Wednesday, April 20, 2011

First Page Shooter #1

Word Count: 70,000 words
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Original Pages

Cherubim longed for a name; a label to give it shape and definition
like the seraphim it admired from a distance. Without a name it had no
solid form, and therefore no senses. Images and voices bounced in its
thoughts, painting a picture of their own.

It didn’t know if the other cherubim felt the same way. No one ever
talked about it, so it also kept silent. But Cherubim loved to linger
in the ethereal corridors of the creator’s heaven absorbing the
day-to-day of the angels with bodies, personalities, and genders. It
wondered what color eyes it would have. Would they be violet like
Gabriel’s or maybe sapphire blue like Michael’s? And what kind of
things would it be able to see with those eyes? Or feel with real
fingers?

“Little one.” The voice echoed in its head.

Cherubim sought out the owner, recognizing him as one of the creator’s
most powerful. Lucifer. It knew this one better than almost any. His
name struck awe and fear in any cherubim. He never interacted with
them; never gave them a reason to change their perspective.

It focused on the archangel, indicating its attention.

“I’ve seen you watching the seraphim.” His intent was difficult to read.

Was it in trouble? Cherubim tried to keep the fear at bay and failed.

“It’s all right. It’s why I’m talking to you. Would you like to be one of them?”

Really? It could have that? It would do anything for that.

Page with Suzie's Critique 

Cherubim longed for a name; a label to give it shape and definitionlike the seraphim it admired from a distance. Without a name it had no solid form, and therefore no senses. Images and voices bounced in its thoughts, painting a picture of their own.

Hmm...I'm a little confused and wary of this opening. What is "Cherubim"? I'm told it has no name, but it seems in this paragraph like Cheribum is its name. "Cherub" makes me think angel--as does "seraphim"--but I'm not sure why "no name" means no solid form. It's referred to as "it" and has no senses. But it has thoughts? Does it have personality? If I liked the description in the query, I would keep reading to see where this goes.

It didn’t know if the other cherubim felt the same way. No one ever talked about it, so it also kept silent. But Cherubim loved to linger in the ethereal corridors of the creator’s heaven absorbing the
day-to-day of the angels with bodies, personalities, and genders. I it
wondered what color eyes it would have. Would they be violet like
Gabriel’s or maybe sapphire blue like Michael’s? And what kind of
things would it be able to see with those eyes? Or feel with real
fingers?

The second line actually implies the first line. And the "but" doesn't work as a sentence starter because keeping silent and loving to linger don't really have much to do with each other. I'm also wary of overwritten descriptions--"the ethereal corridors of the creator's heaven" doesn't tell me anything I haven't imagined already so it doesn't do anything for me. Also how does Cherubim "absorb" anything? I do really like the speculation about the eye color.  That's a detail I can grab onto. Because I can understand why something with no physical form would wonder about that. The eye color is the first detail that makes me interest in Cherubim as a being.


“Little one.” The voice echoed in its head.

"Little one" seems generic and makes me think Cherubim is five or younger. Could a voice just echo in its head?

Cherubim sought out the owner, recognizing him as one of the creator’s
most powerful. Lucifer. It knew this one better than almost any. His
name struck awe and fear in any cherubim. He never interacted with
them; never gave them a reason to change their perspective.

I'm not sure this paragraph works. Lucifer striking awe and fear into anything isn't original. And if he never interacted with any Cherubim, why is he doing so now?

It focused on the archangel, indicating its attention.

“I’ve seen you watching the seraphim.” His intent was difficult to read.

How? If Cherubim doesn't have eyes or form, how does it "watch"? And does Cherubim understand "intent"?

Was it in trouble? Cherubim tried to keep the fear at bay and failed.

“It’s all right. It’s why I’m talking to you. Would you like to be one of them?”

Really? It could have that? It would do anything for that.

