Wednesday, January 22, 2014

First Two (Adult Fiction) #3

TITLE: Redwing
GENRE: Fantasy

Claire wanted to fly.

It was an overcast day but the clouds were high in the sky and the air was calm when she walked out onto the River City Base tarmac for pilot tryouts.

Claire had joined the Ladies Division of the Avaline Air Guard to work on the hangar deck refueling and towing aeroplanes. Now, working alongside men who flew the machines that sailed among the clouds was the closest she might ever come to flying them herself.

But even that wasn't enough for her any more.

The concrete airstrip stretched out to her left, bright white in the diffused sunlight. The dreadnaught Omnipotent hung in the sky to the west, black and angular. The hangar deck crew were there in their canvas coveralls, but the fly-boys wore their leather flight jackets like badges of pride. None of them knew that the C. Genaille who'd signed up today was a woman, but they would in a moment.

Someone called out names. "Sebastien Sine, Quentin Chevalier, Rene Dufont, C. Genaille."

Three young men stepped out towards the training planes taxiing onto the ramp. Claire steeled herself, held her head high and followed them, flight goggles in hand.

Across the ramp, the first to notice her was the Admiral's bastard son, Michel Prideaux. Ace pilot, call sign Redwing. He liked to play with people like a cat plays with a mouse, for no other reason that he was bored. Claire's stomach turned to ice at his gaze.

But others had spotted her now, and the whispers started. "Hey, that's Thomas's girl," someone said over the beating of props approaching. "Did he teach her?"

She'd cajoled Thomas, a young instructor at the flying club to teach her to fly before he and every aeroplane in the country got drafted into the army last summer.

"Yeah, like he taught his dog to fetch his slippers."

They laughed. But she'd known they would. It didn't matter--she'd make them let her prove herself in the air.

She ignored them and walked on to where Martin stood with the list to direct them to the four training aeroplanes. The others stood a little apart from her, and Martin raised his eyebrows.

"You can't be serious."

"I sure am," said Claire.

Another laugh from the crowd that had gathered closer. Thomas pushed through them and grabbed her wrist. "Come on Claire, honest to Pete, you're embarrassing me," he said, yanking her toward the hangar.

Claire twisted her wrist out of his hand. He made her skin crawl every time he laid his hands on her. He bragged to the other pilots that she liked to do it in the sky, with no end of uncreative puns applied to the word cockpit. The only reason she'd let him take her to bed was for the few hours at a time he let her fly his aeroplane.

"What's the matter," she replied, "are you worried I'm going to show you up?"


  1. I really enjoy this.
    I think the opening line is tops, and I think you've created a great first scene that speaks to the MC's want and the conflict she'll face to get it.
    I would definitely keep reading.

  2. I really like this. It has conflict, tension, and goal. I would start the second paragraph with "The day was overcast" instead of the vague "it."

    How does she know Michel is the first to notice her? Maybe have him call out "Hey, Thomas, isn't that your girl?" to make it clear. That would also make Thomas's approach justified. At first I thought he wasn't there.

    Good luck!

  3. Jennifer Owen-Davies- I agree with the other comments, I too really enjoyed this excerpt and would definitely keep reading. However, after I finished I had to check back to read what genre is it, because as I'm reading through I'm thinking adult romance, and I question what is the fantasy element? It's clear right off the bat what Claire wants to do, and the objections she'll face, but I think you need to make the fantasy element clearer.

  4. This has a great solid feel, clear character, believable conflict. A kind of Naomi Novik flavor, or Code Name Verity. I am hooked.

  5. Loved this opening. What Claire wanted was clear from the start, and that she'd anticipated the reactions and was willing to hold firm made me like her. That she'd sleep with Thomas just to get time in the air . . . well, that put her goal on a whole different level.

    I stumbled once: "But even that wasn't enough for her any more." I got to that and thought, I never had the impression it had ever been enough--only that it was a means to an end.

    Otherwise you held my interest and had me intrigued.

    As for the fantasy aspect, I'm willing to trust you to bring that in when it's appropriate. Readers of published works tend to be more trusting than writers critiquing other writers. ;-)

  6. I have to be the dissenting voice here, as this one just didn't work for me. Everything about the setup, the scene, and the characters struck me as predictable, and I found myself feeling as if it had 'been done before'.

    (I'm afraid it reminded me of one of those country songs you can sing along with the first time you hear it, because you know what's coming after the first line or two and all the phrases are well-worn clichés!)

    I would recommend looking at what makes this story unique and trying to play those things up -- and possibly adding elements (even minor ones) that give more depth and texture to the world and the characters.

    Avoiding clichéd expressions -- like 'sailing among the clouds', 'badges of pride', 'made her skin crawl', etc., is another way to keep your writing from sounding 'generic'.

    Now I will also say that it's possible I'm just not your audience. I know that some people like their fantasy to be a comfortable escape that follows a number of conventions, just as traditional romance readers want books that fit into a very familiar formula. There's nothing wrong with that -- I think there's a place for everything if someone enjoys it.

    And I'll be the first person to admit that some of the fantasy I love is downright weird. ;) For example, that would be an accurate description of Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, which is one of my favorites. (I always say that those books are 'very weird -- but weird in a wonderful way'.)

    I'm madly in love with Wolfe's style, which is very literary -- some say it's 'dense' -- but I know quite well that many people find it difficult to read. So what you're doing here probably has a much wider audience than the kind of fantasy I prefer.

    However, no matter what the style, I can't condone the use of clichés. And I think the readers who would enjoy this would enjoy it even more if it showed a little more originality, and if you made sure that each character was a believable person and not too much of a stereotype.