First page critique blog hop!

The lovely and talented Michelle Hauck is running a blog hop to critique first pages and I am super excited to be taking part!  If you’d like to join in the fun, here’s the post with all the details.  Methinks the first page of The Price of Mercy could use a bit of help, but I’m not entirely sure where, so if you’ve got ideas on what would take it from blah to AMAZING, please, drop ’em in the comments below!

***

Revision (The revised version is a bit longer than 250 words (think ~280), but I wanted to include everything I covered in the original entry, so you get an extra thirty words of fun). 🙂

Adult Fantasy

“Please, your Highness, have mercy.  I beg you.”

“I would very much like to, sir,” Prince Vegin said.  Light filtered into the gallery through twin rows of stained glass windows, exaggerating the poor farmer’s haggard appearance.  “I sympathize with you, but drought or no, you’ve still got taxes to pay.  I cannot simply let you go.”

“Your Highness, I’ll do anything – anything at all – only let me go back to my family.”  Dirty tears carved grooves through the layers of grime on his face, but hope shone in his eyes.

Before Vegin could reply, the chamber’s heavy wooden door burst open.  The prince flinched as his father stalked into the room, the queen trailing behind him.  King Tol’s gaze swept the room as the court fell to its knees.  The guards scattered about the room stood a little straighter, not wanting to provoke the king’s famous temper.  The peasant trembled before him, suddenly afraid for his life.  The prince groaned inwardly – he hated fighting with his father, especially in public.

“Vegin!”  Tol’s voice boomed through the chamber.  “If you’re not going to sentence this man, I’ll be more than happy to do it for you.”

The prince’s eyes narrowed.  “What makes you think he’s committed a crime?”

“He’s a peasant, isn’t he?”  Tol sniffed in the man’s direction.  “A farmer, by the smell of him.”

“Just because he’s a peasant doesn’t mean he’s a criminal, Father.”

“Then why is he here?”

Vegin opened his mouth, but no words came out.  What could he say to that?

“Fine,” the prince said after a moment, “he’s done something wrong.  Are you happy now?”

The king smiled smugly.  “So you’ve sentenced him, then?”

“I was about to, but you interrupted.”

***

Original

Adult Fantasy

Dirty tears carved grooves through the layers of grime on the poor farmer’s face.  “Please, your Highness, have mercy.  I beg you.”

Prince Vegin sympathized with the man, whose pitiful appearance was exaggerated by the light filtering through the stained glass windows lining the gallery.  But drought or no, he still had taxes to pay; surely he had other ways of obtaining the necessary funds.  Even if he didn’t, was prison really the most suitable penalty?  How could he ever hope to earn what he owed if he was stuck in a prison camp?  But he couldn’t simply let the man go, either.

As Vegin opened his mouth to speak, the room’s heavy wooden door burst open.  The prince flinched as his father stalked into the room, the queen trailing behind him.  King Tol swept his gaze around the room as the court fell to its knees before him.  The guards scattered about the room stood at attention, ready for anything.  The pathetic heap of a peasant trembled, prostrate, before him.  The prince, out of habit, stood atop a dais in front of two intricately carved thrones, and froze the king in place with the sternest gaze he could muster.

“Vegin!”  Tol’s voice boomed through the chamber, commanding attention.  “If you’re not going to sentence this man, I’ll be more than happy to do it for you.”

The prince’s eyes narrowed.  “That’s really not necessary, Father.”

“Oh?  So you’ve sentenced him, then?”

“Well, no.  I was about to, but you interrupted.”

***

There you have it!  Questions, comments, and suggestions will all be gratefully received, so let me have ’em!

(c) 2014.  All rights reserved.

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32 thoughts on “First page critique blog hop!

  1. mbarkersimpson says:

    I enjoyed the snippet, especially the conflict. One thing I did spot though, relates to the paragraph beginning with ‘As Vegin opened his mouth to speak’ – the repetitive use of ‘room’ jars a little. It’s a minor thing really and I’d definitely want to read more 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mark says:

    The name Vegin bothers me… is it a homophone for Vegan? Just seems like an odd name, like you’re making an anti-meat statement here.

    The characters didn’t seem to fit naturally into the setting, like they were all actors from our century playing the part of kings and princes. Vegin seems a little too obviously anachronistic in his morals, and the “Well, no…” line from him just doesn’t fit my mental image of a prince, reared from birth with tutors and such to train him in how to act and speak like a royal. Likewise, Tol’s speech patterns resemble a modern High-School bully more than the well-crafted speech I’d expect from one with such high standing.

