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Author Topic: The Tears of Siérie, Fantasy, 6k, complete
Kaz
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Previous version:

The Demon was an amorphous thing. It had arms and legs and eyes, but when the Demon willed its gaze upon them, it saw nothing but a shapeless, rippling blackness. An abyss of dark, forgotten things lay embedded in the smooth, flowing texture of its body. Lost memories and the echoes of lives taken swirled like far-away shadows cast by the clockwork of darkness, their outlines ever changing. And the Demon thought the abyss returned its gaze.

Reviewed:

Neither moonlight nor starlight touched the Demon as it crouched low in the forest undergrowth. It didn’t scan its surroundings with eyes, but with its entire being, a rippling mass of shadow and darkness, intertwined with the essence of so many lives taken.

Men were coming toward the Demon, their torches glaring silver in the gloom like moonlight turned into flame, their swords gleaming. They wore white suits of boiled leather and long strips of red linen tied around their heads. They spoke in high ringing voices, their stride careful, but confident. It was clear they had done this before.

[This message has been edited by Kaz (edited May 21, 2009).]


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Owasm
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"but when the Demon willed its gaze upon them"

Who is 'them'?

All you really mention in any reality is the Demon and the Abyss on his skin, yet the abyss returns his gaze?

There is no hook, although there are some intriguing concepts and some nice images, they just don't make sense to me.

Perhaps I am thinking too literally, but I wouldn't read on.

[This message has been edited by Owasm (edited May 17, 2009).]


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arriki
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You are right. This would not lead me on to read more.

If you are trying to open with a description of an interesting character, you have failed _ for me, at least.

I have been drawn in by such openings but they were...hmmm...more pointed (focused?) on some original/interesting point in the description. The one I remember clearest (IN CONQUEST BORN?) did it with a comparison of the character showing how different he was from his contemporaries. In doing so, the author, CS Friedman, I believe, painted a great deal of background of the society. There was SOMETHING more to the description than just what he looked like. This made it sort of active even though it was just a static list of attributes. The author used strong, vibrant words. I couldn't read them without feeling the power of the character.

Plus -- it SEEMS to me that a lot of what you have listed is far too vague to call up pictures in my mind.
Is this any help?

[This message has been edited by arriki (edited May 17, 2009).]


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BenM
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The twin uses of 'thing' ('...was an amorphous thing ... An abyss of dark, forgotten things...') was not only too ambiguous for me, but also too ambivalent, suggesting the narrator is either withholding the demon's nature and therefore unfairly teasing me, or is not fired up enough about his own story to elaborate.

When reading an opening I'm looking for something, maybe a character or narrator, to connect with. I didn't feel that connection happening here, nor a question that the following story might answer (to my eye, 'And the Demon thought the abyss returned its gaze' could be an ending for this, turning it into a flash fiction piece).


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Nick T
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Hi Kaz,

I think this needs a bit of POV clarity. Firstly, who is “them”? I presume you mean that the demon is looking at its own arms, etc., but it isn’t 100% clear. I had to read it a second time to make sure I had the meaning.

Taking the 1st 13 as a self-description, we don’t have anything to cling to in terms of character or plot. As you’ve identified, nothing happens; you’re basically using POV to describe the protagonist and nothing else. We don't know the nature of the demon and since it's the POV, that could give the reader a sense of withholding.

The last line is vague because we haven’t been physically (or metaphorically) positioned. Not everyone has read the Nietzsche quote, so the literal image of the demon’s body returning its gaze is confusing. Before you can include references, the line needs to work on the literal level.

What is the “clockwork of darkness”? As an image, it doesn’t work for me…it pulls me out of the narrative by making me think about how darkness is like clockwork.

If we reduce the opening 13 to its essence, you’re telling us that the demon has a dark body made of lost memories and taken lives. I don’t think you need to say more than this.

Regards,

Nick


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Kaz
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Thank you for your input. I'll take everything into account when drafting a second version.

One question, though: what could I use instead of "thing" to give my MC... more substance, as it were, provided I decide to keep the wording?


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BenM
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I think 'thing' just needs you to know what it is. For example,
The Demon was an amorphous thing.
Is the Demon an entity? A being? A ball of hate? Amorphous is an adjective, give us a noun to tack it to.

An abyss of dark, forgotten things lay embedded
Are they dark, forgotten memories? dark, forgotten souls? dark, forgotten lunch menus? Same story again - give us a less ambiguous noun for the adjective to have meaning, or maybe find a way to indicate the nature of the abyss is unknown even to the narrator (which might mean the narrator can't know they're forgotten - or if they've forgotten, then would they not just observe the abyss dispassionately, not realising they've forgotten?).


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Kaz
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Neither moonlight nor starlight touched the Demon as it crouched low in the forest undergrowth, hiding from the hunters who had tracked it there. It didn't scan its surrounding with eyes, but with its entire being, a rippling mass of shadow and darkness, intertwined with the essence of so many lives taken.

Men crept all around, their torches glaring silver in the gloom like moonlight turned into flame, their swords gleaming like quicksilver. They wore only suits of boiled leather that had been dyed white, and long strips of red linen were wrapped around their skulls. They spoke in high, clear ringing voices, and their movement was a generous but measured stride, as though they expected to stumble upon the Demon at a moment’s notice. It was clear they had done this before.

