She knew if she walked through the door, things would never be the same. It would be an admission of humanity. A bow to the ordinary.
She had been sent to inform and invigorate the people of Liberty so they could stand up to the coming onslaught. Even as she arrived the enemy grew as it traveled, dragging able-bodied men from villages as they passed and forcing them into servitude. To bring an entire village together and equip its people to do battle was a monumental task, one no mere mortal could hope to accomplish. That’s why the Council saw fit to send her to this place. It wasn’t a question of her ability, nor of her knowledge. It was a question of birthright. Her father was Leader of the Council. It was an incontrovertible fact that his heirs would step into his role when he relinquished it. It had always been that way. It would always be. Such was the way of her kind.
She stepped into the heart of Liberty, the center of the village, and slowly turned. The courthouse sat vacant—the laws of the land, as well as much of the building, long ago turned to dust. A tattered flag sagged on a pole in front of a tall brick garage. Then she saw it. The old gray-stoned library, heavily pasted with vines rooted to the mortar, bundling the building itself into a green-wrapped package. She stared up at the roof, at least thirty tridents high. The crane of her neck made her wobble. She had never looked up before; only down. She hurried to the doorway, slashed at the vines until the way was clear. What was inside stole her breath. She had never seen a book before. Now she was in an entire building of them. So many, she thought they might count as high as the stars. She breathed deeply. The scent of books was new to her and she paused to relish it. This was where it would all begin. After all, this was where it once ended.
On the plus side, I should say that I like the opening line.
“She knew if she walked through the door, things would never be the same.”
It’s hard to write a first line that immediately grabs a reader. Well done!
I also enjoy the way the writer describes the moment the narrator first sees the library.
“Then she saw it. The old gray-stoned library, heavily pasted with vines rooted to the mortar, bundling the building itself into a green-wrapped package.”
That’s a good visual image.
But in other ways, this narrative runs into some craft-related headwinds. Here are some areas that could be improved.
A Case of Backstory Blues
The writer grabs my attention at Line One. But from there, things go awry. The story falls into a notorious swamp known as Backstory. The entire second paragraph gives nothing but character background. That information should be woven in later, after we are immersed in the main character’s situation. We preach this lesson all the time here at TKZ: Stay in the moment with your character and scene! Let us see her in action in the moment, and then tell us how she arrived at that juncture.
As I read this page I was reminded of a film I saw last weekend, “Jupiter Ascending.” (A completely dreadful film, btw, but that’s for another review). In that story, there’s a claque of one-percenter aliens known as The Entitled. The Entitled get to hog all the good stuff in The Universe because, well, they were born to rule.
As the title of this first page, BIRTHRIGHT, makes clear, the main character has arrived in Liberty village simply because she was born into the right family. I’m assuming the story will present at least two challenges: 1) Can she save the Lost World? 2) Does she have anything going for her other than her birthright?
Theodore Roosevelt famously coined the phrase, “Get Action!” I think this page could use some action. Or should I say, interaction. On my first reading, I assumed that the village of Liberty was totally abandoned. Then I realized that the character’s challenge is to mobilize the demoralized inhabitants. Shouldn’t we get some sense of someone else in this scene, or at least a reminder of that they exist? A secondary character would be an excellent way to introduce some of the backstory information that is dumped at the reader in the second paragraph. (For example: an enslaved villager suddenly sees the Council’s Heir materialize in town. How does he react?)
There were a few awkward or confusing phrases here and there. (Redundant use of “heart of” followed by “village center”; “The crane of her neck made her wobble.”)
Overall, I think eliminating the early introduction of backstory, plus using action to show the character’s situation, would improve things immensely. Thank you to this intrepid writer for the submission!
TKZers, your thoughts about this page?