    I don’t understand how his father knew what was happening in the room while he was outside. Was he peeping? That doesn’t seem very regal.

    The second paragraph is very exposition heavy, and the rhetorical questions will turn many readers off.

    Lastly, the conflict, while somewhat interesting, doesn’t seem very deep or compelling. Is there a better place for this novel to start?

    I know that’s a lot of negative points, but on the whole I thought it was well written. It just needs some work, IMO.

    Like

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      Nope – it rhymes with bacon, which actually comes into play later on in the story. 🙂

      I struggle with telling instead of showing, so heavy exposition often creeps in. I’m trying to weed it out, but I don’t always see it. As for the peeping, they have a court schedule and it was a court day. 🙂

      As for a better place to start the story, here’s the blurb:

      As the Crown Prince of Lokana, nineteen-year-old Vegin is expected to follow in his father’s corrupt footsteps: marry a wealthy noblewoman and fill the royal coffers to the brim by whatever means necessary. But the prince has other ideas, and when he falls in love with a peasant named Lipei, his father threatens to deny him the crown and live forever. Though Vegin knows his father is serious, he remains firm in his decision: he will marry for love or not at all.

      But there are bigger problems facing the kingdom than succession.

      When the king executes an entire village, a long-simmering rebellion threatens to burst into all-out war. Led by Lipei’s brother, Ghrelin, Lokana’s malcontents want revenge on the royal family, and they don’t care which member pays the price. Vegin must find a way to protect his family and atone for his father’s actions, or he could lose everything he’s ever cared about…forever.

      If you’ve got a suggestion on a better place to start, I’m all ears! I’ve been wondering the same thing myself lately, but this particular peasant (or at least his family) becomes important later on, as it provides another character’s motivation.

      Like

  3. nikolavukoja says:

    I thought it was a pretty good start also.

    I’d suggest working on this bit:
    …But drought or no, he still had taxes to pay; surely he had other ways of obtaining the necessary funds. Even if he didn’t, was prison really the most suitable penalty? How could he ever hope to earn what he owed if he was stuck in a prison camp? But he couldn’t simply let the man go, either…

    It’s telling and it has several rhetorical questions.
    I’d be tempted to cut it back to:
    “But drought or no, he still had taxes to pay. He couldn’t simply let the man go.”

    and then fill some more in with something he says do does rather than telling us what he’s thinking 🙂

    also:
    King Tol swept his gaze around the room as the court fell to its knees (take out) -before him- that’s implied.

    “The pathetic heap of a peasant trembled, prostrate, before him” – this is telling too.
    Rather than tell us the king thinks the peasant is pathetic, show us by the way he treats or doesn’t treat the peasant. Also, having the Prince freeze his father and then having his father shout at him is not consistent. Maybe have the father push the peasant to the floor with his foot (this would also show his contempt of the poor) and then shout at Vegin who then gives him a glare and responds?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. conkernog says:

    I think the descriptions are maybe just a tad off, and the ‘workings’ of the story are far too visible to the reader. The peasant for example is a caricature – layers of grime on his face, the utter abasement, ‘pathetic heap of a peasant’.. etc. The fact that a king is even judging as trivial a crime as a single peasant failing to pay tax really highlights the character struggle you’re propelling Vegin towards. The second paragraph in particular exhibits this, blurring the lines far too much between showing and telling. I hope this can be taken constructively as despite these points I was still interested in where the story is heading. Slowing the pace is the main thing.

    Like

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      Slowing the pace is something I’ve been working on for a long time with this particular project, so much so that I actually cut the book in half and started filling it out so that it moves slower. Of course, now I’m worried that I’ve slowed the pace too much, but maybe that’s just me being paranoid. 🙂

      This whole first scene has been something of a problem, and when I first wrote it, Tol was the one passing judgment, not Vegin. You’ve given me a lot to think about – thanks! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Melissa Mires says:

    I can sympathize with Vegin already. Other than the previously stated repetition, I think you’re on the right track. I like the fact that I know what the conflict is right away.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. maniacmarmoset says:

    I found this a smidge hard to follow. You have a really charming first image. The tears grooving and whatnot, and then you sort of just tell us about taxes and debtors prison and so on. It feels shoehorned in, to be honest. I know it’s a little harder to get into a character’s head in third, but it can be done. What can you do to show that Vegin is sympathizing with the peasant? What can he notice? How does the sympathy feel physically. There’s just kind of a lot of telling going on here. I also really want to know why and how the king knows that he’s hesitating to sentence the man. He wafts in like he’s been spying and that seems less than kingly. Your character though. Also, some explanation as for why he’s doing the sentencing instead of his father. Also the speech patterns are quite anachronistic. I mean I get it’s fantasy and they can talk however you want them to, but I’d expect more measured formal speech. I hope this helps.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      It does! Actually, when I first wrote this scene, the king was the one doing the sentencing, but he’s not the main character and other people found that confusing. Now the whole thing is confused. 🙂

