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SVenus
January 26th, 2014, 03:44 PM
I'm writing a fantasy short story, and I just wrote the first part out of three. Tell me what you think, please. :)




I
THE INN


I take off my black iron helmet and enter the inn. Eyes of strangers look at me. So pathetic are they all. My iron boots connect with the cheap rotten wood of the inn's floor and immediately strangers hurry towards me, begging to be chosen.
“Pick me! Pick me!” one scrawny rat says, and dozens echo. All of them are the same, weak bodies and decayed skin and teeth and hair and the mind as well.
I take my claymore out of it's back scabbard. Holding it high it touches the ceiling, and the rats back away, rightfully fearing. With a sliver of my strength I shove my dear Erest into the floor. I notice the inkeeper giving me a sour look, it hardly matters. “Whoever can withdraw my sword can come with me and fulfill the prophecy.”
I walk towards the wench, letting the dear patrons of the inn try their best. “A glass of wine, please,” I tell her.
“Why, aren't you a handsome knight,” she says with a smile, revealing surprsingly good teeth. For a moment her eyes undoubtedly look towards the red scar that runs verticaly across my left eye. I would like to knock those teeth out if she smiles again.
I grab her wrist. “A glass of wine.” She backs away, her gaze uncertain, shifting from me towards the floor and back to me and back to the floor. Behind me I hear grunts and moans as the patrons try to withdraw my sword. I turn to look at them. Metal hits wood, and as I turn again to look at the counter, a mug filled with wine is on it, and the wench gone.
I taste the wine. Surprisingly not bad. I wonder if there is poison in it, most likely not. I spit the wine back into the mug, better not take any chance when I'm this close.
I stand up and look at the crowd, Erest hasn't moved an inch. One woman is sitting at the back of the inn. I'd hardly expect a woman to have the strength of body and mind to move Erest, but her passivity surprises me, not even looking at the commotion. I slowly walk towards her. “You,” I say, “do you not wish to try?” She looks to be about thirty, brown hair, brown eyes, white skin, white teeth, red garb, red lips.
“I do not converse with corrupt brutes,” she says.
Brave, I think. “Foolish,” I say.
“Why? Will you have me executed, my prince Erik?”
I sit at her table. “I do not have that authority.”
“It hasn't stopped you before.”
“It certianly hasn't.”
She smiles bitterly, and says nothing. Perhaps awaiting for me to talk, perhaps wanting me to leave.
“You know my name, I should know yours.”
“Ana.”
“Would you like to attempt my challenge?”
“I am flattered, but no.”
“I appreciate the sarcasam, but while it is true that you have to be strong to wield Erest, you also have be perceptive. And in this case perception trumps strength.” Judging by her eyes I seem to have arroused her curiosity. I lean towards her, she doesn't back away, and I whisper in her ear, “It's an enchanted sword.”
She smiles again. “Let's say I know how to use that claymore, how do you know I won't kill you with it when I pull it out?”
“You can try, but you won't succed.”
Without a word she stands up and walks towards Erest, still surrounded by weaklings and idiots, not one clever enough to study the sword before attempting to unleash it.
One man, if you can call that a man, yanks on the hilt, and is stunned when he sees Ana stand behind him, waiting for her turn. “Fuck off, Ana. This is for men.” I sense a history.
From somewhere even I didn't see Ana takes out a rusted dagger and coldly stabs the attemptee in the thigh. He shrieks and moans and falls to the ground, the dagger still inside. “The bitch stabbed me!” The tired crowd backs away as Ana crouches to take her dagger back, and unless she means death I see her first weakness.
“Don't,” I say. She doesn't listen and takes the dagger. Blood spurts out from the femoral artery, painting the rotten wood.
I take out a dagger of my own, grab the stabbed man by the collar and lead him outside. On the grass outside the inn I slash his throat and let him fall to the ground.
My entrance to the inn is blocked by the crowd, their mouths agape. Ana stands there too, holding Erest. I ignore the crowd and tell Ana, “Well done. Let us go fulfill the prophecy.”

