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See if the above poster hooked you:

Every time someone doesn't read the first part of this post, Rick Santorum eats a kitten and your post may be frowned upon.

Idea stolen from Critique Circle.

The writer will post no more than the first 500-1000 words of their work (unless you desperately need to finish a sentence, I guess). If it's a script, the first four pages should suffice, since 1000 words is about four pages in most books.

The reader is pretending to be an editor going through the slush pile, and will stop reading the excerpt if they lose interest. The reader will post to say if they stopped reading, why/ why not, and offer suggestions. The critique doesn't have to be detailed, but please at least offer some advice.

Every time someone doesn't follow the second part, Rick Santorum eats five kittens and your post has a 90% chance of being ignored.

FRIENDLY REMINDER: As the title of the thread implies, if someone posted an excerpt before you, please critique it before posting your own. If you skip someone, you lose the right to whine if someone skips over you. People that have been skipped, feel free to post a polite reminder if you're getting concerned. Reading 1000 words and leaving a few comments shouldn't take too long. And look at it this way: if you critique it yourself, you don't risk waiting forever for someone else to do it for you (this thread takes occasional naps) and you don't have to hope the critiquer doesn't have an excerpt of their own to post right after.

A SHORT NOTE: By hook we mean the first thing the reader sees of the story, not necessarily some sort of inciting incident. Your beginning can be slow and steady, but it still counts as the hook because readers can still be interested by something that moves slowly as long as something is there that gives the reader a reason to keep going. So if you have a prologue that meets or surpasses the word limit, don't stick your first chapter underneath it.

DISCLAIMER: This isn't a hardcore critique thread, so don't try to milk a detailed critique for your first chapter. That's why we have the word limits. Just think of this as a preliminary screening process for serious problems so you can get started on making your first impressions sparkly and awesome.

edited 20th Aug '12 7:46:48 PM by SnowyFoxes

 176 nrjxll, Fri, 29th Jun '12 1:42:13 AM Relationship Status: Not war
P.S. I know how insufferably arch it is. That's half the point.

You should probably elaborate on this.

 177 JHM, Fri, 29th Jun '12 2:23:59 AM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
The narrator of that particular section of the work—depending upon how you read it, me or a character in my position (it's complicated)—is mocking the entire concept of how books tend to open while narrating the opening of a book, including the idea of the (variably) omniscient narrative voice, hence imitating a Lemony Narrator to make fun of them while also becoming one (and knowing it, and revelling in it).

It's kind of meta-level self-deprecation, really.

edited 29th Jun '12 2:26:17 AM by JHM

 178 Dimanagul, Fri, 29th Jun '12 5:47:58 AM from Pittsburgh, PA
Library of useless facts
[up][up][up] I'm glad you were so blunt. I would have never noticed I posted the wrong version, edited. I like the angle of your piece. "You know all these things? Well forget all that!"
All Heroes die. Some just more than others. http://dimanagul.wordpress.com
 179 nrjxll, Fri, 29th Jun '12 3:53:11 PM Relationship Status: Not war
[up][up]What I meant is that it comes across as so insufferably arch I want to punch the person who wrote it. So depending on whether that's the reaction you intended, you might want to tone some parts down.

 180 JHM, Sat, 30th Jun '12 4:00:33 PM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
[up][up] I'm glad to have been of help, and thank you.

[up] I'm not entirely sure. It gradually changes tone to something far less obnoxious, but the point is that the narrator is taunting the audience.
 181 cityofmist, Sun, 1st Jul '12 5:00:44 AM from Meanwhile City
turning and turning
I'm not bothered by the arch tone, but the pretentiousness of the vocabulary is highly irritating. Using a formal register and associated vocabulary is not the same thing as looking up every word in a thesaurus. For example, 'perfunctory acts of salutation'. The word 'perfunctory' actually adds some meaning to the sentence, despite being long and pretentious. There is absolutely no reason, on the other hand, to say 'acts of salutation', as opposed to just 'salutations', except that the first is longer and more obviously distant from normal conversational English. The quote is also completely gratuitous and adds absolutely nothing to the extract.
Scepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom.
- Clarence Darrow
 182 JHM, Sun, 1st Jul '12 5:15:47 AM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
[up] Yes, "perfunctory salutations" is definitely a better way to put it. I'd been wondering what seemed "off" to me about that sentence; I knew that there were too many words, but I wasn't sure which until you mentioned it.

