Saturday, May 28, 2011

Critique Contest

Shelly Watters is hosting an awesome contest. Agent Judith Engracia of Liza Dawson and Associates will critique the winners first ten pages.


But first, we all need to make our irst pages shine.

Hidden in Shadows
Urban Fantasy
96,000 words

First 250 words:


Heavy breathing. His — the hunted.
My unsuspecting prey muttered a curse as he lost his footing and slid a few feet down the mountainside.
I smiled. Easy pickings, compliments of cocaine.
Rocks tumbled down as he stumbled again, splinters of shale forcing me to hide behind a tree. I'd waited four days for this my chance to hunt and kill him at my leisure with no eyewitness — I wasn't about to let him see me and make a break for it.
I peeked around the oak, and the setting sun momentarily blinded me, blood reds and flaming oranges blurring together like the gates of hell. How appropriate.
He stood, hunched over, his hands on his knees. His labored breathing shook his large frame, the back of his neck the same bright red as the sunset. If he continued at this pace, I might not have to kill him. His heart could give out. Perfect… save me the trouble.
But I couldn't rely on the possibility of a heart attack. He had to die by my hand. I removed a large knife from its sheath inside my right boot and took aim.
Voices sounded from above us, loud and near. Other hikers. I grimaced. Now was not the time to make my move. Not yet at least.
The man now sat on the edge of the path in a stupor, idly picking up pebbles and letting them fall into a pile. The red Louisiana clay of Driskill Mountain stained his trembling fingers.

I'll do my best to get around and critique everyone else, but it might take me away since I'm away on vacation. Feel free to critique to your heart's content - tell me what works, what doesn't, what needs to be changed/fixed. Thanks!

26 comments:

CobraMisfit said...

I liked this opening. Great tension and the viewpoint from the hunter is well done. The appearance of other hikers adds to the tension of the scene. I certainly want to know what happens next. Great entry and good luck.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Oooo, so many questions, Nicole! Who is the hunter? Who is he hunting and why? Why does the man have to die by HIS hand? What happens next??!!! Love it. :-)

Charity Bradford said...

I think this is really good. Not a lot to pick at, so I'll just share the thoughts I had as I read.

Love the opening paragraph. It immediately lets me know whose head I'm in.

It took a while for me to figure out if the hunter was lower on the mountain or higher--probably just me.

You've got great descriptions, the tension is building nicely, and you've provided questions for me so that I want to keep reading.

Why is he hunting this particular guy? Why are they on a mountain with one of them high on cocaine?

Whatever the prey did must have been bad for the hunter to be so patient.

Great job Nicole. I hope you are enjoying your vacation!

houseoflaoch said...

Great beginning! I want to know more. I esp. loved the red Louisiana clay detail. The one thing (and this is ridiculously petty) but in the second to last paragraph where it says not yet at least I would change that to just not yet. Because the at least seems redundant after the sentence right before which explains why he can't attack now. And I think Not yet has a quality of the hunter retraining himself, and he seems like the kind of guy who is pretty patient so it fits with the character. But really a great first page :)

houseoflaoch said...

Great beginning! I want to know more. I esp. loved the red Louisiana clay detail. The one thing (and this is ridiculously petty) but in the second to last paragraph where it says not yet at least I would change that to just not yet. Because the at least seems redundant after the sentence right before which explains why he can't attack now. And I think Not yet has a quality of the hunter retraining himself, and he seems like the kind of guy who is pretty patient so it fits with the character. But really a great first page :)

Sophia Richardson said...

You fit in a lot of setting details without info-dumping (rocks tumbling shows they're on an incline, time of day by the blinding setting sun etc.) and there's definitely a good deal of action and voice. My one issue is that, like Charity, I wasn't sure whether the hunter was above or below his prey since the rocks tumble down and force him to hide but then he comments on the sun making the back of the man's neck red and I'm not sure how well he would see that from below unless he was really bent double which would restrict his breathing.
- Sophia.

Christine Rains said...

Very nice beginning. The tension starts right in and the little details are just enough. You know the trick of pulling in a reader right away! The few parts of her thoughts in italics took me out of it a bit. I didn't think they were necessary. Your style is clean and concise. Excellent!

Have a good vacation! :)

erica and christy said...

Like others, I have one little nitpick. Your mc thinks it's perfect if the prey dies from a heart attack and two sentences later, says it has to be by their hand. ???

Good job and good luck!!
erica

Kate Larkindale said...

This is great, Nicole. Really tense and leaving me with so many questions. I'd definitely read on. You do a great job of building up the tension, only to have it collapse with the arrival of the hikers who add another layer to the scene.

Fantastic!

yelenacasale said...

I love the tension that you're building straight away and I want to know more about the story. Who is hunting this man (who is the mc) and why. Great beginning and nice description.

