I found The Kiss of Deception on the shelf next to Eragon, hoping that Paolini’s book had cooties that would rub off. While Mary E. Pearson’s bestselling The Remnant Chronicles are not as bad as all that, the opening of the first book still has plenty to discuss. Let’s dig in!
Try It Without the Teaser
Before the first chapter, there’s what looks like a half-page teaser – a sort of mini prologue. While the brevity certainly makes these better than a typical prologue, whether they do much good is questionable. Let’s see how effective this one is.
Journey’s end. The promise. The hope.
Tell me again, Ama. About the light.
I search my memories. A dream. A story. A blurred remembrance.
I was smaller than you, child.
The line between truth and sustenance unravels. The need. The hope. My own grandmother telling stories to fill me because there was nothing more. I look at this child, windlestraw, a full stomach not even visiting her dreams. Hopeful. Waiting. I pull her thin arms, gather the feather of flesh into my lap.
What is going on here? The bolded line and its dramatic sentence fragments don’t feel like narration. Then it switches to first person, but with three different indentations and alternating italics and roman. Do the italics indicate lines of dialogue? Why aren’t they just in double quotes like normal? And is the indentation just a mistake?
If your reader has to spend their attention figuring out what you’re saying, they won’t be able to enjoy it. This is especially bad during an opening, when readers need to be drawn in but have no context for what’s going on. Don’t make it hard for them by playing around with the narration.
After examination, we can guess this teaser features a grandmother who’s going to retell something from memory to her starving granddaughter. Usually, I’d assume this is an unnecessary framing device, and the grandmother’s about to retell the events of the actual story. However, that would mean that even after the story concludes, children are still starving, which is a real downer. Maybe if we keep going, this grandmother will at least give us some intriguing details.
Once upon a time, my child, there was a princess no bigger than you. The world was at her fingertips. She commanded, and the light obeyed. The sun, moon, and stars knelt and rose at her touch. Once upon a time …
Gone. Now there is only this golden-eyed child in my arms. That is what matters. And the journey’s end. The promise. The hope.
Come, my child. It’s time to go.
Before the scavengers come.
This tells us there used to be some kind of chosen one with light powers, and the world has scavengers that are a danger to the poor. Perhaps the golden-eyed child is the main character, and she’ll bring the light back. None of that is bad, but it’s not a lot for a half page. Too many words are being spent on these melodramatic one- or two-word sentences. The promise. The hope. Wasted.
The things that last. The things that remain. The things I dare not speak to her.
I’ll tell you more as we walk. About before.
Once upon a time …—The Last Testaments of Gaudrel
This doesn’t give us anything more. Mentioning “the things I dare not speak to her” could be intriguing later in the story, when we know enough to start guessing what that could be. But when we know almost nothing, such vague teasers don’t provide anything to latch on to. Readers don’t pick up books looking for empty buzzwords; they come for immersive narration and meaningful content.
I also don’t believe this part-narration story within a story is someone’s last testament. The same epistolary premise is also probably why the dialogue isn’t marked properly. Epistolary writing comes with some pretty strict rules. If it doesn’t fit what you’re doing, just use regular narration instead. Don’t try to stuff a square scene into a round premise.
For comparison, I’ve rewritten this teaser in regular narration to create a real-time scene with about the same content. While I brought in much of the current text, I also chose to prioritize clarity. For instance, I don’t know how there could be a line between truth and sustenance, so I made it between truth and dream.
“Tell me again, Ama. About the light.” My granddaughter’s gold eyes fix on me.
I gather her windlestraw form into my lap. She is all I have left. I cannot give her more to eat, but I can search my memory for an old story. “I was smaller than you, child…”
Outside our straw walls, branches break and a hound yelps. The scavengers. I stand slowly, for if I frighten this feather of flesh in my arms, she might cry and bring them upon us. I must continue the story for her, though I can no longer find the line between truth and dream.
“Once upon a time” – I whisper as I creep toward the door – “there was a princess no bigger than you. The world was at her fingertips. She commanded, and the light obeyed. The sun, moon, and stars knelt and rose at her touch. Once upon a time…”
Without the disjointed phrasing and with just a little scene setting, the same content is much more urgent and immersive.
Would it make it a great teaser? No, because readers will want to read more about this tense situation instead of the book’s opening chapter. But this is an inherent issue with disconnected prologues and teasers. A weaker teaser isn’t solving this; it’s just taking up space without doing anything.
