A Gift - 1633 words


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  1. #1
    Member LOLeah's Avatar
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    A Gift - 1633 words

    Hello again everyone! Below is a scene from pretty much the middle of my fantasy/romance novel. I'm wanting to know if the tension comes across, as well as the tenderness and foundation of friendship that I'm going for with the relationship between my 2 MCs. I realize because of the placement of this scene there is a lot you won't fully understand. Any feedback is welcome of course.
    Hopefully I was able to fix the reformatting issues in this before anyone read the mess, blah lol


    Matteo was seated on the bench in the Atrium when Katya walked in. It was mid afternoon and sunlight streamed through the wall of west facing windows. The shadows of trees outside made the light play on the marble floor and every speck of dust was a small, sparkling star.


    He stood abruptly as she entered. He was smiling, almost shyly, and it was then that Katya noticed the small parcel he held.


    “What's this now? Early and bearing gifts?”


    “Indeed,” his smile widened as he walked to meet her, not stopping until they were almost nose to nose in that disconcerting way he had. Katya was finally accustomed enough to not step back impulsively and reclaim her personal space. “I've brought you a little something. Consider it an early birthday present.” The sun beam he stood in made the lighter colored flecks in his eyes glow against the deep brown of his irises.


    “Well, go on then,” he said, holding the parcel out to her and sitting back down to watch her open it.


    It was heavy despite being so small. She pulled the string tied around and the wrapping fell away to reveal...a holster. A belt of fine, strong leather. It had a square panel and a small strap that held two knives firmly in place. Katya was delighted but also confused.


    “Matteo...it's wonderful, but you flatter me,” she laughed, embarrassed. “There is no way this will fit around my waist.”


    His smile turned smug. “It doesn't go around your waist, silly. I commissioned it from Madame Blanca. It's a garter holster...” At this Katya raised an eyebrow. “It goes around your thigh.”


    “Oh, I see,” Katya said, turning the belt over in her hands, intrigued. “How clever.” She was struck by a pang of guilt. He had gifted her a weapon out of concern for her safety, not knowing that on her worst day she needed no one's protection from anything or anyone other than herself.

    “All of her girls wear one,” he said. “You've become...proficient...with a blade. And it's the most practical weapon for a woman to carry concealed. It will take practice, accessing them underneath your clothes. Aren't you going to try it on?”

    “Now? Here?”

    Matteo spread his arms and looked around at their always private meeting place. “Why ever not?”

    She hesitated. A real man likes confidence, Katya. Convince yourself you are desirable, play to your strengths, and they will fall in line to desire you as your deserve. Leandra's wisdom echoed in her mind. He attempted to play these games with her regularly and her reaction was always to become flustered and behave awkwardly,thinking he was teasing her. Lately she thought a lot about what exactly could be lost by playing along. She mustered all the courage she could and looked him in the eyes. “Alright,” she said. She held his gaze as she propped her right foot onto the bench beside him and slowly pulled up her dress. His expression was one of surprise,amusement and mischief all rolled into a lopsided grin and two dancing eyes. He leaned back, crossing his arms and feet in the front of him.

    Katya's hands were suddenly sweaty but she managed not to fumble the belt as she slung it around her leg. “Here?” she asked.

    “Higher,” he said quietly.

    Katya inched the belt upwards. “Just there.” She stopped, rotated the belt around until the panel holding the knives was on the outside then attempted to cinch it.

    “It's too big.”

    “Can't be.”

    “Well, it is,” she said, showing him that on the closest cinch the belt was too loose to stay in place.

    Matteo took it from her, chuckling. “Some things never change, chicken legs.” She would have punched him but he already had his knife out. He snatched the belt away and went to work on the leather with the tip of the knife. He shot her a rueful look then said, “I tease you as always, Katya. Your legs are actually quite lovely.” When she didn't respond he cleared his throat and continued as if he hadn't just payed her a very forward compliment. “Naturally I've been thinking a lot about pirates lately,” He glanced up at her again then back to his task. “I haven't been able to get an old tale my father told me out of my head. About a renowned pirate. A woman.”Katya's head moved almost imperceptibly but he had her attention now.“Her name was Ann Bonny. She was an Irish whelp of a lawyer and one of his servants. In her youth her father dressed her and passed her off as a boy, for reasons unknown. Her mother died when she was young. She was eventually the victim of an arranged marriage to some stodgy old lawman. She led a sad, oppressed life until she met Calico Jack. She ran away with him, to the sea, and from there became the stuff of legend. She could handle a pistol, a sword and a cask of rum as well as anyone in her husband's crew. My favorite Ann story was always the one about mutilating a man who tried to force himself on her.”

