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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » First 13- Drawing the Queen of Knives

Author Topic: First 13- Drawing the Queen of Knives
Member # 8892

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Feel free to tear it apart as I am not particularly satisfied with this opening.

In my career as a gambler I have cheated many. I lightened the purses of fools and dilettantes to dissuade them from their distasteful habits. The wealthy and the boisterous I fleeced for they had coin to spare, and being neither a greedy man nor a saint, I did so for their own good. It was just me, my special deck, a pinch of magic and the guiding hand of the only deity whose patronage was worth a fiddler’s damn. Lady Luck.
Yet I confess I felt more than a bit flummoxed when Royal Commander Allouete du Sarcour barged into the Skinned Rat and demanded we play a high stakes game of Luxian.
“Fifty thousand gold mints a hand,” she said, her lips curving into a cruel smile as sharp and ugly as a piece of pitted steel. “You think you can handle that Jean Renoux?”

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Member # 7912

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Sounds pretty good to me.
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Member # 8991

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The writing feels distant.

I feel there are too many "I"s. This is pet peeve of mine, so feel free to ignore. The more I's I see, the more telling the story is doing.

Which leads me to lack of setting. I feel we're hurtling toward the action/plot. The Skinned Rat isn't enough - yet.

I think the I's makes this feel like a summary. Like - here's what you need to know, now, on with the story. - I guess that's OK if this is a flash. Telling is good. Still, I wouldn't mind some mood lighting before the lady bursts in.


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Member # 6044

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I agree with axe about the use of I's so many sentences in a row. Even when the attention should be on his victims, the use of I pulls the focus to himself.

I wondered if the term "fleeced" seems opposed to the rationalisation that the narrator is attempting. A less direct euphamism, in the same vein as "lightened" would be more consistent, and emphasise to the reader that the narrator isn't quite reliable. (The unreliable narrator set up here can be used to quite some effect for a twist ending, but the story could equally go an entirely different direction.)

And I felt a little bit flummoxed by the introduction of so many names in a row (Royal Commander Allouete du Sarcour, Skinned Rat, Luxian, gold mints, Jean Renoux). I didn't know their contexts or importance to be used as names. While I did work out what each referred to, I felt that they held implications that I was not privy to. It almost felt like the author was holding back some information when I needed it.

Other than that, there is a loveable rogue character coming through right from the beginning. No hint of anything new in the story, but the emphasis is the character anyway, so that doesn't matter much.

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Member # 9196

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I agree with what's been said here, especially about the 'I'.

I like what you are trying to do with the first paragraph, to show the narrator painting his crimes with a gray brush. I think the first sentence is enough I + verb to tell us what happens to all the people mentioned in the rest of the paragraph, so you can do away with the "I lightened" and the "I fleeced" and instead have the narration focus on the justifications. It might in fact be a place where passive voice works well, "Fools had their purses lightened", and "the wealthy had coin to spare", leaving the actual doing of the thievery as subtext. It'd also add a layer of denial or self-delusion to the rogue's character (Hey, the coins just fell out of his pocket into my hands) by distancing himself from his own criminal acts.

An opening sets up character, setting and conflict. The first paragraph does the character, and the second does the conflict. Perhaps, as Axe suggests, what is needed is to wedge a paragraph detailing the setting in between. An idea would be to describe what The Skinned Rat means to the narrator (does he consider it his home turf? What details does he love about it?) and then introduce the conflict in the form of the barging lady as not only a challenge to the narrator, but an invasion of the narrators home turf (if that is how he views the Skinned Rat).

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Member # 9725

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Hey there.

I actually didn't think the "I"s were a problem; they're pretty unavoidable if you're going first person. Instead, I thought that the prose felt a little self-conscious, like you're trying really, really hard for it to be atmospheric. The guiding hand of lady luck, for example, could have worked perfectly well, but you've laboured it to death by stringing it out with the whole 'fiddler's damn' bit; the result is a long, stylised sentence that I found hard to follow.

Equally, wasn't sure about the use of 'flummoxed' (it felt wrong here), and I'm not a fan of 'a pinch' of magic. Sounds like the start of a God-awful recipe metaphor ('With a dash of misdirection, a hint of balls, and a pinch of magic, I had the recipe to a racket that nobody could resist.' That kind of rubbish).

Having said that, I do actually like your main character. So far, he's a self-confessed swindler, and that always brings a rogueish likeability to such characters. My advice is to cut and simplify, particularly in that third sentence (the 'wealthy and the boisterous' one). Less clauses strung together, less little flourishes. I will admit that I'm not a fan of huge namedumps either, particularly if I don't know who the people involved are, but that's just a personal preference. So far, your hooks are a travelling, shameless conman (whom I liked), and a commander who, presumably, thinks he can be the one to beat him. The idea itself is sound, in my opinion.

Hope this helps,

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Member # 8617

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I enjoyed this enough until the second paragraph. For one, Royal Commander Allouete du Sarcour is a mouthful.I know it is just a name but it takes a while to get through. Secondly, I don't know how much a gold mint is worth. I don't know exactly what it is. I do know what gold is and I know you mint coins. Therefore, I'm thinking these are gold coins and that seems like quite a large sum to play for and to carry around. Of course, gold mints could be paper currency and there could be high inflation, but as a foreigner to the scene it sounds like a lot.

If you have the rest, I'd do a crit.

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