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Author Topic: A View From The Sands
Lou
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Hi Ya'll,
Wow it's hard to believe that it has been three and a half months since I posted this. I took some time to study more on this craft of writing. I read OSC's Characters and Viewpoint and How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. I then rewrote my book two point three times. I think now (again) I'm done until I can get some in depth feedback. At this point I suffer from too-close-itis. My novel is a Sword and Sorcery tale about a world of gladiatorial conquest. It is just under one hundred and eleven thousand words long. I will appreciatively accept any help offered.
Here is another try at my opening that seems to more clearly describe the scene in my head. What do you think?

Take Five!

Lightning formed into a sizzling ball and slowly sank. It exploded among barren rock beneath the starless void. As the concussions reverberated into bedrock the overpowering glare waned, died. And there was life.
Slowly it stirred, lifted its head. The coal-black skin, as flawless as a newborn, slowly dried. Slick, wavy hair lay close to his scalp; just as dark but with a subtle sheen. His were hard features; a twisted parody of man’s with razor teeth and tusks rising from a snarl.
Glory be to Mother, he thought. I’m whole again; and free. Eternal praise be Thine! he shouted in his mind; from his heart. Explosive fury drove him to his feet as "CHAAAA!" exploded from the depths of his soul. It was both his name and a challenge to all living things. But no one heard.


After some serious thought, with my recently learned lessons in the mix, I realized that my previous tries weren’t quite right. Suggestions from many of you have helped drastically. I came here thinking I was done. Hah! Thank you so much guys, you’ve been giving me the things I’ve needed most.
These are 13 ½ lines. Is it a set in stone rule or is it kinda like the Pirate’s Code in the Caribbean; more of a guide, so to speak?

Take Four!

Lightning struck barren rock on the desolate stone landscape. As the concussion reverberated into bedrock the overpowering glare waned and died, revealing a curious dark lump.
Slowly it stirred and lifted its head. The coal-black skin, as flawless as a newborn, slowly dried. Short wavy hair lay close to his scalp; it was just as dark but with a subtle shine. His were hard features; a twisted parody of man’s with razor teeth and long tusks that turned up from his mouth.
Glory be to Mother, he thought. I’m whole again; unshackled. Eternal praise be Thine, he shouted in his mind, from his heart. A hard cruel intent rose up and infused him with divine fire. He took a deep breath and rose. "CHAAAA!" exploded from the depths of his soul; it was both his name and a challenge to all living things. But no one heard.


What do you think now? Any suggestions?

Take Three!

Lightning struck barren rock on a desolate stone landscape. The concussion of the thunder reverberated deep into bedrock.
The smoke and dust cleared showing a misshapen dark lump. Slowly it stirred, lifted its head. The coal-black skin glistened, flawless as a newborn. Short straight hair lay close to the scalp, as black as his skin but with an oily luster. Hard features; a twisted parody of a man with razor sharp teeth and finger-long tusks that turn up from the corners of his mouth. A hard cruel gleam shone from deep in his eyes. He took a massive breath and rose. A horrendous bellow exploded from the depths of his enormous body, "CHAAAAA!!" It was both his name and a challenge to all living things. But no one heard.


Take Two!

Lightning struck barren rock on a desolate world of stone. The concusion of the thunder reverberated deep into bedrock.

The smoke and dust cleared showing a misshapen dark lump had appeared. Slowly it stirred, lifted its head. The smooth, coal-black skin glistened, fresh and flawless as a newborn. Short straight hair lay close to the scalp, as black as his skin but with an oily luster. Hard features; a twisted parody of a man with razor sharp teeth and finger-long tusks that turn up from the corners of his mouth. A hard cruel gleam shined from deep in his eyes. He took a massive breath and rose. A horrendous bellow exploded from the depths of his enormous body, "CHAAAAA!!" It was both his name and a challenge to all living things. But no one heard.


Hello. I offer for your perusal the first thirteen lines of my fantasy novel. I "thought" it was finished, and then I found this website. Now I can really get started on finishing.

Any suggestions, on any points will be appreciated.

