Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summer '16 YayYA Entry #12: TITANIUM CLAYMORE

Name: Bethany Stevenson

Genre: High Fantasy/Dystopian

Title: Titanium Claymore

35-word pitch: Alec was the world's heir, then he discovered he's only an enslaved-clone to his "father." Now his enemies want him to save them, destroying his tyrant-maker, and he doesn't know who to kill


first 500:

My child! No please, that is my son!
            I shiver. My fingers grip the edge of my chair. I squeeze my eyes tighter, veiling them from the dim light around me. My heartbeat speeds up, hammering in my chest. I breathe out slowly, calming my emotions.
            I can still hear the woman’s voice, crying out in agony. It echoes my mind, haunting my evening.
            I should have been meditating on darkness and Black Magic. Instead, things I may have seen, remembered, and do not understand float in my thoughts.
            “Those thoughts do not mean anything.” My father’s voice rings in the air. I feel his robe brush my knee and hear him pace past my throne. “Even the deepest center of our domain will not reveal anything you seek from them.”
            I try to relax. The screams from the horrible visions streak into my mind again. My body tenses. Inhaling and exhaling is my only way to restrain myself from speaking out any rebellious thoughts to my father.
            “How do I see these things?” I ask quietly, my voice rising in the dark chamber. My arms are trembling in the confusion. I shift my position on the ancient, stone throne.
            My father continues to circle me. “It is your power growing. Your mind is seeking the knowledge of the outside world. You cannot try to find answers for these things until your time has come, my son.”
            I let out a deep breath. Sweat beads off my forehead from the frustration.
            Knowledge. I lick my lips. How I thirst for it so.
            To understand the kingdoms I will one-day rule and to find the meaning in the foreign words spoken around me is my deepest desire.
            When? My mind demands, when can I know? When can I understand?
            My heartbeat slows but I begin to gasp angrily, slouching as tightly as I can. I claw at the edge of my throne, scraping the skin at my fingertips. I flex my hands, seeking to shut off my greedy anguish.
            “Are you impatient?” My father’s voice asks. His circling slows.
            I nod quickly, keeping my eyes shut so I do not have to face him. “Very much so,” I say, swallowing my shakiness, “I want to know about the world.”
            “My son,” he replied, drawing out the words gently but non the less warningly. I feel his hand brush my shoulder briefly. “I have destroyed a world into one thousand floating islands to prepare your future reign after me. The world lies in utter ruins, flooded in sand or rocks or snow, dwelt by mutated-peoples. I made one race of humans into multitudes of species. Can you not be grateful for my labor?”
            Sand. Snow. I don’t know what they mean.

            “I am.” I tear my own guilt and coats of greed away. My right hand slips on the throne and I 

bump my elbow on the armrest. I hug myself, wishing to strangle all of the impatience out of me.




REVISION:

My child! No please, that is my son!
            I shiver. My fingers grip the edge of my chair. I squeeze my eyelids, veiling myself from the dim chamber I sit in. My heartbeat hammers my chest. I breathe slowly, calming my emotions.
            I can hear a woman’s anguished voice echo in my mind, haunting me.
            I should be dwelling on darkness, empowering my Black Magic. Instead, these visions I don’t understand fill my head.
            “Those thoughts don’t mean anything.” My father’s voice shatters the images in my head, bringing me to reality; I feel his robe brush my knee and hear him pace past my throne. “Even in here, the deepest part of my domain, you won’t find the answers to your questions about the dream; it’s merely a side-affect to growing your power.”
            I try to relax. Merely a side-affect––nothing more.
            But I can’t convince myself; the horrible screams pull my mind again, filling my head with the grieving woman.
            My body tenses; inhaling and exhaling are the only way I restrain myself from saying anything rebellious against my father’s words.
            “How do I see these things?” I ask, afraid to open my eyes. My arms tremble with confusion; I shift my position on the ancient, stone throne.
            My father continues to circle me, his footsteps echoing around the stone cellar. “Your power is growing, your mind seeks knowledge from the outside world. You shouldn’t look for answers when I have forbidden you to learn until your time has come, my son.”
            I let out a frustrated breath; sweat streaks my forehead.
            Knowledge. I lick my lips. How I thirst for it.
            To see kingdoms I will someday rule; understanding meanings to foreign words spoken around me is my deepest desire.
            When? My mind demands, when can I know? When can I understand?
            My heartbeat speeds up. I gasp angrily, slouching tightly as if I can hold back my anger. I cannot question my father’s keeping me in his tower my whole life; I shouldn’t be rebellious against his all-knowing wisdom––The same all-knowing wisdom I can’t have.
             I claw at the edge of my throne, scraping my fingertips; I flex my hands in pain, hoping to stop my greedy anguish.
            “You’re impatient?” My father’s voice asks. His circling slows.
            I nod quickly; eyes still shut. “Yes,” I say, swallowing my shakiness, “I want to know about the world.”
            “My son,” he replies, drawing out the words warningly; I feel his hand brush my shoulder briefly. He’s about to tell me all he’s done again. “I’ve destroyed that world into one-thousand islands to prepare your future reign after me. The world lies in ruins, flooded in sand or snow, dwelt by mutated-peoples. I made a single race into many for your sake, my boy. Can you merely wait a little longer?”
            Sand. Snow. I don’t know what it means.

