View Full Version : Winter is to Blame - fantasy (:

March 28th, 2014, 07:49 AM
EDIT: thank you, everyone, for your critiques. This is now reworked and post here...
Gave the man a name and all ^_^

This is the first piece of writing I have put up for critic. First here, first anywhere, not counting essays for school. It was the beginning chapter in the book I am writing, but no longer has a place in it at all. So I put it here to see what people thought. About the way I write, what I wrote... anything and everything. I promise not to be offended (:

The name of the book is Candelfast.
This chapter is called Winter is to Blame.


One: Winter is to Blame

The man with no name stood by his window and watched the last snowflake fall. Day had crept up on him, the sunrise hidden behind marbled clouds. The snow had softened the sounds of the city. In the courtyard below was a single twisted tree, black branches laden with white and the nests of the vetr finch. Sometimes a girl with tawny hair came and fed them crumbs from her pockets, but today there were no footprints in the snow.
The man turned from the window, eyes searching the room. It was shaped by seven corners, a floor that sloped slightly to the west and a ceiling that peaked in the middle. Every surface was covered with maps. They fought for places on the walls, new maps pinned over old. They spilled off the bookshelves and chairs, quested over the ceiling and tumbled across the floor. His desk was a mountain of maps and any small, sharp object that he might use as a marker. Ornamental daggers, oriental knives, needles that still trailed coloured thread. A hat pin and a broken brooch. Shards of glass, shards of bone.
He reached out to sweep a clear space, not turning his head as maps and glass fell to the floor, loud as pin-drops in the silence. He slapped down a pack of cards. They were as old as himself, rough around the edges and crinkled from use. The man with no name shuffled and dealt. He cut the pack three ways, placing five cards to form a crossroads and one to appease Haweh. Some cards showed designs that had been banned from common packs for years; the black jester laying beside the severed heart, the huntsman crowning the ace of jades. Intense and intent, the man touched each card, murmuring in a language that only he remembered. At last he nodded.
Leaving the cards, the man with no name strode to the door. He did not close it behind him and winter light filtered into the passage, catching the dust in the air and making it glint like something beautiful. Bare floorboards did not creak as the man descended the stair. No one saw him pass through the hall. No one knew that he curled his long ashy fingers around the door-latch, that the brass felt cold against his skin, that he stepped out of the shadow house and into the world.
He moved through the city like a daylight ghost. He left no footprints in the snow. People passed him, sleepy-eyed and yawning, forgetting him before they knew he was there. A dog caught his scent and retreated, whimpering.
The man with no name paused at the edge of the city. He remembered the forest being closer. He knew fields were tilled on the east side, across the river, and so there the trees must be kept at bay but here they should be pressing close, the streets turning to forest tracks and these last houses so covered with moss that they might have been greenwood hills. Instead the houses were a scrubbed brickish white and the forest a black strip on the horizon.
“Interesting,” said the man, softer than a whisper. “I shall have to edit my maps.”
He thought that the old roads were still there under the snow, though it was hard to be sure. He followed where he imagined them to be and so presently came to the trees and entered in among them.
Now he turned his head, testing the direction of the wind. He crouched to read the tracks of rabbit and white fox. He took a pinch of snow in his fingers, sniffed it, pressed it to his lips and frowned. A howl echoed through the wood. The man started to his feet, coat swirling, muscles tense, a knife in his hand where there had been no knife before. For a while he stood, just listening. The wolf had no pack, voice rising and falling alone. Curling his hand around the knife, the man made it vanish again. A cheap magician’s trick.
The howling continued and he followed the sound, taking no path but weaving between trees and winter thorns until he saw the wolf, sitting by an oak, head tilted to the sky. She was young, not quite full-grown. Her fur was whiter than the snow and when she caught his scent and looked at him her eyes were cobalt blue. She thumped her tail, grinned a wolfish grin, pressed herself against him and tried to kiss his face.
“No,” he told her, gentle and firm. “Don’t. I am not as you remember. Where is he?”
The wolf thrust her nose at the twisted oak. It was hollow. The man with no name reached inside and lifted out a bundle of blankets, patched and frayed. The child was wrapped so that only his nose showed, blue-white with cold. Cradling him with one hand, the man undid his coat and slid the child inside. It was said the man with no name had a heart of stone, yet the child heard it beating and was comforted by its warmth.
The wolf whined, anxious.
“Hush,” said the man. One hand was needed to keep his burden steady but with the other he took the knife from his pocket. It was small, delicate, hardly longer than his finger. The hilt was tinged with green. He held it by the blade and made a slow fist, hissing as the edge cut his palm.
“Tannam,” he said. The language was unfamiliar to the wolf and she whined again, pawing at his leg. He shook his head at her, crouched to wipe the blade clean in the snow and offered his hand for her to lick. The taste of blood was strange to her, both salty and sweet.
“Good girl.”
A crow called a harsh, sandpaper warning. The wolf lifted her head. The man with no name passed his hand over the knife and made it vanish again. He turned his head, testing the wind. Another snowstorm was on the way.
“Winter,” he muttered, and did not sound surprised.