Lightning struck the barren rock. Deafening thunder reverberated deep into the stone that is the core of Arellius.
As the smoke cleared a misshapen black lump could be seen. Slowly it stirred, lifting its shining black head. Its naked, smooth, coal-black skin glistened as only a newborn can. Short straight hair lay close to the scalp, as black as his skin but with an oily luster. Hard, evil features, a twisted parody of a man's, were made even more frightening by razor sharp teeth and vicious finger long tusks that turned up from the corners of his mouth. A hard cruel gleam shined from deep in his eyes. He took a massive breath and began to rise, a horrendous bellow exploded from the depths of his enormous being, "CHAAAAAAA!!" It was both his name and a challenge to all living things. But no one heard.

If you would like to read more, let me know.
Thanks.


[This message has been edited by Lou (edited September 15, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by Lou (edited September 16, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by Lou (edited September 22, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by Lou (edited September 22, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by Lou (edited January 02, 2010).]

[This message has been edited by Lou (edited January 02, 2010).]

[This message has been edited by Lou (edited January 02, 2010).]


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SavantIdiot
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Lightning struck the barren rock. (Consider dropping the 'the'? Something about this phrase to start with I wasn't happy with.) Deafening thunder reverberated deep into the stone that is the core of Arellius. (You know, I am not sure that we need this much information just here. I drifted off thinking that a planet with a stone core might not last long, given that it would probably shake apart from just such reverberations. And then I started thinking about how planets really need to be sort of fluid and my brain was completely out of your story.)
As the smoke (there's not going to be much smoke from a lightning strike unless something actually catches fire) (could be a kind of stone that smokes)cleared a misshapen black lump could be seen. Slowly it stirred, lifting its shining black head. Its naked, smooth, coal-black skin glistened as only a newborn can. Short straight hair lay close to the scalp, as black as his skin but with an oily luster. Hard, evil features, a twisted parody of a man's, were made even more frightening by razor sharp teeth and vicious finger long tusks that turned up from the corners of his mouth. A hard cruel gleam shined from deep in his eyes. He took a massive breath and began to rise, a horrendous bellow exploded from the depths of his enormous being, "CHAAAAAAA!!" It was both his name and a challenge to all living things. But no one heard. (I like the Chaaaaa being his name and his challenge. I had a little issue with a newborn being born adult shaped and cruel and hard, evil. Not to mention all the teeth. Except he isn't being born, exactly. Is this how demons are made? I am sure this gets explained.) This looks mythical; this is the bad guy, I expect. And a very bad one he is, indeed. The good guy is going to have to match him and that suggests to me a shallow character.
I am willing to read more for you but I have to tell you I may not be the most helpful. I feel confident proofing short bits but I am not so experienced myself (well, except as a reader) that I can be helpful in longer portions. On the other hand I might be a good person to read it because this is not the sort of story I like. I don't like mythical and I don't like screamingly evil bad guys. I might be able to offer ways for you to expand your niche market a little to readers like myself, anyway. Congratulations on being so close to 'done'!


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MrsBrown
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This reads like a prologue. There’s no question that this guy is gonna cause some grief for your main character (MC). I would expect to meet your MC in the next section (I have a strong preference for close 3rd person perspective, but that’s just my preference). It reads well and sets up potential for an interesting story. I like the challenge, and the fact that no one else is around; the danger is not immediate, yet.
But, there’s some nit-picky stuff that I noticed:

“Lightning struck the barren rock.” Is this some particular, special rock? I get absolutely no setting except this rock. Are we on a plain? In the middle of a storm? I would suggest something like: Lightning struck a barren rock that sat alone in a wide gray plain.

“…the stone that is the core of Arellius” gave me too much of the narrator’s voice/perspective, IMHO. I would prefer not to notice the narrator so keenly. But that’s just my personal preference! I suspect this name could wait until later (unless you have multiple planets), but I do like the thunder reverberating deep into the ground.

Did the black lump replace the rock, or is the rock still there? If you stated one or the other, you could get rid of “could be seen.”

You mention “black” several times, and make four separate references to him being shiny/glistening. Not saying that’s good or bad, but it did draw my attention out of the story.