            “Please.” My right hand slips; I bump my elbow on the armrest. “Let me know something.”

10 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this, very atmospheric.
    You do a great job of putting us into the protag’s head, what he feels and thinks. But I wonder if (might be personal preference) you could trim it a bit. For example the sentence :
    My heartbeat speeds up, hammering in my chest. I breathe out slowly, calming my emotions.
    I can still hear the woman’s voice, crying out in agony. It echoes my mind, haunting my evening.
    Could be trimmed to: My heartbeat speeds up. I breathe out slowly.
    I can still hear the woman’s voice, It echoes my mind.
    And still convey that great inner experience of your protag. I’d actually trim the whole passage this way.

    First impression, I don’t understand clearly what’s going on, he’s meditating? For knowledge? And memories are getting in his way? Its unclear. “Even the deepest center of our domain will not reveal anything you seek from them.” Is not mysterious, its just confusing. Who is them? The domain? I’m not sure why he’s seeing things he doesn’t understand.

    He says he must hide rebellious thoughts, but why are they rebellious since all his father said was ‘those thoughts don’t matter’

    Could we clarify a bit what he doesn’t know, what ‘knowledge’ is to him because its confusing. It seems like he doesn't understand languages? What sand and snow are? Even a line saying ‘I don't know what they are BECAUSE I’VE LIVED ALONE IN THIS ROOM FOR XX YEARS. Something to put his lack of knowledge in perspective.

    I love the dad's line about what he did to the world for his son. But, the sons desire to understand does not equate to a lack of gratitude for the fathers work. So it jars a bit that Dad answers sons impatience with ‘are you not grateful’ son didn’t say anything about gratefulness, nor did he express any ingratitude. Maybe if the dad ended with ‘is it not enough’ rather than ‘lack of gratitude’ then he’s linking what he’s done to the boys current frustration.

    Conclusion, I'd trim the whole thing, for excess description, and I’d add a line or two throughout to clarify the unclear points.

    Can’t wait to read the revised bit.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Pitch:

    You may be trying to get too much into the pitch. Is he NOT the heir? Or is he just not who he thought he was? How is being a clone different than being a son?

    Also, this has some good detail, but may benefit from a little voice. If it's not already, read through it and make sure you're picking words that Alec would use to describe the same stuff. That's a quick and dirty way to get voice into your pitch.

    Pages:

    This is really strong, but could be a bit stronger with some more loaded words that give us a better idea of Alec's personality.

    Also, consider adding an example or two here so we are tighter to Alec's perspective: "Inhaling and exhaling is my only way to restrain myself from speaking out any rebellious thoughts to my father."

    First is an opportunity to get in really tightly to the character's head, so using vague descriptions when you're orienting to the character create a distance.

    You use italics later, consider adding them to "Knowledge. I lick my lips. How I thirst for it so." as well.

    You also say he's angry, but in a first person it would help if his voice also showed us he was angry well before this point. If you're aiming for clinical distance in the narrative voice 3rd may be a better fit.

    Hope this helps!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Charis M. EllisonJune 28, 2016 at 7:50 PM

    Your pitch definitely catches my attention, but also confuses me--did he only think he was the world's heir? is he actually the world's heir, but lacking free will? I really like the second half of the pitch, and the last phrase is great!

    I really like your opening pages--they're evocative and feel sinister and intriguing.
    Some phrases are confusing, especially “Even the deepest center of our domain will not reveal anything you seek from them”, which tripped me up. It took some puzzling for me to realize that 'them' was referring back to the thoughts (I think?). Without more context I'm not sure if this is setting up something that will be explained later or if I should suggest rephrasing for clarity.
    I really like that, even though this is first person, you use body language to tell us how your MC feels, although in one or two places I find it confusing--specifically "My heartbeat slows but I begin to gasp angrily", which seems incongruous, since gasping usually goes hand in hand with a rapid heartbeat. Possibly this is also something that has a greater context?
    Overall I feel like this is a fantastic start that could use a little tightening, and possibly a little clarification (not too much, if the intention is for the reader to feel disoriented along with the MC, of course, but enough to keep the reader from stumbling to a halt over things that aren't important).
    Great job! I look forward to seeing the revision :D

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Bethany!

    Oo, I love the tension you're creating here between father and son! I do agree with previous comments, though--the exact situation your MC's facing is too unclear. We have an excellent sense of the anger he feels towards his father, and of the gloomy throne room, but we don't know WHY he's there or why he's looking for answers in the thoughts of others. Even just some hints as to the answer to those questions would be helpful.