Let’s see how the opening of Chapter One goes.
Abstract Statements Aren’t Good Hooks
Let’s look at our first sentence.
Today was the day a thousand dreams would die and a single dream would be born.
As first sentences go, this is pretty creative. It creates a little tension because dreams will die, but it still provides hope to move the story forward. However, it’s also entirely abstract. You could attach a statement like this to any large tragic event. Without specific and concrete details, it loses much of its pull.
For comparison, take the first sentence of Crescent City: “There was a wolf at the gallery door.” That’s intriguing and immediate.
I’ll give Pearson’s line three out of five stars. Now let’s see how well she manages to follow up about these dying dreams. Can she build on this creative sentence by adding concrete details about the situation at hand?
The wind knew. It was the first of June, but cold gusts bit at the hilltop citadelle as fiercely as deepest winter, shaking the windows with curses and winding through drafty halls with warning whispers. There was no escaping what was to come.
Well… there are technically concrete details here, though they don’t tell us what the first sentence meant.
Saying something like “the wind knew” in the second paragraph of a fantasy book raises some questions. Is there literally some kind of windy intelligence that knows about the tragedy about to befall this citadelle? Alternately, the tragedy could be related to the weather, and if someone had noticed the change in the wind, they could have predicted it. But considering we still don’t have anything specific about the dreams, this wind statement sounds like a lot of hot air.
Saying “there was no escaping what was to come” doesn’t mean much when we not only have no inkling of what’s to come, but we also don’t have a character it will affect.
For good or bad, the hours were closing in. I closed my eyes against the thought, knowing that soon the day would cleave in two, forever creating the before and after of my life, and it would happen in one swift act that I could no more alter than the color of my eyes.
This paragraph mentions one thing that we didn’t already know. Can you identify it?
It’s “I.” We now have a first-person narrator and presumed main character, though we don’t know anything about them. We can probably assume she’s a woman by the cover, and if we also assume the golden-eyed girl is her and then think about it for a while, we might guess that having golden eyes is related to her doom because it’s referred to here.
At this point, I think Pearson is hyping this unknown tragic event to the point where the story can’t live up to it. Maybe she’s being vague to hide that it’s small potatoes.
For good or bad, its disappointing nature will soon be upon us. In one swift reveal, the first chapter will soon cleave in two, forever creating the before and after as a thousand dreams for this incredibly vague hook die. There is no escaping it, Pearson. The wind warned you.
Nothing Matters Without Context
I pushed away from the window, fogged with my own breath, and left the endless hills of Morrighan to their own worries. It was time for me to meet my day.
The prescribed liturgies passed as they were ordained, the rituals and rites as each had been precisely laid out, all a testament to the greatness of Morrighan and the Remnant from which it was born. I didn’t protest. By this point, numbness had overtaken me, but then midday approached, and my heart galloped again as I faced the last of the steps that kept here from there.
Morrighan and the Remnant sound pretty important to this world, but what are they? The phrase “the endless hills of Morrighan” makes it sound like a land area, but that doesn’t seem right in the following paragraph. When you’re introducing world terms, readers don’t need to know everything, but you want to at least clarify what type of thing it is. Is the Remnant an artifact? A person? A place?
Getting some brief details on what Morrighan and the Remnant are and how the former was born for the later might even add novelty. As it is, I’m not sure introducing them here is leaving the reader better informed.
At least we know what the protagonist is undergoing has some religious significance, because of some vague rites, ritual, and liturgies. Since these activities aren’t described, I’ll just assume they involve capturing Pokémon.
I lay naked, facedown on a stone-hard table, my eyes focused on the floor beneath me while strangers scraped my back with dull knives. I remained perfectly still, even though I knew the knives brushing my skin were held with cautious hands. […]
What just happened?! How did we get to the protagonist laying down naked and being scraped by knives?
Going back, “my heart galloped again as I faced the last of the steps that kept here from there” is supposed to be a transition. But “as I faced” usually refers to facing something about to happen rather than being partway through it. And vaguely referring to a “step” doesn’t leave readers expecting something like this.
On the plus side, we are finally in an actual scene with some evocative specifics. But we still don’t have any context for why this is happening. I can only guess the narrator is a Pokémon, and this is how she evolves into her next form. Look, I have to imagine something.
