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Saturday, October 25, 2008

The screech of sibling rivalry and teen angst pierced the opulent Manhattan apartment.  Barely past six, the sun hadn't even tossed aside the blanket of night to drive cold winter clouds from the sky, and already the TV crawled with gun-toting mercenaries hell-bent on killing Nicolette Tao — and suffering for their efforts.  The sudden sisterly squall on the couch granted them a momentary reprieve, and with pixel perfect coordination, the unit broke cover and painted the screen red.

-Game Over-

With her purple-streaked hair bound up in her older sister's hand, Nicolette didn't even notice the loss of a half hour's cautious advance through the shooter.  "MooOOoom!" she squealed, writhing to free dyed hair from painful inspection.

"Mmf.  Stop squirming.  What did you do to your hair?!"

"Let go of me!"  Nicolette answered the claws tangled into her hair with a fist.  Swinging viciously at the more elegant and domineering of the Tao girls, the younger was rewarded with a curt shriek.  Fingers that were in one moment dragging her head around with a callous handful of hair at the base of her neck had released and streaked across the girl's face in the next, painting a bright red palm print on her cheek.

"You bitch!" the elder cried, clutching the claws of purple hair-pulling doom protectively and delicately over her chest.  "You hit me in my boob!"

Cocked and loaded like shotguns ready to rip the other's face off, the sisters stilled as their mother walked into the room.  "Nicolette, why —

"Mo-oom... it's Nicky!"

"Well, I named you, I think I should know your name," she chastened, rolling her eyes.  "Fine.  Nicky, why are you hitting your sister?"

"She started it!" Nicky whined.  "She's pulling my hair!"

"Jennifer, why — Nicolette!" their mother gasped in astonishment, prematurely ending her investigation of the morning's commotion.  She had expected it to be no different from any Saturday morning.  She had not expected to see her younger daughter's fine midnight locks run through with ribbons of purple.  "What did you do to your hair?!"  It was the same disapproving tone, but with less sibling hate and more maternal disappointment.

"It's called dye, mom," Nicky sassed, wincing at her mother's own inspection of hair already pulled and strained, gentler, but still insistent.  The smugly victorious sneer lighting her sister's face stained the younger girl's eyes with damp humiliation, cracking her voice into a whine when she pulled away and complained again.  "Mo-oom!  I'm sixteen, I can dye my hair if I want to."

"Mm," her mom grunted noncommittally.  "You're not sixteen, yet.  Jenny, go put a cold cloth on that.  You don't want to bruise."

"Mom..."  It was the older sister's turn to protest, though she carefully measured her voice, determined not to sound as whiny as her little sister.  "Please call me Jennifer."

"I think I know what I named my own children," she repeated.

"It's just that... Jenny is so common.  I mean... and Jennifer isn't that much better.  You know how many Jennifers there are in the agency?  Why'd she get the fancy name, anyways?" she questioned, glaring at her sister.  "She doesn't even like it."

"Fine, Jennifer, fine...  And that's why you're using the name Amber Rose, dear, I know."

"What a ho," Nicky scoffed under her breath after Jennifer slipped away to tend her injury.


"What?!  Amber Rose is such a porn name."

"At least I have the tits for it!" Jennifer snapped from the bathroom.

"Not if I punch them flat!"

"They'll still be bigger than yours!"

"Mo-oom," Nicky whined, biting back another onslaught of tears collected and hidden away over the years of teasing at home and at school.

"Oh, Jennifer, will you leave your sister alone?  She's just a late bloomer, like your mother was."

Nicky grabbed her PS3 controller from the floor and sulked into the couch.  "She got me killed."

"Are you sure you won't come with us, dear?" her mom asked, ignoring the violence and bloodshed her daughter was producing on the screen.

"To China?"

"You're a beautiful girl - ignore your sister - and there will be a lot of scouts at the show... some will even overlook... this," she encouraged, gesturing carefully to the disarrayed purple streaks.

"I don't wanna be anywhere near her, no way.  I hate her," Nicky spat sullenly.

"Oh, stop it, you do not.  She's just trying to get at you, Nicky."  Her mom sighed.  Then changed tack, hoping futilely to play on any admiration she might have for her sister's youthful success.  "You're so sensitive, dear.  Why can't you be more like your sister?  She knows mere words can't hurt her."

"Yeah, and she also takes her clothes off for the camera.  You want me to be a slut?"

"Nicky, you know it's just a swimsuit show."

"Yeah.  A Halloween swimsuit dressed like devil with those stupid fat-pillows squeezed into a tiny net."

