This story was recently rejected (for the 7th) time for publication. A very generous editor said that the opening lacked a specific scene set, and I did more "telling" than "showing." I've been elbow-deep in revision for weeks now, and am anxious to see if I've made any progress. I'd love to hear any feedback or advice. Thanks.
I read the opening few paragraphs, sir, and I must tell you the construction and the logic leave something to be desired. Here is my reaction:
It began in darkness. Cries of alarm rose from the perimeter. They were answered by sergeants’ shouts, tramping feet, and the clatter of steel – sounds of soldiers rushing to arms. Then a chorus of howls tore through the night, and wicked monsters bled from the darkness. A grim battle ignited.
The “began in darkness” works fine. I can live with ‘cries of alarm’ though I’d prefer a tighter sentence such as “The alarm rose from the perimeter.” With my change, you’d have change ‘they’ to ‘these’ but the sentence works fine otherwise. But, “wicked monsters”? Monster are wicked by definition, the adjective adds nothing new. Same thing with “grim battle”; don’t believe you can have a pleasant battle. The sentence “A grim battle ignited” has a problem or two: people ignite battles, they do not self-ignite. When the alarms went up, the perimeter was under attack; the battle was joined at that point. If your intent is that now the battle began in earnest, then say so.
– To the innocent eye, it was an idyllic place. Springtime mists obscured its gentle slopes, and the imposing Vorgold Mountains towered overhead, draping long, somber shadows below. From the distant North, the broad, murky River Direspear meandered through, eventually spilling bilious silt into the warm southern seas.
Why are these paragraphs set off with hyphens?
Am not comfortable with “to an innocent eye.” Whose eye – or POV - are we talking about, the narrator’s, the reader’s, the folk in the midst of the battle? To what place is “it’ referring? Are we still at the battle site or have we changed locales?
If the mists are obscuring the slopes, we must be standing at a distance great enough to see over the mist to the peaks, right? Would help to clear up the confusion if the “its” of the slopes had a more direct link to Vorgold Mountains. When you insert the ‘and’ making it a compound sentence you could be talking of two distinct places: the slopes and the mountains.
How can the mists be obscuring the slopes when two paragraphs later it is night time and the lamps are glowing?
What did the river meander through? The slopes, the mountains, a valley not yet described?
From whom or what is the river obtaining the bile it will drop into the southern sea?
Yet this serenity was mendacious. The Ashtyne Valley was a sinister place; something evil held the vale in its grasp. Once, this verdant expanse had been the seat of Arden – that fabled kingdom of the nael. Alas, their ancient race vanished long ago, leaving the valley a desolate, haunted wilderness. Since then, dark creatures, with yellow eyes and gnashing fangs, had claimed its deep forests as their own. –
Shrouded in the dim glow of its post-lanterns, the Steelvaeran camp was adrift in a vast night. All around, the shadowy forest reached out, like a monstrous hand, eager to smother the rude light in its midst. At the center of camp, Sir Avenos Doomswarden burst from his tent, half-dressed, and half-armed. The oathsword of his knighthood felt strangely heavy, and his hands began to tremble as he wrestled the buckles of his breastplate. The tribune was uneasy.
Vast night? Do you mean adrift in a sea of night?
The shadowy forest is sentient and has intent to smother or it's just a forest that seems to have intent to smother?
Okay, he’s bursting from his tent. Is this because of the alarms in the first paragraph or is it because he is hyperactive and always bursts into and out of places? Oh, it’s because he is uneasy. Uneasy people burst out of tents? Wouldn’t an uneasy person take time to get a grasp of the situation?
Yet it was not the threat of battle that unnerved him; he had fought valiantly in the recent war. Nor was it any uncertainty in the discipline of his men; he had often led his cohort to victory, and trusted their spirit. His apprehension now was something new, something he had never felt before.
– “May I speak freely, milord tribune?” the bushy-haired Sir Geoffrey ventured. Darkness and silence made the barracks seem cavernous in this late hour. Beyond its stone walls, a conquered city lay sleeping.
I believe a barracks is a building or group of buildings. The knight had burst out of his tent. Why would he use a tent when there are buildings available? The interior of one building could seem cavernous; the empy spaces between lots of building could seem cavernous, but an open space amidst of camp of tents would not seem cavernous.
Where did the stone walls come from? Are they in a captured fort with real buildings surrounded by a perimeter wall? Are they in a pasture demarked by stone walls which they adapted to defense of their tent camp?
Why doesn’t that captured city spoil the serenity of the valley you described 4 paragraphs ago?
“Of course,” Sir Avenos nodded. Shadows from the dying oil lamp in his office made the tribune’s face hollow. Obsessively studying requisition tablets, he didn’t even glance up at his friend, the lieutenant.
Hold it! He just burst out of his tent. How did he get to his desk and does he study requisition tablets in full armor from a dying oil lamp or the dimly glowing post-lanterns?
You asked about the opening so I went no further. I think, sir, if you want KatG to acept this work, you need to spend some time editing.
April 14th, 2005, 03:16 PM
The beginning jumps too much. Early on in a story, it's easier on the reader to follow one story line than two. Starting in an unfamiliar setting and throwing around a lot of concepts and names and ideas this early in the story prevents the reader from switching out of 'exposition' mode into 'story' mode, which you want to do as quickly as possible. Stay with the battle for the beginning.
You use a *lot* of adjectives. This can be good, but it can also be bad. In some paragraphs, almost every noun has an adjective attached to it, and that's generally not necessary. Scale back on the descriptions and the troop divisions. Once he dispatches all the centuries, it's safe to just say 'The Legionairres attacked so-and-so' instead of 'the Legionaires of the Xth Century attacked so-and-so." Battle is hectic, Intense, abrupt.
My overall feeling on this introduction was kind of... been there, done that, to be honest. A bunch of savage goblins attack an army. The army wins.
If I picked this up in a book store, I probably wouldn't keep going past this point. There's nothing new, no new hook or idea, no mystery, no suspense. There's a character, and glimmers of a setting, but it takes more than that to ensnarl the reader.
Keep at it. Punch it up a few notches and it will be much better.
Ken Floro III
April 15th, 2005, 11:16 AM
Thank you for the feedback. Looks like I've still got a ways to go before I can get this piece running. I'm not sure how much confusion it will clear up, but the paragraphs set off with hyphens were in italics in the original document - unfortunately lost in translation - and were intended as interruptions to add background, one was pure narrative voice, and the other (in the barracks) was a flashback. I shall endeavor to streamline and clarify. Thanks again!
April 16th, 2005, 12:09 PM
I have to agree with my cohorts. Your story needs some work, but don't bag it yet. The interaction between the characters is good. Work on the transitions between setup and battle. I missed the start twice, (and i hate missing the beginning of a battle, it lowers my body count :rolleyes: ) I would suggest you jump into the battle, but jump in loud--whatever that means.
Before I start a long list of exposition on this word or that sentence--which other people do much better, let me suggest a different approach. Your POV is pretty straightforward, following your main character/hero. Try writing it again, but from the POV of someone else, perhaps Geoffrey, or one of the nameless faceless centuries. You might even try it from a goblin point of view, it would be interesting. You could use that to describe what Avenos is doing, etc. Add emotion to the action.
And remember; The meaning lies beneath the surface. The surface lies.