First 500 Words: Shifting Greer’s by K.D. Bledsoe at Inkitt

(This story was found on Inkitt. I present the first 500 words as the author wrote them, provide notes on what works and what needs work, and then re-write the first 500 words. I try to keep the author’s voice but edit for clarity, formatting, spelling, grammar, etc. No offense in intended toward the original author. This is a writing/editing exercise that I thought would be fun, since this is something that I do mentally with everything I read — until I get lost in the story, that is.)

Original:

How do the stories begin? Oh, right, with once upon a time.

So, so here it goes:

Once upon a time, there was an overlooked, beautiful girl who longed for someone to come and notice her. Along comes a handsome prince on horseback to save her. They live happily ever after in a ginormous castle.

Well, you know what I’ve got to say to those stories? Bullcrap.

Fairy tales are stories written by lonely people that want to deceive the minds of the youth. But listen up kids, no one ever gets their happily ever after. Some messed up shit happens in life. Did you get that? Are you taking notes? You could be because I’m a prime example of someone not getting their happily ever after. Heck, I would even settle for Cinderella’s life before she met Prince Charming or whoever.

Because right now, my story belongs in the tragedy section of the bargain bin.

My castle comes in the form of a one-story house, parked on the side of a busy street, in a small crater in the earth in Washington.

And it’s freaking raining.

I stare up at the brick ranch style house with a scowl on my face. My one suitcase is on the wet ground at my feet. My brunette hair is soaked to my skin. I’m not wearing a jacket, just a think t-shirt. There’s a black pickup truck parked in the driveway. It has a bumper sticker for the high school in town. I can’t help but laugh. I haven’t even been to the school yet.

I can’t get my feet to shuffle up the cracked walkway. This doesn’t feel real. The last few months, I’ve been basically sleepwalking through my life. Standing here in front of my new home starts to wake me up a bit.

“You’ve been standing there for ten minutes now, are you going to go in?” Says a deep voice from beside me.

I gulp, “I’m working up to it.”

“It won’t bite, you know?” He chuckles.

I turn to look at the older man standing to my right. A shot of pain grips my chest tight as I look into his sparkling blue eyes. Leo looks almost identical to my mother. I wonder how long the pain will last every time I look at him. I wonder if it’ll ever get easier.

He gives me a forced smile as he noticed the look on my face, “One step at a time, remember, Greer?”

I nod. It all seemed so simple on the drive over here. I pumped myself up the whole plane trip. I told myself I could do it the whole car ride from the airport. So why couldn’t I do it now?  Why was this such a hard thing to do?

I vigorously nod, shaking myself from my stupor, and put one step in front of the other. I drag my suitcase behind me on its wheels. Leo keeps a safe distance behind me and…

What Works: First, the style is great. The beginning may sound a little cliched with the “once upon a time stuff” but, to be honest, even as a full-grown adult, a story that starts like this will still get my attention right away. Generally, when this opening is used, it’s in a romantic-comedy context, so to have it in the Action section, with the story description being that Greer is a teenage girl in witness protection after her parents are murdered is a fun switch. Also, I just like the voice of the character right off the bat.

What Needs Work: For a book in the Action section, absolutely nothing happens in the first chapter (I read ahead). The author also hints around about “the incident” and how she has a different last name now but if you read the summary before reading the book, this is not a mystery to the reader and it’s frustrating to have that reveal dragged out for so long.

Although the author is good at setting a mood, the writing could be more concise.

Also, the title should probably be “Shifting Greers” instead of “Shifting Greer’s”.

My Version:

How do the stories begin? Oh, right, with, once upon a time…

Once upon a time, there was an overlooked, beautiful girl who longed for someone to notice her. Along came a handsome prince on horseback to save her. They lived happily ever after in a ginormous castle.

Well, you know what I’ve got to say to those stories? Bullshit.

Listen up kids, no one ever gets their happily ever after. Life is full of some messed up stuff. Watch your parents be murdered and then tell me how there is such thing as justice, let alone happiness.

Right now, I’m standing in front of a red brick, ranch-style house, in a small town in Washington.

And it’s freaking raining.

There’s a black pickup truck parked in the driveway. Uncle Leo’s new truck. There’s already a sticker for the high school I haven’t started attending yet stuck on the tailgate.

