Friday, November 29, 2013

(45) Upper MG Fantasy: SHADOWCATCHERS

GENRE: Upper MG Fantasy

Thirteen-year-old Zane’s job catching shadows for the palace is the only thing keeping him out of the slums where he was raised. But when he discovers he’s actually stealing souls, he must choose between the job that keeps him fed, or quitting and becoming the Empress’s next target.

Zane slouched in the shade of a stall, casually eating a fig, while he waited for the man he was hunting to appear. The market was almost empty, except for a few slow-moving servants dragging their feet through the sand. Even under their headdresses, Zane could see the sweat beading on their foreheads and felt sorry for them. Sure, he was out here, too, but at least he got to hide in the shade.

A cloth merchant, dressed in a fine embroidered shirt, ducked out of his shop and hustled through the market. He stayed close to the stalls and out of the sun as he walked, but whether it was to keep cool or to protect his shadow, Zane didn't know. Either way, Zane would have to be careful.

Dropping the fig skin, he double-checked the sketch in his pocket. Same fair hair and beard, same crinkly eyes, same snaggle-toothed smile. Definitely his man.

Zane peeled himself off the wall and slipped across the sand toward his mark. Three scraggly chickens clucked out into his path, causing him to stumble slightly. Wretched birds! Sidestepping them, he checked to see if anyone had seen, but no one seemed to have noticed. The market was like a ghost town, just the way he liked it. Most Catchers worked when the market was crowded, and the shadows long, but he preferred the precision of getting up close.


  1. First off, your concept is beyond cool. I LOVE the idea of shadow catching.

    There are some spots, though, where i feel the voice comes off as older than MG, or where it seems a bit authorial.

    "Zane slouched in the shade of a stall, casually eating a fig" The rest of the excerpt is pretty close to Zane's POV, but the "casually" pulled me out because it seemed so much more distant and like you, as the author, commenting on his actions.

    "Wretched birds!" This, to me, sounded older than a MG voice. And maybe Zane does have an older voice, but it pulled me out of the narrative.

    But, again, LOVE the concept and i would keep reading because i want to see him steal that man's shadow

    Good luck!

  2. Yeah, great premise on this one.

    I immediately like Zane. He's observant and cares about the plight of others (e.g., the servants in the market), yet there is an incautious nature about him too (e.g., getting in close to grab a shadow, when presumably being farther away is safer) which hints at potential conflict to come.

    I'd keep reading.

    Best of luck with it!

  3. To mirror the others, awesome premise. There's a bit of telling here and there, and for upper MG you'd rather be showing. Examples include the "casually", as mentioned by a commentator above (can you show him acting in a way that would show he's being casual rather than outright stating it for the reader's benefit) as well as "Sidestepping them, he checked to see if anyone had seen, but no one seemed to have noticed." This would be stronger as something like: "He sidestepped them and glanced around, but nobody was looking in his direction." (More in his head and more directly showing his and other people's actions/reactions.)

    You might be okay with the "Wretched birds" part, because this is a fantasy world, I take it, and that's how people might speak here (so it didn't necessarily feel "older" to me), but that's my take on it.

    Such a fun concept and strong writing in general. Good luck with this!

  4. I might delete 'quitting and' from the logline.

    I agree with the other comments. The text is quite good, but there are places tweaking a little more would help.

    Take the first sentence. In any sentence, the last word resonants in the readers mind. So ending with 'to appear' deflates the image. Does changing 'was hunting to appear' to 'hunted' improve it?

    And do you need 'slow-moving' knowing that they are 'dragging their feet'?

  5. Loved this!
    Excellent premise. Catching shadows only to find out he's really catching SOULS? Yes, please. I enjoyed the voice. It did feel a bit old, but this is Upper MG and with it being third person, I was okay with that because I was envisioning an older narrator—outside Zane's head. For the most part, it read well to me.

    Maybe the sentence before "Wretched birds!" could be reworked to show me his stumble. (Instead of "causing him to stumble slightly" choose a way to show the action. Because the first half of that sentence is awesome, "Three scraggly chickens clucked out onto his path," I want more bang in the second half of that sentence.) And then "Wretched birds!" threw me a bit, cause I thought we were removed from the MC's head with the narration so far, and then poof! We are in his head!

