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Author Topic: The Warrior's Lyre
Owasm
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Update: This is now finished and being critted elsewhere on hatrack. The opening has significantly changed:


“First of all, young man, I want to see the color of your money. Two of each will pay your way until the contest.” Popwick stood with his hands on his hips.
“Two gold guineas, two florins, and two pence? That’s pretty steep, sir,” Jon, was a lyre player from remote Happyacre Vale and as green as green could be.
“Popwick’s the name. You’d better be used to calling me that. You will stay here the entire three months. The fee covers room, board, training and contest entry.”
Popwick listened to the argument going on in Jon’s head, figuring out the pros and cons. It was a good deal. Popwick knew what the decision would be.


It's a bit more prosaic, but the opening below didn't make it through the crits.

Here's an unfinished fantasy short story. it will be about 7500 words.

Second Try:
Standing at the low rail, Jon looked down the steep bare trail leading out of Happyacre Vale far below. He was leaving for good, cast out at the tender age of twenty by the fortunes of swordplay. Jon’s musings were interrupted by a shove forward by the trailmaster. “Get going, lad. We can’t dawdle. A mile apart. That’s what they pay me for, to keep my traders a mile apart.”
The two heard noises from above. The trailmaster roughly threw Jon and himself against the mountain side of the trail. Jon saw a blur of men and horses. He ran to the edge and saw them continuing their pirouettes, past the party below, dwindling quickly in the distance.


First Try:
Grasping the rail, Jon looked down at the switchbacks. Far below he could see another trading party moving up the trail. He looked across to the other side of the pass and could see three parties at various levels moving down into Happyacre Vale on the down switchbacks.
Jon’s stomach was inching its way up his throat when he was shoved forward by the trailmaster. “Get going, lad. We can’t dawdle. A mile apart. That’s what they pay me for, to keep my traders a mile apart."
The two heard noises from above. The trailmaster roughly threw Jon against the mountain side of the trail. He dove for Jon’s feet as three men and their horses continued to cartwheel down the side of the mountain.

[This message has been edited by Owasm (edited March 30, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by Owasm (edited April 02, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by Owasm (edited April 10, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by Owasm (edited April 10, 2009).]


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BenM
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It was not immediately apparent that the pass was also the Vale. Thus, it took me a couple of passes to realise that the switchbacks mentioned in each instance are actually on either side of a valley. This may be cultural (no mountain passes around here) so I hesitate to even mention it.

Jon’s stomach was inching its way up his throat it was not apparent why this is. If due to a sense of vertigo, more space might be spent on describing the lofty heights the character is facing.

The trailmaster roughly threw Jon then He dove for Jon’s feet didn't quite follow for me, as if he'd tried to throw Jon twice.

three men and their horses There's nothing particularly wrong with this, but it almost had a feel of still-life about it. If we don't need to know it's exactly three men, could it be instead a blur of men and horses, hooves and limbs and equipment so we get more of a feel for the motion and peril?

Finally, I wasn't sure why the reader needs to care about this character more than any others going up and down the mountain, or why this situation is special.


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Dogmatic
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I agree with BenM. Also the sentence structure seems a bit stiff. You might be able to combine a couple of the sentences to vary the flow of the piece and give us a little more color and mood.

Speaking from a poetic standpoint, ending the 1st and 3rd sentence with the same hard edge word like "Switchback" stops the flow really quickly.

Is this a sci-fi western? What is the general feel of the piece?

Thanks for sharing it.
Steve


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Owasm
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This is a fantasy, Dogmatic. The scene represents the abrupt change in Jon's life.

While I was a kid, I went on some 50 mile hikes up in the Sierra Nevadas. The steep switchbacks and the danger of falling were real as we were above the timberline, only a bare face with nothing to stop you. I drew from that experience to create this scene.

I've made another attempt at the opening above.

[This message has been edited by Owasm (edited April 02, 2009).]


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extrinsic
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The second version has appreciably better causal flow than the first. The latter half, though, lapses into telling that might be more dramatic by not filtering through Jon or the trailmaster's perceptions.

"Jon's musings were interrupted..." A new paragraph is indicated here to show that the narrator has pulled out of Jon's thoughts and moved onto the trailmaster's action. Also it's a tell that inverts the subject/object syntax and causation. The trailmaster's shove interrupts Jon's thoughts. Showing the shove in action narrative is indicated. Then the action sentence becomes an action tag attribution for the following trailmaster's dialogue.

quote:
The two heard noises from above. The trailmaster roughly threw Jon and himself against the mountain side of the trail. Jon saw a blur of men and horses. He ran to the edge and saw them continuing their pirouettes, past the party below, dwindling quickly in the distance.

1st sentence, tell. Describing the "noise from above" in the narrator's objective perception as if it's what Jon hears would make it a vivid sensation and provide context for the composition of the mountainside. Dirt, rock?

