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MizzouRam
March 31st, 2017, 04:03 AM
The following is a chapter from a novella I am working on. It's a pretty long excerpt and it was pretty tough to write because I had to make out the "logistics" of it. Tell me what you think.

VDeathless

When Remmy’s eyes opened, a shy fire was crackling in the pit. The night had grown dark and cool in his slumber. Sweat had matted his black hair.

“The woman”, as he had come to call her in his head, started as a whisper on the winds in the back of his brain, but lately her voice has become more and more refined, more and more clear. Sometimes, Remmy could not help but react as most men’s body’s react when a woman talks to them in the manner that she talks to him. Even though he had never seen her, you could hear the youth in her voice, that amorous sense of lust not so thinly shrouded in power.

He looked up at the broken stone wall in front of him, trying to make some twisted sense of her words. He knew she was real, the realest thing he had ever known, perhaps. Her voice was his closest confidant, chief adviser, and the only sympathetic thing left in a world that had moved past him. Even his shield-brother whom he had once killed for and who had killed for him, was gone, their friendship giving way to sobriety and familial love. With Markham departed, Remmy was truly alone in the world, a soldier without an army.

He couldn’t remember when she first starting ‘calling’ to him, but he knew that it was in his dreams. At first Remmy paid it no mind and discarded them as the machinations of a mind that had gone too long without the comforts of a woman. Or perhaps he was simply going mad, as the men with his past were known to do.

The hollowed out toll house he took for shelter that night was remnant of the empires of old, from the days when mighty Gol held dominion over this part of the continent’s trade. They were the first to erect these posts so riders could exchange important messages that needed to reach the capital and to keep the trade routes free of brigands. The vaulted thresholds of the gateway still hung over the Piper’s Road for hundreds of years, a testament to the ingenuity of the Golsch before the Reeving came down on them. Crumbling rampart walls obstructed the narrow valley’s passage on both sides. On top, two lookout towers pointed toward the sky, one broken and roofless. To go west around this would most likely cost another one or two days added onto the journey, he surmised, thus making this the likely site of more than one fight in its time.

Structurally, its days were numbered. The walls that hadn’t completely collapsed were cracked down to their foundations. Even some on the brick support columns had crumbled to the ground, leaving just one of their thin brothers standing sentinel in the middle of the exposed room, supporting the weight of the entire building. Remmy realized sleeping in here probably wasn’t a good idea. Remmy couldn’t help but marvel at the ingenuity of Golsch, whose ancient structures mark the lands all over the peninsula and beyond. [JaJ1] (http://www.writingforums.com/#_msocom_1)
He peaked out a whole in the rampart wall and saw that the moon was still high in the sky.

“I can still make some ground under cover of darkness” he thought to himself. Besides, trying to sleep after the women spoke to him was always a futile venture.
Later that day, as he and Caller cantered westward into the dark, he pondered the woman’s words. “You will see the truth in the red streamers like the warlocks of old.”
The only red streamers Remmy remembered were on those of his wedding day to Zerita, an arrangement more about business than love, he recalled. “Affection will come” his father would tell him. But there was always a void in him that neither she nor Plena, their young daughter, could satisfy. He told them the expedition to the Palatine Straights would be no longer than a half year, a lie that was about to turn four years old in a month or so by his count.

“She knew”…he always told himself. He knew that was for the best. Remmy was no father, and an even worse husband. Still, he hoped that she found the security she was promised when they married.

The flatlands were blacker than the darkest shadows on the earth that morning. It was a scary and soul stealing blackness. The sightless void was oddly calming to him. He often wondered if this was what death was; a pitch black curtain hung over the mind’s eye.

Eventually, the sun’s fiery orange sword did cut through the black sky. Remmy saw collection of tents gathered on the field not far from the roadside. He diverted Caller to a spot out of their line of sight. The camp was l organized but sparsely populated, the tents arranged in a circle facing inward toward a much larger canopy. But there were no people, no movement. Caller shuffled nervously from underneath him. Silently, he hushed the horse, petting his mane in long strokes. “Not yet.”

The time to kill was drawing nigh. Now was the time to wait, watch, and learn.

That night, Remmy made his approach toward the camp. Every now and again, Remmy would catch a faint smell on the breeze, a sweet and tangy odor, that put more and more pungent with each soft step he took as he creeped in to toward the camp. His body was painted with a thick coat of black mud, a trick that he had learned during his campaigns in Barbaria. A mixture of blackberries, ash, and thickweed would make a paste so dark, you could use to blend into starriest of nights. The Simerons, or the Ghost men as they had come to be known in the legion, would use it to harass the sixth in the rear whenever they had to pass through narrow terrain. It worked brilliantly until General Thelas cornered them in the Feltas where they died fighting, every last man of them.

