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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » The Bard's Gift -- 5200 words

   
Author Topic: The Bard's Gift -- 5200 words
Meredith
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This one was just rejected by Tor.com. I think it needs a bit of a brush up before I send it out again. Yes, among other things, I would like to cut 200 lousy words out and make it 5000 words or less.

quote:
Dorata sat turned away from the high table, staring at the glistening red scales of the dragon hide pinned to the wall behind her. The dragon her father had killed to win this land. She blinked as the story, fully-formed, entered her mind. This was a strange time for the gods to gift her with a story, and such a story. Or maybe not.

She looked around the great hall and shook her head, glad her father couldn't see this. He had asked her to tell him the mood of his men. Even her gift for storytelling couldn't make this gathering anything but dismal.

The room was unnaturally quiet and somber, despite the number of people assembled there. Even the children sat solemn and silent. The men drank too much, ignoring the food set before them in favor of swift oblivion.


BTW, like most of my short stories if they sit long enough (this one has) this may have spawned an idea for a novel.

Those of you who entered the Slave to the Flame Challenge back in 2009 (?) may recognize some parts of this from "First Flame".

Version 2:

quote:
Dorata stared at the glistening red scales of the dragon hide pinned to the wall behind the high table. The dragon her father had killed to win this land. She blinked as the story, fully-formed, entered her mind. The images played out against the backdrop of metallic scales. It would be up to her skill to put words to them and bring the story to life.

Not a new experience for her, but this was a strange time for the gods to gift her with a story. And such a story. Looking around the great hall, she couldn't imagine telling this story here and now. Even her gift for storytelling couldn't make tonight's gathering anything but dismal. Yet she knew the gods weren't giving her a choice. They never did.

The room was unnaturally quiet and somber, despite the number of people assembled there.


Version 3:

quote:
Dorata stared at the glistening red scales of the dragon hide pinned to the wall behind the high table. The dragon her father had killed to win this land. She blinked as the story, fully-formed, entered her mind. The images played out against the backdrop of metallic scales. Knowing it was only a vision, she was still tempted to take a step back when the red dragon breathed a gout of blue flame in her direction. The gods gave her only these mental pictres. It would be up to her skill to put words to them and bring the story to life.

Not a new experience for her, but this was a strange time for the gods to gift her with a tale. And such a story. Looking around the great hall, she couldn't imagine telling this fable here and now. Even her gift for storytelling couldn't make tonight's gathering anything but dismal.


[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited April 04, 2011).]


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Aaron White
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Does the first line need to focus so much on the heroine's exact physical position?

The second sentence is a fragment and might benefit from being absorbed, via semicolon, into the first sentence.

The next three lines suggest that the gods have deposited a story into her head, but communicates it flatly.

When did her father ask her to tell her the mood of his men (or, less wordily, his mens' mood)?

I'd have an easier time believing she has a gift for storytelling if she demonstrated it.

How does a number of people reduce darkness and somberness?

Should there be a comma after the word them in the final sentence?

In the first paragraph the heroine experiences an extraordinary event. Then instead of acting on it, she broods on other matters and gazes around the room for two paragraphs, which leaves me thinking it must not be a big deal after all.

[This message has been edited by Aaron White (edited March 31, 2011).]

[This message has been edited by Aaron White (edited March 31, 2011).]


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redux
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I want to like this, but my knee-jerk reaction is that it feels unfocused. I had the most difficulty with these lines:

quote:
She blinked as the story, fully-formed, entered her mind. This was a strange time for the gods to gift her with a story, and such a story. Or maybe not.

So, did the gods give her a story or not? Or is the 'maybe not' referring to the strangeness of it?

I am somewhat hooked. I like the idea of the gods gifting a girl with some sort of story-telling ability. But just when I want to find out more, the scene suddenly jumps to her having to report about the mood in the hall. It made me feel like the rug was pulled out from underneath me. I really did not get the sense of what one had to do with the other.

I really think you have an intriguing concept and you should focus on it more. For instance, what do you mean by the story entering her mind fully formed? Does it play in her mind as if she were witness to it? Also, what story in particular is entering her mind? Is it how her father killed the dragon?


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Meredith
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Thanks. Get to the cool stuff faster and pay it more attention. Got it.

I do kind of need to mention why she thinks she's been given this story to tell, but maybe not quite so much or so early.


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LDWriter2
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Just read your opening.

I liked it as is even though as one person suggested the change of topics, from story to having an assignment form her father, seems whether abrupt.

But I thought the flatness of getting the story from the gods was done on purpose. To me it said it had happened before, perhaps many times, so she is used to it even though it still gives her something of a thrill.