Pauline sat nearby watching, probably with worried eyes. I couldn’t see her, only the slate floor beneath me, my long dark hair tumbling down around my face in a swirling black tunnel that blocked the world out—except for the rhythmic rasp of the blades.
We have a character named Pauline. Is she a friend? A love interest? A Pokémon trainer? Who knows.
The swirling black tunnel is a nice metaphor, but saying it’s blocking out the world is overselling it. The protagonist can not only hear the blades but also feel them on her back. So her hair isn’t blocking anything important, and when it technically does block something, the narrator just fills that in with guesses about what emotions people’s eyes are showing.
Also, this is a nitpick, but I would remove “dark” from “long dark hair.” The metaphor tells us her hair color so it isn’t adding anything.
The last knife reached lower, scraping the tender hollow of my back just above my buttocks, and I fought the instinct to pull away, but I finally flinched. […]
“Be still!” my aunt Cloris admonished.
I felt my mother’s hand on my head, gently caressing my hair. “A few more lines, Arabella. That’s all.”
Even though this was offered as comfort, I bristled at the formal name my mother insisted on using, the hand-me-down name that had belonged to so many before me. I wished that at least on this last day in Morrighan, she’d cast formality aside and use the one I favored, the pet name my brothers used, shortening one of my many names to its last three letters. Lia. A simple name that felt truer to who I was.
Our narrator has been named! Since she’s a Pokémon, a pet name does make sense.
Lia has an aunt and a mother present, neither of which are the mysterious and unknowable Pauline. The aunt has one line, and it already feels like she’s been added just to be a jerk. Characters don’t usually yell at someone for flinching under a knife otherwise. The mother’s failure to comfort Lia is more nuanced and interesting. The misstep feels relatable and might signal a larger values clash between them.
It looks like Morrighan is indeed a place, and this is Lia’s last day in it. That must be what a thousand dreams dying referred to. I’m a little disappointed because a thousand is such a large number I assumed the event would affect a larger group of people rather than one person’s life. However, even though the stakes are lower than I thought, this event will probably be significant to Lia at least.
It’s still hard to care at this point, since Pearson hasn’t clarified what’s going to happen or why it’s bad.
Let’s look at the wordcraft. The beginning of this excerpt has what looks like a little time dilation before Lia flinches. I think Pearson intended the knife scraping there to be a summary of many knife movements, but “The last knife reached lower, scraping the tender hollow of my back” sounds like a specific real-time movement. As a result, the sentence reads like Lia somehow has time to resist pulling away before having an instant, involuntary reaction.
While clutter isn’t a big problem for Pearson so far, her prose could be tighter. Take a look at this rambling sentence: “I wished that at least on this last day in Morrighan, she’d cast formality aside and use the one I favored, the pet name my brothers used, shortening one of my many names to its last three letters.” Pearson could break this up into multiple sentences, or she could skip explaining the origin of “Lia.” Readers don’t need to know that right now.
The narration is also more distant than it should be. Pearson is using sensory verbs she doesn’t need, and even though she said Lia can’t see through her hair, the description doesn’t reflect that. This creates the impression that we’re looking down at Lia rather than being in her head.
Instead of: “I felt my mother’s hand on my head, gently caressing my hair. ‘A few more lines, Arabella. That’s all.’”
I might use: “Gentle hands caressed my hair, and my mother whispered near my ear, ‘A few more lines, Arabella. That’s all.’”
Next, the “First Artisan” declares the scraping is finished. Since Lia is still looking at the floor, I guess she’s familiar with the individual voices of all these strangers.
Feet shuffled around to form a circle—my aunts, mother, Pauline, others who’d been summoned to witness the task—and mumbled prayers were sung. I watched the black robe of the priest brush past me, and his voice rose above the others as he drizzled the hot oil on my back. The artisans rubbed it in, their practiced fingers sealing in the countless traditions of the House of Morrighan […]
Pauline the Pokémon trainer returns! It seems unlikely she is Lia’s sister, since otherwise she would probably be called “my sister” in this passage. Pearson is also doing better at making it feel like Lia can’t see much.
The House of Morrighan? Is Morrighan not a place? I suppose a house could be named after a place, but it would be unusual. Maybe when the narrator said it was her last day “in Morrighan” she meant she was in a group of people. I guess? I don’t know, maybe it’s Lia’s Pokémon league or what Pauline named her Pokéball.
Set the Right Expectations
[…] I barely heard the utterances of the priest, a droning chant that spoke to all of their needs and none of my own.
