First Time Critique Request

Discussion in 'Writing' started by nredfoot, Sep 28, 2012.

  1. nredfoot

    nredfoot Registered User

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2010
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    So I have been a member of this lovely establishment for a good while now (over 2 years). In that amount of time I have posted a whopping 16 (now 17) times. I spend most of my time lurking and being jealous of all the wonderful things many on here are doing and accomplishing. For what seems like an eternity I have wanted to write. More so as a hobby than as a profession. I am an avid reader and love getting lost in worlds created from minds of interesting people. For a good while now I have been kicking around a novel idea.

    Well I have finally decided to buck up and get too writing! I have begun outlining and doing some worldbuilding but earlier this week I just had to sit down and write this scene that has been lodged in my brain for a long time. At this incredibly early stage it would be the opening scene of the novel or maybe a prologue. Not sure yet but it will happen very early in the book.

    What I was hoping was maybe a few of you writing buffs could give it a quick critique. Mainly letting me know of any huge grammatical mistakes and just your general feel for the scene. I can take criticism and gladly welcome it. I'm hoping that I can be more involved around here and participate in the FF contests (I did one a year back and really enjoyed it) along with some of the great discussion. Sorry for the huge set up and thanks for taking the time to read!
    ______________________________________________​

    Fear gripped him. For many long months he had dread this day. Standing but a few paces from the dilapidated shack, his body had finally given in to the fear. The dark night and cold wind did not help his confidence or strength either. He just stood there as a frightened sheep did when it knew a wolf lurked in the distant brush.

    Curse my greedy soul! I could be asleep in my warm palace were it not for my pride! He thought for what might be the hundredth time that night.

    He had traded his royal silks and glittering jewels for a weathered coat and some breeches. Instead of his golden staff, he carried a wooden walking stick. Tonight he was not the Lord of Valanor. Tonight he was the faithful servant of Lord Mashiak and he was close to being late.

    The Lord of Valanor was a good distance from home. Only his most loyal subjects knew of this secret trip and even fewer knew of the danger. None knew of the purpose. None but those that were left inside the shack.

    Whomever the Emperor hasn't already gotten....

    The shack was at the edge of a simple town. The town held no other significance than being the perfect place to have a secret gathering. The shack had seen many days and the broken shutters along with the wilting roof showed it had not aged for the better.

    He took one more deep breath, slipped his mask over his face, and pushed his way inside. There he found only three other masked individuals. None spoke a word at his entrance. They never did. He did not know their names nor their faces only their voices. They were not allowed to know for the Emperor's questions could make the strongest man wilt.

    Glad that he had not been too late he settled in to one of the remaining chairs. The other three all sat as well. One wearing a bird mask, lounged more than sat in his chair as if he could slip off to sleep at any moment. He always had that air of non nonchalantness, as if none of what went on at these gatherings scared him. Or at least he hid it well.

    The other two were like him. Scared and nervous. The Lord of Valanor could tell by the constant looks the dog masked woman gave over her shoulder and the nervous twitching of the tiger masked man's hands in his lap, that they too were aware of the dangers of this gathering. Plotting against men of power was never safe, especially plotting against the Emperor himself. The lord grimaced. He felt the same way himself, the same way he had ever since the Emperor's assassins had begun to lower their numbers. Nervous and scared.

    A sudden pressure snapped him out of his thoughts. It felt as if the air around him was slowly crushing him to death. The shadows in the corner of the shack seemed to swell. They stretched slowly across the floor as breath became hard to get. Then just as suddenly the pressure was gone, breath had returned, and the shadows had retreated to their corner. Now standing just in front of the shadows was Lord Mashiak.

    Immediately the four travelers hit their knees and pressed their fists to their brows.

    “Blessings, Lord Mashiak.” They all recited at once.
    “Peace my servants. Rise and be seated. We have much to discuss.”

