Today's post features a first-page excerpt from a YA fantasy novel that I wrote in 1996 and recently unearthed; this is one of my shelved novels, but I thought comments might help others. Add your feedback too!
The Twin Suns of Innis
The twin suns of Innis glared down upon Niesha like relentless glowing eyes from the sky. Niesha winced, and shaded her eyes.
Why did she swelter out here in the fields each day, harvesting wheatseed until she felt like bread crisping in a too-hot oven? Merenkin didn't require her to work like this, nor did Merenkin's easygoing husband Toff. She guessed it was simply that she preferred the year-round fieldwork to sitting around embroidering posies and setherbirds on linen edges. Merenkin's three plump daughters were welcome to that daily routine.
Tight-lipped, Niesha swung her scythe back across her row of wheat, watching it fall into splayed heaps by her sides. She hacked with intense energy, as though her arms were fighting the bland color of her world. For grain's sake--yellow, yellow. Everything was yellow, from the golden double suns to the endless march of wheatfields that stretched to every horizon. Even her hair was traitorously yellow, long and wheat-straight.
She paused and closed her eyes against the swirl of grit in the air. Her hot damp palms smoothed her apron skirt. Ah, how wonderful it would be to immerse herself in cool greens, to plunge like a wildthing into the sea. The sea had to be green, didn't it? Or blue. Yes, blue sounded lovely, too. It couldn't be yellow. Yellow was the color of boredom and sweat, the color of a deserted child.
She was that child. Deserted at age five, left in the Wheatlands for twelve long years.
SPECIFICS: Words, Italics
1. I'd ditch the "Ah" in the second to last paragraph.
2. I'd ditch "simply" in the second paragraph. That adverb is not necessary; when it comes to adverbs, more is less, and this one doesn't add much. I see "traitorously" as more necessary.
3. Perhaps use a different word than "wildthing." A more specific creature, perhaps?
4. Perhaps omit the italics on "that." It's not good to overuse italics; it begins to lose effectiveness. I kind of like the emphasis on "yellow," though.
5. Five instances of weaker "to be" (was, were) verbs are used here, that could perhaps be made stronger by more active verbs.
6. Omit "endless." It's redundant with "that stretched to every horizon."
GENERAL: Conflict, Pace, Telling
7. There's internal conflict here but no outer conflict yet. Outer conflict does arrive soon (the following page), but again, the story needs to be streamlined and the pace livened/quickened.
8. This is somewhat of a slow start. This section goes on a little long without any action happening--it's all internal thoughts. Action does begin on the next page, but if I were to rewrite this, I'd trim this opening.
9. A lot of it--especially the last sentence--strikes me as author explanation/intrusion (telling). It would be better to introduce this info in a more natural place, but at least reword it to sound less info-y. In the last sentence, I suppose I was trying to let the reader know her age. *grin* I suspect I was also trying to describe her appearance in the third paragraph, although it's not as blatant as having her look in a mirror (never do that!). It would be better to SHOW Niesha interacting with Merenkin and Toff, as well as with the plump daughters. That way readers can see Toff's easygoing nature for themselves.
10. There may be too much similarity to THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan. In that novel, the main character's primary goal/desire is to visit the sea.
11. I had publisher interest in this novel, but it was eventually rejected. The editor said she was "not convinced enough by the fantasy world" to add it to their list. If I were to query it today, I'd label it as LIGHT fantasy.
Have you ever begun a novel in a similar way, with a character reflecting?
Do you object to coining combined words like setherbirds, wheatfields, and wildthing?
Do you think one page of internal dialogue is too long--did you feel like this is somewhat of a slow start?