Fall First Page Blog Hop: YA historical fiction WIP

(This is the first 250-ish words of my work in progress, a YA historical fiction, posted here for comments and critiques in Michelle Hauck’s Fall First Page Blog Hop)

I, Joan Price, was born to treason. ‘Twas at my father’s funeral I realized it. If I did not choose between betraying my country and betraying my conscience, I would betray them both. Just as he had.

Our parish gave my father a Protestant funeralโ€”buried on holy ground but unshriven, without the benefit of a priest or last rites. Rain mingled with my tears as shovelfuls of mud thumped on the coffin. I pulled the hood of my wool cloak lower to hide the depths of my anger and grief. They were a window into my treasonous thoughts, and anyone might be a spy for Queen Elizabeth.

Some of the other mourners owned the implements to give my father a proper Catholic funeral, bring peace to his soul and mine, but they were too frightened to bring the bells and candles from their hiding places. Too frightened to sing or pray. I glared at them from the safety of my hood, but none even glanced at me. White-livered cowards, every one.

And I the greatest coward of all, for I said nothing. The thought of the gallows choked off my protests. Where was my loyalty?

Blessed Mary forgive me.

Songs for the deceased were forbidden, but I was Welsh. I would sooner give up breathing than singing. As they dumped the last muddy earth over my father’s final resting place, I quietly hummed the Requiem Mass and repeated the lyrics in my mind.

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26 Comments Add yours

  1. Wow…Really great language and mood. I didn’t really get into it though until the second paragraph when you started setting the scene. The very first paragraph feels too much like telling instead of showing. I really like to get immersed in a scene and have the relevant facts dropped into the narrative like breadcrumbs. I think you do that nicely as you move ahead, which makes it even more apparent that the very beginning is too much telling. Just my two cents.

    A small note: The sentence about songs for the deceased being forbidden is passive. Who or what forbids them? It’s an easy fix: Local laws (or whatever) forbid songs for the deceased.

    It’s quite lovely. All the best!
    Missy Shelton Belote
    http://www.missysheltonbelote.com

    Liked by 1 person

  2. TerminalVerbosity says:

    What a great setting for a YA novel. I love all things Elizabethan and think telling this story from a Welsh Catholic’s perspective will be both historically interesting and different from just about anything else I’ve read.

    Overall, I think you’ve done a good job choosing your opening scene. The protestant burial gives you both the emotional impact of the MC burying her father and the historical context of introducing the far-reaching conflict between the Catholics and Protestants.

    But this line tripped me up: ” โ€˜Twas at my fatherโ€™s funeral I realized it. ” It didn’t become clear to me that we were at the funeral until the line “Rain mingled with my tears,” so I found it a little jarring when I realized that this concept of treason wasn’t something she’d been considered for days, weeks, or months since her father died–it’s something that she’s just come to understand. Just give us a little something to evoke that immediacy and this will be perfect.

    MC spends quite a bit of time in the paragraph beginning “Some of the other mourners…” judging and glaring because they won’t help her give him a proper Catholic burial, but in the next paragraphs she admits that she knows the consequence for such actions would be death.

    Those are really the only two places where I would suggest a little polishing. Otherwise, you’ve done a great job with this opening scene and I’m already sitting here wishing I could read more! Best of luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I adore this! The voice is amazing, the history is strong without being overwhelming. My sixteen year old self would have gobbled this up. (But, then, she was a smidge obsessed with Mary Stewart.)

    I have an idea of where this is going, but not a clear sense of the plot, but that’s okay, the stakes are clear in being a Catholic who won’t stop. That said, if you could work in some of the Bloody Mary or a stronger implication that he was killed for his beliefs that may help those who aren’t as history aware.

    Regardless, it’s awesome and if you don’t tweak it, I won’t blame you one bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. eabwheeler says:

      Thanks for the feedback! Mary Stewart gets a mention on the next page (she’s just been implicated in the Babington Plot).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. nikolavukoja says:

        Bloody Mary is NOT Mary Stewart Bloody Mary was Mary Tudor, Henry VIII eldest Daughter to Catherine,

        Mary Stewart is Mary Queen of Scots, the daughter & only child of King Henry VIII’s Cousin.