    They took their seats quickly. Every time the Lord of Valanor saw Lord Mashiak he had the same thoughts and reactions. He was amazed every time by the immense size of the lord. He towered a good foot above every person in the room and the broadness of his shoulders reminded the lord of a large bear. The common thought that Lord Valanor had every time he was in the presence of Lord Mashiak crept into his head. This is what a real emperor should look like.

    “So few of you remain,” he said with sadness as he too took his place among the circle. “It appears the Emperor's traps and snares have either caught or scared off more of my servants. Only four now stand ready to inherit the world.”

    Lord Mashiak's voice was strong. The sound of his booming voice rumbled inside the Lord of Valanor's soul. Every time he spoke, it was with such an air of authority that there was no doubt whom everyone in his presence answered too. There was power in his voice. Dark, terrible power.

    “We must press on my loyal subjects,” he boomed. “The time has almost come for us to strike. The Centuriot is but a month away.”

    Turning to his right he asked the bird masked man, “Are the pieces in place? Will Kalanth be ours when the time is right?

    A smile crept across the bird masked man's face, “It will be ours Lord Mashiak. Our people will be in place and will be ready when the time comes.”

    “Good. It is crucial we take the capitol immediately. Cut out the heart of the beast and it will die quickly.” Lord Mashiak then asked the dog masked woman, “And how about the east my dear? Will we have the chaos needed?”

    Her voice came out muted and in almost a whisper, “It will be as you command Lord Mashiak.”

    The simple answer seemed to be enough for him as he gave a slow nod in response. Then facing the tiger masked man, he asked with a sly grin, “And what of the Gamot, my faithful servant. Will the Gamot rise when called?”

    The Lord of Valanor heard the tiger masked man take a deep breath before responding, “It has been challenging my lord but I am certain that it will be yours to control. The Gamot is not easily moved but their hatred for the Emperor makes them easier friends.”

    “We need them my child. All of what we do will unravel if Oligamot becomes an enemy.” Lord Mashiak said with a firm stare. The tiger masked man seemed to shrink in his chair but he gave a quick nod that seemed to satisfy Lord Mashiak

    Turning to the Lord of Valanor, Lord Mashiak asked, “And finally my dear friend, what of the western armies? Have they been held too long in Kalanth's grasp or will they rise at the chance we will give them.”

    The Lord of Valanor steadied himself before responding, “Yes my lord. We have not stood in Kalanth's shadow so long that we have forgotten our roots. The west will rise when it is needed.”

    His response earned him a grin from Lord Mashiak. “Then it is set. A month from this night, on the eve of the Centuriot, the Kalanthian Emperor will be murdered in his own chambers. At that moment the world will be open for control. And it will be us who seize it!”

    All four masked servants grunted their approval. The One protect us if we fail. They had schemed, debated, and hid in shadows over the past year putting together the pieces of Lord Mashiak's plan. They had started with twenty men but now only four had survived the year. But they were a month away from bringing the greatest empire to its knees. And in the process killing a demi-god and taking his place of power in the land.

    As if reading the Lord of Valanor's thoughts, Lord Mashiak roared, “Prepare yourselves my faithful servants! A dark storm is coming. It brings change but not without blood and destruction first. We must break down what has been made before building what is needed. Stand strong in the winds of change and you will be rewarded. Leave now and know that when we meet again it will be as rulers of this land!”
     
  2. Andrew Leon Hudson

    Andrew Leon Hudson sf-icionado / horror-ator

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2008
    Messages:
    1,708
    Likes Received:
    203
    Trophy Points:
    128
    Okay. Colour-linked [notes], red for insertions, grey-outs for deletions.
    Reluctant as I am to resort to tired old clichés of feedback, my general impression is that you are telling, not showing. You dispense a great deal of information in a very short space, which is not a very engaging experience for a reader.

