Author Topic: Wraith Blood (Epic Fantasy), First 1,000 words, Content- swearing, mild innuendo  (Read 246 times)

Offline ajojo

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Alex, Squire to Lady Charlotte Dartmoore, breathed in the heat of the dim metallic fuselage. Energy coursed through his veins like jets of fire, constrained only by his tenuous energycasting. Before the heat could consume him, Alex redirected it into his lukewarm plastic cup. The stale air in the dingy cargo plane sharpened with cold that pricked his skin. The light fixtures above dimmed and wavered from having energy pulled away. But, at least, his tea wasn’t cold anymore.

“Mother of Earth and Heaven, do they really think boys turn feverish if they get warm tea?” It was his Knight and master, Lady Charlotte Dartmoore. With a scowl, she cupped her hands over Alex’s and applied a stronger pulse of heat. Unlike Alex, when Charlotte cast energy neither the air grew colder nor did the lights flicker. Of course, she’d do it perfectly. The tea now emitted steady wisps of steam, as hot as Alex liked it.

“Thank you,” Alex mumbled. He took a sip and let the bitter black tea soak his throat. “You don’t have to help me, though. You’re a Princess and I’m just your squire.”

Charlotte shook her head. “Former Princess.”

The denial didn’t resonate. Even here, in a drab cargo plane with nothing but bare steel and a half dozen hastily bolted leather chairs, Lady Charlotte had a presence that transformed the metal tube into a throne room. Her silver hair flowed from her head like a fine cloak and her violet eyes were sharp as a solium blade. She could have been Queen. Yet here the two of them sat, stuffed into a bare plane cabin while flying to meet her younger sister, Queen Victoria I.

Once the plane stopped rattling from the landing, Charlotte walked to the back of the cargo bay to inspect their luggage. “Go ahead and get the paperwork started,” she said. “Remember, keep your head and voice up. Don’t let those women step all over you.”

“I won’t,” Alex replied. He waited for the back-end cargo doors to open. A wave of cool, moist air rushed inside once the airlock broke. It was a welcome change from the perpetual aridness of Anderia.

Even under a cloudless sky, the cool climate of the Angleyan Home Island soothed both Alex’s skin and lungs. So many trees full of dark and vibrant leaves dotted the countryside, which itself was a wide sheet of lush, green grass.

The guard sitting at the security booth exiting the airfield slumped in her chair. Her eyelids drooped and fluttered as the woman fought halfheartedly against the desire to sleep.

Alex’s stomach dropped. This woman was already in a bad mood, and now Alex was supposed to talk to her alone.

“Excuse me,” he said.

The woman didn’t respond.

Alex braced himself. He uttered a soft prayer to the Mother for strength. “Excuse me!” He flinched and covered his eyes, alarmed at how loud and harsh he’d sounded. The guard hated him already, didn’t she?

“What?” She flailed her arms and nearly fell off her chair. It took her several seconds to straighten up and meet Alex’s gaze. Her blond hair was strewn all over her face. Had she been sleeping? The scent of alcohol permeated her breath. Hopefully, she wasn’t an angry drunk.
Alex forced himself to meet the woman’s gaze and slid an envelope across the desk separating him from the guard. “My… my name is Alex. I am a squire for Lady Charlotte Dartmoore. My ID number and Lady Charlotte’s credentials are here and I’ll be happy to fill out any declaration forms here.” He reached into his breast pocket and handed two envelopes to the guard.

The woman’s eyes drifted back into focus as she looked inside the envelopes and then back at Alex. “Where’s your Knight?”

“She’s… she’ll be here shortly. But I can fill out the declaration forms now.”

The woman shook her head and sighed. “Sorry, only the Knight herself can do that. What are you, her little bedroom toy?”

Alex, too flustered to look the woman in the eye, lowered and shook his head. “No ma’am. Just… just a squire. Nothing else.”

The woman smirked and glanced down at Alex’s waist and legs. “Right, right. My bad. Guess it’s bad manners to make a boy say such vulgar things out loud.”

“I… I’m only seventeen.” It was an excusable mistake. Although he was only seventeen years old, a recent growth spurt had made him as tall as Charlotte with shoulders and arms as thick as those of a man well into his twenties.

“Huh, well puberty’s getting to you pretty early, sweetheart. If you’re not careful, women might take you to be a lot older and more mature-”
“What’s taking so long?” Charlotte finally arrived wearing a backpack full of equipment.

Alex stepped back from the booth, scurrying behind his master. “She won’t let me fill out the declaration form. You have to do it.”

