HH Com 461 (460 is ice skating at Rockefeller Center)

On a moonless night, Pearl Tevi walked into the sea, then returned to her fishing village bearing a cup formed of pure water.

Next morning, the corpse of a drowned fisherman lurched out of the surf and mouthed a warning that Pearl must hand over the magical cup to the Kelpies, or the sea beings would attack her village. But the Witch Woman divined that Pearl was a Bearer, and must take the cup upriver to the Walkers in All Worlds, the high priestesses in the city of Artoclan. The cup, she said, was one of the six Signs needed to drive back the Deathless who threatened the peaceful world of Northwok. When the Witch Woman was killed in the Kelpies’ attack, Pearl fled her village and took a keelboat to Artoclan, only to find that the Walkers had already chosen six Bearers. Pearl wondered how that could be, when she knows she carries the true cup. But when the chosen Bearers are all brutally murdered by Deathless spies in broad daylight, Pearl decides she must find the true Bearers and take them to the Walkers. The Bearers must carry their treasures over the Spine of the World into the Dark Lands and drive the Deathless back before they sweep over Northwok, the last bastion of freedom in a dark world.

Add to the list of phrases I never want to see again: the last bastion of freedom in a dark world (unless you are describing the cigar bar at Nat Sherman's).

You've got a run down of the plot and way too much going on here. Focus. Prune down to the essentials then tell us why it matters in non-cliche terms.


Inkwolf said...

I really liked the beginning with the cup and kelpies (an underused magical threat.) Brilliant, original and symbolic.

When it started being about running from the kelpie attack to join a quest, it started sounding a little typical. Not TOO bad, though.

And you haven't said what the Deathless are...but if it's anything like an army of the dead/reanimated corpses/zombies, it is way, way, WAY too overused.

For all I know, you might have some brilliant, original, chilling foe, there...but if I'm thinking it's Attack of the Corpses all over again, I'm not likely to be very interested. Already read it too many times to be interested in the fact that they go on attacking until you hack them into bite-sized chunks and have the bodies of people you knew when they were alive, and ooze pus and spatter maggots when the sword chops into 'em, and all that.

So you might want to be more descriptive of the Deathless, if they're something unique.

If the ARE an army of the dead, please, please rewrite.

Janet Black said...

I was okay, understanding and following until: "But the Witch Woman divined that Pearl was a Bearer, and must take the cup upriver to the Walkers in All Worlds, the high priestesses in the city of Artoclan."
At that point I said, wha-a-a-a ? and gave up. Too confusing. Too many charaacters/places/ideas all at once. Sorry.

michaelgav said...

I can't understand any of this SF/F stuff anyway, but I wanted to thank Miss Snark for the Nat Sherman line.

HawkOwl said...

I'd look at it. It's a standard fantasy plot but there are unusual elements and the writing is competent.

Michele said...

For a recent book featuring a kelpie, check out Elizabeth Bear's Blood and Iron. IMO, the kelpie's the best part of that book.

writtenwyrdd said...

I liked the concept and basic plot elements you describe. It does come across as rather dry and textbook, though, the way it is presented here.

I am a writer and reader of fantasy and science fiction, and the story you have sounds like a good epic fantasy. Just bring to the blurb what makes yours exciting and different.

Anonymous said...

I read "bearing a cup" as "WEARing a cup" and wandered free in speculation on whether it was a Maidenform or Victoria's Secret product.

After that I couldn't quite finish the rest of the wordage. My bad.

Haven't seen a lot on Kelpies--just a few in this venue--but if the hook is bogged down in faux-Tolkein phrases, then I'm not optimistic the narrative style of the book will be any easier to read.

jamiehall said...

I liked the first two events that set up things - the cup made of water and the talking corpse.
Then it started to sound like a collect-the-coupons plot inspired by D&D. The rest of the hook sounds like a list of things, and this adds to the collect-the-coupons feel.

And... *jaw drops to the floor* hawkowl actually liked something that's fantasy? Wow. I was beginning to think that anything with a whiff of fantasy about it was automatically crud in hawkowl's eyes.

Virginia Miss said...

I loved the first two sentences, then got bogged down in the detail. If you do as Miss Snark suggests and pare down to the essential story, you might find representation. Those two sentences alone tell me you can write.
Good luck.

LindaBudz said...

I'm no SFF fan, but here are my thoughts, for what it's worth.

I liked your writing style, and your hook had a very ethereal tone. So, cool!

But ... and for me, at least, this applies to many of the SFF submissions I've read ... you've only got 250 words, so I think you need to concentrate on portraying an interesting character and the main conflict that character faces. And that's it.

Sure, you've got to have some element of SF or F in your hook, so we know it SF and/or F. But the thing that is going to interest a reader in such a short span is the connection the reader feels regarding the MC or the main conflict.

And, I think SFF writers need to concentrate on the part of the character that is most human ... even if the character isn't a human. Because the reader needs to feel a connection.

Having too many unfamiliar terms, such as Bearer, Deathless, etc., alienates me as a reader rather than drawing me in. Again, I am only talking about the hook here ... I am sure all of the terms and concepts are integral to the novel itself and add to the experience when reading the full piece.

So ... I think the story is probably terrific ... you just need to focus the hook on the part of the story the reader can really connect with.

Good luck!!

Writerious said...


Yeah, that's the sound of a hook going down in flames. Woe, woe, I saw it coming too, after seeing how the first half of the HHCOM was going. Sigh, sigh -- but at least I know what's wrong and what needs fixed.

And what I need to fix is not just the hook but the freakin' PLOT! Well, the ending, anyway. Great endings are such a pain. I can think up fabulous beginnings, but then I get stuck with, "Okay, where is this going?"

At least this is still an early draft and the ending is still in flux. Back to work.

Oh, and the Deathless aren't zombies. They're mortals who by magic have ceased to age, but the tradeoff is they lose human compassion, becoming like the Fey before the Victorians bowdlerized them. "Ageless" would be a more accurate name, but they don't care to be reminded that they can be killed. They like to think of themselves as entirely immortal. The Kelpies are just one group of them, though the characters don't know that yet.

Back to work.

HawkOwl said...

Jamiehall - I like fantasy. What I hate is the way every nerd with a pen thinks s/he can write the next Lord of the Rings (or actually, Harry Potter is more the It thing right now). Good fantasy is rare. Bad fantasy is endemic.

Katrina Stonoff said...

I love the opening line though. I've purchased books on less.

And your explanation of the Deathless and why they aren't called the Ageless is priceless (less, less, less is more, Katrina).