View Full Version : The Eternal Struggle Continues...

June 22nd, 2014, 07:39 PM
Pressed down under foot, the deck should creak. A veteran of the sea knows these things. This particular veteran could feel the weight of a presence on the vessel and it wasn't the pulsing presence of men sleeping below deck,entering perception through periodic drunken muttering or the sound of a shattering bottle, knocked to the floor by a stray hand. No,this presence was forceful, directed, it had purpose. Yet the deck wasn't creaking. This could only mean one thing. When you've spent over a decade taking what ever you can from whomever is unlucky enough to get in your way, you begin to lose the fear and respect of most dangers, but one threat is so, eternal, so interlaced with your fate,that you never take it lightly.

Bill tugged at the yellowing, chipped cork of a brown bottle tied to his belt. He'd need the courage, and a little more from this drink tonight.The taste was harsh, but it was the kind of unpleasantness you can come to enjoy.You know where you are with this piss, you know you'll forget just enough to take you through the worst of situations and you don't mind paying the price next day. A little suffering is a fine price for to keep living he reasoned. Bill took a final deep draw of the coarse fluid, swilled it around between his cheeks then spat like a geyser, soaking the decking behind.

Turning around to inspect the mess he'd made it seemed as though the ambient noises of the ship, the snoring, the creaking, ropes grinding against ropes had all stopped. Instinct told him it was coming now.

Clasping a worn steel grip between weather beaten fingers and against a calloused, oil stained palm, William the Bastard of the Trade Winds, pulled hard and spun a full hundred and eighty degrees, raising his sword arm so the chipped cutlass edge spiralled upwards. By the time he'd finished the manoeuvre his blade was held at head height, guarding the sailor's face.

He'd defended at the correct height. During the turn his silent antagonist had descended from the rigging above; shrouded in black and trailing material, like a falling flag but moving much faster. A glint of light sliced into William's vision temporarily blinding him as a delicate, folded, steel sword was drawn and brought to bare at his face. A lifetime of experience meant that William could react without needing to see; the trick failed to provoke a mistake. William held his cutlass steady as the swing and full weight of a falling man were focussed upon his blade.

He buckled, against an offensive like that even the strongest man will move, William knew the routine well though- the mortal enemies of the naval men relied strongly on muscle memory to develop their seemingly super human abilities. Knowing how to react the seafarer kicked up and outwards.The well travelled leather of his boot struck the black cloth covering his attacker's torso, but didn't impact the flesh with any force. The veiled figure seemed to absorb the energy of the kick and glided backwards as though the planks below him were ice.

William's retreats were not so graceful but they were just as functional. His back dash was a jump:left leg first followed by right; it maintained balance and covered distance. As he executed this back-step, passing over the grog stained-patch of decking, long red captain's jacket lagging in front of him, Bill flicked the top off a keepsake tinder box, the last token of a former life, and ignited its flame.

In the floor space he'd occupied seconds before two Kanji engraved throwing stars were dug into the wood. The shadow men, trained hard, they learned routines,they perfected precision and speed that an informally trained man such as William could never hope to emulate. However while routine brings perfection it also bring predictability. No matter how strong an attack is If you can predict where it will land you can prepare for it.

The Pirate dropped his burning tinder box onto the decking and hit the ground again just behind the puddle. The highly proofed alcohol almost exploded in ignition. As William had guessed his enemy had already begun the forward lunge, probably the assassin had renewed the attack before William had even begun to back step. There was no chance of him arresting momentum. The black rags enshrouding the figure were grasped and rapidly consumed by the flames.

William quietly observed the remains of his assailant for a moment. The fire needed to be put out, but, where there was one of these bastards... there was always another...

July 3rd, 2014, 05:16 AM
There is much good about this. I'll try to come up with some constructive comments. I see two issues: 1) A somewhat passionless POV character (maybe swashbuckling pirates are supposed to be dispassionate), and 2) strange sentences (I can't come up with a label).