Charlotte swiveled her head toward the guard. Her violet eyes narrowed into ember-like slits.

The guard recoiled and nearly fell out of her chair. She bowed her head and wiped a bead of sweat off her glistening brow. “Sorry, M’Lady. I was just ordered to personally verify all Black Class visas. I didn’t mean to aggrieve your squire.”

“Well you did, and I bet you thought he belonged to some no-name officer. But guess what: my name is Charlotte Dartmoore. In case that still doesn’t register in your gelatin brain, let me tell you a little about myself. I’ve been accused of killing a member of the Royal Family before and got a Royal pardon to avoid execution. So, with that out of the way, I wonder what slap on the wrist I’d get for breaking your fat neck? That visa was requested by my sister, the Queen, so I suggest you cut the shit and make this as efficient as possible.”

The guard nodded with a vigor belying her soft and rotund appearance. It didn’t take long after that for all the forms to be filled and the gates to be opened.

Alex grimaced. He couldn’t help but pity the poor woman. Why had Charlotte been so harsh? The woman hadn’t been wrong. Alex really should stop pretending he was still a child. Perhaps get a uniform that better covered his shoulders and hips.

Offline Clarius

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Firstly, thanks for posting. So many don’t bother. Nor do they bother to critique. I guess they wonder why they should give up their precious writing time to someone they neither know nor care about. Here’s why I do. I’ve learnt more by attending to the mott in my neighbour’s eye than I ever would have done if I’d simply spent the time polishing the beam in my own. 😉

Here’s a quote from your welcome message.

“The extremely short summary of that manuscript is it's a fantasy story set in an alternative version of earth where due to a biological quirk (the birth ratio of girls to boys is approximately 5:1) it's a highly matriarchal civilization where women are- by necessity- the rulers, soldiers, and artisans of society. The fact that most humans on this world are born with a form of magic called "casting" which enables fantastical manipulation of thermal energy to summon fire and spontaneously freeze objects further blurs the lines as the muscular advantage that male soldiers would have in combat is rendered almost useless.”

Let’s have a look at your first 1000 words.

Alex, Squire to Lady Charlotte Dartmoore, breathed in the heat of the dim metallic fuselage. Energy coursed through his veins like jets of fire, constrained only by his tenuous energy casting. Before the heat could consume him, Alex redirected it into his lukewarm plastic cup. The stale air in the dingy cargo plane sharpened with cold that pricked his skin. The light fixtures above dimmed and wavered from having energy pulled away. But, at least, his tea wasn’t cold anymore.

^ Alex is squire to Lady Charlotte. A young man of good stock apprenticed to a knight to be trained by them to be a knight himself. A Padawan. Right? Keep that in mind.

^ If you had powers that could interfere with the electrical systems of the plane you were flying on would you choose to use them except perhaps in an emergency?

“Mother of Earth and Heaven, do they really think boys turn feverish if they get warm tea?” It was his Knight and master, Lady Charlotte Dartmoore. With a scowl, she cupped her hands over Alex’s and applied a stronger pulse of heat. Unlike Alex, when Charlotte cast energy neither the air grew colder nor did the lights flicker. Of course, she’d do it perfectly. The tea now emitted steady wisps of steam, as hot as Alex liked it.

^ I think you already told us who Charlotte is.
^ I wonder if usage wouldn’t have reduced the phrase ‘Mother of Heaven and Earth’ to the simple expletive ‘Mother!’?
^ I’m thinking Charlotte would be a mentor to Alex, so more likely to encourage him as might a mother (it’s a matriarchal society) rather than be irritated by his using his powers for something that seems as trivial as heating up a brew. If she’s irritated it’s more likely to be by his endangering the plane or drawing attention to the pair of them. Is there a code governing the use of these powers? Probably not, as you say everyone has them. If such powers were the exception rather than the norm it could introduce all sorts of dramatic possibilities.

“Thank you,” Alex mumbled. He took a sip and let the bitter black tea soak his throat. “You don’t have to help me, though. You’re a Princess and I’m just your squire.”

^ seems like he’s saying this just to tell it to us the readers. Maybe his simply referring to her as ‘m’lady’ when he thanks her would establish the relationship and raise the question in the readers mind as to why she’s waiting on him and not the other way round? Questions like this are the little hooks that keep the reader wanting to stick with the story. Not all hooks have to be chapter ending cliff hangers.