The wind whips dark, wet strands of hair across my face, casting diagonal prison bars across the view of the house. I’m not wearing a jacket, just a thin, black t-shirt. There’s a sweater in the suitcase next to my feet. The material of the suitcase is not waterproof, so the sweater is probably as soaked as I am.

The cab dropped me off ten minutes ago, but I can’t get my feet to shuffle up the cracked walkway.

The front door opens and Uncle Leo steps out of the house. He fwoops open an umbrella and then jogs down the walkway, toward me. 

I love Leo but I have to fight the urge to run away. This can’t be real. It can’t be my life now.

Leo stops in front of me and tries to hand me the umbrella. I don’t budge, so he hovers over me awkwardly, using the umbrella to try and cover both of us.

“How long have you been out here?” he asked, sounding concerned and exasperated. His voice is deep, nothing like my mother’s, but his eyes are the same exact shade of blue as hers. A stitch cramps up my chest, like when I run too fast without warming up first.

A wry smile quirks my uncle’s lips, though the wrinkle between his brow still displays his worry. “Are you coming in?”

I nod, but don’t move.

His smile turns encouraging. “One step at a time Greer,” he says.

I take a deep breath and step forward. He moves aside and walks with me, still trying to hold the umbrella over both of us as I wheel my suitcase up the path.

First 500 Words: Angelfire by GT_Cooper at Inkitt

Original:

Pain ripped through me as I heard the crack of the whip. Again and again and again. I could feel my blood oozing from my slashes, hot and wet. I fought against my restraints, my wrists burning as the metal cuffs chafed them. Then Mordecai, the traitor, came around to face me, and ask me questions. Once I didn’t know the answer to. So he tortured me.

After I burned the ice away from Aquaia, and passed out from exhaustion, I woke up to find myself here. And at the mercy of Mordecai Gregori, one of the most trusted council members.

I couldn’t escape using my powers either since, I guess, I burnt out. I can’t feel it anymore. It’s like I had no power to begin with. At least that’s how it was when I first got here but now I can feel creeping back in everyday.

And today I think I could use it. That I could escape. So I let Mordecai think I was still weak, that I didn’t have my power yet. But I was waiting for the perfect moment to get out of these chain, and kill him. Because he would help the enemy. And he had probably injured many more before me. The sadistic bastard.

So today, I was trying to escape. And when Mordecai came to caress me, as he usually does which was extremely weird and creepy, I grabbed his arm and let the fire free. He was ash on the wind in no time. Then I burned through the cuffs, the hot metal burning into me. I peels off the hot metal, and rubbed my raw, bleeding wrists, trying to soothe them. It didn’t help.

I took two daggers from the assortment of knives, and daggers. They were about the same size, and light enough for my weak body to wield. I hadn’t had a proper meal in weeks, maybe months. And I was so hungry. I was starving. I had been fed a small meal everyday. And it wasn’t enough to feed me, as well as keep my strength, my power. Finally I had enough strength to escape.

I went out the door, having to route around in Mordecai’s pocket for a key to unlock, the door. Gross. Once the door was unlocked I walked out to see that there were guards lining the hallways, and when they saw me all of them unsheathed their weapons, most of the weapons two handed swords. Not as efficient as my dagger, but that’s why I was able to keep my stamina and agility up. After that long time chained up all of the muscle had disappeared and it was a wonder that I could even walk or hold the daggers in my hand.

They attacked, and I slashed. I had killed maybe five guards, most of them different kinds of dark creatures. Then ones of them slashed my leg. I hissed in pain, and hurried to get this fight over with. I…

What Works: The hook; captured and tortured hero has to escape a formerly trusted bad guy. I like that we start on action and betrayal.  This is a really compelling way to introduce readers to an unfamiliar character; put them in utter peril and let them fight their way out.

What Needs Work: This is a lot of tell, not show, there are some grammatical and spelling errors, and certain things don’t make sense, like burning Mordecai to ash and then going through his pockets. Also, there is a random switching between past and present tense, so I’ll have to choose one.  

Obviously, I don’t know the entire story, so I’ll have to fill in the blanks myself and maybe my changes wouldn’t work for the overall story. For instance, I would have Mordecai burn to ash, including his clothes, but have the MC dig through the pile of ashes to find the key. If this is a world in which the MC can burn through flesh but not clothing, that wouldn’t work. 