"as only a newborn can" could be: flawless as a newborn.

“were made even more frightening” is another narrator intrusion, where you are telling me how I am supposed to feel about him. Your description does the job just fine without this. I have a similar reaction to “evil” and “horrendous”. I wouldn't mind if it were a character noticing these things. This is just my opinion.

You could cut “finger long” (or at least hyphenate it: finger-long). It took me a moment to figure out this is about tusks, not fingers.

quote:
He took a massive breath and began to rise, a horrendous bellow exploded from the depths of his enormous being, "CHAAAAAAA!!"
This is two sentences stuck together with a comma. The phrase “began to” doesn’t add anything. The usual construction of: He said, “No.” doesn’t apply to: A bellow exploded, “CHAAAAAA!” How about body instead of being?

How about one of these:
He took a massive breath and rose, a horrendous bellow exploding from the depths of his enormous body. "CHAAAAAAA!!"
He took a massive breath and rose. "CHAAAAAAA!!" A horrendous bellow exploded from the depths of his enormous body.

[This message has been edited by MrsBrown (edited September 15, 2009).]


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Lou
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Hi Savant. Thanks for the reply. And hello to you MrsBrown, bring on the nit-picky. I have a few things going on so I can’t properly reply just yet, but thanks, and keep it up.

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MrsBrown
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How big is enormous? There's nothing to compare it to.

I would read on, if I spent time on longer crits. Its very rare that I do so. Well sure, if you want a quick read, I'll look at about 1K words. What the heck!


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Lou
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OK, let's try this.

Lightning struck barren rock on a desolate world of stone. The concusion of the thunder reverberated deep into bedrock.

The smoke and dust cleared showing a misshapen dark lump had appeared. Slowly it stirred, lifted its head. The smooth, coal-black skin glistened, fresh and flawless as a newborn. Short straight hair lay close to the scalp, as black as his skin but with an oily luster. Hard features; a twisted parody of a man with razor sharp teeth and finger-long tusks that turn up from the corners of his mouth. A hard cruel gleam shined from deep in his eyes. He took a massive breath and rose. A horrendous bellow exploded from the depths of his enormous body, "CHAAAAA!!" It was both his name and a challenge to all living things. But no one heard.

<How’s that? I incorporated both of your ideas and a rethink or two. In the first sentence I like the idea of taking out “the”, it seems to widen the focus a bit, as does the extension of the sentence. And your next points illustrate the need for other POVs of our stories. Taking out “that is the core” doesn’t hurt at all. Oh! You got me thinking. For reasons explained a later, I changed from “Deafening”, but now it seems more bland. Hmm. So many good suggestions and pointers. Thanks and keep it up.>


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SavantIdiot
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Lightning struck barren rock on a desolate world of stone. The concusion of the thunder reverberated deep into bedrock. **I love 'concussion' here. Excellent place to use it. Again, though, I think less is more. I think we want to be closer to the action, the epicenter, as it were. This is just the feel I get, you understand. We, the readers, want to focus on this one kilometer or two. You might consider narrowing to that surface area and then maybe reference the concussion moving through the planet a little bit later. We don't want to be thinking of a stone planet just yet, I think, but about a newborn 'nonborn'.

The smoke and dust cleared showing a misshapen dark lump had appeared. ** either 'showing that...' or maybe should remove 'had appeared'** Slowly it stirred, lifted its head. The smooth, coal-black skin glistened, fresh and flawless as a newborn. **I think you can lose smooth and fresh both and make it stronger.** Short straight hair lay close to the scalp, as black as his skin but with an oily luster. Hard features; a twisted parody of a man with razor sharp teeth and finger-long tusks that turn up from the corners of his mouth. A hard cruel gleam shined *shone?* from deep in his eyes. He took a massive breath and rose. A horrendous bellow exploded from the depths of his enormous body, "CHAAAAA!!" It was both his name and a challenge to all living things. But no one heard. ** Are you a musican? Two references to loud, reverberating noises in one paragraph. I wonder if you can tie them together somehow. His newborn chaaaa! answering the lightning which triggered his awakening or something. It looks good, Lou.