My biggest problem here, is that it's hard for me to connect with something that's an "it." I have trouble seeing Cherubim as anything--at least anything based on the words here. As a result I'm picturing this:




Which I'm pretty sure isn't what the author intended. I'm also not sure if Cherubim is an amorphous blob of nothing and I'm so focused on that, that I'm finding it hard to focus on what the page actually does say.


Also, there are a lot of angel stories right now that find their way into my query folder or my inbox. From this first page, this one doesn't seem to stand out or say anything different yet.


This makes me wonder if the story is starting in the right place. Could it just start after this, when Cherubim has a name and a form and a gender (I'm not sure why that's my particular hang up)? This could always be backstory.


As it is, I wouldn't keep reading.

38 comments:

Bohemienne said...

I do like the idea of Lucifer reaching out and conning an otherwise innocent but ambitious angel, but the angel stepping out of the void is just too vague for me. If this is contemporary fantasy, is there perhaps a better way to ground this--maybe the cherub is watching other angels carry out good deeds on earth, I don't know, something very concrete and specific. Specifics always draw us in more than generalities.

Stephsco said...

I can relate to what type of story this is because there are similar elements to what I'm writing; not angels specifically but the mystical, other-worldly aspects of gods and beings etc.

I found I had similar issues when I described worlds and beings in this vague, mystical way. What helped me is to be specific about WHO was telling the story, to establish a point of view, so the reader has something to attach to. In my story, it's a girl from our world thrown into another. With this, it sounds like otherworldy beings. I would suggest the writer make more of a point of getting the reader on the side of one of the characters.

I would also suggest starting with more of a specific event or concept to start with, and work the mysterious namelessness and identity issues in after that. Readers need something they can relate to from the start.

I think there is potential here, but it might not be presented in the best way just yet. Thanks for sharing!

Josin L. McQuein said...

I wonder if the author isn't going for the Biblical version of a Cherubim (of which Lucifer was one). The "eyes" to see would have been all over its body, unlike real, human eyes.

If that's what you're going for, then you might want to give a bit of context for those who aren't familiar with the Bible's descriptions of them, because most people are going to think of a plump, nakie, cupid. That's a far cry from something with four faces (man, lion, ox and eagle) hooves and four wings.

I'm also going to assume that the author is setting the story at the beginning of Lucifer's temptation of the heavenly angels - if so, you're going to have to point that out, because you can't assume your readers know the story.

The tone of the intro is dreamy, almost sleepy, and IMO strange.

Danielle said...

I would be more liable to want to keep reading if it's started out very first with Satan talking to the Cherubim and tempting it. As the conversation unfolds it's desires and physical attributes can come to light that way. If the premise is when Satan first begins to lead away heavenly angels that would be something I'd be interested in at least checking out.

42a15c74-5fd2-11e0-8839-000bcdcb471e said...

I'm intrigued! I think the concept sounds extremely original and interesting. A little polish on flow (the transitions from one thought to the other didn't feel smooth to me) would help pull the reader in. Make the cherubim a little more personal to the audience and reconcile the "lack-of-form" with "form-type activities" and I think you've got a great start. Best of luck!

Karla Nellenbach said...

This feels very quiet to me, like, I don't know...the voice is muted or something. Does that make any sense? I'm not getting a feel for this MC/thing, but fantasy is something I read rarely, so this could be my own bias to the genre poking through.

That said, I agree with Josin about the biblical references. and the premise could be intriquing, but I don't think I'd read on after this first page. sorry :(

Donea Lee said...

I think the potential to see Lucifer work his powers of persuasion is interesting, but I'm with Suzie in the fact that it's hard for me to connect with some amorphous "It". And the mention of no senses, followed by it focusing attention seems contradictory.

But, sounds like you could have a unique spin on the angel stories that are out right now. Best of luck with it!

Alex said...

I like the Idea of Lucifer playing into this angel types ambitions and desires but it was fairly confusing to get to that point.

Livia said...

