The second First Impressions critique for the month of August comes to us from someone I know well … my 14-year-old daughter, Gabbey. This is the first page of her fantasy novel, The Mirror’s Curse.
Must keep running. Have to get out of here. Have to get out of here.
The boy stumbled as he ran, weaving through the thick, snaring collection of trees, tripping periodically over roots and the uneven ground, his boots tromping loudly on the dried leaves that scattered the forest floor. His lungs burned fiercely, but he had to run. He had to run. It didn’t matter where.
Thoughts of Tibius and Ava whirled about his head, spun around him, chasing away the sensible thoughts that tried to cross his mind. Tibius was dead. Ava was dead. And he was next. At least, he was supposed to be next.
He knew they were still chasing him, and he knew escape was invaluable. But where was he to run? Finally overwhelmed by his fear and the responsibilities that had recently landed on his shoulders, the boy stopped abruptly mid-stride, unsure of where to turn. Blackness surrounded him, the trees seemed to mock his uncertainty. If he didn’t run, they’d find him. If they found him, they’d kill him. If they killed him—
His feet skidded along the ground as he began to run again, but he shouldn’t have given them the chance to catch up. The black shapes flickered in and out of his peripheral vision, and whenever he stopped to turn he saw nothing. A hand with claws like death shot out of the bushes and grabbed hold of his ankle.
He let out a startled yelp of surprise and fell to the ground, hitting it hard but barely noticing as he turned over onto his back and tried to pull from the grasp of his shadowy attacker. A long hiss made the hair on the back of his neck stand up, and he yanked himself free before scrambling up, stumbling towards the thick wall of trees, the sight of which he now welcomed.
There was a loud whoosh, and a hand grabbed hold of the back of his shirt collar. The boy thrashed and swung his fists blindly in a flurry of panic, but the person spun him around and hauled him up into the air.
The boy grabbed hold of the figure’s hand, twisting and trying to pry himself away, but the dark figure held tight as though he had fingers of iron. He, too was shrouded in blackness, just as the creatures around him had been—but even in the dim, moonless night, the boy recognized him all too well.
Gabbey has heard my response to this opening many times, so I’ll keep this brief and ask my blog readers to chime in with their comments and suggestions.
The passage starts us off with heart-pounding action and vivid imagery. I especially like “the trees seemed to mock his uncertainty.” Gabbey uses some excellent words here, especially verbs – but there are too many adverbs. Now, I’m not a writer who advocates annihilating all adverbs, but I do think they need to be used carefully. If you’ve got more than one in a sentence, you’ve probably got too many. I tend to overuse adverbs in my first draft, then weed them out afterwards. Sometimes adjectives need the same treatment. If Gabbey takes out some of the modifiers, her other excellent words will shine!
Be sure and check out Marcy Hatch’s comments on Mainewords. Thanks, Gabbey, for sharing your first page with us! (Love, Mom)