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World Builder
August 2nd, 2004, 11:43 PM
More than likely, I'm unwittingly breaking a forum taboo. My apologies if I am, but since I see a lot of good insight coming from the members of this board I thought I'd take my chances. I'll be posting a short blurb I wrote for a class. Any comments, especially constructive criticism (which is abundant around here), are welcome. I'm considering turning this into a larger story.

Night Terror

The Nosufu Atu had come. Esta and I cowered in the wind-thrashed brown grass. I held my sister close to my chest, one hand pressed tightly to her mouth to keep her from screaming. Not that a little girl’s scream in all this chaos would really be noticed. My sister’s tears rolled down the back of my hand, while I bit my lip and pretended to be strong.

Screams for mercy tore through the smoky air. Men and women, brave or mad, cried out the names of lost love ones. Hollow howls of the Korakulesch replied, caught in the reverie of their bloodlust. The great black bats ran their razor screeching across my ears and their deliberate wing beats thudded in my head like a dark heart. I clenched my teeth and salty blood saturated my mouth. Bitter nightmares of the Nosufu Atu came to mind.

I spat out the blood; Esta jerked free of my grip and fell to the ground. When she tried to stand my hand flew out and grabbed hers. “No, Esta,” I said hoarsely but as calmly as I could. “Stay with me. It’s safe here.”

“Mama, I want Mama!” she cried and I flinched at the noise of her voice. Her eyes were red and a stream of tears cut rivulets through the soot on her cheeks. “Let me go! Let me go!”

I forced my hand against her quivering mouth again to silence her and risked a glance over the top of the high grass to be sure no one else had heard. Dead blades whipped my face. Ash fell like snow. In the indigo sky gilded clouds floated indifferently over a golden moon, and bats wheeled around the column of flame-lit smoke rising from the ruin of Fantaborn. The Nosufu Atu galloped on huge black horses from one victim to the next, licking the blood of their swords as they hacked down my fleeing neighbors and commanding their prowling wolfmen in unsettling voices that rose and fell almost like music.

Esta’s milk teeth drove into my finger, deeper and deeper until I couldn’t stand the pain anymore. She was screaming of mother as soon as my hand left her mouth, kicking me furiously, but I held tight to her wrist.

“Let me go! Dasche, let go!”

“You can’t go Esta. Stay with me. You’ll be safe here.”

“I’ll be safe with Mama. Why can’t I be with Mama, Dasche?” I tried to pull her close to me again, but she flailed her arms and kicked my stomach. I thanked the wind. No one would notice her thrashing. If only she’d be quiet!

She was only five, half my age, and I had to protect her now. How could I tell her, how could I tell her Mother was already dead. Not here, not now. This innocent little girl caught in the midst of a war no one understood twisted like a blade of grass in the wind. How could I bring myself to tell her the truth? The world blurred and tears cleared trails of soot.

Esta stopped fighting and grew silent, watching me cry. She’d never seen me do that, not even when Father died. I released her wrist and Esta crawled closer and wiped away my tears. I hugged her, now for comfort and not out of fear. In the wind-whipped field Esta and I held each other until the Nosufu Atu had gone.

choppy
August 3rd, 2004, 08:57 AM
Welcome to the forum, World Builder. No taboos broken that I'm aware of. Generally it's okay to post samples of your work as long as the length is reasonable (< 1000 words?) and the content is relevant to the forum.

Alright, let me put on my mask and start up the old anthem...

The Masked Critquer returns!
What I liked about this piece was that it has a solid emotional punch. You have a brother and sister cowering in a field as their village is overrun by monsters. I don't think you have any glaring technical errors, and the pace seemed to flow along very well.

I was a little confused about the attackers here. You cover a lot of ground in a small space. You have Nosfu Atu (blade lickers riding on horses), Korakulesch (bats), and prowling wolfmen. I'm generally a little slow on the uptake, so with the introduction of atypical monsters, I prefer to read a solid description of each as it is introduced. Naturally this has to be balanced with the pace of the story, but I think you can do that here, simply by expanding.

Not that a little girl’s scream in all this chaos would really be noticed. This sentence seemed a little deflating. You may want to say something along the lines of "amidst the chaos, cries of terror attracted the blades and teeth of the predators" so that you will maintain the urgency for quiet, while describing the action.

Overall, thumbs up.

ironchef texmex
August 3rd, 2004, 10:35 AM
The writing is solid. Lyrical, but not too lyrical. The subject matter is interesting and Choppy is right; the pacing is good.

My only caveat would be to expound on what has already been said. The emotions keep trying to build, then a sentence or two drags the feeling back into a kind of cold dispassion. Two things:

One, let your narrative character get carried away. "Stay down! Stay Down" I said in a fevered whisper. Imagine the scene until your own blood gets up and then jot down the carnage.

Two, the carnage. Readers have to be queued to know what to feel. Telling them by the character's excited utterances is a simplistic way to go about it. Not that it shouldn't be present, just that it won't be the thing that makes the reader start to get his or her own blood up. Think of the character's mood as an opinion of what is going on, then think of the descriptive events themselves as the facts of what is going on. Opinion is important, but fact is more so.