Great post, Suzie!
One request. For future posts like these, could you post the excerpt in its entirety without comments first (in the first half of the post is fine, you don't have to do two posts Nathan Bransford style) so we could read it through and formulate our own opinions before seeing yours? It's kind of hard to get a feel for the passage when it's broken up by commentary the first time we see it.

I also liked the detail about the eyes here, and I'm intrigued by the thought of something without form wanting form, although I agree that there's not quite enough here to anchor the reader and let them know what's going on. I wonder if this is a case of an author taking the advice "don't overwhelm the reader with world building details, work it naturally into the prose ," a step too far. It's a delicate balance between info dumping and losing the reader.

TirzahLaughs said...

It just felt sort of tepid and confused to me. The voice was distant. The description is purposefully minimal. What am I as a reader suppose to be seduced by?

From reading the comments, I'm assuming that the other commenter is right and you are doing the temptation by Lucifer of the other 'angels'. IF that is what ia Cherubim (or however you spell it) is.

I don't have the background knowledge to paint this world and to me it feels as though this work is depending on previous knowledge to capture the reader.

It needs something meaty and tasty whether that be voice or description or tension. This comes out tepid instead. I think it's easily fixable but it won't work for me as is. Especially if this is the first page an agent reads.

Tirz

Bryce Daniels said...

I think there is an interesting premise here.
But I agree with a lot of the previous posts. Seems a little confusing.
My first inclination is that this would open better as a first-person narrative. Maybe help pull your readers closer to your character, more clearly, and more quickly. (Help me out here. Is first-person overdone from an angel protagonist's perspective?)

Just MHO. And I might be way off base, because fantasy isn't my genre of choice.

Kate Larkindale said...

I think maybe starting with Lucifer offering a corporeal form to the being might be a way to keep this opening from being too ethereal. But it's certainly intriguing, and I'd be interested to see what the cherubim does once it has a form...

lac582 said...

Congrats, author, for being first and thanks for sharing with us!

Angel stories generally don't really interest me, and I don't have much of a Biblical background, so here's how I interpreted the page, for what it's worth.

I didn't have a problem with the descriptions of the amorphous being's sentience/perception, even if they were imprecise (though I agree with Suzie that using 'the cheribum' rather than Cheribum would help). I understood that it was a spirit, and that the terminology was contextual rather than literal. I would actually assume that it's following the mythology of a pre-born soul, in which case it should wonder about what its eye color would be when it becomes Human, not when it becomes an Angel?

As I guess with all Fantasy, readers need to be grounded in the rules/logic of your world very early on. It's not quite there on this page, but I'd definitely read further before chalking myself too confused.

I do agree with Suzie, as well, that this feels more like a prologue or backstory-as-scene than the actual beginning of your story.

christwriter said...

Personally I like the concept (the naming of things and the effects of names upon those things strikes a chord with me. Not sure why) and the tone. What I don't like is how we jump from the Cherub's problem to Lucifer's temptation allatonce. I feel a bit cheated as a reader, because it feels as if this awesome concept is being used as a jump-off point for conflict and not as a thing itself. Kind of like using a large piece of rococo trim as a diving board. I care about neither the Cherub or Lucifer, and other than gee-I-wanna-body I have no reason to.

Maybe if you reversed the order? Lucifer tempting the Cherub with a name, and then Cherub revealing just how much he wants it?

My other problem is, I really can't relate to a thing that really isn't, you know, a thing. If I had something more to ground myself with, I would probably eat this up like popcorn, but I have nothing to ground myself on here. Temptation, I can do sideways and backwards, but thing-that-isn't-really-a-thing? Not so much. Reversing the order of items presented (temptation, then thing-that-isn't, rather than thing, then temptation) might give me a toe-hold.

And am I the only one seeing Proginoskes as the Cherub? Because I am totally seeing Progo as Cherub. *sniff*Progo.*sniff*

Noree Cosper said...