      Telling is a problem for me. I’m quite prone to it and trying to fix it, but I like your suggestions, and now I have a lot of thinking to do. Thank you for your insight! 🙂

      Like

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      Yay! Thank you for your comment. Everyone’s been so wonderful in letting me know what needs work, but it’s also nice to hear I’ve done something right – I’ve totally hit that deeply discouraged phase with this project. 🙂

      Like

  7. orvilleburch says:

    Fantasy is not what I read, but I do read a lot of historical books that take place in medieval times. It seems that your characters are kind of typical of what people think of Kings and peasants. I was drawn to wonder why the prince was at conflict with his father. Maybe just that times were changing and the young prince was ready to do his own thing. I am sure that will be a huge part of the story. As for the peasant, and any prospect of coming up with money from some other source–that seems unlikely. If the peasant had other sources he might not be a peasant. If you are seeking to show that the Prince has compassion while the King does not, maybe a crafty way of doing so would be a bigger impact.

    One last thing–I like the descriptive nature of your first line, but it wouldn’t grab me to read on, not unless the MC is the peasant.

    I think you have some interesting angles and look forward to reading how they play out. Good luck

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      You know he wouldn’t have access to other sources of money, and I know that, but Vegin doesn’t – I’m trying (and apparently failing) to illustrate that he’s a little bit naive. Any ideas on how I can show that better?

      Like

  8. rachelhell says:

    I found the conflict between the prince and his father interesting right off the bat, and the prince’s clear sympathy for the peasant. Do we have to know he’s deciding a tax case? Maybe it would be enough for us to glimpse his sympathy in the opening scene, and then his discomfort with this father’s expectations. Perhaps to avoid it looking like the king is spying on him, you could have the king burst in (making it seem like the way he always enters a room), give the peasant a kick, then insult his son in front of the court.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      I like that idea. I like it a lot, actually. Thank you! 🙂

      As for the tax bit, I haven’t entirely decided yet. This particular peasant being punished is important, but perhaps the reason for him being punished isn’t. I’ve got a lot to think about with this first page. 🙂

      Like

  9. Laura says:

    I agree with the comments about the second paragraph. Even if you’re not cutting or shortening it, it’s confusing to have “he” refer to the peasant for most of the paragraph, then use it to mean the Prince. I had to read it twice. And I agree with removing the reputation of “room” and “before him”.

    The conflict between the compassionate Prince and his more traditional father is interesting. It just needs some tweaking.

    Like

  10. Blair B. Burke (@BlairBBurke) says:

    I think you’ve gotten a lot of great feedback already, so I won’t try to repeat it. I DO read a lot of fantasy, so I’ll add that a prince in a throne room is almost too easy a start. the scene/setting just doesn’t have anything special about it to make it stand out. I think what you’re trying to accomplish is setting up the conflict between the prince and the king, but try to find something a little bit more dynamic.

    I think you also need to make sure that we grab onto Vegen as our narrator and want to cheer for him. That means to really focus on his thoughts, get us inside his head. You start with the crying peasant, and even if he is somehow important, it isn’t Vegen. When we get Vegen’s thoughts they’re kinda immature and wishy-washy. Then his dad comes in and the descriptions lose Vegen’s voice – the ‘pathetic heap’, voice boomed, commanding attention the room are all the way the king would describe it. Stick with Vegen – does he see the poor peasant intimidated?, the king stealing attention like always, using his high-and-mighty voice? Everything you write should tell us where Vegen is mentally and emotionally. That will make for a compelling character that we want to follow. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. csschwarz says:

    Hi Kay,

    I just passed by to read yours and like what I see so far. It looks like you’ve got lots of comments and suggestions. I did want to say that the name Vegin really threw me. Is it pronounced Vegan? or Veggin? Veejin?? or ?? I have a hard time reading books where I know I’m not pronouncing the name right. Otherwise, I could easily picture the setting and felt empathy for the Prince.

    Good luck!
    Shari

    Like

    • Kay Kauffman says:

      Actually, someone else asked about that already – it rhymes with bacon. I sympathize with your trouble with names, because I have a hard time with most of the characters in Lord of the Rings, but I’m glad you liked it otherwise. 🙂

      Like

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