Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Page Critique: DAYBIRD

Today's post features a first-page, fantasy-novel excerpt sent to me for critique.
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How was a Niite Owl supposed to hunt a Day Bird? And when would she sleep? But Zithre had warned her – at all cost hunt the Lady. Even if Lady became aware of her presence, she would just have to be more careful. Lia shivered and frowned at the wind. Crazy mission. The Old Life was better, before she met Zithre and before the wind had become perilous and the omens meant something. How could you stop a prophecy anyway? It never worked in the human’s stories. The foe always got carried away and brought the hero to their castle and locked them away, and then since the hero was close by, they would just conquer the enemy right there.

It was the stupidest thing she had been asked to do yet, much worse than fetching those poor men for Zithre to feed upon… yet more unnerving and even more wrong. Probably since the weight of this mission was of dire need to Zithre and because it all fell upon Lia to do it. And if she screwed this one up… No more meals until payment had been exacted. Lia coughed. Zithre’s payment was a nasty thing, indeed.

Oh, well. “Might get along now, better for me to get along now,” Lia sung softly to herself, and took off from the branch she had been resting upon. The wind stung a little, but felt good on her chest and face. Flying was a beauty. At least Zithre needed her this way – with wings. She would have eventually killed herself had she been turned all the way human.


First Lines
The first paragraph may be a bit long for an opening, although it may be more acceptable since this is fantasy. Personally, I'd start a new paragraph with "Lia shivered…"

Grammar and Sentence Clarity
1. The pronouns "their/them/they" should be "his/him/he" to match "foe," which is singular: The foe always got carried away and brought the hero to their castle and locked them away, and then since the hero was close by, they would just conquer the enemy right there.
2. Same sentence: possible confusion between "foe" and "enemy." Since the foe is called "the enemy" at the end of the sentence, the reader may not be 100% certain it's the same thing.
3. I'm not sure "payment" is the right word in Zithre’s payment was a nasty thing, indeed. Isn't it more like a punishment? Payment sounds more like Lia's getting paid for hunting the Lady (especially since "until payment had been exacted" is a passive sentence construction and the reader isn't certain who's doing the exacting, i.e., who is the subject of the sentence).
4. Not technically accurate here: Probably since the weight of this mission was of dire need… This sentence literally/grammatically says the WEIGHT is of dire need rather than the mission.

Wording and Little Things
1. Technically, she's not frowning AT the wind, she's frowning at what the wind is doing--blowing cold air on her face, making her eyes water, making tree branches sway, or throwing debris and dust around.
2. May need consistency using Daybird vs Day Bird.
3. May need consistency using "the Lady" vs "Lady."
4. Verb tense: use she'd met or she had met, since it's in the past: The Old Life was better, before she met Zithre and before the wind had become perilous...
5. Not sure "all" is needed or the right word in this sentence: …this mission was of dire need to Zithre and because it all fell upon Lia to do it. It falls entirely upon Lia to do the mission, but having "all" next to "fell" doesn't really get that same/exact meaning across.
6. Be careful not to overuse the word "just" or "but." "Just" is used twice in the first paragraph, "but" is used twice in this short excerpt. They are commonly overused words.
7. "Away" is used twice in one sentence: The foe always got carried AWAY and brought the hero to their castle and locked them AWAY… Also, "carried away" could be wrongly interpreted as being carted off somewhere, which is not what the writer wants/means to say here.
8. Be careful not to overuse ellipses; these two instances are close together. Also, there shouldn't be a space after an ellipses where it's all part of the same thought or sentence (as in the first instance).

Summary: Kudos
There is a really nice voice here, and good sentence length variation. I especially like the last line--it's a very intriguing bit of info that Zithre has turned Lia into a half-human from an original bird/owl form. The first sentence has a good hook, and right away sets up conflict along with an intriguing premise. I like the sing-songy dialogue and the almost childlike thoughts and actions of this bird-girl; those characteristics seem appropriate since she's half animal. The name Lia sounds like who she is--flighty, conflicted, delicate, and unique.

