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AskPik
December 14th, 2005, 07:00 PM
Jill is a senior in high school and this is her first attempt at writing fantasy. This is the beginning of her short story. Can you give her any feedback?

Thanks,
--Aaron


http://www.sffworld.com/community/story/1131p0.html

Dawnstorm
December 14th, 2005, 08:24 PM
First a comment: When you start several threads and name them all "Critique, please", this is going to get confusing. People may want to come back later to a particular thread, but finding it will be hard. I suggest you call them "Jill's story" or "Mike's story" in the future, to make it easier to find the threads again.

***

Now to the story:

Not bad for a first story (and a fist draft, too, I assume).

1. Story:

Not bad. We've got a protagonist (of uncertain gender, name and age) finding him/herself triggering an insurrection. The idea of the protagonist rejecting the insurrection out of guilt is an interesting one. I'm left curious as to the decision.

However, I get no sense of "why now".

a) The scene where the protagonist is about to be killed by the Requin has me wondering. The wizards seem to assemble quite quickly and stealthily. How big is the area? Only one Requin on guard? This sounds like it was organised; waiting for an opportunity. The wizards could have reacted to a secret sign or something; however, I don't think anything like that happened, because (a) the protagonist knows nothing about this, and (b) the wizards appear to be bickering amongst each other. (On the other hand, the wizards all appear to have their wands. How come? I don't think the Requin's would allow them.) It appears to be a spontaneous reaction, but then the transition from "I'll kill you now" to fear is a bit sudden. I'd expect there to be more guards, and I'd expect the wizards to be roused, gradually, one after the other, those closer first.

b) How do the Requin hold the wizards in check? What - exactly - are the wizards afraid of? Superior numbers? How come the Requin doesn't attempt to threaten the unruly wizards with whatever it is they've got up their sleeves?

2. Characters:

The characters themselves are quite nicely drawn, but they stand apart mainly by what they say or do; not so much by how they say or do it (although that's there, too). Try to make their speech more distinct, to have them stand out by being tall, or short, or walking timidly...

Also, there is too much "concerted action". (All of us began running...) In such circumstances, you can introduce differences, by spotting who runs fastest, for example. Does the protagonist have more people behind or in front of him/her?

3. Narrative situation

This is unclear. The story starts in present tense, switches to past tense, back to present tense, and then to past tense for good. This can work, if you've got a clear idea of when the narrator is telling the story, and why, to whom... If you do not want to think these things through, as a guideline for when to use what tense, then I suggest sticking to past tense (or present tense, but be aware that this will stick out, and you'll have to be more careful what you write down, because readers will probably pay more attention).

When I read the first line, I thought the story was going to be present tense. I like present tense narration, so I was curious. When you switched to past tense, I thought we have a layered story: General comments in present tense, and actual story in past tense. The line "I'm cursed", then takes on the function of foreshadowing, because - obviously - the story must be told after the events that are told. However, this transition is a bit confusing:


Nevertheless, strangely, something was different; something inside of me changed. I don't want to dig anymore; I don't want to listen to them ordering me around. I will not let them control me. I am not a freak.

The present tense could still be foreshadowing, but the theory is harder to sustain, especially, because the present tnese here sounds more like explanation for what the protagonist/narrator will do next.

Also, I think it should be "had changed" (because it was already different).

I get the feeling that you don't have a clear idea of when the story is told. I recommend either working it out and adjusting tense accordingly, or going for past tense, entirely.

4. Odds and ends:

a) "Breathe Jeremiah, breathe" I could hear my thoughts as if they were being said aloud.

Would your character refer to the Requin by first name? That suggests familiarity, secret love, condescension etc. It sounds strange. S/he'd rather think something like "Breathe, Requin, breathe" or "Breathe, Nordquist, breathe"

b) Look at punctuation when you're doing speeches. There are some conventions. "Xxx," the Y said. "Xxx?" the Y said. "Xxx!" the Y said. Y said, "Xxx." etc.

c) "he was laying there motionless" --> lying

***

The best thing about your story, I think, was how you handled your characters stupefied point of view. Very vivid.

Expendable
December 15th, 2005, 03:12 AM
Jill's story starts nicely with the POV character's opening narrative, full of irony.


"Get back to work you useless freak." Screamed a Requin that stood about 10 feet away.
The Requin's screaming, so I'd replace the period with an exclaimation point. It's not necessary to capitalize the 's' in 'screamed'. I'd also suggest cutting the "that stood about" out to tighten the sentence, give it more punch.


I don't want to dig anymore; I don't want to listen to them ordering me around. I will not let them control me. I am not a freak.
I'd suggest replacing "don't" with "didn't" to give it more immediacy.


I looked up to see Requin Jeremiah Nordquist smiling contently at the mess he'd made of my face.
Is Requin a nationality, profession or rank?


"Then I'll just kill you." He moved his arm to reach inside of his pocket, but froze with his arm halfway there. He was staring either at me or behind me, I couldn't tell. His face was full of fear. I watched him for a few moments, and decided to turn away to try to take advantage of his distraction. I spun around prepared to run, but I turned to find a dozen or so wizards standing in a half moon around us, pointing their wands directly at Jeremiah.
The wizard got knocked to the ground - when did he get up?


"No Jeremiah, this has gone on for far too long."
Isn't using the Requin's first name rather familiar? How is it the wizards know the guards first names better than they know each other's?


"What happens to us when they find out that you attacked the Requin?" asked a young man. Is there only one Requin or didn't this one know Jeremiah's name?

It seems strange they only had one guard, especially when you know the wizards can do magic. I'm guessing the Requin can't. It makes me wonder how the Requins stay in power?

It is an interesting begining though, and with some good characters. I'd love to read more.

-Ex.