We have a new guinea pig…This week Alicia Gregoire volunteered to have eight writers beta read a single page of her urban fantasy “Phoenix Rising” so readers can compare and contrast beta styles. Below is her text with my line edits inserted in brackets and italics. I also included summary notes at the bottom as I normally would with a beta. As last time, my notes are a little lengthier than they would normally be for a single page, but the idea was to let you see my beta style.
20 Years Ago
[Is this a prologue?]
Ianos studied the chimera pride that roamed the foothills outside Timmons for months in search of the runt.
[Cool name. Also on first read, I thought the pride was searching for the runt and not Ianos.]
With a pair of large males and several females, it took him longer than he wanted,
[Took him longer than he wanted to what? Study the pride? Find the runt? Could be more clear.]
but once discovered, he kept his eye on it. In a final attempt of
self-preservation, they abandoned it weeks ago. Each day it grew weaker,
[I know the “it” is the runt and the “they” is the pride, but I think you could make this more clear by actually calling out the subject instead of using the pronoun.]
languishing without the companionship of the pride.
[If the pride abandoned the runt weeks ago and it is languishing without companionship, how is he having trouble spotting it amongst them?]
On the fourteenth day, Ianos executed his oh so easy plan.
Armed with nothing other than his knowledge of spells, he made his final trek to the foothills. He was much closer than he’d been in his previous visits to the chimera grounds and
[insert “had” after “and”]
never seen anything like the beast before. It
lay in the sun, with only one head awake, but not alert. The lion head mewled, mourning its fate. Its paper lantern thin wings stretched on the ground while the dragon and goat heads slept.
It was awing.
The lion head despondently watched Ianos’ approach but roared to awaken the other two heads when Ianos crossed some unknown border. The beast rose to its full height, stretched its wings wide, and bellowed—all three heads created a cacophony of rage.
[what does this cacophony sound like? I’m trying to imagine a lion, dragon and goat roaring at the same time.]
Ianos snarled and crouched, ready to strike. Electricity spurted from his palms towards the chimera. It dodged at the last second and ran head-on towards the sorcerer. He ran into a cave to his right; he’d have better luck surviving the fight if he was able to corner the animal. The beast skidded, turned, and charged again. Ianos leapt onto its back. He held tightly onto the lion’s neck scruff and struggled to pull a lasso out of his jeans.
[Interesting combination of the mythology and the revelation Ianos is a sorcerer in juxtaposition with his jeans and lasso.]
Thanks for sharing this piece, Alicia! I included notes in the text, but here are some gut reactions overall.
Mythology: If I recall right, Homer described a chimera as having a lion’s head, snake for a tail, and a goat somewhere on the body. Your chimera sounds very different which is 100% cool. I think it’s awesome to describe it differently, but the key is to describe it in more detail so I understand how your chimera differs from the current mythology. I really want to understand what this creature looks like, how the muscles ripple under its fur or scales, how it moves with all these various heads,
Pronouns: There is some confusion happening with the pronouns. I kept having to reread a sentence to figure out who the “they” and “it” were. This is easily fixed by working in the subject more often in place of the pronouns.
Imagery: This page relies heavily on sight. I think this could be so much more powerful if the other senses were engaged. Is it hot? How does the sun feel on Ianos’ skin? How does the lion’s scruff feel to the touch? Is there a sulfur smell since this creature breathes fire? And what does this creature sound like – cacophony is not descriptive of this particular creature?
I think you have a good start. I’d love to see more detail throughout this to really establish your world and ground me in your particular setting. Thanks again!
Check out what the other beta readers had to say!