fantasy · Writing

Made of Awesome Contest

Shelley Watters is hosting a Made of Awesome Contest where people post title, genre, word count and the first 250 words or complete first page on their blog for a review and maybe, just maybe, get read by an agent.

So here it goes.

Title: My Ancestors, My Blood. (Sadly, this is only a working title)

Genre: Urban Fantasy. ghosts, witches, wizards, mages.

Word Count: 70,500 (Yes, I have not updated my novel in progress counter in the sidebar. I very bad.)

My first page (yes, the whole first page, not just the first 250 words. But they are bolded.) Got two versions of this now. Silly me.


The wind was icy and a gust blew the exhaust of a passing bus into my mouth. I coughed into my hand. We probably wouldn’t net many people in the raid; eleven pm on a bitterly cold Monday night wasn’t the time to catch many people. But I’d gotten enough evidence to raid Carmine Stars only yesterday. It had taken all day to put together and organize the team.

The Lieutenant herself insisted on taking control. She couldn’t leave me behind because she wasn’t a Shadow Scout, and everything inter-race required the presence of a Shadow Scout. The new rules required more for leecher raids. A Shadow Scout needed to get solid evidence leecher activity was going on at least an hour before the raid took place.

It was stupid. If I had my way, I would shove all the leechers down a deep hole where –

I cut off that line of thought. This was my first real job in months. If I was going to finish it right, my head needed to be in the right place. I fingered the little mirror shard in my pocket before stepping forward.

The club’s outside was plain plaster and dark windows. Carmine Stars was outlined in orange neon above the front door. A pair of stylized dancers and the words “A Magical Night” decorated the windows. The music pouring from the open doors pulsed through my bones, and if I was here for any other reason, I would have been tempted to dance.

I paid the cover charge and went in. The doorman was a witch; I could tell from his green aura. It hovered above his dark hair like a green halo. Not a particularly strong one, either, because the green wasn’t dark enough for strength. Most male witches weren’t strong. But I allowed him to tie a thin green ribbon around my wrist as proof of payment. “Keep it on,” he told me. “You will regret it if you don’t.”

No doubt. The ribbon was warm against my skin and soft as a flower petal. The charm had probably started out as a plant. It glowed against my skin, a green ribbon of light, obvious to anyone with a smidgen of magic. A symbol that I was a normal human being, just in case anyone failed to recognize that I didn’t leak magic. Just as well. Considering the effort I had put into my shields and glamour, it would be humiliating if anyone saw through them.

Or this other version. Sadly, I realized this was mostly telling about ten minutes after I posted. Decided to go with it, but is this a better first 250 (265 really!) words?

I paid the cover charge. The doorman’s aura hovered above his dark hair like a green halo. The green wasn’t dark enough for strength, but male witches weren’t strong. I allowed him to tie a thin green ribbon around my wrist as proof of payment. “Keep it on,” he told me. “You will regret it if you don’t.”

The ribbon was warm and soft as a flower petal. The charm had probably started out as a plant. It glowed against my skin, obvious to anyone with a smidgen of magic. A symbol that I was a normal human being, just in case anyone failed to recognize I didn’t leak magic. Just as well. Considering the effort I had put into my glamour, it would be humiliating if anyone saw through it.

It was dim inside. I spotted Mags at the bar, giving his lady a drink.

No female witches to supervise. Not for the first time, I wondered where Mags found so many males witches willing to work outside the coven. Odd.

“What’ll you have?” the bartender asked. His aura was strong for a male witch, a speckled forest-green. It waved back and forth over his head like a demented bird. Typical leecher aura, but not proof anyone would accept.

“Surprise me.”

He drew me a cold mug of beer. Green pinpricks of a leeching spell lay across the top like sprinkles on ice cream. Not enough to affect me, but enough to affect someone with very weak magic.

All the proof I needed to call in a raid.

Go crazy people! Tell me what you think. Don’t worry, I got a thick skin.

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24 thoughts on “Made of Awesome Contest

  1. I only read the first 252 words since that is all you will be judged on. I can only speak for myself but you are throwing in a bunch of names that don’t mean anything. I understand they will be explained but in a hook it can only create confusion. There needs to be some kind of explanation to them early.
    We stood outside the Carmen Stars. The club music was pounding making me want to dance. It was a shame I would be raiding it in only a few minutes.

    You can see where it goes from there.
    Good luck in the contest!

  2. I have to agree with Scropedo. There is a lot of setting up the scene here. When you’re looking for a 250 word hook, you have to jump into the scene. I’ve rewritten the opening to my ms so many times it’s not even funny. But why don’t you start with the raid? You can explain the mission and the details afterwards while they’re sorting through the bodies or doing paperwork back at the station or driving back to the station or whatever. Jump into the action. Give the reader something to hang on to.

    Authoress Anonymous also holds contests like this on her blog. You can check out some of the past entrants and see what the “Secret Agent” had to say about it.

    http://misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com/search/label/Secret%20Agent

    Good luck!

    1. I didn’t know that, I’ll be sure to check it out. You are right, that is all one big set up. I will see if I can jump into the action straight off!