I was only seventeen. Wasn’t I entitled to my own dreams for the future?
“And for Arabella Celestine Idris Jezelia, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan, the fruits of her sacrifice and the blessings of…”
Oooh, a sacrifice. Maybe I’ll have to eat my words about Pearson using this vaguery to hide that nothing interesting is happening. But if it is a sacrifice, why didn’t Pearson use that as her opening hook? An impending sacrificial killing would be much more powerful than a thousand dreams dying.
While it’s good to know how old Lia is, this line about her being entitled to her own dreams makes it feel like she was plucked out of our world and put in this one. With the religious significance of whatever this is, she was probably raised knowing this was going to happen and repeatedly told of its importance. She might disagree, but to feel entitled, she would need higher hopes and expectations. It comes off as anachronistic.
Pearson summarizes the priest droning on for another paragraph, and then:
“For the Kingdoms rose out of the ashes of men and are built on the bones of the lost, and thereunto we shall return if Heaven wills.” He lifted my chin with one hand, and with the thumb of his other hand, he smudged my forehead with ashes.
“So shall it be for this First Daughter of the House of Morrighan,” my mother finished, as was the tradition, and she wiped the ashes away with an oil-dipped cloth.
I closed my eyes and lowered my head. First Daughter. Both blessing and curse. And if the truth be known, a sham.
It might matter that this is a sham if we knew anything about it or what it entails. But we don’t. Other than that, this excerpt has told us very little we didn’t already know. I suppose we can guess Morrighan is one of the “Kingdoms,” and “rose out of the ashes of men and are built on the bones of the lost” is referring to the Remnant somehow.
Next, more oil is poured on Lia, and there’s more droning… Pearson, you gotta make your words matter. If they aren’t adding something, they’re diluting the good stuff. Since you’ve already narrated how Lia is the First Daughter and that people are pouring oil on her, what will doing it again accomplish? Regardless of where this scene is going, the ritual doesn’t need this much filler.
Again, this step was declared finished, and the artisans stepped back from their handiwork. There was an audible gathering of breath as the final results on my back were viewed.
I heard someone shuffle closer. “I daresay he won’t be looking long upon her back with the rest of that view at his disposal.”
Wait – she’s getting married? What was all that sacrifice and returning to the Heavens talk about? If she doesn’t want this marriage, that could make a solid opening hook, but after a thousand dreams dying and a possible sacrifice, it’s just a letdown.
As for Lia’s entitlement, lots of cultures have arranged marriages, and the people in those cultures do not think of their marriages that way. I’m not going to say you can’t have a character fighting against an arranged marriage, but you’ll need more context to justify it. Lia’s been raised under the belief that this marriage is her sacred duty; what caused her to rethink that?
Unsurprisingly, the next line specifies that the inappropriate comment about Lia’s body was from another aunt. Aunts are just the worst in this world.
Wish Fulfillment Doesn’t Require Candy
Pauline took my arm and helped me to rise. “Your Highness,” she said as she handed me a soft sheet to wrap around myself, sparing what little dignity I had left. We exchanged a quick knowing glance, which bolstered me, and then she guided me to the full-length mirror […]
Pauline and Lia exchange a “knowing” glance. Since Pearson hasn’t explained what it is they know, I’ll assume Pauline has signaled what Lia’s next attack should be. Yes, it would be a little strange for a Pokémon trainer to refer to their Pokémon as “Your Highness.” But with all the weird Pokémon out there, it’s not impossible, and otherwise Pauline looks like a servant – disappointing.
Regardless, Lia is clearly nobility or royalty. She may or may not have golden eyes, but I doubt she starved as a child. So what was that teaser about? It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with this. Even if there’s something to connect them later, the teaser and first chapter aren’t working together to create a great opening.
Next, we discover the dull knives were not for cutting Lia, but for creating an elaborate pattern on her back called a wedding kavah. How exactly does being scraped with knives create this pattern? Were they actually knives? Did they have ink on them? I’m not going to say this is impossible, but Pearson, you need to connect the dots for me here. Otherwise, it looks like the knives were a lie to make your opening sound more interesting than it was.
Everyone in the room is admiring Lia’s back. There’s definitely some wish fulfillment about being hot here. Personally, I wish we wouldn’t insist that every female main character needs to be hot. However, this is refreshingly honest, and except for the creepy auntie line, it’s not objectifying. Considering the wish fulfillment that men get away with, I’m certainly not going to mock this.