I agree with the comment of the posters above. I just wanted to add a few things.

First, instead of just telling us what emotion the cherub felt, it may be better to show us. With something that has no form there is a lot of room to play with showing us the differences.

Also, a few points bothered me. If the cherubim has no senses, how does it perceive the world around it? How can a voice echo in its mind with now form to have a mind?

Zan Marie said...

I know the writer wanted Cherubim's voice to be timid and innocent, but that works against hooking readers. I like the suggestion in one of the comments to move Lucifer's dialog to the front. That would work better as a hook. Cherubim's reaction would create the difference in their levels and clue the reader into its nature.

earth said...

The first several sentences give more of a back story and seem stiff. It doesn't hook me at this time. I liked how you showed what the Cherubim desires, but I'd suggest starting with Lucifer trying to tempt the cherubim and then let us know why Lucifer's offer is hard to resist, for that's what the cherubim wants, to have some sort of identity.
I like the way you use words, but in the first paragraph over-description can cause you to lose the reader.
Best of luck!

Anne R. Allen said...

This is going to be an interesting series.

I agree with Suzie. But I think "Cherubim" is a "them" rather than an "it," since cherub is the singular form and cherubim is the plural. (Also, one seraph; two seraphim.) So I'm imagining sort of a cloud of souls. Hard to identify with, I agree.

Probably better to start in a later part of the story.

Tracey Neithercott said...

Thank you for doing this, Suzie.

Like everyone's already mentioned, I had a hard time connecting with the main character. I can't picture him/her in my head. I think it's partially because this is an it and not a he or she. But it's also that I feel very distant to him. We're told a lot about it, but I never feel like we're experiencing things with it. For instance, "Cherubim sought out the owner, recognizing him as one of the creator’s
most powerful" makes me wish we were there with Cherubim. Was he surprised? Petrified? I know it's hard to show us considering Cherubim is not really a being and can't do much to express emotions, but it would be helpful to feel what it's feeling in order to establish that connection.

I also agree with the commenter who suggested starting with Lucifer's call. Or, if Cherubim gets an identity soon, maybe start the story after that. The premise does sound interesting.

Angie said...

Thanks to the author for sharing!!

I agree that it would be nice to be able to read the whole passage through without comments.

Josin's interpretation seems to make sense, and I agree that with a little more grounding it would be clearer to the reader. I guess I'm not one to get hung up on whether the cherubim should be able to hear anything just because it doesn't have physical ears or senses - isn't it assumed that God and angels hear us even in their spiritual forms?

The thing with Lucifer striking fear does seem rather unoriginal. If the time this takes place is before he was turned away from heaven, then maybe it would be appropriate to not think of him as being fearsome in the sense that we normally think of the devil as being. Describing him as just powerful, striking awe, maybe even disagreeable with the other angels would be less of a cliche.

I do like the concept. Keep working on it!

Marina J. Lostetter said...

I think the offer of a body would make a great opening line. It would create intrigue for the reader and immediate internal conflict for te MC. I completely agree that the temptation should come first, and the explanation of why it's tempting second.

Sarah said...

Congrats, first author! Many kudos for your bravery.

I really do like the idea of this character lacking something that Lucifer can provide, but had a hard time connecting with cherubim.

We connect to specificity, and it seems like nature of the protagonist can’t provide that. (The one specific thing, thinking about eye-color, was great!) It would also help if cherubim “said” something.

Secondly, it seems like the rules here are no body, no personality, but that doesn’t make sense to me. I often associate individuality with thought, not just a body. This character exists enough to observe (however it does so) and especially desire, so why is the character still just an it? And why does it see itself that way? I would think that all that longing would make cherubim’s personality more potent, even without a body.

Hope this helps! All the best as you continue to work on this!

Beth said...

