This is topic Some kind of fantasy WIP in forum Fragments and Feedback for Books at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by Tryndakai (Member # 9427) on :
I've recently decided to take the book that's been giving me so much trouble in my head and on paper, and see if it wouldn't be easier to tackle as a series of short stories/novellas instead. Since I tend to write "scenes" rather than "plots," anyway. . . . The format is inspired by the fabulous audiobook "The Alchemist and the Executionist" by Tobias Buckell and Paolo Bacigalupi (which name I will NEVER be able to spell on my own, I'm sure).

So this sample might be better in the "short works" section, I'm not sure . . . but I suppose it could fit in either. These particular 13 lines are the beginning of one story, or one chapter, or whatever. No clue yet how it'll be organized as a whole.

The basic premise of the book is to look at one of your uber-cliche fantasy plots--the Chosen One, the Hero's Journey, that whole shtick--from the p.o.v. of a handful of completely "irrelevant" side characters. The barmaid who served the Hero at that inn that one time. The farmer whose farm was *not* attacked by the passing Always Chaotic Evil race. The last Mook who dropped his sword and ran off when his five tough-guy friends went down. Stuff like that. Because I'm always curious about the randoms, and hey, it might be fun! And of course, "everyone is the hero of his own story."

Not sure where this particular guy will fit in to the ultimate narrative, but his scene's been in my head for a good long while, so I wrote a few versions today. Thought I'd see what you guys think of this last.


To his immense surprise, Gavran wasn't dead.

He regained consciousness grudgingly, pain pounding like breakers on a rock behind his eyes. Tiny spears scratched his neck and pierced his clothes, and the musty, rotting scent of damp straw and long-absent horses filled his nose. He sneezed.

"The little cur's awake!" a man shouted. Dom's voice was icy and terrifying without its usual sarcastic tone. Gavran shrank away, pressing his back hard against a rough wall. Opening his eyes, he winced and blinked at the light that stabbed them with sudden tears. Blurry shapes moved nearby, and the light swung closer.

"So." A new voice, softer, lower. Infinitely more deadly. Gavran cringed as Ronen Khol lifted his chin with cool

[This message has been edited by Tryndakai (edited June 29, 2011).]

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited June 29, 2011).]

Posted by LDWriter2 (Member # 9148) on :

Hmmm, not bad. I can see everything going on and you show how he is in trouble. I wonder if he really is the spy.. and for whom but that would come later.

I don't think there's much I can say other than that though. Shorter sentences and various senses. That last bit of dialogue should have its own paragraph but I think that's it.

As to your dilemma, there are books with a different story per chapter. So you could have your stories and your novel at the same time. And there aren't too many books written like you say you want to do this one. So go for it.

Posted by LDWriter2 (Member # 9148) on :
Looks better this way.

But I noticed the second sentence is too compound. That is I believe you should split it apart after the and. Or somehow condense it.

Posted by Tryndakai (Member # 9427) on :
Yeah, you're probably write, LD. Thanks for your comments. I'd intended to space the paragraphs before posting the first time, and your comment about it reminded me, so I fixed that.

That sentence (third, actually, if you mean the one I think you do) is problematic, I agree . . . But I don't really like it just split as-is, either. "Tiny spears scratched his neck and pierced his clothes. The musty, rotting scent of damp straw and long-absent horses filled his nose." sounds really repetitive. And it rhymes. And has a similar meter . . . and not in a good way. Oh, ew. I may have to tweak that bit quite thoroughly.

But yeah, thanks much.

Posted by LDWriter2 (Member # 9148) on :
Yeah you're right third sentence. For a moment I forgot that first one hanging above it all there.

But yeah, some times a sentence takes more work than a whole page. You could be right about splitting it up which would leave condensing. Maybe rearranging words and/or phrases or using different words that means the same thing.

Posted by hteadx (Member # 6563) on :
I like this opening and the premise of your story is interesting. You can possibly link each scene the same way Max Brooks did in World War Z, with each scene advancing the story and upping the stakes for your chosen one.

I wouldn't change much, except the light stabbing his eyes to tears, instead of with tears.

Good job. Your style has echos of Paolo Bacigalupi, whose book - the wind up girl - is vastly under rated.

Posted by mbwood (Member # 9525) on :
Hello, Tryndakai;

Your opening has a lot of potential – you drop your character into a pickle right at the start – good!

I believe you could crank it up even more by putting this scene in a 1st person POV (Gavran), remove the adverbs and tighten. See Joe Haldeman's 'The Coming' for a novel written in 1st person POV. Here's how it would be in 1st person POV:

To my immense surprise, I wasn't dead.

As I regained consciousness, pain pounded like breakers on a rock behind my eyes. Tiny spears scratched my neck and pierced my clothes. The rotting scent of damp straw and long-absent horses filled my nose. I sneezed.

"That little cur, Gavran, is awake!" Dom's voice was cold and without its usual sarcastic tone.

I shrank away, pressing my back against a rough wall. When I opened my eyes, light stabbed them and they filled with tears. Blurry shapes moved nearby, and a light swung close.

"So." It was a new voice, soft and low. Infinitely more deadly.

I cringed as Ronen Khol lifted my chin with cool

Does this help?

Remember the first rule of writing… Write!
p.s. Did you take a look at my first thirteen?


Posted by Tryndakai (Member # 9427) on :
Oooh, MBW, I just got shivers! You're right, that scene packs much more punch from first person. I'm gonna have to play with that . . .

And wow, Hteadx-- I'm very flattered, being compared to Paolo. I'm only familiar with him via the Alchemist and the Executioness, but I loved his style. I'll have to pick up The Wind-up Girl. And World War Z. I'd heard of both, but haven't gotten to them, yet. . . .

Posted by LDWriter2 (Member # 9148) on :

First person could be better in this case.

But BTW do you have a title yet?

Posted by Tryndakai (Member # 9427) on :
No, I don't even remotely have a title, yet. But then, I rarely spend much thought on giving my stuff titles beyond some vaguely descriptive working title. Like, for this one, "The Spy," maybe. Not my strong suit, titles.
Posted by LDWriter2 (Member # 9148) on :
Well, I've heard it said by a couple of pros that titles are the least important part of the story and I do know that editors have changed titles they didn't like.

Sometimes we spend hours trying to get just the right title. I have a couple of times. Usually the title is easy to come up with but sometimes nothing seems to fit, I just put on something because it needs a title and I figure if its that bad an editor may change it.

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