View Full Version : To Hell With It: Chapter 1

July 24th, 2016, 11:02 AM
With a lot of my writing recently I've been so focused on the quality of what I was making that I usually ended up deleting the writing because it wasn't up to an imaginary standard that I had in my head. So I've decided to try to post whatever I wrote, regardless of quality, just to force myself to put something out. That said, here's the first chapter of a series I've decided to name "To Hell With It" which will likely have no continuity and low amounts of correction. Critique is welcome. Enjoy!


The ground ahead of him cracked and shook, pieces as big as houses simply shunted up or down as though they were pebbles churning underfoot. The beast stood in front of him, staring at him, foaming saliva leaking from the edges of its mouth, outside its jagged teeth and trailing past its razor sharp tusks. Its predatory red eyes were fixed upon his own and angry. Very, very angry. It was the anger of a religious fanatic faced by radical heresy, the anger of a king forced to kneel. It was the anger of those faced with an usurpation of the natural order.

Trees fell before this beast’s path. Mountains were made hollow to its power. Rivers could not impede its progress. All animals and their lives were subject to its whim and all of them knew it and trembled. Yet this gangly child dared to stand in its path, dared to bar its way across the land, dared to enforce his will upon it. The manling would not be spared its wrath.

And Walter knew it. His shoulder and side stung fiercely from his shove against the charging creature, the skin torn and cut. Behind him the old woodsman raspily called out, telling him to run, to flee. It was the logical thing to do, the rational thing. The villagers had all fled by now, abandoned their homes and treasures to the monster. His master had fled as well, leaving his oh-so-important possessions behind, been the first to flee. Walter should have run.

But behind him, lying next to the woodsman, unconscious and bleeding, lay Nora. A gash on her head looked as though it had come from a piece of the collapsed building she lay beside, ripped apart by the beast’s charge. Walter glanced back, taking his eyes off of the creature’s, unable to stop himself.

He saw her.

He saw her beautiful eyes.

He saw their light fade.

The world stopped.

He heard the charging of the beast as it thundered towards his position out of sight. He heard the hoarse shout of the woodsman as he cried a warning. He heard the sound of his heartbeat pause for a split second. And in that second, he heard the silence of her absent breath.

The world warped and focused. Walter turned back towards the charging beast, only a matter of meters from his head as his heartbeat pounded to a drumroll beat. Suddenly it didn’t matter that he was a scrawny orphan fleeing his ruined village, it didn’t matter that he was armed with a rapier far too small to give him the slightest protection, it didn’t matter that he was going to die a wasteful death to a beast unheard of. All that mattered was the silence.

Walter drew the sword, the intricate sigils gleaming in the light. His skin burned with cold heat, emanating from his spine, spreading down his arms and legs until his entire body blazed with it. As the beast bore down upon him, he thrust the thin sword into its forehead. It cut through the monster’s spiny fur, pierced its impenetrable skin, lanced through its thickened skull. For a split second, the world around him was silent with her.

Then it burst into flame.

Walter felt the burning within his skin sucked into the sword in a sudden, painful flash. A silver inferno burst down the blade of the sword, incinerating the monster’s fur as it engulfed it. Its eyes bulged and exploded into silver flame and its mouth spewed the silver fire. For a moment, the beast remained consumed in the silver pyre; then, it simply crumbled into ash.

As the fire flickered away, Walter turned away from the remains of the beast. The woodsman was staring at him with undisguised astonishment on his normally stoic face. The destroyed building tumbled down a little more, the stone and wood forming a rolling pile. And Nora lay, her eyes open, lit only by the brilliance of the dying flame.

The silence took Walter, and the world went black.

July 25th, 2016, 05:16 PM
It was the anger of a religious fanatic faced by radical heresy, the anger of a king forced to kneel. It was the anger of those faced with an usurpation of the natural order.
I read this and was hooked. I love love LOVE this, adore it, especially the first half!

Oh my god. So, as soon as I read the above quote i immediately copied it into a comment before reading the rest, and I have to say the rest of this had the same impact as it did. I told myself not to leave comments that don't have SOME kind of constructive feedback, but honestly this is just amazing, I have zero issues with how it's written and I really want to read more!

