Author Topic: (200 words) City of Ashes  (Read 3313 times)

Offline Obe

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(200 words) City of Ashes
« on: October 04, 2014, 03:56:48 PM »

The dawn sky was black and red, and the smell of burnt flesh was heavy in the air. The distant echo of dying fires crackled a somber tune. Blaze reluctantly reined his horse into the cursed town, every building in sight was burnt down to smoldering mounds of charcoal and stone. The street was charred black like the bodies that lay scattered down its path. It was all Blaze could do, not to cough as the smoke from the corpses scratched at his lungs, just as a voice scratched at the back of his mind telling him run, get away from here. He dismounted with the swagger of his youth ignoring his fears, and approached the charred remains of a lifeless body. It lay in ruin unrecognizable, its scorched face locked in a silent scream of torment. Wisps of smoke curled away from its eye sockets like damned souls. It was a peasant’s body, there were no remains of armor or weapon. A sudden hate boiled from within, and Blaze clenched his sword hand into a fist.  This is the work of a coward.

Thanks for reading, I'm very interested in improving the amount of emotion / feeling that I show in my writing and would like any feedback or examples of how to portray said presence.

thanks
Obe

Offline Mrs N

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Re: (200 words) City of Ashes
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2014, 04:12:40 PM »

The dawn sky was black and red, and the smell of burnt flesh was heavy in the air. The distant echo of dying fires crackled a somber tune. Blaze reluctantly reined his horse into the cursed town, Every building in sight was burnt
 down to smoldering mounds of charcoal and stone. The street was charred black, like the bodies that lay scattered down its path. It was all Blaze could do, not to cough Cough, are you joking? He should be pukking by now. :D
as the smoke from the corpses scratched at his lungs, just as a voice scratched at the back of his mind telling him run, get away from here. He dismounted with the swagger of his youth ignoring his fears, and approached the charred remains of a lifeless body. It lay in ruin unrecognizable, its scorched face locked in a silent scream of torment. Wisps of smoke curled away from its eye sockets like damned souls. really?

It was a peasant’s body, there were no remains of armor or weapon. A sudden hate boiled This is where you could show emotion rather than just labelling it.   from within, and Blaze clenched his sword hand into a fist.  This is the work of a coward.

Thanks for reading, I'm very interested in improving the amount of emotion / feeling that I show in my writing and would like any feedback or examples of how to portray said presence.

thanks
Obe

Hi, I liked this. I've got The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. You might find it helpful. ;)

Offline Rho

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Re: (200 words) City of Ashes
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2014, 04:26:35 PM »
The dawn sky was black and red, and the smell of burnt flesh was hung heavy in the air. The distant echo of dying fires crackled a somber tune. Blaze reluctantly reined his horse into the cursed town, every building in sight was burnt down to smoldering mounds of charcoal and stone. The street was charred black like the bodies that lay scattered down its path. It was all Blaze could do, not to cough as the smoke from the corpses scratched at his lungs, just as a voice scratched at the back of his mind telling him run, get away from here. He dismounted with the swagger of his youth ignoring his fears, and approached the charred remains of a lifeless body. It lay in ruin unrecognizable, its scorched face locked in a silent scream of torment. Wisps of smoke curled away from its eye sockets like damned souls. It was a peasant’s body, there were no remains of armor or weapon. A sudden hate boiled from within, and Blaze clenched his sword hand into a fist.  This is the work of a coward.

Thanks for reading, I'm very interested in improving the amount of emotion / feeling that I show in my writing and would like any feedback or examples of how to portray said presence.

thanks
Obe

Hi, Mrs N Did a pretty thorough job. Personally I wouldn't italicise thoughts.
It's a strange magic

Artemis Quark

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Re: (200 words) City of Ashes
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2014, 04:57:10 PM »
The dawn sky was black and red, and the smell of burnt flesh was heavy in the air. The distant echo of dying fires crackled a somber tune. Blaze reluctantly reined his horse into the cursed town, every building in sight was burnt down to smoldering mounds of charcoal and stone. The street was charred black like the bodies that lay scattered down its path. It was all Blaze could do, not to cough as the smoke from the corpses scratched at his lungs, just as a voice scratched at the back of his mind telling him run, get away from here. He dismounted with the swagger of his youth ignoring his fears, and approached the charred remains of a lifeless body. It lay in ruin unrecognizable, its scorched face locked in a silent scream of torment. Wisps of smoke curled away from its eye sockets like damned souls. It was a peasant’s body, there were no remains of armor or weapon. A sudden hate boiled from within, and Blaze clenched his sword hand into a fist.  This is the work of a coward.