I think the scene could probably use at least a paragraph more describing the destruction of the town. And get specific - Elder Sinje stumbled to the front of the tent, his hands to his throat. Blood seeped out between his fingers. A short distance away the lady Sinje was on her back. A Nosufu was on top of her and its claws ripped and shredded... Whatever, you get the idea.

'Screams for mercy tore through the smoky air. Men and women, brave or mad, cried out the names of lost love ones.'

...is just too indistinct. This would also be good time to take Choppy's advice and tell us what those interesting baddies look like. :)

SubZero61992
August 3rd, 2004, 02:36 PM
:)

...is just too indistinct. This would also be good time to take Choppy's advice and tell us what those interesting baddies look like. :)

Unless he edited the story he says Bats with razor teeth.

ironchef texmex
August 3rd, 2004, 04:26 PM
:)

Unless he edited the story he says Bats with razor teeth.


I know he did, Sub. And some people might actually prefer loose descriptions; it lets them fill in the mental picture themselves. But some of us want... no, need a little more. Especially those of us who are getting older and can't seem to remember where we put the bottle of Geritol.

For us "Bats with razor teeth" is just not enough. What kind of bats? How big? What color? Any distinguishing features besides the teeth? And most importantly - DID THEY STEAL MY BOTTLE OF GERITOL!

JRMurdock
August 3rd, 2004, 07:11 PM
I agree with everything said so far.

I've only one question. Is this it or just an excerpt? I had trouble caring if the girl ran away and got eaten (I secretly wanted her to). I had trouble caring for the townsfolk getting 'shredded'. It was all good description for me, but I had trouble getting emotional about them. I think it's because I was dumped into the action with no personal investment into the characters. Perhaps if I knew that I had saved my sister's life or was raising her due to ill parents and she was as close to me as if my only child, I'd care. But out of context, it was hard to get emotionally involved with the story.

As for the 'blade lickers'. I have trouble envisioning slaughters stopping their slaughter to 'lick' their blades. Perhaps if they had a special sword with a blood groove that drew the blood from their victims and allowed them to drink it off the sword. Ewwww...

World Builder
August 3rd, 2004, 07:27 PM
Thanks for the replies.

Since most of the comments have leaned toward the description of things beyond Dasche and Esta, I thought I'd reply to those concerns. The major reason for the lack of details was the word limit imposed on the exercise, 250 words I think. Something like that. The second reason is Dasche's limited perspective. The first descriptive paragraph the details are only sounds because Dasche can't see what's around him. In the spin-off story, I'd probably start writing at the point at which the Nosufu Atu and allies come storming into town and follow Dasche and Esta after they become orphans--which would give me much more space and reason to describe what's going on around them.

But until then, here's a brief explanation of the "baddies" for those interested:
The Nosufu Atu--The race of Vampires living in the mountains east of the Veld (the grassland where Fantaborn was built). My vampires are different from the standard model and the only commonality between the Nosufu Atu (and related races) and the vampires of lore is that the N.A. are known to drink blood (mostly on special events).

Koraku(lesch)--The Koraku are the wolfmen, akin the the concept of werewolves (though the Lore of my world states that the anthropomorphized wolf-form is the natural state of the Koraku and the can transform into Men on rare occasions. They are related to other Beast-Folk and Shapeshifters (collectively known as the Lesch). The Veld was once part of Lesch territory until humans moved in, which started a lot of bitterness between the humans of the Veld and the neighboring species.

The Great Bats--When this scene was written the bats didn't have a name, or more specifically they had two potential names, either of which would suggest a vastly different nature. I've settled on the Bats being the Aswang, one of the Beast-Folk related to the Koraku. If you'd like to hear the complete mythological origin story of the various races of Beast-Folk, PM me.

Of course, that told you what the baddies are but didn't describe them. Guess you still have a reason to buy my book if I ever write it. :)

ironchef texmex
August 3rd, 2004, 08:06 PM
W.B., I'm starting to think that you might be one of the most aptly named people we have ever had on this site (personally, I can't even cook :o ). You really like creature and world creation, don't you? That's good. A good solid basis for writing fantasy.

Let us know when you have more. It sounds like you've got several of us lining up to read it.

Rira
August 13th, 2004, 12:24 PM
i dont think there were any problems with the story piece. its from a ten year olds point of veiw, so he wouldnt know much about anything beyond what he saw at the moment. such things can be shown after the event, when its safe and the children up and discover the carnage for them selves. i thought it was a good beginning, and leaves enough out for readers to want to read further. i for one, was really wrapped up in it. i hope you finnish it someday, cause i would love to read it.

daiquiri_ice
August 15th, 2004, 12:16 AM
This was a really good piece. I think all previous posters indicated need for additional detail about monsters and what was happening around the two characters. I understand that a lot of this is due to the word limitation on the exercise. However, there was on thing that struck me oddly. The voice of your character did not sound like that of a ten year old boy but more that of an adult. You might consider shifting the voice from that of a ten year old to that of an adult relating the events of his life when he was ten.

I liked this though and think you've got the makings for an emotionally charged story. It reminded me of an Anime story I saw some years ago about an orphaned boy trying to survive WWII along with his little sister. It was a poignant story that I loved dearly although I swear I can't remember the name of it right now! Fireflies or something like that.

Anyway, post more as you build your story!