Thursday, September 22, 2016

Talkin' Heads #30

TITLE:  From the Ashes
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Zila, a young queen, has been kidnapped by Denas, who means to put her on the throne of a fallen kingdom he wishes to resurrect.  He has told her she needs to write to her husband, the king, to demand supplies and manpower.


“He will never agree.”

“Oh, I think he will,” Denas said.  “Your safety is going to mean everything to him.”

I tightened my hands around the goblet.  “If you want me to be your queen,” I said slowly, “you’re not going to hurt me.”

“He doesn’t know that.  And, frankly, neither do you.”

My breaths were coming faster, my layer of perceived safety dissipating like mist.  “What if I refuse to write?”

Denas took a long time to chew and swallow a mouthful.  Then he stared at me, using his tongue to work a piece of food from his teeth.  “For every day that you refuse,” he finally said, “one member of your expedition dies.”

He said it so matter-of-factly that, at first, I felt nothing.  Then his words sank in, and I stared back.

“You would kill someone in order to force my cooperation?”

“I would.”

He continued to study me, watching my reaction.  I didn’t give him one.  Inside, my heart was a storm—despair, fear, indecision.  Outside, I was glass, smooth and cool.

“You’re a terrifying man,” I said.

“I’m a passionate man.”

“There is little difference.”  I poked at my food.  “And you already know I won’t let you hurt anyone on my account.”

He smiled.  “You’re everything I’d hoped you’d be, Your Majesty.”

7 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this. It flowed naturally, and I really felt the tension of the scene. The only place where I thought the dialogue broke too much was here: "Denas took a long time to chew and swallow a mouthful. Then he stared at me, using his tongue to work a piece of food from his teeth." It's a bit wordy. I might condense it to one sentence.

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  2. This gave me chills! The good kind.

    Minor edits:

    It would keep the tension better if you took out "to write" from "What if I refuse to write?" so it's just "What if I refuse?" Could even make it a bit sassier: "And if I refuse?"

    This below edits are super nitpicky and minor, but it's so strong already I think it would be icing on the cake:

    I feel his response of "I would" doesn't land as dangerously as it's meant to. Maybe have him turn it back on her:

    "You would kill someone in order to force my cooperation?"
    "Do you really want to find out?"

    Or maybe:
    "You would kill someone in order to force my cooperation?"
    "I was thinking the little one with the freckles could die first." (some sort of touchstone for the reader and the character to feel afraid of the consequences.)

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  3. I like the power plays between the two characters. The passage also seems to move the story forward.

    I agree with the suggestions above to trim words to give others the punch they deserve.

    My only suggestion is to be careful with weak verbs and ing words, even in the dialogue, I.e 'you're not going to hurt me' could become 'you won't hurt me.'

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  4. It's quite good, but I think you could remove some text to improve the tension.

    e.g He continued to study me, watching my reaction. I didn’t give him one. Inside, my heart was a storm—despair, fear, indecision. Outside, I was glass, smooth and cool.

    might be

    He continued to study me, but I gave him no satisfaction. Inside, my anxious heart shook in despair, fear and indecision. Outside, I was glass, smooth and cool.

    I was curious about the start too. Why 'is going to mean everything'? Why not 'means everything'?

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  5. This is really nice, good dialog and tension. The only part for me that seemed not quite right was the chewing of the food. If he says if matter-of-factly, he should just say it rather than have a dramatic pause while chewing.

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  6. I have to say that I strongly disagree with changing the "He continued to study me, watching my reaction. I didn’t give him one. Inside, my heart was a storm—despair, fear, indecision. Outside, I was glass, smooth and cool."

    I feel the above is strong imagery (the storm vs the glass), and personally I wouldn't change that bit because it's well written, it's pretty, it's energized. It also helped me feel connected to your main character, as having to mask her emotions for her own safety is very humanizing, and something I think we've all had to do at one point or another.

    It's my two cents that this passage will be much improved with the minor dialogue trims others have mentioned and that should be that. I might be an outlier also in the fact that I don't mind the description of him chewing and drawing it out. I quite like a villain that is calmly threatening, enjoying his food while he talks of murder. It makes it more disturbing for me as a reader. So just on that level--I get it and I like what you did.

    Good luck, and always remember to go with your gut when listening to critique. Take everyone's opinions--mine included--with a grain of salt. I usually find that I can tell which comments feel right for the story and which don't resonate within the greater context of the story.

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  7. I agree with the people who think the food chewing was fine. He's calm and it's a mundane thing to do, so it didn't strike me as a dramatic pause.

    I also really like your indirect dialogue at the end. You make it clear that she's giving in in a more interesting way than just saying, "okay, I'll do what you want."

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