    For example, imagine another opening in which you show us a mysterious figure creeping through a deserted rural village at midnight (setting the scene), uncomfortable in filthy rags (almost as if they were not his customary clothing...), approaching a secluded hut on the outskirts with many furtive glances over his shoulder (for he is nervous), slipping inside to find a darkened room. As his eyes adjust he sees three masked figures, each one as filthy and stinking as the one we followed (and you linger over the description of their shadowy details), but before anyone speaks there is a choking tension in the air (which was by far your strongest moment, by the way) and a fourth figure appears from nowhere. You describe the huge, bear-like figure as he looks down on them, then he says "Welcome, my Lords." ("Can these be lords?", your readers ask themselves - AND THE SCENE ENDS, HAVING TOLD US NOTHING IN TERMS OF PLOT INFORMATION, BUT MUCH IN TERMS OF ATMOSPHERE AND CHARACTER)

    From this version of the scene we know several lords are meeting, in disguise, with a figure who is presumably even more powerful than mere lords are - this means conspiracy. We don't need to be told the nature of their plot right now, because you have a whole book to fill with such data. Perhaps the overthrow of the king doesn't take place until chapter ten - but the pleasure of a mystery, for the reader, is in the gradual discovery of detail on the way to each moment of truth. Dump it all on us at the start and we go "umph", or possibly "meh".

    Good plotting is like good sex* - don't stick it all in straight away...

    * or so I hear
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2012
  3. nredfoot

    nredfoot Registered User

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2010
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    First off thank you very much for the response! This is extremely helpful and has given me a lot to think about and work on. This was exactly what I was hoping for when I posted!

    I had not decided upon his name yet so I was just sticking with the label but I can see that getting old. When I rewrite this I will drop the repetitive labels for sure and add names even if it is "Barry" lol.

    I think as such a young and immature writer I have the impulse to spell everything out so the reader knows exactly what is going on. And you are right, no one wants to read a scene where I just sit there and point at everything in the room. I think that really is one of the hardest things to do, or at least for me, the showing not telling.

    In the next day or two I am gonna sit down and try doing this scene again but try and paint the scene through actions instead of lame descriptions. Again I really appreciate the feedback. It is hard sometimes to get honest critiques from friends or family so I am really grateful.

    ^^LOL^^
     
  4. A. Lynn

    A. Lynn Was: "Virangelus"

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2005
    Messages:
    585
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    53
    Why hello there Lurker Ned, :) It's good to hear from you, and I do hope you rise up and speak more often. Most of us are well-fed enough and we don't bite (err.. often).

    Just a small bit about myself: I'm not published yet, and I am NOT necessarily an authority, but I'll offer the two cents I find valuable none the less. As a member, I've posted some decent gems here, and then I've posted some things where I've just embarrassed myself. The important thing as a writer is that you A. Write. B. Don't be afraid of failure.

    In regards to your work, you've got potential that I can see, but I do agree with Noumenon. Your job as a writer is not to describe EVERY DETAIL. I am a Creative Media Major (animator/film maker/visual world builder) and I know that refraining from detail is INCREDIBLY hard. If you are like me, you DELIGHT in knowing every detail of your world, it is your baby.

    But as a writer, your job is NOT the details, it's the communication of ideas, moods, and plot. As I am beginning to learn myself, you must trickle out ONLY enough details to give the audiences an idea of what the mood is, what's at stake, what the emotions are, and what the personality is like. Thus, you must indeed balance your show vs. tell ratio.

    Here are some thoughts I came across while reading it. (Sorry if it's confusing, I just do not have time to do awesome formatting like Noumenon)

