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R.H. Smith
October 27th, 2016, 10:13 PM
Hey all,

Looking for a critique for the first chapter of my MS. Looking for everything, mechanics, tone, POV, etc. Any and all critiques are welcomed and appreciated. If you need some backstory or more info, let me know. Here it goes!

Fäereä

Chapter 1

...Eyaaaaaaaaaaaa! I’m on fire!
Looking at himself, wide-eyed, he saw his whole body was aflame with an opaque black fire tinged with gold. His breathing quickened and his heart raced with the thought of not knowing what was happening to him. His mind racing trying to figure out what was going on, he realized he was not in pain. That thought alone calmed him, somewhat.
What in Gorezhell is going on?!
As he looked around to get some bearings, all he could see was that he was naked sitting down on what appeared to be a smooth black crystal floor which reflected his blazing body with a sheen glow. The floor felt cool, creating a mental conflict of what his body was feeling…or lack thereof, with what he was seeing. Getting up, he noticed he could only see as far as the light emanating from his body’s fire allowed…everything else was pitch black.
Where in Gorezhell am I?
Still reeling from finding himself there, he felt a gentle humming vibration coming from the ground, his naked feet ticklish from the vibrations. Not knowing what to do, he bent his knees in a defensive posture and swiveled his head left to right, trying to see anything beyond the light coming from his outstretched hands. He took a deep, calming breath to center himself.
Suddenly, the gentle humming vibrations became more pronounced, his feet going from ticklish to a prominent resonance. Feeling the change in the vibrations, he started walking, taking one or two furtive steps at a time and constantly searching for any sound or clue that might tell him where he was. After a few more steps, the vibrations ceased. He felt the sudden change and stopped, followed by a queasy feeling of discomfort, which he took as a sign that something bad was going to happen. His breathing quickened once again and he assumed a flight or fight posture, eyes scanning everything trying to peer into the darkness. As he did so, he could just barely feel another presence not too far away. His mind snapped then, and all his mounting fears turned into a muffled anger. He still held some fear, but most of it turned into a simmering rage directed at the thought of being in a place and situation he did not understand. As soon as that thought popped into his head, he thought he heard what appeared to be a low, throaty, grating chuckle just out of sight.
Not knowing what to do, he squared his face in set determination and moved toward where he imagined the chuckle came from. As he did, he noticed the opaque flames surrounding his body became enriched with more of the golden color, casting a hue of the same color on the black floor, reflecting more light for him to see. He kept walking, somewhat wary, but with a fierce determination he did not know he possessed. Then, out of the corner of his right eye, he noticed two glowing orbs, greenish in color. He stopped, and standing still, fully turned towards the orbs. The feeling of discomfort came back, this time stronger, along with more fear. While just standing there, the orbs seemed to float towards him, until they were just out of range of his body’s fire-light.
I don’t like this. How could I have possi-?
His thoughts were silenced as the orbs came closer. What he saw would forever be etched in his mind. Out of nowhere, the face of a black dragon snaked towards him until it stopped a fingers length from the front of his face. He opened his eyes wide in shock, fear and astonishment, taking in the beautifully intricate patterns reflecting off the dark scales above and around the two greenish orbs, which he now knew to be eyes. He was held in place by the awe and fear of having one of Fäereä’s most ancient, feared and respected beings staring right into his eyes. For moments, both creatures looked at each other, until the dragon mentally uttered one word…Jarkûräel. Upon hearing his name, Jarkäel sucked in his breath, as at the same time the dragon let out the most fearsome roar in his face he had ever heard ….
“Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!!”