As someone noted (and I'm surprised only one person noticed this!), cherubim is the plural form of cherub, so unless the cherubim is a collection of entities all bound up (somehow) into one oollective being, "it" is an inaccurate pronoun.

Beyond that, this came across (to me) as a little vague in places, with too much telling. The voice seems young to me. Moving the dialogue up to the beginning would be an improvement.

Oh, and I agree with whoever suggested that the entries be posted in their entirety first, with a commented-on version just beneath. It would be nice to read the opening straight through first.

Thanks to Suzie and Joanna for volunteering to do this!

Penelope Wright said...

Just a comment on the formatting. I like it as is. I don't actually want to see the excerpt posted in it's entirety so that I can form my own opinions first. I want to know what the agent's opinions are, and I want to get straight to it! Posting the excerpt in its entirety first just gives me something for my eyes to have to skip to get to what I'm interested in...the agent's thoughts & feedback. Just my two cents. :)

AA said...
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Ellen Brickley said...

I was a little confused because I think of Cherubim as a plural too, so I was re-reading a bit at the start to make sure I was following.

I loved the idea of a being feeling less real without a name, and the fact that our Cherubim doesn't have a body or a form either is interesting, but I think that when writing about a being with so little to connect with, a little more explanation upfront would have enhanced this opening for me.

I'd love to see a later draft of this, could be very interesting!

mfantaliswrites said...

First of all, have courage, author, as you read everything we say.

Second, the word "cherubim" is a plural. I understand why one would not want to refer to a single being as a "cherub" because that would generate the image Suzie posted, but "a cherubim" is technically not possible, a fact used to brilliant effect by Madeleine L'Engle in "A Wind in the Door." I hope this author has read or will read what other authors have done with this particular story to see how they have handled the unearthly qualities of their angels.

Janet Reid said...

I love the audacious sense of entitlement in the commenter who posts that she'd like to see Suzie organize the post in way more to her liking. Cause yanno, it's all about her.

Beth said...

@Penelope Wright -- I totally respect that your preference on how to read the submissions is just as valid as mine. There's certainly no right or wrong about this.

I would like to point out, though, that if Suzie decides to post the straight version first, followed by the one with comments, you can choose to skip the first part, which will probably take all of a second, and that's really not such a great inconvenience, is it?

Whereas if the current format is maintained, those of us who'd like to see the unedited openings first are completely out of luck.

Putting both versions in gives everyone a choice.

Just sayin.' :)

And of course, it's Suzie's decision, ultimately.

chitrader said...

What stood out most to me was the preponderance of the word 'it'. I have a hard time bonding to any 'character' that is not a he or she. And since we don't know immediately what a Cherubim 'is' in this context, we have even less incentive to bond with this character.

Also, 'it' is too vague and undefined a word, which unintentionally confuses the issue of who or what the writer is referring to when he/she uses the word 'it' several times in a paragraph.

Penelope Wright said...

For many reasons I'm uneasy asking the agents to make sure they keep a "clean copy" of the work before they dive in to do their critique. I have to do that sometimes in my work, and it's actually kind of a big pain. Diving into the critique is faster for them, which equals good things for everyone. I also just happen to like the way they're already doing it, so bonus for me.

And while I completely appreciate the feedback of other writers who comment on the first page shooter posts - and if mine is ever posted I'll value that feedback greatly - the input I'm most concerned with is that of the agents. There are definitely sites where the first page posts are more about the critiquing from the writing and blogging community (i.e. Miss Snark's First Victim's Secret Agent contests) and that's GREAT, but I think this project is different.

Thanks again to Suzie and Joanna for doing this. I've already benefitted after this first post. Hopefully they'll continue to do it, in whatever way they find most efficient! Personally, I like the current way!

Noree Cosper said...

I agree with Penelope on this. There are a lot of great sites for those who want to critique others' work. I didn't come here to do that, though I am happy to add my opinions. I came to this site for the valuable input from Suzie and Joanna.

