This is an excerpt sent to me for critique, from a YA fantasy/alternate history by Ronnisha Lewis. Please add your additional comments and thoughts below!
Part I: Samsara
Another village is before me. I tuck a loose strand of hair neatly behind my left ear and tie a rope around my waist, in order to strap a basket full of clothes to my back. My toe curls into the land with the thought of freedom. Moisture from the night lingers upon me like a wet rain. I am alone. Tears flow like streams that leak out of me. I never knew being poised for a new life could hurt so much. I embark on a journey that only I know. A journey far away from home. My mouth holds an unspoken dream or lie it seems. My life moves upon a gossamer thread that binds me to my slow, muffled heart. In spite of pain, I breathe. I am the stuff of legend. The stuff of memory. And somehow it seems that my only enemy is time.
My heart pounds like a drum. My feet slow, before they quicken to a strong rhythm of urgency. I am free. I am free and yet I don’t want my will to crumble. I want to move. I want to continue to run as fast as I can until there is a place I can no longer be found. I am crackling energy. Still, I move with stumbling feet as if they have never known the earth. There is a fire in the hearth of my heart. My stomach knots like butterflies have made a nest inside of me. Pain has made a mess inside of me.
I tell myself I can go on even though my knees are bruised and weak, but something says to me that I must stay strong in spirit; it says that soon it will be dawn, but I must hide under the night sky like a fugitive.
Character versus Plot
As a reader, I got a good sense of the character's emotions, but I was wanting to know more about the plot. I'm wondering if some action can be integrated for a better balance. Storywise, I'm not sure what's going on beyond the main character's pain/inner turmoil, that she's a refuge, and she has a basket on her back.
Consistency and Clarity
1. Is it night or day? Initially it says "moisture from the night lingers" and the village seems to be visible/before her, which led me to believe it was already early morning. But the end line says soon it will be dawn and she must travel like a fugitive in the night. I found this confusing.
2. No true contrast? In the last line says she tells herself she can go on, which is contrasted by a "but" to say that she must stay strong in the spirit. These two things don't seem truly contrary to each other; perhaps "but" shouldn't be used? (And there are also two "buts" in this quite lengthy sentence; are both needed?)
There are a lot of figures of speech in this short excerpt. It might be good to reduce the number and/or strengthen some. Also, I noticed two descriptions about the MC's heart; perhaps omit one? Here are just the similes:
1. Moisture from the night lingers upon me like a wet rain. Is the adjective "wet" really needed? Rain is always wet. To me, this would sound fine without the comparison--the moisture could linger, but omit "like a wet rain."
2. Tears flow like streams that leak out of me. This seems to be circular or unclear, and "flow like streams" is fairly cliché. Is the phrase "that leak out of me" really needed? Maybe it could even be phrased: My tears flow like streams, or more concise: My tears stream from me.
3. My heart pounds like a drum. This is pretty cliché; can it be made more unique?
4. My stomach knots like butterflies have made a nest inside of me. Pain has made a mess inside of me. Both say "inside of me," which feels repetitive. Omit or change one?
The first line is fairly hooky/catchy--"another" village means there's been a village in the past that the MC has left. That piques curiosity about why, and what's going on. There is a lot of raw emotion and lyricism in this piece. My favorite line: I am crackling energy.
Do you have any helpful feedback to add to this critique?
Have you ever written alternative history fiction; are you familiar with the genre?
Do YOU have a 250-word excerpt to send me for a free public critique?? If so, send to artzicarol [at] gmail [dot] com. It can be anonymous if you wish.