The Pearl Of Combat (Kullervo retelling) first draft critique thread

The Pearl Of Combat (Kullervo retelling) first draft critique thread :

Total posts: [9]
1 MorwenEdhelwen9th Apr 2013 06:44:26 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
I've been drafting a Gothic novel, ''The Pearl Of Combat," inspired by the story of Kullervo. This thread is for critique on the story, and portrayal of especially in comparison to the original. I'm worried about the mood not being creepy or scary enough or softening the characters (IMO the point of the since I don't know the original story inside out, just the superficial plot.

So, here is part of the first chapter.

Chapter 1. Kullervo and the Maiden Of Pohjola

When I got up at dawn this morning, I knew I was in trouble. I could hear Tähetär’s voice echoing and bouncing off the thick walls. She spat out my name. My Kalevalan name. “Kullervo!” The yell pierced my ears.

What have I done this time? I thought. The smell and taste of food reached my nose and mouth. I bit down on my lip and started making my bed. My lip hurt as though I’d had it pierced. I didn’t want her to come in and start yelling at me. Otherwise I‘d have to fight her. There was a pile of rag on the shelf in the wall next to my bed,

Last month, we’d had an argument over the way I spoke to her. “Stop talking like that!” she shrieked. But her voice trembled a bit. “Hit me? I’ll—“ She rushed up to the fireplace and grabbed up a branch she’d cut off. “I’ll beat you!” Her hand was clamped around the branch, ready to land it on my back.

“You do that,” I said. “And I’ll hit you back until your brain’s on the floor!”

She huffed and lunged straight at me with the stick in her hand. “How dare you talk to me like that! You’re so rude. I’ve raised you for fifteen years!”

I dodged the stick and reached over the fireplace, between the stone wolf amulet and ivory carvings, for another one. She backed away as I came closer, and made an angry noise as she spoke. “The things I do for you! Why aren’t you more respectful? You are only living here because of me!”

“Because,” I yelled back, “you’re a bitch!”

“What did you just call me?!” she cried. Without waiting for me to answer, she said, “That’s it. No meals for the rest of today” and walked out of the room.

I got lunch and dinner from the cupboard at the end of the kitchen, which is cold and dark and stuffed with food. She makes a lot of food, so I never go hungry even when she decides she’ll keep all the food to herself.

She was still yelling, but this time it was muffled as I’d closed the door. I finished, wiped the blood from my mouth on my finger, and stepped over to the cupboard. After pushing open the door, I reached over to the top shelf above the compartment where the toy chest was kept and sorted through the clothes. It didn’t take long- I don’t have that many clothes. I pulled an old parka off the shelf and pulled it on over my white shirt. It covered my knees and the sealskin felt warm. It had different-colored patches that she’d sewn on whenever it was torn. I’ve got patches in my parkas and reindeer skin shirts, as well as my Kalevalan clothes. The shirts all have long sleeves and are made of cloth. She insists on me wearing a shirt with a sash around the waist for some reason.

edited 25th Apr '13 3:30:49 AM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
Aussie Tolkien freak
Any comments?
The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
Ok, I'll give a critique. Though, just as a warning, I'm going to be a little critical.

The big rule with storytelling is "show, don't tell". This is telling; most of this excerpt is exposition. More importantly, it's too early in the story. I can't imagine getting attached enough to the narrator to want to know about his parents after less than one chapter.

"She- Tähetär, my mistress, also known as the Star Daughter and the Maiden of the North, Ilmarinen’s wife, who raised me- stuck a brown hand up and made quote marks in the air. ”You want to hear this again? You weren’t. You were made. They stuck a tube in your ‘mother’"

This is terrible. That archaic, exposition-laced, classical epic-esque "I am Bob-son of Bill, assistant manager at Ace Hardware" style doesn't fit with the more modern style of writing in the rest of the story.

Sorry if I'm being too negative. And sorry, if I'm being kind of vague. I don't normally critique writing so I feel like I don't have the vocabulary to give a proper written critique. Hence why I didn't say anything about the rhythm or prose or tone.

edited 10th Apr '13 7:50:41 AM by WSM

Aussie Tolkien freak
@WSM: On the weaknesses thread, I posted that this has been a recurring problem. Sometimes I think it's gone, but then it always comes back. Any tips on how to get rid of it permanently?

edited 10th Apr '13 8:24:53 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
As far as the style thing goes, what you're doing now is good: have people read it and tell you what you might want to change. Maybe Try reading it out loud, that usually works for me

As far as exposition goes, I guess just set a limit for yourself on how much backstory you give per page or per scene. And ask yourself if you can deliver this backstory in a more engaging way, like a flashback or through implications/subtext

edited 10th Apr '13 8:20:20 PM by WSM

Aussie Tolkien freak
[up] actually pretty good suggestions. Am now thinking of how I can rework the incest scene.

edited 10th Apr '13 9:33:19 PM by MorwenEdhelwen

The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
Aussie Tolkien freak
Anyone have suggestions?
The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
Aussie Tolkien freak
The draft is going generally well except for this snag; I have no idea how to transplant some elements of the original Kullervo story to an Alaskan tundra-style context, but others I'm fine with. (eg he rows a baidarka, an Aleut canoe, while still living as a slave, and breaks it, instead of a wood nymph he meets an ircenraaq who tells him some of his family are still alive). In the backstory dealing with the Sampo, Tähetär sews a parka instead of weaving. But the main thing is; how does he come to be a slave to Ilmarinen in the first place? Aleut slavery was mostly a result of war, which is why Untamala, the mother, is with Untamo's clan. How does Untamo even know who to sell his little nephew to? And why would they accept an orphan from a different ethnic group (Kullervo is half-Aleut, while the Maiden is Yupik/Yup'ik) to live in their household?
The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
Aussie Tolkien freak
bump. Any comments on the revised first part?
The road goes ever on. -Tolkien
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Total posts: 9