Author Topic: YA Fantasy Partial First Chapter (1,990 words) (strong language)  (Read 475 times)

Offline dnbrookswrites

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  • YA Fantasy writer; looking for beta readers!
    • Devin Brooks Website
YA Fantasy Partial First Chapter (1,990 words) (strong language)
« on: December 14, 2019, 07:09:09 PM »
Okay! I understand now that everyone prefers text-box cut and paste more than attached files. The problem is my submission is more than 2,000 words, so I'm submitting a partial on the first chapter of a YA Fantasy story I wrote called SHADOW SPEAK. Obviously you won't get the entire picture of the first chapter, but I would appreciate impressions of the excerpt.

Based on another user's comments, I'm concerned about:

1. Pacing - does it take too long to get into action and what feels extraneous, if anything?
2. Worldbuilding/exposition-narrative balance.

And of course, any comments you have for me! I would so appreciate it, if you have a comment, if you could tell me why you feel that way. It really helps me editing process.

The first chapter is called Bad Luck. Here it is:

If Shira doesn’t stop staring at her sister’s daemon protection band, Liv might have a few words to say after all.

She eyes June, the group therapist, who’s waged war against Liv’s silence for four months. Now’s her time to talk, but most eyes sharpen on her sister.

The smiles directed at Liv (when not at Cecelia) are a little broad. She ignores the urge to cover Cecelia’s wrist. It’s been like this from the start, the unspoken questions, the corded tension in the air pulling furious strings in Liv’s chest.

A silver bracelet etched with triangles dangles over her sister’s thin forearm, one from the set made for the Morgan family. Liv tugs the sleeve of Cecelia’s plaid shirt: “They’re staring again.”

White pot lights warm the tops of nine other heads, all persons of magic - sooths - packed in a circle, chairs touching in the Huxley Center for Healing of one Odenton, Maryland. Tacked to the moss-painted wall next to the door of the “shelter” (as June calls it), glittered gold bubble letters scream Happy Holidays! Sugar cookies, soft and sprinkled, sit pretty in a bowl on a countertop. The heating system spits, wicking little fingers of sweat down the backs of necks and licking the spine. Burning sage drifts.

And they’re staring again. Cecelia leaves the band exposed. At least their mother, to Liv’s right, has the decency to hide hers. At least Liv doesn’t wear hers at all. They’re meant to look like fashion statements, but they’re only given to high-risk cases – previous daemon attacks and such. The bastards still haunt the streets after thousands of years of futile exorcisms, creating plenty of stories for sooths who show up to places like Huxley.

Shira is unyielding. Her eyes roam Liv’s sister: wrist, face, wrist again, her forehead lining, trying to figure out why a young woman wears a tiny piece of armor. And then there’s Cecelia’s navy-dark fingertips, the blue fever at work, that makes Shira’s eyes scrunch.

Liv’s sister folds her fingers into her palm, then she sticks her hands between her knees. The disease comes with a wonderful assortment of symptoms, like the oxygen-sapping from the blood that turns the skin blue and frigid, but also the headaches and nosebleeds and dizziness and shivering. And then the sometimes hallucinations. And sleep talking.

The disease is also a magic-eater. It only attacks elementals (that’s what the Morgan family are: elementals) and turns power toxic so all spells from an elemental’s fingertips unravel into low magic, corrupt magic. Corrupt magic kills the spirit, weakens the body, and eventually kills the body. Heart attacks and strokes are blue fever’s favorites.

Anyway, Shira’s still gawking. Maybe she thinks Cecelia, who bounces her legs to keep warm, is dangerous. Maybe she thinks Liv’s sister bites.
Cecelia doesn’t even hiss. She gave up her power years ago to fight the disease. Almost all diagnosed elementals do.
Liv glares, and Shira slips to her from sheer demanding energy. She looks away. Maybe it’s because it’s the last day, but Liv senses accusations ripe on her tongue.

But at least it’s the last day. Freedom beckons a mere (half-hour?) away. Liv turns to the wall, though she knows she won’t find a clock. Jerks. The watch round her right wrist, the one that hides a band of purplish mottled skin, stopped ticking three winters ago. She squints at the timepiece, gold-rimmed and chocolate-faced, but the arms stare back. She hears the echo of what it would sound like. Tick, tick, tick.