March 28th, 2014, 11:24 AM
I bought into this straight away, the prose is clean with no unnecessary descriptive meandering. The tone of the piece is set to arcane with mention of the tarot like cards and mountains of maps really setting the mood. If this is the whole chapter I would have liked, as a reader, to be confronted with a few answers and rather less questions and intrigue because I never really felt my feet and walked around your world. For a first chapter I would have hoped to settle more into the read than I did. One, highly personal annoyance :) The man with no name may be a label the importance of which will become apparent and required later on, but I kept getting images of Clint Eastwood. If you submit any more of this work I will deffo give it the time of day because it is quality.

March 28th, 2014, 08:21 PM
Thanks Kepharel (:

I've noted your points. More answers in a first chapter; I could do that. I think because I know everything I allude to, I forget that no one else will. I abandoned this as the first chapter two days ago, and now your comments make me want to rewrite it and keep it in :D
I've never heard of Clint Eastwood, but a quick google search tells me that this is an association I don't want at all!
If I do edit this, I'll have to rename name him.

Thankyou again :)

March 28th, 2014, 09:18 PM
Hi Ari,

Yeah...Clint Eastwood...I was brought up on Fist Full Of Dollars Movies and he was The Man With No Name. :) Having said that, what you have written is too good to throw away, I hope you can keep it in, and I'll gladly read more...Good luck...

March 28th, 2014, 10:47 PM
I liked this. It was very atmospheric and mysterious which are both things that I like in my fantasy. I agree that I would have expected a few less questions. I also would have expected more details of the world in a first chapter to help me ground myself in your fantasy. The way it feels now, I have a cluttered chamber, a city that I know nothing about, and a forest, all of which could be found in any fantasy book. I want to know from the get-go what makes your world special, what it looks like, sounds like, smells like, etc. It doesn't have to be overdone--and I agree with Kepharel that your prose is spare but still evocative--but there does need to be some of it, I think.

On that note, it also felt pretty short for a first chapter. It doesn't have to be 40 pages long, but I think this might go for 2 or 3 pages max in a book. I got more of a prologue vibe from it, which might be why you felt that it didn't fit and took it out. Also, you mention an "oriental knife" in the second paragraph. I'm not sure if you're referencing a style of knife, but the "oriental" bit took me out of your world before I got into it.

Interesting piece, overall, though, and I'd really like to see more. Great job.

March 28th, 2014, 11:12 PM
I liked it! Very interesting. I am curious where the next chapter is going to start and if it is a change in main character. The child maybe?

A few problems but nothing you wont figure out going through. Just difficult passages to read.

I am really looking forward to the rest. I hope you post it soon.

Apple Ice
March 29th, 2014, 12:18 AM
Hello Ari, thought I'd return the favour.

The first thing I noticed is that you say maps too many times in the second paragraph or so. It's a small thing but it was a bit jarring.

I'm personally not a fan of describing a scene as much as you did and think less is more. Just a preference, though. It got better for ma as it went on and things started to happen. An interesting piece I'd say and a good mysterious start to a novel.

March 29th, 2014, 01:01 AM
I enjoyed reading this. You do description and atmosphere well, and I liked how understated the magic and other fantastical elements were. However, as someone else pointed out this read more like a prologue that a first chapter. More than length (although it is kind of short), what makes this feel more like a prologue is a lack of conflict. The nameless man leaves his house, goes into the woods, and takes a baby from a she-wolf. Certainly this is all very interesting, and mysterious. But there's no conflict, or hint of conflict, which is something I think a first chapter should contain in order to get the reader into the story and characters right from the start. It need not be the story's main conflict, but there has to be some sort of tension there.