        Mary Tudor was raised in the UK & Mary Stewart was mostly raised & educated in France and returned to Scotland.

        Mary Stewart & Mary Tudor were both Catholic.

        Like

      2. eabwheeler says:

        Sorry if my response was confusing. I didn’t mean to suggest Mary Stewart was “Bloody Mary.” The previous poster mentioned that she loved Mary Stewart as a teen, and that was what I was referring to. The Babington Plot and Mary Stewart’s resulting execution play out in the background of this story; Mary Tudor had been dead almost 30 years by this time–well before my MC’s lifetime or the scope of this book.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Kristin says:

    Nice start! You have me interested in the past and the future. I would definitely keep reading this to see what’s going to happen.

    The dirt thumping on the coffin and the white-livered cowards are great turns of phrase. I see a lot of awesome here.

    You mention that it’s raining but I would like to hear a bit more about the elements. The color of the sky, the wind nipping at your hood, etc. Since Joan is wearing a wool cloak I assume it’s a winter rain as opposed to a spring rain.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. aightball says:

    Holy drawing me in, Batman!

    I like your descriptions, as they really make the story pop. I was in the characters head right away and I liked that.

    A couple things: I want to see more of where this girl is. What else do I need to see? I know she’s at a funeral, etc., but I couldn’t really see her surroundings. I think it you can bring that out, you’ll really be in good shape.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Janelle says:

    So there’s definitely potential here, although I don’t really feel like I have a good sense of the character or story yet (but that’s hard in just 250 words). I think paragraphs 2 and 3 repeat some of the same info, so those could get merged/trimmed. The same for paragraphs 1 and 4. That might get the story moving a little faster.

    I like the details that help us see her father’s funeral, the mud thumping against the coffin, dumping the last earth, those give me a good feel for what the character is feeling/suffering through. The rest is a lot of summary and could maybe be showed a little better.

    Hope that helps!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. nikolavukoja says:

    I love the first line & the rest really drew me in. I’ll devour anything historical (as long as its written with respect to the historical setting/era – which this seems to be) and this has all the makings of something I would not stop reading.

    I can’t offer much in the way of critique because I’m totally sold however, end of this line:
    “…I would betray them both. Just as he had…”
    It’s not as strong as the rest. I get the feeling it would work better either without the last 3 words or with a few more words. I am intrigued but it felt less thought through than the rest.

    Also, I’m not a fan of rhetorical questions. Sometimes they work (for me) but often they weaken what was before them or what is to come. Feel free to ignore but I’d remove “Where was my loyalty?” because you’ve expressed this already so well and you finish on this same note so it seemed unnecessary to me.

    Regardless of the two things mentioned, I would SO read on!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. JEN Garrett says:

    Wow, you’ve got a strong start here.

    I’m sure some other reader will find some flaws, but you had me so hooked, I didn’t see any. I love reading a good historical fiction, but I’m not good at editing one. I’m just going to tell you what worked for me.

    I was placed immediately in a time a place somewhere in history. Though I am not familiar with the setting of your story, I didn’t feel lost in it. I felt like I was there with the MC, knowing what she knows (I’m assuming it’s a she), but watching her do it anyway.

    I love the voice. Seems appropriate for the time period (again, not an expert). I loved how the MC behaved properly, but wished she had the courage not to.

    If the rest of the WIP is as strong as this, my unofficial opinion is that you should start submitting for publication.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow. I was hit across the face with the voice in this. In a good way. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I love how distinct it is, how certain of the time, place, and class. As such, I don’t have much to say, sorry.

    “born to treason” – born ‘for’ treason, instead? I’m not sure about this one, but “born to” doesn’t quite fit with the rest of what Joan’s saying in the paragraph.

    Comma after ‘Blessed Mary’, I believe, since Joan is addressing her.

    Just to check – Joan and her late father are Catholics in a largely protestant village? You’ve got a great creation of scene and introspection here, but I want to make sure I’m getting the right side of the coin from what you’ve described.