 My Version:

The whip cracks. Pain rips through me again. And again and again. Blood oozes from my slashes, hot and wet. I fight against my restraints.

It’s the silence that tells me that Mordecai has stopped. My back feels no less ablaze as his boots echo against cement. The whip slithers against the floor, trailing streaks of blood. He turns to face me.

“Tell me where to find the crystal,” he demands.

I glare up at him through eyes streaming with tears. It’s not just the pain in my back or my wrists, or my knees, which have been kneeling on concrete for weeks. It’s the betrayal.

“We trusted you,” is the only answer that my cracked and bleeding lips have to give.
When I burned out my power saving Aquaia, I had blacked out and woken up here. Weeks of torture have broken my body, but given my magic a chance to replenish itself. I feel it rise as I glare at Mordecai’s blurry figure.

I flinch back as Mordecai steps toward me. He reaches forward and tenderly sweeps a greasy, sweaty hank of hair out of my face, pushing it behind my ear. It’s a gesture as familiar and natural as my own mother’s touch. My stomach clenches as I wonder where she is, if she’s okay, or if Mordecai killed her like —

I let the fire free.

Mordecai’s mouth opens in surprise as he screams in pain. His clothes are the first to burn to ash, then his skin and his hair. The last thing I see of him are the eyes that had gleamed with pride with my first step, my first word, my first fireball.

The metal that binds my wrists heats as I concentrate my magic on them. The locks melt and the chains fall free. I slump forward. My thighs hit the cold ground, and then my belly, my chest, my face. The cement is cool against my skin, and I revel in the relief of being able to lie down properly for the first time in too long. The slashes in my back shriek in agony with every breath, so I try not to breathe, try not to think.

Distant shouts make their way through my foggy brain. Claws scrabble in the passageway outside. Mordecai’s minions must have heard his shouts, felt his death. They won’t last long without him, but they’ll certainly last long enough to tear me to shreds if I don’t get up. Now.

I push myself up and groan. I might let them rip me to shreds. It can’t hurt any worse than scrambling over to Mordecai’s ashes on bleeding knees. I plunge my hands into the dust he left behind, and pull out a key. It’s one of the only artifacts in any of the worlds that can withstand my fire and it’s the key — to everything.

I stumble to the door and melt the lock. It swings open, just as one of Mordecai’s minions leaps at me. It’s an over-sized black cat with bat wings and glowing green eyes. 

I burn it to ash in mid-air. 

First 500 Words: Becoming His Male Empress by iLyna_chAn on Inkitt

Original:

In Tang Qin Shang dynasty strength was everything, Magic ruled the world, it was said that from birth a child could already sense the mana in the world and have an idea of which element they had an affinity to, be it water, air, fire, earth, light, darkness, space, time, wood etc., people with two elements were usually extremely rare, same with people with three element, as four  elements it was a legendary level.

A child was born useless, a total trash to such a world where power was everything and to make matters worse his face was disfigured, his unfortunate circumstances made his father General Lei despise him, to General Lei this child was cursed, a stain to his unblemished name.

General Lei strongly believed that this child was sent by the heavens as punishment to him for betraying his one true love by having an affair with a low born despicable, conniving servant who once tended to his beloved needs.

The pitiful child without a name knew fully well that his father was not been fair to his naïve and innocent mother, she could never have seduced him because she wasn’t that type of person, Although General Lei tried to paint himself white by plastering dirt all over that child’s mother the truth could never be hidden forever and there where people who knew that he was the one that forced himself on his wife’s servant girl and the fruit of this ugly was the child without a name.

The child knew the truth and felt his mother’s grievance but just like her he couldn’t voice out his resentment and pain.

When the incident was found out by the legitimate wife of the Lei’s manor she ordered that both mother and unborn child be thrown out of the Lei Manor and going forward this pair that only had each other were made to live in a deserted thatched house by a hill in the forest.

“Mother why don’t I have a name like other people, please give me one” The child had once pleaded and his mother shown a solemn expression, one that he had gotten accustomed to and hated seeing the most on his mother’s face.