    “The town held no other significance than being” should be “The town held no significance other than being to have a secret gathering.” Furthermore, why is this town so great for secret gatherings? Does the Lord of Valanor see something we do not? Are the trees to thick? Are the people crazy? Is it just remote? Don’t answer ME these things, just simply write them. ;)
    “They never did. He did not know their names, or their faces, only their voices.”
    “They were not allowed to know for the Emperor's questions could make the strongest man wilt.” - So far, I’m not afraid of this guy. As a Creative Media Major, my firm belief is that one should balance what they show versus what they tell. To me, the best villains are not the villains that the reader is TOLD they should be afraid of. The best villains are the ones that the reader can INHERENTLY see the protagonist get uneasy about; it’s the villain that does something so incredibly menacing that the reader silently thinks to himself, “this guy is scary…” (which reminds me, that may be a worthy post).
    Glad that he had not been too late, he settled in to one of the remaining chairs. The other three all sat as well. One wearing a bird mask had more lounged rather than sat in his chair, as if he could slip off to sleep at any moment. He always had that air of nonchalant aloofness (nonchalantness is not a word, if I remember right), as if none of what went on at these gatherings scared him. Or at least he hid it well. – Note. You used the word “always.” That’s very good, you dropped a subtle hint that the Lord of Valanor has done this before. Yet, I also find myself feeling perplexed because at the beginning of the prose, he seemed incredibly afraid, as if he were new at this. You may want to rectify these two thoughts. Either take out always, at this part, or make sure you include always at the beginning of the prose)

    A sudden pressure snapped him out of his thoughts. It felt as if the air around him was slowly crushing him to death. The shadows in the corner of the shack seemed to swell. They stretched slowly across the floor as breath became hard to get. Then just as suddenly the pressure was gone, breath had returned, and the shadows had retreated to their corner. Now standing just in front of the shadows was Lord Mashiak. (- Excellent prose. Excellent intro. I FELT that moment, and I felt it ease off just as quickly. You’ve communicated your idea beautifully)
    Lord Mashiak's voice was strong. The sound of his booming voice rumbled inside the Lord of Valanor's soul. Every time he spoke, it was with such an air of authority that there was no doubt whom everyone in his presence answered too. There was power in his voice. Dark, terrible power. (– Sentence one you talk about his voice. Sentence two, you talking about what his booming voice does. Sentence three, you mention that his voice gives him a present. Sentence four you mention the voice has power somehow…. Let me ask you this: don’t you think you can consolidate this into one poetic, terse, beautiful piece of prose that gives Lord Mashiak more presence? Sometimes less is more. By now you have hit me over the head with his voice, and I feel put-off by it).
     
  5. kmtolan

    kmtolan KMTolan

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2008
    Messages:
    1,528
    Likes Received:
    118
    Trophy Points:
    98
    N did a great little bit of editing (hat off), so I will keep to the summary and agree on the points that there is too much tell and not enough show. Also, the main character sounds more like a prop than a character, sorry.

    Warning signs of having a prop:
    1. Trouble naming him or her.
    2. Trouble describing him or her.
    3. Trouble staying in their point of view.
    4. Trouble expressing emotions beyond what is scripted to support the scene.

    What you have is a scene spawned from an idea, where every character will play their supporting part in that idea, and are moved around and otherwise handled like the rest of the furniture - save for scripted dialogue and actions meant to support the idea.

    Telling vs showing, you ask? Howzabout
    vs
    That sort of thing.

    Kerry
     
  6. nredfoot

    nredfoot Registered User

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2010
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    That's an interesting point. I might need to sit down and get a better grasp of what exactly it is I want to do in this scene. I want this to be an opening scene where I show the main antagonist and some of the unknown future players along with setting up the most important moment of the book, the murder of the emperor

    Hmmm might need to go back and rexaminethis this scene. Thanks a bunch for the comments and the example!
     
  7. Andrew Leon Hudson

    Andrew Leon Hudson sf-icionado / horror-ator

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2008
    Messages:
    1,708
    Likes Received:
    203
    Trophy Points:
    128
    Eeek, in which case I retract my final plotting remark for fear of corrupting the innocent.
     
  8. nredfoot

    nredfoot Registered User

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2010
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Thanks for the comments V! I hope I can call u V lol!

    I share your urge and desire to express every detail when I write. It's like I worry the reader won't smell what I'm cooking if I don't beat them over the head with it. I think it all goes back to the main point of me telling instead of showing. Which I will admit will be a challenge for me but hopefully with enough practice it will click!

    In my WIP the magic system is based around words and the sounds of the characters vice which is why I decided to let u know 4 times he has a strong voice lol. I'll work on getting that point across in a more elegant fashion.