  3. I liked the first para and didn’t mind that it was a bit ‘telly’ because it set the scene. However, the action didn’t take off after that. There was more explaining of how she got there and what she was thinking–all about the raid, but not the actual raid. I think it would be better to give her some action and insert bits of the backstory into the narrative as you go along.
    Good luck!

  4. The first 250 had too much info about a situation I didn’t know anything about yet. I’d get right into the raid and save the info dump for later when it makes sense to the reader. I like the imagery of the bus exhaust- immediatly paints a picture of the setting without having to list what it actually looks like.

  5. Interesting opening scene. Good visuals.

    My thoughts: consider removing some of the occurences of “was” — your first sentence contains the word. You could easily streamline by saying something like, “The icy wind blew the…”

    Also, your first paragraph contains “many people” twice. There’s also a bit of redundancy in the third sentence — “pm” and “at night.”

    Best of luck!

  6. I think by the third paragraph we need some action. Maybe injecting some action there and leaving the rest of the worldbuilding/exposition for later would help this improve. Otherwise it’s a whole lot of the MC telling the reader stuff, and there’s only so much a reader will take before they realise there’s no action.
    In fact, taking a glance at the paragraph that is beyond the 250 limit, I would suggest placing that as paragraph 3 to keep the action. Unfortunately it’s the way of readers nowadays to be driven by action more than reflection.

  7. I like your opening sentence but you’re explaining too much too fast. Unless this is a leecher raid take out all the references to it. If it is a leecher raid maybe explain that. Also a really minor point shouldn’t it be 11pm, not eleven? Anyway solid concept and good voice but too much info at first.

    1. Thanks for all your comments and everyone says I am explaining too much. I was wondering whether it should 11pm or eleven actually. Wasn’t sure.

  8. i couldn’t really read through the first excerpt. there was no real action. the second excerpt was better, and i felt more engaged in the scene. but i’ve read a bar scene just like it in another story. is there something you could do to make it more unique?

  9. I like the scene and suspect that something’s going to happen on the next few pages, so I’d keep reading. It’s a good setup. It felt passive, so if you take out a lot of the “was”, I think the page might flow better and probably reveal the character’s voice a little more. Nice job.

  10. Hi, Sonia,

    I much prefer the second one. I had to reread the first few paragraphs of the first one to follow it. The second one is more immediate and in the moment. I suggest dropping “I paid the cover charge” completely because it’s sort of ordinary and your story is not ordinary. The second sentence is more attention getting.

    I really like the voice; it feels real, as if I’m friends with her and she’s recounting her adventure. I would definitely read on.

    Thanks for sharing and good luck!

  11. When I first commented, I didn’t notice the second one. Sorry. *blush* I like #2 much better. I get a feel for the world building right away. The only problem is we don’t know why she’s there–she could be having a night out on the town. I think you need to insert a little bit of #1 into #2, so that we know she’s an officer and is there for a raid, which might be dangerous. In the second para, you need to change ‘them’ to ‘it’ to match the singular ‘glamour’.

  12. I prefer the second one. The first one reads like a crime novel opening, the second one sounds more urban fantasy. Yes there was a lot of explaining, but I didn’t mind most of it since it helped orient me and it made me feel like I knew the character better.

    I paid the cover charge. The doorman’s aura hovered above his dark hair like a green halo. [The green wasn’t dark enough for strength, but male witches weren’t strong.]–Like the reference that he’s a witch, but don’t need to know that green=strength just yet. You do better explaining this around the bar tender. I’d just say he’s got a lime green halo so that later we know light shades of green are weaker than forest green.

    I allowed him to tie a thin green ribbon around my wrist as proof of payment. “Keep it on,” he told me. “You will regret it if you don’t.”

    The ribbon was warm and soft as a flower petal. [The charm had probably started out as a plant. It glowed against my skin, obvious to anyone with a smidgen of magic. A symbol that I was a normal human being, just in case anyone failed to recognize I didn’t leak magic.] –I think this was good. Just as well. Considering the effort I had put into my glamour, it would be humiliating if anyone saw through it.–I guess this one is okay too.

    It was dim inside. I spotted Mags at the bar, giving his lady a drink.

    [No female witches to supervise. Not for the first time, I wondered where Mags found so many males witches willing to work outside the coven. Odd.] TMI, and it doesn’t really make sense to me, so I say cut.

    “What’ll you have?” the bartender asked. His aura was strong for a male witch, a speckled forest-green (instead of the lime green halo on the bouncer etc…) It waved back and forth over his head like a demented bird. [Typical leecher aura, but not proof anyone would accept.] This can be cut too. Unless you’re going to explain what a leecher is, or what proof she’s referring to, it’s usless backstory to me.

    “Surprise me.”

    He drew me a cold mug of beer. Green pinpricks of a leeching spell lay across the top like sprinkles on ice cream. Not enough to affect me, but enough to affect someone with very weak magic. [I think this says everythign you meant to imply with the leecher character, and the raid without needing the reference before.]

    All the proof I needed to call in a raid. –This is the hook. Now I’m wondering who she is, and what she does for a living and what a raid would entail.

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