My throat tightened, and my eyes stung. It was a kavah I might have loved … might have been proud to wear. I swallowed and imagined the prince when the vows were complete and the wedding cloak lowered, gaping with awe. The lecherous toad. […]
Lia, do you even know this guy? This marriage was also arranged for him, wasn’t it? Maybe he’s gay or asexual. Unless she actually knows he’s predatory, it seems strange to blame him for this situation. And making him predatory is not a great direction to take this story in.
Well, now we might know why Pearson was obscuring her opening conflict. She’s having a lot of trouble justifying why Lia is dreading this wedding so much. Without that, she can’t make it into a good hook.
[…] But I gave the artisans their due.
“It is perfection. I thank you, and I’ve no doubt the Kingdom of Dalbreck will from this day forward hold the artisans of Morrighan in highest esteem.” My mother smiled at my effort, knowing that these few words from me were hard-won.
First, “My mother” should start a new paragraph. Pearson is following the conventional rule of thumb that you should start a paragraph when a new person speaks, but that’s misleading at best and incorrect at worst. Dialogue, actions, and body language should be grouped into paragraphs based on who does them. When you have a line of dialogue followed by the body language of a different character, such as in this instance, it can confuse readers about who spoke. Someone might think that the mother said this instead of Lia.
“But I gave the artisans their due” could also go in the same paragraph as the dialogue to better clarify that Lia is speaking.
Aside from where paragraph breaks go, this isn’t saying great things about Lia. Pearson probably wanted to communicate that Lia isn’t diplomatic and doesn’t usually stand on ceremony. But what’s actually happening is that these artisans have much less power than she does, they’ve worked hard for her and her family, and they aren’t the ones making her get married. If this praise is hard-won, that suggests she’s the kind of person who mistreats customer-service workers whenever a business does something she doesn’t like.
Also, it would be strange if someone were to praise me by saying that from this day forward, American writers will be held in high esteem. These artisans probably just want to know that Lia and her royal family are pleased and will continue to be their patrons.
The next three paragraphs are spent discussing just how gorgeous this kavah and Lia’s dress are. Pearson even lampshades how the dress design is impossible:
My mother tightened the laces in the hidden structure of the dress, pulling it snug so the bodice appeared to effortlessly cling to my waist even without fabric stretching across my back. It was an engineering feat as remarkable as the great bridge of Golgata, maybe more so, and I wondered if the seamstresses had cast a bit of magic into the fabric and threads.
Can’t let physics get in the way of the protagonist having a sweet new dress. This is what fantasy is for, folks.
So far, I think the wish fulfillment is probably the strongest hook this opening has. It’s not going to work for everyone, of course; it’s only meant for people who identify with Lia and want to be sexy. On the plus side, it’s not actually giving Lia much candy. That means while it may be boring to everyone else, it probably won’t be frustrating – unless the reader is a bit misogynistic, in which case they probably won’t pick up the book in the first place.
Lead With What Matters
After Lia is finished being hypnotized by her own beauty, she gets in a carriage with her mother, and they head to the wedding. Pearson uses the opportunity for some much-needed exposition.
[…] Fine carriages pulled by matching ribboned steeds dotted the lane as well.
Maybe in one of those carriages, my oldest brother, Walther, and his young bride, Greta, sat with fingers entwined on their way to my wedding, scarcely able to break their gazes from each other. And maybe my other brothers were already at the square, flashing their smiles at young girls who drew their fancy. I remembered seeing Regan, dreamy-eyed and whispering to the coachman’s daughter just a few days ago in a dark hallway, and Bryn dallied with a new girl each week, unable to settle on just one. Three older brothers I adored, all free to fall in love and marry anyone they chose. The girls free to choose as well. Everyone free, including Pauline, who had a beau who would return to her at month’s end.
While I still don’t think Lia would feel so outraged about the arranged marriage she’d been prepared for her whole life, knowing that no one else has an arranged marriage definitely makes it more plausible. This bit also helps build a little sympathy for Lia. While I would shorten the paragraph and put less emphasis on boys getting around,* overall the paragraph has enough details to bring the point home while keeping the narration tight. All around a good move on Pearson’s part, though we could have used it before now.
While there’s a lot of new names in this paragraph, it’s pretty clear who they are, and it’s probably okay if we immediately forget them. If Pearson expects us to remember any of these names, that will be an issue.
