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shayhiri
March 2nd, 2005, 07:20 PM
1. What kind of descriptions do you prefer and why? "Haiku" ones, "Tolkien" ones... ?

2. English is my second language, so if you could just take a "native speaker" look at the descriptions below, I'd be extremely grateful. (They're all beginnings of gamebook duels, hence the Present Simple and Continuous.)

***
The first stars twinkle in the empty skies past the faded sunset. The moon is somewhere there, a barely visible spectral apparition. A soft glow hovers above the endless marshlands and mires that sprawl away to the horizon in the deepening dusk.
The evening wind quietly whispers in the reeds and slinks through the long springy grass around the patch of solid land that awaits the duel. The sparse warped trees are clutching the sky with their crooked claws of dead boughs. Voymir raises the long sword in front of his face, then points its tip down and composedly bows at you above the hilt. You nod back with a nonchalant smile.
The Watcher waves the fan.
Forgriff’s blade instantly flies up, transforming into several crossing arcs and then simply vanishing in the twilight with a sinister whizz. Voymir slowly sets off towards you, seemingly unaware of his lethal aura.

***

The dormant sea is stirring in the reverie of the predawn twilight and whispering along the wet sand. The sullen cliffs soaked with damp cool seem loath to part with the night. The seagulls are already strolling about, ruffled up and grim.
A stray crab darts off aslant among the washed-up jellyfish entangled in brownish seaweed, bumps against your boot and takes off high above the waves aided by your well-aimed kick. А gull circling nearby snatches it in mid-air and silently flees the rest, which swoop on it with ugly squawks.
Voymir gives a polite cough. You turn round and somewhat horrified find out that the Watcher is holding an open red fan.

***

The very first glance down persuades you of the necessity of avoiding a second one. It is high indeed. You turn your gaze away from the noisy, agitated crowd that fills up the Central Square and discover the astounding vista – the entire unfamiliar city, as far as the outskirts and the small villages in the fertile vicinity, slouching off in the golden afternoon light. Faraway birds are roaming the azure. Then a few rather unpleasant persistent reflections start playing in your peripheral vision and you reluctantly turn round to face the enormous shining knight standing in his full glory and pointing his gigantic sword of murderous light toward your chest.
You are perched on top of the renowned Arena of the Warrior-King, more than a hundred feet above ground level, upon the blade of the stone sword that lies in the hands of the kneeling ancient statue. A file of narrow steps starting from the crowded square at the foot girdles about the body of the incredible rocky colossus and rises to the seats of the special spectators on the chest of the statue, at the same level as the Arena – and then to the arena itself. The stone bridge suspended above the abyss is less than ten feet wide and slopes down towards the edges barely allowing two people to pass each other. The grandiose fists at its ends fix its length at some fifty feet.
You look up at the head of the statue, meeting the all-seeing gaze of the Warrior-King penetrating the centuries, then you lower your eyes towards the chest where a red fan opens. Bris raises his sword to his right shoulder and waves of incessant cheers rise from below. You mirror his stance. The knight steps towards you.

***

The albatrosses are soaring with the wind high in the chill skies, unreachable and mysterious. The forlorn icy ocean surrounds you on all sides with its grey-green lifeless waters swarming with pale flotsam. The horizon is near, pressed by the evenfall cloud banks held in a dead lock by the dully shimmering jaw of the iceberg line.
The waves silently leap upon the rocky snowclad beach under your feet crushed by enormous boulders. Falcon is waiting with an inscrutable expression. By an ominous irony, the sole colored spot in this nightmarish world signals death.
The Watcher lowers back his arm.
***

Expendable
March 2nd, 2005, 07:46 PM
1. What kind of descriptions do you prefer and why? "Haiku" ones, "Tolkien" ones... ?

Good ones. I like ones that paint a picture easily grasped.


Voymir gives a polite cough. You turn round and somewhat horrified find out that the Watcher is holding an open red fan.
"Somewhat horrified to find out" is a weak phrase, very passive. Re-write this sentence to make it more immediate, more active.


The very first glance down persuades you of the necessity of avoiding a second one. This seems clumsy to me, almost too long. I suggest re-writing it.

It's a good start.

shayhiri
March 11th, 2005, 05:16 PM
Thank you.
You're quite right about the clumsiness of both sentences, the unfortunate result of a writer's negligence.

But shall I assume that there's not a single word or phrase which just sounds odd or inappropriate due to my imperfect command of English? Please be honest! :)

Expendable
March 11th, 2005, 10:09 PM
There's a lot of large words here but all and all, its fine. Nothing too odd - to me, anyway.

--Ex.

Dawnstorm
March 12th, 2005, 02:04 PM
1. regularity

A text needs to flow. If you have too many parallell structures, you run the risk of the people taking to those structures rather than the content. Kind of like nursery rhymes or songs. You might recite them/sing them, without really thinking of what they are about:

Example:
You like tou use the adjective-noun combination a lot:

The first stars twinkle in the empty skies past the faded sunset.