From this first page, I've seen a lot of great advice. I look forward to the next page!

KO: The Insect Collector said...

Author-- thanks for putting yourself out there.

I hope this is helpful. :0) I read a quote that said the first time an author writes, they are telling the story to themselves. In rewrites, they tell the story to the reader.
I am not implying that this is a first draft-- I'm saying this feels like a lot of explaining without giving me a sense of who is in the story or why I'd want to find out more.

Is there a spot at the beginning of the story that can connect us with a character? -- put us in their shoes?

Try starting there, and perhaps you can weave these other elements in.

You do a good job of creating a dreamy feel, but I'm not invested in what's happening yet.

Again-- thanks, author (and hostesses). This is really helpful to my own writing.

Robert Michael said...

Perhaps if told from Lucifer's POV, it would change the tone. As an opening scene, I understand the author is striving for a reveal, a gradual explanation of this world.

From Lucifer, we could "see" the cherubim, see its struggles, perhaps sense its confusion and search for identity. But since it has no identity and has no sensations (sight, hearing, etc.) it is dead as a narrator. And maybe that was the point: sort of a take on The Sound and the Fury. Maybe it's name is Benjy.:)

Angie said...

Of course it's entirely up to Suzie and Joanna how they want to organize the post, and I hope they don't think that anyone is telling them how it should be done. I just know that for me, part of critiquing is also learning. I want to know if I'm picking up on the same sorts of things that an agent would, and if I can recognize them on my own. It's similar to having a test in front of you and then having the answers immediately below. Do you learn as much by reading the answer right away or do you learn more by trying to find it yourself and then seeing if others had the same answer/opinion? Not that this is as black and white as having a right or wrong answer, but I just find that I learn more that way.

Again, it's totally up to the agents how they want to do it, and I thank both of them for taking the time to do these critiques.

Tracy said...

I'm in agreement that lucifers offer would be a good place to start. As far as the it versus he/she issue is concerned, you could try working around it with the form feeling that he would be a male/female. Overall I'm intregued by the concept, I can imagine lucifer praying on the weaker forms just to gather his forces for the upcoming war for heven.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I'm intrigued by the idea of an amorphous being in heaven displaying such envy.

I'm having the same problem as most everyone else - picturing the main character.

I wonder if you could start with how this one is different from the others. Are they all together in some form of commune? Do they exist in separate blobs? Does this one realize it's different from the others?

Could it long for an individual name and not be one of the collective Cherubim? That way you don't call that one in particular Cherubim. It's just 'it'.

I almost want this to be from Lucifer's POV because he's solid and easy to picture. If you can give us a picture to hold onto, that might help a lot.

Thanks for submitting and being first!

Lanette said...

I really like the voice and dreamy quality; although, I see the same issues Suzie pointed out with the confusion over whethere you're talking about a blob of nothing or an angel.

The one thing I want to point out is that in Hebrew "im" is male plural. Cherub is singular while cherubim is plural.

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Five Random Things About Suzie

1. I drink so much orange soda, it's probably running through my veins. I've been known to go through a twelve pack of diet sunkist in a day.

2. I'm legitimately nocturnal (or a vampire). I will be so exhausted at two pm that I'm falling asleep standing up - it has happened before, at Six Flags no less - but as soon as the sun goes down I'm wide awake.

3. I have a gorgeous unused $6000 Reem Acra wedding dress hanging in my closet, and it showed up on my doorstep the same day my (now ex) fiance broke up with me. And thank God for that. I wouldn't have wanted to waste that dress on him.

4. Social anxiety plagues me daily. I write a script and practice in front of the mirror when I have to make a phone call, but most people who interact with me have no idea how nervous I am (or perhaps they lie) because I've worked so hard to try to overcome it.

5. I'm actually worried that I will never love my children (when I do have them in the far off future) as much as I love my dogs. I just like animals better than people - they're sweet and innocent and soft and furry - is that so wrong?