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Author Topic: Whispers of Esper (First Five Pages/Chapter 1)  (Read 776 times)
Arte_Evans
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« on: April 16, 2018, 02:30:38 PM »

Good day everyone, I've been working on the beginning of a new story, and wanted to share it with you all. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thank you~


It was difficult to tell what this world was supposed to be. The last king, Shoku, ushered in a wave of peace, bringing together both humans and demons. It was what he considered a utopia. Despite the minor setbacks of religiously charged killings and a group of humans who wanted to defeat the king, things in this world were calm. People lived graceful lives and enjoyed the relationships that coexisting brought.  To Ruthie, though, it sucked. The situation, not the demons.

    Day to day, she would see the same people, suffocate on the same filthy air, and abide by rules of a new king that had no interest in the people that worked themselves to death for his name. There was nothing to salvage of the old ways, though Ruthie had little to know memory of what this world was before the union. There wasn’t much of a name to give it, either.

It wasn’t Demon World anymore, but it also wasn’t a place humans had all to themselves. Coexisting wasn’t a fun endeavor when it began, but now they’ve learned how to deal with it. Shortly after the unification, a divide split apart the rich and the poor. It was obvious, really, but challenging such a system was always met with negative consequences.

    The current seat of power, held by the Puppet Master, pays favor to certain types of citizens. Whether part of the wealthy or the ragged, he had his favorites. There were rumors about the Puppet Master that were often spoken about among the ragged half of the denizens. Some things persisted more than others; such as who the Puppet Master preferred over others, and what they did upon being stripped from their homes. It was a fearful idea, being taken away all of a sudden and never see your friends and family again. Many have seen the face of the Puppet King, as he didn’t seem too shy or concerned with his safety. To many, both human and demon, perceived him as an ordinary guy with a calm smile. Prior to his rule, he was a major confidant of the last king, though where he was when he king was killed by a rebel group remains uncertain.

Ruthie couldn’t go a day without hearing a new list of poorly doctored information about the Puppet Master and it was starting to bug her in ways she would rather not comprehend. Living in the ragged half of society, Ruthie called the Western Slums, home; having little to no other choice. She wasn’t rich; which put her lower on the ladder, and it only got worse at the realization that she was nothing more than a human. Where she lived, the sun hardly reached touched the ground; the concept of warmth being rarer than fighting for your next meal in the dumpster.

Food didn’t necessarily come from dumpsters, but the taste was all too similar. Grainy textures and foul smells were frequent. Nourishment of the good variety wasn’t available to the slums surrounding the capital. Though a majority of the slum’s economy comes from those wanting to make an efficient living, the upper class often funnel down what they don’t want. Things like leftover food, clothes, or even outdated jobs would worm their way into the slum districts, taken by those who need something to provide for their families. It was akin to an older sibling offering hand-me-down pants to a kid; in which the items were too damaged for suitable wear. Ruthie couldn’t help but wonder what glorified pig slob would greet her upon the return home.

Occasionally, both she and others wondered what the capital was like, but never wanted to go there. Just bringing up the place wasn’t enjoyed by slum people. Those who were carted off like cattle, in favor of the Puppet Master, never returned. Loved ones never reconnected, and friends failed to pick up where they left off because of it all.

Soon, her neighborhood opened up to her, the smell less inviting than before. Houses, if not shacks, were stacked too close together; roofs broke jaggedly as there was minimal room for accurate shingling. There were few outside, most option to stay inside; away from the cold weather. Those who braved the outside consisted of lower class demons, who were born to withstand all avenues of weather and daring humans; both of which Ruthie shared a campus with. A few more feet and she made it to the front door, hands fumbling for the right key. This was the third place she’s lived in two years. Luckily, both she and her mother were in the landlord’s favor. Without it, they would have to seek shelter in even worse places; if that were imaginable. Unlocking the door, she pushed the wooden slab open, the creakiness unappealing to the ears.

“Mom? You around here somewhere?” she kept her voice low, not wanting another noise complaint. Lord knows she didn’t need that kook of an elderly woman next door to pick on her because her hearing aids were turned up too loud.

With confidence in her step, her mother swooped around the corner, smile beaming from ear to ear. Something nice to see despite the conditions.

“Ruth, I’ve got good news. I got the job. They hired me before I walked out of the interview, today.” the woman’s cheerful grin was contagious.

Ruthie felt her cheeks lift as a smile replaced her grim demeanor, “Really? This isn’t some kind of joke? After how long, someone was smart enough to take a chance on you?”

“Don’t be snide, though you’re right. Turns out you were right; eighty-second time's the charm. I start tomorrow, so I won’t be able to see you off to school.”

