Author Topic: First 2K Words of Blown Away - Feedback Wated  (Read 557 times)

Offline jcwarren

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First 2K Words of Blown Away - Feedback Wated
« on: July 14, 2020, 05:08:52 PM »

The sound of giggling was the first thing he heard when walking by the old church. The church had been abandoned long before he ever stepped foot on campus, but with the Dark Magic Guild filling the expansive congregation area, it never felt forgotten. Glancing back at it, he took in the boarded-up windows and cracking stone with affection. The old church had become a sanctuary within the confines of the academy.

"Anya! Your dad is going to catch us if I come back wet!" Another cacophony of laughter exploded from in front of him. He recognized the voices but struggled to put names to the sounds.

"I'm serious," the voice reprimanded, her voice growing stern, but dissolving into more fits of giggles. Despite knowing he should be heading back to his room to get ready for dinner, he felt drawn to the lyrical noises emanating from the courtyard. He followed the sounds, putting responsibilities aside, and found the culprits lying in the grass within the courtyard behind the old library.

Natalya, a runty Dhampyre with a crooked smile, was lying next to the infamous Anya Kovaleva. Anya was one of the most well-known pagans on campus because of her intense magical powers and connection to one of the Academyís leaders, Dr. Aleksei Kovaleva. Her red hair was splayed out to the side of her as she smiled at her friend.

Her friendís long brown waves, however, were spread out behind her, accenting her beautiful, classical features and chocolate brown eyes. Two small fangs, a remnant of their Vampyre heritage, peeked out of her crooked smile. But what truly captured his attention was the thick leather band that covered her right wrist. Looking down at his own wrist, he wondered if birthmark covered her delicate skin. It was something of a mystery as to why he took Natalya in. It was an exception to the rule; Leaders only took in orphaned children of powerful parents. No one knew who Natalya even belonged to.

It was she who kept him rooted hidden behind the tree line. Looking down at the band covering the ink-like mark on my own pale skin, he wondered what birthmark covered her delicate wrist "Anya! Anya, are you okay?" Natalya's voice rang out, pulling him from his own thoughts. He focused on the courtyard again, trying to make sense of the scene. Anya was still lying on the ground, her red hair splayed out to one side and her eyes closed shut. If Natalya hadn't been shaking her, he would have believed she was peacefully asleep.
"Anya, please!" she pleaded, moving her friend's head to her lap. Her sobs shook her shoulders and bounced Anyaís head in time.

He contemplated going into the clearing and helping, but how would he explain his sudden appearance in their time of need? Despite his growing desire to help them, he rooted himself to the soft summer soil and braced himself against the tree he was hiding behind.

He watched Natalya's face harden with resolve. She put her arms under Anya's limp body and lifted her. She struggled under Anya's weight, her legs wobbling slightly, but held firm. In the process of picking up Anya, Natalya knocked off her own leather cuff. He watched it fall and land silently on the ground.

Mostly from curiosity, he tried to get a better look at her wrist and caught a glimpse of what had been hidden only moments ago beneath her dark brown circle. It was hard to make out at such a far distance, but the dark blob clearly had a familiar form.

Tucking that piece of information away, he forced his attention back to Natalya's retreating form. Despite her tiny frame, she held Anya protectively against her body and ran out of the courtyard at an impressive speed.

He stood there, watching her run, and contemplated the ramifications of her marking. He couldn't put my finger on it, but something told him this year would hold more than he could plan for.

With Natalya gone, he finally turned away and headed in the opposite back to Kovaleva Hall. He had delayed dinner with his parents long enough and if he got there any later, he would have to explain what held him up. That was the last thing he wanted or needed. Jogging up to the dorm, he promised himself that he would find out more about Natalya.

Chapter 1

I stepped out of the dorm building into the brisk, early-evening Alaskan air and breathed in the smell of pines. Southers Academy for the Magical Arts was situated against the northern coastline of Kodiak Island with tall mountains to the east and thick pine forests to the west. With the uninviting weather and inaccessibility of the region, this particular location had become a sanctuary to the magically inclined. Set away from the small villages of the southern points of the island, the human population didnít trek far enough to even run into the wards that protected the Academy.

