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pennywise86
March 15th, 2007, 10:58 PM
I dont feel like posting this in the story section so im gonna post it here. This is the story I discussed in a previous post, asking what you thought of the plot. This is the aforementioned thread.

http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=15566

I'd like some honest feedback, is it good, bad, interesting? How's the writing? Does it flow? Easy to picture everything in your mind? Take into consideration this is the 7th chapter so the character introductions and everythign has already been done.


----------------------------------------------------------------------

Chapter 7

A Hail of Knifes and Bullets


1

Adrian sat with his back to the counter and listened to the old man singing on the small dais near the back of the common room. Hamar and Owain sat to one side of him and Alexis and Connor to the other. The five sat in silence, having passed their meal in much the same manner. There was nothing to say. They listened to the music over the sounds of a half-filled common room. The room was small and dim, the smell of sawdust covering the floor mixing with the aromas of meat roasting over spits. They had arrived in the small city of Haven just as the last light was leaving the sky, and Haven, with its cobble-stone streets and white buildings, reminded Adrian too much of Port Hope.

“I don’t mind, I don’t mind,
What you say to me, my dear,
But I’ve got something to show you,
I know what you want to hear,
But I’ve got something to show you,
Never fear, I’ll always be true,
I’ve got something to show you,
My blood is on the table, you see,
My heart is beating, you see,
For you, my dear.”

The man sang in a deep rumbling voice while another man played a lute in the back and a third strummed on his harp. They had the look of wandering musicians to them, playing for beds or food. Adrian focused on the words, wanting to be carried away as a good song was sometimes capable of doing. When Hamar spoke beside him it startled him, as much a result of the gentleness to the voice as the suddenness of it.

“Listen, lad. What happened to your people was brutal. I’ll admit it, and so will many others, but sooner or later you’re going to have to realize that you can’t change it. The past is in the past, and I don’t think even the Ascillians could have changed it. You can’t let it keep eating you, or else soon there will be nothing left of you but a broken mind, and we need you whole.”

Adrian looked at him, and thought that he could see children looking up at this man and calling him “Father”. He nodded at Hamar’s words and went back to listening to the man on the dais.

Hamar stood up, running a hand through his hair. “I'm going to sleep, all this noise is giving me a headache.”

“He’s right,” Owain said. “You’re far too young to break your mind over such matters. If it makes it easier, think of the present; it is all that matters after all.”

Adrian nodded glumly, taking in Owain’s words as well. The men on the dais finished to great applause; Adrian applauded without being aware of it.
They had been gone from Port Hope for less than four days, and already he was beginning to wish that he had remained there, that the Legionnaires had never been sent for him.

They remained for a while longer, listening to the man with the harp play while the other took a rest. When the common room began to clear out, they all headed up the stairs and to their rooms. Again Adrian noticed the two Legionnaires keeping their guns concealed, but ready to spring for them. It might not be too out of the ordinary to see a man with guns, but he thought people would take special notice of the beautiful guns the Legionnaires carried.

He dreamt that night.

2

Darkness. All around him there is darkness. The world is nothing but pitch black. Thus he is surprised when he reaches out before him and is able to see his arm clearly. There is a sense of falling, not precisely moving for all the still darkness around him, but falling nonetheless. He moves through the darkness, that for all he can see might as well stretch for eternity. Not only is there not even the slightest hint of light, but there is no sound either. He is stuck falling in this dismal cocoon, wondering what will greet him at the bottom of his fall, or if there is a bottom.

A voice. A woman’s light chime, sudden and from all around him. Go forth. Do not be afraid. And before he is able to truly grasp what the voice is saying, he realizes that he is indeed moving forward. There is nothing to tell him that he is moving, the unchanging darkness still holds all around him, and yet there is a sense of floating forward. You cannot go back. Not now. Not ever.

A light. Up ahead and so small as to be mistaken for a star in the night. He gravitates towards it, seeing it grow larger as he draws nearer. The light pulses and wavers, as if struggling to keep the darkness at bay, to keep itself from being swallowed. He floats closer, drawn to it like a moth to a flame. The light is of the purest white, so bright that it should sear his eyes simply from looking at it , and yet it does not. Instead it bathes him in brilliant warmth.

He reaches out to touch it, only aware in some small way that his arm is cast in white brightness, and the source of the light suddenly bursts apart. The darkness is pushed away, and the light before him is now a giant sun that pulses with the same beat as his heart.

He is swallowed into it, and there is only the light.

3

In the morning the Legionnaires woke the boys. Adrian and Connor dressed and went downstairs where Alexis waited for them to break their fast on a small meal. They were not to be left alone at any time, it seemed. Many of the other patrons were up as well, and the streets outside were already full of people going about their way. The sounds came in loud through the door of the common room, sounds of a city waking.