“Don’t be sad mother, I don’t mind not having a name” the child said as he tugged on his mother’s sleeves and tried to smile to lighten the mood, she ruffled his hair and smiled back while saying, “I am sorry for been so useless son, I am so sorry” a tear fell down from her eyes and she quickly raised her sleeves to wipe it off, she had to be strong for her precious son.

The powerless child soon got to find out that the reason he could never bear a name was because his mother had been told by his father’s beloved wife not to give him one and his father stood strongly behind his dear wife despite his mother pleads.

After the child’s mother’s death when he was…

What Works: This is the beginning of a classic Cinderella story although the title suggests a bit of a twist. The author is good at setting up the pathos of the characters and there is plenty of drama in being the ugly, magic-less bastard son of an army general.


What Needs Work: This is all info-dump backstory with very little action. A lot of this information is interesting, but lacks finesse in the way that it’s presented. Also, plenty of typos and a lot of repetition. This is also told from an omniscient point-of-view which always sounds a little impersonal. I’ll take it as part of the challenge to keep the same POV.

My Version: 

“Mother, why don’t I have a name like other people?” the child had asked once, clinging to his mother’s knee.

She didn’t answer but he saw tears fall into the dough that she was kneading. The dumplings were salty that night, the mood somber. The child never asked that question again.  

He also never asked why they no longer lived in a manor, why they had moved to a dusty shack at the edge of the forest. In the end, he found he didn’t mind the change, once his mother had chased out the spiders and rats. He helped drag water, bucket by bucket, from the nearby stream, growing stronger and freer with each trip. Out here, there was no one to glare at his disfigured face or tease or kick him for not having any magic.

His mother scrubbed at the wood of the walls until it gleamed golden with the light from the stove. She patched up the thatched roof and wove flowers into the fresh, new straw. She swept the dirt floor free of debris and covered it in rose petals. She filled the bed with freshly plucked feathers, and, every night, she told her beloved child stories of magic rings and grand destinies until he fell asleep.

Then, one day, his mother died.

First 500 Words: Dragon’s Princess by C. Swallow on Inkitt

Original:

I jogged at a steady pace through the jungle while howls of many dragons filled the sky like haunting music. Dragons only howled in extreme circumstances, and right now, many of the dragons were being injected with a deadly poison from a local tree frog in this area of the Patter Forest.

The King, Ross the “Great” wanted all dragons tamed and controlled by local Warlords to be loyal pets under the Kings dominion. It was far fetched, reckless and just plain stupid that Ross the Great had gone to such lengths to make his dream come true.

I myself tagged along on this newest mission to lure the dragons in with a strong peace scent so I could disable as many traps as possible. It was treason, yeah, but I couldn’t live with myself by not doing anything. I was allowed to come because I was a natural Healer, I could heal by drawing power from the earth. I could help any of the injured that would indefinitely come with this suicidal mission to bring the dragons under control, so I was using this opportunity to my full advantage.

I was meant to be back at the main trap site but I already had an excuse planned for later when I’d be questioned where I had disappeared to. I had disabled two outsider traps already, and there were at least 16 traps altogether. The central traps had already been successful so I only had a chance at disabling one more trap on the outside perimeter before it’d be too dangerous to be out in the open, especially with blood thirsty, revenge seeking dragons flying above. The only protection I had was the dense coverage which made it harder for the dragons to land.

I saw the last trap ahead of me and quickly went down on my knees to smother the rock that emitted the peace scent with mud. It would effectively counteract the scent and be disabled completely. It was as I finished smothering the scent rock that I realized just how quiet it was. In fact, it was deadly silent and that only meant one thing.

Every so slowly I raised my head and looked ahead, nothing, to my left, nothing, the slowly to my right. A glowing pair of blue-green eyes level with my head was staring straight at me. I sucked in a breath, fear closing off my throat and making my heart start to race at surely an unhealthy speed. I slowly made out the outline of the humungous black head, and the long glinting fangs, the length of a short sword. I closed my eyes in silent acceptance.
I was going to die.

Technically, this is only 450 words but it’s the full first chapter, so I’ll work with this. 

What Works:  Great hook; the protagonist is working to protect dragons, which is treason, but the dragons don’t know that she is on their side, so when she’s caught, she thinks the dragon will just kill her. Great start. 