Looking around at the dense trees that trapped me within the confines of the Academy, I couldnít reign in the hope that this was finally the year I was allowed to travel the world as I had always dreamed. The small slice of the world had always been my home but I had always dreamed of trekking up through the Alaskan tundra to watch the Aurora Borealis in person. One day, I promised myself. I brushed off my thoughts. If I was late to our annual pre-school year dinner at Dr. Kís house with Anya and Harper, I would be stuck helping Dr. K set the table. Again.

Scurrying across the campus, I passed the other dorms, the sparring grounds, the outside cafeteria area, and even the library. I paused there, staring at the gigantic stone building with its famous steps. Hale Library. Anyaís mother had died in childbirth, leaving Dr. K alone with a fussy newborn. It was fairly common with the pagans due to the large amount of power their offspring stole from them in the process. But that didnít mean Dr. K was happy about it. He had been out that night walking the Academy with her in his arms when they stumbled upon me, wrapped in a blanket and left off to the side of the stairs.

According to his story, I wasn't crying or screaming, but lying and watching the stars in the sky. I've never been sure how much of the tale was true but the library always felt like a part of me. It didnít help that an old courtyard that was sitting behind it was where the three of us spent a lot of our time. I gave it one last lingering look before turning to jog the remaining distance to Dr. Kís house.

Dr. K, like the rest of the teachers and leaders on campus, lived on the other side of the grounds from the students. They were afforded housing in hopes they could provide extra protection from the Magic Hunters, a secret Human society that made it their mission to kill every magical being that existed. It wasnít the most clever title and most of the students had never seen one, making it hard to believe they even existed. The only others who genuinely believed they were out there, and not just some story told to us to keep us on campus, were the parents that sent us here.

I didnít worry much about the unconfirmed threat. Anya and I had enough to worry about with how dangerous her magic had gotten. The fainting weíd seen over the summer had only gotten worse as we neared our senior year. Before I could punish myself for not pushing her to take better care of herself, I pulled myself out of my thoughts and stepped onto the porch of the colonial-style house.

I opened the door to the smell of Dr. Kís famous potato soup and breathed it in, hoping this year would turn out better than this summer.

"Are you kids ready for senior year?" Dr. K asked as he smiled from his spot at the head of the table. I eyed Anya directly across from me, hoping she would speak first. Her curly red hair was in its signature bun, a few curls escaping at the nape of her neck, and her bangs just barely obscured her deep blue eyes that were looking anywhere but at me.
It wasn't that I didn't want to finish schooling. I certainly wanted to get out of the Academy, especially with the end so close that it felt like I could touch it, but the summer had been harsh on us. As we spent hours sitting in the courtyard behind the administrative buildings practicing our respective skills, it had become uncomfortably apparent that Anya's magic was taking a huge toll on her.

And well, no one had ever said I was the strongest Dhampyre out there, let alone the most skilled.

We were a ragtag pair, that's for sure. But there was always Harper to come to our rescue. I turned to take in his jovial smile and sandy brown hair filled with silver streaks. He sat in the seat opposite Dr. K, his tan skin warm in the yellowed dining room lighting, and looked back at me with admiration in his gray eyes.

You'd never know it based on his carefree and happy demeanor, but Harper was a tortured child prodigy. Harper had been through more than most people. He was the sole survivor of a long-line of powerful Pricolici and when his family died in a horrible car crash, the Pricolici leader had taken him in as her own.

Despite that, Harper was deeply attached to usóhis poorly hidden crush on me, Dr.Kís general acceptance, and Anya's sweet demeanor had made him feel more at home here than anywhere else. Even though Mrs. Toscano had tried to treat him as her own, he always wandered back to us. And we welcomed him, arms wide open.

"It'll be great, Dr. K," Harper finally said. Dr. Kís face looked peaceful, but I could see the sadness in his eyes. The weight of Anya's troubled magic and harsh repercussions weighed on us all but never as much as it did for him.

"Dad, Harper's right. It'll be a great year. There's nothing to worry about." That was Anya, finally speaking up. I nodded in agreement, deciding it was best to stay silent.

"Natalya," Dr. K said, turning his gaze on me. "How has Anya's extracurricular training been going?"

