Today's post features a first-page excerpt from an adult urban fantasy novel entitled COUNTLESS by Alexia Chamberlynn. (Feel free to send your own 250-word excerpt if you don't mind being a guinea pig for the benefit of other writers! How-to on sidebar.)
He had found his prey at last. An expanse of gold veined marble was all that separated them now. His eyes traveled the distance to where she stood by the elevators, turned away from him, completely oblivious to the fact that she was being hunted.
From his vantage point near the doors, he scanned over the throngs of people in suits and skirts. They meant nothing to him--his every malevolent thought was focused on only one person. Countless years had led to this day, his day of reckoning. A smile curled his lips, and then he began to move.
Like a shadow he crossed the room, sliding among the crowd. Brushing up against a pinstripe sleeve, a wave of disdain came over him. Humans. Rushing about, leading such pathetic lives. Thinking themselves the height of creation, yet in reality so weak and easily destructible. Which would soon be demonstrated.
He was half way across the room now, passing to the left of the large mahogany reception desk, his target straight ahead. She wore a pale blue skirt that just touched the back of her knees. His eyes traced the moon pale curve of her bare calves, down to her black stilettos, then back up to the raven hair cascading halfway down her back in loose curls. And although she was turned away from him, he knew her face--the full lips, thin nose and most of all the deep green eyes. Green like a highland meadow or a piece of lustrous sea glass.
Stronger Sentences: Those Pesky Weak Verbs
"To be" verbs like was and were usually make for weak sentence construction. They have their place, but they can often be swapped for more active verbs, or the sentence reworded to omit them. In this excerpt there are 4 was verbs that can be altered, perhaps like these examples:
1. An expanse of gold veined marble was all that separated them now.
REWORDED: Only an expanse of gold-veined marble separated them now.
2. They meant nothing to him--his every malevolent thought was focused on only one person.
REWORDED: They meant nothing to him--his every malevolent thought focused on only one person.
3. He was half way across the room now, passing to the left…
REWORDED: He'd crossed half the room now, passing to the left…
4. And although she was turned away from him, he knew her face--
REWORDED: And although he couldn't see her face, he knew it--
Wording and Little Things
1. Gold-veined and moon-pale should be hyphenated as units describing marble & curve.
2. I believe it's pinstriped sleeve rather than pinstripe sleeve.
3. Half way should be one word: Halfway.
4. Omit at least one "then": A smile curled his lips, and [then] he began to move. "Then" is an easily overused pacing word, especially in action scenes. It's used twice in this short excerpt.
5. Omit SUCH and SO as extra or melodramatic words: Rushing about, leading [such] pathetic lives. Thinking themselves the height of creation, yet in reality [so] weak and easily destructible.
6. Omit that he passed to the left of the desk if it is not important. Details like this clutter the reader's mind if they don't pertain to the plot or add to the understanding of a scene.
7. Repeat: PALE blue skirt and moon-PALE curve; omit one. Perhaps say light blue skirt?
8. Turned is used twice on this page; omit one. "Was turned" can be reworded; see above.
1. Second sentence: it could just be me, but I interpreted the marble expanse as a vertical wall rather than a horizontal area, and I had to re-orient myself.
2. Third sentence: His eyes traveled the distance to where she stood by the elevators, turned away from him, completely oblivious to the fact that she was being hunted.
Because of the sentence construction, with He as the subject, the turning sounds like an action the MC is doing. I almost expected a series of (his) actions after the comma. This needs to be constructed so it's clear the woman is the one who is turning and being oblivious.
3. "Completely oblivious" is slightly out of the Being's POV--how does he know she's "completely" oblivious? He could be being cocky or assuming, but it comes across more as omniscient. Although if he's an otherworldly Being, it may be possible he's 100% certain.
4. Omit OVER (scanned over): From his vantage point near the doors, he scanned [over] the throngs...
5. Slightly cliché-ish: Like a shadow… And exactly how is his movement like a shadow? Since I later learned he's invisible, I'm not sure it matters if he's moving stealthily or clumsily.
6. Raven hair may be a tad cliché or romance novel-y. The raven-haired, green-eyed beauty.
7. Green eyes are rather cliché these days. It seems everyone has green eyes, especially if he/she has special powers/abilities.
8. This line seems unnecessary: Which would soon be demonstrated. It's obvious she's the focus of his destruction if he's hunting her as prey. The line is kinda melodramatic, not needed.
The first sentence is a good kickstart. The opening is intriguing, generating immediate interest. The Being's disdain for humans is a great, natural way to indicate he is NOT human. Tension increases further when the Being remarks on humankind's weakness and ease of destruction; the reader knows he aims to destroy the raven-haired woman. I love the image of the moon-pale curve of the woman's calves, nicely combined with the black stilettos and the blue skirt. Likewise, the lustrous sea glass is a lovely image.
Can you add any other helpful comments to the above critique?
Did anyone else besides me read the marble expanse (2nd sentence) as vertical, like a wall?
The next chapter will be from the woman's point of view. Do you think this posted excerpt should be a Prologue or Chapter 1?