thepancreas11
January 28th, 2014, 05:01 AM
So, you've got a very difficult situation here. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to feel for these characters, but I see them as full out villains at this point. If you're going for heroic, I think you missed the mark. If you're going for anti-heroes, which I am a big fan of, then I'm still not sure they work. The beauty of an anti-hero is that their motivations are ambiguous. You're not really sure what to make of them, and while they do a lot of shady things (i.e. Dirty Harry), they always seem to win you over. Neither of these two, Ana or Erik, is very likable, which makes them hard to sell. Having a villain as your MC is a unique attribute of your story, but you're going to have an up-hill battle trying to keep the reader invested.

I commend you on writing an intriguing intro here. There's no exposition: most of the work is done here by the action and the dialogue, both of which serve you well in framing your characters. I even have a pretty good sense of what kind of place they live in. I'm assuming these are vikings or northern scottsmen or some place with lots of wilderness and barbarism. It's a good fantasy setting. There are some awkward lines, but you could fix this easily by just reading your piece out loud (especially the dialogue). That usually fleshes out awkward sentences.

Your biggest issue can be summed up by that last line, "Well done. Let us go fulfill the prophecy." What prophecy? What is his quest? What is his motivation? What is he doing in this little place, looking for a questing partner? The character has a lot of personality, but not a lot of depth thematically. It is in your best interest to set up his purpose quickly. If you're going to tell this from a first person point of view and he's super-interested in this prophecy, wouldn't it be on his mind constantly? There are some things that don't add up, emotionally. There is no emotion behind that last line because there is no urgency or anger or sadness or anything that would make a person say something like that. Equally so, you are very nonchalant about him dragging that man out into the front and killing him. There's the line about him being a prince, too, which feels out of place, because if he's her prince, and she's in that bar, then why don't the other patrons seem to recognize him. In the end, examine the motivations behind actions and words, try to convey them as best you can through speech and action, and remember that we don't know anything about your plot.

A good start. A quick, easy read that just needs some fleshing out.

SVenus
January 28th, 2014, 11:11 AM
Hey, thanks for reading:)

I am going with villain protagonists, and since it'll be a short read (around 3000-3500 words, I estimate) I don't think they'll put people off, and I think the ending wouldn't work at all with them being heroes or even anti-heroes. When I'm done I'll post the entire thing.

Thanks:) You assume correctly.

Yeah, I think I made a mistake with that. I guess I just wanted exposition to be minimal at this point, and start the second part with a short conversation between Erik and Ana, explaining motivations, backgrounds, and so on. I'll edit in a few lines about the prophecy. Yup, that last line does feel a bit out of place, now that I think about it. As for the man, I was trying to be brief about it because Erik doesn't really care, and in a way spared him suffering because a major artery was nicked by a rusted dagger, and Erik assumed there wouldn't be any supplies nearby to treat someone who would bleed out in minutes. As for not being recognized, I tried to imply that he doesn't have any relationship with the citizens of his kingdom, and that Ana is in a way an exceptional individual because she is knowledgeable enough to recognize him.

Again, thanks for taking your time to write a critique :)

Jared77
February 14th, 2014, 05:33 PM
Regarding "What is the prophecy" and questions like that, I don't think everything has to be explained up front. Part of the fun of reading or watching a movie is experiencing the story unfold. That being said, there could be just a teeny more info to tease out what the prophecy pertains to, and this might draw in the reader even more. This relates to me as I have just posted the first chapter in my novel, which is basically all-action and little exposition. That's what future chapters are for. ;)

Another observation (not sure if this is relevant). The story is in present tense. Is this appropriate because it's in first person? I'm asking because I'm trying to make the transition from screenwriting to novel writing. I've had to go from present tense to past tense and it's been harder than I thought!