“Why are we heading out so late?” Adrian asked. When they had left Port Hope they had woken with the sun.

Alexis grabbed a small roll of bread and stood up. “People traveling so early might draw unwanted attention. Let’s go.”

They went to the stables and found Hamar and Owain saddling the horses, pots and pans clinking. Adrian and Connor went to their own horses and began to saddle them in silence. Having spent much of their lives working in the stables, it came to them easily, and soon they were ready. The small party led the horses out into the brightness of a new day.

“I could have used a little more sleep,” Connor muttered.

“And the boy says he wants to be a Legionnaire,” Owain muttered.
The streets of Haven were busy despite the early hours of the morning. Carts and wagons fought their way through the throng, while the unconcerned people ran about or simply sauntered from shop to shop. Vendors beneath their flat-topped canvas booths shouted to the passing crowd, trying to draw interest to the wares they displayed. A grizzled old man shouted at Adrian as they passed.

“Over here, boy! The best rast you’ll ever eat!”

Adrian looked at the greasy mess slopped on the plate the man pushed at him, and walked on. The crowd didn’t allow much room, so they were forced to lead their horses in a single line, with Hamar leading and Owain bringing up the rear. Adrian looked to the two Legionnaires and saw them scrutinizing every face that turned towards them. They looked about the crowd as if expecting an attack from out of thin air, but Adrian thought it would be near impossible to pick an assailant out in this crowd. Instead he thought of the dream which he only now remembered in bits and pieces. What he remembered the most was the whiteness, and how it had flared at his touch. He pondered silently on it as they walked. Ahead of him, Connor seemed lost in his own thoughts.

“I hate crowded places,” Hamar muttered from the front.

“Too easy a trap,” added Alexis.

A vendor, her dark hair held back by a shawl and her small eyes peering out of a doughy face, attempted to get Hamar’s attention. He glanced at her, and she blinked and shut her mouth and turned to shouting at another wanderer.

Alexis laughed. “Always the gracious one, aren’t you Hamar?”

“Shut up, boy,” Hamar said. “If you were experienced you would find something better to do than joke and laugh.”

“I am experienced,” Alexis told the other man firmly. “I wouldn’t have been chosen if otherwise.”

Hamar grunted. “You were chosen because of your--”

An elderly man dressed in rich silks walking past them suddenly collapsed to the ground, clutching the small hilt of a knife buried in his chest.

4

“Hamar!” Owain shouted.

Hamar let go of his reigns and his hands darted inside his coat. He turned around to look at Owain, guns already in hand, and saw the old man lying on the ground. Immediately his eyes darted to the crowd, but it was impossible to discern an attacker; the ones who saw the corpse drew away, but the people farther away still looked unperturbed. The attacker could be anywhere.

“Alexis! Take the boys away!” he shouted as he watched the crowd around them. Yet Alexis hesitated, gripping his own guns and scanning the crowd. “I said take them away, you fool!”

“What’s going on?” Connor asked.

Alexis at last retrieved sense enough to holster his guns and grab each boy by the hand. “We have to go. Hurry!” He looked to Hamar one last time. Hamar give him a silent nod, and then Alexis began to lead them away up the street, pushing and shoving through the throng.

The loud roar of a gunshot made Hamar turn around and look towards Owain. The other Legionnaire had pulled his guns from his blanket rolls and had them aimed towards the angled rooftop of a building a little further down the street.

The sound of the gun was like thunder in the clear morning. For a moment there was only silence, broken by fearful murmurs, and then the crowd broke out in panic. They began to run around like a startled flock of sheep, fearing the snake in the grass.

“The bastard’s on the rooftops!” Owain said. “I don’t know how many of them there are, but there’s definitely one up there.”

“Keep him in sight,” said Hamar as he scanned the crowd for the irregularity. There had to be more than one, sending one was suicide. Abruptly sharp pain exploded in his side, and he fell to one knee. He looked down and saw the small hilt of a knife sticking out from beneath his ribs. Owain didn’t come to him, and that was for the good; he was well trained, after all. Hamar winced as he pulled the knife out and tossed it aside. Blood immediately soaked his shirt beneath his coat and ran down his side. He stood up, blood-covered hands gripping steel guns.

“We’re too open here!” Owain shouted to him over the din of the crowd. He squeezed off another shot at the rooftops closest to them, and cursed when it missed. “He’s fast!”

“We have to fall back,” Hamar said. Owain nodded wordlessly. They began to retreat then, with Owain keeping a watch on their trail, and Hamar, wincing at the pain in his side with every step, keeping an eye up ahead. The pain was distant feeling he found; there, but bearable, overridden by the urgency of the situation and the beat of his heart. No amount of training could completely still your heart at a time like this, and sometimes that proved to be your saving.

