Latest draft of my YA Fantasy Mystery-ish story. 40464 words, 131 pages. First of three books, working title of the series is Destiny Star with the first book titled Awakening. Just seeing how this flows. I am willing to show the plot line and explain the book, as I am currently redrafting the next few chapters..
-- Orion sat with his back against the driest corner of the cell. The shadows dancing about as people walked pass the barred opening in the ceiling. The newest conscripts to the cell, the light was an illusion until it rained a horrible stench that would burn their eyes from the caring folk above. It was filthy elsewhere and only a small trickle of water from the southern wall gave relief to the mucked fools before it disappeared beneath the rocks at their feet. Orion did not bother with any of them. From the moment he had been thrown in the musty dank cell with the dozen other prisoners, he had made sure that they respected him and understood that he had more power than the rest of them combined. His illusions worked, giving him the spot that he currently resided, the first
This was fairly confusing to read. As stated, 'dancing' should be 'danced'. Is 'the light' the newest conscripts to the cell? And how does light rain a stench?
The first sentence states that Orion is at the driest corner of the cell, but then a couple of sentences down we see there's only a small trickle of water from the southern wall. So why is the rest of the cell not dry?
There's also a redundancy with 'fool'. And he washed from a drink?
Posts: 1216 | Registered: Nov 2011
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As mentioned by others, the mechanics of the first thirteen need work. I like the character you've introduced me to, though. Orion is interesting and slightly menacing. I wonder why he's been thrown into the slammer, and that's a good thing. By the way, welcome to the treehouse.
Posts: 108 | Registered: May 2011
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Thank You everyone who read and commented. I have been busy for the past several months and finally took the time to sit down and look at your comments. It also take me forever to go back and rework something I write, but I recently redid the first two paragraphs, please tell me what you think?
Orion sat in disgust at himself, his back against the driest corner of the cell. He could not believe that he, one of the greatest thieves in the underworld, had been caught. Thankfully not red handed, praise Ganesh, though there was still a question of where the staff went. Orion had only gone to look at the remarkable artifact, though something happened that none, either Shivite, Brahman, or Vishnian, could explain. After three weeks of torture, locked in a cells with drunks, debtors, and hooligans, he knew that he was left on his own. He had known the guild and his mentor would never lift a hand to get him out, even if he was innocent. That bridge had been burned a few years before, when he sold the sword of Pokai for himself instead of turning it over to the guild. He had hoped his few
This second beginning is much better for several reasons.
Most of all it shows a clearer picture of the world. I, too, was completely confused by the scene you were trying to paint of the cell in the previous opening. This one doesn't try to hard to show where he is, leaving it just at a dank cell full of petty criminals.
Instead you focus much more on the character himself, and I get more of a feel for how arrogant he is ("one of the greatest thieves . . ."). Also I love the "praise Ganesh" and other lines making reference to religion and culture. It sets the scene far more effectively than anything you'd done in the previous example. The fact that there is evidently a thieve's guild is also interesting.
There are still some grammatical problems and oddly structured sentences, and most importantly the mentions of "the staff" and "the sword of Pokai" seem rushed over too quickly. They are interesting tidbits, but I would be okay not seeing quite so many specific details in the first thirteen, if the details that you do include are fleshed out a little more . . . mostly with Orion's characterization. Was he also surprised when the staff went missing? How did he get caught and accused for stealing it? Give me a couple more hints at his emotions, and then this opening won't feel quite so much like you're skimming through details just to get them over with or something.
But again, VAST improvement over the last one. Good job, and good luck.
Posts: 114 | Registered: Feb 2011
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The writing generally for the second fragment is stronger, clearer, smoother, However, the anonymous narrator largely summarizes and explains the action, secondarily mediates the viewpoint character's received and perceived perceptions. Narrative distance is open. Aesthetic distance is open. Generally not especially appealing.
This fragment is close narrative distance: "Thankfully not red handed, praise Ganesh". That is an interjection of the understated exclamation type, a direct thought of Orion's.
Sentence adverbs like "thankfully" are dependent phrases, or clauses, set off from the main sentence with a comma. They are exclamation interjections. "Thankfully[,] not red handed, praise Ganesh".
The rest is narrator lecture: tell. This opening written in scene methods would portray sensory effect details and reactions to them that Orion experiences in the moment. Details about the staff, the theft of the staff, the fellow prisoners, the tortures in the jail, each a scene sequence in itself, so that a full realization of them is the moving portrait illusion of reality imitation of Orion's circumstances: show.
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Orion sat in disgust at himself, his back against the driest corner of the cell. He could not believe that he, one of the greatest thieves in the underworld, had been caught. . Orion had only gone to the temple in the dead of night to look at the Staff of the Sage, wielded by his namesake to defeat the demoness Aurora. Orion was found unconscious, the artifact gone without a trace. Orion could not explain it and neither could any of the investigators. After three weeks of torture, locked in a cells with drunks, debtors, and hooligans, he knew that he had been left on his own. He had known the guild and his mentor would never lift a hand to get him out, even if he was innocent of the crime. He had hoped his few friends in Minlanus would get him out, keep him from the torture, or at least buy him more comfortable quarters. Instead he had learned how alone he really was.
Posts: 7 | Registered: May 2013
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Can I share a lesson I recently learned from a crit of my last story? In the last paragraph, you start to close in the narrative distance on Orion, move in on his thoughts rather than summarizing back story, which is what you're doing in the first paragraph. There are two things that keep me from really feeling like I'm inside Orion's head. If you want to close that distance and get me inside his head, these are two things you can fix.