March 29th, 2014, 01:50 AM
Well, since the man has no name, can I call him Kakashi Sensei in my mind? :) Like everyone else said, quality stuff here. I just wrote this down as kind of a garble of thoughts. I hope you can use it without it being too specific or demanding.

The second sentence is very complex. Lots of images. Perhaps you would do better to point out a particular facet of the sunrise, rather than saying how it had affected him, how it's hidden, and about the clouds. Which sounds? One of the things that worries me about this piece is that you mention a lot of setting details, but most of it is obscure. Like Kepharel said, there's no footing yet. We, as readers, need something that is immediately relatable, not just a sunrise and maps. :)

Yes, I love the description. It reminds me of the kind of detailed clutter that one can find in anime movies. Everything would be jumbled, yet purposeful. Character location is important. I wasn't aware that he was sitting. "Slapped down." He was pushing stuff off the table; I thought he pushed the cards off as well. Your sentences are tight, but sometimes they conflict for the reader's
attention and vision.

I liked the card descriptions, but the "language" bit seemed a bit heavy-handed, contrived. I'm thinking, "So you want him to be mysterious and cool for knowing a language. Not really cool because it has no immediate impact."

Third "no name" mention. A bit of redundancy. If he left opposite of the window, then the light wouldn't be on that side of the house. But his room might just be dark. However, I /am/ getting the feeling that he's in a school or something, a monastery?

You know what would be cool? If the people who see him literally are forced to forget him a few seconds afterwards. He's really starting to feel like an old geezer. "Forests" section: Nice descriptive passages, but it's a bit vague. Hard to picture and draws me out of the story. Might be just me, though.

"A cheap magician's trick." Hmm, nothing else to really compare it to, but okay. This is like a blend between hard, wordy magic and soft, Gandalf-y magic. The dialogue is good; meaning, it works. But I'm not yet endeared to the guy.

Overall, I think you have a great start. Everything is set in place and works, to the effect that I believe you want to achieve. The scenery is there, the characters are setting up motives, there's walking... But I need some character motive, maybe some thoughts. Like Jaycee34 said, more tension.

March 29th, 2014, 08:32 PM
Thankyou everyone ^__^ I'm working on this (happy it's a weekend!) threading it back into the story and taking your suggestions. And to avoid Clint Eastwood, I gave the man a name. Only took about two hours to decide on ;)

Thank you once more!

Thanks for your compliments! I understand what you mean, and reading through I see how little information I give about the place. I'm writing in a bit more about the city (word count is jumping up like anything) and trying to give more clues about how the place works. Loved your comment most about the forest, chamber and city being in any fantasy novel; it's so true!
By oriental I mean a knife that is from the orient. I love the word orient and so wanted to have one in my world... Is it okay?

Thanks! Yes, there's a change in main character which is part of why I took this out in the first place... everyone's right when they say it feels prologue-ish. I am working on it (:

Apple Ice:
It was nice of you (: I'll see if I can't say maps less often... I don't like using the same word too many times and I hadn't noticed I had. Understand that you found the map-room was described too much but, with polite respect, I kind of like it that way. If I wrote everything in that detail it'd be like getting caught in mud, but I was hoping that a few parts like that would be okay... I'm happy it was interesting for you. Thanks very much for you critic.

Thank you also!
Yes... I see your point. No conflict. That's alright, I can fix that (: And I'm working on making it less prologue-ish too, and sliding it back into the story.

Kakashi sensei! ShadowEyes-san wa Naruto ga suki desu ne... xD
You find the second sentence complex? Okay... I can consider it :)
I agree with Kepharel too, that it's pretty obscure, and I'm working on that. Thanks for backing it up!

You say his room is like an anime room; you caught me! That's how I was imagining it, with stuff everywhere and each bit perfectly detailed. But he wasn't sitting. I mean, he never did sit down. You can lay cards on a desk while standing... but if you think he sat it doesn't matter much. He shoved the things off the desk before I mentioned the cards... he had to make room to lay them out. It doesn't come across that way? Because the two things happen too close together?