That style of fight was always preferable to this in Rem’s opinion. The direct approach, your sword, your shield, and your brothers, that was where he felt best, at his deadliest. But he also knew there was a place in warfare for subterfuge, and trickery. Thelas used to tell his men the best generals will find ways to win wars without a single life being lost in the conflict. While Remmy had never been in a war without death, he conceded that one must always adapt to what the situation called for.

Every now and again, he would hear an unrecognizable word being spoken in the camp, but for the most part, it had been oddly quiet. One of the reasons he had picked night time to move in was because usually you would find a fair amount of revelry. But not here. Here there was just a queer silence, the kind that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand tall.

And then the smell came. What was a faint sent on the wind had grown into the pungent odor, the likes of which made his stomach roll.

Death he recognized. Rotting death.

Remmy was thankful to see that the torches and pit fires has been left unattended, helping his black silhouettes blend in seamlessly with the night. He stayed as low to the ground would let him, often times crawling in low grass, to avoid detection. The white orbs of his eyes pierced through the blackness like levitating marbles.

He drew his knife out of his belt as he ducted behind the first tent. His heart was pounding in his barrel of a chest now, the mix of fear and adrenaline pumping through it.
He peered out into the camp’s epicenter where a crude stone alter had been constructed, a large wooden statue hanging glumly over the it. Birds flapped and danced on its arms and at the base, where decorations had been hung.

Then a sense of mounting horror crept into the back of Remmy’s mind and began to spread like a plague across his body. This wasn’t a statue at all. It was something else.
“The innkeeper” he thought to himself, had been turned into some sort of crude trophy for the camp. Blood painted red stripes down the old man’s legs and dripped off the toes.
Carrion birds held court around the altar’s feet, pecking away at the non-descript fleshy mound on the top. Bits of the corpse’s rotting husk had been were strewn haphazardly around the camp. They had been at this for quite some time.

That’s not a man… Remmy thought to himself, seeing the corpses head. It had horns, two spiral horns, on a hollowed out ram’s skull, looking out from above the feeding frenzy huddled below.

As soon as Remmy stepped out from behind the tent, a bird looked up at him, a grizzly strip dangling off its beak. A squawk and a flutter sent him and his brothers into the air in a ruckus. That’s when Remmy saw the corpse in all its horrid glory.

Valen prick. The corpse was human, impaled on the pole, the contents of its stomach opened out into the alter. The head had been removed and replaced with a ram’s skull. Remmy stood there in a stupefied awe, then he realized.

“You will see the truth in the red streamers like the warlocks of old.” the woman’s voice whispered to him in his memories
Remmy took a closer look at the mound of entrails on the alter in front of him and his stomach rolled again. He turned to throw up and saw a half-naked man, wearing nothing but a loincloth standing there saying at him. His face, covered with a blank stare, was half hidden in a shaggy red beard.

In moment that felt like an eternity, both men stood there as if neither new exactly what to do in this situation. That is, until the bearded man thought of something.
“Korvin!” he said as slowly began to step backward toward the large tent behind him. Remmy chased after him.

“Korvin! An intru…”

When Remmy entered the tent after him, a feeling shocked relief covered him, as he saw the man standing there, a jagged iron blade sticking out of his back. Holding the blades handle was a young woman, her whole body trembling in fear. Her face was a dry mask of tears and dirt and days old blood. She was wearing dirty rags barely covered her body. The woman’s beauty was evident despite her unkept appearance. Somehow he instantly knew she was the one he was looking for. He didn’t know how he knew, but he did.
The man grabbed her violently by the throat and squeezed until her eyes bulged wide in her face. That’s when Remmy did what Remmy does.

With three lightening quick thrusts he stabbed the man hard, his blade slicing effortlessly into his groin, then liver, then his gut. He added a thrust to the man’s throat deep enough to cut his vocal cords, so his screams wouldn’t alert any of his cohorts.

The man dropped bleeding from five different holes.

“Mezzerine?”

“She sent you to me, didn’t she?”

“She?”

Remmy looked over her shoulder. Behind her another man lay dead at her heels, his life’s blood pooling under the gash in his neck. In the corner of the tent, four naked women huddled together, their faces terrified beyond description.

“We must go, now.” A thick braided rope clung to her ankle, Remmy started to saw through it frantically.

“You must be mistaken m’lady. I was hired by your father to free you.”

“No not my father.” She said her voice oddly calming. “The orc. The green woman.”

The rope split in half and a white stripe of horror crawled up Remmy’s back, freezing his entire body. “What did you just say?”

A commotion rose outside. Someone yelling.

“We must go. Before long half the camp will be awake and looking to find the ruckus.” Just then he heard voices outside.

He wiped the blood off his blade and stabbed the cow hide tent at the top of the far wall, dragging it down to the ground.

“Can you run?” Remmy asked, grabbing her by the hand.

She nodded, tears welling up in her eyes. The women began to beg at the girl’s feet. A single salty tear ran down her cheek as mouthed the words ‘I’m sorry’ before she followed

Remmy through the flap.