What Needs Work: Oh, so very much telling instead of showing, too much set-up, not enough action. Some awkwardness with the phrasing, too, although in general, the story is easy enough to follow. 

My Version:

The air hung heavy with the earthy promise of more rain mingling with the spicy musk of dragons. I jogged at a steady pace through the forest as dragons haunted the darkening sky, their howls eerily musical.

King Ross “The Great” had wanted me to accompany his army, knowing they would need a Healer. I had agreed, planning to commit treason.

I followed the scent of peace extract to a small boulder that came to the tops of my knees. It took several minutes to cover it with mud, but the forest floor had plenty to spare. There were at least a dozen more of these dragon traps, so I searched for the next one, hoping it would be smaller.

The clash of swords against dragon scales rung through the forest. I would be missed soon, as the dragons fought back against the king’s army. The dragons hadn’t started this war, but maybe, with my help, they would win it.

For me, if I didn’t want to be branded the traitor I was, and exiled, I’d have to maintain the appearance of fealty. The screams of warriors joined the dragon howls as I moved through the forest. The next trap was a rock only about as big as my foot. I kicked mud over it and moved on.

Peace extract was ensorcelled perfume. Ladies used it to calm themselves when their corsets got too tight, and men used it in battle when their broken limbs needed to be re-set or cut off. It was currently being used to trap dragons in a part of the forest that was too dense with tree cover to escape by flight.

The next boulder was half as large as the first. I coated it with mud as quickly as possible, fighting the urge to lay down next to it instead. At this moment, I had three enemies; the army, the dragons, and the weapon I was trying to diffuse.

I was already tired, and already needed back at the base. I was lured to the next boulder almost against my will. It was twice as big as the first one, almost as tall as me, and nearly perfectly round. This would take forever! I didn’t even know if I’d be able to resist the scent long enough to cover it up. I kicked the boulder in frustration. It wobbled and slid an inch or so on the muddy ground.

My breath caught. Could I – just roll it over? I nudged it with my shoulder and praised whatever gods might be listening when it spun away from me, almost as though it was eager to help. A few more nudges and a hefty shove later, the peace scent had been neutralized. I sagged against the side of the muddy boulder in relief.

This was definitely the biggest threat against the dragons. I could detect smaller threats close by but I wondered if it would be safer for me just to return to base.

Before I could decide, I realized that the forest had gone silent. Distant shouts and clanging persisted, but all of the forest sounds; rustling, chirping, slithering — had ceased. I turned slowly, bracing myself against the boulder with one hand and reaching for my dagger with the other.

My hand froze as I stared into a glowing pair of blue-green eyes. The dragon was jet-black with tiny scales that glimmered like freckles across his nose. His fangs, as long as my forearm and as sharp as my dagger glinted dangerously, inches from my face.

I closed my eyes in silent acceptance.

I was going to die.

First 500 Words: Devil Vs Alpha (The Millennium Wolves 01) by Sapir Alexandra Englard at Inkitt

Original:

London, England

May 16, 2014

The clock ticked midnight and I closed my eyes, letting the sound of the Big Ben echo through the square, the neighborhood, the quiet city of London. The sound was rich and bombastic, carried away by the slapping wind, and I would’ve smiled at its familiarity had I remembered what it was like to smile from the heart.

Another sound invaded the quiet while the bells began to diminish. That sound was rougher, rugged, that of a motorcycle. Across the square from where I was sitting, a bike appeared, its rider draped in dark leather clothes, thinking himself to be a cool gangster, but I knew better. He rounded the square dramatically, riding over puddles on purpose so he could splash water like the little kid he was, and then stopped right next to me. Show-off, I thought disapprovingly as he removed his black helmet and, as if he was in a hair-conditioner commercial, flipped his dark gold hair so the silky locks wouldn’t simply be messy, but orderly so. Then he opened his gold-flecked brown eyes that seemed like molten honey that melted many a woman, and gave me a grin full of dimples and sin.

Killian Darrow was nothing if not a charming son of a bitch, but no one should underestimate him; he might be a pretty boy, but he had a mind sharper than a scalp, held ruthlessness within that he mostly concealed, but let pop out here and there. All in all, though, he was good people, and he was one of mine. That, including his intelligence and the excellent job he was doing for me, made him of deep value to me.

