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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Untitled fantasy short

   
Author Topic: Untitled fantasy short
Bycin
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Hello everyone. I've recently been easing myself back into writing after a hiatus of about two and a half years. Having twins will do that to you... I have to say that I've missed this place, and after lurking a bit, I'm excited to get back to contributing. Below is a short I've been working on and your comments and insight are appreciated. I feel as rusty as an old nail.


The wizard Trevyn knew he would die atop the mountain, and the thought made him smile. It was getting harder and harder to keep himself on this side of the Curtain. Giving up the fight would be a relief.

“Soon enough,” he said to the snow-covered trees that framed his path. He took another step and his foot broke through the crust of snow. Emaciated as he was, the thin layer almost supported him enough to walk atop it freely. He tugged hard to free his foot and nearly lost his makeshift boot. Blood, now frozen, clung to the fur that wrapped his leg to the knee. His sled dogs were still transporting him, if not in the method they would have preferred.

He paused after a few more minutes of trudging through the snow

[ March 07, 2012, 09:45 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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Josephine Kait
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Interesting, I’d read on.

You say wizard, but I get the feeling of an old Inuit shaman. Hmm…

-JK

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LDWriter2
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Interesting and intriguing.

I think you can do without the and in the first sentence and see if there is anyway to get rid of the was in the second. There may not be.

See how it sounds to delete the were in the sled dog sentence and change transporting to past tense.

And see if there is a way to cut down on the pronouns. I do that also in this type of description, it's easy to use too many which effects the pacing and how people read it.

Over all though not bad at all. You get the point across and it's easy to understand what is happening... so far anyway.

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Brendan
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Interesting start. Good hook in the opening sentence.

I'm not sure about the sentence "Emaciated as he was, the thin layer almost supported him enough to walk atop it freely" for two reasons. The first phrase broke the fourth wall a little, talking directly to the audience in an "as you should know" way. Also, when I initially read the second phrase I failed to see the word "almost", which made me think it contradicted the surrounding sentences. In context, it had a double negative feel to it (even though it wasn't itself a double negative), which forced me to reread and therefore stopped the flow.

Another sentence had me a little confused - "His sled dogs were still transporting him, if not in the method they would have preferred." This is the first we hear about the dogs, and, read literally, we don't really know the manner they prefer. Also, I'd prefer the sentence from a tighter POV, Trevyn's, as this is drifting into an omniscience that doesn't quite feel consistent with the previous parts of the paragraph.

But overall, nice job, and welcome back.

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Bycin
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Thank you all for your responses, they are definitely helpful.

Josephine, you are right in the shamanistic aspects of his magic. While not a true shaman, there are definite influences that are further developed later. I'm happy to see that it is coming through so early in the story.

LDWriter... Wow, I hadn't noticed the amount of pronouns at all until you mentioned it. That is definitely something I will need to fix, as I continue it throughout the rest of the story. A huge help.

Brendan, I see what you mean about a tighter POV and think I can make some changes that will help with that. Could you elaborate more on how the "Emaciated as he was" sentence is breaking the fourth wall? I know the concept, but I'm just not seeing how I've violated it in this case. It's certainly something I want to avoid, so if you can help me understand better what you mean, I would be grateful.

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TempestDash
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I have no rule or practice I can cite, but I also felt that "Emaciated as he was" broke character a little. I think personally it has to do with the fact that I've never heard of anyone refer to themselves as emaciated. While not quite a pejorative, the word has some cognitive distance associated with it, such that I was surprised to see it used to describe to the POV character -- ostensibly from his own POV.

Also, I don't feel that knowing that he's a wizard changes anything in the current situation, and may be information you wish to reserve until later. Freezing to death in the cold while malnourished is suspenseful enough to encourage further reading. Saying that the character is a wizard actually defuses the tension a bit, because we don't know the rules guiding wizards in your world yet, and he could very well just flick a wand and summon a cup of tea and a biscuit for all we know.

That's just my two cents on this. Otherwise it's good enough writing to encourage a page turn.

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Brendan
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I agree with TempestDash about the distant POV implied by the use of that particular word, however there is more. The sentence “He was so emaciated, the thin layer almost supported him enough ...” doesn’t break the wall, while at the same time keeps a similar distant POV. So too “As he was emaciated, …”

However, changing the subject of the phrase to “Emaciated as he was” implies that it isn’t the typical emaciated state, that it is a somewhat special emaciated state. The focus here is placed on the state, not the person, with the later qualifying phrase also associated to the state. Since the story hasn’t yet established the typical “emaciated” state (it hasn’t yet established a normal state either), it is implied that the reader should know what is typical and therefore this statement is a reminder to the reader of their knowledge. In that way the narrative breaks the fourth wall, as any reminder to the reader of assumed knowledge (“do you remember this?”) is an implied closeness to the reader that the author doesn’t have.

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Bycin
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Tempest and Brendan, thank you for your insight and advice. I can see what you are talking about now. It's not an angle I've ever thought about in my writing before, so thank you for bringing it to my attention.

Tempest, while he is a wizard, he is currently suffering from limitations that prevent him from using his powers at the start of the story. It's touched on in the following paragraph, actually. In my rewrites I'll play with it and see if it works better to leave out that he is a wizard entirely, or try to hint at his limitations earlier than I have. Thank you [Smile]

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