#Fall1stHop Mind Witch 1st 250

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#Fall1stHop Mind Witch 1st 250

Since the wonderful Michelle Hauck is hosting a #Fall1stHop on her blog, and my capacity to be critical of my work changes between “This fucking sucks, I should quit” and “This is fucking flawless, I’m a genius”, I’m posting the first 250 of Mind Witch for critique. Once a day after work, I will go around the other blogs, critiquing my share.

So here. Have a glimpse at my brilliance.

Mind Witch, First 250


Revision 1

When you’re a mind witch, people are your playground.

Zéphyrine repeated that mantra in her head over and over, not because it was comforting, but because it was true.

People would remain a playground until she had this country’s King under her heel and the city in her grasp. And no matter how wrong her orders were, she wouldn’t—absolutely wouldn’t—feel sorry for them. Pity had a way of killing you faster than a sword in the gut.

Her mind tingled with alarm, demanding she look up at the top of the stairs. Francisca stood with her hand on the carved staircase railing, frozen in shock, and Zéph recognized her prey immediately. Prior to coming here, she had lived with this woman’s niece, in another city, for six months, and she’d scoured the girl’s memories for all the possible advantages she could use once her orders changed.

She could still remember the warmth with which that girl had spoken about her family—a family Zéph was about to brainwash her way into.

She was a stranger to these people, but not for long.

Francisca’s eyebrows drew together in confusion as she opened her mouth to ask, “Who—”

Before the woman could say anything else, Zéph stepped forward. Her mind reached. Invaded. Conquered. You know me, she whispered into the woman’s head. Her victim’s mind whirled, trying to place Zéph in her myriad of memories.

Do not feel sorry.

She became a parasite, infiltrating a host of recollections.

Messy Original

When you’re a mind witch, people are your playground.

Zéphyrine repeated that mantra in her head over and over, not because it was comforting, rather because it was true. Zéph had played person after person in order to get inside Almar’s capital of Almudena under the guise of a noble girl who’d survived the most recent attack on the border with Bharaté.

People would remain a playground until she had this country’s King under her heel and the city in her grasp. And no matter how wrong her orders were, she wouldn’t—absolutely wouldn’t—feel sorry for them, because pity had a way of killing you faster than a sword in the gut.

Her mind tingled, demanding she look up at the top of the stairs, and there she was. Her prey stood atop the staircase, hand on the carved railing, the woman’s body frozen in shock, her eyebrows drawn in confusion. “Who—”

Before the woman could say anything else, Zéph stepped forward. Her mind reached. Invaded. Conquered. You know me, she whispered into the woman’s head. Her victim’s mind whirled in shock, trying to place Zéph in her myriad of memories.

Zéph recognized the girl’s face as soon as it came up—María Isabel, with whom Zéph had lived for six months before the Ravager issued the order to destroy Alaterra.

She’d seen this woman in María’s mind: Lady Francisca, wife of Lord Sidonia, her uncle. Zéph still remembered the warmth with which María had spoken about her family—a family Zéph was about to take for herself.

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13 responses »

  1. Ooh, the first line gripped me. I like it.

    Thoughts:
    I’m not sure the “rather” in the second sentence works – though simple, ‘but’ might work better. The third sentence I worry is too exposition-y. To be honest, I don’t think it flows into the next paragraph, and you could probably weave the idea of her playing a victim of the attacks somewhere into a later paragraph, even dialogue or something.

    “, and there she was. Her prey stood atop the staircase” could be tightened into something like “and there her prey stood, hand on the carved staircase railing”. I don’t much like the repetition of stairs and ‘she’.
    Also, nitpicking, but who says the line? I suspect it’s the woman atop the staircase, but you might want to move it into a new paragraph, simply for clarity. 🙂

    I like this opening a lot – the action is great and leaves me wondering how Zeph’s powers will unfold through the story – though I do think it could be tightened to remove some of the exposition in the first few paragraphs. I think you could leave some mystery about Zeph’s motives. Conversely, I love the phrase “pity had a way of killing you faster than a sword in the gut”. If you do change the first paragraphs, you should sneak that in somewhere else. *grin*

    Hope this is useful 🙂

  2. I love the immediacy with which you launch into your story here, but I think you’re going a little TOO fast, and I’m getting lost. Is the woman at the top of the stairs Maria? If so, I don’t know why you wouldn’t identify her as such immediately, so you wouldn’t have to resort to calling her “the woman” for two paragraphs. Particularly in combination with the mind-reading element, it makes questions of identity confusing.

    I like that you give us some of Zeph’s character and her motivation immediately in the second paragraph, but again it feels sort of rushed and forced, and doesn’t grow organically. You’re plowing ahead in this opening, telling me Zeph has impersonated other people, that she can play in others minds, and dropping the names of characters and towns, and it’s a bit overwhelming. Maybe try lingering just a bit longer in setting, to ground us more in character and location before you move ahead with action–though of course you’ll have to balance it and not spend five paragraphs telling us setting.

    The description of Zeph’s mind-control powers works for me, and I think the overall tone of this is strong. I’d read it, and I do read this genre, but while some Fantasy readers are totally okay with a bunch of names in sequence, I tend to like things laid out a little slower. Maybe personal preference, but there you go.

  3. “Mind Witch” – love it.

    Zéphyrine – love it.

    After that, I agree with the previous commenters. The sentence about her guise to get into the city feels unnecessary, especially since we don’t know who is attacking. And you throw A LOT of characters at us very quickly. I like the magical (mental) spy/assassin angle quite a bit, and would probably give this book a try, but I think you just need to slow down on the details.

