[1976] The Serpent’s Orchid - Chapter 1


“The morning sun gleamed golden through my open window, casting shadows of the dancing cherry blossoms across the wall.”

This is quite a well-written sentence, however, a pretty bad hook. Frankly, the entire first paragraph should be placed later on or cut. It also seems, though later not stated, that this is the character just waking up. I know this isn’t the case once I read futher on, but a character waking up or at least something which resembles that isn’t particularly interesting. Maybe start with them flicking through their cards, instead. 

“I looked up in surprise and found Celia – my lady’s maid– standing before me with her arms crossed”

The “in surprise” feels unnecessary since it’s telling us information we’d already infer. 

“ The nerve of her.”

I like this sentence since it’s written from the character’s perspective but I’m not sure whether you need the “of her” since it flows from the previous dialogue. “The nerve.” is a bit snappier. This is a small nitpick and certainly not necessary to change, but maybe consider it.

“holding them up high out of my reach” 

I think you can cut the “up”: “holding them high out of my reach.” 

“I gasped in horror”

Remove the “in horror”

“too, to their waste bin demise”

Repitition of the “to” sound makes this a little clunky. 

“I’d lied awake dreading”

Someone else mentioned this, I think, but this should be “lain awake”.

“I said, shaking my head,”

I would get rid of the “I said” and replace with: “I shook my head.”

““You are the Princess Elodie of Aurelia. You are more than capable of giving a little speech.”

This is a nice way of introducing the character without her narrating herself. Well done.

“I’d like to believe that was true”

I think this should be: “I’d have liked to believe that was true.” to keep in the correct tense. With the contraction, the current sentence would be: “I would like to believe that was true.” rather than “I would have liked.”

“I scooped up the pieces of card stock and made a futile attempt to piece them back together. But there were too many scraps and I couldn’t connect my once-neat letters into anything coherent.”

This sounds a little strange because of the word “futile” since we shouldn’t know it’s futile until you say: “But there were too many scraps” otherwise we’re jumping back in time.

“ I watched them blow around and realized that’s how I felt, too.”

Nothing wrong with this per se, but I’m not sure if it’s something you want to bring the audience’s direct attention to rather than just allude at. It’s directly telling us how she feels, which isn’t bad but often in real life this doesn’t happen. This is purely a preference, though. 

“My eyes roved”

I don’t know how common “roved” is used so it might confuse a few readers. “Wandered” may work better but I understand that she’d use larger words since she’s royalty.

“ I tilted my head, confused”

The “confused” is unnecessary. 

“ smattering of ruddy wax”

I quite like this. It sounds nice on the ears.

“Bewildered, I peeked my head into the hallway, hoping I could catch the courier before they got too far. I looked both directions in search of someone who seemed out of place or as if they might be retreating but all I found were a couple guards milling about and maidservants dashing between rooms.”

This is the first real hook of the story, and it genuinely does intrigue me. I generally like what you’ve written before this, but I do wonder whether it’s too slow a start. 

Your prose is in a weird twilight zone between being quite clean and enjoyable but also at times weirdly straying off into unnecessary telling. Not much improvement is needed prose wise which is good since it’s generally the number one issue I see with new—or returning—writers.


This is a difficult to judge. I must admit that I don’t read a lot of fantasy novels but I found this quite a slow start. We learn about what her room looks like, her school life, and what not before the hook. Should this start with her receiving the mysterious letter? I don’t know. But the way it’s currently structured doesn’t give the audience enough to latch onto. Where does this plot go? I have no idea whether this is meant to be a dark story or fairytale esque. You mention that they’re mixing in with “commoners” which seems like a relevant detail if, the way I assume this would go, her brother gets kidnapped and held for ransom. Would this ever happen in your story? I have no idea. There needs to be a clear tone at the start, e.g. (from one of the few fantasy books I have read) the death of the night’s watchmen at the beginning.

Fundamentally, this comes down to: what is the conflict? Why should I care about this character’s life? What does she want and what is stopping her from getting it?


Your main character, Elodie, seems a little generic high-school girl worried about fitting in, but not quite fitting in type. It’s not particularly interesting. She doesn’t actually do anything at the start of this story, either. We know that she wants to practice her speech and therefore is worried about others approval but we don’t know why. I assume, like most teenagers, it’s because she doesn’t want to be embarrassed but that’s not an interesting enough reason why.

The other character, Celia, seems far more interesting. She’s active, tearing up Elodie’s cards, and quite funny, too. My assumption is that Elodie will begin as a somewhat reserved person and that her character arc changes her overtime. This can work but it needs a kickstart at the beginning to show she wants change.


I’m quite confused as to the setting, to be honest. It seems to be set in the modern day due to the start: “Trucks carrying food, decorations, and extra seating ambled down the drive, their tires crunching gravel as they went.” and referring to “robots” but this raises a lot of questions, interesting questions. I’d be interested in seeing outside of the palace walls in later chapters because the worldbuilding compels me.

Overall Thoughts

Generally, your prose is quite strong which is a great start since this is where people often struggle the most. I find the worldbuilding of this piece intriguing—it somewhat reminds me of Code Geass—but I still struggle to make the connection that this is meant to take place in the modern day. Elodie’s character development isn’t weak; there’s a fair chunk of characterisation, but I do find her somewhat boring. Even when she was describing her brother, I thought he sounded more interesting. The largest pitfall of this piece, however, is definitely the plot. You’ve got a lot of nice description in here but nothing really happens. Finding a letter at the end of the chapter might make someone want to read on once they get to this point, but not a single publisher will get to this point in the story. I mentioned prior that I don’t read a lot of fantasy, but whilst finishing this critique I read a few others and noticed that it’s been called generic. I can’t speak to this, but this sounds like the number 1 thing you want to avoid.

Anyway, I think you’ve got a good future ahead of you in writing. Like I said, prose is always the most difficult. Good luck in future writing, and if you finish it, I’d be interesting in reading chapter 2.

/r/DestructiveReaders Thread