Author Topic: Manipulator (Second half of chapter 1) - Feedback Wanted  (Read 332 times)

Offline gra_200

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Manipulator (Second half of chapter 1) - Feedback Wanted
« on: June 20, 2020, 07:38:50 AM »
Yesterday I posted the first half of chapter one of my novel so I recomend reading that before this. Once again I'm looking for general constructive feedback. This will be the last post I'll do for a bit as I want to act on the feedback I've recived.
The word count for this is roughly 1600 words and the POV is in that of the character Autumn Night.

A deathly silence filled the air, the only sound was the creaking of the door as I pushed it open. I took a step forward, then another. There was still only silence, but this type seemed to carry the sound of crashing waves and deafened anyone who stood in its way. It was the kind of silence I was used to.
Manipulators stared at me as I walked forward, disapproving frowns, terrified glances. But no matter how each of them felt, the moment I laid eyes on them they’d immediately look away, too frightened, too afraid.
Instead of watching them keep glancing away, I found Lily who smiled despite everything. She would always do that, smile kindly at me in the silence, in the stares. It was a sad smile, and a weight always seemed to fill her eyes when it happened. I still found strength in it though. Gave me the motivation to keep trying.
“Hey Autumn.” Lily said, her voice shattering the silence. Talking filled the air once more, as everyone began to just ignore me. I was used to it, but frustrated too. Frustrated they wouldn’t trust me no matter what I said. No matter what I did. Before I could allow anger to take over I pulled up a chair and sat down next to Lily. I wouldn’t crumple, not when she kept going.
“Hey.” I smiled this time and Lily returned it, a proper one lighting up her face.
We were sitting in a vast dining room, circular oak tables, similar to the ones in our dorms, were placed round the room. Pre-prepared breakfast were laid out in the center of the table and had filled with more, when I sat down, of the food I liked most. Plates and cutlery were lined up at each seat - 4 at each table as students were expected to sit with the Manipulators from their dorms. Most of the time tables were pushed together as friends conversed.
A beautiful golden chandelier shone above us and against one of the walls a large window revealed a stretch of grass and a steep cliff far off in the distance. The view was slightly tainted by a yellow force field that surrounded the entire building. In front of the windows were large impressive throne-like chairs. Currently no Professors sat at them, and wouldn't until tomorrow. They had other things that needed doing and, even though they weren’t here, did have ways to make sure there wasn’t any trouble.
A cold sensation trickled down my spine and I quickly looked away, snatching a slice of toast from in front of me and taking a bite of it.
Tomorrow was the first official day of the school year and the closer it got the more anxious I grew. I had no idea how other students would react with me in their classes and I could certainly count everyone except Lily out on working on projects with others. Instead of thinking too much about it I started up a conversation with Lily and breakfast passed in a flash.

“Hello, Night.”
As I heard that all too familiar mocking tone I tried to suppress a groan.  I turned my head to look at the speaker; Jacob Rosabelle, Lily’s twin.
It was just my luck that his dad was the Fire King. The only one who could help me with a fresh start, and Jake, had tried to tear it away from me ever since I got here. Jake was staring at me now, his reddish-brown hair unpushed away and fell in waves over his forehead. His eyes lost their warmth when this happened and the blue in his eyes seemed to darken with a sharpness about them.
“Jacob Rosabelle,” I said in the most sarcastic voice I could muster, “a pleasure as always.”
To my left I could see Lily groan. I knew there was nothing more she hated than listening to Jake and I argue but he didn’t seem to get the message.
“Don’t play dumb with me Night, We all know you’ve lucked out so far. Soon my father will see who you really are and have you...” He went silent, as though pondering on the word to use, and I noticed the entire room had gone quiet too. All of them listened to our conversation. A few of the fifth years had got to their feet. “Disposed.” I stood, a lump of hot anger expanding in my chest. The chair scraped from underneath as I pushed it away. I stared Jake down. No one blinked - sparks of flames easily sparked between us.
“Guys, stop!” Lily was the one who broke the silence again, and glared at the both of us; then to Jake, “Just leave us alone, Jacob.”
Jake turned his head, his eyes softening as he looked at his twin as she swiveled around in her chair and stood up. They didn’t speak, but I knew an entire conversation was going on between them.
“Fine!” Jake mumbled at last, spinning round and making his way towards a table across the room. His friends were already there and Jake sat down with them.
Once again Lily had managed to stop a fight but as my anger faded I could feel another feeling replace it.
I was disappointed.
I reclaimed my spot beside Lily who, as soon as I sat down spoke
“Autumn could you at least make an effort with him?” This took me by surprise, I always did nothing. Jake was the one always coming up to me, mocking me, arguing over the slightest things.
“W-what..” I spluttered.
“I want you to try to be friends with my brother. Can’t you do that for me, please?”
“No promises.”