Thanks for reading, I'm very interested in improving the amount of emotion / feeling that I show in my writing and would like any feedback or examples of how to portray said presence.

thanks
Obe

Welcome Obe,

More tightening needed. In addition to what Mrs N and Rho suggest, I would delete some of the words that you are using to evoke emotion/feeling. Trying too hard to express how the MC feels. Let it flow. Use plain words but find stronger verbs that do not need to be propped up with adverbs.

Good start. Keep writing. The core of an emotional story is there. You can do it.

AQ

Offline 510bhan

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Re: (200 words) City of Ashes
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2014, 05:19:59 PM »

The dawn sky was Black and red streaked the dawn sky. and The smell stench of burnt flesh was hung heavy, in the air as the distant echo of dying fires crackled a somber tune. Blaze reluctantly reined his horse into the cursed town. every Building in sight was remains burnt down to smoldering mounds of charcoal and stone. The street was charred scorched [you have used 'charred' later for a body] black like the bodies that lay scattered down its path. It was all Blaze could do, struggled/fought not to cough as the smoke from the corpses scratched at his lungs, just as a voice scratched at the back of his mind telling him run, get away from here. But he dismounted with the swagger of his youth, ignoring his fears, and approached the a charred, remains of a lifeless body. It lay in ruin unrecognizable, its scorched face locked in a silent scream of torment. Wisps of smoke curled away from its eye sockets like damned souls. It was an unarmed peasant’s body. there were no remains of armor or weapon. A sudden hate boiled from within, and Blaze clenched his sword hand into a fist.  This is the work of a coward.


Offline heidi52

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Re: (200 words) City of Ashes
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2014, 07:18:28 PM »
You write well and you've already gotten good advice, but I have to tell you that your MC's name almost stopped me reading. Of your stories 200 words at least 15 are descriptive synonyms for fire. And then your character's name is Blaze? I felt like I was being bludgeoned with a smoldering log.

J/K but it's the little stuff that takes the reader out of the story that you want to avoid.

Welcome to the circle by the way.  :)

Artemis Quark

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Re: (200 words) City of Ashes
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2014, 07:48:58 PM »
Since Heidi52 mentioned it, I also stopped for a beat when I read the MC's name. At first, given the previous imagery of fire, scorched buildings and bodies that you painted, I thought it was a typo (blaze, as in fire, with a capital letter typo). Nope, just the MC. Whoops.

Unless the name is important to the story, try to find a different one. We need to reduce the possibility of reader confusion, aborted suspension of disbelief and possible stoppage entirely. Keep the reader hooked, especially in the opening chapter.

AQ

Max_with_word_processor

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Re: (200 words) City of Ashes
« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2014, 08:01:33 PM »
Nice work.
But I don't like the MC's name either.
Suggest you delete the conclusion that he was a peasant and expand more on how the MC reached that conclusion. Perhaps give him more reason to hate whoever did this, such as add something more personal, some more specific observations on the corpse. For example, if it works for your plot, he could identify something that suggests it is a woman.
And delete hate boiled, that is cliché and that is exactly the sort of thing you should show instead of tell.

One more thing, change this is the work of a coward, to just Cowards. This is more likely to be his exact thought.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2014, 08:04:09 PM by Max WWP »

Offline MiggsEye

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Re: (200 words) City of Ashes
« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2014, 11:27:38 PM »
You mention you want to get more emotion and feeling in your writing. I think that's a good thing to focus on. This particular piece, in my opinion, is very heavy on description and narration, with very little action and emotion. May I suggest that you look into the writings of Dwight Swain, who taught a method of writing called Motivation-Reaction Units. In my opinion it's best employed in the revision stage after one free-writes a first draft. He essentially shows you how to create a reading engine in your story that propels a reader forward, essentially creating a "good read", marked by a choreographed dance between showing the things that motivate the MC (describing the things, actions, dialogues, etc. in the public world around the MC and happening to the MC), then showing the reaction of the MC to them (describing the private feelings/thoughts and the actions and dialogue that the MC does in response). The key is to alternate back and forth between these, with a particular sequence on the reaction side to create compelling and dynamic action, emotion, etc.

This is found in his book Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain. I highly recommend getting it, particularly per your expressed desire to learn how to show more emotion and feeling. You can get a taste of this by visiting the link to an article written by Randy Ingermanson where he describes this technique, along with another valuable technique on creating Scenes and Sequels. Both these techniques  go hand-in-hand towards creating great scenes leading to great stories, in my opinion. Playing with these has improved my own amateur/newbie state of writing. Here is the link: http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/writing-the-perfect-scene/
« Last Edit: October 06, 2014, 08:17:30 AM by MiggsEye »
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hillwalker3000

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Re: (200 words) City of Ashes
« Reply #9 on: October 06, 2014, 05:54:30 AM »
This is rather too heavy on descriptions to make it as interesting as it could be. The more images you pack into a paragraph the more blurred the picture becomes. There are times when you seem to have inserted an adjective for no apparent reason. I'll try to show you what I mean:

The dawn sky was black and red, and the smell of burnt flesh was heavy in the air.
That's 5 things you expect the reader to absorb in the opening 18-word sentence
i) it's dawn
ii) the sky is black
iii) it's also red
iv) there's a smell of burnt flesh
v) the air is heavy with the smell
What's the first impression you're trying to make? The colour of the sky, the smell or the weight of the smell. If you say it's all three then you need to look again. It's close to being a weather-report - an opening that most writers would advise you to avoid.