However, I feel that I must tell you this: While I understand where you are coming from, I find the whole "you were looking through a thesaurus" accusation to be really obnoxious and, in a way, deeply insulting, in that it implies that I'm somehow trying to make myself look smarter than I am. Granted, this passage is supposed to be a bit condescending (if in a playful way), but to have that particular turn of phrase used against me just presses all kinds of buttons on my end.

Also, the quote's a little joke of its own if you know the writer in question, or more importantly how he writes. But yes, I could probably cut it, or otherwise simplify it. (Actually, just leaving the line at, "So it goes, " could be much funnier in context.)

edited 1st Jul '12 5:21:02 AM by JHM

 183 cityofmist, Sun, 1st Jul '12 5:47:17 AM from Meanwhile City
turning and turning
[up]I'm sorry if that came across as an accusation. I didn't necessarily mean that I thought you had looked it all up in a thesaurus, but if you had, it would have produced the same kind of impression.

Also, I recognised the quote, I've read quite a bit by Vonnegut. But, seriously, cut it.
Scepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom.
- Clarence Darrow
Ugh, I hate the thesaurus accusation too. Saying I'm too wordy is often a legitimate criticism, but the implication that I'm too ignorant to know long words from memory and go out of my way to deliberately convolute things just comes across as spiteful.

I'm not a fan of smug meta stuff in general, it's rarely as clever as it wants to be. The actual point you're making is a thought-provoking one to lead in with, and the first line is very good. After that though it gets a bit rambly and self-indulgent, and I'm not really picking up any sense of self-awareness beyond the gleeful over-acting. A punchable narrator is OK, but only if the reader's desire to keep reading exceeds their desire for punching, and I don't think you've really achieved that.

I think I personally would like it a lot more if the main body of it was concise and focussed on making the point in an elegant way, with the taunts and Snicket impressions carefully timed to make the irony in them obvious while still keeping the reader on guard. More 'Morgan Freeman playing a mind game' than 'Severus Snape writing his diary'.

edited 1st Jul '12 11:26:38 AM by Kesteven

 185 Diurnal Brocolli, Sun, 1st Jul '12 7:12:05 AM from Somewhere... Relationship Status: Sinking with my ship
Bookends
Hope this is good enough...


The rest of the class went smoothly. Ethan and Leona chatted a bit in between; afterwards, they said their goodbyes. The fourth period was Art, where he met a familiar face-painted face… “Hi, Ethan!” Yuki said in happiness. “Looks like we got art together!” Ethan was happy as well. “Looks that way.” He said as the teacher came in. She was a blonde, with a crystal around her neck. She also had a ring on each finger, golden bracelets on her wrists, and earrings with the yin and yang symbol on them. “Well, wonderful class of the arts, Good Afternoon!” she said. “We have a couple new pupils here today, so why don’t you introduce yourselves, if you want…” she said. Ethan and Yuki promptly got up, and went to the front of the class, where they introduced themselves. “Well, I’m Mrs. Zenn, if you need anything, just ask!” Mrs. Zenn replied. After the two sat down, Mrs. Zenn began her lesson. It went swimmingly well. Ethan and Yuki were gonna like Mrs. Zenn.