"Forget it, mom.  She's just jealous," goaded Jennifer as she dragged her suitcase to the door.  "She couldn't even be a Suicide Girl and they take any flat, ugly skank with dye or piercings or —

"Jennifer Tao!  Both of you, just shut up.  Oh... you're giving me a headache!"  The girls fell silent as their mother demonstrated her strain with a hand delicately probing her own forehead.  Nicky, sullen and fighting another crisis of tears at Jennifer's accusations and Jennifer, cautiously smug at the wrecking ball she'd crashed into her little sister's esteem.  "Now.  If you two can stop fighting.  For ten minutes.  I can still.  Get you.  A ticket.  Nicolette?"

She refused to look at them, to empower her sister's smug triumph with the deep, wet shadows ringing her eyes.  Nicky paused her game long enough to answer with her middle finger, then turned the TV up and tossed a grenade across the screen, finalizing her answer with its thundering boom.  She was done talking.

Nicky couldn't have known her silence would be the last thing her mother and sister ever heard from her.
The story of Tao was born as a series of vignettes, numbering barely over a half dozen, intended solely to introduce a character I would be playing in the upcoming MMO "The Secret World". During the course of writing it, with the encouragement of my friends and fellows here at deviantART, the short-term notion of simply introducing a character has been discarded, the story has been severed from the "Secret World" setting and a new long-term goal of publishing it as a novel has been established.

I'm new to novel-writing, so any comments and feedback you may offer is exceedingly valuable, especially any suggestions you might have for grabbing and holding a reader's attention better. (There is currently a severe drop-off of reader interest as the chapters continue and I'd honestly like to know where I'm losing people's interest.)

See the cover art in full detail, with stock credits:

Continued to:
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I'm here from #ProjectComment and thought I'd leave a critique rather than a comment as you have the feature enabled.


The first thing that strikes me is the date which leads me to think this will be a journal/diary entry style piece, but this doesn't appear to be the case when I read on. For that reason, I'm not really sure of the significance of the date, especially presented in that way, as it seems to have no real bearing on the story at all. Of course, this might change in later chapter, but as it stands now, I'm not sure about it.

Paragraph 1: This is a good opening; setting the scene and time, introducing characters, and involving action all in a few sentences. I think the first sentence could be improved however, by removing "-bordering on hatred-" as this seems unecessary and interrupts the flow of the line. At any rate, I would avoid the dashes here.

I really like the personification of the sun and this is a really nice image you've chosen, adapting a well-used image of the "blanket of night" into something more.

"adeptly-programmed" could just be simply "programmed" in my opinion. Sometimes less actually says more, and I'm not sure that the extra word is adding anything to this concept - being programmed implies perfection, or at least something close to it.

Paragraph 2: You should remove "But" from the beginning of this first sentence. It is best to avoid starting a sentence with "but" and in this case it adds nothing to the rest of the sentence.

I'm not sure about "'MooOOoom!'" as a squeal, but I can appreciate how hard it is to accurately describe such a sound!

Paragraph 3: You've got some nice dialogue going here and this is complimented by your description. I particularly like: "Nicole answered the claws tangled into her hair with a fist."

[I'm giving up on the paragraphs now; I'll just keep going down from top to bottom and hopefully you can see what I'm referring to... (:]

I would advise changing the capitalised "GO" to italics, but that might just be personal preference. :shrug:

I like the way you've echoed Jennifer's words with the Mother - this is a good use of repetition without it feeling like it's been said before. (:

"The smugly victorious sneer lighting her sister's face stained the younger girl's eyes with damp humiliation..." - This is a brilliant description.

"'A Halloween swimsuit as a devil ... tiny net.'" - This sentence is slightly clumsy and whilst I understand what she's trying to say, it's difficult to read so perhaps rewriting this line would help.

You've missed the closing speech marks of Jennifer's line beginning, "She couldn't even be..." (;

One thing that is confusing me throughout is the naming of Nicolette; at some points you refer to her as Nicole, at others, Nicky. It's clear that Nicolette is her full name and that she hates it, but which of the other two she is referred to as in a casual context is not as clear.

I'm also uncertain about the ending as it is a little... overused and this really doesn't do justice to the rest of the chapter which is full of original language and original plot. It's important to establish this cliffhanger, but I think you could word the last line more originally.


This is a really wonderful piece and I hope my comments help. They might seem negative, but I was really nitpicking here (:
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
6 out of 6 deviants thought this was fair.

Hi! This is my first time giving a critique and I hope I will be helpful. Here it goes!

First of all, I like your title. I don't know why I was drawn to it but the word "Tao" really caught on. I think it's because of the Oriental edge (made me think of Taoism) so it had an edge of ancient, magical, mystique. Well done!

