Friday, November 30, 2012

(37) YA Fantasy: Of Ice and Ashes

TITLE: Of Ice and Ashes
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Years after a toxic explosion disfigures hundreds of survivors, a town leader declares they are diseased and must all be purged. Self-conscious, seventeen-year-old Wren knows she’s the only truly dangerous survivor, and must brave brutal guards and the malicious leader herself to find the others—or she’ll burn with them.

Three layers of hand-knit sweaters and my gloves protected my skin. I tweaked the leather over my wrists, ensuring that no portion of flesh was exposed.

“You’re too cautious,” Jolie said. Her soft, clumsy hand pinned my mother’s old jade brooch to my outermost sweater. “Everyone knows what will happen if they touch you.”

“Accidents happen,” I said. Actually, an accident hadn’t happened in years thanks to my layering, but I didn’t dare risk it.

I saw Jolie’s lips purse in the silver-framed mirror by my bed. Ten years of nonstop caring for me had sprouted premature lines around her eyes. Otherwise, her face was smooth and soft, particularly round at the apple of her cheeks. Sometimes I wondered if she could have been beautiful without me as her only companion. Her burden.

My lips tugged down as I lost myself in that thought; Jolie’s pout transformed into the easy, sweet smile she always put on to cheer me up. She radiated hopefulness through every pore of that bustling body, regardless of her Scar.

I averted my gaze from hers, silently ashamed that I could never follow her lead.

Her fingers prodded against the back of my neck, adjusting the sweaters. A slight shiver always ran up my spine at these moments, probably my body’s warning against human proximity. Then I’d almost imagine warmth rushing beneath my skin, like it would if a normal person touched me. But I could barely remember what warmth felt like.

Neither Jolie nor I had felt temperature for ten years.


  1. Well, this certainly raises a lot of story questions. I'd read on just for the sake of getting them answered.

    You also do a great job of showing how much your protag loves her sister. Though I admit, when someone holds a family member on a pedestal this early on, my first inclination is to think, "She's going to die, isn't she?" Cynical, I guess. ;)

    Why is Scar capitalized though?

  2. This is a great opening. It raises so many questions that I want answers to and I REALLY want to read more! That last line is a hooker as well, WHY hasn't she been able to feel temps? What's a Scar? And your descriptions between the two characters are lovely. I can totally picture Jolie. Great job!

  3. Wow, that last line of the excerpt is great! This is such an interesting idea. I love the way the excerpt raises just the right amount of questions to make me want to read on, but doesn't become confusing. That is SO hard to do with a fantasy world. I do wonder if the introspection in the middle of the excerpt doesn't bog it down just a little. It might help to tighten that up. But otherwise, I love this one!

    Good luck! :)

  4. This is interesting and the last line would make me want to keep reading. So far, I'm assuming she has a Xmen/Rogue problem where something terrible happens if ppl touch her. I've seen quite a few stories with this component so I'm hoping you have a unique spin on it (and with the logline I read, it seems like you do).

    My one pet-peeve/nit-pick is that I don't particularly care when the narrators says things like "I lost myself in that thought." b/c we already know that the narrator is thinking.

    Anyway, I'd keep reading this! Good luck with it!

  5. I, too, would keep reading because the premise intrigues me. I struggle with the introspection piece in my own manuscript(a common problem in first-person storytelling). I think some of it could be cut her without losing a sense of the characters.

    I like the "hints" that alert the reader to the hook of the story: an accident not happening in years, Wren and Jolie not feeling temperature for 10 years.

    Also, I'd alert the reader to Wren's name... but perhaps you do that after this short excerpt? (We see Jolie's name four times.)

    Maybe even near the beginning, have Jolie say, "You're too cautious, Wren."

    I wish I could read the next few pages! I'm hooked.

  6. I have seen your work at AgentQuery Connect, so I know where this is going. With that in mind I was probably a little more picky when I read your extract

    I found the reference to the premature lines around her eyes, immediately followed by the smooth and soft face to be a direct contradiction. Little things like this take me out of the moment because I break the flow to think about the fact that it doesn't make sense.

    While I think you have raised some good story questions in the opening scene, I also think you have probably overdone it a little. I would tone down the whole 'Jolie is a saint' to one paragraph. For example, is is necessary to wonder if she would have been beautiful, when you have already alluded to the fact that the nonstop caring has created the premature lines around her eyes.

    Lastly - this may be just me - but I would have written hand-knitted sweaters, rather than hand-knit. Not sure which is technically correct though.

    Good luck with the auction.

  7. A strong opening page- it intrigued me. I would read on.

    I think it should be, "In the silver framed . . . I saw Jolie's lips purse'

    And in the logline, 'Years after a toxic explosion leaves hundreds of survivors disfigured'

  8. I love this logline. Based on it I’d want to read this manuscript. I don’t love the title. It feels a bit generic for YA and for fantasy. But titles are as changeable as the weather. (I know you writers don’t want to hear that, but it’s so. Sorry.)

    Overall, the sample has a great hook to it, and I’d definitely read on. (I’d read on for that final line, alone!) But you’d better serve this opening with some tightening. The introspection of your fourth paragraph doesn’t bother me, but I think it’s a bit drawn out. Perhaps you can do a bit of combining? “Ten years of nonstop caring for me had caused premature lines to form around her eyes, but otherwise, her face was smooth and soft, particularly round at the apple of her cheeks. I wondered if she would have been beautiful without me as her only companion. Her burden.” (Yes, I did a little tinkering in there, too. “Could” indicates something Jolie would have control over, and the situation suggests otherwise.)

    This line—“ My lips tugged down as I lost myself in that thought”— isn’t serving you well. We know she’s thinking, and Wren’s pout doesn’t add much. In fact, it lessens the impact of the transformation of Jolie’s face in the next clause. You can keep working down in here, looking at the descriptions that are contributing, and those that are merely distracting from the point.

    I wouldn’t mind a line of dialogue to break some of this exposition up, especially toward the end.. It doesn’t have to be long, but I think it would add some needed balance.

    You definitely have something good cooking here. Just remember that every word has to serve a purpose. And if it’s not doing that, it shouldn’t be there.

  9. I think there's room for streamlining in the logline, but I really liked the excerpt. I'm intrigued by her hands and the hints at what tragedy must have happened. The paragraph starting "My lips tugged down" can probably be omitted since I don't think you want your character lost in thought on the first page. You have enough reflection mixed in with Jolie and your MC. I know this is just 250 words, but I would make something happen, or start to happen pretty quick. I would keep reading because the writing intrigues me.

  10. Great opening! It kind of reminds me of the beginning of Divergent (in a good way, not a copy-cat way!). You have a very strong voice. I feel like you could cut some unnecessary words, as others have stated, but other than that, the pace is spot on for me. You've done a great job of seamlessly feeding the reader bits of information. The last line was a surprise, and it would definitely keep me reading! Good luck!

  11. I'm feeling the X-Men vibe here, as well, but the logline makes me think horror possibilities. I'm fascinated.

    I want more. Right this second. *waits*

    While I wait, I wonder why everyone knows what will happen if they touch her, and if she's looking to find the other people with the Scar, or if she's looking to find people who are dangerous like her own self.

    *is still waiting*

  12. I'm really liking this logline....would certainly keep reading

  13. Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy LiteraryDecember 4, 2012 at 11:35 AM


  14. Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy LiteraryDecember 4, 2012 at 11:35 AM



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