From behind him came the abrupt sounds of several shots fired in a consecutive rumble. He wheeled around. Owain lay on the ground, still moving, barely. Hamar looked at the knife protruding from his throat and the one piercing his chest, and cursed aloud. He forced his mind to acknowledge what his eyes showed him; his companion was dead already. He gave a silent prayer for his fallen comrade and he turned and pushed his way through the panicked crowd.

He fought through the crowd and they fell back before him, all too aware of his guns. He scanned the rooftops behind him, and caught sight of a lean man with half his face masked leap from one angled rooftop to another, following him. The man darted back before he could so much as raise his gun. Hamar cursed. How many of the bastards were there?

He looked ahead, and in the milling crowd saw a lone, short priest trying to calm the folk, limping from one panic-stricken person to another. The priest was dressed in the fashion of the priesthood, a black robe with the bottom half of his face covered. Hamar could have laughed at the priests attempts to calm this wild herd. He looked behind him, saw a figure leaping from one roof to another, exposed at last, and raised his gun.

He felt the blade as it sliced into his chest. He looked before him, and stared into the priest’s cold, green eyes.

Hamar struggled to breathe, but all that came from his mouth were froths of blood. The priest moved before him in a fluent motion with no hint of a limp and planted a knife in the nape of his neck. Hamar fell to the ground, life fading from him, and the last sight before his eyes was that of the priest’s calm gaze looking down on him.

His last thought was of Alexis and the boys.

5

The Legionnaire led the boys up the angled street at as fast a run as the frenzied crowd allowed. The sound of the guns had some raising their heads and looking about hoping to catch a glimpse of the source. The sound of those gunshots worried Alexis. Cold anger that he was not doing anything to help his comrades swelled in him. It was an effort for him to keep moving and not simply turn back.

“Alexis, what’s going on?” Adrian asked.

“I don’t know,” Alexis told him absently, hating the worry that tinged his own voice. He couldn’t help but feel a coward. God! I should be helping them! But underneath the anger and the feelings of cowardice lay a deep shame as well; he desperately wanted to turn back and prove himself. He reminded himself firmly that this was not the time.

They ran through the sea of people, with Alexis looking over his shoulder every few steps. Each shot they heard caused their heads to jerk around towards the noise. They continued to run, pushing through the curious and frightened throng of Haven. Then they heard three consecutive shots, and Alexis stopped for a moment. He looked back the way they had come, but there was nothing to be seen through the crowd. For a few moments his breathing was still, and the desire to go back and see if that had been the end of it was almost too great to ignore, but he resisted the urge.

They continued to run, and after those few shots they heard nothing.

They had left their horses behind, with them it would have been near impossible to get through the crowd, but Alexis wished that they had them with them as they came out onto the Great Road. He looked both ways of the wide highway frantically, trying desperately to decide which way to go. He looked east and west, but the road was too open, they could easily be ridden down and shot whichever way they went. He came to a decision at last.

“Into the woods,” he said, and darted across the road, pulling the boys along with him.

“What about Hamar and Owain?” Connor panted.

“They’re better Legionnaires than me, so enough with the questions!”

The three disappeared into the green embrace of the woods.

6

When all was said and done that eventful morning in Haven, three bodies littered the streets. When the Haven Guard arrived, they found only the dead. The people stood far back and watched as the Guard searched the bodies. They were eager to watch, but none wanted to be close enough to inherit the blame. While a few were searching the bodies the others went around the gathered crowd to gain an account of what had happened. No one seemed to know what had occurred, however. The many tales that were told were all baffled ramblings, and many simply contradicted one another.

Among the crowd of watchers was a small girl and a tall, rigid man. They watched the Guard search the bodies, and then watched as the deceased were carried away on the back of wagons.

“The boy and the other Legionnaire escaped,” said the girl as they walked away. “I should have kept a better watch.” Her dark hair fell to her shoulders in straight waves, framing a small heart-shaped face with large green eyes, tilted as were the man’s. She wore a lose tunic, and a wicker pack on her back.

“Yes, you should have, but not to worry,” said the man. “They cannot go far.” His dark hair was closely cropped and looked disheveled, as though he had just awoken that moment. His small, tilted black eyes scanned everything with a perpetual tightness that made onlookers shy away from his gaze. Lean and tall, he moved with the grace of a wolf.

“We don’t know where they went, Amon,” the girl said.

“I said not to worry about it,” the man growled. “We have plenty of time to catch up to them. And when we next meet ...” he sighed deeply as if tired, “... they will wish they had died this day.”

pennywise86
March 16th, 2007, 11:38 PM
Ah, c'mon, no one liked it? haha

AgentRustyBones
March 17th, 2007, 10:34 AM
It starts out slow, but overall this piece works pretty well.