    Suddenly he stopped whittling away at the belt and displayed the new hole with a flourish. It looked identical to the other carefully spaced and hollowed ones. He patted the bench beside him, indicating she should bare her leg again, which she did silently. As he wrapped it around her thigh, maybe slightly higher than she had, he continued, “You remind me of her. She was brave. Not only to literally carve out of her spot in a man's world by chopping off their balls. But to live the life she wanted after so long of having her course decided for her. She was a champion of self...a true warrior.” A term Matteo held in great esteem and didn't use lightly. He pulled the belt tight and cinched it. “Perfect...” he said. His fingertips trailed lazily down the inside of her leg.

    He looked up at her expectantly. But she seemed to be lacking words, as well as air in her lungs. “You think me a warrior?” she managed.

    “Well, not yet,” back came the teasing smile. He stood and once again they were face to chin, an inch apart. “But you have tremendous potential.”

    All I'm missing is my Calico Jack. And the stomach for castration.

    “It's been...a long time...since anyone besides my father thought to give me a gift. Matteo, thank you,” They seemed to be standing even closer together now and Katya forced herself to look up into his face, despite her eyes being a little misty.

    “You're quite welcome,” he whispered. He was so close. Was he always this close? This time felt different. The room felt odd. Like it went on endlessly in all directions. The air was still, the birds chirping outside sounded far away.

    He was looking at her in a strange way, searching her face. His hand came up to brush her flyaways back from her cheek, then his eyes were only for her lips.

    This is it. Yes.

    Suddenly the door to the atrium burst open and banged against the wall behind it. “Captain Meo!” a retinue of soldiers strode in.
    Katya and Matteo jumped apart as if struck by lighting and the soldiers slowed to examine the clearly developing scene before them. “Captain Meo...” again said the one in the middle, who Katya recognized as one of Matteo's more handsome lieutenants. “Begging your pardon for interrupting your...uh...leisure time, Captain,” he looked anxiously from one to the other of them. “Er, anyway, urgent message for you, to be delivered only to you and in person.” He handed Matteo a black envelope, the wax seal was an elaborate red X.

    Matteo hesitated for the briefest of moments before taking it. “Thank you, lieutenant.”

    The lieutenant was still looking back and forth at them but started to back away. “Shall I wait for a reply, Captain?”

    “That won't be necessary. On your way.”

    The lieutenant nodded, looked at Matteo, then winked at Katya as he continued to back towards the door.

    “He's very obnoxious, I'm sorry,” Matteo said as soon as they were gone. He tried to smile again but Katya knew the spell was broken.

    “Is everything alright?” she asked. His face had fallen as soon as he laid eyes on what the lieutenant carried. In a way that indicated more than a feeling of annoyance at being called to some task or other. It was a look of abject dread.

    Matteo sighed and slapped the ominous, red envelope into the palm of his hand. His mouth opened, then shut, then he shook his head. “Fine.Everything is fine. But I'm afraid this is urgent and I can't stay to train...make up day tomorrow?” He was already backing away towards the door.

    “Sure, of course,” she said, trying to sound casual and not too disappointed or concerned. “And Matteo...” she got it out before he could hurry out the door. He stopped and turned around. Once again she was startled by the depth of unease and sadness in his eyes when a moment ago they held something so different, and all for her.“Thank you again...” she held the holster to her chest and smiled at him.

    For a moment he stood staring at her in the dappled sunlight of a place that had become special to them both. And again he seemed to be waging an internal battle, one side on the verge of victory, then the other. But it lasted only a moment this time, then he smiled back at her. “You're welcome, Katya. Tomorrow.” And then he was gone.
    Last edited by LOLeah; August 23rd, 2017 at 07:52 PM.
    "We all die. The goal is not to live forever, the goal is to create something that will." ~Chuck Palahniuk

  2. #2
    Wɾʇ∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Hi,

    I'm not 100% sure what you are going for. You ask about tension. What sort of tension? The bit where Katya is inching the belt upwards on her leg (at Matteo's urging) there is a little frisson, and in some other spots too. But in my view it kind of diffuses a little. I want to tell Matteo not to be so coy and just go with his instincts here

    I would say that one of the things to watch for is verb choices. Some of the verbs are fairly, shall we say, workaday. For example:

    Matteo was seated on the bench in the Atrium when Katya walked in. It was mid afternoon and sunlight streamed through the wall of west facing windows. The shadows of trees outside made the light play on the marble floor and every speck of dust was a small, sparkling star.