The opening was very strong. As the previous critic mentioned, the personification of the sun is proof of a strong technique. The last sentence was particularly impacting - "...and with pixel perfection coordination..." - the imagery was amazing here.

As for the hair-pulling scene between the sisters: it might just be me but I thought this was a little too dragged out. The mix of literature describing both the violent actions and the look of the character's hair was slightly confusing for me. Too much hair going on :P

The rest of the piece, however, is almost spot-on. I like how you develop the family dynamics in the Taos from the get-go, and I'm interested in the kind of world they live in. You have a well-developed main character whose personality rings strong throughout the piece.

The only thing I'd change is - and I know this is kind of "too established" to change but I'll say it anyways - the main character's name. "Nicolette" is an interesting name but it makes me think of Nicorette - you know, the gum-thing smokers chew on to get them un-hooked from nicotine. This is just my thought.

Oh, and the last sentence is an awesome cliff-hanger! At this point, I might continue reading :)

Anyways, I hope this critique was fair and helpful.
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2 out of 2 deviants thought this was fair.

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lycan-rising Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
this was quite entertaining. The violent rivalry is amusing and the almost despair of the mother for jennifer and nicolette to stop fighting is understandable. I do like the fact also that the whole of the first chapter appears to be setting the stage for a book about the violence within a family, and then the last line implies it's going to be completely different.

i look forward to reading more.
iceofwolf Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you very much. :aww: Those ending lines went through a couple rewrites to reach that effect without hitting too many cliches, so it makes me happy to heart when it's effective. Chapter two pushes into the question that last line raises a bit. Hope you enjoy the rest as much! :D
lycan-rising Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I'll get on with reading it :D
The-ShadowMaster Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Wow, that is an amazing start :jawdrop:
really nice descriptions^^
iceofwolf Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you so much. :aww:
The-ShadowMaster Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
my pleasure^^
Dopaprime Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
Woah..!! It is an awesome story, Maaann~~
I love the settings in this. :love: And the last sentence..really makes you want to read the continuation of the story.
I-I don't dare to talk / comment much about literature since I don't know much about it. So sorry...:stupidme:
iceofwolf Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
That's okay. :aww: Just knowing you enjoyed it and that the first chapter makes you went to keep reading makes my day. :hug:
NishitokyoGirl Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2011  Student Writer
iceofwolf Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Pauris Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2011  Professional Artist
I loved the 'you hit me in my boob' part, reminds me of my high school cat fights with my sister :)
iceofwolf Featured By Owner Sep 4, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Hehehe, yeah. That's exactly the kind of scene I was trying to paint. Thanks for dropping in. :aww:
looking forward to reading more, yes. perhaps add more dialogue tags? and this [link] is a great guide on punctuating dialogue (if you ever need help).
iceofwolf Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you for the compliment and the watch. :aww: I did read through the guide and it confirmed some conventions I had been uncertain about (that dang fourth dot after an ellipses, for one). I'm not sure about adding more dialogue tags, though, as that can also enter the grey area of dialogue sounding like a list.

I'm assuming you mean where there are multiple lines of untagged dialogue? I've often tried to write such sequences with as few tags as possible, depending on the tone of the dialogue, as descriptive tags or even just "she responded" can slow down a quick banter or argument. This, of course, leaves the reader to determine who is speaking from the context I have provided and that's where I think things get tricky. Did it feel like there wasn't enough context for the quick fight between Nicky and Jen? (Or were you thinking any other specific instance?)
angelStained Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2011   Writer
I really like the deceptive normality of the situation blooming into that cliffhanger!
iceofwolf Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks! I hoped it would be something that would keep people reading. Something catchy and easy to relate to, with a hook at the end to invite curiosity: Why will she never see them again?
ntvr2 Featured By Owner May 31, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
Great opening paragraph, Iceofwolf, grabs the audience and draws them in. Love how the character voices can almost be heard, fantastic dialogue. Their actions are brilliantly described as well, especially their mother's. Can feel her despairing as her daughters drag each other and themselves down. Makes me glad I don't have (human) daughters, though my cat ones do fight constantly. The cliffhanger is very ominous and succeeds in asking me to continue on to chapter two. Reminds me of a pulp magazine short story, or serial. Lovely work!
iceofwolf Featured By Owner May 31, 2011  Hobbyist Writer

Thank you! That answers the most passing and troubling question I always have about introductory/first chapters: Does it make the reader want to read the next section? This was a pleasant surprise to start my morning break to. :)
Maxamillion2009 Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2011  Student Writer
She seems very.. troubled.
iceofwolf Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Oh, it gets worse... :(
Maxamillion2009 Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2011  Student Writer
Delightful :sarcasm:
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