July 25th, 2016, 07:43 PM
Interesting. It's something that I would continue reading if I was given the opportunity. I'm a little skeptical of the lines where you followed with three "He's" in succession but that is just my opinion. I especially enjoyed the way you described the beast's anger.

Thanks for sharing!

September 7th, 2016, 01:42 AM
First off, this is pretty awesome! You set the scene rather well and I feel the loss of Nora right alongside Walter. Would I read more? Yes, and this is a good thing.

There were a couple nitpicky things that jumped out at me. First (and this may just be a pet peeve of mine), Walter's name is mentioned rather late. It feels like you are holding back information for no reason and as a reader this irritates me. But again, might just be me.

Second, the second paragraph reads almost as though it's from a differend POV than the rest. I think its the last two lines that make it feel as though it's from the beasts perspective. It pulled me right out of the story.

Of course I was quickly pulled back in so overall, great job!

Jay Greenstein
September 7th, 2016, 03:52 AM
The ground ahead of him cracked and shook, pieces as big as houses simply shunted up or down as though they were pebbles churning underfoot. The beast stood in front of him, staring at him, foaming saliva leaking from the edges of its mouth, outside its jagged teeth and trailing past its razor sharp tusks. Its predatory red eyes were fixed upon his own and angry. Very, very angry. It was the anger of a religious fanatic faced by radical heresy, the anger of a king forced to kneel. It was the anger of those faced with an usurpation of the natural order.When you read this it makes perfect sense because you know where we are in time and space. You know why we're there, our history, dress, armament, and of most importance, our intent as the protagonist. For you the protagonist is filled with emotion. The protagonist has resources to call on, which will effect the decisions to come. So for you each line calls up images, memory, backstory, and more, all stored in your mind.

But what about the reader? They can't hear the tone the lines are read in when you tell yourself the story. They don't know the protagonist's age, backstory, size, or emotional state. So when they read, each line calls up images, memory, backstory, and more, all stored in your mind.

The protagonist knows what's going on. The beast knows. But the one you wrote this for has neither that knowledge nor a way of determining it. Reading further, in the hope things will clarify helps not at all, because no one reads to be confused, then have the confusion removed later. And the clarification isn't retroactive. So as they read this is has no context. Wouldn't it make more sense to write it like a self-guiding trail, where the situation provides its own context?

For example: if we meet the protagonist before the confrontation we would know if he's fleeing, hunting, or walked into the confrontation by mistake. That makes a huge difference in the feel of the paragraph.

Tell the story in his viewpoint and all the inconsistencies pop out at you and get fixed before the reader gets it.

• You say the ground ahead of him is in violent motion (for unknown reasons), with huge chunks of it jumping up and down constantly. You say the beast is enraged, Yet at the same time "the beast" is standing there, slobbering instead of attacking. Why? Because the plot needs it to hold still till the protagonist plays his part. How real can that seem to a reader who cannot hear your voice, and can't know what the line says till after it's read, so must guess at the emotion to place in it as they read.

• The beast that can knock down trees, has been stopped by a shoulder block by someone we assume is normal? And it made no use of tusks and teeth? Given that, the beast is a plot device, not a living creature with a brain.

• This terrible monster, who is feeling "the anger of a religious fanatic faced by radical heresy" is standing politely while our hero looks away to watch someone we know nothing about die? And the protagonist has taken his attention off of the monster who's out to kill him?

• Seeing "the light fade" from someone's eyes is poetic, but unrealistic, as is hearing their breathing from a distance.

In his viewpoint he's confronting a deadly menace. He won't be paying attention to the dancing ground (as an aside, I've been in a significant earthquake that didn't come close to that kind of damage, and I can tell you that neither he nor the beast would be standing). He won't be paying attention to the state of health of someone behind him. Would you? In life we focus on what matters to us. We don't posture and wax melodramatic. We get the job done. His goal is to survive. I could buy his knowing he stands no chance, but driven by rage over his dead woman he ignores everything but the need to punish the beast responsible for her death. I could buy that in his anger he discovers an unsuspected power (it worked in Matilda, after all). But without knowing what drives him and the situation that produced that motivation, I can't relate to the character. And if the reader doesn't feel empathy toward that character they have no reason to care. Readers only turn pages when they feel an emotional connection to the scene.

