Wednesday, January 22, 2014

First Two (Adult Fiction) #7

TITLE: Thingbreaker
GENRE: Magicpunk

Standing on the tram platform where the newer bulk of Silberung meets the denser sprawl of Old Tun, I taste the crackle of magic in the air. The original city thrums with it, every street and crooked alley forming the structure of a massive ward to keep the old gods at bay. The magic is quiet, the days of the Tiefen Kalten nearly forgotten, but it is not gone.

“You gon’ ta stand there all day, girl?” An old woman balancing a basket of dry and pungent fish on her head, nudges me none too soft with her elbow as she edges down the steps. “Staring like a dem Welk.”

She’s not the only one giving me the hairy eye and I shrug an apology and hurry down the copper staircase to the street.

In the days of the Kalten, the city was magnificent. Now the winding streets and maze-like buildings are shabby and the old Weise families have moved into Silberung proper, leaving Old Tun to the gypsies and mechanics, the washerwomen and cobblers.

There’s a handful of soldiers standing near the corner, eying the passers-by, casual-like. The courier’s crest strapped to my left wrist says I can go anywhere in Silberung I damn well please, but it takes a lot of effort not to turn up my collar and shove my hands deep in my pockets so they can’t see the ink on my knuckles. Or the brand on my palm.

I take a deep breath and move through the crush and ebb of the streets. One of the soldiers whistles as I stride past, but no one makes a move to stop me as I push through the crowded market.

I’ve been here a few times already, but always on business. Today I’m here for my own reasons and headed into a part of the city I’ve seen only from the tram and briefly too.

Despite the abstract quality to the streets, the glyphs at every intersection give me clear direction in toward the heart of the sector. The streets are less crowded here. The noise of vendors begging for attention and promising the best price slowly fades in the distance.

I glance up at the street corner. Left.

Finding artists who do true, charmed ink is difficult. The practice of tattoo is legal, but still considered taboo by the elite. The good ones have learned to be discreet to the point of being nearly unknown. There are rumored to be five artists in Silberung who are the quality I seek. I’ve found four of them and none were familiar with the ruined Hand of Anwa on the back of my neck. But the fourth, a tiny little man with ink that covered his face and hands like lace, told me to look in Old Tun. A man named Reyneaux works there. He may recognize it.

Another glyph on the corner and a right turn. This street is narrower, the buildings on either side dull with age.


  1. The voice and the description drew me in right away. Your premise of trying to find this tattoo artist makes me want to read more, but you might want to consider introducing the concept earlier so the reader knows your MC's purpose right from page 1. There's also one sentence that confused me: "The practice of tattoo is legal, but still considered taboo by the elite." I don't understand the distinction between taboo and illegal.

  2. I like this. I thought at first the unfamiliar names and places were going to throw me off but they actually work fine, set the fantasy tone. And then the quest becomes clear, the stakes are hinted at in a great way. Good. To respond to Ali, it seems to be a distinction like prostitution, taboo for the higher classes but legal nonetheless.

  3. I was drawn in right away, the descriptions give just enough colour to the surroundings without being overly detailed.

    I do wonder why the tattoo artists must be discrete, if only the elite find tattoo to be unacceptable. Are the elite that powerful, or is it just a power over the MC?

  4. I love this. It creates a wonderful sense of place, and a sense of depth to the world that feels very authentic.

    One nitpicky detail: in the second paragraph you either need to remove the comma after 'head' or add one after 'woman'. (I.e.,
    the clause beginning with 'balancing a basket' is either essentially part of the noun, 'woman', like a single adjective, or it's a modifying phrase offset by commas.)

    In general I'm not crazy about present tense, and seeing that it seems to be becoming a fad makes me cringe a little; I've seen far too many people make a mess out of it -- we're so used to reading traditional past tense that there's a real danger of slipping up and mixing tenses.

    But since you seem to be handling it quite well (at least, so far!), I can't really see a reason to object to it here. :)

  5. This so good. If you need a beta reader, let me know.

  6. I'm hooked. Overall the story flows well and does a great job of drawing me in. I loved the hairy eye.

    There are some areas that could be tightened, as they read a little clunky and broke the smooth flow -

    * and headed into a part of the city I've seen only from the tram (I'd cut - and briefly too)

    * I felt you could cut the whole "The practice of tattoo is legal, but sill considered taboo by the elite. The good ones have learned to be discreet to the pout of being nearly unknown." This is a tell and is something I would rather you showed us during the story. The fact there are only five of sufficient quality is already showing us they are hard to find.

    * I'd also cut "Despite the abstract quality to the streets" as I don't think it adds anything to the story, and you have already given us a good feel for the city

    * but it takes a lot of effort not to turn up my collar and shove my hands deep in my pockets so they can't see the ink (I'd cut or change - "on my knuckles" as it threw my visual out.) Why would she turn up her collar if the ink was only on her knuckles. Later we find there is a tattoo on her neck, so the collar makes sense, but after the fact.

    The only other thing I might suggest is a hint at how she is feeling as we go along. How does she feel when the soldier whistles at her? How does she feel when she turns into the narrower street at the end - scared, excited, worried.

    I'd definitely keep reading.

  7. It was very easy to fall into the world you've created. Nice visual descriptions and images!

    You might introduce the tattoo closer to the beginning so we know immediately what this is all about.

    You might also cut pargs 4, 7, and 10. The info she's imparting is stuff she already knows and she wouldn't tell it to herself. They're there to fill in the reader, and every time you stop to explain to the reader, you stop the story. It'll be stronger without those pargs.

    Loved the 'hairy eye,' and - I taste the crackle of magic in the air. -- would make a great first sentence.