    If you just clarify a bit in regards to situation as well as setting, I think you'll be all set. This reads really smoothly, Bethany--great job!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Pitch: This sounds like a cool idea (I love the title!), but it would be good if there were a few more specifics in the pitch. I like the first line, as that clearly sets up conflict, but the second line could be more direct (e.g. Now his enemies want him to destroy his tyrant-maker). I’m guessing that tyrant-maker is a title for Alec’s father? It would be good if there was more about the “enemies” but that might be hard in 35 words – I completely sympathise with how hard it is to fit world building into a pitch!

    500 words: This is an interesting beginning with a lot of tension, but I felt like I needed a little more grounding to really appreciate what is happening. One way to help with this would be to add in a little more description of where he is… even though he's got his eyes closed, he'd know details about the room, about his father etc. Another way could be to cut back on the reactions in the second paragraph which are slightly repetitive, and focus more on the third paragraph about the vision. Is he seeing things, or only hearing them? What was he supposed to be meditating on? A few more of these sorts of details would be great.

    I liked the hints at world building that come through at the end of the opening, where his father talks about the world he has created. It sounds like an interesting, unique world, and it makes me want to know more about Alec’s life since he doesn’t know what snow or sand is. It’s an intriguing beginning! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I like your pitch. The setting of your story is cool and interesting. I like the idea of a high fantasy clone. Unlike some of the other comments, I didn't find it confusing. However, I suggest ending with "destroy his tyrant-maker" because it seems to me to be the peak of excitement and a good ending line. (Whereas Alec's indecision takes the excitement downhill for me.)

    I also have some hesitations about using dystopian as a genre. Other high fantasy I've seen with evil tyrants don't call themselves dystopian. Also, I've heard it's a hard genre to sell right now so it might hurt you to use it when you could just be high fantasy. This does depend on where your story goes and how science-fictionish you get.

    I like your opening line. Strong off the bat. The father's creepiness is well-done.

    However, I would like more scenery. I don't get a feeling for what this room looks like. I'm not sure what his father looks like either. I've also yet to get an idea how old Alec is. (You may explain both of these a bit later, in which case it's fine. I want to at least know what the dad looks like early on, but it doesn't have to be in the first couple paragraphs that I'm seeing.)

    Dark fantasy is great fun and I want to know where you're going with this.

    ReplyDelete
  7. HI. I tend to agree with the comments before me. I think your idea is a great one - father's clone, awesome!!! If you could tighten your pitch, it would create more of a hook. Was he the heir or is the heir? Alec, the world's heir, discovers he's an enslaved clone of his tyrant father. NOw he must choose to join the Rebels and kill his father or remain enslaved forever. This is draft - something with more of a hook. I was a bit confused as I read your 500 words. I don't really know what is happening. Maybe you start with an action scene where he finds out he's a clone? I do love your last line a lot.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi, Bethany! I should add disclaimer that I'm not a very good critiquer but I try my best.

    Pitch: In pitch with such limited word count, make every word count. A pitch has three intentions: introduce the protagonists, reveal the conflicts and stakes. You gave us Alec, the protagonist. The conflicts were multiple but where is the stake? His affection for his tyrant father? What has he got to lose? Be specific. Other than that, I liked the pitch. Very intriguing and mystifying.

    500 word:
    I loved how you showed the protagonist's emotions. Very little people can do that in such an evoking way. But it was a bit too much. Give us at least three descriptions of how he felt. Sometimes while showing, we do tend to get carried away. I do too sometimes.

    I loved how his "father" is training him, to gain mental strength and strain out what's bothering him. The part where the "father" tells Alec how he sacrificed so much for him, genius!


    I see, like me, you had some formatting issues. Best of luck at the revision!

    ReplyDelete
  9. This is really great and super unique, well done!

    Agreed with the others that the pitch left me more confused than anything. What world? What time period? Is this a fantasy world? Also I don't know what "destroy his tyrant-maker" means.

    I would love a few more physical descriptions. You do a great job putting us inside your MC's head, but I can't picture the scene.

    I also realize this is not a super helpful note, but the end of the 500 words just left me...confused? I don't know who the characters are or what is going on. I realize you don't want to reveal too much too fast, but is there a chance you could give us a tiny bit more to help flesh out what is actually going on?

    Your writing is great, but what I get from this is that your MC is stressed out and his father is...creepy. I would just love a little more to let me know where your story is heading.

    Well done!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I like your new revision. You give us a better sense of the setting. You also give us a hint about the main character's situation (namely, that he's been locked inside his whole life.)

    Critique: you use a lot of semicolons. Some of these long sentences would probably flow better as two sentences instead. (I always try reading my stuff out loud to get the flow right.)

    However, I'm only commenting on picky stuff like semicolons because I don't have major comments. You did a good job!

    ReplyDelete