1) Is the POV character, good, bad, evil, or likable? Are we supposed to root for him? What are his moods, his strengths, his weaknesses? The main character is introduced as, "This particular veteran", which is a fairly plain description. Are you sure you want that? The first villain is introduced as, "his silent antagonist". That's pretty "dispassionate" and not well-described. Short? Stalky? Smelly? Clean-shaven? You're describing the scene as if describing a TV show, rather than as if the narrator were inside William's mind. You write, "His attacker's torso". I can imagine William being blind, but knowing through experience and with good hearing where his attackers are, and fighting them off impersonally. He’s not blind, right? Because that’s how a blind person would tell a story.

Great. It will turn out that William is actually blind and then I’ll be embarrassed.

One trick that helped me on many occasions is when I was having trouble making a scene more personal, I would get a pencil and paper and pretend "I" was William writing in my private journal. Forget fiction--make it REAL. Become psychotic if you have to. YOU are William. What are you seeing, feeling, and doing as this scene takes place? Perhaps you're not feeling anything and you're thinking about yesterday's dinner while you fight. It's all good. THEN, return to your computer and enter in some of that writing into the 3rd person narrative of your story. You'll like what you've added!

2) Strange sentences. I say "strange" because I'm not smart enough to label them.

Your first sentence: "Pressed down under foot, the deck should creak." I don't think that's a sentence. Is that his thinking? Characters think the strangest things. If it's a thought, perhaps it should be in italics.

You write, "During the turn his silent antagonist had descended from the rigging above; shrouded in black and trailing material, like a falling flag but moving much faster.” A semicolon should be placed between two related but complete sentences. The second sentence is not a complete sentence.

Then you write, "The shadow men, trained hard, they learned routines..." Is the first comma not necessary? If so the second comma should be a period. I’m not sure...but something is up with that.

Problem sentences are fixed by looking at each one individually. Forget the rest of the story and concentrate only one the sentence. Is it complete? Is it clear? Is any part of it not necessary? When we write stories we spread out a hundred sentences like dealing two decks of cards. We need to slow down and look at each one alone to fix them.

You used the word "you" thirty-four times. I recommend changing all those "you's" to "he's". Give William the credit for all that wisdom, knowledge, and experience. Every time you use the word “you”, you take the reader out of the story and remind him/her that he or she is not William. :)

July 4th, 2014, 12:22 AM
Thanks so much for taking the time to feedback. Its all very sound advice I feel.

I just put this down one evening. I wanted to try writing an action scene and I just thought 'Pirates vs Ninjas- lets do that.' Then when I was finished I thought I'd put it up because I had no real plans for it, so maybe someone might get something out of it.

I think your point about not engaging the reader into liking the main character is great and this is a little weird and difficult to engage with as a result.

I don't regret making the character non-sympathetic because he is at heart a 'generic pirate' as much as his opponent is a 'generic ninja.' This whole conflict is as shallow as the characters. However the flaws you point out in making the reader care about the characters are absolutely valid. I think I'm unwilling to commit the time to fix them here but will take your suggestions with me in all pieces of writing that really matter to me.

Same with the sentence advice. It was a thought but i don't signify that fully. In truth this is an action narrative; no more. I didn't do it that well though for the reasons you described. Thank you for picking me up and providing me constructive points on how to do it better in the future :)

July 4th, 2014, 03:38 AM
This is great. ninjas vs pirates the age old debate. There is even a wikipedia page dedicated to the meme http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirates_versus_Ninjas. and yet you pull this off beautifully. Its not cliche, its not tongue in cheek, its serious and simultaneously believable. The descriptive prose are great, vivid and poetic, they work well to pull the audience in quickly. I really enjoyed this work. Hmm from a critical point of view I guess one question could be why the deck not creaking meant there were ninjas about. Its fine if there really isnt an answer and that was just a thematic device, but to some small degree this was a bit confusing.

I like the forethought of the pirate to spit on the deck, not the most believable thing in the world that a mouthful of liquor whatever proof would explode so violently as to kill the ninja, but again its thematic and clever so I can't really complain. I don't have any grammatical issues that I could find, otherwise, yea keep up the good work can't wait to see what else you cook up you clearly have some good skills.