Wednesday, January 22, 2014

First Two (Adult Fiction) #12

TITLE: Pretty Saro
GENRE: Adult Fantasy

In a dark room, a woman crouches over the body of a sleeping man. The dim light reflects off a knife she holds hovered over the man’s heart. The tip grazes his bare skin. As he inhales, his chest rises towards the knife’s point. When he breathes out, the distance opens up again. The woman watches this rise and fall and waits.

She raises the knife above her head and the white of her knuckles glow against the dark surface of the handle. She stops there, frozen, then sighs and lowers the knife. She holds it again just above his heart. One deep breath pushes the tip more deeply into his skin, and she watches for it to break the surface. It does not.

The man breathes out and his left eye opens like a slow curtain rise.

“Don’t you think you should just get on with it?” he asks.

The woman shifts her gaze from the man’s heart to his eye. In the dark, she can make out what might be a smile on his face. Perhaps a smirk.

“Not that I mind you wiggling around up there, at all, but it seems if you’re going to stab me, you should probably get on with it.”

He opens the other eye and looks up into her face. She watches him closely and adjusts her grip on the knife. Her breathing stops.

Lying on the bed, the man watches an emotion flash across the woman’s face so quickly that he has no time to name it. Hope? Or disappointment? Then anger. The anger is unmistakable.

She raises the knife to its full height above her head once again and with one swift motion brings it plunging down towards his chest.


It wasn’t the first time Syd woke to find a strange woman in his bed. It might have been the first time she was holding a knife over his chest.

Sleep was different in the After. No one was sure why, but Syd suspected it wasn’t something your body needed anymore. One of the fancy scientists Gabe was always talking to could probably spend years coming up with an explanation, and then everyone would know it was true, but Syd didn’t have much use for scientists. He didn’t particularly like the look of white lab coats. No one looked good in white.

Some Splits liked to pretend they didn’t notice it–the difference in how they slept After. Gabriel, for example. Syd bet if you asked him if he slept differently now compared to Before he would purse his lips so that the dimples on his face became even deeper and pretend he had no idea what Syd was talking about. That was Gabe.

But sleep was different, and the good part was that it made it much harder for people to sneak up on you. Syd heard each sound the woman made as she picked the lock on his apartment door. He heard her creep down the hall and open his bedroom door.


  1. I admit, present tense is a hard sell for me. But you've definitely caught my attention. I would keep reading a bit to see what's going on.

    There are a few things that I think would make it flow better. Break the last sentence of the first paragraph and the first sentence of the second into two sentences each. Also the third paragraph.

    There are some extraneous words: you could just say "a knife hovering", I don't think you need "the body of" in the opening paragraph, "there" isn't necessary before "frozen" in the second paragraph, and you can say "reflects" instead of "reflects off". You don't need "the man watches" - if he's seeing her face, then he must be looking at her.

    The man says "get on with it" twice in three paragraphs; you might consider rewording one of them.

    All of that might help the flow.

  2. I like the twist! I was fully expecting this to be a serious high fantasy that dealt with assassins or the like based on the first few sentences.
    Your first sentence may be a bit chunky. "In a dark room" could just be "in the dark," "The body of a sleeping man" could be "a sleeping man" - we most likely assume he's got a body and that she'd have to be crouching over it.
    I'm a big fan of speaking about Gabe and the After as though we already know, as opposed to drowning us in exposition.
    I would certainly keep reading this!

  3. I have to admit, I have a fairly strong dislike of third person present tense. It always feels distant and choppy to me. For that reason, I didn't care for the portion above the scene break.

    I'm not sure that you need that prologue, or whatever you'd call it. The first sentence after the break would make a much catchier opening, IMO, and you seem to be repeating the same action as in the prologue, so why not simply start there?

  4. I think you've something interesting here, but there are a couple of issues I noticed.

    I would add the knife to the first sentence. As it stands, I don't think the opening sentence is quite gripping enough.

    The first section seems to spend a lot of time on the knife and its position in relation to the man's body. To me, it felt like you could tighten up that first section a bit.

    There is a bit of 'head-hopping' going on in the scene. You start with the woman. We are with her watching the knife and watching the man. Then the last two paragraphs of that section, we seem to swtich to the man's point of view.

    In the second section, you throw at alot at your reader at a dizzying pace. I would wait a little longer to switch from Gabriel to Gabe. We are still really earlier on and sometimes its hard to tell at first if we are getting a new character or a variation on the name. You also introduce Splits, the After, the Before. The reader is trying to process all this as well as to keep up with who Gabe and Syd are. It's a little much this early to me.

  5. I admit I don't prefer first person either, but the problem for me with the opening was the anonymous characters. We learn right away in the next section that the man was Syd, so why not right away? It feels like an omniscient perspective, so withholding info seemed odd. But the greater issue was, I wasn't able to connect with either character. I didn't know if plunging the knife into his chest was a brave act or vengeance or foolishness or greed.

    I liked him for his awareness and bold fearlessness.

    The next section, then, followed up on that and I began to feel a little more connected to Syd.

    I had one place that pulled me out of the story. Syd just said no one looked good in white, then in the next paragraph, "Some Splits liked to pretend they didn’t notice it." I assumed the pronoun was referring to the last stated fact--that no one looked good in white--so I had to readjust when I realized he was returning to the line of thinking about the After and the Before.

    I thought those references added good intrigue.

  6. I liked the somewhat distant POV of the first half. It sets a tone and feeling of mystery. I'm wondering who is this woman and why does she want to kill this man?

    But then we get to the second half, and Syd is chatty and familiar, and all the tension and suspense of the first half vanishes. Here's a man about to be stabbed and he doesn't care, and if he doesn't care, I don't care. I'm assuming he probably can't be killed or can escape easily, and the whole opening, in my mind, is nullified.

    I also wondered whose story this was. Syd's, or the woman's? It starts with the woman (which usually means she'd be the MC) but she never gets named, and we get no insight into who she is. She doesn't even react when the man she's thinking of killing wakes up beneath her and starts talking to her.

    When we get to Syd, we get his name, his POV, and even his back story, which makes him seem the important character, so at this point, I don't know who I'm supposed to empathize with. (I wanted to follow the woman's story.)

    Perhaps you're doing a dual POV? If so, perhaps allow the woman to have a POV to ground us in her perspective before the switch to the man's POV.

    I would also suggest you don't go into Syd's back story here. He's a man with a knife at his chest. Perhaps finish that scene before going into the back story.