Author Topic: Scene - Trouble from a Troubled Man - Fantasy - Approximately 650 words  (Read 312 times)

Offline JWHMarshall

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Hey again Gang - this is my second post for critique. It is the first scene of an approximately 20,000 word fan-fiction piece I'm working on. I'm about 70 per cent through the first draft of the entire work. I would very much appreciate any and all comments and observations - even if it's just "I liked x" or "I didn't like x".

Thank you kindly for reading - I really do appreciate it!


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Scene 1 - Trouble from a Troubled Man

The mist was surely the product of dark forces. It was as slimy as the Pont Vanis docks at midnight. Even with his enhanced senses, Murtin Kelvi’ir, sitting atop his horse Shadrach, had spent almost a day now, as good as lost in it. It didn’t help that the men he followed had split their company several times as they rampaged through the marshland like a bloody stampede of crazed boars.

Murt followed broken branch and twig, footprint and trampled ground, until the oppressive, soundless gloom seemed to suffocate him. Eventually, the mist revealed a hill, a threadbare campsite and men standing in it. The smell of wet earth and fear was in the air.

“Ho, stranger,” a man said. He was a townsman - a big man, wearing a loose cloth shirt, pants and a conical helmet with rust spots. The man stooped and craned to look into the deep hood of the cloak Murt wore.

Murt slid off the saddle and shook the man’s limp hand.

“Murt is my name,” he said, “you’re men from Mournestead?”

“We are men from Mournestead, aye,” said another man.

This one was smaller, sinewy and had a week’s worth of stubble. He was dressed similarly and carried a makeshift pole-arm - a long handled hoe - which he leant against. In his other had was a rough glass bottle sloshing with brown liquid. The remaining men, a motley half dozen or so, milled together a few paces away as the second man sauntered to where Murt was standing. He smelled sharp, like rye. “Who are you?”

“His name is Murk, Athen - peace,” the helmeted man said.

Murt set his jaw and looked Athen in the eyes.

“His eyes, Tob,” Athen said to the helmeted man, as he studied Murt’s face. Then, to Murt:

“What’re you doin’ out ‘ere?”

“Looking for someone - a boy,” Murt said.

“Oh you are, are you? Well we don’t need your help finding the boy - finding my boy.”

“I didn’t take the contract from you, so need me or not, I’m looking for him until he’s found.”

“Is that so - and who hired you then?”

“Can’t say. That’s between me and the client, unless the client says otherwise,” Murt said.

He pulled back the hood of his cloak, and felt the bite of the winter air. The man’s bleary eyes slid over Murt’s features - his ears; his golden eyes; the scar that ran in a straight line across his nose, from cheek to cheek; the slash of silver hair that cut through his auburn locks - the product of more scar tissue on his scalp.

“Aaah,” Athen said, sneering, “well, look at that - a witcher and a half cast, and he’s ridin’ a plow ‘orse. What a merry feckin’ crew we got here.” He spat on the ground.

“Tell me, witcher, do you think you’d just come out here and we’d take orders from you? Not when we’re looking for my boy, witcher. Not then and not ever. I know what they say about witchers and their spidery ways.”

“Fine. I work better alone.”

“No one to answer to then, hey? No one to keep an eye on you.”

Tob took Athen by the arm and wrestled him away. “Athen… Athen, let’s sit down for a while.”

Murt walked back to Shad and rummaged through his saddle-bags for mushrooms and a herb that dulled hunger.

The sentient races of the Continent were more alike than they knew. Xenophobic. Sheltered. Superstitious. He shouldn’t have even looked for the men. Though that might have made things worse if he met them later, if he ever found the boy. These fools would be dead in less than a day. Then if he did find the boy, his mother might get her son back but lose her husband.

It wasn’t for him to change others' fate. He did what he was paid to do. He’d tried. He would kill the Foglet if he could but with these men, he’d tried.

Offline hillwalker3000

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Re: Scene - Trouble from a Troubled Man - Fantasy - Approximately 650 words
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2018, 07:20:51 AM »
I appreciate where you're heading with this. A solitary hero with a mission, challenged by numerous obstacles including other people's reactions to his being a witcher.

The main problem is that you feed the reader too much detail instead of getting on with revealing the story. There's always room for description and dialogue - as long as they help keep the wheels of the plot moving forwards. But in this case they tend to act like speed bumps.

