Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Talking Heads #14

GENRE: YA Fantasy

Tied to a chair, Taela is being held prisoner by the renegades because she tried to kill their leader, Hawke. One of her captors, Kalen, has brought her something to eat.

Kalen strolled over to the table where Egan had set up his arrows. He picked up an unfinished shaft and started to wind string around the fletching.

“So what are you and your friends planning to do with me?” Taela asked around the bite of snarerabbit.

He turned his eyes to meet hers, then let his gaze slide away. “Hasn’t been decided yet. We don’t want to harm you, but we will to protect Hawke.”

A pulse drummed at Taela’s temples. “What else could I expect from a gang of ruffians?” she murmured.

He smoothed one of the feathers between his fingers. “If you promise to leave Hawke alone, we might let you live.” He glanced over at her, as if to gauge her reaction.

She spooned another bite of meat into her mouth. So that was his plan. He was trying to frighten her. He didn’t understand how determined she was. She raised her chin, covering her trepidation with bravado. “I’ll never give up.”

Kalen tossed the arrow back onto the table and shifted his feet. “You’ll get yourself killed for nothing.”

“Justice for my sister isn’t nothing.”

A brisk wind blew outside, rattling the walls of the tent. The midday sun shining through the tree branches made moving shadow patterns on the canvas. He hooked his thumbs into his trouser pockets, walked over and leaned on the edge of Egan’s stool. “Don’t you know there’s no honor in revenge?”

“As if you knew anything about honor. Should I be like you? Follow a traitor and betray my king?” She knew she shouldn’t antagonize him, but she couldn’t help herself. He had no right to lecture her.

He crossed his arms, drawing back his sleeves, revealing tanned forearms beneath. “If you had any sense, you’d realize Hawke is fighting for the good of the kingdom.”

“Maybe If I believed that. But I know that Hawke only cares about himself.”

“He’s risking his life.”

“Too bad he didn’t do the same for my sister.”

Kalen looked down and dug a boot heal into the dirt. “He wanted to.”

She dropped the spoon into the bowl, spattering gravy on her jacket. “Well, he had the chance. Why didn’t he?”

“Because he—. He couldn’t.”

“Because he’s a coward.”

“No. Because —” Kalen closed his mouth. He ran a hand through his hair, looking as if he wanted to say more.


  1. I think this has a lot of potential but you can make it more exciting by raising the stakes. As it is now, Kalen seems like he's sort of apologizing on Hawke's behalf, even though Taela tried to kill him. If he loves Hawke and believes in him, I think he would be angrier with her. He certainly wouldn't be able to trust her word if she said she wasn't going to harm Hawke again. And if that were the case, and Taela was smart, she'd just say, "okay, I won't hurt him again," to earn his trust.

    There are some other inconsistencies too. Kalen says they don't want to hurt her and then later says they might let her live. She is tied to a chair, but her arms are free to spoon another bite of meat into her mouth. I would like to see this with more emotion. Have Kalen spoon feed her. Have Taela thrash against the chair. After Kalen gets an arrow ready, have him aim it at her throat. Let us worry that Taela isn't going to survive this interaction.

  2. I am hooked by the main character that happens to be a determined woman. The dialogue works at unravelling some of the plot details that are foreign to the reader. Overall it is well crafted and dynamic.
    My remarks: the dialogue would benefit from shorter narrative directives. For instance, "he glanced over at her, as if to gauge her reaction" could be shortened to "he glanced to gauge her reaction". The brevity of directives adds fluency to the text.

  3. It hints at an interesting story. I was set to feel sorry for Kalen because he seemed to be very reasonable, but then she mentions her sister, so I switched sides... and then I switched back again as Kalen is trying to explain Hawke... so these both feel like characters I can empathize with.

    I think this conversation needs a little more tension, though. For example, it says "She raised her chin, covering her trepidation with bravado." But I don't get a sense that she's frightened at all. It says he's trying to frighten her, but none of the rest of the narrative suggests that she is.

    He's seemingly amiable and might just let her go if she promises not to do it again. She's "tied up" but still able to feed herself--but she's not trying to escape, even though she says she'll never give up. I mean, I don't know these characters--maybe that's the way they are--but I don't get any sense she believes she's in real trouble here or has any desperation.

    Then, again, I'm not sure what you're going for. I mean, you'll want different things for different situations. This might be a dramatic situation or it might be the start of a romance with Kelan... only you know.

  4. FYI: Earlier in the scene, Kalen unties one of her hands so she can eat, and leaves the other tied to the chair behind her. I should have made that clearer.

  5. The interaction between characters seems a little stiff to me. I know they aren't friends but it should flow a little easier than it does now.

    One thing I noticed is that you're telling a lot of the body movements. Show me those. Show him shifting his eyes, etc.

    For the dialogue: the wording itself I don't have a problem with. But I think if you drop some of the intervening descriptions, you can really improve the flow. We don't need an action for every time they talk. Try that to see if it smooths things out.

  6. I agree with a lot of the other commenters. I think this could be pared down a bit for more tension and to raise the stakes. I didn't get why Egan is explaining everything to her. He doesn't seem like her enemy. But if that's not the impression you want to convey, I think you could make him sound more menacing by cutting down some of his dialogue. Like "Hasn't been decided yet. We don't want to hurt you, but we will to protect Hawke" could be: "Hasn't been decided. But we will protect Hawke." Or something like that. Because why, if he's captured her, would he say he didn't want to harm her?
    I agree that there's a lot of telling in the actions and some of it I didn't understand. What kind of emotion did you mean to convey by "a pulse drummed at her temples"?
    I think there's a lot of intriguing things in this, and I love YA fantasy, especially with strong female characters. Kalen is an intriguing character and I liked the backstory with her sister.
    I'd read on to see where you're going with this!
    All the best!

  7. This drew me in. I liked it. The one jarring note for me was when Kalen hooked his thumbs in his trouser pockets. The tone of this, making arrows, eating snarerabbit,the King, boots, all had the ring of a rustic, older period. Somehow trousers with pockets just didn't seem to fit. Perhaps I jumped too far into the Robin Hood mode and expected simpler homemade clothing.

    Maybe it's just me, but I got the sense that Kalen is Hawk, and he is trying to understand Taela's hatred, apologize for not saving her sister and still keep his secret identity secret from her.