After the final bell rung, the students made a bee line for the doors. Ethan and Yuki exited together. Along the way, Ethan spotted a student, with raven-colored hair, and a tad more taller than he and Yuki were. The student gave Ethan and Yuki a smile, before being interrupted by someone. “Hey, Jeanette! You coming?” shouted a student from afar. The girl, named Jeanette, ran off, but Ethan was still starring at her. “I get the feeling that I saw her before…” Ethan said to Yuki. “…But I don’t really know where.” Yuki replied with a “Deja-Vu, huh?” As soon as they were off the school grounds, they walked a while until they stood near a crossroad. “Well, my house is over there. Think I’ll see you tomorrow?” Yuki said to Ethan. “Or course!” Ethan responded back. The two soon parted ways, and after a few minutes, Ethan reached his home. As soon as he got home, he hit the fridge, where a note awaited him. “Ethan, we won’t be home, dinners in the microwave. Love, Mom and Dad.” Ethan cooked said meal, ate it, then felt a bit sleepy. “I guess I could have a bit of a nap.” He said as he laid down on the couch, and his already heavy eyelids closed as he entered dreamland…

A younger Ethan was playing in the sandbox in the park. In front of him playing was his childhood friend, a raven-haired girl. She wore large glasses, had freckles, and her hair looked frizzled. “So, Qween the Queen claims this land of Terrorboom for her own!” the young girl yelled out, holding a toy figure. “Not so fast, as evil Dragon Evildude is gonna boot you out of there, Qween Queen!” the young Ethan said. They had a blast. But near the end, the young girl looked sad. “Ethan, it stinks that you’re moving to your grandmas. You’ll be so far away!” the young girl said. “It’s only for a year, I should be back once my parent’s job clears up, and they can take care of me properly again!” Ethan said. “Make sure not to forget me, Ethan!” The girl said. “I won’t, either…” Ethan said as a song pulled him out of dreamland…

Fare Thee Well.
 186 JHM, Sun, 1st Jul '12 4:33:10 PM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
[up][up][up] Understood.

[up][up] Thank you for the advice. I will keep it in mind.

[up] First off, you're telling a lot when you could be showing. Saying that somone is happy does not show us happiness. The way that your third paragraph begins is even more bothersome: It reads like directions in a script, which makes no sense in the context of what you'd written before it. The fact that your phrasing is a bit cliché and trite doesn't help things, either.

P.S. I hope that by hearing this you will be able to improve your writing. I hope that you also recognise that this is my only motive in telling you these things.

edited 1st Jul '12 4:36:49 PM by JHM

 187 Masterofchaos, Sun, 1st Jul '12 5:12:45 PM Relationship Status: In Lesbians with you
Best idol
[up][up] Alright, I'll critique this too, and hopefully I can be helpful.

First, some of the details you leave are very vague, and without context, doesn't make much sense. The teacher's plans, for example; what was she planning about? What did they do? Or when Ethan and Leona were "chatting in between". What were they talking about? What was their previous class? It would be nice if you expanded on these more.

Second, as previously mentioned, there is tons of telling and less showing. You tell us that Ethan is happy, that he felt sleepy, ect. We're not shown any of that.

Third, the paragraphs don't really flow well. It reads more like a script than an actual novel. Like I said before, there are very vague details. I also had some problems with the dialogue. Some of the words you use (shouted, replied, responded, ect) aren't really appropriate for the punctuation you used. ( !, ?, and so on)

There's probably more, but here are the basic things I wanted to go on. Again, I only want to help.

 188 Snowy Foxes, Sun, 1st Jul '12 9:51:29 PM from ´ ಠ/// Д ///ಠ` Relationship Status: Heisenberg unreliable
Totally not a fish
^^^ Also, when you switch speakers in a dialogue, you need a paragraph break.

This is the opening of a short story meant to be a character study.

Years ago, after Uncle Friedrich drove off the people from the asylum, I begged him to explain why I was this way. Why I screamed and cried when I didn't know what to say or what I felt, and why I would act like a cat to make everyone go away. No one else did things like that. So that meant there was something wrong with me. But was it also wrong that I learned to read before anyone else my age? Was it also wrong that I was already a good piano player? Was it wrong that I did not function like the others, as long as I could be happy?

