Wednesday, January 29, 2014

First Two (YA Fiction) #3

TITLE: Beautiful Medusa
GENRE: YA Fantasy

I never knew what it felt like to be hunted. Not until today.

I swept my gaze around the supposedly safe confines of the Temple of Athena. As far as I could tell, I stood alone in the inner sanctuary, and yet I knew I wasn’t. A predator watched my every move, far enough away never to be seen, but close enough to always be felt.

I picked up a lily resting on a stone bench, the bloom as pale as the marble it sat upon, and studied it with a scowl. The temple’s garden didn’t have lilies like this. I had no idea where it had come from.

This had started in the morning. Half asleep, my senses still dulled, I had felt a presence by my bedside. I woke up screaming, the senior priestesses rushing to my room.

I begged them to search my quarters. They had found nothing, assured me it was merely a nightmare. But you couldn’t hear the inhale and exhale of a nightmare’s breath, nor could a nightmare run its fingers through your hair.

Suppressing a shudder, I tossed the lily to the ground, as if it were made of poison.

Wherever I went, whatever I did, my predator followed, leaving small tokens for me to find. I could almost catch the broad-shouldered figure of a man out of the corner of my eye, but when I turned around, he was gone.

And none of the other priestesses believed me.

I peered up at the statue of my Lady. Athena towered over me, three stories tall, a spear gripped in one marble hand, her golden helm glittering in the afternoon light.

My Lady would keep me safe.

My gaze lingered on her perfectly-chiseled face, never changing, forever vigilant. “Blessed Athena, wise and serene. Protectress of us all.” Today, more than ever, I took comfort in the truth of those words.

“Alessia, come on.”

I jumped at Naima’s voice. My fellow priestess stepped into the sanctuary, tugging at my sleeve and shooing me toward the courtyard. Then she took a closer look at me and her face fell.

“You’re still upset about this morning, aren’t you?” I considered every priestess here to be family, and I had two older sisters back home, but Naima was the little sister I had always wanted. A year younger than me, her family originally hailed from the far away city of Thebes, on the river Nile.

I kicked at the lily with the toe of my sandal. “The problem is my intruder never left. Don’t you feel it? He’s still here. He’s been leaving me these…things all day.” I swallowed a lump in my throat, overcome by emotion.

“By the Gods, you should hear yourself talk.” Helene swept in with Korinna in tow. Though Helene was dressed in the same white robes we all wore, she carried herself with an elegance that even I found impressive.


  1. This is a great intro! I really like your take on priestesses. Overall, this is really strong so I'll just get a little nitpicky on a few things for you! In the paragraph with"The temple’s garden didn’t have lilies like this. I had no idea where it had come from." either line could be cut because the other one explains well enough that the lily is not supposed to be there.
    In the next paragraph "This had started in the morning," I think being a little more specific about what "this" is would be helpful. Just saying "The hunter started preying on me this morning" or something to that extent would be enough.

  2. Thanks! I had submitted this to one of MSFV's Secret Agent contests about six months ago and have made a lot of changes since. Was hoping the first pages had improved.

  3. You're welcome! I think you nailed it, I would definitely read on! :)

  4. I really enjoyed reading this! I agree with the comments Strafi made, but apart from that I can't think of anything to add. I particularly loved your setting and found the dialogue and action tags very well written.

  5. I liked this a lot. I have only a few comments to add. On the one hand, you've got a great opening line. "I never knew what it was like to be hunted. Until today." On the other hand, it sounds like the predator has been watching her for a while now. So what is different about today? Perhaps that part just needs to be cut? But then of course you lose the drama of your opening line. Hmmm. Also, there are a few sentences or phrases that stopped me cold in your second paragraph. For example in your second paragraph, "I swept my gaze" struck me as a little florid. I'm not sure why. I would also cut " far enough away never to be seen, but close enough to always be felt." I like the concept but the line was too abstract to work here and awkward as writing as well. But then once you get going with the lily and the details about the priestess whom nobody believes, I really liked it and was drawn in. I especially liked how you make her sympathetic and away from home when you casually mention her sisters back home but don't make a big deal about it. For some reason, that had resonance as a detail and I wanted to hear more.

  6. Oh and one last comment. I'm not sure about the title. Perhaps you should avoid the word "beautiful"? I know that there are some books that have come out with the word in the title, such as "Beautiful Creatures," but the word is overused, I think. Just a thought.

  7. I remember the old version of this and think this is an improvement.

    I'd suggest cutting the first line. You're telling us what's going to happen, then you proceed to show it. Just show it. It's more suspenseful that way. As is, you're giving things away.

    I thought it worked pretty well until the end when Helene walked in. My thought there was - she's the mean girl and the story will be teens in a temple instead of high school. I hope it's not going there. I was enjoying the mystery with the hunter.