SVenus
February 15th, 2014, 01:13 PM
Yup, it's in present tense. The ending of the short story wouldn't make sense if it were in past tense so I just decided to go with present. I mostly write in past tense so the shift was a bit difficult and you'll probably miss some words, but you get used to it quickly.

Zeynith
February 20th, 2014, 07:41 AM
I agree with Jared. I didn't really mind that you didn't talk about the prophesy much since it is just the opening, I would assume you intend to go into it further later. Also plenty of stories are written that you don't know why people are doing what they do till the payoff. Always fun to watch all the pieces fall into place at the end. I did have some issue with how normal folk were portrayed. They didn't feel very real to me. This line struck me oddly as well:
I walk towards the wench, letting the dear patrons of the inn try their best. I assume the dear was supposed to be sarcastic but the line just seemed off after he called them rats earlier. Keep up the good work.

W. Dallas
February 21st, 2014, 01:38 PM
I would work on making your sentences more concrete and direct. Make them pack more punch. Many seem to meander a bit. For example,

"I stand up and look at the crowd, Erest hasn't moved an inch. One woman is sitting at the back of the inn. I'd hardly expect a woman to have the strength of body and mind to move Erest, but her passivity surprises me, not even looking at the commotion. I slowly walk towards her."

I stand, scanning the crowd. Erest hasn't moved an inch. One woman sits at the back of the inn. She ignores the commotion. I hardly expect a woman to have the strength to contend with Erest, but her passivity surprises me. I stroll towards her.

One woman is sitting, becomes one woman sits to get rid of the passive voice. Contend is more concrete than move. Stroll gets rid of the fluff adverb slowly and replaces it with a more concrete verb. That sort of thing. The story will be good. I like the dark, gritty vibe. Kind of Joe Abercrombie in feel.

Kepharel
February 27th, 2014, 11:49 AM
I'm not sure what kind of pitch you are giving me to be honest. The protagonist here oozes contempt for all around, so “Pick me! Pick me!” one scrawny rat says, and dozens echo. All of them are the same, weak bodies and decayed skin and teeth and hair and the mind as well. I'm left hoping that this anti hero guy has a reason for believing such a den of iniquity and social discord might under its roof have a person capable of this Arthurian style sword challenge. Again we have "One man, if you can call that a man, yanks on the hilt, and is stunned when he sees Ana stand behind him, waiting for her turn. “Fuck off, Ana. This is for men.” I sense a history." ​I can find no motivation either for why this poor unfortunate needs to be frogmarched outside to have his throat slit. The prose is, however, direct and pulls the reader along and if the subsequent storyline pulls it together relatively quickly you might just have a cracking, fun, good read on your hands :)

SVenus
February 27th, 2014, 11:53 AM
Well, there is a reason :P I finished the short story a while ago but I don't really like it. As for the reason he killed the man, it's elaborated more upon in the second part of the story. I might polish it up a bit and post it here later.

dagrar
March 1st, 2014, 10:45 PM
It's a nice read but at this point I don't find the main characters very likeable thou, they maybe a little further along in the story.

stormageddon
March 2nd, 2014, 12:29 PM
The writing is decent, the story seems interesting so far. My only complaint is that it doesn't seem very believable, at least with the information the reader has thus far been given. For example, the protagonists kill a man and it appears that no one bats an eyelid- if this is the case, then perhaps give a little more indication as to why. Is this a normal inn? What sort of people frequent it- paupers, criminals?

I am not sure if the crowd are standing with their mouths agape because of the murder or because Ana has succeeded in pulling the sword from the floor, but if it is the former, I still think a stronger reaction might fit better, unless it is an inn full of hardened criminals, in which case this reaction is perhaps too much. But if they are indeed hardened criminals, give us some indication of it.

I feel I would have enjoyed it more if there was a little more depth given, a little explanation of why a prince would seek a companion in an inn like this one, and how it is that a man could be killed in public without the killer recieving so much as a dirty look. It wouldn't take much to do this, just the odd clue here and there, subtly worked in.