    Honestly, I love it, and I want to read on ๐Ÿ™‚ *grabby hands*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. eabwheeler says:

      Thanks so much! Yes, they are devoted Catholics, surrounded by mostly Protestants or lukewater Catholics. I’m glad that came across, because some early readers weren’t sure. Yay! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

      1. I think it came across subtly (in a good way), though I may have a biased reading of the situation, being Catholic myself. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      2. nikolavukoja says:

        For what its worth I was clear on this too, although, like Alexandrina I’m Catholic also so, it may be more obvious to people indoctrinated in Catholicism, but even if that’s the case, is it really the end of the world if someone doesn’t connect that in the first 250-300 words? I very much doubt it. Besides being either surprised or having something confirmed is half the fun of turning pages ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Melissa Mires says:

    I love this! I do think the first paragraph is a little telling. I think maybe starting at: Rain mingled with my tears as shovelfuls of mud thumped on the coffin, shows us rather than tells us what the MC is experiencing. i can imagine standing graveside with that line, and i can feel the pain of your MC within the voice. I do love the first paragraph though, maybe you could work it in later somehow? I’d definately want to read on and find out what her father did.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. BILL BROOKSBY says:

    Wow Emmy, this is so interesting! Your work on the recursives (is that a word?) is obviously the foundation for a compelling story.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. csschwarz says:

    This sounds like a wonderful story! I agree with others that the first paragraph is a bit clunky. I liked someone else’s suggestion of starting at the rain mingling with her tears. Also, do you have to put her name first thing? It made me wonder if she was a prominent historical figure that needed to be named right off for some reason, but I googled her and at least from the initial findings….well, let’s just say you might want to google her name. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I like the description of the setting–that is what pulled me in most. You have a tone of importance to the piece. Very well done! Best of luck to you! And congrats on getting your debut out next year!!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Awesome! You are totally killing it with that opening sentence. I wouldn’t change a thing except the end of the last sentence. For me, the “repeated the lyrics in my mind” seemed out of voice with the rest of it. Maybe “voiced the words in silence” or such?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. eabwheeler says:

    Thanks so much to everyone for the supportive words and the suggestions! I’ll take them all into consideration as I do some final polishing and get ready to start querying. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Like

  15. mjtierney1 says:

    I like this beginning very much. The language evokes a sense of place very well, and I can begin to get a glimpse into the personality of the main character.

    One nit: The last two sentences of paragraph 2–the grammar is technically correct, but I had to read it through a couple of times to figure out what “They” referred to. Also, “anyone” is vague. “Any one of the towns people” perhaps?

    Otherwise, I think it’s great!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’m just a blown away as everyone else here. I don’t know if I could stay with it through 300 pages in this style, but you have definitely set the mood for the book in no uncertain terms and made me interested in the rest of the story. Good luck with your querying!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. sherryhoward says:

    I saw you on here and had to visit. This is great. I loved the way you used varied sentence length and phrasing to your advantage. I won’t repeat the other compliments, but I do think your most intriguing early sentence is: Rain mingled with my tears as shovelfuls of mud thumped on the coffin. It’s very picky, but the word lyrics didn’t have the ancient feel of your setting. I think that’s just because it’s so prevalently used in popular culture, not that it isn’t appropriately used here. Sounds like you’re ready to go with this one. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. eabwheeler says:

      Thanks! I’ve gotten several similar comments about what’s working and what’s not, so I’m going to do a bit of revising then start trying to find a home for my rebellious Welsh Catholic girl. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

  18. This is great, Emily. Strong voice. Awesome history. Clear stakes and a great hook. I do like your first line though I wonder if the story might be better served by starting in the next paragraph. There’s quite a bit of telling and every bit of the information you give in the first paragraph is echoed in the rest of the page. There was one spot of telling where she brings down her hood to hide her emotions that might be better served by letting the reader infer what she’s hiding. It’s pretty obvious just with the action. Other than that, a great start and good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Karen Mahara says:

    Beautiful! You have some great feedback above, so I won’t repeat it. You are a very gifted writer. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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