Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Talking Heads #12

GENRE: YA Historical Fantasy

Fortunee's father has been arrested for using magic. Meanwhile, the King's dog has attacked the King on a hunt near her house. When Fortunee returns home, she finds her brother with the King's dog.

I froze on the threshold. "That--that's the King's dog!"

Bertrand did not move from his spot near the fire, but his knife grazed the wood he was carving as I'd asked him about the weather. "His life was in danger. Do you think I would take him for anything less?"

I've tried to reason with him," Maman said, grabbing a handful of dried lavender. "It's no use."

"The dog's life was in danger?" I said. "What about our lives? Did you know that one of the King's dogs tried to kill him?"

Maman glanced at Bertrand. "You did not tell me this."

"I was there," he said, cutting hard into his whittling with his knife. "The dog was cursed."

"How do you know that?" I said.

"He was thinking, 'Kill the Dauphin.'" He blew on his carving, scattering chips everywhere.

"The dog attacked the Dauphin?" Maman said.

"It got the King. It missed the Dauphin. The King was injured." I crossed myself. "I took your herbs."

I hung up my shawl and slipped out of my pattens, which I wore outside. The straw we strew over our floor scratched my bare feet.

"You gave herbs to the King?" She put down her herbs. "And the King, how does he fare?"

I had done nothing. I couldn't tell her the truth. I had promised the Dauphin. "The King is well."

Bertrand smiled as his knife scraped against the wood. "See, Maman," he said. "I saved the Dauphin, and Fortunee saved the King. Perhaps they will pardon Papa."

"Papa needs no pardon." Maman smashed herbs into her jar with more strength than was needed. "He did nothing wrong."

My mind turned on what Bertrand said earlier on why the dog was calm now. I stepped closer to the crackle of the fire. "What do you mean you saved the Dauphin?"

"There was a man who came and talked to the dog," he said. "He could talk to the dog's mind, like I can, but he was not pleasant."


  1. Interesting. I feel like I'm getting a little glimpse of a much larger story, with lots of secrets and mysteries to be solved. The line that really grabbed me was "Papa needs no pardon…He did nothing wrong." It tells me a lot about Maman's character, about their family backstory, and the King in a very short space. Nice job.

    I was little confused who was speaking at first with "It got the King." Sometimes dialogue tags just clutter things, but sometimes they can be helpful clarification. Also, having straw and strew so near each other in the sentence sounds a little odd - maybe a different verb would be better. Good luck!

  2. I can tell there's a bigger, interesting story here. I feel like this dialog would make more sense if I had seen the attack scene. As it is, I feel like it jumps from one thought to the next.

    And there's a lot of confusion about who the dog attacked and who is okay and which dog this is. I feel some sympathy for Maman because it took me a couple of reads to figure out what was happening.

    If a prior scene makes it clear, though, it's fine.

  3. I, too, had a little trouble following the flow. There are parts that sound like one sentence is addressing one person, and the next is addressing a second. For example:

    "The dog's life was in danger?" I said. "What about our lives?

    Sounds like is being said to Bertrand, but the next part of the same paragraph:

    Did you know that one of the King's dogs tried to kill him?"

    sounds like it addresses Maman, especially since she responds next. A little more narrative between trains of thought could help clarify intended recipient.

    This sounds like a lot of double crossing and sneakiness is going on behind the scenes. Makes me curious to read more.

  4. There’s lots of mystery and intrigue going in this short scene. Through the description and the characters language, I get a pretty good feel for the world you’re creating.

    I think the pacing and tension could be heightened by losing some unnecessary wording and descriptions. You don’t need to tell us things we already know or can assume.

    For instance: "The dog's life was in danger?" I said. "What about our lives?”

    Could be shortened to: “The dog’s life? What about ours?”

    Or when she slips out of her pattens, you don’t need “which I wore outside.”

    I’d like to get a better sense of each character’s feelings. Everyone’s reaction in the scene seems flat. What is Marman feeling about what Bertrand did? Is she angry at him or fearful about what will happen? Is she concerned that some stranger is riling up the king’s dogs? Is she worried the dog might hurt her own family? She just goes on dealing with her herbs.

    Fortunee’s concerned but she doesn’t really react. She doesn’t yell or act frightened or maybe run to the window to be sure no is watching the house. Something. If Marman or Fortunee had bigger reactions, it would provide a good contrast to Bertrand’s apparent nonchalance.

    And what is the dog doing through all of this? You tell us it’s there but don’t give us any description.

    The talk about herbs confused me. When she said she took the herbs, it seemed to come out of nowhere. I wasn’t sure why she said it and didn’t assume it had anything to do with the king.

    You’ve built an intriguing scene with some compelling possibilities and with a little tightening, I think it could be even stronger. Good luck!

  5. Yes this dialogue reveals tension and hints at a lot of cool features in the story. It gives us a sense that a lot is going on behind the scenes of this mundane situation.

    I agree with Mary about the herbs comment. It might be good to have the mom ask her if she took the herbs or something. Also, maybe a short description of what the dog was doing. Although you may have done that already before this section.

    The mother's line about the pardon was great. It reveals a lot.