I am curious what is so bad that it causes the men to want to get drunk instead of eating. Sounds like whatever it is it is very bad indeed.


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NoTimeToThink
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You have a good start - It makes me think of Beowulf (is the dragon's mom on the way?) I am curious to know what has set the men in a mood, but I suspect you could get to it sooner.
You could tighten up a little. I agree with Aaron about not dwelling on her exact position. The first sentence could be cut to:
quote:
Dorata sat, staring at the glistening red scales of the dragon hide pinned to the wall; the dragon her father had killed to win this land.

The next 2 paragraphs combine:
quote:
She looked around the great hall and shook her head. Her father had asked her to tell him the mood of his men. The room was unnaturally quiet and somber, despite the number of people assembled there. Even the children sat solemn and silent. The men ignored the food set before them in favor of the swift oblivion of mead.


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Osiris
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I agree with what others said about the first line. Starting with focusing on a character sitting makes the story feel slower, less active. The time spent describing the somber room, and the other people just sitting quietly, really contributes to that.

Of course, there doesn't need to be movement for there to be action. Aaron's last comment really encapsulates the issue for me. I think the first paragraph should focus on the extraordinary nature of how she got the story, followed by a reaction to it. The way it is written suggests it is not the first time such an event happened, and she seems somewhat inured to such divine intervention.


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Meredith
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Thanks everyone. Always have trouble with beginnings and hooks--especially in short stories.

Bump for newer version.


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Josephine Kait
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quote:
Dorata sat, staring at the glistening red scales of the hide pinned to the wall; the dragon her father had killed to win his throne.

I would also recommend a stronger verb than “killed.” “Slain” would be somewhat typical but conjures the image of a young dragon slayer turned king. “Murdered” gives a different feel, as does “slaughtered.” “Eradicated”, “exterminated”, or “destroyed” each have their own flavor. You have the chance here to tell us how the daughter feels some 15-20yrs after the fact about what her father did. I would also recommend trading “this land” for “his land” or better yet, “his crown” or “his throne.”

I might also recommend switching the next couple parts. Segue directly into what her father needs/asked of her, then being gifted with the story by the gods, then trying to break the mood by imparting the story. Regardless don’t take too long getting to her telling the story.

BTW, like the feel of this, like the idea, like the title, would read the whole if you like.


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Osiris
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I like the second version better, but I think you could still improve upon it. The second sentence still feels like it should be attached to the first. I use fragments on purpose in my work as well, but usually in dialogue or for a certain narrative effect (for example, when applying to a depressed voice). Here, I don't think it really works because I don't know enough about Dorata yet.

Also, I wonder if you could 'show instead of tell' when it comes to "The images played out against the backdrop of metallic scales." Maybe just a flash or two of details from the scene. In fact you could make a compelling hook with just the flash of a scene that would contradict our knowledge of what happens in the story. Maybe a flash of the father trapped in the dragon's maw, or something else that suggests that he should have been killed. The reader will immediately wonder how he got out of the predicament and read on to get the full story.

The word 'story' gets a bit repetitive in the second paragraph, used in some fashion four times. Perhaps throw in a few variations. Maybe along the lines of Josephine's suggestion, you could choose a synonym for the word that communicates how Dorata feels about it. Reverent synonyms might be 'epic' or 'saga', while if she feels sad for the dragon, 'tragedy' might work, or if she thinks its all a bunch of poppycock, she might call it a 'myth' or if she is dismissive she might call it an 'anecdote'.


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Meredith
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The second "sentence" fragment is meant to be a direct thought. I don't always italicize direct thoughts, but I guess I need to here.

BTW, the story she's been given is a dragon story, but it's not that dragon story.

I don't want to use slain, here because I refer to her father as the "dragonslayer" a little further on. Not the sort of verb I want to overuse. I'll think about possible alternatives.

Newer version above.

And thanks for the offer Josephine.

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited April 04, 2011).]


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starsin
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Sort little blurb from me.

I liked the second version better...it had more of a hook to my personality and my interests. However, I agree with the others, your next two sentences are a bit rough. Perhaps, like in the third version, you could make that sentence a thought from the narrator, but in my mind, it'd sound better first-person, like: the dragon MY father had killed...,Dorata thought. It's more the second paragraph that I like better actually, mostly 'cause of the consistency with "tale" and "story" - it's all story in that version. I like the fact that she's not given a choice, but why isn't she given a choice...ever? If you could, explain that somehow right in there somewhere. And again, last line, I like the somber mood being conveyed, in spite of the large gathering. Usually with a large number, in my mind, the mood is one of two things: happy or sad. I like how you distinguish this.

Keep working. You've got some promise here.


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