They sprinted as hard as they could away from the camp. Having trained his sense of the direction over the years, often times under penalty of death, Remmy had a keen grasp of the

distance between him and Caller, then the horse would do the rest.

Remmy stuck his thumb and forefinger into his mouth and tweeted two short whistles, galloped out of the darkness and into Rem’s way.

A furor could be heard behind them in the distance. Suddenly, a horn low pitched horn boomed access the sky.

“AAAAAAAArrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu”

By the time the time they heard it, Caller was in a full gallop, and what Remmy called the fastest horse in all the land didn’t stop until the first sunshine of dawn.

bdcharles
March 31st, 2017, 10:02 AM
Hi,

You have some brilliant phrases in here - really lyrical and evocative. Eg:

a shy fire was crackling in the pit.
“The woman” ... started as a whisper on the winds in the back of his brain
that amorous sense of lust not so thinly shrouded in power
the only sympathetic thing left in a world that had moved past him.
shield-brother
the fastest horse in all the land didn’t stop until the first sunshine of dawn.

I could go on. You get the picture. This ability to coin a unique expression is definitely a strength of yours :) so while some readers may stop and go "huh?" it does mean that your style is blessedly non-generic. You can afford to shed some readers if your prose turns the ones that remain into fans (OMG I sound like our sodding marketing dept - I do apologise! ;) )

Things to consider might be: your first three sentences are quite similar in length. You could very them up a little; eg:

"When Remmy’s eyes opened, a shy fire was crackling in the pit. The night had grown dark and cool in his slumber, though sweat still matted his black hair."
(no real need for "had" if this is happening in real time. Too many had's disrupt the flow)

Watch those tense changes:

“The woman”, as he had come to call her in his head, started as a whisper on the winds in the back of his brain, but lately her voice has become more and more refined, more and more clear.

^ in the above, I did wonder whether "started as a whisper on the winds in the back of his brain" quite worked. It is a little too abstract of a metaphor. Personally I think - keep it real and strange; eg:

"started as a whisper on the winds, and in the back of his brain"

But your choice :) It may mean something done your way, in the wider story.


And watch too much repetition:
", but lately her voice has become more and more refined, more and more clear."

Is "realest" a word? It doesn't really matter if it isn't, but using it will suggest a certain type of childlike or simple voice. Given that Remmy is, uh, aroused, at the sense of this woman's voice, I am guessing he is not a child, but maybe a fairly childlike person? Up to you.

You have quite alot of infodumping early on here. It's not bad info but we readers get a sense of: we're waking up - and here's a load of history; the house is old - and here's the back catalogue of all the old things that were around when it was built. As I say, good info but not so good for narrative flow. If you want that info to be present (and why not, it is very image-rich), then consider presenting it in the context of things Remmy is doing in the present moment (relative to your story); eg:

"As he warmed his hands around the orange firelight, he thought about the hollowed out toll house he had taken for shelter that night; remnant of the empires of old, from the days when mighty Gol held dominion over this part of the continent’s trade."

I mean, as I say, it's all great info. I would happily read a whole volume about the rise of the Gol and their dealings with brigands and all that. But that highlights the risk, that I may find the current story ends up not being "where I want to be". So as Remmy is creeping towards the camp, have him intersperse these memories or understandings of the history with something he is doing at the present moment, just so we know what is actually happening there and then, rather than what happened thousands of years ago. Or just write a prequel. ;)

With this:
"Remmy through the flap."
- Remmy needs a verb!


With this:
"that put [got/became/grew/etc]more and more pungent with each soft step he took as he creeped [crept?] in to [<- no need for the "to" as you have toward] toward the camp."

Apart from those things the SPaG is generally sound. This seems like a pretty good and exciting story. Anyway, hope the comments are of use - pls ignore if they aren't :)

Jay Greenstein
April 1st, 2017, 05:14 AM
When Remmy’s eyes opened, a shy fire was crackling in the pit.As the writer you have an advantage. As you begin reading, you know where we are, what’s going on, and whose skin we’re wearing. So for you, the word pit has meaning. But a pit can be a foot deep and the same across, or endlessly deep and huge. So with the first line the reader cannot assign a meaning to something that you clearly visualize.

As for what a shy fire is, this old scoutmaster has not a clue.
The night had grown dark and cool in his slumber.Uhh…the night grew dark? Isn’t dark sort of a prerequisite for night? Can it grow light and still be called night? You’re trying to liven up the story with language, to make the scene setting more acceptable. But that’s like gluing on glitter.

My point is that this is unnecessary. How dark it is matters only if he needs additional light. The temperature only matters if he’s reacting to it in some way. If not, it’s a weather report.
Sweat had matted his black hair.Why does this matter? We don’t know who he is and what his hair looks like when it’s not matted—or if it ever is. The reader is waiting to find out what’s going on, because for every second that reader spends reading about hair and weather nothing is happening. In short:

“Don’t inflict the reader with irrelevant background material—get on with the story.”
~ James H. Schmitz

• “The woman”, as he had come to call her in his head…

Here’s the deal: What you’re doing is telling the reader a story, using the same words you would when telling it in person. But that falls into several snags.

