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Avenly part 1

Avenly part 1

Avelyce has known her whole life that she's going to be queen. That doesn't mean she's happy about it though.

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Coming-of-age / Young adult fiction


Author Image

Anah Farmer (Australia)


Today is my last day here. Soon Avenly will no longer be my home, and I will move to Latien to live in the palace.
“Do you want me to pack these pictures?” the maid asks.
“No, I don’t want to remember.”
“Are you sure, M’lady?” I don’t know her name- the maid’s name. I’ve had the same maid for ten years and I don’t know her name. I was never allowed to ask, never allowed to care. The maid questions me again. I ignore her and continue facing the window attempting to enjoy my last sunrise from my childhood bedroom: one of the only good things about this wretched place. The trees in the valley below shimmer as the lights hit them, donning a white apparel to signal me off. The village below is peaceful as if nothing is going to change and, I suppose for them, nothing will. Their lives will continue just as before... It’s not as if I associated with them anyway.
“That’s the last of it, M’lady.” I turn towards her; she is standing by my bed, bags strewn across the floor by her feet. She isn’t very old, maybe a little over thirty; not ugly, but not pretty either. She has plain brown hair that’s always tied up in a bun, and plain brown eyes tinged with sadness. I used to wonder what kind of life she lived, but now I realize it doesn’t matter.
“Call for the men, then,” I turn back towards the window. This is the end, I suppose. A deep longing fills me and I inhale sharply trying to hold it down. When it doesn’t go away, I squeeze my eyes shut and clench my jaw. Reflexively, my hand goes against the window. My head pounds feverishly, and my ears fill with the thudding of my heart.
The click of the door alerts me to he maid’s exit and I reluctantly swivel around to survey the empty room. Aloof grey walls stare into my soul daring me to feel, sending shivers through my body. The sharp edges of the bed taunt me into restlessness. The lack of personal effects is obvious and while an outsider would think this is due to everything being packed, in reality it’s because I never had any. There’s no evidence of a life, just a cold unfeeling room for a cold unfeeling girl. I stagger towards the door and leave without looking back.
The stone hallway is empty except for me, however, I’ve learned someone is always watching. So, I hold my head high and place a dainty smile on my face as though this is what I've wanted my whole life. Now, I go to find Father whom is probably awaiting me in the meal hall.
The meal hall is a large room that the family only utilizes for formal events or when we have over forty guests. The walls are wooden, giving it a rustic appearance, and covered with antlers and the heads of animals from across the country. There are 10 long tables throughout the room lengthwise and one table in the front of the room widthwise. When I reach the doors to it, I await patiently for the servant to open them.
As they open, I am hit with the stench of alcohol. Thankfully, experience has prepared me for it and disgust doesn’t show on my face. I have never understood how people can drink in the morning. I step into the room and find several of the tables filled with the remaining guests from the previous night’s celebration. Father sits at the table on the far side of the room. On noting my arrival, he stands and everyone in the room follows suit, including my twin who makes no effort to hide her disdain (no, she would not make a good queen). I smile at her with what might actually be conceived as pleasure. Crossing the room to where they are, I take a seat next to my sister and everyone follows suit. After a slight pause, the chatter picks up again as a servant brings me a plate of food.
I am not allowed to eat much in order to keep the “perfect size” and the foods I am allowed are less than appetizing. These standards were set by my mother’s health advisory committee: a bunch of anorexic prunes who look like they’re going to pass out all the time.
“Are you ready to depart, sister?” Annika asks as she takes a bite of food from her grossly filled plate and chews with pleasure. Looking down at my own plate, I hold back a sigh at the meager portion of fruit wishing I could have the freedom to eat as much as I’d like. But then I look at my sister’s rather plump form and, for once, I’m glad that I’m half-starved.
“You know I would not have come down if I was not ready to leave,” I say, and she smiles condescendingly.
“Of course. You’re always ready for everything, Avelyce.” I return her smile, and, despite the complaints of my stomach, eat my food slowly. Annika’s nose scrunches up as she watches me before she moves to talk to someone on her left. Grateful to be out of her scrutiny, I finish eating in silence until Father decides to acknowledge me.
“Daughter, it is times like these, sitting here on the verge of your departure, that I cannot help the sorrow that overtakes me.” With one elbow on the table, he sits facing me. His graying brown hair falls into his eyes giving him a somber disposition. If it weren’t for the light dancing in his expressive green eyes I might actually think he was sorry to see me go.
“Don’t worry, Father,” I say, “You’ll just have to visit often to make up for my absence.” His eyes twinkle at the thought.
“Nothing can make up for the pain your departure will cause me. At least the rest of your sisters will not leave me so soon.” At that last statement real sorrow enters his eyes and I almost feel like laughing... Almost. I smile and look down at my empty plate.
The remaining guests in the hall come up periodically to wish me well on my journey and to mention that they’ll be at the wedding, when a servant informs us that it is time for my departure. My sister closes her eyes in relief and a mixture of feelings rise up in me and this time, I don’t try to stop them.
Dazed, I don’t remember leaving the room or walking down the hall to the entrance of my home. All I know is the emptiness that caresses me like a dear friend. In the courtyard, my mother awaits me on the front steps, though my father walks ahead of me to join her.
She greets me with a small smile and folds me into her warm embrace. She is the only one truly sad to see me go. After all, I’ve been her only true friend these past years. When she pulls away, her black hair is mussed and her honey colored eyes shimmer with tears. She holds me at arm's length for a moment and says, “Remember everything I’ve taught you, dear.” With a small smile, the only genuine one I’ve received all day, she passes me on to my father, who, while not the most loving parent, pulls me in for a hug and gently kisses the top of my head.
“You bear my name. Wear it with pride.” Looking up at him, I nod my head. He releases me and I look around one final time at the familiar courtyard whose dusty stone floors are scuffed with memories of sword fights and horse hooves. Lingering a moment longer, I slowly walk down the steps to where the carriage waits. All eyes are on me as a footman wordlessly helps me in and closes the door and then… I’m alone.
Looking out the window of the carriage, I see my father has already gone inside and not one of my five sisters has rushed to see me off as I secretly hoped they would. The only person who is still there is my mother; staring proudly at me for the life she wished she had. As the carriage starts to move, she lifts her arm in a formal farewell. I copy the gesture, arm raised to wave good-bye. But as I lift my hand to do so, I realize she doesn’t really care that I’m leaving either. While, yes, she doesn’t want me to leave, she’s glad that I’m going to live the life she always dreamed of. The life she and my father paid so much for me to have. In that moment, I meet her eyes and yank the curtains shut.