Charlotte shook her head. “Former Princess.”
The denial didn’t resonate. Even here, in a drab cargo plane with nothing but bare steel and a half dozen hastily bolted leather chairs, Lady Charlotte had a presence that transformed the metal tube into a throne room. Her silver hair flowed from her head like a fine cloak and her violet eyes were sharp as a solium blade. She could have been Queen. Yet here the two of them sat, stuffed into a bare plane cabin while flying to meet her younger sister, Queen Victoria I.


^ Is it Queen Victoria, or Queen Victoria 1(st). Does the latter presuppose another came along later?
^ Solium blade is good. It’s world building.
^ seems like telling and not showing. Maybe use dialog, both spoken and internal, to communicate this.

“Will the Queen by very angry,” Alex asked.
“Her,” Charlotte laughed. “You don’t have to worry about her, little Alex. Her bark’s always been worse than her bite.”
But is it, she thought, or has my sister grown teeth since last I saw her?


^ That’s mine. Back to yours.

“I won’t,” Alex replied. He waited for the back-end cargo doors to open. A wave of cool, moist air rushed inside once the airlock broke. It was a welcome change from the perpetual aridness of Anderia.
Even under a cloudless sky, the cool climate of the Angleyan Home Island soothed both Alex’s skin and lungs. So many trees full of dark and vibrant leaves dotted the countryside, which itself was a wide sheet of lush, green grass.


^ again worldbuilding, that’s good. But is it one paragraph or is it two?

The guard sitting at the security booth exiting the airfield slumped in her chair. Her eyelids drooped and fluttered as the woman fought half-heartedly against the desire to sleep.
Alex’s stomach dropped. This woman was already in a bad mood, and now Alex was supposed to talk to her alone.


^ always omit needless word.
^ we’re seeing this from Alex’s PoV, so is it ‘drooping and fluttering’ or ‘drooped and fluttered’?
^ why’s she in bad mood?

The guard, ensconced in her booth by the exit gate, half-asleep in the mid-morning sun, caught sight of his approach, and, with a grunt, heaved herself up out of her chair.

^ mine. Maybe now she has a reason to be in a bad mood?

Alex braced himself. He uttered a soft prayer to the Mother for strength. “Excuse me!” He flinched and covered his eyes, alarmed at how loud and harsh he’d sounded. The guard hated him already, didn’t she?

^ as I suggested earlier it seems you yourself have found the shortened form Mother to be more natural?

“What?” She flailed her arms and nearly fell off her chair. It took her several seconds to straighten up and meet Alex’s gaze. Her blond hair was strewn all over her face. Had she been sleeping? The scent of alcohol permeated her breath. Hopefully, she wasn’t an angry drunk.
Alex forced himself to meet the woman’s gaze and slid an envelope across the desk separating him from the guard. “My… my name is Alex. I am a squire for Lady Charlotte Dartmoore. My ID number and Lady Charlotte’s credentials are here and I’ll be happy to fill out any declaration forms here.” He reached into his breast pocket and handed two envelopes to the guard.


^ too many envelopes! Is he doing magic tricks? :)
^ permeated? Whose voice is that? If Alex is the PoV it’s Alex’s voice. Would he use that word? The words your character uses in both internal and spoken dialog show us their character. Same for the guard. Alex can’t know what she’s thinking, but he knows what she says, how she says it, and what she does and how she does it. All that shows us her character.

The guard crooked her finger at Alex, beckoning him to come nearer the glass.
Close to she stank of cheap gin, stale sweat, and garlic. A lot of garlic.
Alex stood there, wishing the ground would open and swallow him, as, behind her regulation issue sunglasses, her eyes took a walk all over him.
‘Oh my’, she said, her eyes lingering on his crotch. ‘Aren’t you the big boy.’


^ mine. Maybe says something about the society they live in and their places in it relative to each other?

“What’s taking so long?” Charlotte finally arrived wearing a backpack full of equipment.

^ why is Charlotte humping the kit about. She’s a royal lady. She has a squire. Why keep a dog and bark yourself?

Alex stepped back from the booth, scurrying behind his master. “She won’t let me fill out the declaration form. You have to do it.”

^ no harm to Alex, but he’s a bit weak. Not as a character, but as a person. Why does she have him with her? I know men are in short supply, but aren’t the woman just as strong? He’s a squire, a knight in training.

Charlotte swivelled her head toward the guard. Her violet eyes narrowed into ember-like slits

^ good, this is a good way to do physical description, feeding it to us as and when there’s a reason to do so.