It's not a matter of good or bad writing, or even talent. It's having a deeper knowledge of how fiction on the page is structured, and why.

If, for example, you knew the questions a reader needs to have resolved quickly on entering any scene (the things I mentioned that you know that the reader doesn't), you'd have approached the opening of the story differently, and the reader would have the context they need to have the protagonist turn real. A few more tricks and you'd have a better handle on making the reader feel what he is feeling in the moment he calls now.

Forget the tricks of storytelling. They depend on the performance, and what the performer says is no more important then how they perform. But the page cannot reproduce the performance, only the dry words.

Forget the skills that were drummed into us in school, where we wrote endless reports and essays. That's nonfiction writing, meant to inform. Fiction's job is to entertain. And that takes a different skill set.

Forget the idea that we can simply write the story, then fix it in editing. If we make a structural error because we're missing information on that issue, we won't recognize it as something that we should fix.

Forget the idea that we learn to write fiction by reading it. Reading matters a great deal, but we see only the finished product with the problems polished away. To create that product we need the process.

As E. L. Doctorow observed: “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it’s raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” And learning how to do that is part of the craft of the writer, which is as necessary as the craft of the electrical engineer is to that profession. The great Ernest Hemingway said, “It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.” And if he had to learn...

My point is that a bit of time spent digging out the tricks that work for the pros can't hurt. And we certainly can't call ourselves serious about our writing is we spent no time or money on our writer's education. A great place to begin is the local library's fiction writing department. There are also lots of good articles on aspects of writing, like this one (http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/scene.php) on viewpoint, or this one (http://www.be-a-better-writer.com/scenes-and-sequels.html) on scene construction. Even I wrote a series for the hopeful writer (but I'm not allowed to link to my own articles in a post).

So keep writing, of course. But while you're at it, put some time aside to add a few professional tools. Knowledge is a damn good substitute for genius.

September 7th, 2016, 02:13 PM
Some good comments already - what I noticed was illogical placement of order. Main example - you keep saying the beast is in front of the protagonist, not on him yet, but he already has scars? Behind him, people are injured? Is this a second pass by the beast? Then he turns away from the beast, but I didn't notice he turned back to face him. The scene is clear enough otherwise, a David vs Goliath situation. Clarify the scene in logical order, right now it's rather a jumble.

Otherwise good writing, just some thoughts, hope they help. Good job.

September 13th, 2016, 10:41 PM
There are some good comments already, so I'll be brief.

I like it. I like seeing David stand against Goliath. I like that it's this moment, after its too late--after the thing that, we assume, is most precious to him is already gone--that his powers to kick the crap out of this beast appear. I like that I, as a reader, know that this moment is going to shape Walter's life and personality (and if it doesn't, it should). I like that his emotion is properly conveyed, even if its conveyed using a few cliches.

I do think its a bit too much describing details instead of emotions. I don't really care whether or not the buildings were collapsed and destroyed; I'd rather read that Walter noticed the buildings collapsed and destroyed because he was projecting how he felt onto inanimate objects. Also, I think its fair to say that this moment wouldn't be the beginning. We of course have to have a sense of Walter, Norah, and their normal lives before we can truly appreciate this moment of loss.

R.H. Smith
October 27th, 2016, 06:38 PM
I liked it, and I would read more. Ultimately, that is what matters. You can have the best prose, proper voice and tone, POV and all that, but if it doesn't interest the reader, what good is it? Nice work. I know people have questions and place posts regarding backstory, and why this happened, and what occurred to make him say or do something, but you don't have time to flesh out the whole backstory. If you as a reader liked it, advise on technique, grammar and the such...don't ding him on why there is missing information. Would you read another 1000 words of backstory to just read this? Maybe so, but unnecessary. :) Good job.

M.R Steiner
December 18th, 2016, 09:35 PM
I think this had a strong start in terms of word play, and I am a sucker for that. with that being said I feel it could use a few less adjectives. other than that I found it enjoyable, but I also feel it could benefit on a re-write as some of the immediacy of the last third seemed to drag for me.

all my amateur opinion though. still got to the end :)

and the first line was really well put in my opinion, for some that's the hardest part, keep at it :)