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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | First Impressions: DEMONBORN

First Impressions: DEMONBORN

The final First Impressions post for the month of January comes from Lauren Ritz. This is the first page for DemonBorn, an adult fantasy. 
Shadyel turned her head to let her side-set eyes focus on a space in the circle, the place of least prestige immediately in front of her. Her hands moved in the familiar ameso signs, larger than normal because she was angry. Where is Tiyet? she asked, and the others’ hands fluttered without meaning.
Sunlight sprayed in curious ripples from the surface of the lake above them, obscuring some motions and accentuating others. Trees wavered beyond, two moons almost indistinguishable from the clouds.
They floated in the traditional circle in the deep water shadows, Shadyel in the center where the priestess should have been. Only one priestess agreed to come with them, and she had died at the beginning of this campaign against the humans.
Not able to get away, Giyac reported, his hand-signs very small as if he wanted to avoid her notice. He held a position on the human Blod Lord’s team, hunting the ameso. The identifying pattern of scars along his arms in ameso form were not something which could be easily duplicated. The humans seemed unaware that the ameso took on the memories of their targets when they chose another shape, so they had created “safeguards” which rested in the memory rather than the flesh. This made it very simple to replace humans when the team felt it necessary.
Three of the humans rested under rocks at the bottom of this lake, and ameso had taken their places. Three of the ameso on the team had been discovered, tortured and killed.
Shadyel indicated her contempt for the absent ameso woman, fingers almost shouting the words. No excuse.
In her submission, Lauren noted to me that the ameso are aquatic and use sign language. I decided not to mention this until after the sample, because I wanted to see if other readers picked that up from the description alone. I thought it was very clear, and I liked how the size and confidence (or hesitancy) of the gestures took the place of intonation in speech. This was well handled (pun not intended!) and probably my favorite part of the page.
The first line could be tweaked for clarity. I had trouble picturing a space in the circle, the place of least prestige immediately in front of her.  And if Shadyel’s eyes are side-set, would turning her head focus both eyes on a particular spot, or just one?

There is a lot of explaining on this first page.  I was interested in Shadyel and Giyac and the missing Tiyet. I wanted to see their conversation play out and find out why Shadyel is so angry, but the fourth paragraph diverted from the dialogue and action to give me information that seemed like too much all at once. My recommendation would be to tell us Shadyel is in the center of the circle where the priestess should have been – but don’t tell us yet why the priestess isn’t there. It’s okay to mention the scars on Giyac’s arms if they’re important – but avoid the lengthy explanation of what they mean. These things can be revealed later.

I have a tendency to put information like this into the early chapters of my first drafts because I am the one who needs to know it in order to write the story. In later drafts, I go back and take it out, because by then I have discovered other places to convey the same information.

So in summary, I was intrigued by the setting, by the ameso, and by the situation. I’d like to see Lauren completely immerse us in this world and veer away from explanations and backstory on the first page.  Lauren, thank you so much for sharing your page! Readers, please chime in with your thoughts, say hello to Lauren at her blog Eclectic, and check out Marcy Hatch’s feedback on the same page.

10 Responses to First Impressions: DEMONBORN

  1. I had trouble with the opening sequence. At the mention of ‘side eyes’ I thought either aquatic or alien. And I didn’t get that the ameso signs where sign language. In my head, she was tracing some kind of engraved signs with her fingers and when the hands fluttering part came in, I suddenly wondered if she had several pairs of arms or something. LOL I guess I’m one of those people that need to be eased into that kind imagery:)

  2. SA Larsenッ says:

    I agree about the opening statement. Maybe shorten it and elongate the paragraph instead.

    I don’t think at the opening it’s important for me to know what position Giyac holds. It’s more important for me to know what he’s doing…not even why, yet. I’m intrigued without this.

    I like the tone.

  3. Oh cool! I’ve moderated posts for Lauren, so it’s cool to see some of her fiction. Good stuff! 🙂

  4. Lauren is creating a fascinating world for us, and I’d love to see more of it. The first sentence was a little confusing at first, but it wasn’t too difficult to grasp the setting and the characters after reading a little bit more. I think that whole paragraph beginning with “They floated…” could be eliminated, as well as most of the next. As Dianne said, the background info can be doled out in dribs and drabs later. Great start!

  5. Lauren says:

    Thanks. You’ve given me a lot to work with. Shadyel is actually the villain. Not bad, necessarily, but obsessed. More about her in DemonTaint. The first three pages can be linked to from http://halfworldinfo.blogspot.com/ if you’d like to read more (still working on structuring my website–sorry about that)

  6. I needed something to grab me more in the first sentence. I had to re-read it several times and that felt like too much work for the first part of a book.

  7. Pk Hrezo says:

    Hi Dianne and Lauren!

    Lauren, I love the second paragraph and your vivid imagery. But honestly the first paragraph did not interest me at all. The fact I didn’t know what two of the words meant didn’t help either. I think you can start off with a better opening. Obviously you’re a good writer, so I’d try something a bit different to connect me to the MC right away,

  8. Lauren, I did guess that this might be a glimpse of the villains of your story, rather than the MC. I’m sure that would become clear when we turn the page and read more, and it’s a good way to begin a fantasy novel.

    I wonder if you might want to start with a slight adaptation of the second paragraph, to make it clear we are under water, then move into Shadyel ripping into her team.

    Keep the focus on the here and now, and let the backstory develop in more natural places later in the narrative.

  9. Lauren says:

    Yes, Shadyel is the villian. Not evil necessarily, but obsessed.

  10. Lexa Cain says:

    Sorry this comment is so late… but I wanted to mention Lauren should watch her sentence structures. Almost all her lines have commas in them, denoting -ing clauses or compound sentences. Variety is important,and simple, clear lines or short fragments are important to the flow.