Monday, April 4, 2011

first impressions #2

A-Z will continue tomorrow with C, but today it's first impressions and our second submission this month comes from Samantha at Secret Doorways. Her story - as yet unnamed - is a dark retelling of the story of Rapunzel.

Part 1

There hadn’t been many things that should have been possible.

Like it should not have been possible for the barbarians to the north to attack the Fortress of Chamar and get away with it – it was, after all, considered central to the near impenetrable defense of Selandra, a country of rocky mountains and blistering winters. It should also not have been possible for the witches of St. Midlet to kill the mighty court sorcerer who cast spells for the royal family but it happened anyway.

It should so not have been possible for Lady Gothelandra, the darkest witch the kingdom had ever seen, to escape the ice-and-fire prison, forged by seven of the greatest magicians to have walked the earth in several generations. Widespread panic swept through the whole kingdom as she razed farmlands to the ground and destroyed hundreds of lives.

Several days after the escape of the witch, in the freezing winter, the corpses of the families of the magicians were all found dead, their faces frozen into petrified expressions of terror as they swung eerily by their necks amongst the branches of the yew trees that surrounded the estates.

The witch was never found, vanished into myth and shadow.

After reading through this twice, I think I would like the story to start with the next paragraph because it throws us into the tale immediately, introducing us to someone mean and someone helpless, which creates sympathy AND interest. Then I would suggest weaving the above stories into the tale more fully at a later time. These stories of the past sound important and interesting and I’d like to hear them in their entirety. Maybe someone could tell her the stories. A servant perhaps?


The first thing I ever remembered was Gothel’s hands, (are her hands sharp or do you mean her fingers?) sharp like eagle talons though less beautiful, cutting into my skin as she carried me down the steps into the bright sunlight. It would have been a lovely thing to remember if she had not taken me to see the great Chernabog who sat proudly amongst the ruined statues of her garden. (I’d almost like a small description of the garden as contrast to Chernabog.)

The great beast, all black and purple scales and gold eyes that made you nauseous with fear, had stared down at me like I was a tiny twig that would be easily broken. I suppose that now that I think of it, I was easily just that; one stroke of his four feet claws and I would be nothing but decaying flesh and spilt blood.

“That, my dear Rapunzel, is what awaits you should you ever try and escape,” she hissed into my ear. “He will kill you should you attempt anything untoward and I will not stop him. Do you understand?”

I remember this well; it was one of this memories that, no matter how young you are, you never forget. Fear, probably, kept it fresh in my mind. (I’m cutting these bits because I think it reads more clearly as her memory without them.) I began to wail inconsolably, terrified that the dragon would forget his vow and tear me apart in a flash of talon and wing. Gothel had slapped me and ordered me to be quiet.

I, four years at the time, stuffed my fist into my mouth to muffle the tears I could not stop. (I’d cut this because I rather like the abrupt switch from the past and memory of the girl to the present and her rather matter of fact assessment of how she’s been raised. It creates an interesting juxtaposition between how she used to be and how she is now.)

Perhaps it was just as well that I was taught with such cruelty at such a young age – though I never viewed it as cruelty then. I figured that the rest of the world was like that, flowers snapping at you for trotting all over their petals, insects biting you with their pincers and birds squawking ugly sounds in your face. (I liked this bit, which shows us that this world is not like our own where birds sing songs and flowers are pretty. Although apparently insects are the same everywhere: annoying!)

The world was simply that way.”

As I said earlier, starting this tale with the immediacy of someone helpless in the clutches of someone evil creates instant interest so I’d start there. The rest of my suggestions are just editing preferences. I also like the idea of twisting the story of Rapunzel. I've read a few re-made fairy tales but not Rapunzel so I'd be curious...  

ps Don't forget to check out Dianne's critique of this same first page


  1. Excellent!! And YAY, a Rapunzel retelling!! That is my favorite fairy tale - oh so creepy! I really enjoyed this!

  2. Ooh I like the editing - yikes!! Good luck with this story - I'd have liked to read the unedited version and then the edited version but then that's just cos I'm very nosey! Take care

  3. I was a little confused, until I read your note at the bottom about the same page being at Dianne's blog. (I had just been to Dianne's). It's a small world. :)

    I have to say, that I give Samantha a lot of credit for allowing these crits on-line. Talk about braver than me! I have to say that I enjoyed both the before and after. Samantha--your writing is strong, and even though Marcy crossed out a lot of stuff, I think it is solid writing. I didn't mind the prologue, even though I'm not a prologue kind of gal. Sometimes, especially with fairy tales, you need the prologue to give you that old world, fairy tale flavor. Some of the things that Marcy objected to I would leave in, just to let the voice of the character breathe. That being said, Marcy, you can crit me anytime. I like the ruthless, say it like it is kinda crit. :) Nice job, ladies!

  4. thank you Heather! I'm glad you disagreed with me. It shows why it's really important to get more than one opinion, have more than one reader. I've actually had three people crit my current work in progress and each one has been helpful in a different way. My way isn't necessarily the right way for Samantha. And I hope I wasn't too ruthless!

    now when do Dianne and I get a shot at your first page, eh?


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