if it’s too difficult for grown-ups, write for children


weddingmoccasinsWelcome back to a new round of About My Query posts. To briefly go over how this works — I look at a query submitted specifically for this purpose (i.e., not one pulled at random from my slush pile) and offer my thoughts on what works and doesn’t work, what interests me, what compels, what I don’t really care about, and maybe, hopefully, what I want to know more about. Once I’m done, I ask that you add your comments as well, so we can get a full workshop going on this critique. Ready? Oh, and one final quick note before we get back into this. I used to number all of my AMQ posts, using roman numerals, and truthfully, it got a little confusing. Moving forward, we’ll just use the titles, ok? So here’s R.E.’s:

Dear Ms. Unfeasible,

Kindra Odion has trained the past eight summers to avenge her father’s death and become her tribe’s first woman warrior. Many expect her to fail, but she endures the whipping ceremony to prove her strength and make a blood-bond with the tribe. It is her proudest moment, until she fails to receive her warrior name.

Determined to earn her name in battle, Kindra is eager to fight when an enemy tribe arrives claiming her priestess sister has been given to their chief as part of a peace treaty. The tribe would never sell a priestess to the Obsidians, but to everyone’s surprise her chief allows it. Kindra sets aside all thoughts of avenging her father and receiving her name to save her sister instead.

The chief’s decision divides the tribe. Half of the warriors assume he’s too cowardly to oppose the much larger Obsidian Nation. The other half believes he’s trying to eliminate Kindra’s family — the only ones who could overthrow his power. As evidence of the chief’s treachery is discovered it threatens to place her entire tribe in the hands of the Obsidians. As an Odion, Kindra’s the only one who can depose the chief and save her tribe, but it will mean giving up the quest to rescue her sister, and the hope of ever becoming a named warrior.

THE NAMELESS WARRIOR is an adult fantasy similar to The White Mare by Jules Watson or The Light Bearer by Donna Gillespie, complete at 124,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Thanks for sharing your query, R.E.! There’s a lot here that’s good, but I do have some concerns. First of all, “Kindra Odion,” written out like that, is a very modern-sounding name. Can you use “Kindra of the Odion” or something less awkward? I do love how strong she comes off in enduring the whipping ceremony, but that moment is diluted a bit in the next sentence. We’re told it is her proudest moment, “until she fails to receive her warrior name.” The way I read that, failing to receive her name somehow makes her more proud that enduring the whipping ceremony, which I’m pretty sure is not your intention.

After all, in the next paragraph, you tell us she’s determined to earn her name by fighting. The indefinite articles get a little confusing here — I’d maybe start the second sentence with “Kindra’s tribe” instead of just “The tribe,” since the previous tribe mentioned is the enemy. In fact, maybe you can clarify even further, and say “the enemy Obsidian tribe” when they’re first mentioned. In any case, with the next sentence, we’re told Kindra is throwing aside both her quest of the last eight years, and her recently plan to earn her name in battle to save her sister — a totally valid decision, and I love what it says about Kindra and her family, but it makes her seem wishy-washy. Like, she’s going to do this, but then she decides this, no, she’ll do this instead. Maybe there’s a way to clarify, or edit to tie all her quests into one.

It certainly seems like her treacherous chief might have had something to do with her father’s death, given his actions to get rid of her sister. Why is Kindra the only one who can depose him? What does her Odion name have to do with it?

Intriguingly, there’s so much here about names, and having them, or not, that I want to know more about Kindra’s name. What does it mean to her? Would she replace it if she ever gets her warrior name? How does that make her feel?

There’s definitely something here worth diving into. I’d likely read on to test the style of the writing, but I think you could earn more by clarifying some of the above pointd. Readers, what do you think? Does this work for you? What changes would you suggest?

Photo above posted by Flickr user morgan.cauch, used under a Creative Commons license.

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