These are the first two pages of Chapter 1. There used to be a prologue, but I cut it in an attempt to get to the heart of the story quicker (Hatshepsut meeting with her father). Please critique to your hearts’ content!
“Stupid girl!” Thutmosis’ voice cracked, the prince’s voice pimpled as his face. “I’ll climb up there and get you myself.”
“I’d like to see you try.” Hatshepsut rubbed the pebble bite on her shoulder, clutching the sycamore’s branch with her other hand. He was bluffing. Her pudgy half-brother was terrified of heights- always had been. However, if Hatshepsut wasn’t careful one wrong move would send her plummeting to the grass below. That was an experience she could quite happily live without.
“It’s time for our lessons and we’re going to be late,” she said. “Let me come down.”
“As if I care about being late,” Thutmosis said with a sneer. “Nebtawi will just have to wait for me- I’m the prince.”
Hatshepsut rolled her eyes. She wished Neferubity was still at her side, the two sisters united together against their obnoxious half-brother. But her older sister had died from a fever almost a year ago, leaving Hatshepsut to fend for herself.
“I’m sure Nebtawi would consider himself blessed by Amun if he didn’t have to teach you today,” she said to Thutmosis.
Again, Hatshepsut received the sharp reply of a pebble, this time perfectly aimed right between her eyes. Squealing in pained surprise, both hands flew to her face. Too late Hatshepsut realized she had upset her precarious balance on the branch. She reached out to the tree’s taunting limbs, but they merely mocked her, already out of reach as she fell backwards, the green needles of the tree disappearing into the blue expanse of the Egyptian sky. Time slowed for the merest of seconds in the awful realization that she was going to hit the ground in an explosion of inevitable pain. Hatshepsut hit the grass with a thud that knocked the wind from her lungs in one pained gush.
Thutmosis sauntered over, his thick lips pulled back in a gloating smile. “You deserved that,” he said, chuckling as he sheathed the slingshot in his belt.
Hatshepsut was dying to respond to her brother’s barb, but couldn’t force the air into her lungs to breathe, much less talk. She lay on the grass, trying to ignore the wave of panic as she struggled for air.
“Too weak to get up? What a wimp.” Thutmosis’ sandal nudged her deeply in the ribs. “I should have suspected as much from you.”
He was enjoying this. She lay on the ground a few moments more before her lungs finally expanded, taking in ragged breaths of sweet air.
Struggling to her feet, Hatshepsut glowered at her half-brother. She was about to berate him, but was interrupted by the growl of a furious woman.
It was her mother.
The princess’ heart plummeted to the soles of her feet. It was obvious the queen was in a perfectly foul mood, but despite her nasty glare, Ahmose was still breathtaking stalking across the landscaped green. This afternoon she wore a shimmering sheath so artfully embroidered that the water and fish along the bottom hem splashed and jumped with each step she took.
Hatshepsut felt like a bug scurrying out from under a rock. The welt on her forehead certainly wasn’t going to help her mother’s mood.
“What in the name of Amun are you doing, child?” Ahmose sized up her daughter with a mixture of annoyance and disgust. Since Neferubity’s death, her mother rarely looked upon her with any other combination of emotions, but today Hatshepsut could hardly fault her for being upset. She was supposed to meet with her father this afternoon and it would hardly do for her to see the Pharaoh looking like she’d just fallen out of a tree, even if she had.
“She started it, Hemet.” Thutmosis was always more than happy to throw the blame at Hatshepsut. “It was her fault.”
“I’m sure it was, Thutmosis. It usually is.”
I enjoyed reading this! "Happily" and "wimp" stood out as difficult words. The adverb you can live without. Wimp is too colloquial, IMHO, not that I can talk.
To ask the obvious question, if meeting her father is the core, then why aren't you opening with it? If you need to set up the relationship with Thutmosis then couldn't it come after?
Thanks Stephanie for the read!
In terms of Gary's comment, I'm curious about how long after this Hatshepsut meets with her father. Does it happen on the next page? After the next two pages?
There were also some words I saw you could cut: "united together" could become "united," for example. I kind of want "It was her mother" to be reduced to "Her mother" — hits harder.
Other than that, great stuff! I want to see how the Pharaoh deals with Hatshepsut now!
Stephanie, Sorry about that. I had a terrible typo which is ironic since my post is about editing.
You engaged me very quickly. I care now what happens to Hatshepsut. Like MattDel, though, I encourage you to watch your use of the passive “was.” In these two pages, I found it used 21 times. Part of my editing routine incorporates doing global searches for words such as “was,” which I then convert into a more active form. It's always a humbling exercise.
Great comments, guys! Fresh eyes are so helpful- I was just telling a friend that reading your own work is like looking at a slide under a microscope so close that it's nothing but a blurry mush.
Gary & Matt- I've been tweaking the intro, cutting stuff and currently Hatshepsut meets her father on page 10. There's a critical piece to the rest of the plot that has to happen before she can get to the throne room. I wanted to show the reader what a pain Thutmosis is because Hat's visit with her dad is going to lead to her training to become Pharaoh. If I start with her father offering her the throne the reader misses out on forming their own opinion of Thutmosis and why he shouldn't be the one to rule. They also miss everyone else's reactions to Hatshepsut being a girl instead of the boy she should have been.
But now I'm going to have to go back and see if I can speed up the throne room scene even quicker. Hmmmm…
Judith- Thanks for pointing out the passive voice. I haven't done a word search yet and when I edit I tend to miss those pesky passive words. I'll do that before I let my beta readers get their hands on this!