    Good luck! 🙂

  4. Your concept and magic sound so interesting. I love the idea and want to know more.

    But, I’m going to second some of the above comments, and say you might have too much backstory in here. I say this because I’m more worried about your magic system than I am the character and in the first 250 for YA that’s not what I should be focused on.

    Here’s the questions you’re raising in me: Is the MC a person or is she a disembodied spirit? Is the person she’s playing someone she’s been playing a long time and has built a character for or is it something she can jump out of? What kind of playground are the? Can she change their minds? Take them over? Is she a lady sitting in a den somewhere and she’s got a giant hive of minds she’s controlling?

    On the one hand, it’s good you’ve engaged me, but on the other this is not the engagement that leads to good things. If I’m more worried about the technicalities I’m not investing in the story and that often leads to abandonment when either they don’t work the way I’ve figured them out as or they get explained enough but I’m not drowning in the story.

    OK, that was a lot of words! I absolutely think you have something here, the tl;dr on this is don’t worry about us understanding Zeph’s mind control so much as Zeph herself and what kind of person she is. I can’t invest in her taking over another person unless I’m invested in her.

    Hope that helps!!

    • Your update helped me understand a lot better what was happening in the scene! Great job clearing up that confusion.

      The next round of advice I’d give in this case is that it seems like you’re trying to distance Zeph from the people around her. But the words you’re using are actually distancing me from Zeph.

      The best example of this is when you say: “She could still remember the warmth with which that girl had spoken about her family”. Now “that girl” if I’m understanding correctly is Francesca’s niece that Zeph has spent 6 months living with. You could use more descriptive terms to refer to the niece that also show some of Zeph’s personality. Does she not like her because she’s stupid, easy to control, entitled? Does she like her but has to keep herself at a distance?

      Small choices like that would help me to understand Zeph at the same time you’re setting up the scenario she’s trapped in. It doesn’t have to be long descriptions, just a few very targeted words.

      Hope that helps! And, I hope you love the changes you’ve written, or are at least still okay with it!

  5. I have to agree with Chris, I struggled to keep up with all the characters & found myself re-reading several times. Perhaps you could find a way stretch the introductions a little more? I know its a tough call because they all form part of your opening scene(s) so I’ll leave you with that thought and see what others say 🙂

  6. So clearly you should not quit and you are a genius! Your writing is beautiful!

    I agree with the above comment. If you slow down the pacing and de-clutter the characters/locations, you’ll be in great shape. The first and last two paragraphs are where my confusion set in.

  7. Love the opening line, the mantra. I find that your writing has a nice cadence to it, and it’s very pleasant to read overall.

    I didn’t care for “and there her prey stood…”
    I think you could put a period after the first half of that sentence, delete “and there” and start a new sentence with “Her prey stood . . .”

    Would she really be a complete stranger to them if she’d lived with the niece for six months? Maybe, but I did sort of question that they probably would have at least heard of her. Maybe not, depending on the back story.

    The name Maria threw me. I had to read back to see that you were talking about the niece. Not sure you need the name on the first page at all . . . it can probably wait until she’s introduced again.

    I like the revision, and I can see you did a great job of simplifying, especially at the end of the original page. I really like how the revised first page ends.

    I want to know more: why she’s after the king and the city, who’s orders she’s following … all things that don’t need to be answered on the first page, but questions that keep me intrigued and wanting to know more, so great job with that!

  8. I love your opening here. Let me nitpick for a second. In the 3rd paragraph, “…pity had a way of killing you faster than a sword in the gut.” It seems to me that it would flow better if it read: “a sword in your gut.” Nitpick over.

    I agree w/ Michelle above, that instead of “Her prey” you could insert the name there and the sentence would be less confusing to me. “Lady F stood with her hand on the railing. Z recognized her prey immediately.”

    I think someone else mentioned maybe cutting back on the backstory so early and focusing more on setting. I think that would help to tightening this up, but I’m intrigued and want to read more. Hope this helps.

  9. Your revision 1 is so much better than your original. Your opening line is great, and I don’t think you should ever change it. Unless a paid editor tells you to.

    “feel sorry for them, because pity had a way of killing you faster than a sword in the gut.” For this, I think you omit “because” and start a new sentence with “Pity.” The sentence is a little clunky and is the only one I stumbled over.

    I like the immediacy of this, the conflict, and the introduction to the character. I really like the comparison of her to a parasite. It’s an intriguing start, and I would on.

  10. My comments pertain only to revision 1 (which is much better than messy original).

    This pulled me right in! I love the pity kills faster than sword to gut sentence. Great visual.

    You use “frozen in shock” twice, and shock again further on. Change it up and make it your own.

    The “she was a stranger” line felt redundant after the previous one.

    The last two paragraphs felt off and I didn’t really understand why they were there. Give us a little more or remove them please!

    Hope this helps!

  11. Hi, Diana. Good to see you are still writing. I think your revision is a much improved version of this opening. In the revision, I especially like your final three paragraphs. I think the part about the niece is still a little clunky but I don’t have any specific suggestions since I don’t know enough of the story. Maybe there’s a way to work with that a little. Really nice intrigue going here.

  12. I read the original “messy” version a couple days ago and the revised version is so much better! I was a bit confused about things in the original version and the new version is clearer and tighter.

    Great concept, and I want to keep reading, but I kind of agree with the reviewers who think that things are proceeding too fast–unless there’s some backstory explanation coming soon after to make things clearer. Like who is Francisca’s niece and why was Zephyrine living with her, and why does Zephyrine want to conquer the city? Your main character doesn’t seem like a nice person, which is always tough to write because the reader wants to identify with the main character. But if we learn the motivation behind her behavior, then she could be more sympathetic. (Think of the movie “Maleficent”)

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