Thursday, August 7, 2014

Are You Hooked? #23

TITLE: Dryad Down Under
GENRE: Contemporary ("Urban") Fantasy

“Listen to me!”

Mabel paused her ministrations, startled by Gran’s tone. Had she let her attention slip so much that she hadn’t noticed Gran’s fever ease? The sense of the previous words wormed its way through her exhaustion and she sighed. More trees, spirits, and danger; the same gibberish Gran had spouted since her collapse.

“No, listen, Ace!” No one but Gran ever called her “Ace.” She’d called Mabel a multitude of names that weren’t hers in the last few hours; maybe Gran’s mind was clear after all. “I don’t have much time, and who knows if I’ll be this lucid again later.”

Mabel stared at her, stunned at the cold certainty in Gran’s voice. The wet cloth she’d been using to cool Gran’s forehead hung suspended inches above said sweaty brow, forgotten. Gran saw that she had Mabel’s attention and drew a papery breath.

“I thought I’d have time to explain it all to you, but I’ve been a fool. I’ve put both you and my Essence in danger. You’ll have to go to your Tree. When I’m gone, you must go to the grove and—”

Gran’s eyes glazed over as the fever took control again. All Mabel could make out was something about Pops, and she knew Gran was lost in the past again. Mabel resumed her nursing duties, more dejected than ever.

One of the old kitchen chairs lined up along the far wall as a makeshift waiting area groaned its familiar complaint at taking on a human burden.


  1. I like your specific descriptions, like "drew a papery breath".

    I would recommend that you add attribution to the first line. It's disorienting without it. The sentence that begins "The sense of the..." is confusing. What do you mean by "sense"? When you write "maybe Gran's mind was clear after all" it's confusing--do you mean that it was clear the past few hours, or that it's clear now?

    I'm intrigued by the mystery of the Tree.

    Best of luck with your revisions!

  2. I got hooked at "I don't have much time and who knows if I'll be this lucid again."

    I suggest starting there and deleting everything before it. The important details before that sentence can be weaved in later. (You already tell us how Mabel's ministering, so you don't have to repeat that detail.)

    I love the last sentence, but I hope after it (beyond the 250 words) it explains who is sitting in that chair.

    Your control of language is amazing. ("papery breath", "groaned its familiar complaint") But it isn't evident until Gran tells Mabel she's lucid. That's why I suggest starting there.

  3. I agree about starting at "I don't have much time..." Everything before that is info-dumpy and, to me, gives an impression that Mabel is pretty cold and distant, since providing-information mode is really not the same as emotional-exhaustion mode, if that makes sense. Even through she's the lucid one, I would expect the stress of worry to make the information she provides be more fragmented and immediate, as in fewer, more immediately relevant snippets.

  4. I agree with Jen about the starting point. Beginning with someone speaking who we don't know is not usually a great start. And then to have her reflecting and explaining about her nickname doesn't hook me, but the lucid line does. Then to have her Grandma lose that lucidity before she shared anything is intriguing. There's a secret, and the groaning chairs imply that it's a burden.

  5. I admire your attention to detail. The mentions of Essence and Mabel's Tree fighting through Gran's fever tell readers that we need this information, but it is just out of our reach. I enjoy the tension you are able to build with that lack of knowledge.

    I am confused with your setting. The talk of trees, spirits, and such makes me think of a standard medieval time period, which conflicts with your label of "Contemporary Fantasy". Additionally, the cool cloth and the fact that they are in a room with old kitchen chairs reinforces a non-contemporary home setting. Adding a detail of something clearly contemporary would help firmly place your setting in the present.

    Good luck with revisions!

  6. I find myself agreeing with several of the commenters about where to start this, but I disagree with the notion that this doesn't feel contemporary. I have kitchen chairs that are old to me and still groan when we sit, and cool washclothes work just as well now to bring down a temperature as they did a couple of centuries back. I would keep reading.

    On second thought, I really like that second paragraph...Maybe you could rearrange it a bit and start there instead? I think it's interesting that Gran recognizes she's having trouble remaining lucid.

  7. I’m always a little reluctant with starting with dialog. We don’t know enough (anything) to put any kind of voice to the dialog. That said , the opening line is attention getting.

    I’m not sure “ministrations” is the best word choice in the second sentence. It certainly pulled me out of the scene to puzzle it.

    “The wet cloth she’d been using to cool Gran’s forehead hung suspended inches above said sweaty brow, forgotten. “

    This almost makes it sound like its levitating. Is that the image you are going for?

  8. I'm not hooked. I didn't get any sense of emotion from this opening. For me, the scene seemed to be very clinical - she did this, she did that. Let me know what Mabel is feeling, rather than telling me what she's doing and then I might care about her.

    You have used the word Gran ten times, so you might want to switch it up with something else to stop the repetition.

    Also agree with the comment above about the "floating" cloth. Definitely reads like it's hanging there on its own.

  9. I got caught on "Ministrations" thought it was another close word - not a good one. Agreeing with other comments, put me near the tree first - I didn't understand its significance until I read the comments. I think changing Mabel to a more mysterious name would enhance the suspense. I know she is tired, but wonder if she feels affection for Gran or what her feelings are. There's no description of the room they are in or color either. The tree is intriguing. I'd get the reader familiar with its Essence right away.