Photograph (c) 2015 by Annalisa Hartlaub. All rights reserved.
Anonymous, on behalf of all the of TKZ family I bid you welcome and thank you for submitting to our FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE and thus braving the constructive slings and arrows which may or may not be coming your way!
“Lyssa, come back!” the large, dark haired man shouted. The woman had lured him into a hedge maze, but he suspected that was only to provide him with a false sense of security. If the woman had survived this long, had done the things he suspected she did, there was no chance that she wouldn’t know his particular abilities. He sighed, exhaling slowly and closing his eyes, hearing the voices on the wind as the plants themselves bent to whisper of her actions to him. She was waiting at the center. He hesitated, almost turning to leave but deciding that if he could not defeat this hack on his own grounds then he was doomed to fall on hers. He strode forward, determined and defiant, the plants parting for his footsteps until he reached the end of the maze.
Lyssa saw the dwarf boxes part, a grin crawling onto her face. She was laying on her back, her head towards the man that currently pursued her and her arms spread out to her sides, tilting her chin up to look up towards the man. “Did you like the maze mister? I know how much you love plants.” She saw him hesitate again, only grinning wider, stretching comfortably on the grass. Reaching this moment overjoyed her, the peak of her efforts, the climax of this story. The man was reluctant, but he too had fallen to the strings that bound all living beings, and in a moment he would be no more than a mere puppet, a toy for her to toss away as she became bored with him. Toys were never any fun after they stopped working.
He had loved her like a daughter. He still did, but he needed to know what she was. He continued his strong stride towards her, her words like needles in his mind, laced with that all too familiar giggle. He snapped his fingers, the hedges moving like vines to snap around her limbs and hold her on the grounds. She squirmed a little, but her grin did not waver in the slightest. Was she so confident he would not kill her? It would take only a moment like this, another snap, but he dared not imagine what the brambles would do to her if he did.
Anon, this is an intriguing opening page with an interesting premise. I like the pacing and was actually disappointed that I only had one page to read. That’s a good sign, especially for someone like myself who doesn’t read fantasy literature on a regular basis. Let’s keep that in mind as I review a few deficiencies which I think are readily remediable:
Names — Give the male character a name at or very near to the beginning And since you have named the female character “Lyssa,” use her name rather than “the woman” as general rule. Repetitive use of “the woman” and “the man” tends to depersonalize both of them; when we’re reading we want to get them in focus a little more clearly and naming them will do that. often than not. And let’s use the term “dwarf boxes” — a terrific name — repetitively instead of “plants,” at least for a couple of pages. Drop little hints, like breadcrumbs through the forest of your story, each one describing the dwarf boxes so that by the third page or so we know that they are plants without telling us. Show, don’t tell.
Perspective — Let’s keep the perspective with the man for the first page or two. It changes here after the first paragraph and it’s a bit of a sudden jump. Shifting perspectives so early in the story and so quickly is a bit jarring, and doing so from paragraph to paragraph is a bit much. I’m seeing a little more of the abrupt shifting, probably for the reason of creating suspense, in published books these days but it usually takes place (much) later in the story. I recommend getting your story rolling — and I mean really rolling, like several chapters — before you start doing that if you do it at all. It appears that you are trying to create what I call a “Bugs (Bunny) and Elmer (Fudd)” scenario, as in Elmer sticking his hand down the rabbit hole saying “Now I’ve got you!” to which Bugs responds, “On the contrary! I’ve got YOU!” You can do this solely from the man’s perspective. He sees her smile, hears her question about the maze, and senses her confidence but is in turn confident in his own powers over the dwarf boxes to control the situation.
Literary elements — Some of the similes, metaphors and turns of phrase in the second and third paragraphs read as if you’re trying just a little too hard. You get an ‘A’ for effort, but sometimes the phrasing is a bit awkward. “Grin crawling on her face…” Ugh. I pictured a spider or something crawling out of the grass. Try something like “The corners of her mouth slowly turned upward.” Then there is“The moment overjoyed her, the peak of her efforts, the climax of this story.” I’m not sure what that means. The story has barely started and you’re talking about the climax. “The words like needles in his mind…” again, it’s a simile that doesn’t quite work. It’s somewhat cringe-inducing. I think it’s just a matter of overreaching, and while there are worse sins you could commit I recommend that you focus on telling the best story you can the first time through and then going back and judiciously embellishing your sentences. A great example of a metaphor of yours that works is in the final sentence of the second paragraph. It’s simple and we can all relate.
Relationships — I’m somewhat confused about the extent of the relationship between the two characters. The man knows Lyssa’s name, and indicates that he loves her like a daughter, while from her perspective he is “the man who currently pursued her.” Again, name the man, and you can clear up the confusion by having Lyssa either call him by name, addressing him as “Stranger,” or a bit of further dialogue that hints at their familiarity with one another.
Proofreading — Proofreading is always a must, and you did a good job here, Anon, for the most part. I spotted two mistakes in one sentence in the second paragraph. “Did you like the maze mister” would read better as “Did you like the maze, Mister?” There are probably more, but possibly not. I need a second steady eye to review my work and recommend that you employ the same if you’re not doing so already.
Anon, all else aside, I like the conflict that you have set up by the end of the page: the two characters are confronting each other, the man seemingly having Lyssa at a lethal disadvantage for a reason that you have revealed, while Lyssa seems to have a yet-unrevealed advantage of her own. Again, I really wanted to see more of this tale when I reached the conclusion of your submission. Keep plugging away and let us know when your efforts are rewarded. And thank you again for submitting your work to our First Page Critique. With that, I shall step aside and let our readers make their comments!