2nd sentence, tell; and the pronoun "himself" reorients upon the trailmaster as the focal character, loses touch with Jon. "Mountain side" is nondescript. Another opportunity lost for further describing the mountainside setting. Jutting rock poking Jon's ribs, loose or damp soil he has to shield his eyes from, soft grassy cushion, prickly shrubbery? Also, perhaps it would be more dramatic in action narrative mode rather than exposition. And if Jon does the action rather than the trailmaster, he becomes sympathetic from his noble concern after the trailmaster's rude shove down the trail, for readers and the trailmaster.

3rd sentence, tell filtered through Jon's self-conscious perception. Merely describing the visual sensation of the tumbling men and horses removes the filter without losing touch with Jon as the perceiver.

4th sentence, tell filtered through Jon's self-conscious perception. "Saw" is a tip off for a self-conscious perception tell. Same suggested remedy as above in 3rd. Also, how wide is the trail that Jon is able to break into a run across it? I've not seen a horse trail switchback wide enough were I could run across one. "Continuing their pirouettes" gerund adverbs or adjectives indicating ongoing action diminish immediate and robust impact. And imperfect metaphoric comparison with ballet dancing. Consider simpler, //. . . The tangle of men and horses tumbled past the trader party on the switchback below. They tumbled down and out of sight beyond an outcrop far below.//

The scene is a dramatic opening, just in summarization exposition it loses punch.

Edited to add: Forgot. The introspective backstory opening sentences don't float my boat either, but at least they're causally oriented. And it took me some meditation to figure out they're going up the mountainside, or are they?

[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited April 02, 2009).]


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pixydust
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Here's a line by line:

quote:
Standing at the low rail, Jon looked down the steep bare trail leading out of Happyacre Vale far below.

"Low rail" makes me feel low. Then you say down. Mixed sensory messages there. Also, the "far below" is unnecessary, I think.

quote:
He was leaving for good, cast out at the tender age of twenty by the fortunes of swordplay.

Leaving where? The Vale? I wasn't sure.

quote:
Jon’s musings were interrupted by a shove forward by the trailmaster.

I would leave out the "musings where interupted" and just say the guy shoved him. He wasn't really musing enough to mention it.

quote:
The two heard noises from above.

Which two? Him and the trailmaster? Are they the only two there?

quote:
The trailmaster roughly threw Jon and himself against the mountain side of the trail.

Roughly is unnecessary. Throwing someone implies that.

quote:
Jon saw a blur of men and horses. He ran to the edge

How can he "run to the edge" if the trailmaster has him against the mountain?

quote:
and saw them continuing their pirouettes, past the party below, dwindling quickly in the distance.

Pirouettes? Can horses do that? Makes me think of ballet horses...lol. I think "dwindling" is a confusing word, too. Fading would work fine.

I'm afraid I'm not hooked as I can't grab hold of much yet. I know he's leaving his home, but I'm not sure what that means to him yet. I know he's going down a mountain, but I'm not sure where he's headed. Try getting us into the character's situation a little before bringing in any more elements, maybe.

Just a few thoughts. Hope this helps.

[This message has been edited by pixydust (edited April 09, 2009).]


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tchernabyelo
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The moment I see "two golds, two silvers, and two coppers" I'm putting the story down. If your worldbuilding can't even give coins names (pennies, cents, crowns, livres, denarii, rupees, ANYTHING!), and if you're slavishly devoted to the D&D school of coinage, then (speaking as a putative editor) I have absolutely zero expectation for creativity in the rest of the story. So I go looking for it somewhere else in the slushpile.

I'm sorry if that sounds harsh but I feel it's something you really ought to consider.


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Owasm
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Jon lay in an everbroadening pool of blood. The Lord Master Mage Level 33 Tchernabyelo stood gloating over Jon's body. The Mage considered for a moment, then stooped to pick up the dripping two golds, two silvers and two pennies and walked quickly away.

Evidently Owasm, Novice, Level -2 (having never ventured into the vast caverns of D&D) watched from behind a tree, wiping hot tears from his eyes.

[This message has been edited by Owasm (edited April 10, 2009).]


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tchernabyelo
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I'm not gloating.

And I'm not level 33.


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Brant Danay
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Not sure if you still wanted comments on this thread, but here's a few impressions:

"Happyacre" might sound smoother as Happy Acre. Might just be my subjective reaction, though.

“Two gold guineas, two florins, and two pence? That’s pretty steep, sir,” Jon, was a lyre player from remote Happyacre Vale and as green as green could be.

Might want to start a new sentence after "sir"

"Jon’s stomach was inching its way up his throat"

Awesome image! Too bad it had to be a metaphor. Maybe you could save it for another story and have it happen for real.

"He dove for Jon’s feet as three men and their horses continued to cartwheel down the side of the mountain."

Sounds like the horses are cartwheeling down the side of the mountain. It makes for an interesting visual, but it probably isn't what you're going for

Hope I've been of some assistance. Keep up the good work.

Brant


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