“That’s fine, but will we be able to get by with that alone?” she paused, “I can get a job and help out. It’s no trouble.”

“I told you that I would take care of it.” her mother handed over an envelope. “ Take this to the landlord. I’ll get dinner started.

Swiveling on her heel, Ruthie threw down her bag and marched out the door, making sure to re engage the lock. A few apartment blocks down lived the landlord Omniari Katz. He and his family adopted a more human lastname; their need to blend in, strong.

“Omniari.” She knocked, knowing he could hear her, regardless of how quiet she could be. The door swung open, revealing a rather bulky Omniari; a kind eyed demon who was more heart than mind.

“Ruthie! What are you doing here so late?”

“My mother asked me to bring you this.” handing Omniari the envelope. “I think it’s the rent we’re behind on.”

“Whether it is or not doesn’t matter. I have enough tenants to keep this place runnin’. Besides, I consider you my guests.”

“Even if we are, we don’t want to freeload.” Ruthie insisted.

“I don’t think it’s freeloading. Anyway, how’s your mother’s job search going?” Omniari stepped aside to let her in.

“She got it. Who knew the eighty-second attempt would have brought something?”

“That’s good. Umo’s home if you want to see him. You know where the balcony is.” Omniari pointed her across the house, just outside of the dining room. THe Katz household was calm, low light filtering the space.

Ruthie stepped out to the balcony, finding Umo staring off into the distance.

“Something on your mind?” she questioned, interrupting his thought process.

“Not really. You got home late.” He took a long drag of a cigarette before dabbing it out on the railing.

“I was finishing up a project. Something’s wrong with you, isn’t there?”

    Umo, appearing more solemn than before, looked her way, “I’m just worried. The Western Slums are going through a selection process, starting with the schools.”

    “So that means several people will be picked to serve the new king?”

“Exactly.” Umo commented. “If the officials didn’t show up with a list of names, it would be easier to hide from them.”

“What kind of stuff do they do at the capital anyway?” Ruthie leaned on the railing; gazing downward.

“Rumor is, that students go to some upper class school, while adults get a taste of the cushy life, with better job opportunities. It’s not believable. I remember you saying your older brother went to the capital several years back.”

“Yep. Haven’t heard from him since. I know my mother’s worried about him, but you know how she can be.”

Umo gave an earnest chuckle, “She really does try to hide any problems. Much like you.”

“I don’t do that.” her offended tone went unnoticed.

“You do. You find it hard to emote; even to me, your best friend.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. I emote well enough for a human. And what would a demon like you know about my human emotions?” she teased.

“Just enough. In two days, if your name gets called, don’t resist. Our new leader doesn’t seem akin to defiance. The Puppet Master may act friendly in the public eye, but there’s definitely something wrong with him.”

“What made you think that, his name?” she could help but let out the laugh she’d been holding.

“No, but it is odd, “ Umo chucked, then sobered. “His methods. Basic geography’s told us that the capital is small; sizable enough for the elite and not much else. How are so many people being brought there and none come back?”

“If you find an answer, let me know. See you at school tomorrow.” She gave him a light wallop on the back before heading out and back to her home. There was no argument over it, Umo was right. So many people from the Western Slums, alone, have been reaped to the capital with no word or reasons as to why.

Ruthie locked her door with a huff; her mother giving her a look of worry.

“Ruth, is everything alright?”

“I’ve been thinking…” she paused, unsure if the topic of the selection and her brother should come up at all. “Nevermind. It’s not important. Besides, today would be celebrating your new job.”

Ruthie’s sullen gaze didn’t go unnoticed, but her mother opted to say nothing. The two sat at the small card table, disguised as a dining table. Their dinner consisted of a frothy casserole that wasn’t too bad when heated. The clinks of silverware were the only audible sounds. Ruthie had to bring up the selection. Should she be picked, her mother would  lose the one thing she had left; right from under her nose. Her hands trembled at the idea of vanishing without a trace and never returning.

“Ruth, what’s wrong?”

“Umo told me that another selection was happening in a couple of days. The schools would be sifted through first.”

Her mother dropped the fork she once held, the item clattering to the ground.

“The selection?” the older woman questioned.

“I know it’s not something you want to hear about-”

“Don’t go to school until it’s over. I don’t want you being taken away like your brother was.” tears threatened to fall. “I don’t know what I would do with myself.”

“They keep track of all desired people on the list. Even if I weren’t at school, they would come here and find me. I can only hope that my name doesn’t get pulled.”

Her mother’s heavy breathing settled and it was quiet once more.

“I’m sorry.” Ruthie mumbled.

“You have nothing to apologize for. Since Avery left, things haven’t been the best, and I don’t want to be left alone.”