Quote
The mist was surely the product of dark forces. It was as slimy as the Pont Vanis docks at midnight. Even with his enhanced senses, Murtin Kelvi’ir, sitting atop his horse Shadrach, had spent almost a day now, as good as lost in it. It didn’t help that the men he followed had split their company several times as they rampaged through the marshland like a bloody stampede of crazed boars]/s].

The comment about dark forces reads like authorial intrusion rather than something Murt would be concerned about.
'atop' - why the archaic language? Isn't there a better way of telling us he was on horseback? And do we really need to know the horse's name?
'a bloody stampede of crazed boars' is clunky at best. Isn't the word 'rampaged' enough to make the reader picture the scene with their own imgination instead of being handed a truly bizarre image? Reading is meant to be a two-way exercise. If you allow your readers the intelligence to fill in any gaps with their imagination, they are more likely to engage with the story and the characters and continue reading.

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Murt followed broken branch and twig, footprint and trampled ground, that's too much like a list until the oppressive, soundless gloom seemed to suffocate him. Eventually, the mist revealed a hill, a threadbare campsite and men standing in it. The smell of wet earth and fear was in the air.

So far this is intriguing enough - but then you hit the brakes. The dialogue seems to be there so you can present other characters to the reader. It's unnatural. And why should I care what anybody is wearing? You also have the classic predicament of having to keep track of too many characters - 'the big man', 'another man', 'the helmeted man'. It makes for painful reading.

Look at how this could be overcome without losing anything that matters:

“Ho, stranger.”
Murt slid off the saddle and shook the townsman’s hand. “You’re from Mournestead?”
“Aye. The name's Athen. Why do you ask?”
Murt set his jaw and looked Athen in the eyes. “I'm looking for someone - a boy.”
“Oh you are, are you? Well we don’t need your help finding the boy - my boy.”
“I didn’t take the contract from you, so need me or not, I’m looking for him until he’s found.”


You hopefully get the idea. Keep it simple. Make each sentence a springboard to the next in such a way that the reader even forgets he's reading because he's so engrossed in your story.

The description of Murt is fine - just focus on him and Athen and don't tie yourself in knots by feeling the need to keep adding unnecessary choreography or irrelevant dialogue. It's also important you attach dialogue to the speaker whenever possible:

Quote
“Aaah,” Athen said, sneering, “well, look at that - a witcher and a half cast, and he’s ridin’ a plow ‘orse. What a merry feckin’ crew we got here.” He spat on the ground.
If this is still Athen speaking, continue in the same paragraph otherwise we're left wondering who says these next lines. “Tell me, witcher, do you think you’d just come out here and we’d take orders from you? Not when we’re looking for my boy, witcher. Not then and not ever. I know what they say about witchers and their spidery ways nice phrase.”

Tob is a pointless distraction. So is the rest of the scene, including his meal preparations and the author's Wikipedia-like descrption of 'the sentient races'.

You're allowed to jump-cut from the scene with Athen to Murt's reflections on the task ahead without feeding the reader more filler:

Quote
Mort walked back to his mount. These fools would be dead in less than a day. Then if he did find the boy, his the mother might get her son back but lose her husband. It wasn’t for him to change others' fate. He did what he was paid to do. He’d tried. He would kill the Foglet if he could but with these men, he’d tried makes no sense.

H3K

Offline JWHMarshall

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Re: Scene - Trouble from a Troubled Man - Fantasy - Approximately 650 words
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2018, 08:52:19 AM »
Thanks for your comments Hillwalker - I appreciate your insights. You've prompted me to consider whether some of the structural and character stuff you've mentioned has a specific function in the context of the broader story.

I appreciate your editorial nous as well - I agree with most of your edits!

Offline Mark T

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Re: Scene - Trouble from a Troubled Man - Fantasy - Approximately 650 words
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2018, 03:58:19 PM »

I think you need to work on your dialogue. The opening narrative started well but the dialogue seemed to meander in terms of advancing the story-line. I do think you have something here - keep going. Remember that writing the first draft is the easy and fun part - it's the innumerable edits that sort the stayers from the faders. 

Offline JWHMarshall

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Re: Scene - Trouble from a Troubled Man - Fantasy - Approximately 650 words
« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2018, 04:12:28 PM »
So true - it's exhausting sometimes, redrafting stuff. Thanks Mark, for your kind words.