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  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2016

    New Project Critique Request

    Here's the first 500 words or so of something new I started working on. Would like your thoughts.

    Cal Bachter was the best fighter they’d trained in years. He had a natural wit to him. Even without any training he’d been able to intuitively pick up skills that had taken those much older than him years to master. Master John had been training him for nearly eleven summers now. The demons had attacked the boys village mercilessly and by the time the castle had sent reinforcements all they had found was the charred remains of the huts and little Cal just eight years old hidden underneath his bed.

    When Master John first met Cal what struck him most about the boy was his lack of tears. Other boys his age who had just witnessed the murder of their parents and desecration of their homes were usually inconsolable. Cal wasn’t found crying, though. And he didn’t cry when he was brought to the castle either. Master John naturally assumed that the boy was simply hiding or ignoring his pain and dismissed him as just another hurt child in this century’s long war. When Cal came to him though, he immediately knew there was something different about the child. Young Cal with his hair too long and his head too large picked up the largest sword in the training center and dragged it straight to Master John. The boy summoned up all his strength to lift the blade off the ground as he looked at Master John with a furrowed brow and demanded, “Show me how to use this.”

    Master John, who was no stranger to little boys who wanted to play with the swords, usually would have given little attention to the request but Cal was different than the other boys. There was a look in his eyes, a determination that told Master John that Cal didn’t want to play with the sword. He wanted to fight.

    “Why should I teach you how to use that, boy?” Master John inquired.

    “I want to fight,” Cal insisted.

    Master John rolled his eyes and returned to sharpening his blade, unhappy with the answer he’d been given. “Plenty of boys want to fight. Few are any good at it and less are actually worth the time it takes to teach them. What makes you any different?”

    Cal frowned and took a moment to think it over. Master John saw his arm start to quiver under the weight of the sword, but the boy did not drop it. Instead, he lifted his head defiantly. “I want to fight the demons. I want to stop them from hurting anymore people. And I’ll do a good job. I know I will. Because I’ll never give up and I’ll practice. I’ll practice every day and be the best fighter you’ve ever trained.”

    Sure enough he did become the best fighter Master John had ever trained. He grew into a strapping young lad who was strong and obedient. He was a young man who understood the importance of the war and his role in it. And Cal had a good heart. He would give his own life to save that of a stranger, do anything he could to help someone in pain. That was why Master John had suggested Cal to the King and High Council for this role. The orb surely needed a strong warrior to protect her, but more importantly than that she needed a strong man with a good heart. And Cal’s heart was the purest Master John knew.

  2. #2
    Rogue Mutt
    This is a lot of telling of background information. Start with an actual scene, like the demons attacking the village and Cal fighting back before being discovered by Master John.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Quote Originally Posted by ArcadiaE View Post
    The orb surely needed a strong warrior to protect her….
    You don't say who or what the orb is, but it sounds like your story is headed toward a relationship between Cal and "the orb". Focus on that, the main characters, what they want, what's stopping them, what the stakes are. As Rogue said, what you've got here sounds like setup.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Elkins Park PA
    Cal Bachter was the best fighter they’d trained in years.
    One of the problems with a fully narrative approach is that you tend to think in overview, and assume that the reader will "get" the things that are obvious to you. But look at the first line. Only you know who "they" are. So the reader, on seeing that it's about fighting, will most likely assume you mean boxing. And in practical terms, it means that your view of what's happening diverges from the reader's on line one.
    When Master John first met Cal what struck him most about the boy was his lack of tears. Other boys his age who had just witnessed the murder of their parents and desecration of their homes were usually inconsolable.
    Here, you begin without context for why he should be crying but isn't, which is effect. Then you give the cause. But to seem real, doesn't cause have to come before effect?

    Here's the problem, as I see it: You begin by explaining the situation, as you would were you telling the story in person. Then, because you're alone on stage, without even slides to show the situation, you have no choice but to set the scene before you begin. But on the page, as on the screen, you have actors who are willing, and anxious to live the story as the reader observes.

    With your present approach the only one who can hear the emotion in the narrator's voice is you. The only one who can "see" the visual performance is you. Have the computer read it aloud for you and you'll hear the problem.

    It's not a matter of talent or potential as a writer, it's that you're using a skill-set that requires the reader to see and hear the performance, and the page reproduces none of that performance.

    When before an audience the term "tell a story," is literal. The audience gets the emotional part of the story through the performance of the one telling it. And that produces an emotional experience for the audience members. You use cadence, intensity, tone, meaningful pauses, facial expression, winks and head-shakes, gestures, and more. But on the page, where the reader is seeking an emotional experience, too, we achieve that by making the reader react, in parallel with the protagonist. And to do that we must place the reader into the protagonist's viewpoint. Give the reader the same needs and desires as the protagonist; give them the same resources; make them know the scene as the protagonist does—including that character's estimation of the goals and thoughts of the other characters—and the reader will "hear" the dialog they read in the same tone and intensity the character would speak it in the film version. In other words, it will seem so real to the reader that they will feel the same emotions the protagonist is feeling.

    The trick is to place the reader into that tiny slice of time the protagonist calls now. If you trap them there, and move them forward one tick at a time, the future becomes uncertain. Now, the reader has a need to read on, to see if what the protagonist's plans will work.

    In other words, they'll be hooked.

    That's why a bit of time spent acquiring the tricks of the trade will be time well spent. Knowledge is, after all, a pretty good working substitute for genius. Your local library system's fiction writing department is a place to sample the viewpoints of agents, publishers, teachers, and writers. And, it's free. Free is always good.

    Hang in there, and keep on writing.

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