 “Autumn?” I could tell by Lily's tone of voice that this wasn’t about Jake. No - the panic gave that away immediately.
Then there was pain.
Like a dagger had just stabbed my mind. I couldn’t move -  Ice tore through my limbs, paralysing me. I could almost hear the laughter that wasn’t there. It was familiar yet so strange at the same time.
A glint of light, reflected off Lily’s eyes. The pain subsided and the cold vanished.
I lifted my hand in front of my face - A beacon of red light glowed on it.
I bolted to my feet, my chair crashed to the ground. My reflection in the window showed me everything. A deep crimson red swarmed my eyes, completely flooding them by the pulsing colour.
Heads turned, the whispers started up once more, but loud, changing into something else.
I spun around, the air escaped my lungs. I couldn’t breathe. The faces should've been clear to me, but dark red spots were appearing across my vision. 
Jake was just messing with me. I kept telling myself that over and over, but it didn’t matter. This happened all the time. Anger began to pulse through my body, I clenched my fists, squeezing shut my eyes, which I knew were still that dark pulsing, colour.
Then the unthinkable happened. I opened my eyes a fraction and saw it waver. The forcefield. The indestructible forcefield wavered. No one but me saw it flicker, I was sure about that as every Manipulator's eyes were on me. For a miniscule of a second it went out, open for the outside world to see.
I couldn’t take it - the cold came back, piecing my head.
I grabbed my head, screaming for it all to stop in my mind. There was a sound of shattering. The windows exploded, showering shards of glass everywhere.
A blast of air whipped round the room. There were more yells. I didn't even look to see if anyone was hurt because my eyes were drawn to something else.
There was a low hum, one that started soft but grew louder and louder into a vibrating roar. The cutlery began to shake and move into the air. This had to be someone playing a joke on me.
Jake’s friend Zak Arenalds was responsible for this. His ferrokinesis had to be the reason the metal was being Manipulated. He had to be! I refused to believe the other alternative - even as it formed before my eyes.
A message.
Made as the cutlery rose into the air. A message for me. The words unmistakable.


My breath came out in ragged gasps, I squeezed my eyes shut, bending down and clutching my head.
“Just stop it!” I screamed, the sound ripping from my throat, “STOP IT!”

And it did.

I heard a clash of metal against metal as the knives and forks crumbled to the floor.
I stepped backwards. This was exactly what I thought would happen. He’d finally broken down my barriers. I’d allowed him to slip though.
The older Manipulators glared at me with looks of pure hatred, their arms crossed while the younger ones looked nervous and afraid. They started to speak. Their voices echoed round my mind, bouncing back and forth. Maybe it would have been better if the Professor’s had been here. Maybe they would have done something.
I stumbled back.
“No!” The word came out in a shaky whisper, drowned out by the voices
I saw Lily, her face so clear to me in the sea of Manipulators, a mixture of emotions. Confused. Worried.
Something else there. An emotion I didn’t want to see, but there was no denying it. Fear.
My eyes still burned red.
[End of Chapter 1]
« Last Edit: June 20, 2020, 07:42:38 AM by gra_200 »

Offline PIJ1951

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Re: Manipulator (Second half of chapter 1) - Feedback Wanted
« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2020, 01:24:40 PM »
Again, I'll comment as I read through:
The phrase
A deathly silence
has probably featured in stories thousands of times - it's unoriginal. But it appears that there wasn't silence even before Lily shattered it because Autumn heard the creaking of the door followed by a silence with actual sounds. . . It doesn't create a clear image so you might consider leaving out the entire paragraph and start with the Manipulators. Unfortunately the reader has no idea what the Manipulators are or why they are there. I eventually assumed they were some kind of school prefect (because later we are told there is one at each table) but I could be wrong. Their purpose and abilities are yet to be explained because they don't play an active role in the scene so I'm confused.

Your main character is apparently not going to be popular with her classmates, but we have no idea why. Instead you focus on the layout of the room, the plates and cutlery, chandeliers - again I'm getting a very strong Hogwarts vibe - and the colour of Jake's hair and the way he styles it.

The narrative flow is choppy at best because the momentum of the plot keeps getting interrupted by the insertion of more facts. Jake and Lily's father is the Fire King who somehow has power over Autumn Night's future and might well have her disposed of - but we are not told why. There are ways of imparting information without the reader even being aware that's what the writer is doing. But in your case it's only too clear - time and time again you press the pause button and add more background detail (much of it irrelevant at that point in the story).

The argument between Autumn, Jake and Lily is not particularly interesting or original. I can't help seeing similarities between your cast of characters and Harry, Hermione and Draco Malfoy. This is going to work against you if you ever hope to get published.

Then when the 'action' finally starts, it's a bit of a mess. Everything is overblown. Autumn bolts to her feet, spins round, sees dark spots before the eyes, discovers the unthinkable, then anger pulses through her body before she sees the forcefield shudder. There's also a red beam of light which seems to envelope everything yet no one else can apparently see it. The entire scene is so over the top that it's almost comical (more cartoon than real action).

As if that's not enough, the windows then explode, the cutlery rises in the air revealing a message and Autumn thinks it's Jake's pal playing a joke on her. So is Zak a Manipulator and do all Manipulators have magical abilities? It's not exactly clear because then you tell us.
'This was exactly what I thought would happen. He’d finally broken down my barriers. I’d allowed him to slip though.'
Who is 'He'?

The lack of context at times makes this almost impossible to follow. You tell us things we don't need to know but don't tell us things we do for the story to start making sense. It's fine to drop subtle hints rather than spell everything out - the nature of the attack for instance is intriguing - but encouraging us (through Autumn's internalised thoughts) to second-guess who might be behind the attack when we are still stumbling around in the darker recesses of your new world is unhelpful and might make the average reader decide your story was too complicated for them to continue reading.

My advice - maybe start with one single, pivotal event (keep it simple so we can picture it in our minds) then let us discover Jake's true nature and Lily's lack of sympathy by observing the way they react to Autumn's distress. And take a serious look at rearranging the setting of the story and the dynamics of the characters so it has less chance of being compared to J K Rowling's.