“Even if they do call me, I can’t let them catch me. I’m sure they can’t force people to go to the capital.”

Her mother shrugged, and they soon cleaned up their meal and went to bed for the night. Thanks to Omniari, they were each able to have a space to themselves, no matter how small. This way, they wouldn’t push each other’s boundaries. Ruthie’s room wasn’t too large, and at the center rested a mattress. Without thinking, she flopped onto the mattress; her impact louder than her muffled cry. She rolled over, needing to get comfortable, becoming tangled in her own limbs. This time of year, her room was swelteringly cold. It wasn’t until a few hours later that she was able to drift off; albeit uncomfortably.

It began with a soreness she couldn’t recover from. Looking around, something was amiss. She wasn’t asleep like she was initially, but stood before a throne of bones, on weary feet. Her vision bleared and she could barely make out her name being called.

“Ruthie, look out!” they barked.

She turned to the sound; too late. A needle-thin prick prodded at the center of her chest, blossoming into a gaping gash. Her heartbeat pounded in her ears, slowing down with each vibration. She began to sink, hand reaching out for any support. As her sight was blanketed in darkness, she saw only the feral grin of her foil.

It was only a moment before her body received the desired reaction it needed; the girl yelping and flailing. When her mindless tantrum ended, she kept her eyes on the ceiling; searching for a focal point to calm her nerves. Nothing aided her attempt. Instead, she closed her eyes and resolved to clearing her mind. Lost in her thoughts, something felt off. A pressure kept her secure to the mattress she lay on. The need to call for helped seemed like a fruitless endeavor, and her voice was now incapable of committing to its role.

“Mom,” she wheezed. “Umo.” she opened her eyes to the silence that beckoned her. Objects, things of many kinds were barely adrift in the air. When strength revitalized her nerves, she sat up, releasing the air that pressured her chest.

“W-What is all this?” It was now that she saw the room with sleepless eyes. Smaller items moved closer to her, and she reached. Fingers lightly grazing her house keys, sending them off to the other side of the room.

She stood up, carefully stepping around the room. Avoiding loose clothes and unwanted dust bunnies, she balled her hands into fists, the items clanging to the floor. Ruthie jolted, mind whirling about in confusion. Ruthie held her hand up to a sock, fingers flexing. She had an idea, but didn’t know how to act on it. The sock failed to move at her will. She tried something lighter, and that did nothing. Back down on her mattress, she cleared her mind of any thoughts. Then again, why did she believe she was capable of something like this in the first place. Breathing evenly, she relaxed, wanting to sleep for the few hours she had left.

Becoming cheeky, Ruthie tried her hand at moving something again. If it was a fluke, she wanted to be sure. Trying her nearby house keys, she focused her mind on the item. Her time was wasted with such a feeble attempt. Curling up with no blanket to speak of, she drifted back to sleep, the back of her mind still concerned with what only occured moments ago.

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JBeachum
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« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2018, 05:51:39 PM »

I think there's too much exposition in these pages. You're telling too much about the background of the story and not getting into the character, the conflict facing the character, and what the character is trying to do at that time. All of the world-building can come later throughout the story, through dialogue, action, a character's introspection, etc. But it shouldn't go at the beginning, because you'll lose readers who want to see something happen right on the first page, or pretty close to it. Nothing in these pages happens until the end, where I think she's in a dream or was awakened during sleep (I'm not sure which), and if it's a dream, then your story may not want to start there.
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Repped by Marisa Corvisiero of the Corvisiero Literary Agency
Arte_Evans
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« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2018, 08:10:41 PM »

Thanks for the input!

I felt the chapter was too short so I wound up lengthening it, but found myself carried away. Tomorrow, I'll be putting in some edits and trying to flesh out the characters with your suggestions. I also need make the dream part more clear, but will remain in a trial and error stasis until I either figure something out or change it entirely.

Again, thanks so much!
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Kerfuffle
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« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2018, 11:05:07 AM »

I totally agree with what the first person wrote. The first few paragraphs should hook me, and each one leaving me wanting to continue on and know more about this world. You explain so much up front, you sort of lose the reader.

Instead of telling how bored and how hum drum things are, can you show me how it is? Can you thrust me into the mundane with the character? Can you engage all my senses in the beginning and really put me there with your character?

That I think would greatly improve this piece which, I feel, has a lot of potential.

Instead of dumping all the information at me at once, is there a way you can creatively introduce the world to us throughout the story. what do I NEED to know in that moment? I need to know its a world that allows both demons and people. Cool, can you do that through an interaction? Maybe through a poster seen while Ruthie commutes to work? something about embracing interspecies love or something that will really jar the reader and make them want to know just what is going on here.
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