Open Pen

Untitled Fantasy Excerpt: An Open Pen Critique

Before I post today’s Open Pen submission, I want to announce that I am moving Open Pen to Fridays. So starting next Friday, I will be posting the Open Pen submissions on Friday rather than Saturday. The reason for this is quite simple: I am not longer going to even try to post on Thursday (as I once had dreamed), and Monday and Friday are spaced out better than Monday and Saturday.

Red, who blogs over at Starry Reflections, submitted a young adult, fantasy excerpt from her current work in progress. This excerpt is from the second chapter of her novel, but if you are interested if reading the first chapter, too, you can read it at this link. Red would love a critique on her character’s personality and generally if the story would keep you reading, but would love any type of feedback. However, please note that Red is aware of the tense problems and plans to change the journal style of the piece.

Thank you for taking the time to make a few comments on her piece. Even short, simply comments are very helpful.

If you would like to submit a piece of writing to be critiqued and posted on my blog, you can read the rules and submit on the Open Pen page.

God bless,



Untitled Excerpt by Red

Taria Cairo

The 16th day of the 4th month of the 270th year of the 6th era at 8 o’clock in the evening

I was sleeping when it all happened. The bombs rained down so suddenly. Oh, how I wish the Irks would have waited a few days more to attack! I was so looking forward to the coronation. The dancing and the banquet. How splendid it all would have been. When the bombs went off, I stayed asleep because I thought I was still dreaming but as soon as I heard soldiers running around in the halls my eyes flew open. I sat up and began to panic a bit.

“Oh no… oh no. It’s an attack! We’re all gonna die. We are gonna die!” I said to myself. “Okay, okay. Breath, Taria, breath. It’s gonna be fine, just relax. Whew, okay. What are we gonna do?” I asked myself. “We are gonna go out there and try to find somewhere safe to hide. Yes! That is what we’re gonna do. Okay. I’ve got this.” I slowly creeped out of the door of my guest suite and into the hall. I forced myself to walk down the hall. I almost screamed but covered my mouth just in time, when I saw an unconscious, or much more likely dead, Irkish soldier on the ground, around the corner. A pool of irkish yellow blood spilled onto the marble floor from a bullet wound in his side. I noticed a small handgun lying a few inches away from his body.

“Should I grab it? I don’t know. Okay, okay let’s grab it so that you may protect yourself.” I whispered to myself as I approached the weapon. “You are trained with guns, so this should be easy.” I swallowed hard and picked up the handgun. I then hurried away from the body.

A little while later, I stopped abruptly at the sound of voices around the corner.

“…we be trying to find hostages?” The deep voice of an Irkish soldier said.

“Yeah, but I don’t care much for doing what the commander says.” A more feminine sounding voice replied. “I think he’s got a few screws loose, if you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I getcha. I hope we get to leave this freezing place soon. I still can’t believe this is spring here!” The first voice says. Okay Taria, think. Should you turn back? No. There’s nothing back there. I need to find a bunker. Okay, first things first. How do I get past these guys? … Hello! You have a gun Taria, use it!

I hold up my gun, peer around the corner and aim for the first guy’s leg. I steady my breathing and pull the trigger.

“Ah!” He yells.

I see him fall to the ground cradling his leg. The second one immediately turns in my direction and yells,

“Who’s there? Come out, you coward!”

Okay let’s come out and… The soldier turned the corner before I could  finish thinking and I instinctively shot her leg as well. Then I made a run for it. As I ran I silently patted myself on the back for being so freaking awesome. I don’t know how long I ran for, but I soon came to a staircase in the floor.

“Maybe it leads to an underground bunker.” I whisper. “Might as well try it, even though there might be twenty soldiers down there waiting to kill you! Oh, shut up! It’ll be fine.” I cautiously make my way down the staircase which leads me to a door. I try the knob but it’s locked. Of course it’s locked you idiot! If there are people hiding in there, they obviously wouldn’t want to be found! Maybe I should just knock? What am I? Stupid. They’re not gonna answer a knock! …Well, maybe… So I knocked. I rapped my hand on the metal door a couple of times and waited. I heard a bit of commotion until finally the door opened slowly. The face of a girl with dark green eyes, very pale skin and striking amber hair, tied up in braids wrapped around her head, appeared in the small bit of open doorway. She eyed me suspiciously and her eyes rested on the gun in my hand.

“Umm… Is this a safe bunker?” I asked quietly. She narrowed her eyes and then spoke.

“Yeah. Who are you?”