    I like the fig. I don't know why. I just like it.

    Overall, I really enjoyed this. You hooked me. Good luck!

  6. This has a great storytelling feel to it. With the mention of sand, sweat and figs, I was in a bazaar-like marketplace. The other commenters mentioned some good things, but as I read it the first time, I was caught in the story.

    Best of Luck!

  7. I'm going to get nit picky just because I like this SO much-- a great premise/idea, rich setting, intriguing characters...

    The first sentence is telling not showing, with the "casually eating a fig" and the "man he was hunting" (which also is passive). I would tweak that first sentence a bit-- something like, "Zane slouched into the shade of the stall, bit into a fig and waited for the bearded man to appear."

    "Zane would have to be careful" seemed a little off to me. Doesn't he always have to be careful when he does this? You have already set up a great tone of hiding/danger/intrigue--now show us what is different and special about this time. Perhaps something like, "Either way, Zane would have to be clever this time."

    In the last paragraph you can drop the "slightly" adverb- you don't need it. Then, "he checked to see if anyone had seen" sounds a bit awkward with two "sees"-- perhaps "he checked to see if anyone had spotted him" or something of the sort.

    You use the word "market" a lot.. perhaps "marketplace" could be a nice substitute to mix it up a little.

    But seriously, I LOVE THIS. With a little bit of tightening this goes from great to excellent. You have good rhythm and natural storytelling ability. Great voice, too. Nice work.

  8. I agree with everyone else. A great premise and a great first page. I soooo wanted this to be longer so I could see how he caught the guy's shadow, so I'd definitely read more.

    My suggestion would be to take the suggestions the others gave you for tightening this up.

    Good luck!

  9. I have had the pleasure of reading the first few pages before, and I can tell you that this is a strong story with an awesome premise. Roll on to some shadow catching!

    Best of luck, friend!

  10. I'll just chime in and pretty much agree with everyone else - great premise, well-written first page with an excellent, intriguing set-up, and I get a good sense of setting. I'll also agree that the writing could be nimbler in parts with more showing and less telling. And even though he's trying to *act* casual at the start, I think you could make the first line stronger and punchier.

    Overall there's a lot to like here and I'm definitely hooked. If you just polished it a little it'd be fantastic. Good luck!

  11. I absolutely love the premise for this story, and I think the first 250 nicely sets up who Zane is (confident) and what he does. You've nicely woven in the setting while grabbing my attention with the merchant protecting his shadow. I'm curious to know whether the merchant knows his shadow is to be stolen, and if so, why.

    Like others, I was thrown by "Wretched birds!", which didn't seem to fit the flow of the narrative, and I have to say I picture Zane as older than MG, but that's likely due to the situation in which we meet him. The very act of stealing shadows brings to mind something someone older would do. I'm not sure why ... perhaps because it seems like someone's shadow would have to be wrested away (requiring brute strength), rather than lightly taken with nimble fingers.

    I'd love to read more.

  12. I like the logline and the first page! I like that he had a sketch of his victim and Zane seems likeable.

  13. This is wonderful! I love the premise and the way you place the reader into the setting is very well done.

    I hope you take all the previous comments to heart and tighten up your entire manuscript with the suggestions you've been given here, because I think this is so close to be incredible. Especially Sparrow's comments. So often an author gets feedback on the first page and then only edits the first page. Hopefully the critiques given here will help you tighten up the entire manuscript so that it can be sold so that I can read it!!

    Because I really want to read this! Definitely want to find out what happens next with Zane!

  14. I love this. I bid 5 pages.

  15. I love this more than Danielle. 25 pages!

  16. I love this more than Brooks! 45 pages!

  17. Tamar loves nothing--NOTHING. 80 pages!



  19. danielle is AwesomeDecember 3, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    woo hoo! I actually won something! so happy now!

  20. I both hate and love you a little right now, Danielle. You have shoplifted my heart.