Competition: The Pen Factor 2016, Round 1

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Read Reviews

Review 1:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • The grammar, typography, sentence structure and punctuation would benefit from a further round of editing to avoid distracting from the quality of the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing!
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals, conflicts and purpose were clearly introduced and I wanted to find out more about them.
Technique and tight writing
  • When writing is tight, economical and each word has purpose, it enables the plot to unravel clearly. Try and make each individual word count.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
Opening line and hook
  • Your strong opening and compelling hook was a promise of wonderful things to come!
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
Congratulations! You tell a great story, although you need to refine your style and develop your writing technique. The praiseworthy elements of your story are: The opening scenario- it creates immediate interest, and establishes in just a few words conveys that your protagonist is a person of consequence facing a time of upheaval. The names Avenly and Latien are alien without sounding outlandish. The character’s impersonal relationship with the maid suggests distinctive and unusual social values. The physical setting is well imagined, and comes across vividly without too much descriptive text. The detail about the diet is quirky and suggests that the character has some special destiny not shared by all her sisters. Your style and tone of voice are distinctive, but to me they’re devalued by shortcomings in technique that fall into four main categories: Syntax errors. There are places where the literal meaning is ambiguous or definitely isn’t what you’ve intended. It’s possible for the reader to get over the stumbles by inferring your meaning from the context, but they take away some of the pleasure of reading. Cliche. A few of your turns of phrase are commonplace, and detract from the more inventive parts of your text. You could rework them slightly, without making the text ‘over-written’. Pleonasms. There are too many words which you could strip without losing meaning or style. Individually pleonasms seem trivial, but the impact of a large number really detracts from the enjoyment of the text. Punctuation. There are a few instances of poor punctuation. Watch those pesky semi-colons! The good news is that technique can be learned, while imaginative story-telling is your gift!