“My name is Taria. I’m a guest here at Sella Castle and”-

“Did they just say their name is Taria?” A voice came from inside the bunker. Is that… No, it couldn’t be! Could it?

The girl turned around and shushed the voice. Suddenly, someone pushed their way past the girl. My eyes grew wide.

“Elion!” I yelled a bit too loud. My older brother smiled and gave me a hug.

“Taria, I thought you would be dead by now. Your being such a scaredy-cat and all.” Elion said, although I knew he was actually very glad to see me. He brought me inside the bunker that I am now writing from. Once I got a better look at the girl, I saw that she has white wings sprouting from her back, meaning that she is a Kra, a winged race that supposedly originated somewhere in the mountains. Inside, there are about a dozen people, most of them injured. I later learned that the kra girl’s name is Aurelia and that her and Elion have been helping injured people get to the safety of the bunker. I am now sitting in a corner writing, I know, I know, it is quite strange that I brought my journal with me from my suite, but I knew I would have the urge to write later on and I didn’t want to leave it behind. I hope that all of this conflict will end soon or at least that things will quiet down a bit so that I can get a little sleep.


3 thoughts on “Untitled Fantasy Excerpt: An Open Pen Critique”

  1. Since I don’t know how you want your character to come across, I think the best way to do this is to say how she comes across to me, so you can see how close it is to what you want.
    I love the internal dialogue between the rational part of her mind and the part that’s panicking. She seems quite down-to-earth, and is clearly quite a clear and logical thinker. I like that she thinks logically but her panic and tension still come across very strongly; the balance between thoughts and emotions can be very difficult in a tense piece, but you have pulled that off brilliantly!
    Her annoyance with her own panicky thoughts helps me to relate to her very well, and also provides a bit of light relief from the tension. It isn’t clear just from this scene whether she is one of these people who is a very blunt speaker and quite hard on everyone, or just critical of herself, but either would be believable.
    I like that she “silently pats herself on the back for being so freaking awesome” while she is running for her life. This suggests to me that she has a streak of liking to perform and appreciates style. Maybe she is a little arrogant, but this one incident doesn’t show that for certain.
    She also seems a little bit shallow and unfeeling to me, in that she doesn’t think about her brother (or anyone else in the palace) until she finds him in the bunker, and then, when she is safe, only wants things to quiet down so she can rest. If, as her reluctance to pick up the gun would suggest, she is not used to fighting, I would expect her to be a little more upset that there are people dying around her. I think the attitude put across in thee last paragraph might be more appropriate to someone who has seen a lot of fighting, but her initial panic suggests someone who hasn’t.
    I know you asked about the character and this is a bit unrelated, but it did bother me slightly that the girl in the bunker just opened the door. If it had been an enemy soldier knocking, they could have shot her and got into the bunker quite easily. Don’t you think she would be more likely to shout through first, or to bring a weapon with her if she was going to open the door?
    Anyway, with a little bit of editing (sorry, I am a grammar nerd 🙂 ) this would definitely keep me reading. The story is fast-paced and atmospheric and the protagonist has attitude and is easy to relate to. Great work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your feedback! I always love hearing about ways I can improve my writing. I have a long way to go with this piece and I am I where near done editing. So thank you so much for your positive feedback on her personality. There are still a lot of things I have yet to think about for this character, but I’m really glad that you enjoyed her thought process! I really love the way it came out. I am going to fix the inconstancies with her being panicked in the beginning and not so much in the end. She is supposed to not have any experience with a real crisis before so I’m glad that came out well in the beginning. I’m glad that she came across pretty close to the way I wanted her to. I wanted her to come across self-centered but also kind underneath. I also wanted to show that she has trained for this sort of thing but has never experienced and there is a big difference between training and the real thing and that’s why she panics. She is supposed to be a really logical person and a lot of times when her emotions come out she gets frustrated. I am definitely going to fix that part toward the end where Aurelia opens the door right away, because that is pretty dumb and Aurelia is supposed to be more experienced in these situations. I’m glad that overall you enjoyed and that you would continue reading! 😀
      Thanks again
      God Bless,


  2. May I suggest that you switch your narrative to third-person POV? And I’m not sure whether or not irkish is supposed to be capitalized because I saw it both ways. The inner dialogue is good, but perhaps could use a little trim. Also, throwing in a few tells like sweaty palms and shortened breath, while still making her act with confidence, could accomplish the goal of making her seem well-trained, but at the same time still a rookie to the action. Great job though, and good luck on your story. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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