I've looked at a few different posts in this forum and read the rules for using this section, but still feel a little lost.
These are the first 13 lines of the short story I submitted to Writers of the Future a few years ago, which got an honorable mention. I've wanted to improve it, but haven't really figured out what needs tweaking yet.
The tribal language I use on occassion throughout the story is based on Tsalagi, the Cherokee language. The story is 16,118 words long.
---------- “Why won’t you help me?” The words exploded from Sirius, more accusation than question, which he punctuated by slamming a fist against his thigh in frustration. He sat on a brightly embroidered and tasseled cushion on ground covered by woven rugs within the long tent which served as Anada’di, meeting place for the Tawo’ya Elders. They were one of the dozens of nomadic tribes living in the Great Desert, which they called the At’si Gadawahi. The raised flaps at each end admitted the desert breeze, which did little to relieve the oppressive heat within the tent. The tribal Elders sat on their own cushions on the opposite side of a long, low table nearly as wide as the tent. They were all hard-faced men, seasoned raiders and
Kinda hate to say this since my opening just got the same response--maybe that is why it's on my mind--but help him with what?
The description of the setting is great and setting is important, but I think you spent too much time on it straight. If you could mix in what is going on with the description, it would help. Right now it wouldn't need a lot of explanation but is it a war, famine or disease? That depends on the writer but not everyone sets the setting all at once. Some can do it, as I said already, by mixing in the events into the description.
I think the Great desert sentence could wait a line or two. And as I always seem to say add more of the five senses. Obvious you have sight, and maybe touch with him slamming his leg and the heat but how does it smell in there?
I got the senses thing from a long time pro writer who does every five senses every two pages. I try to add some because I think it helps get the reader into the story. My comments about the description I got from observing how stories are written.
Like LD said, the question that leaps to mind is 'help him with what?'
His question serves as a nice mini-hook that encourages me to read the rest of the paragraph because I am expecting the answer to come shortly.
You have a lot of detail in the subsequent sentences and a lot of adjectives. I get that you are trying to set the scene, but one thing I try to do is slip in detail as the secondary focus of a sentence, not the primary. Another way to say this, is that the action of a sentence should be more evident than the details.
quote: He sat on a brightly embroidered and tasseled cushion on ground covered by woven rugs within the long tent which served as Anada’di, meeting place for the Tawo’ya Elders.
Here, the verb is 'sat'. It isn't a strong verb, so it is easily overshadowed by all the description. So make sure your nouns and verbs are the meat and potatoes of your sentences, and the adjectives just garnish.
By paring down the details a bit, you'll be able to get to the juicy stuff sooner and answer the question as to why 'they' won't help him.
I agree with the other posters - we get through the 1st 13 and don't know what he wants help with. You can wait to tell us about the desert until later - he's in a tent right now. Let us know what the problem is, then color it. Looks promising...
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Use tribal words matter of factly without "which they called"
You should trim the second paragraph to one sentence. The sentence "They were one of the dozens ..." is too early in the story and too much information for the scene.
It would be better to describe a particular elder in the tent than give a general "They were all hard-faced men, seasoned raiders ..." Make it a personal confrontation.
Like LDWriter2, Osiris and NoTimeToThink asked: "Help him with what?" I would have one the Elders reiterate to our protagonist what they cannot help him with and their reason - so we get to know what the protagonist is up against before we hear the protagonist's side of the story.