Review 2:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Make sure your characters are multidimensional. Do they have strengths and weaknesses? Mere mortals make the most interesting stories because they are like you and me and we are able to empathize with their journey. That’s how the connection with a character is formed.
Main character
  • Connect us to your main protagonist with a deeper characterization. Could your protagonist have a few more distinguishing character traits?
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals, conflicts and purpose were clearly introduced and I wanted to find out more about them.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a difficult balancing act. Are you sure all the material is relevant to the plot, setting and atmosphere? Make sure each sentence makes sense to the reader, and each paragraph moves their experience forward.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. The first page should introduce some intrigue, something that causes the reader to turn the page. Think about the conflict and tension in your story. How effectively has it been introduced?
Technique and tight writing
  • When writing is tight, economical and each word has purpose, it enables the plot to unravel clearly. Try and make each individual word count.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose is tricky. As writers, we face the daunting task of making sure we are not being predictable. Can you find a way to give the content and characters more of a unique edge? Perhaps say something boldly, something fresh or show an unorthodox approach to a topic?
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
Opening line and hook
  • Great books, nowadays, start with a powerful opening and compelling hook in order to keep the reader engaged. Have you baited the reader enough?
General comments from your fellow writer 2:
Your descriptions are really great. You immediately created a moody atmosphere and a sense of intrigue. You've set your reader firmly down in Avelyce's rather disturbing life and straight away you've introduced intrigue. Who is she marrying in Latien? Why are her family so keen to see her go? Why is her sister allowed to eat freely when she is half starved? Why doesn't she know her maid's name? I'd hope as a reader that these detail unfold throughout your story. At this stage without knowing where the book is leading I'm assuming Avelyce has an arranged marriage in store but I don't know how she feels about that. I only know how she feels about her current situation. The first 1500 words aren't enough to give me a sense of how the story will unfold but I understand you are building your heroine's past so we can understand the kind of life she has been used to up until now. It is a powerful beginning and even though this is not my favourite genre I'm intrigued to know what happens next.

Review 3:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • The grammar, typography, sentence structure and punctuation would benefit from a further round of editing to avoid distracting from the quality of the story.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing!
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals, conflicts and purpose were clearly introduced and I wanted to find out more about them.
Technique and tight writing
  • When writing is tight, economical and each word has purpose, it enables the plot to unravel clearly. Try and make each individual word count.
Atmosphere and description
  • A writer’s ability to create mood and atmosphere through evocative description is vital to the reader’s experience. It’s a real skill to craft out how the characters react to the setting and atmosphere and perhaps your story could go further in its description. The reader wants to experience the same sensory and poignant journey as the characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The scene needs to be vivid and realistic in order to hold the reader’s attention. Being concise and plausible at the same time is tricky. Giving this further attention could perhaps be worthwhile.
General comments from your fellow writer 3:
Hi. Thanks for sharing your writing. The narrative shows promise but I have some suggestions. Watch out for unnecessary sentences. You write - "The maid questions me again" - what does she say? Best to leave it out altogether. There are a number of instances of this. Some words jar with the style. Try using words or phrases other than 'apparel', 'associated' and 'utilizes'; they don't sound right. Look at this sentence - "The trees in the valley below shimmer as the lights hit them, donning a white apparel to signal me off." - what lights? If there are lights, write them in, perhaps it is moonlight. Try to fashion an alternative sentence out of this idea and leave out 'apparel' - doesn't sound right. Again, you could write - 'The family only attends the large meal hall for formal events.' - instead of "The meal hall is a large...". Too wordy, try reading the passages out loud and you will see what sounds best. Have a think about this passage - "Call for the men, then," I turn etc... - the 'then' is unnecessary. Also the "click of the door" How about this - "Call for the men," as she leaves I turn back towards... Why does she 'stagger', is she lame or injured? Sometimes the simplest sentence is the best. When the reader has to stumble over the unnecessary, you lose them. This does not mean you cannot make beautiful sentences...Shakespeare wrote 'brevity is the soul of wit'. Words such as 'lengthwise' and 'widthwise' mean little to the reader. Try to find other words. I suggest as an exercise, rewrite passage by passage and exclude all that is not relevant to the advancement of the story - be brutal - slash and burn, including all the 'thats'. A sentence can read very well without the adverb 'that'. words of wisdom from a master storyteller, Stephen King - "The road to hell is paved with adverbs." I think this story has potential, I like it and want to know what happens to Avelyce.