Because Pearson apparently only adds good hooks once she thinks she doesn’t need one, more useful information comes out in some mother-daughter dialogue.
“It’s an honor, Arabella.”
“But I don’t have the gift of First Daughter. I’m not a Siarrah. Dalbreck will soon discover I’m not the asset they suppose me to be. This wedding is a sham.”
“The gift may come in time,” she answered weakly.
I didn’t argue this point. It was known that most First Daughters came into their gift by womanhood, and I had been a woman for four years now. I’d shown no signs of any gift. My mother clung to false hopes. I turned away, looking out the window again.
“Even if it doesn’t come,” my mother continued, “the wedding is no sham. This union is about far more than just one asset. The honor and privilege of a First Daughter in a royal bloodline is a gift in itself. It carries history and tradition with it. That’s all that matters.”
Whoa. Where has this been our whole read? This is exactly what’s needed to make the marriage into a great hook, but based on this, I’m not sure Pearson understands how important it is.
If Dalbreck is taking Lia under the assumption that she has magic she doesn’t actually have, this wedding puts her life in danger. Newly married women being murdered after a promised bride price is not paid to the groom’s family is a real thing that happens. Even if Dalbreck doesn’t immediately get angry and take it out on Lia, they might arrange an accident later so their prince can marry someone else who does have magic. The deception could also cause a big conflict between these two kingdoms.
Even with all that, it’s plausible that Lia’s father, the king, thinks this is a gambit worth doing. If he disclosed Lia’s lack of magic, Morrighan would get a less favorable marriage and alliance.
However, to make this into an effective hook, readers must know everything I just said. Instead, Pearson doesn’t include anything here that casts doubt on the mother’s assertion that Lia’s bloodline is more important than whether she has magic. As a result, what could be a powerful hook is only worth a shrug.
At least this still gives Lia some spinach, increasing sympathy and aiding likability. And readers that are here for the wish fulfillment will love it when she inevitably gets the powers she’s missing.
“Why First Daughter? Can you be sure the gift isn’t passed to a son? Or a Second Daughter?”
“It’s happened, but … not to be expected. And not tradition.”
Well that’s awkward. Wouldn’t they have talked about this years before now? If you want your readers to know something that your characters wouldn’t discuss, use exposition, not dialogue… or die.
And is it tradition to lose your gift too? Those unsaid words hung razor sharp between us, but even I couldn’t wound my mother with them. My father hadn’t consulted with her on matters of state since early in their marriage, but I had heard the stories of before, when her gift was strong and what she said mattered. That is, if any of it was even true. I wasn’t sure anymore.
There’s a nice little mystery hook here. What happened to her mother’s powers? What makes this work isn’t simply that there’s information we don’t know, and it’s definitely not that Pearson is hyping about some inescapable dream-murdering doom. It’s that Lia likely needs this information to sort out her own magic problems. It matters, and we have the context to know why.
Overall, the flatness of this opening is exactly why we caution writers against meta mysteries. There’s no “one weird trick” for making an engaging hook; you have to lay the groundwork for a good story and communicate about it openly with your readers. If Pearson had understood that, she could have written a much stronger opening without significant changes to other chapters.
I’ve written an example of an opening paragraph that informs readers instead of stringing them along.
My father, his Supposedly Gracious Majesty, King and Lord Protector of Morrighan, thought he could trick my groom’s family into taking me. He’d summoned the kingdom’s finest artisans to adorn me on my wedding day. The crests of Morrighan and Delba were inscribed on my back in breathtaking detail. I wore an underdress of sheer white silk from across the world, and my wedding gown was an engineering feat as remarkable as the bridge of Golgata, with a back that plunged into a V while effortlessly clinging to my waist. Even I was hypnotized by the beauty in the mirror, but the distraction wouldn’t last. Soon, my new family would discover what I was missing within.
This could be rearranged in any number of ways. What matters is that it focuses on a meaningful problem the protagonist faces and helps readers understand that problem.
Before the first chapter closes, Pearson naturally reveals another big thing readers should have known earlier. As it turns out, the attack Pauline chose for her Pokémon was Run Away on Your Wedding Day. It must be one of Lia’s STAB actions, because it’s super easy.*
If readers had known about Pauline and Lia’s plans, Pearson could have built tension over whether they’d succeed or get caught. Instead, she chose to spend those words describing artisans pouring oil onto Lia’s back several times. The promise. The hope. Wasted.
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