1. Because you’re telling the story as an external observer who is mentally watching a film, you already know the story, and will forget to supply details the reader needs. This line is a case in point, because as it reads, and given the reader’s state of knowledge, this is a real person, as the line is read. But then we learn she’s not, which is confusing—though not to you.

2. You’re telling the reader about the story, and highlighting things that matter to the plot, as you see it. So you wake Remmy, and then freeze him in place as you talk about the weather and the fire. Then you talk about the voice in his head and its history. Then you talk about a “hollowed out toll house.” (no idea of what that is, I’m afraid. I know toll booths, but not houses) You talk about its construction, its state of repair, and the danger of sleeping there. But what about Remmy? The poor bastard opened his eyes in the first line and he’s still lying there waiting for you to finish so he can get up and go about his business. You opened a live scene with a real person, and then told him to shut up and sit down till you’re finished.

But isn’t it his story? Fair is fair. Let the man live it. That's entertaining. Lectures aren't.

3. And that brings us to the critical point. You have a storyteller front and center, talking in a monotone because while you provide the storyteller’s script you didn’t provide the performance notes on how to tell the story. Verbal storytelling is performance art, and how you tell the story matters every bit as much as what you say, because the majority of the emotional content is given the audience via nonverbal means. Have your computer read it aloud and you'll hear what the reader gets. It's very different from what you intended.

A smile, the lowering of the brows, the flick of an eye, hand gestures and body language—they can change the simple words, “Jack, you truly are a bastard,” from high praise to deadly insult, or vice versa. Tone of voice, and all the other tricks of vocal delivery can do the same, or deliver it as a doctor presenting a DNA report. But while it matters a great deal to a storyteller, none of that makes it to the page. None. The reader gets only what the words suggest to them based on their background, not your intent.

So it’s not that you’re making mistakes, or about good/bad writing. It’s not even about talent. It’s that because you were unaware of the problems I mentioned you’re using storytelling skills that are inappropriate to the medium. And in that you have lots of company because roughly half of hopeful writers share the same problem (the other half present it as a chronicle of events which also can't work).

But it’s simple to fix. Since, at the moment, you possess the nonfiction writing skills we all learn in our school days and a set of verbal storytelling skills, you need only add the tricks of the trade of presenting fiction on the page. Simple, right? Except…

The except is that while we know what must be done, like any other field, fiction writing for the printed word has a body of craft and specialized knowledge that must be mastered. And that takes study, thought, and practice to make it as natural to use as those nonfiction skills. And I can tell you from experience that it’s a bitch. Your current skills will have been practiced to the point where they feel intuitive, and they will not turn off without a fight. But the good news is that if you were born to write, the learning will be filled with lots of “Why didn’t I see that myself…it’s so simple.”

Not good news, given that you’d hoped to be rich and famous by the end of the year, I know. ;) But it is news that we all face, and it makes sense that if we want to write like a pro we need to know what a pro knows.

A really good resource is your local library system’s fiction writing department. You’ll find the views of successful writers, teachers, and publishing pros there. My personal suggestion is to look for the names, Dwight Swain, Jack Bickham, of Debra Dixon on the cover. They’re pure gold.

Hang in there, and keep on writing.

MizzouRam
April 1st, 2017, 10:14 PM
Thank you so much for the critique. When you get a chance do you think you can give me your thoughts on the back half of the chapter. I know this thing is a monster, but I would appreciate it:)

MizzouRam
April 1st, 2017, 10:32 PM
As the writer you have an advantage. As you begin reading, you know where we are, what’s going on, and whose skin we’re wearing. So for you, the word pit has meaning. But a pit can be a foot deep and the same across, or endlessly deep and huge. So with the first line the reader cannot assign a meaning to something that you clearly visualize.

As for what a shy fire is, this old scoutmaster has not a clue.Uhh…the night grew dark? Isn’t dark sort of a prerequisite for night? Can it grow light and still be called night? You’re trying to liven up the story with language, to make the scene setting more acceptable. But that’s like gluing on glitter.

My point is that this is unnecessary. How dark it is matters only if he needs additional light. The temperature only matters if he’s reacting to it in some way. If not, it’s a weather report.Why does this matter? We don’t know who he is and what his hair looks like when it’s not matted—or if it ever is. The reader is waiting to find out what’s going on, because for every second that reader spends reading about hair and weather nothing is happening. In short:

“Don’t inflict the reader with irrelevant background material—get on with the story.”
~ James H. Schmitz

• “The woman”, as he had come to call her in his head…

Here’s the deal: What you’re doing is telling the reader a story, using the same words you would when telling it in person. But that falls into several snags.