"I'm not a mind doctor. I only deal with the squishy bits."

But I kept begging and he promised to explain when he was sure I could understand what he had to say. That was about two years later.

He sat down at his kitchen table with me and drew a strange clockwork machine on a piece of paper. It was shaped like a head. There was a mouth, but the rest of the face was cut out, showing gears and boxes with dials on them.

"This is your brain, Wilhelm."

"You said brains are squishy. Am I crazy because my brain isn't squishy?"

"It's a metaphor." He patiently explained what that was before continuing. "I’m using a machine as a metaphor to keep it simple. This mouth here is how your brain tells your body what to do. Now for the complicated bits. You say you have to hear music to think and that's why you always play music in your head, yes? Now, let's pretend this part of the machine is the part that plays the music." He pointed at a large box with two dials on them. "See how it's linked to everything else with tubes? Without it, nothing else can work.”

"Yes. Why does no one else have that?"

He shrugged. "Oh, just about everyone has a little something they do when they need to think better. Your method is just... a more significant part of you. That's not a bad thing."

The hurried way he said the last part made me worry.

Uncle Friedrich pointed at another box a little smaller than the first. There was a counter on it with a number in the thousands. "This is where you keep everything you know. Well, those are the basics of the brain. It keeps information and memories. It processes them. Now, here is where you have trouble."

He used his finger to draw a circle around the mess of gears and belts. "This is where you interpret your emotions and try to figure out how others feel. This is the part of you that does not work correctly. You know what these mean." He drew some faces under the machine: happy, sad, angry, confused, surprised. "Which proves that you have the basics of reading emotions. But when you try to process them, it doesn’t come out quite right. Your brain can't do anything with that, so it makes a guess. That's why people sometimes think your actions are inappropriate. You tend to seem insensitive, especially when you tell truths at bad times, even though inside, you don't feel mean. Sometimes, your brain can't even guess, especially when the emotion is coming from you, so you scream. When you scream, the machine goes into a state of emergency, and functions minimally. Like an animal."

"And I become a cat."

He nodded slowly. "And you need time to be alone to give the machine time to cool down. Well, those are the basics of your brain. It might be different, but you're young and smart. You'll get through."

The drawing made sense to me. I pinned it on the wall next to my bed. I looked at it every day so I would remember that this is why I am strange, and it's not my fault. All I have to do is learn how to work around the problems in the machine. Uncle Friedrich says I am getting better, but it's very hard.

[down] Thank you, kind sir. Take your time.

edited 2nd Jul '12 8:50:33 PM by SnowyFoxes

 189 Voltech 44, Mon, 2nd Jul '12 8:34:09 PM from Alongside a Virtual Weasel
All Guns Sparking
@Dimanagul: Sorry for the late response — I was hoping I could give my thanks to whoever read my 1000 words before I left for a trip, but, alas...anyway, thanks for the read and the advice. (And by the by, I'm still looking through your files; got a few saved on my laptop so I can access them, internet or no.)

Anyway, on the subject of [up]...

Confession time: when I read through it the first time, I thought Wilhelm was turning into a cat. (Don't ask me why; I guess I'm just hardwired to expect nonsense in writing right now.) But that aside...I really liked this little section. In terms of writing mechanics, I think it flows very well — it's an easy read, but it has its fair share of depth and merit. I'll admit that I had to re-read the parts where Friedrich explained the machine, but that's not a fault on your part; I just want to make sure my image matches up with yours.

There is one thing that I'm on the fence about — I can't exactly see where the story goes from here, or where the conflict lies. I mean, sure, Wilhelm could (and likely will) face a lot of difficulties, but he knows he has a problem and is starting to work around them. That seems like it's wrapping up a lot of the conflict right there. Depending on his character, any social misunderstandings he might face can just be explained away because he knows about his problem. Even if he doesn't (and I can understand why he wouldn't, under the circumstances), by the sound of the last paragraph he's already come to accept his issue. I don't know...maybe I'm just overthinking this — and I don't have much to go by — but it almost feels like the story ends right here.