    Again thanks to everyone for te feedback. It gives me things to think about while writing instead of just stating what I want to happen. I'm gonna give this thing another go tonight and see if I can apply some of these helpful critiques
     
  9. martin321

    martin321 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2012
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    13
    Overall, I like what you've posted. It just needs some polishing. In addition to what various other people have said, here are a few suggestions:

    "Whomever" I'd probably replace with "Those whom"
    "hasn't" should be "hadn't"
    "gotten" is a vague word, try something more specific e.g. "murdered", "assassinated", "imprisoned", "captured", "silenced"
    e.g. Those whom the Emperor hadn't already murdered...

    "lower" could be replaced by "reduce"

    The "dog masked woman", "tiger masked man" and "bird masked man" gets pretty repetitive. If their actual names need to be kept secret at this point in the book, then I'd suggest some more variety. Either by varying the formula e.g.:
    "Blah," said the bird masked man.
    "Blah," said the man, whilst adjusting his bird mask.
    "Blah," said the man in his crow mask.
    "Blah," said the crow.

    Or give them some other characteristics (height, size, clothes etc). So maybe the bird masked man could be fat, and the tiger masked man short.
    "Blah," said the fat man.
    "Blah," replied the short man.

    You don't ever tell us what type of animal mask the Lord of Valanor is wearing (not necessarily a problem, but I'd quite like to know).

    There are too many "Lord"s. If you give the Lord of Valanor a mask (e.g. wolf) then you can refer to that instead of his name some of the time.

    I'd also like to know what type of bird the bird mask is (an eagle? a crow? a falcon? an ibis?). If they selected their own masks then the choice could give some indication of their character. It could also be symbolic. Are these masks from a masquerade (i.e. a masked ball), or are they shamanic and scary? A few details like this could help to give the story some colour, and would give some clues about the world outside.

    This could work if the masks only cover the eyes (like many masquerade masks), but if that is the case then you need to establish it earlier; otherwise it just looks like a mistake.
     
  10. TheGhost

    TheGhost Registered User

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2004
    Messages:
    234
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Keep writing the story. In fact, don't edit the story at all as you go.

    Remember, the first million words are practice.
     
  11. N. E. White

    N. E. White tmso Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2009
    Messages:
    6,706
    Likes Received:
    373
    Trophy Points:
    183
    The truth, white sheet.

    I'm a fan of tearing apart the work of others. But doing line edits of YOUR work is not for you - it is for ME, the editor. I'm learning how to catch those mistakes in my own writing.

    That's not to say a critique isn't of value, but if this is your first draft and you haven't gotten the entire story out yet - just keep writing until it is finished.

    And don't feel bad for sharing it "too soon" (which is also bogus, you share when you feel like it), we've all done it. :)

    Just keep writing.
     
  12. PeteMC

    PeteMC @PeteMC666

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2010
    Messages:
    1,777
    Likes Received:
    27
    Trophy Points:
    83
    N did a great line edit of this piece for you so I won't do it again, and I agree with virtually everything said above. However, as tmso says, don't do this now. Hack the story out now, edit it later.

    Your first draft will be bad.

    Your first draft is supposed to be bad.

    Don't worry about it. Don't show it to anyone, just get your characters out onto the page where you can see them and keep an eye on them. Then worry about what they're doing. Either they will already be doing the things that fit the story, or you'll change the story to fit the things that they're doing. Once those characters are alive and on the page they'll tell you what happens, one way or another.

    Then make it read pretty. :)
     
  13. martin321

    martin321 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2012
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    13
    I didn't notice the italics. Ignore what I said above. This is obviously the main character thinking, so that the present tense is correct. The use of "gotten" is also forgiveable, as the character is using colloquial language.
     
  14. nredfoot

    nredfoot Registered User

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2010
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I really appreciate all the feedback and encouragement. I wanted to post this and get some feedback so I know of some things I need to look for. Now time to hunker down and get to writing!