1. Because you’re telling the story as an external observer who is mentally watching a film, you already know the story, and will forget to supply details the reader needs. This line is a case in point, because as it reads, and given the reader’s state of knowledge, this is a real person, as the line is read. But then we learn she’s not, which is confusing—though not to you.

2. You’re telling the reader about the story, and highlighting things that matter to the plot, as you see it. So you wake Remmy, and then freeze him in place as you talk about the weather and the fire. Then you talk about the voice in his head and its history. Then you talk about a “hollowed out toll house.” (no idea of what that is, I’m afraid. I know toll booths, but not houses) You talk about its construction, its state of repair, and the danger of sleeping there. But what about Remmy? The poor bastard opened his eyes in the first line and he’s still lying there waiting for you to finish so he can get up and go about his business. You opened a live scene with a real person, and then told him to shut up and sit down till you’re finished.

But isn’t it his story? Fair is fair. Let the man live it. That's entertaining. Lectures aren't.

3. And that brings us to the critical point. You have a storyteller front and center, talking in a monotone because while you provide the storyteller’s script you didn’t provide the performance notes on how to tell the story. Verbal storytelling is performance art, and how you tell the story matters every bit as much as what you say, because the majority of the emotional content is given the audience via nonverbal means. Have your computer read it aloud and you'll hear what the reader gets. It's very different from what you intended.

A smile, the lowering of the brows, the flick of an eye, hand gestures and body language—they can change the simple words, “Jack, you truly are a bastard,” from high praise to deadly insult, or vice versa. Tone of voice, and all the other tricks of vocal delivery can do the same, or deliver it as a doctor presenting a DNA report. But while it matters a great deal to a storyteller, none of that makes it to the page. None. The reader gets only what the words suggest to them based on their background, not your intent.

So it’s not that you’re making mistakes, or about good/bad writing. It’s not even about talent. It’s that because you were unaware of the problems I mentioned you’re using storytelling skills that are inappropriate to the medium. And in that you have lots of company because roughly half of hopeful writers share the same problem (the other half present it as a chronicle of events which also can't work).

But it’s simple to fix. Since, at the moment, you possess the nonfiction writing skills we all learn in our school days and a set of verbal storytelling skills, you need only add the tricks of the trade of presenting fiction on the page. Simple, right? Except…

The except is that while we know what must be done, like any other field, fiction writing for the printed word has a body of craft and specialized knowledge that must be mastered. And that takes study, thought, and practice to make it as natural to use as those nonfiction skills. And I can tell you from experience that it’s a bitch. Your current skills will have been practiced to the point where they feel intuitive, and they will not turn off without a fight. But the good news is that if you were born to write, the learning will be filled with lots of “Why didn’t I see that myself…it’s so simple.”

Not good news, given that you’d hoped to be rich and famous by the end of the year, I know. ;) But it is news that we all face, and it makes sense that if we want to write like a pro we need to know what a pro knows.

A really good resource is your local library system’s fiction writing department. You’ll find the views of successful writers, teachers, and publishing pros there. My personal suggestion is to look for the names, Dwight Swain, Jack Bickham, of Debra Dixon on the cover. They’re pure gold.

Hang in there, and keep on writing. Thank you so much for the critique. I do need to get back into some writing books.

Quick question for you. Have you ever read GRRM's "A Song of Ice and Fire?" I model a lot of my style after him because I want this world to be rich and complex. I see exactly what you are saying about unnecessary information, but I want to immerse the reader in a fully fleshed out world with it's own history, culture, and societies. How do you do that without boring the reader to death?

That was one of the things that I was aiming toward when I wrote the narrative on the history.

JustRob
April 3rd, 2017, 11:24 AM
I read this through quite quickly just to get the feel for it and I like the imagery but there are sufficient SPaG niggles to push me into editor mode from the fully immersive experience too often. It definitely deserves much closer attention and comments, so I will work on that when my time allows later. If I forget please remind me with a PM as I think your writing merits a little effort on my part.

I like the way that you show how Remmy's current experiences become integrated into his existing memories and perceptions, which is exactly how we all continually modify our view of the world. We never just think about the present. I am very much into the idea of the timeless mind perpetually trying to understand how all the knowledge that it has gained fits together regardless of when it was acquired. That is why my own website is called Mens Temporum, the mind of times. We simultaneously experience the present, draw on past memories and conceive the future in a constant maelstrom of thoughts. If our writing can reflect that process then maybe we're getting somewhere with giving our characters depth.

Oscar Wilde said that a story was only worth reading at all if it was worth reading more than once. Apparently in my eyes you've passed that initial test.

JustRob
April 6th, 2017, 05:38 PM
So since I offered to look at this item in more detail for you the powers that be here just happen to have clothed me in purple and made me a mentor. Don't think that that implies that I know any more than you about writing though because I only tried it once and a lot of strange things happened as a consequence. My mentor role relates to my interest in the beta reading activities in these forums, so my comments here are almost entirely as a reader and not an advisor on writing.