I blanched. While I had expected this question, I hadn't expected him to ask me. He'd never asked me before. I wasnít his daughter; I was just the refugee he picked up out of the goodness of his heart.

"That's not her question to answer," Anya said. She looked annoyed, rightfully so, but something like fear sparked in her eyes. "My magical training is going fine. I have a handle on it."

"Do you?" his voice turned accusatory, with a tinge of that tone parents use when they really want their children to listen to them. "Last I remember, we had to bring you to the clinic across campus half dead because you had pushed yourself so hard you fainted and gave yourself a concussion." Anya's mouth hung open, her eyes wide as she met her father's. "Now, Natalya," he swiveled his head in my direction, "how has Anya's training been treating her? Has she been cautious in her magic use?"

Offline PIJ1951

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Re: First 2K Words of Blown Away - Feedback Wated
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2020, 06:46:00 PM »
Unfortunately it didn't take me long to get that familiar feeling of dread - yet another new fantasy novel set in a world where magic is normal and the main characters are in some kind of academy for magicians/vampires/whatever. . . The Hogwarts genre been flogged to death and it would be nice to come across something a little more original. I'm not sure this is going to be it.

The writing is mostly fine, but it is rather over-cooked. By that I mean you use a lot of words to tell us very little of relevance. This needs trimming if you're hoping to make this more readable. Unless a sentence or paragraph drives the plot or character development forwards, ask yourself why it's there. Your opening paragraph, for instance - the church appears to have nothing whatsoever to do with what follows so why make us read stuff we don't need to know? Openings are important. Don't give the reader an excuse to give up on page 1.

I'm also curious why the reader needs to know Anya and Natalya's hair colour. It's a pointless diversion that takes us out of the action.

I appreciate you have put a great deal of effort into creating your setting and cast of characters, but it's difficult to suspend disbelief and enter your world when all I'm seeing is someone apparently trying to impress with their writing ability rather than getting on with simply telling a story. Words like 'cacophony' stand out for all the wrong reasons.

And this paragraph is terribly formal:

'"I'm serious," the voice reprimanded, her voice growing stern, but dissolving into more fits of giggles. Despite knowing he should be heading back to his room to get ready for dinner, he felt drawn to the lyrical noises emanating from the courtyard. He followed the sounds, putting responsibilities aside, and found the culprits lying in the grass within the courtyard behind the old library.'

'reprimanded' - 'lyrical' - 'emanating' - 'culprits'

To be honest, I didn't get beyond that prologue. Openings like first impressions are important. At times this read as if it was written in the 19th century rather than by a contemporary YA author. I'd suggest you get your hands on as many current YA titles as you can to get a feel for the way modern writers express themselves. Reading is meant to be a joy not a chore. Your audience will thank you for it. Good luck.

Offline jcwarren

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Re: First 2K Words of Blown Away - Feedback Wated
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2020, 06:50:31 PM »
I really appreciate your response. Itís very helpful. I had sent this to an editor who ripped apart my more simplistic word choices because of repetition and told me to use more synonyms. Itís important to hear other perspectives. Thank you.

Offline PIJ1951

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Re: First 2K Words of Blown Away - Feedback Wated
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2020, 06:58:28 PM »
Thanks for taking this critique with so much graciousness. Writing for a YA audience doesn't mean you have to dumb down - quite the opposite. But when you try to choose a different word every time for something as simple as 'said' - it begins to jar very quickly and draws attention to the writing rather than the story.

The best advice I can offer is to write naturally - don't force it. You'll find your voice that way. And read Stephen King's paperback 'On Writing'. You'll find it much more helpful than a jaded editor in a publishing house or a know-it-all like me on MWC.

Offline jcwarren

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Re: First 2K Words of Blown Away - Feedback Wated
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2020, 07:00:46 PM »
I've always believed... why ask for feedback if you aren't going to accept it? I will take another shot at it!

Offline Olesia

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Re: First 2K Words of Blown Away - Feedback Wated
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2020, 06:39:38 AM »
Hi jcwarren!

Welcome to My Writers Circle, we appreciate you sharing some of your work with us!  :)

To make things more personal we would love to learn more about you, please post an intro on the Welcome Board. Let us know what part of the world you're in, some background on your writing journey and how you found us.

Once again welcome to MWC!