First Page Feedback – The Keys of the Music Box Witch

Ooh, time travel can be great–and oh, so tricky… @ARCook_writes has a wonderful imagination…
Chapter One: Gunslinger

The last one is waking up now.

She groans as she sits up on the unfamiliar ground. Her eyes must be burning—she squeezes her eyelids together tightly and grimaces. Sensitive areas on the body tend to experience a burning sensation once the subject has been through the Chronological Relocation. The others felt it as well. The Pirate was the most expressive about it. He is a verbal artiste with curse words. But I will get to him shortly.

Eventually she forces her eyes open. She glances about at the stark black trees keeping vigil over her, as light gray flakes descend silently in the stillness. A growing sense of panic takes root in her chest, but she quickly reins it in. It is instinctive for her, to suppress panic and fear, but she doesn’t remember why.

She doesn’t remember anything.

That realization begins to sink in, and now she looks down at herself. She mentally notes the tattered duster coat, the worn pants, the button-up shirt and the dirt-caked boots. On the ground beside her is a leather brimmed hat and a rifle. A fleeting thought whispers through her mind: Am I supposed to be dressed like this? These are men’s clothes…

Interesting she should think that now. Such a notion hasn’t crossed her mind in years, where she’s from.

She lays a hand on the rifle lightly, not sure if it belongs to her. But it must, since she finds pouches of gunpowder and bullets on her belt that match up with this firearm. She scratches her short brown hair, trying to register everything around her. The usual questions begin tumbling through her mind like a landslide: How did I get here? What was I doing before this? Where am I? Who am I?

It’s that last question that sometimes terrifies most of my guests. But this one manages to keep her calm as she slowly gets up, dusting the gray flakes from her coat.

“Hello? Anybody out here?” she calls. There is no answer, of course. As she brushes away the flakes, she holds a few in her palm and looks at them closely. She realizes it is not snow, as she first thought, despite its off-white color. She rubs the substance gently between her fingers, and sniffs at it. Her face wrinkles in confusion and distaste. I suppose there is a small sense of relief as well, since it proves she does remember something, at least. She remembers what ash is.

She picks up the rifle, and a whiff of a notion returns to her like an age old friend. I know how to hold a rifle, she thinks. I know how to use one. I hit my marks true every time, faster than a hawk on a rabbit. I’m even better than…I can’t remember who…but I can shoot…shoot… 

Someone died…someone was shot…did I do it? No, I was upset…but not at who died. At who shot him. 

Someone is dead…someone…

First Page Feedback from Mary-Theresa  Hussey

There are some strong elements–I like the sense of confusion and feeling of “lost” in time and even place. Those really ground the story and character.

With only a few hundred words, it’s hard to really ground the reader. The opening two paragraphs with lines like “The last one is waking up now” and later “my guests” make me wonder if there’s a narrator to the story and what his/her purpose is. And yet from the woman’s close POV thoughts at the end of the page, we’re in her perspective and experiences. How do those two elements balance? Will it lead to reader confusion as well? 🙂

I like the little header “The Gunslinger”–because that is who the heroine is dressed as, perhaps, but maybe the first line hearkens back to the mysterious observer? 

There’s a pirate and others to come as well!

I’m not entirely sure if the opening is quite as compelling as it could be, but there’s enough to interest a reader and want to know what happens next at least! I think this is one of those stories where a reader’s expectations–from back cover copy or cover or such–will really help the reading experience.

But I’m still curious about a Music Box Witch!

Good job!

 

 

3 replies on “First Page Feedback – The Keys of the Music Box Witch”

Thank you for the feedback, Mary-Theresa. I oftentimes have trouble with openings (I always want to get to the meaty good parts!) and this was an experiment to write from the POV of the story’s villain, who has the ability to get into everyone else’s minds. I appreciate your comments and I thank you for taking the time to read it.

Starting from the villain can be hard, because the reader is almost trained to root for/identify with the initial protagonist (unless immediately clear he/she is doing something awful!).

And you never want to get your readers confused–particularly in the opening before they get invested with time and energy in the story!

Starting with meaty good parts can be right on target….

I figured it was the villain. Either that or a computer merely documenting the success of an experiment by evil scientists conducting time travel tests.

It sounds like this gun-slinging heroine isn’t of this era and that the pirate is also another soul that has been revived in some present time.

TBH the title drew me in. Usually I associate music boxes with ballerinas or some other pretty figure…but a witch. Sounds creepy.

Could this possibly be a steampunk PNR idea? (And on a still slightly relevant note, do you have this up on the SYTYCW contest page as an entry, A.R.?)

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