The distant echo of dying fires crackled a somber tune.
Again:
i) there's an echo
ii) it's a long way away
iii) the fires are dying
iv) they're also crackling
v) the fires make a tune which is sombre (really?)
This opening is still stuck in 'creating a setting' mode. Nothing has happened. We're no nearer meeting your MC or knowing what's happening. You don't have to start with flash-bang action but there's more needed here to entice a reader to read further.

'reluctantly reined' - 'cursed town' - 'smouldering mounds' - 'charred black'
It's as if everything has to have a label attached. It doesn't make for a smooth read, I'm afraid. Before looking at ways of introducing more emotion you have to have a fully-fleshed character in place so the reader can engage with him.

I suggest you start with Blaze (or whatever name you finally decide to give him) riding through the ruins. Keep the over-drawn images to a minimum. Sentences like this one (and the overblown sequence that follows it) suggest you're trying much too hard:

He dismounted with the swagger of his youth ignoring his fears, and approached the charred remains of a lifeless body. It lay in ruin unrecognizable, its scorched face locked in a silent scream of torment. Wisps of smoke curled away from its eye sockets like damned souls. It was a peasant’s body , there were no remains of armor or weapon. A sudden hate boiled from within, and Blaze clenched his sword hand into a fist.  This is the work of a coward.
This makes it a painfully slow read, I'm afraid.

As for internalised thoughts - they need to be italicised otherwise we'll assume they're the narrator's thoughts.
Don't pay too much attention to trying to create a feeling for now. Let's get to know your MC first. Too much emotion will again slow the story down to a standstill.

H3K

Offline MiggsEye

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Re: (200 words) City of Ashes
« Reply #10 on: October 06, 2014, 06:30:21 AM »
Obe:
I agree with H3k's assessment. Don't focus on the character's emotions. Rather focus on giving your reader an emotional journey by creating active description (more showing, less telling) and good and clear scene and story arcs. Check out the motivational-reaction unit technique, I mentioned earlier, as one way of getting there.
“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try” — Dr. Seuss

Pale Writer

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Re: (200 words) City of Ashes
« Reply #11 on: October 06, 2014, 06:42:12 AM »
hello

You do not show anything, so I would advise that you look into the difference between Show and Tell, rather than fill it full of things a reader doesn't need to read.

Offline Gyppo

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Re: (200 words) City of Ashes
« Reply #12 on: October 06, 2014, 07:25:58 AM »
Lots of good advice above.

But he dismounted with the swagger of his youth, ignoring his fears, and approached the a charred, remains of a lifeless body.

You don't simply ignore your fears or revulsion at times like this.  You fight them, deny them, shove them violently aside because of a greater need, such as looking for a relative or friend.  You don't just ignore them.

I think Blaze needs to puke his guts out, calm his horse which would be seriously unsettled by the smell and smoke,, and then carry on searching/investigating.  That gives a clue as to his character.

Unless you want to create a cold-blooded paladin whose only real emotion is anger.  If so be advised that such a character feels flat and uninteresting to most readers.  Good or evil, characters need a leavening of their opposite character in their make-up.  It makes them far more real to the reader.
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Offline Clarius

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Re: (200 words) City of Ashes
« Reply #13 on: October 07, 2014, 02:54:01 PM »
If you want to improve the amount of emotion/feeling in your work then just keep adding more words. If you want to improve the quality of your writing - if you want to provoke an emotional response in your reader - then that's a whole different matter. Who is your reader? What makes them angry? What we have here is a town we don't know and some dead people we don't care about. So why would we give a damn? We need to know this place, to know these people, before we can feel their loss.
O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us

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Offline Josh Cullen

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Re: (200 words) City of Ashes
« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2014, 06:29:43 PM »
Hi Obe,

I liked this. I can't do any more on the correcting front, because all that's been done by more qualified people.

It certainly didn't make me puke, but then it takes a lot to sicken me in that way. Either that or I don't have as vivid imagination as I thought. ;D . Initially, I caught the flavour of a Clint Eastwood 'Western', until I realised this is an historical, or 'sword and sorcery' type story. Maybe you could set the genre/flavour a bit earlier? It might help slow learners like me!

The main thing is, I think I'd want to read on.

Jay-Cee