With that said, the big question is: "did the above poster hook you?" Wellllll...yeah, I'd say you did. Okay, I'd probably use the word "intrigued" before "hooked" but you get the idea. I want to see where you go with this story. I want to see things through the eyes of Wilhelm — the people he meets, the events that transpire, and of course the hinted-at attachment to music. You've got a good setup; it's quick and effective, and it makes me want more.

So in the words of a certain American hero, SONIC BOOM! Er, wait...I mean, good job!

edited 2nd Jul '12 9:13:28 PM by Voltech44

Super Blog Link (Arcade Edition ver. 2013)
 190 Snowy Foxes, Mon, 2nd Jul '12 8:49:20 PM from ´ ಠ/// Д ///ಠ` Relationship Status: Heisenberg unreliable
Totally not a fish
Thank you very much! I was mostly afraid that I overdid the machine thing. I'll change the last bit and keep going.

edited 2nd Jul '12 9:19:11 PM by SnowyFoxes

 191 Big Bad Bob, Tue, 3rd Jul '12 8:37:42 AM from Nowher(e)ville, NA
President of Nowherville
To Diurnall Broccoli:

The main issue I have is probably the fact that I've never much been much for (high?) school drama. The previous posters covered the technical issues much better than I possibly can, so for me the only real gripe would be that, no, I wasn't hooked. I didn't really see a conflict of any sort arising here. Maybe that he's moving to his grandma's, but that was only mentioned in a dream, which generally are not reliable.

I hope this helps.

To Snowy Foxes:

My criticism here is pretty much the same as Voltech's; it's a wonderful, easy read that intrigues me. It makes me want to see how Wilhelm will react to the inevitable conflict, but the problem is I don't see promise of a conflict from anywhere except the cold logic of a different kid eventually meeting one.

I'd like to also submit mine for your consideration:

It was a surprise to very few residents of Franklin, PA, that Jim Dale proved successful in his bid for the mayorship. Especially on Columbia Street, it had practically been a given that the boy who grew up in No. 26 would go on to run the town, having applied himself to doing so. The young, good-looking Penn graduate had always been the pride and joy of not just Terrence and Peggy Dale, but the entire six-street area around No. 26 that constituted Emerson Hill.

The Dales moved to No. 26 when Jim was two, and Peggy and Terrence set upon integrating themselves with gusto. The first day, Peggy appeared on all the 30 doorsteps of Columbia Street with a tray of cupcakes, and engaged in pleasantries. She only stopped her round to bake more cupcakes, since the trays she insisted on bringing them on were wont to run out of cupcakes every sixth doorbell she rang.

The cupcakes and the knowledge that their three-year old son now had a neighbor boy to play games with in the future pretty much sealed the deal for George and Caitlyn Sanders, but if anybody else on Columbia Street had reservations about the newcomers, the Dales’ barbecue clinched it. Coming to the house only a week after the Dales had moved in, guests were greeted by Peggy, absurdly, even sunnier than on her cupcake round, holding Jim, whom she had somehow managed to magic into looking more serene than perplexed. They were then directed to the back, where Terrence had set up an area for kids, and a table for the adults, and was busy at a grill that had to be sending the smell of meat into the noses of every living thing in the neighborhood. And so the Dales endeared themselves to Columbia Street for good.

Their son at first was known as just a surprisingly well-rounded kid; always polite, never seemed to get in trouble, always the mediating presence when he and Chris Sanders were in danger of doing so. He was “the perfect role model” for the other kids on Columbia Street and, by the time he finished elementary, Emerson Hill as a whole. Caitlyn Sanders, in her family’s long Saturday evening visits to the Dales, would jokingly confide in Peggy that she hoped Calvin, their youngest son, would look up to Jim more than Chris.