Jarkäel awoke so suddenly and disoriented that he fell from his bed, breathing as if he had just run the entire length of Carlisle out of panic. He scrabbled on the floor kicking and lashing out until he regained his composure, realizing he was in his room and it was just a dream. He lay on the ground for a few more moments, letting his ragged breathing subside to its normal state, all the while thinking about what he had just dreamt. He wiped the sweat off his face and sat back up on the bed, glancing at the closed shutters of his room’s window and seeing the faint light of dawn creeping in. Walking towards the shutters, still a little shaken, he opened them, feeling a light chill breeze waft in and cool the sweat on his bare chest. He took a deep breath and as he released it, it came out in a small white puff of condensed air. He put his hands on the sill and stared out into the just waking city. A bustling port where many hawked, sold, stole or crafted just about anything you could be commissioned for, Carlisle was a city sprawled thin for the amount of people living there. Looking past the other shops and craft stores out along the street where he resided, he stared out longingly at the edge of the city, past the walls and guard towers, over the main road and on down to the base of the Vladden forest which was a few miles away. He mused to himself what it would be like to just leave everything and go out to see the rest of the world, maybe even becoming an adventurer or mercenary fighting off in distant wars in distant places, just like Crychek. A smile crept up on him, and he shook his head, seeing how he awoke to the same daydream every day.
He turned as he heard the ‘thump thump’ of his father’s footsteps coming towards his door to wake him. Jarkäel heard three successive knocks on his door.
“Jark, you awake?” asked his father gruffly.
Jarkäel smiled again, “Yeah.”
“Well hurry up, ‘cuz Crycheks on his way and I want you to be ready.”
Jarkäel walked towards where his clothes were folded on a wooden table next to his bed and replied, “All right.” He heard the ‘thump thump’ again as his father left and went downstairs to begin breakfast. He scooped his clothes up and left his room heading towards the washroom he shared with his father. After attending to cleaning up and a light wash, he quickly dressed in thick wool white socks, tan work boots, brown pants and a brown shirt with a tan vest and headed downstairs.
On reaching the table, his father brought out three plates, two with eggs, sausage and biscuits smeared with honey, the other one empty. Jarkäel sat down next to his father and both father and son started eating. In between bites, his father asked, “I thought I heard a scream or something come from your room?”
Jarkäel swallowed the food he was chewing and replied, “I did. I had the strangest dream, so vivid.”
His father smiled and raised an eyebrow, “Really? I’m curious. What can make such a tough man like you cry out in his sleep?”
Jarkäel smiled at the jest and replied after taking a sip of apple cider, “Well, it was like my body was on fire, although I couldn’t feel any pain. Then I –“, he got cut short as the front door opened and in sauntered Crychek.
Now anyone that knew Crychek would describe him as a bear of a man. Nearly seven feet tall, his body was muscle after corded muscle, honed by almost all his life constantly exercising and swordplay. His face was rugged with a short beard and somewhat bushy eyebrows. Two small scars adorned his face. One followed his left jaw-line half the length from his ear to his chin, gotten ten years ago in a fight with some raiders in a small town to the east of Carlisle around the outskirts of the Vladden forest. It was a known fact that he killed seven men in that one fight, receiving the scar as a trophy for his heroics. The scar looked like a white burn in his black beard about the width of an infant’s finger. The other one ran from the top of his right eyebrow down to his right cheek, just below the cheek bone. This one was older, given sixteen years ago during the War of Countenance. Both scars gave him a fierce appearance, but Jarkäel knew better. Crychek was a man that although he was supremely efficient at violence, he did not like it.
Crychek put his sword, L’brexad, down by the door and removed his bearskin coat. Jarkäel stared longingly at L’brexad and then at Crychek, who, smiling, noticed him staring at the sword.
“Ahhh, Jarkäel”, Crychek said in his deep, thick northern accented voice, “One day lad, one day.” Crychek winked at him and then turned to Rialdon. Rialdon got up from his chair and faced his friend. Both men then clasped wrists, as was the custom between sword brothers.
“About time you got here”, growled Rialdon. “Go help yourself to whatever’s left in the kitchen.”
As Crychek took the plate and headed towards the kitchen, Rialdon also noticed his son stealing quick glances at the sword next to the door. Rialdon chuckled inwardly and said, “Jark, what’s the one thing you really want?” Jarkäel finished his food and pushed his plate away from him, leaning back on his chair and shrugging his shoulders. Rialdon smiled knowingly and told him, “Come on now, speak from the heart.”
Jarkäel shot one last glance at L’brexad and said, “A sword of my own.” Returning from the kitchen, Crychek and sat down opposite Rialdon.
“Oh, really? And what, pray tell young master, would ye do with a sword?” asked Crychek.