As I was an information technologist in my long gone working days I am naturally interested in the effective communication of information through writing. When you start to write you begin with a blank page, or rather screen I suppose, and similarly when the reader starts to read they start with a blank mind; well I always do anyway because I don't find that at all difficult, to tell the truth. I am a pedant and read the words literally in order to get exactly the information that the writer intended to impart. That way the picture painted in my mind should be reasonably similar to the one that was in theirs. That's the theory, but there are so many steps on the path from the writer's mind into the reader's and none of them is perfect.

When I first read your item I did so very quickly to get the essence of it and felt that it painted some very interesting pictures even though I wasn't sure what they looked like in detail. This time I'm reading it very carefully and making notes on the process going on in my mind as I do so. I have included some of these below for the initial section describing the toll house, just to illustrate the task that you set the reader. I strongly believe that the reader has to meet the writer halfway, not just sit back and demand to be entertained, but that reader must get sufficient payback to keep on reading. Too many obstacles in the text may put that payback into the red and the battle will be lost. There are two distinct sides to writing, conceiving a message worth passing on and finding a way to pass it on effectively. Eventually the writer must hone his words as perfectly as possible for his target readership, but in the meantime he will rely on more tolerant readers, like us crowd here, to overlook the imperfections in his WIP. That is well understood here, but ...

You are writing a novella, which is a good length of work for beta readers in this forum to tackle, but how well written will it be when, and I do hope there will be a time when, you offer it to them? So far, as I read your work I see little errors which are fogging up my perception of the pictures that you are trying to create in my mind. For a while I had an image of the toll house as a building with a walled upper storey standing on pillars beneath and then above two pointed towers stood like minarets. Somehow the road adjacent to the gateway in the building had subsided so that the threshold hung over it. At the speed that my mind conjures up such images I already had visions of seasonal floodwater pouring down the valley and running under the building, which would explain why it stood on pillars, and perhaps it was this floodwater that had caused the road to subside. That was all an illusion in my mind though, created by some small errors in your draft. As a reader I place the creative power of my mind entirely at your disposal and it's your task to use it precisely to do what you will. Okay, so in small doses like here we can overcome the fog and see your brilliant phrases shining through, but when will you put right these niggling little problems?

As a novice writer myself I have been here, torn between setting down the ideas and logistics crowding relentlessly into my mind before they evaporate and cursing my incompetent fingers for not being able to hit the right keys fast enough, the stupid spelling checker for trying to correct automatically the garbled mess that they produce and my life in general for interfering with my writing sessions. There are certain times when reading back what has actually found its way onto the screen is most effective. One is immediately after typing maybe just a sentence, when one can check SPaG and so on. Another is long enough after that one's intentions are still fresh in one's mind but the precise words that one wrote are not. The difficulty is in actually reading what is there rather than seeing what one expects to be there from memory. The last is after the fire of one's enthusiasm had died away and one can assess one's efforts critically purely as a reader.

I have written this long missive for two reasons. The first is to ask you to consider what order you are planning to do things in, and certainly they must be done eventually. The more you write the more the future task of tidying it up becomes. The second is to explain why I appear to have put a substantial amount of red ink on this thread, which might suggest that there is a lot wrong with your writing when there probably isn't. I don't actually know yet because I can only experience your story as you want me to when I have cleared away this initial fog and my misconceptions caused by it. I am quite possibly the most pedantic reader that you'll ever encounter, so bear that in mind.

I'll continue working my way through your piece and let you know my views overall in a PM eventually, but please bear in mind that I suspect that it's worth it or else I wouldn't be doing it. Keep at it.


When Remmy’s eyes opened, a shy fire was crackling in the pit. {Clever stuff} The night had grown dark and cool in his slumber. Sweat had matted his black hair. {but not from it growing cold? From something earlier then?}

“The woman”, as he had come to call her in his head, started as a whisper on the winds in the back of his brain{nice imagery}, but lately her voice has had become more and more refined, more and more clear. Sometimes, Remmy could not help but react as most men’s body’s bodies react when a woman talks to them in the manner that she talks talked to him. Even though he had never seen her, you he could hear the youth in her voice, that amorous sense of lust not so thinly shrouded in power.

He looked up at the broken stone wall in front of him {why?}, trying to make some twisted sense of her words. He knew she was real {how?}, the realest thing he had ever known, perhaps. Her voice was his closest confidant, chief adviser, and the only sympathetic thing left in a world that had moved past him. Even his shield-brother, whom he had once killed for {To avoid the ugly "for and" here move the "for" in front of the "whom". It's better English and reads better, I'd say} and who had killed for him, was gone {in what sense?}, their friendship giving way to sobriety and familial love {Is that meant to be more or less valuable than friendship here?}. With Markham departed, Remmy was truly alone in the world, a soldier without an army.

