This is a story that was recently rejected. It's the sorcerer's apprentice plot with some variations. Like, there is no sorcerer. And the apprentice gives up magic and becomes a cook. It's told first person POV, by a life long friend of the protagonist who doesn't believe in magic.
I would value any input. I would dearly love to have the whole thing savaged, and I would gladly swap crits. The length is about 3100 words. Here's the first 13 lines. Any and all comments are welcome.
-----------------version 1 -----------------
"Magic is just technology without the design specs."
Jim tossed that little gem over his shoulder on our way down the basement stairs. I stopped to blink for a second and think about it. "You haven't gotten any saner since high school, man. Ever think about talking to a shrink?"
He laughed at me and pointed to a chair. There was a cooler full of beer on ice, so I decided to humor him. I got settled and cracked the first one, while Jim started unloading a scuffed looking cabinet. He piled candles, lumps of different colored dirt, and wads of various junk on top of a rickety table that was propped against the back wall.
"Let me ask you something, Pete." Jim glanced over at me while he tried to make a candle stand up. "Do you know how a television works? Or a why plane flies?
-----------version 2 ----------- (After the comments here, and from email, I revised it a bit. here is the new one, if anyone is still willing to let me know what they think.)
"I don’t need to know why, or how, magic works. I just know that it does.”
Jim tossed that little gem over his shoulder on our way down the basement stairs. I stopped for a second. "You haven't gotten any saner since high school, man. Ever think about talking to a shrink?"
He laughed at me and pointed. “I told you I can prove it. Grab a chair.” There was a cooler full of ice beside the chair, and the ice was full of beer, so I humored him. While I got settled and cracked the first one, Jim started unloading junk from a scuffed looking cabinet, piling it onto a rickety table that was propped against the back wall.
"Let me ask you something, Pete." Jim tried to make a candle stand up.
Your first line feels a little problematic to me (it invites a little too much... er, backchat), but generally I quite like the opening. As long as the 'do you know how a television works' speech doesn't devolve into a condescending rant about the nature of things (I assume it's going to lead on to some magic?), this opening should work. There are bits and pieces in the prose I'd question, but the voice is strong enough that I'm not really bothered, and I'm casually intrigued about what they're going to do in the basement.
I dropped by over here after reading your "classic" 13 posting. I mention that because you seem to want to figure out what about your work is making the slushers or editors kick it back.
The following is my opinion on the subject, specifically relating to this 13:
While I did find a few technical things that bugged me, (such as deciding to do something - just do it!) the larger issue seems to be this: Why?
Why are these characters going into a basement. What is their motivation? (Or the motivation of one of them.)
Why did the Goonies go into the attic? The story didn't start there, and we know why they were going up there, but what if it had started with:
"Pirate's treasure is made of gold." "Ok, let's all go up to the attic." Mikey sat next to a framed picture...
You start with a random in-world fact, or opinion of one character, then arrive in a destination that means something to them - but not to us. (yet)
We like to know why a character wants to do something, so we can root for them. Then, traditionally, we like to have obstacles thrown in the character's path so we can root for them, and witness them overcome those obstacles. That won't all fit in 13, of course, but stories can be challenging to read/understand when those elements are absent.
There’s enough here that I would keep reading. The premise sets up for some amount of tension, and I’m interested to know more about the characters and learn more about their history and how that will play out in the story. Here are my reactions as I was reading the story: The first line comes out of nowhere. Though you pick it up in the next paragraph it felt very abrupt and awkward to me and did nothing for creating the spell of the story. “I stopped to blink for a second and think about it” feels like a wasted line to me. We all blink regularly – I don’t gain any information about Jim or any story setting by being told he’s bllinking. Nor do I really gain much info being told he thinks. We all think. They’re not bad lines, just in the beginning I think you could use that space to make the story more compelling. The line of dialog is solid and does a great job of both evoking character and giving us a hint of the history between them.
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