This is topic High Fantasy, First 13 lines in forum Fragments and Feedback for Books at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by Darrin (Member # 9541) on :
Hi, any comments would be appreciated.


Gishtakkar stopped and smelled the ground, paying attention to a broken stock of grass, hoping that fresh scent of an elk’s bone tail remained. He pressed his nose against the stem and inhaled only to find the smell of plant dust--dry and dead. Standing up on two legs, he was six and half feet tall with spots that bordered on black. He was much taller than the other three rockdogs, and unlike the others his ears were long, hanging half a claw below his muzzle. The dark hair on the tips of his ears had grown uncut during his 17 years, and he had braided it down to a fine knot capped with a blue feather.

His stomach growled, and scratching his muscled belly did not lessen the hunger.

Gishtakkar tried to remember the smell and taste of Taurok meat

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited June 13, 2011).]

Posted by KathiS (Member # 9542) on :
Hi Darrin, I'm new here so you'll have the dubious honor of being my first victim. er...I mean... critique. :-)

Overall impression: I would read on. You've gotten me curious as to what these creatures are, what world they live in, and why the MC is estranged from his father's table. It gives just enough to raise many questions that I'd like to see answered.

That being said, "Gishtakkar" is a mouthful and starting with the name almost kept me from reading further. I had to read it several times to get a feel for how I might pronounce it, saying it over in my mind a couple times. It was rather like hitting a speed bump right out of the parking lot. Maybe he has a nick-name you could start with and introduce the full name at some other point?

Then I ran smack into "fresh scent of an elk’s bone tail remained" and stuttered, stopped, re-read. Never a good thing in the first couple of lines. It doesn't read smoothly and to me doesn't make sense. Did you mean an elk's tail bone? I wasn't sure what kind of scent this was supposed to be and the logic of an elk's tail reaching all the way to the grass left me scratching my head as I pictured the grass short (don't know why).

The rest of it read well and made up for the first couple of lines. But those are the ones that could have prevented me from moving on. The elk made even less sense to me when it became clear we weren't in a world where I would expect to find something as ordinary as an elk.

Feel free to disregard any or all of this. Just one person's take on it. :-)


Posted by Darrin (Member # 9541) on :
Thanks Kathy. Rocking comments. The elks in this world have sharp tails as well as tines on their heads. I wasn't sure how else to quickly describe them. Yeah and you are right about the name. I changed his name back and forth from Gish to Gish Takkar to Gishtakkar several times. :P
Posted by mbwood (Member # 9525) on :

You’ve got something of interest here, however, I almost missed it. I suggest that you open your story with the following:

“When was the last time you tasted Taurok, Serbie?” (Whoa! - what's going on here?)

(Serbie responds with some kind of emotional statement / conflict statement).

Now that would make me (and many editors) curious. Then, you should lead into whatever the CONFLICT is in the story. Get the reader involved right from the git-go, got it?

Y’see, everything prior to the above dialogue is back-story or character description, which should come later rather in the opening. Get the conflict out in the open at the beginning. Now, I agree, there are other ways to open a novel, however, no matter what, you have to ‘grab’ the reader by his / her attention.

Have fun with your story – it has elements that suggest it might have lots of fun.

I hope this helps,


Posted by MDBHarlan (Member # 9557) on :
I found it intriguing. I liked the setting and I would read more. If you were trying to put me inside the head of a dog like creature you succeeded with the sniffing the ground part. My first thoughts though were that the character was not very smart. No offense to dogs but putting me so much into this canine activity made the character seem simple.
I'm sure you develop him beyond the first 13 lines but that was just my gut reaction.

[This message has been edited by MDBHarlan (edited July 06, 2011).]

Posted by Tryndakai (Member # 9427) on :
I do like discovering that the character whose eyes I'm looking through is something quite strange and non-human. And the way you did it was nice, too--the "standing on two legs" line struck me as odd, in the first instant, but it had me paying attention for further clues, which was just perfect.

On the other hand, I think I'd rearrange the next two details, to get this: "Standing up on two legs, he was much taller than the other three rockdogs. Six and a half feet tall, with spots that bordered on black. (On what color fur? Big spots or little? Polka-dots or splotches? And is this detail also unique from the other dogs, or just a detail? I'm happy either way--I'm just curious. )
-rearranging them like that just brings the "rockdogs" image that much closer to the front, so I can add the spots and other details on top of my growing mental picture, instead of having to partially create the image and then completely alter it in the next sentence. If that makes sense to you. It's a very tiny detail, but I think it would flow ever-so-slightly better.

I also had several confused moments over the "elk's bone tail" thing. Could not for the life of me imagine what you meant, until I read your reply to Kathi. Maybe say the "elk's bony tail," or "long, bony tail," or even further--"an elk's bone tail, dragging long and snake-like through the grass . . ." something to make it obvious that you're talking about an unfamiliar world detail, rather than just making us wonder whether you really said what you meant.

Apart from those slight stumbles, I found the piece rather engaging. You planted me firmly in the scene and in Gishtakkar's head, gave me some very intriguing details to swallow, and I can tell some inkling of conflict is coming up before to long, which suits me fine. I did think the name was odd at first glance, but just as soon as you tell me he's a "rockdog," the name seems to fit perfectly, and gives me even more little inklings about this creature's culture/language/personality/whatever. I find the mix of familiar and strange, detail and tantalizing hint, very well done indeed, for a first 13. Props.

Oh, and I'm currently picturing your "rockdogs" as human-sized meercats with floppy ears. Dunno how close that is to the intended image, or whether it matters much at this point . . . just thought I'd share.

[This message has been edited by Tryndakai (edited July 07, 2011).]

Posted by LDWriter2 (Member # 9148) on :

I found this interesting. He is a dog like animal but can braid his own hair--intriguing,

I wasn't confused about the elk's bone because I thought he was looking for something left over from a previous meal. But there wasn't even a tail bone to eat. Looks like I was wrong about that.

I think the first sentence is a little long but not as long as some so it could be okay. I've noticed that compound sentences are usually not good for the first couple in a story. You might try to get rid of the -ing words. Evidently they sound too passive, but I didn't see more than a couple so it might not be a huge problem.

That's about all I have... I would read on to see who they are and if hunger is the only problem or the main one.

Posted by Tryndakai (Member # 9427) on :
So, you know what's a way good sign? Every time I visit Hatrack I feel the urge to check the comments on this story, though they haven't moved in a while. That means your first 13 have definitely hooked me, burrowing right into my brain and sticking there. I might even have to find the time to offer my services in reading the whole thing, just to get Gishtakkar and his bone-tailed elk out of my head.

I'm just SO intrigued by the image you've painted so far, even without any obvious conflict yet. Gish just looks too cool, in my head.

Posted by Crane (Member # 9586) on :
I like the name Gishtakkar. I read that word first and I was like, yeah, Gishtakkar: sounds good. I'm going to remember that one. Also well done with using 'claws' as a unit of measure. Good stuff. Except for the name of the character, I agree with other people's evaluation of the strong and weak points.

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