He couldn’t remember when she first starting ‘calling’ to him, but he knew that it was in his dreams. At first Remmy paid it no mind and discarded them as the machinations of a mind that had gone too long without the comforts of a woman. Or {Is this good grammar? I don't know.} perhaps he was simply going mad, as the men with his past were known to do.

The hollowed out {meaning "shell of a" I suppose, but I had to think what you meant.} toll house he took for shelter that night was a remnant of the empires of old, from the days when mighty Gol held dominion over this part of the continent’s trade. They {They who? Oh, the empires. Okay} were the first to erect these posts so that? riders could exchange important messages that {and then delete this "that" to avoid having too many.} needed {and make this "needing"} to reach the capital and to keep the trade routes free of {"of" or "from"? Hmm.} brigands. The vaulted thresholds {What? The threshold is the part at the bottom, not the top. Maybe just say "vaulting" instead.} of the gateway still hung over the Piper’s Road for hundreds of years, a testament to the ingenuity of the Golsch before the Reeving came down on them. Crumbling rampart walls obstructed the narrow valley’s passage on both sides. On top, two lookout towers pointed toward the sky {obviously}, one broken {whereabouts?}and roofless. To go west around this {this what? You were just talking about two towers and before that crumbling walls. There's been no singular "this" has there? Oh, the toll house, but that was way back, so remind me again here.} would most likely cost another one or two days added onto the journey{If it's his journey then "the" is correct, but if it's a hypothetical one it should be "a journey"}, he surmised {One would assume that he surmised it because you're clearly writing from his POV, so omit this}, thus {not really necessary} making this the likely site of more than one fight in its time. {as opposed to the structure crumbling away all by itself? I think you could be stating things the wrong way round here, deducing that the fighting occurred at all here, which is obvious, rather than why specifically here, but I could be splitting hairs.}

Structurally, its {"its"? Er yes, the toll house's. Got that now.} days were numbered. The walls that hadn’t completely collapsed were cracked down to their foundations. Even some on of {For a moment there I thought you were talking about walls on columns.) the brick support columns had crumbled to the ground, leaving just one of their thin brothers standing sentinel in the middle of the exposed room, supporting the weight of the entire building. Remmy realized sleeping in here probably wasn’t a good idea. Remmy He couldn’t help but marvel at the ingenuity of Golsch {Who's he? Oh, you mean the Golsch, I assume.}, whose ancient structures mark the lands all over the peninsula and beyond. [JaJ1] (http://www.writingforums.com/#_msocom_1)
He peaked out a whole peeked out a hole in the rampart wall and saw that the moon was still high in the sky.

“I can still make some ground under cover of darkness” he thought to himself. Besides, trying to sleep after the women spoke to him was always a futile venture.
Later that day, {The scene has changed, so you need the new paragraph spaced down here.} as he and Caller cantered westward into the dark, he pondered the woman’s words. “You will see the truth in the red streamers like the warlocks of old.” {Perhaps you could have mentioned what she said when she said it earlier, when he was staring at that wall I assume.}

Jay Greenstein
April 6th, 2017, 10:24 PM
I model a lot of my style after him because I want this world to be rich and complexI see where you're doing that, but take another look at his work. He does a good deal or exposition, but it's all relevant to the action., and interspersed with it. Here, the poor guy opens his eyes, sees the fire, and that's it for paragraph after paragraph. Instead of being with him, you're talking about the story, primarily in overview. He gets up, then you talk and talk, and bang, the day is over, without his having done a damn thing to entertain the reader. Do I really care where he slept? Do I need to know it was a toll house and its state of repair if he does nothing but wake up and leave? Why do I care that a structure that appears only as a place to sleep will collapse at some unknown time after he rests there?

Story happens And it happens in the moment your character calls now, and in his viewpoint. That it matters to him is what makes it story. And everything the narrator says needs to be in the service of the story, not history. Look at the opening of the first book in the Game of Thrones series. Martin does a lot of exposition, but it's always in service of the action. He introduces a character and provides a bit of relevant background before moving to the next thing that will be reacted to. Everything provided either develops character (the character background), sets the scene meaningfully, or advances the plot. And there's a balance to that, one that's maintained throughout.

But in this piece, the character is moved about, as necessary, and almost incidentally. So who's story is it? It can't be his because you appear on stage far more than he does. But he's the only one who can speak or think with emotion. For a reader your voice carries, at best, the emotion your computer will read it with. And that's not close to the way you would read it, because you start reading knowing the situation and the characters. So you perform it.

Personally, I'm not a fan of Martin. The ratio of action to narrative is weighted too much toward narrative. But still, I recognize that he does write well, and in a way that draws the reader in. He makes use of M/R pairs to give a feeling of time passing in the scene. He introduces tension in a way that's natural to the situation, along with any necessary context, and the characters react according to their personalty, background, and needs dictate. And, he steadily raises tension, keeps the scene-goal in sight—and managed—and handles the scene to sequel transition well. And that's the part you need to add to your toolbox.