    He stood abruptly as she entered. He was smiling, almost shyly, and it was then that Katya noticed the small parcel he held.
    The verbs in this bit are:
    Was seated
    walked
    was
    streamed
    made
    play
    was
    stood
    entered
    was smiling
    noticed
    held

    The ones that carry their weight are, in my view: streamed and play, hence the bold. The others are kind of ho-hum. I understand that if you were to empurple every was and had and noticed you'd end up with some pretty unreadable text, so in those instances invoke some other things to break that drone. In other instances the more beige verbs can be simply removed and the remainig clause tacked onto something else nearby; eg. it might become something like:


    Matteo was seated on the carved-oak bench in the Atrium, leaned over and scratching at something in the floor when Katya walked in. Mid-afternoon sunlight streamed through the wall of windows and around the Grecian columns, settling around his bronzed form like a halo while shadows of trees outside made plays of light over the marble floor until every speck of dust was a small, sparkling star.

    He stood abruptly, brushing down his linens and smiling, almost shyly. In his hands he held something and as she approached, he glanced at it, moving his hands towards her as if urging her to lift the small parcel wrapped in crinolene from his hands and press it to her chest.
    There I invoked some other scenery - oak bench, some thing on the floor, Grecian columns, halo, linens, crinolene. That is in part to break the line of verbs, but also to reveal character and relationship and senses and movement so the logistics can happen but in a (hopefully) more subtle way. What I mean is you could say "Bob put the book down and looked at me", which is fine and true and probably happened, or you could make that a smidge more vivid and say "Bob glanced at the cover of the book. Then he turned it over, laid it on Grandma's welsh dresser and for just a bare second I thought he was going to run at me." Yes, it is more words but the logistics are kept to the background and the main stuff is centre staged. Just allows for more drama. Hopefully that makes sense.

    I am coming into this cold so these suggestions probably don't relate to your story, but in my head Matteo is a kind of tall Mediaterranean hunk, and nothing says that like a ringed halo, a pair of linens and some grecian urns, right? Why's he scratching on the floor? It's a moment of vulnerability, which can endear him to her. Same with brushing his linens and tentatively holding the parcel. I also added or changed some more verbs - scratching, settling, brushing approached, urging, pressed, made play - these verbs are (in my mind) more dynamic. They suggest movement, sensation, revealing body language rather than just being placeholders. So don't be afraid to put in a little more detail and sort of micromanage the content so it is as perfectly-presented as it can be, and creates the exact emotion you want.

    Anyway, hope this helps or gives you some food for thought. Feel free to ignore if it doesn't


    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge


    Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"

    *

    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous

    *

    C'mon everybody, don't need this crap.
    - Wham!





  3. #3
    First, this section is available to guests, so posting here counts as published. Just thought you might want to know that.

    Second, this seems rather predictable. Man wants sex; woman is reluctant or afraid. That's supposed to build the tension? Sorry about being so blunt about it.

    Your writing style is good. That's not an issue. I don't have any content suggestions, just a suggestion that you look outside the box.

  4. #4
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    Might need some tightening up.

    One example:
    He stood abruptly as she entered. He was smiling, almost shyly, and it was then that Katya noticed the small parcel he held.
    Unless there is a plot reason for how he stood, maybe consider removing the adverb, abruptly. If the how is important maybe he could jump up instead of stand up? Same for the dual adverbs, almost shyly. Adverbs often do little to move the story forward.

    Another example:
    Matteo hesitated for the briefest of moments before taking it. “Thank you, lieutenant.”
    Repetitive. Hesitation is brief, so there is probably no reason to keep the phrase, for the briefest of moments.

    The story of Ann Bonny is disconcerting because there is no apparent reason for it, and it pushes the readers attention away from the story characters and the scene. Even the later reference to it isn't a sturdy support. A guy like me loves those historic tidbits, but not in the middle of a dance, so maybe cut back on the story to one or two sentences that play well with the later reference.

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