My second short story from my The Reaper body of work. This one has an entire first draft finished and is about 5,800 words. It's set mostly concurrent with the main story, though it doesn't tie into the first book.
Sitting at his desk, Aeton Aeotria killed dragons with a pen knife and ignored his firstborn daughter. Aeton held the small, writing lizard still as he pierced the chest of a particularly tiny red, plucking out the heart with a practiced flick of his wrist. Aerill Aeotria had seen this show before, but the gruesome display never failed to unsettle her, even now. It wasn't the blood â€“ she had seen plenty of blood on her hunt â€“ it was the chill of cruelty that informed every motion. The dragon let out a squeak of agony and fire as it died, causing Aerill's stomach to lurch. Her father paid no mind, promptly crushing the newly dead thing with a cold, iron paperweight. The brittle crunching of bones was easier for Aerill to ignore. Fourteen years of being an Aeotria had taught her not to flinch
[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited October 10, 2011).]
Really, really good. Only thing I can think of is you might try reordering the first sentence to: "Sitting at his desk, Aeton Aeotria ignored his firstborn daughter while he killed dragons with a pen knife." Just links the two things together a little better, I think.
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You know, that's pretty apt. That's my second take at those first 13 lines and I really wanted to lead with penknife cause it's the strongest line in the original opener. However, I worry about having Aeton named in the first line because it's Aerill that is the pov.
The original 13 lines for comparison.
Aerill Aeotria felt trails of cold sweat trickle past the small of her back as she entered the stifling, red-lit study. The room smelled of her father's magic â€“ a sharp mixture of copper, tallow, and smoke that had made her eyes water when she was younger. Coming back after months on the trail was a strange thing. She had remembered the smells stronger, the sourceless light a deeper crimson, the bookshelves taller. Nonetheless, her father's presence made the room feel just as small and unnerving. Sitting at his desk, Aeton Aeotria killed dragons with a pen knife. Not looking up, Aeton pierced the chest of a particularly tiny red, plucking out the heart with a practiced flick of his wrist. It let out a squeak of agony and fire which caused Aerill's stomach to lurch.
Of the two, I definitely prefer the first opening. The whole "he sat at his desk and killed dragons with a penknife" line is just SO intriguing and lyrical. In fact, I thought he was "kiiling" them in a much more abstract way before I got further along. Which was kinda off-putting, yet fun.
The set-up for your world definitely has my interest, as does your writing style. I do find their names a bit much though, personally. Largely because I keep reading their last name as "aorta" . . . lol. Even forgetting that, though, most fantasy names I can decide on a pronunciation for and get on with life. For these "Ae" names I seem to need to pronounce them consciously in my mind every time I read them, which slows things down. But that's totally just me--names are far too subjective an element to worry about changing on one person's say-so.
Yeah, Aeotria is sort of meant to read like Aorta. There's a lot of blood stuff going on with that family.
The name gets dropped after the first segment due to plot reasons, however.
Currently, I've tweaked the opening a bit. It now reads like this:
Sitting at his desk, Aeton Aeotria killed dragons with a pen knife and ignored his firstborn daughter. There was an unshakable firmness in his hand as he held the small, writing lizard and pierced its chest, plucking out the heart with a practiced flick of the wrist. The blood that squirted was an even deeper scarlet than the scales that adorned the animal's form, still shining in its last instants of life. The dragon let out a squeak of agony and fire as it died, its colors dulling. For a moment, the scent of blood and smoke overpowered the copper and tallow which usually permeated the air of Aeton's study. As it hit her nostrils, Aerill decided to breath through her mouth. Aerill Aeotria had seen this process before, but the gruesome display never failed to unsettle her, even now.
However, like with Nails, it's been pointed out to me that I'm trying to do WAY to much for short stories to hold. So I'm going to try to write them as long form novels. Which is cool because I should probably have some of those under my belt before I try to write a series.
Alrighty, then, the names work perfectly. I like this new opening, and how it settles slowly into the story with each detail. Your style is very fluid and pleasant to read. Some nits: "held the small *writhing(?) lizard" And "As it hit her nostrils, Aerill decided to breath through her mouth." --"it" in that sentence seems to refer to Aerill, rather than the smell from the previous sentence. That whole misplaced modifier thing or whatever. Also--I might suggest adding a "Aerill watched her father as he sat at his desk . . ." type thing, so we're not bounced into Aerill's v.p. after supposing we're in Aeton's.
Apart from those fairly minor things, I think this intro is superb. I'd certainly turn the page.