<How’s that? I incorporated both of your ideas and a rethink or two. In the first sentence I like the idea of taking out “the”, it seems to widen the focus a bit, as does the extension of the sentence. And your next points illustrate the need for other POVs of our stories. Taking out “that is the core” doesn’t hurt at all. Oh! You got me thinking. For reasons explained a later, I changed from “Deafening”, but now it seems more bland. Hmm. So many good suggestions and pointers. Thanks and keep it up.>



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Devnal
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Quite the improvement IMO.

I'm not a fan of the POV though.


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Lou
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Take Three!

Lightning struck barren rock on a desolate stone landscape. The concussion of the thunder reverberated deep into bedrock.
The smoke and dust cleared showing a misshapen dark lump. Slowly it stirred, lifted its head. The coal-black skin glistened, flawless as a newborn. Short straight hair lay close to the scalp, as black as his skin but with an oily luster. Hard features; a twisted parody of a man with razor sharp teeth and finger-long tusks that turn up from the corners of his mouth. A hard cruel gleam shone from deep in his eyes. He took a massive breath and rose. A horrendous bellow exploded from the depths of his enormous body, "CHAAAAA!!" It was both his name and a challenge to all living things. But no one heard.

Thanks a lot guys for these suggestions. It is helping a great deal. And here I was thinking that having others comment on my stories would be painful; not so (yet). It’s actually been fun and kind of exciting. I’m reminded of the old adage about the one who thought he was wise until he really started learning.
I have some serious work to do.


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jezzahardin
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Hi Lou,

I like where the changes are going, and the overall subject matter. (I've got a soft spot for the baddies.)

Regarding the shout, one exclamation mark will do it. Always.
Elmore Leonard, in an article on writing in the New York Times, said the following.

quote:
5. Keep your exclamation points under control.

You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.



(The rest of his writing tips can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/16/books/16LEON.html )

Otherwise, the only other thing throwing me is the Point of View. Essentially, you the author are telling me what is visible, and what is audible, with no one to experience it, and not from the point of view of this baddie being born. You are narrating this scene.

That is fine, but it should be done that way intentionally, and personally, I think whole heartedly. In other words, if you are going to narrate, jump in with both feet. Stephen King does this, telling us that characters are going to die full hundreds of pages before they actually do. Terry Pratchet and Niel Gaiman, too.

As it is, though, it's not clear, to me at least, that you intend to narrate this scene, so I'm left wondering...who is telling me this if no one heard it? The evil guy? Certainly he wouldn't describe himself as scary, just normal. He also wouldn't comment on his own physical features, probably, any more than we would comment on our own left ring finger or right knee.

I say choose, and then make it obvious what you've chosen. Third person omniscient is what you've got right now, and it's a hard one to pull off.

(Wikipedia calls the POV 'narrative mode,' apparently.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narrative_mode )

Best,
Jez


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Lou
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Duh!!
Thanks Jezz. I must have read that 50 times (no exageration) and never caught that double exclamaition point!!
Double-Duh.

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Lou
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Updated with my fourth try at the top.

What do you think?


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SavantIdiot
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You know, I like two and three better. I think it because the imagery is really nice and I am not ready to leave it that soon for explanation of his interior. I do like seeing his joy in his rebirth but adding the prayers plus the evil intent I found too distracting.

You are ready to pound forward into the story but remember we're reading at leisure here!


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jezzahardin
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Not to be disagreeable, but this does it for me. I like the latest version a lot.

There is still the perspective-less detail (who is seeing the colours and textures on this fellow?) but the choice to use it is a matter of taste, and one I won't critique unless it is unintentional.

I love the internal thought, especially the 'whole again' comment. Really gives the character some depth with his foreboding nature.

As a possible suggestion (that you can take or leave), I think you could use the 'again' aspect to show a little more from his own perspective.

This character has obviously lived before. Did he have these features before? Could he possibly feel his teeth and discover their sharpness, or marvel at the new tusks? Or perhaps he could run his hands through his hair, which is always black because of his own cursed nature (...or is it)?

Just some ideas for you.

I would read on.

Best,
Jez


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