June, the therapist, waiting, wants Liv to talk about the watch. But really, June, the therapist, wants Liv to talk about shattering Indigo’s storefront window, which has everything to do with the watch. She will be disappointed, because although it’s been four months of punishment, a spot of jail, and five-hundred dollars, the only thing Liv is sure of is that next time, she’d use a bigger rock.

She flexes her hand, where a tan scar curves along her palm like a crescent moon. Maybe next time she’d run at it, screaming, and slice herself all over. Battle scars.

Her mother clears her throat. She inclines her head to the group, urging Liv to speak. Liv also hasn’t forgotten the real intention behind these sessions: healing, but also magic. Magic which Liv has refused to touch for over a year and never will, despite her mother’s dreams.

She doesn’t think saying that will go well for her.

So, silence.

June, the therapist, with black hair slashed below her chin, draws her voice in slow, measured strokes. June, the therapist, tries anyway: “Olivia, we’d love it if you’d share.”

“I would not like to share,” Liv says. There, she said something. June should be pleased.

What she would actually like is a cookie, but not with Cecelia next to her. The sick sister who won’t hide her band can’t have sugar, so Liv’s satisfaction would feel like gloating.

“Olivia Samira,” Hazel hisses.

“I’m not required to talk,” Liv reminds her mother, as her sister’s pleading hand comes over her knee.

Shira’s eyes follow as the sleeve of her sweater bunches high on her forearm and exposes the next wonder: the purple bruise of flesh, a twin to Liv’s. People think it’s a birthmark they share. They’re wrong. Then Shira skips above the mark to the scars on Cecelia’s arm. She has more on her chest and stomach. People assume it’s an animal attack - claws.

They’re right. Sort of.

“That’s true.” June shows teeth. Unbreakable. “But I’d feel a lot better, and I’m sure we all would, if we could help you. Today is your last with us, but we’ve never had the privilege of hearing from you.”

Liv sweeps her circle of friends, then notices Finna, the nurse who lost her son six months ago, frowning and smiling at her at the same time, which makes her forehead wrinkle in not an unpretty way. Finna must be in her fifties, maybe sixties. Whatever moisturizer she uses, Liv needs to know.

June opens her hands. “Liv?”

Liv locks eyes with the therapist. “I’m fine,” she says. “You all heard of the meteor shower tonight, though, right? Lots of little flaming space rocks on the winter solstice, and four days before Christmas.”

For a moment there is only everyone’s held breaths, and then a slow rise of scattered murmurs. “It’s a bad sign,” a young man, Peter, says. “Earth’s magic is unbalanced. What are we attracting?”

Equinoxes and solstices are supposed to realign earth’s magic energy field, but sooths love their omens. As Liv’s old high school teacher would say: Even the cosmos speak with one another. Balls of fire on a solstice aren’t a welcome sight.
Right now, it works just fine for Liv.

“Exactly.” Liv fakes superstition and pushes her first to palm. She gauges the possible damage a small hunk of space rock will gift her Toyota Camry, which dozes in the parking lot. Meteors disintegrate before they strike the ground, but whatever.
June clears her throat. “Let’s not get distracted.” She tips her head towards Liv. Not today, her flat mouth says. “Let’s talk about what happened at Indigo’s.”

“No, thank you.” Really: Liv is trying to be polite.

June’s fingertips drift towards her temples. She looks to Peter, which usually is an indication that she’s given up, as she’s done all other sessions. But then: “Your mother and I spoke after your last session. Now, as I understand it, you saw a popmagic magazine that featured a daemon on the cover in Indigo’s window. The headline was romantic, which would make daemons seem romantic.” She watches Liv for signs of life. Liv sniffs, and then heat snaps at the back of her neck, snaps like a rubber band. She presses her hand there.

“Now popmagic is not real magic,” June continues. “But content created for nonmagics who are interested in our culture. But because we don’t share much between our cultures, popmagic tends to get it wrong. What I think is that although you understand daemons are, in fact, dangerous, it still triggered memories of the trauma you experienced in 2017.” She waits. “Would you agree?”

A warm flush of irritation straightens Liv in her chair. A few of the group members try not to stare, though Liv can feel their eagerness, the prying desperation to know the fat details. Cecelia nudges her. Just talk, stupid, her face says.

