Thursday, September 22, 2016

Talkin' Heads #11

TITLE: The Bone Cypher
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Soren has climed in through Nicola's bedroom window in the middle of the night as if to rescue her from an unwanted fate, asking her to run away with him. She suspects impure motives and moved for a shard of glass inside her satchel to protect herself.


“Where is it exactly that we’re going?” My eyes darted to the satchel on the top of my vanity.

“Alsace. North. Whatever happens, I can’t let you enlist.”

In in a fairy story the Prince of Wolves doesn’t whisk a girl away without a reason. It was too sweet to be true. Soren Evert didn’t care about me, and if he did, now, when yesterday he was Radha’s? …Then his heart was too changeable to be trusted.

“You can’t let me enlist,” I repeated, edging over to the vanity as casually as I could.

“No, I can’t.”

“What about Radha? Can you let her enlist?” I cocked my head.

“Nicola, this has nothing to do with Radha.” His features turned stern.

“But aren’t you with her? Weren’t you two practically…engaged?”

Soren’s throat flickered. “I would have married, Radha, yes.”

“But not now,” I said.

“No. No one’s getting married now.” He took a step closer to me.

I grabbed my satchel and fumbled with it behind my back. “And why have your attentions turned to me?” I asked.

“Is that what you think?”

“It was when you saw my hair, wasn’t it?” It was a stupid thing to say. Only a fool would parrot Radha. But it also made sense.

“Yes!” Soren shrilled.

It bit into me the way steel bit into my blistered palms in the dungeons. I nearly flinched. Instead I drew the sharp piece of glass and pointed it at Soren’s throat.

“Get out of my bedroom!”


  1. Forever in Blue JeansSeptember 22, 2016 at 3:13 PM

    Overall, this dialogue reads smooth and realistic, but I have a few suggestions for the narrative part of the excerpt. :)
    First, so you don't have any FBPs (floating body parts), you might consider switching "eyes" to "gaze" where she glances at her satchel. Then, in case you haven't caught this typo, there are two "in's" at the beginning of the first long paragraph. Also, I tripped on this phrase: "Soren Evert didn’t care about me, and if he did, now, when yesterday he was Radha’s? …Then his heart was too changeable to be trusted." I wonder if it would read smoother if you said something like, " about me, but even if he did, he was Radha's yesterday--which would make his heart too fickle to be trusted."
    Instead of saying his features turned stern, can you show us what stern looks like? What does his expression do to reflect the fact he's stern? Maybe his mouth thins into a straight line, or the corners of his mouth turn down, or his eyebrows draw together...or something else?
    No need for "I asked" as a tag line after she grabs her satchel. Because her comment follows her action, we know she's the one asking the question.
    "Shrilled" is one of those intrusive tag lines you see writers, editors, agents, bloggers, etc. talk about. I personally think using "said" for all tag lines is silly, but you do have an exclamation point after "yes," which shows the reader Soren's fairly shouting the word, so there's no need to have any tag line there at all, IMO.
    Lastly, I wasn't sure what "it" was referring to in that last paragraph. Was it in reference to the way Soren said "yes" or to the glass shard in her satchel? The last we read of the satchel, she's fumbling with it behind her back, so I think we need to see one more mention about what she's doing in the satchel before she withdraws the glass (again, IMO).
    That said, I love how she pulls the glass on him and demands he leave, and I love the line "Soren's throat flickered," to show he swallowed. Nice job.

  2. All of this dialogue feels believable to me and I enjoyed reading the exchange. My only hang up was that I didn't understand why she thought Soren was a threat or that she needed to defend herself from him. I see that she doesn't believe the excuse he gives for coming to see her and she thinks he must have another reason, but I wouldn't have leaped to a threat immediately. Maybe just a line to suggest that if he isn't there to save her, he must want something else from her, something she isn't willing to give.

    Aside from that tweak, this is strong dialogue. Thanks for sharing and good luck.

  3. I agree that this sounds natural. I don't think you need the "I repeated" in (“You can’t let me enlist,” I repeated) because we already can see it.

    "why have your attentions turned to me" sounds stilted and old fashioned. I don't know if it's intentional. I'd say something like, "Why do you even care about me?"
    I would also remove the part where Nicola actually explains that he doesn't care about her and actually make the character say it because that's the goal of the dialogue (figure out if he does care or not).

    Nice job and good luck.

  4. Good, natural dialog. I'm not convinced by this interchange that Soren is threatening though. So, her being so scared came too fast. (Though there might be reasons given earlier in the MS.)

    My eyes darted should be My gazed darted
    No need to say 'I repeated', it's obvious
    Soren shrilled took me out of it trying to imagine what you meant.

  5. You've already received some great feedback. I wanted to chime in to say that you have a strong interchange happening here, but you could make it even more tense with more specific details. What does he say or do to give himself away or to make her think he is a threat -- a big enough threat to need a weapon? Did he do something to Radha or has something happened to her? Has he proven violent before? You could pull in some details to tag the dialogue that gives subtle details to help us fear for her.

    Some of the statements made, like "No one's getting married now." almost give us a sense of danger, but if you added something like, "I made sure of that." Or some hint at why could add depth.

    Or when he answers, "Is that what you think?" You could tell us a lot by his physical reaction, laughs, snorts, give us a sense of what he thinks about that.

    And "shrilled" is out of place. It took me out of the story trying to figure out what you meant. Lead the reader a bit more with physical tags and emotional reactions and this will really shine. I hope this makes sense and helps. Good luck.

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