Jarkäel saw both men looking at him, his father with an amused expression on his face, while Crycheks was more intense. Jarkäel thought about it for a moment and replied, “To defend myself and my family.” Rialdon smiled faintly and stood, taking his and his son’s plate back to the kitchen. Crychek took two bites and chewed with his mouth open, all the while staring intently at Jarkäel. Jarkäel returned the stare for a moment, then squirmed and looked at his cup before taking a sip.
Crychek swallowed and replied, “Aye, a reasonable answer.” He took another bite of his breakfast, chewed, and washed it down with some cider. “How old are ye now laddie?”
Looking back at him, Jarkäel replied “Sixteen summers.”
Crychek nodded and said no more, finishing his breakfast. As Rialdon came back, Crychek offered him his plate, which Rialdon took and went back to the kitchen to finish cleaning all the plates. Crychek gulped down the last of his cider, put down the cup and leaned back in his chair, all the while looking at Jarkäel, assessing him. He then got up and got his sword, came back to the table and laid the sword on the table, removing it from its sheath and laying both down one in front of the other; the sheath in front of him, and the blade in front of the sheath closer to Jarkäel. The table was a good eight feet long, while the sword was about half that length. Crychek sat down and asked Jarkäel, “Describe what ye see, lad.”
Jarkäel gazed down at the sword and studied it intently, knowing that nothing but the best answer would suffice. He started at the hilt, which was just wide enough to hold the sword with both hands. On the pommel was a green stone, which he knew was called an emerald since one of his friends was apprenticed to the local jewelry crafter and had shown him one once. The emerald shone and glowed as if it held a small inner energy, cut in strange angles, some flat and others round. Moving his eyes along the hilt, he saw that it was covered with a black lace intertwined with strips of red leather and green wiring. The hand-guard was the most intricately detailed piece on the sword, besides the blade itself. It was of a short, silver hawk clutching the hilt with its claws, its wings folded back as if diving for the kill, completely surrounding the users hands down to the knuckles, protecting them. Its beak was open in a shrill battle cry, the blade coming out of the beak. The hawk’s eyes were also made of emeralds. Running his eyes along the curved blade, he noticed a groove along the middle with two symbols etched on the bottom and top of it. It gleaned as if it had just been oiled, and he noticed no blemishes on the blade, but the blade was not to be outdone. Its sheath was of a greenish-bluish color, made up of some strange hard material that also showed no nicks on it whatsoever. It looked as if made of marble, with an effigy of the same silver hawk on the blade inlaid in the material.
How strange, thought Jarkäel. Crychek has had that sword since before I was born and it shows no wear.
Jarkäel proceeded to repeat what he had just observed; gaining confidence in the fact that Crychek had an approving smile on his face. When he finished, Crychek asked, “Anything else lad?” Jarkäel frowned for a moment, reviewing the blade once over again to see what he had missed. Then it hit him.
“Its blade is not as thick as regular swords.”
“Aye, ye got a good eye lad. ‘Tis true. Ye see, most swords are made for brute strength, meaning the blade is thicker and heavier for chopping swings. This blade is thinner, but by far no less dense, reducing the weight. It’s all about the speed, laddy. Why exert so much effort to kill yer opponent trying to hack through their defenses when ye can achieve the same result with minimal effort through speed and tactic?”
Jarkäel raised his eyebrows thinking, what he says makes sense. “I’ve never thought of that before, Crychek.”
“Well, ye’ve never had to defend yerself with a blade before.”
Rialdon walked in then, and as he did said, “Thank the gods for that, and if I have it my way, he never will.”
Jarkäel looked up at his father as he said that, then back to the sword with a longing stare. One day, he thought, one day I will have a sword that fine…I swear it.
“All right Jark. Time to head out back and start hammering.” Rialdon took a swift glance at the sword, marveling at its deadly beauty. He had seen the sword put to use more times than he cared to remember, and he never got tired of thinking about who the craftsman was, where it was made and how it was made. Too many times he tried to have Crychek tell him how it was made, who made it, or even where it came from. He even got him drunk a couple of times in an attempt to see if somehow Crychek became more pliable with drink in him and would reveal something that would sate his curiosity. But the only response he ever got from Crychek, drunk or not, was always the same…”Best me in a spar me friend, and I’ll tell all.”