“Well you did, and I bet you thought he belonged to some no-name officer. But guess what: my name is Charlotte Dartmoore. In case that still doesn’t register in your gelatin brain, let me tell you a little about myself. I’ve been accused of killing a member of the Royal Family before and got a Royal pardon to avoid execution. So, with that out of the way, I wonder what slap on the wrist I’d get for breaking your fat neck? That visa was requested by my sister, the Queen, so I suggest you cut the shit and make this as efficient as possible.”

^ Harrison Ford once allegedly told George Lucas off over his dialog, saying that just because he (George) could write it didn’t mean that he (Harrison) could say it. First, dialog needs to sound like something someone might say, and, second, like something that character would actually say. This right here is exposition through dialog, you the author dumping information on us.

Alex grimaced. He couldn’t help but pity the poor woman. Why had Charlotte been so harsh? The woman hadn’t been wrong. Alex really should stop pretending he was still a child. Perhaps get a uniform that better covered his shoulders and hips.

^ Did Alex grow so quickly they didn’t have time to let his clothes out? He needs to man up. Right now he’s hard to root for. Just seems like baggage she’s dragging around, like a rich woman with an annoying yappy little dog.

What I get from reading your first 1000 words is that its predominately world building. Establishing the reader’s place in this strange new world they’ve stumbled across. That’s fine. That’s good.

So, what is it you want to establish in our minds? Well. It’s all the above, isn’t it? It’s your story and that’s how you described it in your summary. Again, all good.

All writers, I include myself in this, struggle with show v’s tell. It’s like pornography in that no one can quite define it, but we all think we know it when we come across it. No pun intended. For me it’s the literary world’s reaction to the advent of media other than print: first radio, then cinema, and television. Now we have interactive games and virtual reality vying for our leisure hours and bucks. These media engaged the senses more than the written word ever could. The crunch of a footstep on gravel could induce terror. A curled lip portray disdain.
When I write I try to image what I or they – depending on PoV - see, hear, taste, smell, and feel if I was there looking on or if I was myself that character

So, firstly, this is a society where men are a rarity. How would that pan out? How could you show that? A matriarchal society?  Same sex relationships? One partner dominant, the other submissive? What jobs would exist, which would be defunct? Virgin births? (It’s coming…) Little kids scared by men because they’ve never seen one?

‘What is it, mummy’, the little girl cried out, ducking behind her mother’s skirts.
‘Shush, darling,’ her mother soothed. ‘It’s just a man. Like in the stories.’
The child’s other mother, her patriarchal, resplendent in the uniform of a captain in the civic guard, fixed the clerk with a stern gaze, and, nodding in Alex’s direction, said, ‘What in the name of the Mother is that thing doing on my flight?’
‘That thing,’ said Charlotte, stepping in front of Alex, ‘has a name.’
The captain sneered, sized Charlotte’s arm above the elbow, and, pulling her close to, stuck her face in Charlotte’s and growled, ‘Listen, breeder. Next time you bring your pet onto my flight it goes in the hold along with all the other –
The captain’s eyes widened. Colour drained from her face. Charlotte’s travelling cloak had fallen away from her shoulder, and the captain, catching sight of the regal insignia, let go Charlotte’s arm, stepped away from her, and, bowing from the waist, stammered, ‘M’lady, I didn’t know…’
Charlotte drew herself up to full height and, looking the other woman in the face, said, ‘You ever dare interfere with me or mine again Captain and I swear by the Mother you’ll end your career counting tampons in the Northern territories.’


^ mine, for what it’s worth.
^ I used the word ‘patriarchal’ to distinguish one mother from the other. I’m guessing in this society they’d need such nouns. I'm sure you can invent a better one.
^ ‘breeder’ is already in common parlance

You have good material here.

All of this is my own opinion. And you know what they say about opinions, right? 😉 You can take it or leave it. Good luck.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2022, 04:14:30 AM by Clarius »
O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us

 - Robert Burns

Offline ajojo

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Hi Clarius,

Thank you so much for your thorough analysis and honest feedback. Your opinions- especially on exposition through dialog overload- ring quite true to me and I’ve been making a concerted effort to cut down on it so thank you for pointing out more bugs to squash.

Alex being weak as a person- not as a character hopefully- is a bit by design. We’ll see if that works or if I end up making him too weak… but a running theme is Alex is generally conditioned to be timid by his culture and is constantly being propped up/saved/helped by the women in his life.

Once again, you have my sincere thanks for your time. I already have a better idea of where to go with editing my opening as well as things to look out for in the rest of my manuscript.

AJ

Offline RuneofAia

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Hello, fellow newbie.

