Just a short reminder that my giveaway of Fablehaven, Eyes Like Stars, Graceling, Skin Hunger, and an ARC of After Obsession is still going on! Click here.
Today's first page submission comes from David, who happens to be one of my favorite writers on the Internet! He became my first follower (true story) after we met at LTUE in 2010.
The skirt of Celesia’s nightdress curled with the midnight breeze. It was dark outside her bedchamber, alone on her balcony, with only the stars and faint moonlight to guide her steps. Waking up in the middle of the night was not uncommon for her, but this was a little different.
She did not remember climbing out of bed.
It came from the courtyard below, a sound that made her sick.
Startled, Celesia leaned over the balustrade. There was a shattered lute on the ground, and a young man, holding his calve with both hands. When her eyes adjusted, her breath was lost.
It was Prince Owen, her latest suitor.
“My leg!” He glanced straight into her eyes. “YOU BROKE MY LEG!”
Celesia held a hand over her mouth. What have I done?
The chamber door flew open. Below the frame stood her father, King Lýnivad the Third, dressed in a silken nightshirt. His peppery hair looked a bit frazzled. “Was that you screaming?”
“It’s Owen!” Celesia pointed outside. “I think he tried to invade my room!”
Lýnivad dashed to the balcony, his gray eyes widening at the injured prince. A few guards arrived, knelt by Owen’s side, and assessed the situation.
“Tend to him!” Lýnivad shouted, “and be quick about it!”
The king turned and glared at Celesia from the corner of his eye. She pressed her back against the wall, wanting to slip inside the cracks. This was not the first accident to befall a prince within their castle, nor was it the second—but it was certainly the worst.
“How did he fall?”
What I liked:
First of all, I think your writing is very strong. Your descriptions are lovely ("curled with the midnight breeze") and technically speaking your grammar/punctuation is spot on. In addition, you have wonderful sentence variation and syntax (one of my pet peeves is when writing doesn't flow well due to syntax). Obviously I haven't read more than a page of this, but I feel like you started the story in the perfect place. I was hooked by the second paragraph, and the last few lines about princes being involved in accidents also drew my attention. I already have a sense of who your main character is and I would definitely read more based on this excerpt. Most of my comments are nitty-gritty details, because overall I feel this first page is quite strong.
~"It came from the courtyard below, a sound that made her sick." I don't know enough about the sound she heard to understand why it would make her sick. For instance, a thud could be the sound of someone dropping a book or a box, which wouldn't cause her to feel nauseous. Obviously it's meant to be a falling body, but I think you could make this clearer by adding a line of description to clarify the sound or by giving us insight into Celesia's thoughts the moment she hears it.
~“ARRGH!” Did Celesia shout or did Owen?
~"There was a shattered lute on the ground." Try to avoid using "to be" verbs as much as possible, as they're weaker than other verbs. I would suggest changing this to "A shattered lute lay on the ground" to eliminate the "was."
~"When her eyes adjusted, her breath was lost." Avoid passive voice by rewriting the second half of this sentence.
~"Celesia held a hand over her mouth. What have I done?" This part confused me a little bit...you imply that Celesia pushed Owen or somehow caused him to fall, but this is never mentioned earlier in the page when she's walking along the balcony. I know she doesn't remember getting out of bed, but she seems lucid enough at the beginning of the page, so I don't see how she wouldn't notice if she accidentally bumped or pushed Owen over the edge of the balcony.
~"Lýnivad dashed to the balcony, his gray eyes widening at the injured prince." I'd change this to "his gray eyes widening at the sight of the injured prince."
~"The king turned and glared at Celesia from the corner of his eye." I'd cut out "from the corner of his eye" since he addresses Celesia in the next paragraph. If he's speaking to her, he's most likely looking her full in the face. Also, it's very difficult to produce an adequate glare when you're looking at someone out of the corner of your eye.
Overall I really loved this. Again, most of my comments are small details, and structurally I think it's a very strong beginning. I'd read on!
For those of you interested in a first page critique, you can email your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks David!