The Sanders were perhaps more in the Dales’ gravitational pull than the rest of Columbia Street, living exactly opposite to them and having nearly daily contact with Peggy or Jim. Yet they were only marginally more adoring of little Jim than the rest of the parents of Emerson Hill, who seemed to Caitlyn to be almost jealous of how close her family was to the Dales. George assured her that she was being ridiculous, and the Dales, though an incredibly nice family, were not gods.

But that seemed unlikely. After all, there never seemed to be anything wrong with the Dales; not a single tense moment between Terrence and Peggy, or a single scolding of Jim. It was almost a matter of pride for Caitlyn that she was so close to them, and of course it was a matter of pride that it was she who taught Jim how to make the chocolate chip cookies, which he peddled for 10 cents apiece at school, when he was staying over for the weekend his parents were in New York for their anniversary.

In grade seven, Jim proved himself a reliable member of the local baseball team, giving his parents another source of pride by scoring the most home runs ever by a Franklin player at the local level. He also proved adept at being a part of the student council, which he was elected as chairman for almost unanimously at the beginning of the eighth grade. By happily taking on hosting duties at school events, Jim made his reputation precede him in expanding outward from Emerson Hill. Caitlyn Sanders remarked to Peggy at eighth grade graduation that “Jim’s speech was almost better than the principal’s”; something that Peggy neither denied nor confirmed with her ever-present admiring smile.

Outside of school, Jim continued to display the same amiability that had made Terrence and Peggy immediate friends on Columbia Street. He seemed to confirm to everyone on Emerson Hill that yes; they were a great little community, to include families like the Dales. When new residents arrived, the first people they met were usually Jim and Peggy, bringing Peggy’s cupcakes and a welcome from Terrence, who was already setting up the grill.

In high school, Jim became student body president freshman year, and managed to spark jealousy in every male his age by beginning a relationship with Melanie Taylor, generally accepted at Benjamin Franklin High to be “the hottest chick in a ten-mile radius”. Whether this was an objective assessment or not, it only added to Jim’s already considerable popularity. His one flaw seemed to be that he didn’t play football, despite him “not being half bad at it” according to Chris Sanders. Not that it mattered; his baseball capabilities more than made up for any deficiencies on the football field.

The fact that he began to go through a long list of voluntary side-activities in addition to baseball in his sophomore year made his consistently excellent grades seem all the more effortless. Effortless seemed actually to be the word that best described Jim. He was effortlessly charming, smart and successful.

Having quit baseball senior year, ostensibly due to an injury, although few believed this excuse, Jim went to the University of Pennsylvania to study law. He came back with a degree and, after a short period at a local law firm, announced he was running for mayor. With a sterling reputation, clean record, and that effortless charm, he gained 67% of the votes on Election Day.

No, not a surprise at all. - What was surprising, was a clearly hung-over Jim Dale, three years later, announcing his resignation on the sidewalk next to the Franklin Police Station, where he had spent the night. Whether it was just the one night that he had drank himself into a stupor bad enough to wind up on the station steps, or the culmination of a long period of escalating drinking, was anyone’s guess. Regardless, the attempt to understand why it happened began immediately.

edited 3rd Jul '12 8:39:42 AM by BigBadBob

The impossible is a matter of imagination.
 192 JHM, Tue, 3rd Jul '12 8:55:13 AM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
Normally I am averse to long, expository introductions, but your writing style, particularly the way the you weave description into your explanations, really sells it for me. Granted, the setup is somewhat predictable—there's always a twist to this sort of introduction, isn't there?—but the way that you build that impression is splendid, and I am sincerely curious as to where you intend to go after that point.

In other words, you really hooked me. I'm impressed.

P.S. Mandatory tiny stormcloud of misery to interupt the sunshine and roses: Your comma usage is a bit wonky in places, most notably in the last paragraph. Fix this and you're golden. I could tell you more, but I would need more time to think.

edited 3rd Jul '12 8:58:26 AM by JHM

 193 Morwen Edhelwen, Wed, 4th Jul '12 7:28:29 PM from Sydney, Australia
Tolkien freak
Here's the first page of my fantasy novel. Does this hook you? Hope I don't make someone stop reading.