bdcharles
October 28th, 2016, 10:49 AM
Hi,

Well, you hooked me in with the simple fact of the two diaeresis in the title. If they're good enough for Mötley Crüe, they're good enough for me :) The dream premise is pretty neat too.

Meanwhile you have some nice phrasings going on in here: "reflected his blazing body with a sheen glow"

It's also an interesting start, with this chap's body somehow made out of fire light. I love a good bit of faerie fire.

Now onto the crit. Think of this as an early draft which you can improve and improve as you go

Overwriting:
In several instances you use too many words, and things get overdetailed; eg:

He took a deep breath and as he released it, it came out in a small white puff of condensed air.
Why not "He breathed out a small puff into the cold air"
- because then you a. describe his motion efficiently and succinctly, without waffle, and b. invoke some coldness in the context of him doing stuff to the coldness, namely breathing in it.


It is a little tell-heavy in a number of places. What I mean by that is you are informing me of something being the case when you should be evoking it, for all intents and purposes making it happen. A little telling here and there is okay at the right moment but you need to mix it up with showing more to increase general readability. Example:


His breathing quickened once again and he assumed a flight or fight posture,
This is a high level report of what he did. It isn't making him do it. He is an actor, a puppet, and you are his master, so: twist him into this defensive posture; eg:
"His breathing quickened and he bent low to the rubble-strewn floor, arms raised over his head, lips drawn back and exposing grimy stubs of teeth." (or something)

Another:

Jarkäel saw both men looking at him, his father with an amused expression on his face, while Crycheks was more intense
Invoke. His father's craggy face crumpled in a sliver of a smile that seemed ringed with sadness. Crychek's black eyes bored mirthlessly into his own, and he laid a large hand on the dragon-head hilt of his broad sword. (for example - change as appropriate)


Filtering:
Frequently you talk about something happen but in the context of your character noticing it. Eg:

Looking at himself, wide-eyed, he saw his whole body was aflame with an opaque black fire tinged with gold.
Why not just "his whole body was aflame with an opaque black fire tinged with gold."
Otherwise it reads a bit "me, me, me". All those he-saw, he-noticed, he-felt, he-realised bits, barring a few just now and again to anchor us to him, can probably go.


Now, there are arguments to be made for and against starting with a dream. It can be seen to ask the reader to make an investment of time, only to fling it all back in their face when the character wakes up. Personally I wanted to have him start at breakfast, perhaps recount a very small bit of his dream to himself to foreshadow things, and then go off and let us see what's waiting for us out in the world.

Crychek - really? I mean, isn't this name quite tightly associated with the X-files? Might you risk being seen as derivative with this? Though there it is spelled Krycek - though unanglicised it would be Kryczek or Kryček. That said, I do like the Slavic names; I have a character knocking about called Znreč (pronounced Znurch - don't ask!). Not that hard to come up with something new.

“Describe what ye see, lad.” - also a bit cliched.

This bit of worldbuilding was well-written, sketching the land without saying "it was, it was" - but putting it in the context of a character-developing action (desire to be mercenary):

Looking past the other shops and craft stores out along the street where he resided, he stared out longingly at the edge of the city, past the walls and guard towers, over the main road and on down to the base of the Vladden forest which was a few miles away. He mused to himself what it would be like to just leave everything and go out to see the rest of the world, maybe even becoming an adventurer or mercenary fighting off in distant wars in distant places, just like Crychek



Sentence structure. Your first few paragraphs begin with similarly structured sentences: "X'ing at the Y, he did A, B, and C."
"Looking at himself, wide-eyed, he saw his whole body was aflame with an opaque black fire tinged with gold."
"As he looked around to get some bearings, all he could see was that he was naked sitting down on what appeared to be a smooth black crystal floor"
"Not knowing what to do, he bent his knees in a defensive posture and swiveled his head left to right"
"Still reeling from finding himself there, he felt a gentle humming vibration coming from the ground, his naked feet ticklish from the vibrations."
"Not knowing what to do, he squared his face in set determination and moved toward where he imagined the chuckle came from."

You can see that a familiar pattern starts to emerge. I can see why you use this structure, because it results in longer sentences which sound beefier than short ones. But meanwhile play with word order:

"His naked body, aflame with opaque black fire tinged with gold, crouched on a black, crystal-smooth floor and his head whipped side-to-side. What am I looking for? What in Gorezhell is going on?! But his thoughts seemed muddy, barely-formed and he raised his hands as if to ward off some unseen attack. From somewhere - the crystal floor maybe - something seemed to buzz and vibrate."

Again the description of the sword was really fine and intricate. Lovely detail on that. Why not extend out that descriptive ability to their immediate surroundings - again, in the context of character movements where possible to avoid infodumping.


Lastly: what exactly is happening. What is the big event? He had a dream about some snaky dragon beast, okay, that's cool. Then he's having breakfast croutons with some massive seven-foot geezer and his sword. If I want sausage and eggs, I'll shuffle downstairs in my pants and have some. Take me to fantasy dragon land please :)

Anyway hope all this helps. Definitely promising stuff!

R.H. Smith
October 28th, 2016, 04:44 PM
Bdcharles,

Thank you for your crit. Awesome stuff. You are absolutely right. My biggest problem is with 'show, don't tell' :) I am also working on that familiar pattern you are talking about, another one of my banes (damm you sentences!!) I liked very much your advice to extend the descriptive ability to the rest of the MS. I am getting a clearer picture of how to fine tune this bad boy. Again, many thanks for taking your time to help me out. Greatly appreciated!