Ok. New version. I think this one does a much better job of setting the scene, though there still isn't much action.


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MrsBrown
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Way better! And plenty of action—look at your verbs. Better yet, think of kinetic versus potential energy--there's plenty of potential energy built up here, waiting to be relesed. I like this approach better than if you had started in a fight or a pell-mell chase scene.

Who’s POV is this? I know all stories do not have to start in a close POV, but I prefer it

Nits: “Men crept all around” – these guys are not creeping. “All around” sounds like they should be right there, able to see him. Perhaps they are nearby, on either side, … what does the Demon see?

glaring… would flaring be better? That sentence is quite poetic. I like it.

Trim: “They wore [only] suits of boiled leather [that had been] dyed white, and long strips of red linen [were] wrapped around their skulls.” Skulls? Are they skeletons? Unexpected word choice.

Don’t need high and clear; pick one. (You use clear in the next sentence)

“their movement was a generous but measured stride” – are they moving in unison? What is generous but measured? I think you mean they are taking long strides to walk quickly, but keeping pace together so no one gets ahead/behind. But don't mind me; you may have nailed it (get another opinion).

“they expected to stumble upon the Demon at a moment’s notice” -- hmm, would it be stumbling onto him when they are searching for him? How about, “they expected to flush him out any moment” (but then is "out" a dangling something? Grr, grammar.)

“It was clear they had done this before.” Excellent. I like the contrast of the scary creature and these confident, capable hunters. Who are these guys, anyway?!

[This message has been edited by MrsBrown (edited May 19, 2009).]


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Nick T
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Hi Kaz,

As Mrs Brown has identified, this is much more active and immediate. Now I’ve got a real hook happening; I want to read on.

In addition to Mrs Browns suggested edits, some suggested trims could include:


quote:
Neither moonlight nor starlight touched the Demon as it crouched low in the forest undergrowth, hiding from the hunters who had tracked it there.

I’d cut the section in bold. We can infer that it’s hiding by the action that follows.

quote:
… their torches glaring silver in the gloom like moonlight turned into flame, their swords gleaming like quicksilver.

My view on similes or metaphors is that they’re a high-risk, high-return gambit. Every time you use one, you’re pulling the reader out of the story, but if it’s the right one then it’s worth it.

Here, you’ve used two in close succession and I don’t think the dislocation is worth it. The first one simile is passable, but I don’t think the second one is worth it. It’s not an especially startling image and the dislocation is greater when it immediately follows the first simile.

My take on the way the men are dressed largely echoes Mrs Brown. How about:

“They wore suits of white boiled leather and long strips of linen wrapped (how about tied?) around their heads.” ?

If they were wearing suits of only white leather, they wouldn’t be wearing the headbands. Furthermore, I think the above phrasing is more active.

Finally, my guess is that you want the men to be walking carefully but confidently? How about simply saying “They spoke in high ringing voices and strode through the forest, careful but confident.”

It’s implied that they are expect to find the demon if they walk that way. You can probably find better way of wording it.

Regards,

Nick

[This message has been edited by Nick T (edited May 19, 2009).]


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Kaz
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Alright, how about now?

Men were coming toward the Demon, their torches glaring silver in the gloom like moonlight turned into flame, their swords gleaming. They wore white suits of boiled leather and long strips of red linen tied around their heads. They spoke in high ringing voices, their stride careful, but confident. It was clear they had done this before.


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arriki
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You know...and it may be just me but this is one instance where I feel like instead of calling him "the Demon" there in the first paragraph you might serve your readers better by just calling the Demon "he." Then show us through his actions WHAT he is rather than blurting it out and deflating what could be an interesting tension.

Just my minority opinion.


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Kaz
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I considered that, but it just feels to wrong to give it a gender, as it, well, doesn't have one.
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arriki
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So, then what pronoun are you going to use throughout the story? Are you just going to keep using "the Demon" all the time?

Hmmm, you could try to avoid the pronoun and still not use Demon.


Men approached. Their torches gleamed silver...

Or Men neared the hiding place. Their torches...

Or if you must go the other verb tense

Men were approaching. Their torches were gleaming...

Wwhatever...just a thought.


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EP Kaplan
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I very much like where this second one is going. I get a clear image of where I am, or at least the situation, and the rest of the milieu I can get later. I'm wondering who will win, and what sorts of stories I might hear.
Regarding the demon, "it" might work, especially if the story is told from a human POV, since humans probably hate the thing.

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Kaz
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The POV used is the Demon's though.

Suppose I gave it a proper name?


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arriki
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Unless you plan to go through the entire story referring to your MC as "the Demon" you have to come up with a pronoun and other terms to vary how you refer to him or it may (will?) become very annoying to the reader.

My opinion, of course.


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Kaz
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You have a point. Using just "the Demon" and "it" can be tiresome.

Anyhow, thanks for the input, everyone!


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arriki
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So you did choose a pronoun. Then why not use that in the opening?
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Kaz
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I did. Demon comes up twice and it once. Shall I change the second Demon into an it also? It doesn't seem the case to me.
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