He was also my ward.

“You look just the same as you did a couple of years ago,” he said as a way of greeting while I rose to my feet. He scanned me from head to toe and back, and his lips curled into a mocking smirk. “Your fashion statement also stayed the same.”

I glanced down at my black hiking pants, black cape on top of black, baggy tee, black hiking boots, and black scarf and gloves, and knew he was right. “It’s necessary,” I responded dispassionately. “It helps me blend better.” Because if I were to wear what I truly wanted, I would’ve attracted too much attention, and that wasn’t acceptable.

“I know that,” he said, tucking his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket. “I just wish I could see you in other clothes, because as far as I’m concerned, your wardrobe consists of this outfit only.”

He wasn’t wrong but talking about my attire was not the reason we were meeting tonight in such a secluded part of the city, with no one around but us. “Killian,” I said, giving him my hard stare, the one that had once made his knees shake, but now only made him arch an eyebrow. “While I love talking to you after so long…

What Works: The first two paragraphs are about as perfect in introduction of a first chapter as one could ask for, and is particularly refreshing in a Prologue which is usually just a fancy word for Infodump. Unfortunately, the prologue turns into that after the first 500 words, but it starts out great. Still, the last line of the first paragraph stabbed me in the gut, the second paragraph made me smile, and the first sentence of the third paragraph almost made me laugh out loud.

What Needs Work: The story kind of drags after the first two paragraphs, the writing gets less sharp, and nothing actually happens in this chapter except for a frustratingly vague conversation and then a giant infodump. There are also some romantic overtones, which, considering that the MC is Killian’s ward and she’s known him since he was 16, could be pretty creepy, depending on how old the MC is. In my version, I’ll probably focus on editing a lot of unnecessary or repetitive description and/or dialogue. 

My Version:

London, England

May 16, 2014

The clock ticked midnight and I closed my eyes, letting the sound of the Big Ben echo through the square, the neighborhood, the quiet city of London. The sound was rich and bombastic, carried away by the slapping wind, and I would’ve smiled at its familiarity had I remembered what it was like to smile from the heart.

Another sound invaded the quiet while the bells faded. The new sound was rougher, rugged, that of a motorcycle. Across the square from where I was sitting, a bike appeared, its rider draped in dark leather clothes, thinking himself to be cool, but I knew better. He rounded the square dramatically, riding over puddles on purpose so he could splash water like the little kid he was, and then stopped right next to me.

Show-off, I thought. He removed his helmet and, as if he was in a shampoo commercial, flipped his dark gold hair. Then he opened eyes the color of molten honey and gave me a grin full of dimples and sin.

Killian Darrow was nothing if not a charming son-of-a-bitch, but no one should underestimate him. He might be pretty, but he had a mind sharper than a scalpel, and a ruthlessness that most people who met him would never even glimpse. All in all, he was good people, and he was one of mine.

“You look just the same as you did a couple of years ago,” he said as a way of greeting while I rose to my feet. He scanned me from head to toe and back, his lips curling into a smirk.

I glanced down at my black-on-black outfit of hiking pants, cape, baggy tee, and hiking boots. I shrugged. “It helps me blend.”

He acknowledged my response with a jerk of his head and another full-body scan.

“Killian,” I said, giving him my hard stare, the one that had once made his knees shake, but now only made him arch an eyebrow. “While I love talking to you after so long…

First 500 Words: The Loudest Silence by snisismtoney12 on Inkitt

Original:

A cool autumn breeze whisked past me as I softly shut the door behind me. I quickly ducked and crept past the front lawn as I made my way towards the small gate that enclosed the perimeter of the house. I held my breath as I heard something fall from inside the house. I quickly moved towards the house and pressed my back flat against the wall. The only sounds I could hear were those of my labored breathing and the sounds of cars as they drove by. I silently stood there hoping that he didn’t see me sneaking out.

The consequences would be intolerable.

I pushed my medium length raven hair behind my ear and stared up at the window that was directly above me. I let out a deep sigh of relief as I saw the light go out. He was going to sleep much earlier today.

