Sunday, April 27, 2014

So I Entered This Little Thing Called PitchSlam, Part 2

Original First 250 Words:  I never knew what it felt like to be hunted. Not until today.

I swept my gaze around the supposedly safe confines of the Temple of Athena. As far as I could tell, I stood alone in the inner sanctuary, and yet I knew I wasn’t. A predator watched my every move, far enough away never to be seen, but close enough to always be felt.

I picked up a lily resting on a stone bench, the bloom as pale as the marble it sat upon, and studied it with a scowl. The temple’s garden didn’t have lilies like this. I had no idea where it had come from.

My hunter had started stalking me in the morning. Half asleep, my senses still dulled, I had felt a presence by my bedside. I woke up screaming, the senior priestesses rushing to my room.

I begged them to search my quarters. They had found nothing, assured me it was merely a nightmare. But you couldn’t hear the inhale and exhale of a nightmare’s breath, nor could a nightmare run its fingers through your hair.

Suppressing a shudder, I tossed the lily to the ground, as if it were made of poison.

Wherever I went, whatever I did, my predator followed, leaving small tokens for me to find. I could almost catch the broad-shouldered figure of a man out of the corner of my eye, but when I turned around, he was gone.

And none of the other priestesses believed me.

PitchSlam Feedback: After reading your entry, we've found you could strengthen your opening page by addressing the following issues:

- We feel this lacks voice. Play with really getting into your MC's head. What does she sound like? What words would she use? Even though this isn't dialogue, we should get a sense of that personality. As-is, it feels flat. Be brave & infuse it with a voice that will stand out.

- This may start in the wrong place. Is there another moment of higher tension? Interaction with another person/being? Maybe give it a shot?

New First 250 Words: I never knew what it felt like to be hunted. Not until today.

And when a girl was standing in the hallowed halls of the Temple of Athena, she should never have felt that way. Maybe in the slums of Delphi or the untamed wilderness, but not here.

I peered up at the statue of Athena. My Lady towered over me, three stories tall, a spear gripped in one marble hand, her golden helm glittering in the afternoon light. Flowers and late-summer fruits were piled at her feet. I left my own offerings, praying for guidance.

“Blessed Athena, wise and serene. Protectress of us all.” Today, more than ever, I took comfort in the truth of those words.

No one could hurt me, even if they had somehow gotten past the temple’s four mighty walls. My Lady would keep me safe.

“Alessia, come on.”

I jumped at Naima’s voice. My fellow priestess stepped into the sanctuary, tugging at my sleeve and shooing me toward the courtyard. Then she took a closer look at me and her face fell.

“You’re still upset about this morning, aren’t you?” I considered every priestess here to be family, and I had two older sisters back home, but Naima was the little sister I had always wanted. A year younger than me, her family originally hailed from the far away city of Thebes, on the river Nile.

“Of course, I’m upset. Someone was in my room last night, and I know that’s not even possible.”


Once again, feedback is welcome.  This was a tough one, because I've always had trouble with 'voice.'  Is this more voicey?  Is it voicelicious?  I can't tell.

What I ended up doing was taking my first 500 and flipping it around.  I pulled the dialogue closer to the top and will intersperse information about what's going on while my MC, Alessia, talks to her best friend.  Hopefully that makes the opening stronger.  


  1. I just wrote a huge reply and it disappeared :(

    Anyway, a shortened version. I think your 2nd version is an improvement but I would heed their advice about 'are you starting in the right place' - as someone who totally overhauled their 250 I say it with a smile. it's hard to step back and change a beginning we wrote and feel attached to but reading this i'm far more intrigued in what happened last night.. have you tried writing that scene? all the advice I read on first pages says to start just before the inciting incident. For you, I'm guessing that would be just before she senses someone in her room... you could even end the 250 with her exclaiming she thinks she's being hunted...

    just a suggestion. good luck

  2. What is odd about the revised 250 is that I feel lost. Partly this is because I don't know if this is paranormal, fantasy, historical, alt history. I know this is a vague sort of feedback, but this does come back to voice.
    I think you might also have an issue with filtering. specifically, we see everything through your MC's filter. "I peered up at the statue of Athena," for instance could be completely cut. If you cut out some of your other filter stuff, it might draw people in more.

  3. Thanks, Rena! The revised pitch is one post below this one. I should've made that clearer. (smacks self)

  4. I think the revised opening is better than the original, and I DO think it has more voice. You are in the character's head. We, the readers, are living in her moment.

    A few things though -- I am still bothered by "Not until today." I think the stalking should have been going on longer to give us a real feel of foreboding. Could you replace that phrase with something that makes it sound like it's been a recent but ongoing thing?

    Also, "come on" sounds very modern to me. Watch out for modern phrasing in a Greek myth setting. It's tricky, trying to make the dialogue appealing to modern youth without sounding modern, but I'll bet you can tweak it so it works.

    Good job with your revising! I can really see the evolution of your work!

  5. Late to the game!

    The second 250 is much improved. You do get a better sense of the MC. But there is something about this person leaving gifts for her behind (you mentioned in the first 250 but took out of the second). I'd explore that. Are they things she wants? Things that remind her of home? Sweet? Creepy? That could be a way to learn more about her. The material items a person wants/values can say a lot about them. What they don’t want/value also says a lot.

    I like the idea of starting the story with the creepiness of the night before. Also, someone mentioned that it'd be good if this wasn't the first incident. I like that idea too. Maybe before she was able to rationalize away the fact that someone is following her around in a highly protected temple, but now she can no longer deny that it’s happening? That’s kind of what I was getting.

    Also I'd want to know how scared she is. Is she scared/intrigued (because she knows Athena is protecting her, but is still weirded out that someone could get in the Temple). Or is she scared (pardon my French) shitless, and is possibly doubting her faith in Athena.

    Last thing. The dialogue does sound a bit modern. Maybe try losing a word here or there. In my mind we’re wordier these days (we add in a lot of little unnecessary extra words).


    “Alessia, come on.”
    TRY “Alessia, come.”
    OR “Come Alessia.”

    “You’re still upset about this morning, aren’t you?” TRY “You’re upset about this morning, aren’t you?” OR “This morning still upsets you?”

    “Of course, I’m upset. Someone was in my room last night, and I know that’s not even possible.”
    “Yes, of course. Someone was in my room, yet they say it isn’t possible.”
    “Someone was in my room Naima, and yet I know that’s not possible.”

    You can take my dialogue advice with a grain of salt. This is just what sounds ancient to me :) 

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