1. Put this into a scene (events that I am experiencing as they happen) rather than narrative (events that you are summarizing for me after the fact). Make these thoughts that he is thinking as he sits in his cell (the present of your first sentence) rather than thoughts that he has thought over the last few weeks.
2. Get rid of mediating phrases like "he thought" and "he had hoped." These phrases keep me from inhabiting Orion's head because you're summarizing his thoughts for me, telling me what he thought rather than letting me get inside his head and think it.
I hope you'll allow me to do a quick rewrite, just for the sake of illustrating what I mean. I don't mean to be presumptuous. I don't meant this rewrite as "here's how you should write it," just illustrating what I mean in the above comments.
They had locked him in a cell with drunks, debtors, and hooligans, and tortured him for three weeks. [Here we need something to ground us back in the narrative's present, something that happens right now. I'm just adding in a minor action to do that]. Orion spat in the dirt between his feet. [Removing mediating phrases and grounding these thoughts in the present]. He was on his own. The guild and his mentor would never lift a hand to get him out, even if he was innocent of the crime. Even his few friends in Minlanus hadn't shown up to get him out, keep him from the torture. They could have at least bought him more comfortable quarters. Instead he now knew how alone he really was.
I hope that's helpful. I know it was an illuminating principle for me when I learned it. Of course, if closing narrative distance and putting the reader inside Orion's head isn't your goal, as I'm assuming, then everything I said is pointless, and you can disregard it.
Posts: 1528 | Registered: Dec 2003
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Thank you that was a good lesson. Most of my writing is self-taught/observation. What I read from other authors and learning what actually catches readers attention. It is great to have someone tell me what it is I am lacking or the point I am missing...
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I concur with wetwilly's learning and guidance. I'd extend the scene sequences, though, so that the unfolding drama moves forward in time from the first line. Past perfect tense of the first sentence in wetwilly's illustration doesn't do that, "had locked". Nor does "Orion sat in disgust at himself" fulfill the need for an illusion of reality.
What sequence should come first for best effect? A sensory sequence of Orion's immediate surroundings: the dungeon. An organization principle for where to start a setting description is close to far, or most demanding sensation, for example. In a dank, dark cell with other prisoners that a prisoner had been in for a while and tortured, I expect the pain of torture would naturally be foremost. Using that pain might set up for and include setting details.
However, events are more initially engaging than settings or characters. What event starts in the now moment and moves forward that will introduce the setting and Orion? Might he be returned to his cell sore from a torture session? His feet, raw from brutal lashes, slap the dank stone; vile wetness stings the open wounds. Touch and sound sensations there. Visual? Sights. Aural? Sounds. Tactile? Touches. Olfactory? Smells. Gustatory? Tastes.
Orion sits apart in the cell. He's static. If he's static, nurses his wounds, both physical and emotional, use sensory descriptions to set up the illusion of reality imitation and develop dramatic action.
Suppose Orion first commits a selfless act. His teeth ache from torture. He can't eat and won't be able to eat for days. He has a saved potato peel rotting in the pocket of his prison smock. He gives it to a fellow prisoner he takes pity on. The prisoners squabble over the food scrap. I'd immediately have a fellowship with Orion. He'd be someone I could trust and respect and like. His moral value system is one I share, so that covers for the moment my emotional alignment with Orion. My empathy and sympathy (tension's caring what will happen half, curiosity about what will happen the other half) for his plight. Giving away the peel is an event that can be a springboard sequence to setup of the scene's setting and characters, Orion noteably.
Scene (show) is a sequence of events that portray dramatic action, not necessarily physical action, and settings and characters, but dramatic action's antagonism, causation, and tension.
The recent fragment draft to me summarizes ten sequences in a nonsequential order that could be developed as fully-realized, individual sequential sequences, ten, each one at least as long as thirteen lines. Which is first, is Orion accompanies a group of thieves to see the Staff of the Sage. He sees it. He's knocked unconscious. He's found by guards. He's jailed. He's tortured. He's in the cell among cutthroats and derelicts and deviants. He licks his wounds. He meditates on why he's in prison. He meditates on why his fellow guildsmen abandoned him.
But first and foremost of all, what's his personal dramatic complication? What does he want for anatgonizingly himself that has a noble, selfless proportion, perhaps selfish motives also, and problems opposing satisfying the want? I see a kernel in the fellowship of the crime syndicate, the guild, that is in jeopardy.
The guild turned its back on him. The guild's honor system is corrupted. No honor among thieves, so to speak, no reason to be loyal anymore to the guild. Something foul is afoot in the guild, and Orion is the victim. Naturally, he wants to get out of prison, but what he really wants is to unmask the corruption of the guild. Does this mean a selfish faction breaks ranks and threatens the guild's survival? Or has the entire guild changed and Orion is now a selfless crusader? Might he then keep his head, keep the guild's confidences while in prison, but attack the wicked faction or the guild once he's free?
If these above are the intent, the dramatic complication, then Orion's opening sequence should start there. His efforts to get free. One of the prisoners, perhaps the one he gave the potato peel to, might tip him off that the guild taskmaster has betrayed the guild to the law. What then does Orion have to do to get out of prison? Snitch on the guild? No. He has an agenda that snitching would oppose.
What does Orion have in his possession that might win his freedom? For example, a prison official had lost a cherished family member maybe. Orion knows where she is. She hadn't run away, but got lost and can't find her way home. Maybe she lives in a distant city and hasn't the wherewithal to return home. Orion knows how the official can reach her. Orion revealing her whereabouts leads to the official setting Orion free. Look out faction or guild: angry man on fire loose again in the world.