Good luck!

dougfashiondisco said...

there certainly is a lot to chew on right from the get-go. everyone else seems to believe the hunter is a male, but i didn't see any evidence of that...leaving it open is risky because some will say its too vague and doesn't allow them to latch onto the character right away...but on the other hand you hold your cards close to the vest and have set up a lot of big reveals for down the road which i prefer.

douglas esper

T. Romel Blossom said...

i really liked how the fast we find out the POV is the predator. Doesn't happen a lot. that automatically makes me want to keep reading.

good luck

Artemis Grey said...

Overall, I really like it, and I'd definitely keep reading. I do have some questions though, more because I found myself trying to get a bearing on the MC.

Here are my nitpicks/questions:

A hiker is out snorting cocaine? Or is the hunted NOT a hiker?

If a heart attack would make things easier, why does the hunted HAVE to die by the MC's hand? That threw me a little. I was already thinking that the MC was enjoying the hunt, happy to kill. Then they seem amused that they might not have to bother. Then they say that the hunted HAS to die specifically by their hand.

I got a little confused over where everyone was and had to go back and reread. The MC is below the hunted, and yet more hikers are above him. I'm just having trouble picturing the terrain (beyond obviously steep) in my mind. Maybe just don't place the newcomers above everyone else. It's enough that they're approaching, I don't think it really matters from where.

The large knife. This nitpick is because I've got so many friends into SCA and thrown weapons. 'removed a large knife' and 'took aim' don't seem to go together for me. All the thrown weapons my friends use - even the axes- are smaller. Now, yours could be big if you want, and it'd be perfectly believable. But I think you should at least make it 'removed a large throwing knife and took aim.'

Have a great vacation! :D

Kaleen said...

The only thing I wondered about was the man being pursued is out of breath and I thought it was because he was being chased by the MC, but when he sits down and starts tossing pebbles I got confused- if he were being pursued wouldn't he take the passing hikers as an opportunity to gain some ground between him and the MC, even if was at a slower pace?

Nicole said...

Good, tense opening scene. My only thought -- consider losing your opening sentence. It doesn't add anything vital to your story, and your opening is stronger when started with the second sentence (in my opinion).

Best of luck!

K. Turley (Clutzattack) said...

Rocks tumbled **(cut)down** as he stumbled again, splinters of shale forcing me to hide behind a tree.

I'd waited four days for this — my chance to hunt and kill him at my leisure with no eyewitness**period** I wasn't about to let him see me and make a break for it.

I **peer** around the oak** no comma** and the setting sun momentarily **blinds**me, blood reds and flaming oranges blurring together like the gates of hell. --I think this makes the action more immediate.

Voices sounded from above us, loud and near. Other hikers. I grimaced. Now was not the time to make my move. Not yet at least. **I’d like to see this elaborated on.**

The man now sat on the edge of the path in a stupor, idly picking up pebbles and letting them fall into a pile. The red Louisiana clay of Driskill Mountain stained his trembling fingers. **I’m not really familiar with the effects of cocaine so I’m confused why he’s breathing heavy one minute then he’s picking up pebbles the next. The tension in this scene feels cut short with the arrival of the other hikers, and I'd have liked to see it stretched on through their arrival.

On a side note, I love your blog theme/background.

Cherie Reich said...

I really love how this beginning has evolved over time. I love the voice and the intensity of it. :)

lissawrites said...

Very nice. I'm certainly interested in finding out more about the situation. I'd keep reading. not much I can offer on a critique, though. I only have a bunch of questions I'm sure would be answered in later pages.

JSC said...

i feel like i learned a lot about the mc's prey (i'm assuming this is your mc?) but not much about the mc other than that they are hunting a human being--which doesn't make me particularly like or sympathize with the pov character. not sure i sympathize or like the prey either, with the cocaine reference (did the prey do it themselves, or did the hunter give it to them on purpose?).

but good writing. good details.

Sharon Bayliss said...

The opening sentence didn't read well for me. I suggest losing it. I liked the description of a sunset looking like the gates of hell. It's a cool image and gives us a sense of the character's mindset at once. Good scene. Good luck!

Talli Roland said...

I'm with the others - I really like this opening! Pulled me in straight away.

Jody Lamb said...

Hi, Nicole,

Love this.

The opening sentence - "Heavy breathing. His — the hunted." echoed in my mind as I read on. Awesome!

Honestly, I can't offer any suggestions for improvement. This hooked me right away, and usually, I'm not easily drawn into works of this genre.

Well done, lady!

Thanks for sharing.

razlich said...

I offer to your attention a film about six priorities of the generalized instruments of management by countries and people of Earth.
Six Principles of Global Manipulation
Anti-Qur'an Strategy of the Bible Project Wheeler-Dealers

K.M. Weiland said...

Oooh, creepy! Are we seeing this scene from the protagonist's POV or the antagonist's? Particularly if it's the first, I'm hooked.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Looking forward to your game picks for Monday's blogfest!

NZT Solutions Pvt. Ltd said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.