Sunday, March 20, 2011

Show me the voice

It's time for the "Show Me the Voice" blogfest, hosted by Brenda Drake. Natalie Fischer with the Bradford Literary agency has critiques for three winners, and she has a couple of great posts on voice HERE and HERE.

Also, there's great opportunity at YAtopia to get your two sentence pitch seen by an agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette. Open until March 24 at midnight or until 150 entries.

Here's the first 250 words of my YA historical fantasy, A Handful of Scars. Please give me your feedback - I'll be visiting the blogs for all my commenters in return (as always).



It all started when my mother asked me what I wanted for my birthday.

“Our old place back at court,” I said, glancing around our one-room hut and at my frayed sleeves. I don’t miss all the finery so much as I miss the respect we used to have. People bowed to us when we passed by. Now they throw clods of manure.

My mother didn’t say anything but her shoulders slumped. Hornets. I’ve never learned to think before I speak. I hadn’t meant to upset her. It’s not her fault that… no, stop right there. Not going back to those old memories.

Our door-guardian bared its teeth and flicked its tail at me. Just being protective of my mum, but I hate it when it gets hissy with me. I shot an imaginary arrow at it.

My mother frowned. I shrugged.

“You know what I want for my birthday, mum.” I sidled up to her. “Same thing I’ve always wanted. A living-stone.”

“Sidain.” She said my name like a sigh. “You know I can’t. It’s too dangerous. If they catch you with one – ”

The door-guardian interrupted with a squawk, flapping its wings wildly. It couldn’t fly – it’s not a real gryffin, just a pathetic clay imitation of one, animated by my mother’s living-stone. But I have to give it credit for its sharp ears. Someone was approaching, someone our guardian didn’t trust.

My mother spoke a charm and the gryffin froze into a statue, just as the door burst open.

39 comments:

  1. My interest piqued right about the time the door-guardian was mentioned-- I'm thinking it's not a dog. I wanted to know why they weren't at court any more, but it was then that I got the idea that this wasn't your ordinary 'the king/queen doesn't like us right now' reasoning, so why the guard? That and the arrow (okay, and the court) make me think we're not in contemporary times so I'm on the look out for more genre clues. And the living-stone and a gryffin stick us in plainly in a fantasy, and by then we've gotten even more conflict-- why aren't they at court, why can't Sidain have a living stone and who is at the door? This is a good opening that introduces us to the world and quickly sows the seeds of conflict, nicely done, Margo!
    - Sophia.

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  2. This is a great bit of world-building! You let the information seep in without telling what happened. Wonderful job (because that's not easy)!

    Loved the door guarding and learning about it as I read. I really don't have any critiques to make. Great job!

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  3. I love this beginning and such a great voice. I want to keep reading. Great job, Margo. I can't think of anything I would change. :D

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  4. Oooh! I'm fascinated. Great opening!

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  5. WONDERFUL!!! I hate that it ended with such a cliffhanger cos now I want to know what happened next!! yay!! I was truly captivated by your voice here!! Thanks for sharing! Take care
    x

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  6. Ooh, Margo, nice job hooking me and world-building! This didn't feel forced and is so intriguing.

    I wish I had something constructive to say, but the only thing I came up with was to watch the tense change about being protective of her mother, regarding the door-guardian.

    Good luck in the contest!

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  7. Loved it. Nice writing.

    But first ... I had to readjust my interpretation of "court". I thought of one of those 1920s LA one-story apartments built around a "court". Should have known better.

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  8. Margo, great writing! I also LOVE your title!!! Good luck, fingers crossed for you:)

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  9. Ohlala! The world building here is fantastic- I can imagine the setting easily with just this short snippet. Nicely done!

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  10. Wow, wow, wow. This is soooooo cool! So cool! I want to read more NOW! I really hope you're querying this right now. What a great opening :)

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  11. This is really good. Love it! I loved Sidain's voice right away, and the world building so soon into the story is GREAT. Like the others, I loved the guardian.

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  12. Great voice. I love the opening. It definitely makes me want to read on.

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  13. Great example of voice--we get a sense of her attitude (rebellious, imprudent, but willing to acknowledge that she was being hurtful) as well as the place and time.

    I would definitely read more.

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  14. My interest was piqued at the 'one-roomed hut' and the 'frayed sleeves.' Different. Straight away I sense a real story here. Great voice. I want to go on reading...

    Denise<3

    L'Aussie's entry in Show Me The Voice Blogfest Contest

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  15. Okay - I'm a harsh critic - but I LOVED this. I would absolutely read more. I loved the door guardian/griffin thing!