The problem you face is that art conceals art. Martin is using the tricks of fiction right in front of you, but they go unnoticed, just as the slight of hand of the stage magician does. An example I like is this: Without looking, do you know what's different about the first paragraph of each chapter of about half the fiction in your personal library? You've seen it all your life, but if you ask your friends, I doubt one in ten can tell you without looking. I've had people who can't, even when they see it. But it's obvious. And my point is, if we don't see something obvious, how much that's not will we miss? So how can we learn how to write by reading if we don't see the obvious till it's pointed out?

Take a look at this article (http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/scene.php). It's a very powerful way of providing a strong character viewpoint. Chew on it till it makes sense. Then look at Game of Thrones and see how he makes use of it as his character interact, bearing in mind that dialog is all motivation/response.

Hope this clarifies

JustRob
April 6th, 2017, 11:54 PM
I see exactly what you are saying about unnecessary information, but I want to immerse the reader in a fully fleshed out world with it's own history, culture, and societies. How do you do that without boring the reader to death?

That was one of the things that I was aiming toward when I wrote the narrative on the history.

It's the difference between Lord of The Rings and The Silmarillion though. Many of us know and love the former but the only person I know who has tried reading the latter found it tedious. LoTR maintained a balance between painting the background and showing the action in the foreground. It's all about keeping that balance right. That's why I say that you must read your own work as a reader, forgetting what you were trying to achieve and impartially assessing what you actually have. The question is not whether you as a writer want to tell more about the setting but whether you as a reader want to read more about it at that moment. Alternate the descriptive and contemplative portions with activity if necessary. If you are trying to emulate a writer whose work you admire then you should be able to determine whether your work has the same impact on you for similar reasons.

For example, instead of relating Remmy's encounter with the woman in the way that you did and reporting her words even later you could have placed this dramatic encounter with her, even though it was effectively within his mind, in the midst of the description of the building. Had he actually imagined seeing her then that might have explained why he ended up staring at a blank wall when she faded away. Making that merely a thought as you did wasted the opportunity to present a semblance of action within all the scene-setting. Bear in mind that the events that a character imagines are at the time as much live action to the reader as what really happens to them if you relate them as such, but a wall is just a wall either way. As a reader I didn't understand why he stared at the wall then, so now I look for a reason and suddenly I'm rewriting your story for you, but that's your job. You read it and tell the writer what you expect him to change there.

I wrote my novel for the best possible reason, because I myself wanted to read it. I knew that there was a story buzzing around in my head but it was all jumbled up. After I had written it down and sorted it all into the right order I read it over and over in astonishment. Where had it come from? Had I really written it? I never gave any thought to whether others might want to read it until then. Does your story have that impact with you? You are the alpha reader, the first one to give the writer your honest opinion of it. I have mentioned this following incident before but it's worth mentioning here again. I once heard a celebrity on TV say that he tried writing a novel, but when he realised that even he didn't care what happened to the characters in it he gave it up. He hadn't satisfied his alpha reader.

I have always maintained that when it comes to people criticising me I'm the first one in the queue to do that. It's a tricky act to perform but you must first think and act as a writer and then switch to thinking and acting as a reader with the same story. Practise doing that and all those niggling flaws and broader structural defects will jump out at you and demand to be put right before any beta reader sees them.

kaminoshiyo
April 11th, 2017, 03:09 AM
Another good read, and I don't find myself reading that often...

I really don't have much to add beyond what was already said. The story is clear, the writing crisp, and the imagery comes through easily. I do like your phrasings as well.

I like your style. I'm not sure if it sounds like GRRM's, but I'm more on the side of speaking with your own voice and distinguishing yourself lest your work amount to nothing more than a Martin shadow. Either way, I enjoyed this. I liked the action sequences and how you handle it with brief, but striking imagery.

NeenaDiHope
April 23rd, 2017, 03:40 PM
I enjoyed reading this.

When you are writing ask yourself:
Why? Why is the character doing this or that, is the intention of an action or situation clear to someone not writing the story

You know and understand what is happening, would some else? Give reasons for what is going on, if you want to keep them guessing for a bit make sure you explain it somewhere down the line.

Keep these in mind as you write and your readers will be able to understand and enjoy the story.

I have to set my work down for a while and go back to it with fresh eyes, it helps. It can be difficult to keep explanations of surroundings and what characters are thinking interesting without stepping over the line into droning on and on. Is it enough, is it too much? I struggle with this particular question.

You have a great story going, keep it up!

Keep using the unusual to describe the mundane I like it!




Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

MizzouRam
May 3rd, 2017, 03:04 AM
One thing I did want to get in real quick that some of the details in the chapter are given in large part because they matter to the the climax of the story. Specifically its the crumbling structure of the toll house, which will play a big part in the climax of the story. Just wanted to point that out.