Can you add any other helpful comments to the above critique?
Have you ever read a fantasy novel with a half-human, half-bird/owl main character?


  1. It definitely had a good flow to it and was intriguing.

    Another great critique.

  2. I had some similar thoughts. Lia is a perfect name, and the ending made me want to read more.

  3. I don't read much fantasy so I'm a bit out of my element. And, I've never read a half-animal half-human story before, unless you count Animorphs - the series from the 80's. :)

  4. Carol, you're a very good editor. Many of the things you caught I didn't see. The one thing I did notice was the word 'screwed.' Screwed is a modern term often used in the same way it was implied in this story. But the rest of the story had a different sense of time than modern. I would use a different word.

    For the writer. This is well written and drew me in. I loved it.
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.

  5. OOh crazy las paragraph that made my skin tingle. I like the author's voice.

  6. I have not read anything like this - great fantasy premise! There's definitely some great fantastical elements at work here. I could have used a snippet more of setting/description in there, but that's it. Otherwise - great start!

  7. great pick-ups in the critique. There's a lot of info to take in at the start, but not a lot of description to ground the reader into the visuals of the world. It's a great excerpt though and I also love the last line in particular and want to know more.

  8. Great crit as always, Carol.

    I'm with Lynda and Donea. I need to see a little more description so I can place myself in the story better.

  9. Carol - this is an excellent critique. Great concept for a story! I would read more.

  10. A wonderful critique, Carol! I really thought this page was interesting and have nothing to critique that hasn't already been said. :)

  11. I like the voice here, and it definitely is an interesting premise. I read a book once when I was a kid about a girl who had owl-like wings and owl friends. It was MG with a few pics. But other than that, haven't heard of any stories like this. Good job, both of you!

  12. I have nothing to add to the critique; but I applaud your stamina Carol in doing these crits so consistently.

    You are so thoughtful with your critiques.


  13. The only fantasy I read was The Lord of the Rings. Even though that's all I have to compare it with, this story appears to be an interesting one. Great job on the critique!

  14. Awesome and detailed as usual, Carol.

    The opening paragraph was not a smooth read for me because I did not feel grounded. Is this the first page or middle somewhere? Overall, the premise is cool and this is my kid of story. Similar to Legend of the Guardians.

    BTW I've been referring readers to your site on my past blog posts. This is such a fantastic service you offer here. :)

  15. Oh, you're critiques are always awesome! I can't add anything. Thank you for sharing. ;-)

  16. I agree with your comments about the Lady and Lady, if you go ahead and capitalize it as a name there should be a "the" in front of it. Also in the sentence, "at all cost hunt the Lady." I could use a pause between at all cost and hunt the Lady for effect.

  17. I think you did a vague job on the critique--everything you pointed out resonated to me. I felt like it all seemed a little ethereal or something, but that might be that I just don't read much fantasy and have a preference for really concrete language.

  18. LOL, Hart emailed me and added this in reference to her comment, above:

    ACK! I totally meant to say you did a GREAT job...! *dies* ...I'm so sorry for how it came OUT because that is NOT what was in my head!

    No problem, Hart! I read it so quickly I didn't even notice. Haha.

  19. I like the voice here too.

    But I felt like a lot was introduced in that small space. Perhaps there could be more action, and some of this could be sprinkled in. World-building takes time so readers can absorb it all. Often details in passing or conversation are a better way to provide the info.

  20. Nice critique! What a great service you're offering readers. The story sounds interesting. Love the character names!

  21. Wow, that's a very detailed critique.

    If you're at all interested, I'm starting up a 'Critiquing Crusaders' program, where participants in the Second Crusade can find other writers to exchange critiques with or form critiquing circles. If you're interested, come by The Kelworth Files to check it out!

  22. So helpful!

    I also like the names chosen for the characters in this excerpt. Very intriguing, especially "Zithre."

  23. I like this piece. I also like your comments/suggestions. Spot. On.


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