I didn't notice too many grammar or spelling errors, so they may be there, but they didn't distract me from the flow of the story.

The biggest question for me is the idea of steel guns in a city/culture that seems pre-industrial. You didn't describe the guns wvery much, how quickly they are loaded and reloaded, how big or small they (although I did note that one was pulled from a bedroll--rifle or shotgun? and one legionaire seemed to pull out two guns--pistols?) are.

I this seeming contradiction is addressed earlier in the book, then I suppose that this point is moot...but it is confusing. As a modern reader, I am imagining more modern weaponry--which is particularly unsettling in the scene you otherwise described. If they are old style muskets, or some sort of magical weapon, you should probably address that better to make it clearer.

Otherwise, I think it is pretty good and well written.

Doug
aka Agent Rusty Bones

pennywise86
March 17th, 2007, 10:46 AM
the guns are revolvers, and they're pretty advanced for this culture that is just starting to come into an industrial era. They're described in more detail in a previous chapter. The idea of advanced weaponry in a story like this just really appealed to me.

James Carmack
March 18th, 2007, 09:31 PM
What exactly is a "rast" and how would I know if it's the best one I'll ever eat?

Okay, okay, enough teasing. I'd rather not start into the story quite so deep in medias res, but I managed to get along just fine. You've definitely got enough going for you to keep me reading. I saw a few spots here and there I'd like to patch, but nothing beyond little quibbles.

I'll admit to seeing the last post before reading the chapter, but even so, I don't think I'd have the same problem as Rusty. Perhaps I'm a rare breed, but I flow rather freely across the yawning expanse of history, so I had no trouble setting myself in the 16th-18th century range. Also, creative anachronisms can be fun. After all, we don't need to slavishly mimic the developments on Earth in our variegated worlds, now do we?

pennywise86
March 18th, 2007, 09:59 PM
After all, we don't need to slavishly mimic the developments on Earth in our variegated worlds, now do we?

exactly! (this message is apparently too short, go figure)

AgentRustyBones
March 18th, 2007, 10:05 PM
I don't have a problem with guns per se in a pre-industrial society, just as I don't have a problem with swords being used in a modern or futuristic setting.

My point was simply that the guns seemed incongruous in the setting as described, and that with very little description of them, it was hard to 'get' why some folks had them and others didn't.

Obviously, the guns didn't provide any definitive advantage to the owners, since two of them ended up dead...

But that is part of the problem of giving a sample that is what, 7 chapters into the story? There's a lot of background that is missing that would likely (I presume) answer those questions.

That also made it harder for me to read through it to critique it in the first place. I passed up commenting on the snippet when it was first posted in part because it starts so far into the story.

The beginning is a good place to start with a critique because we get to see the set up, and get a feel for the world you've created. Starting in the middle of the story makes it harder to attract reviewers...as may be noticed by the fact that only James and I have commented to date--and that was after it was bumped up to the top of the queue again.

In any event, the pacing is good once it gets going--the bar scene reminded me a little too much of my many D&D sessions, I didn't particularly care for the song lyrics.

The action was pretty good.

I like the overall style and am curious about the world itself.

Doug
aka Agent Rusty Bones

pennywise86
March 18th, 2007, 10:13 PM
appreciate your feedback, Doug. I posted this chapter because I wanted to get an assessment of the writing, and I figured this chapter would be more interesting since it has some action in it. I was originaly going to post an introductory chapter, but figured people wouldn't be compelled to read it since it's still setting the bases and not much else is happening.

AgentRustyBones
March 18th, 2007, 11:48 PM
You're welcome for the feedback. I am glad that I did take the time to read through it again.

Something to consider (in general) as to the beginning of the book--that's what potential buyers are going to look at first--including any literary agents or publishers who see the book.

You'll want to ensure that beginning (as well, of course as the rest of the book) is as compelling and interesting as you can make it--some editors won't read past the first few lines unless the writing and the premise really grip them.

In general, when you are selling your work (and I don't actually know if you are intending to do just that, but I presume that you are--and I think that your story appears to be potentially publishable), you have a very small window of opportunity that ranges from the first couple of lines, to the first chapter or two, in which to grab that potential buyer/editor/agent by the collar and say 'Buy me!'

Doug
aka Agent Rusty Bones

pennywise86
March 18th, 2007, 11:58 PM
I realize that, and I believe the begining of my story is compelling enough, it's just that the second chapter is pretty much introducing new characters, and thats all it is. It builds up, but I wanted to give you something a little more interesting to read. Maybe i'll post the begining later.