First Page Critique/Workshop: SOCIETY OF NIGHT AND LIES (Urban Fantasy)



Critiquer: Rebecca Weston

It was a quiet night at the Other Side Bar and Grill. The usual patrons were coming and going about their business, some playing pool while others drank their miseries away. Outside, it was raining, unusual for the time of year, but it was welcomed. (I don’t feel like these opening sentences are doing much for you, to be honest. They’re too generic to be really hook-worthy.) The black pantheress sat in a booth across the room, while sipping at a drink she really didn’t want, and idly watching a pool game she wasn’t really interested in. (This is a better sentence to open with. Talking about a black pantheress sitting in a bar is more attention-grabbing as it immediately makes us go, “Wait…a what now?”) As she watched, a stranger entered the bar, tall, lean, and wearing a cloak from out of some medieval game. (“Some medieval game” isn’t sitting right with me. It feels awkward – like you don’t want to all-out describe the cloak but you don’t want to name-drop Dungeons & Dragons either. I’m wondering if you even need it.)

He went to the bar and called the bartender – a large older bear – over, a large older bear, to give him an envelope; it was plain and white, typical of anyone’s general office supplies with only one name written on it: Sabrina. The bear looked at the name then looked up to the stranger, but he was already gone, only the edge of his cloak was seen as he left. The bear shrugged then waved one of the waitresses over, murmuring to her to watch over the register while he took the envelope to its owner.

“Ree, this came for you,” said the older bear as he dropped the envelope onto the pantheress’ table.  For a bear his size, he was surprisingly quiet, even in the general noise of the bar. (The “even if…” doesn’t make sense. If the bar is noisy, you’d expect moving quietly would be easy because the rest of the chatter would cover it up.) Even for his age, the old bear he (Careful not to reuse certain phrases or words or labels to often. Redundancy can make the voice choppy.) looked muscular beneath his clothes and pelt though middle age was certainly showing around his midsection.  Not even his loose button up shirt with its old drink stains and faded stripe pattern, nor the tightly belted brown slacks, or the dingy apron tied around his waist could hide this simple fact of a life less active than what it used to be.

Overall, I’d say it sets a pretty good scene for the first 250 words. I’m intrigued enough by this possibility of animals-as-humans that I’d keep reading, although I’d hope to start getting a clearer picture of what was going on pretty quickly in the next few pages to avoid frustration. e.g., Are these really animals-as-humans or is it some play on words? Is everybody there one of them? Was the stranger one of them since he was never described as either animal or human?

Actually – that might be a good way to start giving us a hint is to give us a clearer description of the stranger. If you straight-up designate him as a human, that’s pretty non-invasive but gives the reader a clue as to what the setup is.  I’d also suggest maybe giving us some hints about the voice and thoughts of the pantheress as she watches this little drop-off take place – assuming, of course, that she’s a POV character.


If you have any thoughts or questions, the comments are open, but please keep it constructive. No douchebaggery allowed.

One thought on “First Page Critique/Workshop: SOCIETY OF NIGHT AND LIES (Urban Fantasy)

  1. Thank you so much for this critique. To be honest, I was expecting it to be torn apart more than this this. Yes, these are animals-as-humas, better known in the furry fandom as anthromoprphs or morphs. I do realize this is a slow start, but within the first two pages, action starts and the idle pantheress turns mysterious with her own agenda to keep from being mixed up in the life she had left behind.

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