Monday, January 28, 2013

Talkin' Heads #44

TITLE: The Chef's Apprentice
GENRE: Fantasy, late MG

Ottili is approaching Polycure Castle, where she's supposed to get her unruly magic under control. She's just met Arnit, who works at the castle. (He scans her face for physical signs of magic.)

“Are you an apprentice?” Ottili asked the boy.

“Not yet,” he said, reddening a little.

“Don’t have your magic yet?”

He frowned and said nothing.

“Sorry, I don’t mean to be rude. What’s your name?”


“Nice to meet you Arnit. I’m Ottili.”

“I know. Nice to meet you Ottili.”

“Are there other apprentices?”

“A few.”


Ottili looked out the window.

“I’m not one of them, you know.”

Arnit looked at her sharply.

“What are you then?”

“I’ve dunno. My mother sent me here because my magic makes her embarrassed.” She could feel Arnit looking at her forehead.

“It’s on my neck,” she said helpfully.

He nodded.

“Actually, there’s only one other apprentice. She’s Gala.”

“Oh.” Ottili wondered if this was a bad sign. She hoped they weren’t expecting much of her.

“Is it true that you use magic to help the harvest?”

“I told you, I don’t have me magic.”

“Well, I meant you as in, you know, you people.”

“You people.” Arnit shook his head and looked out the window. “Yes, that’s right,” he said a little curtly. “We’re the bread basket, aren’t we. Not sure we’d manage it without magic.”

The coach rounded a corner and pulled through two tall stone gates.

Arnit flicked his head toward the window.

“We’re here. Better be ready to show your stuff, then.”


“Wolf. He’d be expecting you to get to work right away.”

“That’s not what I was told,” Ottili said, although in truth Vesna hadn’t actually told her anything.


  1. I liked the exchange when I could parse out who was speaking when, but I did have a little trouble figuring it out. The issues seems to be when you've got an action beat on its own line instead of with the unattributed dialog it belongs with. Ex.:

    'Ottili looked out the window.

    “I’m not one of them, you know.”

    Arnit looked at her sharply.

    “What are you then?'

    Would be clearer (assuming I'm piecing this together right) as:

    'Otilli looked out the window. "I'm not one of them, you know."

    'Arnit looked at her sharply. "What are you then?"'

    It sounds really interesting, though! Good luck!

  2. Unruly magic - that sounds like a fun recipe for a MG!

    I know this is supposed to be mostly dialogue, but this section could use some POV deepening. I didn't know for sure Ottili is the POV character until halfway through. I really wanted to get in the mc's head more - this could be achieved showing her actions and some interiority (it wouldn't take a lot of words) - doing so would also address the issues the previous commenter pointed out.

  3. I didn't realize their were in a carriage until almost the end of the submission, so I didn't really understand why Arnit was looking out the window.

    The dialogue needs to be paired with the speakers, and discription of actions and character's features.

    The idea of unruly magic sounds like a lot of fun and a grat catalyst for a great adventure.

  4. I agree that the unruly magic definitely caught my attention. Sounds like an interesting idea and some interesting pieces falling into place here between these two characters.

    However, I too had a hard time keeping track of who was speaking. The part that confused me the most was right after She hoped they weren't expecting much of her. After that I wasn't sure who asked the question and Arnit's comment about We're the bread basket threw me off since Ottili is the one with magic.

    I liked some of the give and take between them; I just wanted a little bit more description as the other commenters have noted.

  5. The plot sounds like a lot of fun, but the excerpt here is confusing... if you cut out some of the redundancies, especially near the beginning (I'm Ottilli... nice to meet you Ottilli), it would flow much better.
    I loved the detail about the magic mark on her neck, though. That got me intrigued

  6. I found this to be quite confusing. I had to read through it twice to determine who was speaking part of the time. I also didn't figure out they were travelling together until the carriage came up, so that threw me off a bit. But on the second reading it was all much clearer, but you want to avoid your readers having to stop and go back over it to keep everything straight. I would like to find out more about this unruly magic, though. Sounds fun.

  7. There's no tension here. Instead of just dialog for so long, we need deeper reactions from Ottili, and perhaps her having a hard time reading Arnit's reactions.

    Or, just summarize that the boy's name is Arnit, and start the dialog with "I'm not one of them, you know. An apprentice." Stephen King's book On Writing is very helpful for this.

  8. There are some interesting ideas here: magic powers leaving a physical trace, which I assume must be a sort of birthmark; hints that there are rules concerning the appropriate uses of magic, which Ottili will learn. I'm intrigued enough to want to read more.

    However, this needs a lot of tightening to really shine. As other's have commented, the unattributed dialogue was very difficult to follow. The whole introduction sequence could be deleted. "My name is..." exchanges make for pretty dull reading unless there is something more going on, for instance if Arnit were behaving in an unusual way or we were getting some of Ottili's impressions of him. Also, I felt like the exchange toward the end about using magic to help with the harvest was there solely to convey information to the reader. Perhaps some of that could be changed to exposition; e.g., through the carriage window, Ottili saw vast wheat fields, far different from (whatever the landscape looks like where she is from). Then it might be natural for her to ask, "is it true you use magic..."

  9. Wow, thank so much everyone! Super helpful comments. And I feel like such a dolt for not formatting the dialog properly...


  10. Like your comment above. Not much to add but I think this has potential. Initially I really enjoyed the exchange but got lost as it progressed.