Chapter 1. Red Shadow

The journal of Anwar Karim, Ar-Rif, Western Desert, Qeshimoor.

Al-Ithnayn Fibrayir 11 (Monday February 11)

I’m tired. My arms and hands are sore from holding onto the reins and wielding a sword. Everyone else in this tent is asleep now, including Sayyid and Nabila and all my foster siblings including the baby, Zahira. I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight. Or get The Sheik of Araby out of my head. “Over the desert wild and free, rides the bold Sheik of Araby. His Arab band, at his command, follow his love’s caravan.” That’s why I took this journal and a pencil up onto my mat from under my blanket. It scratches me sometimes.

During the Maghrib prayer this evening I couldn’t stop thinking about the raid. I was relieved when it ended. We’d succeed, inshallah. I knew Nabila was thinking that too. Her expression was tense when she turned back to the blanket between the men’s and women’s areas, picked up Zahira, put on the baby sling, lifted her into it and went outside to talk to Sid. Wiped water off my face and hands and pulled my burnous over my head. It seemed like hours before I could push the red hood on. The flap was open, so I could see what was going on while I buckled my belt, put my sabre in its sheath and slipped it inside the belt with the shabriya, the traditional Bedawi knife.

They kissed each other. Her red wool cloak and belt, green tunic and black veil glowed in the fire. So did the sling carrying Zahira. Her face in the veil was half-hidden in the darkness. She’s white, like everyone else in our tribe. Except me. My grandmother on my father’s side was a Negro slave. My skin’s darker, like my father’s was. said she hoped we succeeded, “God willing.” She sounded worried.

She hugged me when I left the tent. Her hands felt rough on my back from all the herding she’d done and her clothes felt rough against my chest. But they were warm. She kissed me on the cheek too. “Anwar, habibi. I love you. Take care of yourself. May God keep you safe, my Caïd, my little red shadow.” She always calls me that because my nickname is Amalu. It means shadow and I wear a red burnous. The name’s stuck. Then she disappeared into the tent to spend her evening with the other women.

Asra’s saddle was soft under me when I mounted. The name suited her. She’s the fastest horse I’ve ridden. She moved into a walk, then a trot and a gallop. It was like being on a walking teleportation carpet.

ETA: Edited one incomplete sentence.

edited 5th Jul '12 3:03:45 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
 194 Morwen Edhelwen, Thu, 5th Jul '12 3:25:48 PM from Sydney, Australia
Tolkien freak
ETA: Did I kill this thread?
The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
 195 JHM, Thu, 5th Jul '12 4:34:35 PM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
It had been unconscious for a while earlier, so I wouldn't worry. Give it some time.
 196 Morwen Edhelwen, Thu, 5th Jul '12 4:40:14 PM from Sydney, Australia
Tolkien freak
Okay.
The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
I'll give this a try. Here's the first installment of my web novel. Thoughts? Criticism?

Katryn ran down the corridor as quietly as possible, broadsword gripped tightly in both hands. She vaguely remembered someone telling her once not to run with sharp objects, but she’d been doing it for years and had never…. Well, hardly ever… Well, anyway, that was why her team had a healer, wasn’t it.

She stopped at the appropriate doorway. She knew it was the right one; most of the castles in the Damsel District were built by the same contractors, and they all had pretty much the same layout.

She raised a boot to the thick wooden door, breaking it open with a satisfying crash. She staggered forward a bit, managing to catch herself.

A wide-eyed princess looked at her in surprise.

“Princess Amariel?” Katryn asked.

“It’s Amariellannettee, ” the princess said uncertainly. “Um…”

“Whatever. I’m here to rescue you.”

“Erm…”

“We don’t have all day, ” Katryn said impatiently. “My team is distracting the sorcerer, and this castle’s rigged to blow soon.”