It's not much of a problem, and it depends on the reader, when the text turns too predictable on the structural level (if it happens at all). So basically it's up to you, what you like to do.

For example, I really like that sentence:

"A soft glow hovers above the endless marshlands and mires that sprawl away to the horizon in the deepening dusk."

But I think I'd like it even more, if the "endless" wasn't there; it interrupts the flow of the sentence. To me "endless" evokes on a more abstract level the same image as "that sprawl...", which is much more specific and thus evocative.

Or differently put: I feel, you have merged two distinct sentences:

"A soft glow hovers above the endless marshes and mires."

and

"A soft glow hovers above the marshes and mires that sprawl away to the horizon in the deepening dusk."

Instead of merging these sentences, you might just choose the second one (the more vivid version). Actually, this is a method that often works: re-working an adjective into a more evocative clause (as long as one doesn't overuse that either).

(Every writer has grammatical structures s/he repeats a lot; I'm terrible in dialoges; I tend to over-use X said; B frowned. I end up with lots of paragraphs that start with the name of a character and what he does.)

2. Abstract words, filler words, words that don't evoke anything.

You might want to use as few of those as possible. You might even go for sentence fragments, or delete articles that are grammatically necessary, but aren't needed for understanding.

Example:

"The moon is somewhere there, a barely visible spectral apparition."

This doesn't describe sensory input.

How about: "The moon is a barely visible, spectral apparition." (no, that sounds ugly...)

Or: "The moon: a spectral apparition, barely visible."

Let's look at that in context:

"The first stars twinkle in the empty skies past the faded sunset. The moon: a spectral apparation, barely visible."

Somehow that's not consistent... Hmm...

"First stars twinkle past the faded [?fading?] sun. The moon waits: a spectral apparition, barely visible."

Notice: I've gotten rid of the first "the" (was it needed?). I've also gotten rid of the empty sky (how can a sky be empty if starts twinkle in it?); and the moon is now an agent, he does something. (Btw, you use this method quite effectively in your descriptions, I think.)

(I don't mean to re-write you; but it's easier to see what I'm getting at if I just do a little re-arranging.)

Anyway, that's it for now. I really like your descriptions. They're very vivid. I like your use of "personification of the impersonal", and your application of second person narration (which is a very neat method of increasing the vividness of a discription).

I hope you don't mind if I venture a guess, but are you Japanese?

shayhiri
March 13th, 2005, 07:05 PM
Thank you so much, Dawnstorm! :)

You're very right. Most adjectives could - and should be spared. Problem is: I wrote this as a kid (I had 20 books and gamebooks published by the time I was 20) and it was a time I cherished the "richness" of language. I'm 29 now, and as laconical as I could be.

Your guess flattered me, for I'm deep into oriental culture, but, no, I'm a Bulgarian. ;) You wouldnt't have guessed.

I really have to thank you for your time, those passages could well use a re-writing even in Bulgarian. Next time I'll translate a more worthwhile excerpt. I'm still a bit shy of using my English, though. :(

Dawnstorm
March 14th, 2005, 12:37 AM
Your guess flattered me, for I'm deep into oriental culture, but, no, I'm a Bulgarian. You wouldnt't have guessed.

Hehe, as long as you're not upset by my guess, I'm fine. :D

I'm not that far away from you, then (Austria).


You're very right. Most adjectives could - and should be spared.

Not what I meant to say. It's about sentence structure. Too much regularity may put a reader to sleep, even though the adjectives themselves are very evocative. Other than the adjective-noun construction, you don't have a problem with that I can spot.


I had 20 books and gamebooks published by the time I was 20

Congratulations. :)

Gamebooks. That explains the use of 2nd person narration. I like that one. It should be used in fiction more often.

LeMort
March 14th, 2005, 07:15 AM
I was a big fan of gamebooks when i was younger (and still flick through my collection occasionally), and loved the 2nd person narrative that most of them were written in, but I'm not sure if it works well for novel-length works of fiction. It can be effective but you'll need to be one hell of a writer to pull it off. In lesser hands, it can seem overly artificial and stilted to the point where it becomes tiring to read. I don't think I would attempt it.

I would also reconsider your decision to use present tenses. If I were you I would stick to past tenses for longer works of fiction for the same reasons as I mentioned above. Longer works written in present tense can be a little tiring to read.

As a whole your writing style is ok. I don't have anything to add that other people haven't already said, so I'll just echo their advice:

1) Be careful not to overwrite. Cut away the fat. Don't use two words if one will do. Strip out those unnecessary adjectives.

2) Vary your sentence structure more. Your writing seems stilted in places, pay more attention to the rhythm and "flow" of the words, sentences, and paragraphs.