I'm grinning sheepishly about the language thing. It's funny you say it has no immediate impact because I actually added it in later. You see, it's not a language only he knows. It's a language only he remembers and that's important. But if it seems contrived I can try and say it somewhere else... Because I don't want to seem contrived, but I do want that sentence in. Is it okay?

Uhmmm... not sure what you mean about the light. His room is light because of the window. The passage is dark. When he opens the door (which is opposite the window) into the passage, the light from the window and the room sort of spill into the passage. It isn't clear I mean that?
How do you mean, literally forces them to forget?
Laughing at you calling him an old geezer. Love it :D

Thank you again for everything you said. It was a great critic! And I'm sorry I asked so many questions of you.

March 30th, 2014, 02:37 AM
Nice work. The only thing I would suggest is eliminating a few of the occurrences of "...with no name." And maybe inserting a blank line between paragraphs for readability.

March 30th, 2014, 04:05 AM
Thanks Trygve, for the critic and the like ^_^
I'm onto the 'no name' business now. It does get pretty repetitive... can't believe I didn't see it until it was pointed out!

March 30th, 2014, 11:09 AM
Hey Ari,

Nice job. Some parts are described in a bit too much detail for my taste, but if that is what you like its fine :)

I know the question wasn't directed at me, but I thought it was pretty clear that he walked over to the desk and shoved some maps and stuff off to make room for his cards. Also when ShadowEyes (http://www.writingforums.com/members/55694-ShadowEyes) mentioned they thought it would be cool if they were forced to forget I am pretty sure they were talking about:

People passed him, sleepy-eyed and yawning, forgetting him before they knew he was there
Being a magical effect. That he influenced them not to remember him, and to be honest I wasn't sure he wasn't. He wasn't leaving tracks and I believe you described him as a ghost so I thought he might not be all their :P
Anyway good luck on your revisions :)

March 30th, 2014, 07:50 PM
Ari, first, I have to congratulate you on your etiquette, addressing people's critiques and thanking them for reading. I try to do that myself, something I picked up from the forum. That's just a good habit to get into, and I commend you for it.

Concerning the story: Oftentimes I read a fantasy novel and find myself confused. Unfortunately, this is not different, and some of the other have already said why. For the most part, you've chosen to be vague. There's little to no exposition, little to no motivation behind the character's actions. However, rather than scolding you, I would like to offer a bold, "thank you". New to getting yourself critiqued, you already realize the importance of story over background, and that is a skill that normally takes years to perfect. Now, that being said, you may have gone a little overboard with the "I'm not telling you anything" philosophy of mystery-making, buuuuut, that's far more fixable than having to excise large quantities from you chapter. It provides a quicker read, something that's much easier to critique, and it's just cleaner. So, it turns out that your biggest mistake here is actually probably one of your greatest assets.

How to fix it: Well, I've suffered from this very issue myself, and I can only pass on what helped me fix the problem. Unfortunately, I can't take most of the credit for this; thank W. Dallas and Pluralized, two other forum members. You need a couple of grounding lines, something that can help us establish where we are, who he is, and what he's doing. You do a great job with setting the scene, so why not just include a line about his appearance? That could be just enough to intrigue us and at the same time, establish a time frame for the existence here. Right now, we have no idea WHEN he is, at the moment. Should we be expecting the 1400s? Or should we be in the present day? Who he is could be trickier. You want him to be a specter, right? Well, then do up the specter thing. You've already started by using some of those "no name" lines, but that's not really enough to spark my interest. For the first half of the story, I wasn't sure if he was a spy or not. Make the magic a thing from the start, maybe using a subtle undertone of mysterious things surrounding him. What he's doing, well, you're just going to have to say that. You could have him having an internal dialogue, that would probably work, but you have to give us his motivation for going out into the woods.

I really liked it. Don't think I would have spent so much time commenting if I didn't, really. It was a pretty interesting read coming from a self-proclaimed novice.