“I will not be talking about that,” Liv says. “But I do appreciate your concern.” Her sister sighs and smacks one hand to her face.

June sits back. “Did you ever get a chance to try meditation? The affirmations Shira had suggested?”

Actually, yes. Liv’s parents make her do them every night, but the silly little phrases have been Liv’s sidekick in driving the magic - what her mother insists on calling Liv’s magic, as if she ever had ownership, or at least a relationship with the damn thing - into the deep, dark hole of silence. This seems to suit the magic just fine, the little parasite, because it hasn’t squeaked in over a year. Liv might hope that she literally killed it, but there’s no chance in hell. All she can do is shut it up.

Hazel’s gaze bores into the side of Liv’s face. “Honey. Please. We’re just trying to support you.” She taps the back of Liv’s hand.
But Liv’s fine. She’s fine.

And she’s still sitting in this chair. The small room concentrates the buttery brown of the sugar cookies and parks it under her nose. It doesn’t mix well with the sage. Her eyes lift to the ceiling. It’s the last day.

“It’s bad luck,” Liv mutters, “to talk about it.” She scrubs the back of her neck, but the heat-snaps aren’t going anywhere.
“It’s dead.” Months of frustration reddens her mother’s face. “It’s been dead for three years.”

Cecelia groans. Of all the things to say. Hazel freezes when she realizes her mistake, dares to glance at the shock passing from one face to the next. Talk around the events, no specifics, the police had instructed. We don’t know what the collateral’s going to look like. Cecelia grips Liv’s knee, and the protection band smacks against her jeans.

Those who don’t get it whisper-ask, and then stunned silence follows. The green room tenses, a thick soup of fear and interest. For once, June has nothing to say. Finna touches the space between her collarbones, a hint of wonder parting her mouth.
Peter points. “You’re the one.”

“Nope,” Liv says.

“Yes, you are.” Peter aims his finger like a dart. “They said the Magic Butcher had kidnapped some girl but let her go.”
Cecelia drops her eyes. It’s uncouth to mention the daemon-murderer like that. Daemons are murderers, but no hands are as stained as the Butcher’s. Its true name, Tyras, is too soft for what it’s done. Liv’s never had the pleasure of meeting it. That’s her sister’s privilege, who doesn’t remember.

That’s her best friend’s privilege, who’s dead.

June and Hazel raise their hands at the same time. “All right-”

Liv narrows her eyes. “No, I’m not.” Her shoulders tremble with what begins to feel like rage, or maybe panic, and her spine bursts with heat. No. Fuck. She’s not talking about this. She glares at Peter’s finger. He drops it.

“Then it’s you.” Shira points to Cecelia’s arm. “That’s a protection band, isn’t it?”

“I don’t think that’s any of your business.” Finna’s voice snatches Shira’s tongue, and the group pauses. Liv has never heard Finna talk like that, as if her voice had trapped a dozen people within it.

“She’s right.” June sweeps her hands outwards as if she were clearing the air of bad energies. “This is a place of healing, not gossip. Thank you for pointing that out, Finna.” Finna smiles. Liv returns the favor.

Thanks for reading!!!!
Devin Brooks

Offline Zaheer547

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Re: YA Fantasy Partial First Chapter (1,990 words) (strong language)
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2019, 04:24:57 PM »
Hey there!

So my first few impressions of reading this, with regard to your concerns, is that there is a massive info dump in the first few paragraphs
This information overload is quite daunting and made my eyes want to skip over a few words. In slows down the pacing of the writing. It does introduce a lovely overview into their world and gives the reader a sense of what they’re reading!

Right up until Liv says, “I will not be sharing,” (which by the way was a lovely line and made me burst into laughter. I love this character so much right from the start) was quite slow. From this line on, I was attached and couldn’t stop reading till I reached the end.

Lovely style. Keep it up!

Offline jadynm1234567

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Re: YA Fantasy Partial First Chapter (1,990 words) (strong language)
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2019, 12:39:07 PM »
I respectfully disagree with the person above me. I loved your first few paragraphs. You really painted a scene; I felt like I was there, smelling the cookies, seeing the people, the bands, feeling the emotions. Overall you have a really good pace, and you reveal little by little very well. I really enjoyed it! Keep it up!