Our final submission for First Impressions in November comes from another repeat visitor, Christine Danek. This is the first page of a YA Fantasy titled NIGHTSAND.
The sheets are slightly chilled when I stretch my hand under the pillow. I crouch over her and lay my palm as flat as I can so I don’t disturb the sleeping child. The moonstone light casts a bluish hue all over the room and across the side of my clients face. Her features are small, delicate, and her hair is either brown or red. It’s hard to tell in the dim light. An ink black streak runs through her natural color. I’m not sure how the sorceress has gotten to her because this is the first tooth this little girl lost. Poor thing was left in an orphanage in Rhanem. Her room is bare except for a bed and a tiny table with an oil lamp. And the blanket and curtains are tattered and dirty. A greasy smell rises from her. She hasn’t bathed recently.
There it is.
My fingertips rub across something hard and tiny. Her tooth. I slide it out and plop it in a small black bag marked Mirim Clemins. On the back of the suede pouch is my name—Piper Stev. I have to burn this as soon as I get back to the cove so the sorceress doesn’t get a hold of it. I tighten my jacket belt. The straps to my small crossbow itch under my sleeve.
Gently, I slip a small gold coin under her pillow. For a moment, I watch her breathe. Her chest rises and falls. She’s so innocent. Too bad she has to grow up with Sorceress Anel’s nonsense. I don’t normally linger this long watching, but there’s something about her. I’m drawn to her. Part of me wants to hug her, hold her tight, and let her feel safe–even take her with me. But I can’t.
I’m supposed to be in and out just like my mentor taught me. I release a quiet breath. The fur around my collar sways when the air hits it. The wind outside rattles the glass on the window. The clouds take on a reddish tone as the deeper night comes. I haven’t seen the sun in years.
As I turn, something slips across my mouth. Hot, sweaty and rough. A hand. I hold a yelp in my throat. The smell of leather rises between me and my captor.
“Don’t say a word.” A low male raspy voice whispers in my ear. He pushes me toward the closet.
When introducing someone, it is usually best to put the noun first and the pronoun second. Thus: I crouch over the sleeping child and lay my palm as flat as I can so I don’t disturb her.
Secondly, in first person POV it seems very odd for someone to note and mention her own name printed on a bag where she expects to be. There are better ways to identify her. (For instance, either the person who grabs her knows her name and says it, or he doesn’t know it and reads it off the bag himself.)
Speaking about her being accosted, why doesn’t she fight back? She has a crossbow, which suggests she’s familiar with physical combat. Unless she already knows who’s grabbed her and knows she’s in no danger, I would expect her to put up a struggle. A single hand against her mouth should not overpower her. If she does know who it is, show us that in her reaction. Perhaps she reaches for the crossbow but lets her hand fall away when she recognizes the voice?
Finally, let’s take a look at these two sentences referencing the sorceress. I’m not sure how the sorceress has gotten to her because this is the first tooth this little girl lost. and Too bad she has to grow up with Sorceress Anel’s nonsense.
If Sorceress Anel is the villain of this story, and I suspect she is, you want to convey a more sinister tone when the MC sees that the child has been marked. The sentences above convey puzzlement, but no particular alarm, and the word nonsense trivializes whatever has been done to her. Perhaps something like:
I feel a shiver of dread down my spine when I spot the ink black streak running through her natural color. Somehow, the sorceress has gotten to this child already, and that shouldn’t have been possible if this is the first tooth she’s lost.
She’s so innocent. But I don’t know how long she will remain innocent if Sorceress Anel has marked her.
Obviously, I don’t know the significance of the black streak or the burning of the bag with the tooth, so this might not be accurate. But I do think you want to make the tone of those sentences match her fear for this child.
Readers, what are your impressions? Please check out Marcy’s feedback at Mainewords, and you can find Christine at her blog, Christine’s Journey.
I think this is a great beginning! I agree with Dianne’s comments, except for the one about expecting her to fight her captor. I’m guessing that happens next and that she’s being quiet now so that she doesn’t wake the child. I do agree about the things Dianne said about the sorceress though, if that’s your villain. Good luck with this!
You noted a lot more than I did. Thought it was very intriguing.
This is such a big help. Thanks so much, Dianne. After this part she does explain why she doesn’t kill him on the spot. Tiana has it right, she doesn’t want to wake the child. These are great points and so helpful. Thanks again!
Great suggestions, Dianne. I really like the idea of making the sorceress sound more sinister. I said something on Marcie’s blog about not feeling grounded, but putting the emphasis on the sorceress and the danger she poses would be more than enough to make up for that.
Dianne, you mentioned things I hadn’t thought of. Maybe it’s because I’ve read this before, and read more than the first page, but that lack of fighting back didn’t bother me. The only thing that really bothered me (and this is before I saw your comments) was that word “nonsense” not being dangerous enough for the antagonist.
Nice job, Christine! Keep going. Love the atmosphere.