For me, the first few paragraphs (and thus, subsequently that which follows) feel like they are almost there, but more as if they are abridged versions of the actual narrative. I have a general sense of my surroundings from the character's perspective, but only because I understand the general idea of the interior of a cargo plane. Personally, I would like to experience more depth in the exposition, or perhaps it's simply a lack of connection from one action, to another. As an example, the first two sentences are connected, right?
Quote
Alex, Squire to Lady Charlotte Dartmoore, breathed in the heat of the dim metallic fuselage.
This is magic of some kind, right? You are setting up that the protagonist has magical powers. It's not merely explaining that it's hot in the fuselage. More exposition could show us the details of how he consumed the heat of the air in order to transform it. What's it look like? Does it hurt him in any way? Is he nonchalant about the entire process? Is there some form of penalty for using his power to heat his tea? And then it connects directly to the second sentence, but for me, they felt disconnected at first.
Quote
Energy coursed through his veins like jets of fire, constrained only by his tenuous energycasting.
Surely energycasting gets seen in great detail, but perhaps a quick something to show us what it is -The ancient mystical art of the Monk Lords ... the old magic learned during childhood (or whatever the answer is).
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Before the heat could consume him, Alex redirected it into his lukewarm plastic cup.
Show us how he does this.
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The stale air
Is it stale now because he sapped the heat away? Perhaps a simile is in order here. 'The stale air was like ...' or 'The air was stale from ..."
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in the dingy cargo plane sharpened with cold
Here's another disconnect. Further exposition would establish a better transition in the fuselage shifting from heat to cold via his magical powers.
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that pricked his skin. The light fixtures above dimmed and wavered from having energy pulled away 
The explanation of the lights being affected could simply be one of the things that happens within the further expositionary responses to him using his powers.
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But, at least, his tea wasn’t cold anymore.
Once we EXPERIENCE him using his powers, with how it feels, what it means, and all of that, this last line about him doing all of this just to make his tea hot again will hit harder.

All of this should say a lot about who he is at this moment and establish the foundations of his character arc. Personally, I always love it when the first sentence sets up all that is come in some way. Your first sentence feels like it could do that, but I'm convinced that it does do that.

Cheers!

Offline Andromedus

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Hello AJ,

Thanks for the read! I'm not as practiced at reviewing as the posts before me, but I'll add in my two cents.

Quote
Alex, Squire to Lady Charlotte Dartmoore, breathed in the heat of the dim metallic fuselage.

This first line threw me a bit. Seeing squire and fuselage in the same first sentence left me trying to reconcile two very different images of what those words bring to mind. Where squire initially had me thinking medieval knights and fuselage a number of different vehicles, I was a little lost. A little further into the read, it started to click. I do like your descriptions in this paragraph!

Quote
The stale air in the dingy cargo plane sharpened with cold that pricked his skin.
Quote
Even here, in a drab cargo plane with nothing but bare steel and a half dozen hastily bolted leather chairs

Depending on the make of the cargo plane, they can be rather loud and difficult to talk in during flight. May be worth referencing this in the setting whether it be the noise level or a better crafted aircraft?


Quote
Unlike Alex, when Charlotte cast energy neither the air grew colder nor did the lights flicker. Of course, she’d do it perfectly.

This makes me curious about the magic system, I do love a good magic system. Does this imply that she is simply more efficient or focused in her use? That she was able to pull heat only from the fuselage? I'll be on the lookout for more on this!

Quote
He flinched and covered his eyes, alarmed at how loud and harsh he’d sounded. The guard hated him already, didn’t she?
Quote
Alex forced himself to meet the woman’s gaze
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Alex, too flustered to look the woman in the eye, lowered and shook his head.
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Alex stepped back from the booth, scurrying behind his master.

I struggled a little bit with Alex. He lacked so much confidence, I came away a little frustrated with him. This could all be part of his arc, and may be what you are going for, but wanted to mention this just in case. I know it states he is 17, but with him scurrying behind Charlotte, it was hard not to picture him much younger. Again, this could be the intent, but it did bring his likability down for me.

Just a few feedback points I had during my experience reading through. I think you have a very interesting world concept, and I'll keep my eyes out for the next post to continue the story!

Offline ajojo

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Thank you to everyone who has since commented on my submission.

Just so everyone is clear, I wasn't planning on posting future chapters in this forum or thread but if anyone is really interested, I'd be happy to send links to additional chapters either as a link here or via email, including the opening chapter here which I've edited based on many of your very helpful comments.

Your kind and constructive comments have definitely encouraged me to keep writing and polishing my work.