March 31st, 2014, 06:48 AM
Thankyou (: I'm glad that you understood about him putting the cards on the table. I can see now that it's a slightly ambiguous sentence, but if most people understand it right, maybe I can leave it how it is.
And thanks for answering that questions! I was thinking 'forceful forgetting' being whacking them over the head or something. Which I didn't want to do... but yes. He is making them forget, only I didn't want to say it directly. Just sort of... nudge you into believing that he's doing it.

Wow... thank you. I am especially glad that you like it, and this is a great help.
I'm trying to insert more information. It's hard to guess which pieces will interest people and which pieces will not help at all... 'grounding' is a good word to use. It's easy to understand what you mean by it.
I hadn't thought about giving a point in time at all.
Who he is, that's much trickier, though he does have a name now. A spy! He would be frighteningly good at that.
It's nice to know that my biggest mistake is also a good thing!
Thank you again for all your help. Everything you said is useful and I hope that my reworking will be better for it (:

March 31st, 2014, 08:46 PM
I like how the Man with No Name has conjured images of Clint Eastwood in the Dollars trilogy. What strikes me as funny is that he's never called this in any of the movies as well, and goes nameless only in A Fistful of Dollars.

The Man with No Name is a title earned, and I would like to see that here rather than him just having it right off the bat. The story hooks a reader immediately, and leaves them wanting more, which is what you want. My only other suggestion is to watch alliteration (ornamental daggers followed by oriental knives) also follow through with your metaphors, I loved the image of a man slipping down streets "like a daylight ghost" but couldn't help feel hung up on dust from floorboards hitting the light simply "like something beautiful".

All in all, I feel these are very minor critics and the over all work is solid, albeit a little obscure in its present form. I would definitely like to see more, enough to immerse myself into this world, and see it through the eyes of the Man With No Name.

March 31st, 2014, 10:53 PM
I am not a critique-r in any way, but I can say when I like and don't like something, and I really like this. I usually am not a fan of too much description, but I think the way you have worded things, such as the inside of the room, the way no one pays attention to the man in the town, everything really, gives a beautiful atmosphere that I can appreciate. I do feel that a lot of things are vague or mysterious, but if this piece was used as a prologue, I think it would lead into a larger story quite well.

As for the problems, I would just be repeating what others have said. The most jarring is the 'man with no name' being repeated is a bit unnecessary.

Anyway, great job with this, and if you ever post more work, especially from this story, let me know! I'd enjoy reading it.

April 1st, 2014, 05:59 AM
Clint Eastwood... yes, that was a mistake. I had never heard of him. Now I am wiser. It's nice that you enjoyed the association (I do not!) and you needn't worry about him earning the title because I have given him a name (: But I see your point, if I had decided to keep it in. Having no name is a big thing.
Do you mind if I ask what you mean by "follow through with metaphors"?
As for alliteration... I do it on purpose because I like the sound. But perhaps it doesn't sound nice to you?
Thanks very much for your critic ^__^

Ano... nihonjin desuka?
Thankyou for your opinions, if you do not wish to call them a critique (: I appreciate them. The nameless man has gained a name which hopefully wont jar, and I'm working on not being less vague. Thank you again, and I'm glad you liked it. When I put up the edited version I will let you know (:

April 1st, 2014, 01:40 PM
I understand what you mean about alliteration now that I know it was intentional. As for the metaphors, what I meant was you've come up with some great ones, like the one comparing him to "a daylight ghost". But before that the dust coming up from the floorboards hangs in the air "like something beautiful". I just believe comparing it to something tangibly beautiful would be a better description.

I think saying the dust caught the light like "stars in a dusky sky" or "a million mirrors shining at once" Sounds more complete.

As for the rest of the writing, it is wonderfully descriptive, and leaves me curiors for more, and that was the only line that really stuck out as not feeling quite right. I may be wrong (and wouldn't be surprised, I usually am, just ask my fiance :) ) but it just sems that "like something beautiful" is only half a metaphor.

I hope I was helpful, and I was excited to hear the Man has been christened with a name!
(And I highly suggest you check out some Clint Eastwood films, it will change your life.)

April 2nd, 2014, 04:46 AM
Ohh...! Thank you for explaining (:
I'll read it through again and might reword them... stars in a dusky sky. It's nice ^_^

Clint Eastwood will change my life, hey? For better or for worse... thanks again for your help, and I'm glad you liked reading it. Reckon I'll put the edited version up this weekend.