Aside from that, it is interesting and well done, though in need of a slight polish :)

dither
March 2nd, 2014, 03:56 PM
Well, it pulled. Will you,SVenus fulfill?

Adding to what Jarred77 has said, if i may'

Does the word "Prophecy" HAVE to be in the actual story? AT all?

As for fulfillment, or not, might it be better left for the reader to decide that?

Just one person's view.
No offence intended.

MsPilgrims
March 4th, 2014, 12:34 PM
I liked this first intro to the story. I think it's a good start, it leaves you with the feeling of wanting to know more.

If I'd have to add something it would be a major introspection of the main character, maybe using some hints about his motivations and/or about his backgrounds... without a fully explanation, of course, just for captivating the reader. This sort of prologue may be good for a novel but, imho, not so good for a short story.

One more thing I'd like to say: I like prophecies, a lot!

iron_aufschlag
March 5th, 2014, 10:27 PM
Hey, thanks for reading:)

Yeah, I think I made a mistake with that. I guess I just wanted exposition to be minimal at this point, and start the second part with a short conversation between Erik and Ana, explaining motivations, backgrounds, and so on. I'll edit in a few lines about the prophecy. Yup, that last line does feel a bit out of place, now that I think about it. As for the man, I was trying to be brief about it because Erik doesn't really care, and in a way spared him suffering because a major artery was nicked by a rusted dagger, and Erik assumed there wouldn't be any supplies nearby to treat someone who would bleed out in minutes. As for not being recognized, I tried to imply that he doesn't have any relationship with the citizens of his kingdom, and that Ana is in a way an exceptional individual because she is knowledgeable enough to recognize him.

How about you have the not-so-prince-charming think more. He should walk into the bar, scrutinzing the common people cynically, doubting himself for even thinking that there would be one among those scum who could pull out the sword. He must also have had some thought process for killing the man. I mean, you had him think about knocking out a woman's teeth! Which, in my opinion, is off-putting even for a villain and is pointlessly mean.

Jake Creamer
March 6th, 2014, 12:25 AM
I will respectfully disagree with the last...I think if you are going to go with an anti-hero, or write from a villain perspective, you really need to make us hate the character...or hate ourselves for not hating him. In my opinion, one of the weaknesses of modern fantasy is that while authors tend to polarize a good vs evil theme in their book, evil characters rarely do anything evil, and good characters aren't usually unambiguously good.

I'm not sure if I'm making sense here, but here is an example of what I mean.

Tolkien clearly shows the selfish, power-craving, corrupting, evil nature of his great enemies. The Hobbit/LOTR we have Sauron, who is a corruptor of hearts and minds, who blackens the very soil of middle earth with his evil. In the Silmarillion/lost tales, we have Morgoth, who is so incredibly vile that he actually twists and perverts the good races, creating new species of evil races from the corruption.
The terror that these villains create, for the purposes of domination and control, is palpable in his writing. There is never any question about the terrifying evil that they represent. Every nightmare, every horror, every dark and demented act, is something that these evils propagate.

In my mind, that is the standard we should uphold when we do the classic good vs evil...or in this case, evil vs good.
I think that we as readers desire to feel strongly about the characters we are reading about, and I know that we as authors desire to inspire that feeling. That is one of the key goals of a storyteller. So I say take it all the way to the max! Not pointlessly mean like a 5th grade bully, but genuinely terrible.

cosmictide
March 14th, 2014, 12:13 AM
I definitely enjoyed the first part of this story, it does not give away unnecessary information too quickly and allows the reader to become interested in this man who seems to be the main character (or a prologue focus, could be read as either one). However, futher on in the story you are still withholding information which frankly is not working in your favour anymore. The people are interested now! Give them more of the world, the prophecy, the reason why this Prince Eric is known for killing pople, even.