    Great job. Good luck with the contest!

    Shelley Watters
    @shelley_watters
    http://shelleywatters.blogspot.com

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  16. Wow I just adored this! I felt in the scene right from the start, and the little details you give made me want to be there. Your character was full of voice, and I would definitely read more. It seems like my type of thing.

    My mother frowned. I shrugged.<-- That seemed a little too much action at once, because I'm not sure what they mean by it. I would almost take out the second one, or give a little more detail to one or the other. It just seems repetitive and it threw me out. Just my opinion.

    Good luck!

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  17. Loved this! Love this line, "I shot an imaginary arrow at it." LOL. The voice is great. Hornets. Love that too! Oh I would totally read more!

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  18. This is beyond fantastic. Totally, clean, professional, your world building is seamless and to be envied. I loved how her cursing was 'hornets' and shooting an imaginary arrow, and the door guardian and her voice and everything was just fantastic. I want to read more! Great job!

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  19. I have to agree with everyone else! Great job, Margo! Vern tight and engaging!

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  20. Nice! Love the world you've constructed - magic, magical creatures, historical setting (can't decide if its medieval or more victorian) - awesome.

    The only thing I wonder is the first bit - It all started seems a bit overused & the rest of the passage is fresh. But it still works very well, so I don't know if you want to change it or not...

    Anyway - really well done! :)

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  21. Great! Hornets- supper description. I want more.

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  22. Great job Margo! It caputured my attention. My only comments would be to use italics to show that Hornets is her version of a swear word and you don't need to use "my" in front of Mum and Mother, it's implied. Really nice!!!

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  23. It's unanimous! It's all there.... Well done!

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  24. Very nice job! You've fit a good amount of plot, world, and character here, and I've already got a sense of the MCs voice. The paragraph where she says "no, stop right there" threw me off just a little-- it didn't seem to flow right for me. I really loved this, though!

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  25. I followed you here from YATopia, I LOVE how many people entered that contest are doing this one as well. It's kinda nice to read past the first line!

    Well done.

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  26. Margo! Thank you for visiting my blog and introducing me to your excellent blog and wonderful writing!

    I liked your entry! I especially liked the unique dialogue "Hornets!" and "living-stone" and the hook there at the end.

    Great job!

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  27. I like this entry, good luck winning the critique! The only bit of advice I would offer is to explain a little better about this door-guardian. This line confused me greatly:

    “Our door-guardian bared its teeth and flicked its tail at me. Just being protective of my mum, but I hate it when it gets hissy with me. I shot an imaginary arrow at it.”

    I had to stop and read it again which kind of jarred my out of the story. I think if you would have included the part about the door-guardian being a griffin in that sentence rather than a couple paragraphs down, I wouldn’t have been so puzzled.

    That was my only crit, otherwise I loved it, and I agree with Ali, I loved the hook at the end! :-)

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  28. I LOVE this. Your MC has such a modern voice for something clearly set in older times. It's great. I love the quirkiness of it. I want to keep reading!

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  29. Wonderful beginning! You explain so much about both your characters and your plot setting with just these few paragraphs.

    wishing you every success - Marsha

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  30. Excellent! Now where's the rest?!

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  31. I thought the world building was fantastic. Just from their speech I gleaned so much. This sounds like a fun, fun story!

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  32. We're already in the world and that's tough to! I was also confused about the door-guardian; I thought it was a dog. I think you've done a great job GOOD LUCK!

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  33. Oh, I like this! Though your heading historical fantasy confused me a bit, as once I saw historical, I just read the rest as fiction. I think if it's fantasy, the historical piece doesn't quite work. But the voice and set-up are great. I want to know why they are suddenly impoverished and learn more about them!

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  34. You left me with a cliffhanger. /shakes fist and mutters "curses".

    Seriously though this is good work. Thanks for the read.

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  35. Margo, I don't read a lot of fantasy, but your opening made me want to read more. That, to me, is the testament of a good writer. I have a feeling that door guardian can be quite a feisty character!

    Margay

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  36. I loved this, great ending too.

    Love the description of the door-guardian! One thing though - if it squawks so close to when whoever it is comes in, might they overhear it?

    I would definitely read on!

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  37. Love the teen voice here - snarky, strong, and determined. I like the mom's voice, too. Saying her name as a sigh - love it!

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  38. I love your excerpt! Great voice, and I love the relationship between mother and child.

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  39. Oh my word I love this! Yay for female-driven fantasy :)

    Thanks for coming by and I'm so glad to meet you!

    New follower now.

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