Pushing myself off the wall, I once again ducked and made my way across the lawn. Quiet as a mouse, I lifted the lock to the gate. Glancing over my shoulder, I made sure the lights in the house were still off. Upon noticing that the coast was clear, I quickly rushed out.

Shoving my hands in the pocket of my worn out hoodie, I began walking towards the park around the corner from where I lived. A small smile rested on my face as I walked towards the one place where I felt at peace. It was the one place where I could always gather my thoughts and clear my head. It was a safe haven in the dark world I lived in.

I soon made it to the park and took a seat on the small bench under the large Oak tree. It was nearing sundown and there were only a few people left in the park. I moved my legs on top of the bench and placed my chin on top of my knees. I let out a deep breath as I cocked my head to the side and stared ahead. To most people I must’ve looked odd.

A 19 year old sitting on a park bench alone as it was nearing dark. It wasn’t ideal being out here at this time, but I’ll take this over nothing. With the risks I took by even sneaking out, I was determined to enjoy whatever small amount of time I got out of the house.

I silently scoffed as I thought of my life. A young adult, hostage to a criminal, living right under the noses of oblivious neighbors who have yet to notice. I shuddered as I thought of the punishment I would receive if he ever caught me sneaking out, or trying to escape. There was no escaping him as long as he was alive. The connections he had were too strong. He would always end up finding me.

I bitterly chuckled.

My own father was the culprit.

A father didn’t act the way that he did, a…

What Works: The author has set a fearful and melancholy tone for this story. They have taken a small act of rebellion and effectively added enough tension that it can hold the reader’s attention as a first chapter. 

What Needs Work: It always irritates me when an author adds a mystery to a story that doesn’t need to be a mystery. The man could be a father, a stepfather, a caregiver, a boyfriend or husband, and we find out toward the end of the chapter that it’s the MC’s father, but the revelation does nothing to shock or enlighten the reader. When an author leaves the reader out of fairly basic information like this, it creates distance between the reader and the MC. Anyway, I could rant about this for a while, but I’ll move on. 

The other issue I have is, if you’re in an abusive or controlling relationship, you make sure that the other person is asleep first, before sneaking out. It also seems weird that she’s leaving when it’s still daylight, but I guess that’s necessary so that she can make the comparison to the other father/daughter combo (I read ahead).

I don’t mind that not much happens in this scene/chapter, but if you’re going to describe an entire walk to a park, include some sights, smells, etc. If you’re sneaking around and don’t want a neighbor to tell your father that they see you taking walks around the neighborhood, what precautions would you take to avoid them?

My Version:

As the back door clicked quietly shut behind me, I heard a crash. I froze. I had thought my father was asleep. An hour ago, he’d mumbled something angry through my open door. A moment later, I’d heard his own door slam – his drunken pre-bed ritual.

I pressed myself against the side of the house and looked up to see the dark window to his room light up. I edged back toward the door, anticipating the bellow that would follow his discovery that I wasn’t in my room. 

Instead, his window slid up and I froze again, holding my breath. A lamp smashed against the tree in the middle of the yard, raining down bits of ceramic. A smaller piece of lamp joined it a moment later, followed by a lampshade.

The window slammed shut again, the light went out. I waited. If he called my name, I’d be back in the house in an instant, in the kitchen, sweeping or doing the dishes – again — or something. All I heard was my own labored breathing and the cars whooshing down the street.

The fence was 8-feet tall, making the yard a white-picket prison. I edged toward the side of the house, still listening for my name. When I didn’t hear anything, I swung two loose pickets open and slipped through the gap that created. They swung back into place. 

One good thing about living on the corner lot was that my escape hatch led directly to the street rather than into a neighbor’s yard. I glanced up once more at my father’s dark window, and then headed toward the park.

I shoved my hands into the kangaroo pocket of my worn-out hoodie and let the crisp autumn breeze sweep all of the worries out of my head.

The park was just around the corner, and the sun was just about set by the time I made it to my favorite bench under an old oak tree. I pulled my knees up to my chest, tucking them up under my sweatshirt. I rested my chin on top of my knees and watched shadowy parents herd their wayward children toward the parking lot.

My life was a mess. I was nineteen and hostage to a criminal father. Sneaking out was dangerous enough, but every time I’d run away, he’d found and punished me. 

He had too many connections and I had too few.