially the description of the archer.

  11. I remember this from last time, and whatever you've done to change it has improved immensely. I love this version: wouldn't change a thing. I want to turn the page.

  12. Thanks for all the comments everyone! So much to process and consider! I've been crazy busy, but I'm going to try and get around to people's entries and comment.

  13. Oh! I really liked it from the first sentence. You really pulled me in. I'm dying to know what happens next. Great entry!