“It’s just that I expected you to be more…male.”

“Ah, Pratchett, not this again.” Katryn sighed. “Look, this is just a basic contract, you know. I’m here to rescue you, not marry you. Anyway, the economy’s tight right now. You’re just lucky that your father could afford real heroes. I heard there’s some kingdom south of here that had to hire a plumber to do its rescue jobs.”

“You’re right, I’m sorry…”

“Besides, it’s not like I wouldn’t rather be off rescuing some handsome prince for once, but no, they always have to be the big damn heroes, the selfish bastards, and the few I do find just hit on Cory or Lorien…”

“I said I’m… Hey, didn’t you say this castle is rigged to explode?”

Reluctantly, Katryn broke off her rant. “Yeah, come on.”

They ran back the way Katryn had just come. At least, Katryn ran. After several mishaps with shoes and gown, the princess was scooped up unceremoniously and carried.

At the front gate, they met Ezra and Lorien, running in the same direction.

“Cory’s waiting down the hill, ” Ezra panted. “Minions coming…”

The four of them ran until they finally, and rather literally, stumbled across Cory, lying in the grass beside his dragon.

They crouched down beside him. “Ready?” asked Katryn.

Cory nodded, causing his mop of brown hair to flop madly in his face.

“Right, ” said Katryn. “Lorien, raise the shield.”

The elf gripped his staff tightly, slowing his breathing as he concentrated.

After a moment, the tip of the staff glowed green as a glowing green dome appeared, neatly encasing the group. Cory reached into the bulging knapsack beside him, pulling out a small metal box studded with a variety of seemingly cosmetic gears and switches.

“Okay, ” Katryn said, “Ready in five, four, three…”

Cory flipped a switch.

“Two one, ” sighed Katryn as the explosion rocked the ground.

Chunks of stone and minion rained down, bouncing harmlessly off of their shield.

The princess gave Katryn an annoyed look. “I thought you said it was rigged to blow at any minute.”

Katryn shrugged. “It got you moving, didn’t it?”

The princess gaped in outrage.

“In her defense, ” Ezra said, “Cory sometimes blows up buildings with people still inside them.” She gave him a pointed look.

Cory cringed. “That only happened once! Muffin got impatient and stole the remote from me!”

“Severe burns and eight broken bones!”

The dragon grinned and flicked his tongue at her.

“Your dragon’s name is Muffin?” said Amariellannettee, wrinkling her nose in distaste.

“So? Your name is Amariellannettee, ” said Katryn. She shook away an uneasy feeling that she may have unwittingly said something deeply ironic.

“I’m putting the shield down now, ” Lorien said. The green dome flickered and died, leaving them standing in the midst of a field of rubble.

“Right, ” said Katryn. “It’s a three day walk back to the king’s castle, so we’d better start now while it’s still daylight.”

The princess gave her a disbelieving look. “Walk? You mean you don’t even have horses? What kind of adventurers are you?”

“Cheap ones, ” Katryn snapped. “Now let’s go.”

It was going to be a long three days.

 198 JHM, Thu, 5th Jul '12 4:57:59 PM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
[up] You should probably respond to the person before you first.
[up] Ah, you're right. Sorry.

@Morwen: I thought it looked pretty interesting. I'd probably read on for a bit to see what happens. A few minor issues: First, it read as being really choppy and fast-paced. I might suggest spreading it out and slowing it down a bit. Second, it seemed to go from present to past and then never go back to present. I'm not sure if the entire thing is meant to be a past-tense narration, but it doesn't really read that way, it just looks like you forgot what tense you started in.

edited 5th Jul '12 5:11:12 PM by ChocolateCotton

 200 Morwen Edhelwen, Thu, 5th Jul '12 5:09:15 PM from Sydney, Australia
Tolkien freak
@Chocolate Cotton: It's meant to be a diary entry. So maybe I ought to make the transition more obvious.

edited 5th Jul '12 5:21:55 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
Total posts: 333
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