Hello, June! Happy to see you!

I’m also happy to introduce Brandy Hoskins of The Pen is My Sword and the first page of her fantasy work, Sounding Waters. Below is a map that accompanies her manuscript.

I: The Box

Seraphix was used to the awkward stares, but today felt different. From the moment the waterhole was in sight, she had felt a strong presence of eyes on her. She brushed off the paranoia and dropped her buckets on the ground beside the water.

“You‘re not like they say you are,” came a deep and unfamiliar voice.

She whirled around and for a brief second made eye contact with the man. She recognized him; she’d seen him here at the waterhole before. Turning her back, she continued dipping water into her buckets.

“I have wanted to tell you that for a long time, but I could never catch you without anyone else nearby,” he said.

She peered around only to see he was right; there was no one else there. Keeping her head low, she noted that she was much closer to the trail than he was. If he should try anything, she could burst into a sprint and he would never be able catch her.

“I don’t expect you to say anything. I just hope you’ll linger a moment?” he began. When she didn’t react, he continued, “I know everyone thinks you a curse, like you’re something terrible, but when I look at you, I know they’re wrong. I see a girl who works hard to provide for herself and takes all judgment without a word. One who can turn the other cheek. You are the most respectable woman I have ever seen and the most disrespected as well.”

She let the words fall onto her ears, but didn’t let any of them near her heart.

“I won’t take any more of your time. I just couldn’t pass the opportunity to let you know that not everyone looks at you that way.” He turned from her and started up the path toward town.

She watched him leave, contemplating what he had said. She guessed he had cut the talk short because he had already taken a huge risk in speaking to her. If anyone caught him, he would be chastened. She grabbed the full buckets and started home.

Brandy has given us a glimpse of both setting and conflict on her opening page. The simple act of fetching water from a hole is effective in making us picture a non-technological society. The main character is an outcast, but someone has unexpectedly made an effort to reach out to her. We wonder: what sets Seraphix apart from her fellows? And what motive does this unknown man have for breaking social conventions to speak to her?

I don’t think the past perfect tense is needed in the second sentence. It would read more smoothly as: she felt a strong presence of eyes on her. I’d also like to see the word paranoia changed. It seems too modern a word for this setting, and she’s not paranoid if people stare at her all the time and someone is staring at her now.

The mysterious man gives quite a bit of praise to a girl he’s never met before – especially if she’s shunned by the town. His monologue is almost a character description. I like this sentence: I see a girl who works hard to provide for herself and takes all judgment without a word. They make me want to learn more about how hard she works and who is judging her. Why not consider ending that paragraph there? A shorter speech might seem more natural and whet our curiosity more.

Since his prior statement about her is positive, the phrase “not everyone looks at you that way” needs alteration. As written, “that way” refers to what he said about her, not what everyone else says, which is counter to what he meant. But that’s an easy fix.

I found this an interesting glimpse of Brandy’s work, and as a reader I would definitely turn the page to follow Seraphix home and learn more about her. Check out Marcy Hatch’s critique of Sounding Waters on her blog, Mainewords.

Brandy, thanks for sharing your work! If any reader out there would like a First Impression of your first page in July, please check out the sidebar for instructions on how to submit!