first 1000 words

Discussion in 'Critiques' started by springs, Apr 9, 2012.

  1.  
    springs

    springs Juggling life

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    I'm just completing this now, and I've had a version of this up in the main critiques board a long time ago (and one in the writing group, more recently.) Anyway, this is the first 1000 words of my wip, and I'm wondering for those who've never seen it before if it makes any sense, and for those who have seen it before, if this is closer to the pov than previously. (oh, and does it read like star wars fan lit.:eek:)* All head hopping spotting/info dumping appreciated! (and anything else.)


    *it's not supposed to, btw.



    The Empress had been advised against it, but the allure was too strong, and she decided to go once more before giving birth. She pulled herself to her feet, her stomach swollen and hard with the babies’ weight. She looked out of the panoramic window, taking in the great city of Abendau spread beneath her, and the ships passing the palace as they accessed the space port opposite. She turned from the window and left her quarters. Her doctor followed, alert and ready, as she walked through the palace, but he didn’t dare to protest at her actions.

    She reached the the top of a wide, stone flight of stairs, and pulled herself straighter, forcing her tiredness away. Putting one hand on top of her swollen stomach, she noticed it had dropped further, telling her the twins must be almost ready to come.

    She stepped slowly down the staircase, her other hand on the marble banister. The palace was warm, the hot desert air permeating it, and the banister refreshingly cool. Below, in the main hall, courtiers and servants gathered, waiting for her to pass. She walked to the bottom of the stairs and her people dropped to their knees, heads bent in supplication. The Empress cast out with her power and touched each mind, reminding them they were hers, binding them to her and strengthening their loyalty. Slowly, she walked through their midst, revelling in their adoration and fear.

    She walked to the archway that led into the ancient castle her palace was built around. The ruin had belonged to the tribal people who had sheltered and nurtured her as a child. It seemed fitting that here, in the centre of her palace, at the heart of her great city of Abendau, she should have the bloodiest part of her Empire.

    She stepped through the stone entranceway, into the ruins, and followed the twisted corridor to the very bowels of the palace. As the light from the entrance hall faded she stopped and waited for her eyes to adjust to the dim passageway. Recessed lighting cast pools of brightness which barely illuminating the shadows. She started to walk again, taking care on the uneven path, each step tiring her further. Her back ached and the weight in her stomach pulled and stretched her skin.

    At a fork in the passage, she went to the left, following the steep slope downwards. The stone walls grew colder with none of the desert heat reaching this depth. At last, she came to a cell, set on its own, and stopped in front of its guard.

    “Let me in,” she said.

    The guard moved to unlock the gate, but he fumbled, and the key jerked. Impatient, she entered his mind and manipulated his fingers. The gate swung open, and she stepped in.

    “Leave us,” she said and waited until he did.

    The prisoner sat in front of her, chained to the wall. In the centre of the cell a prism hung from the ceiling. It twisted and caught the light from a small window, sending rainbows dancing through the dark cell.

    The prisoner’s mouth moved in soft whispers and he seemed oblivious to her presence. She focused all her power on him and his mind yielded, allowing her to touch his inner thoughts and feelings. Exultant at the thought of victory, she pushed further.

    Now, she felt his power stir. He brought his head up, his blazing green eyes defiant. His power rose and blocked her. He held firm, glaring at her, angering her, and giving her strength she hadn’t had before. He wavered at her increased power, and for a moment she thought she would defeat him, and take his mind. When he fought back once more, she could no longer hold dominance over him. He gasped as she pulled her power from his mind.

    “Ealyn Varnon, the great Seer,” she said. “Tell me a vision of my future, and I’ll leave you in peace today.”

    When she’d first had him captured for her, he would have resisted her demand, and fought to stay in the present. Slowly, he had succumbed to the future's allure, as the prism forced him into vision after vision, finding them preferable to the reality of this dank cell.

    He moved his eyes so his gaze was fixed on the prism. When he spoke his words were stronger than his appearance would indicate, the power of his vision pulling him into it, so that he was speaking from the future.

    “I see you, somewhat older, on a balcony,” he told her. “The people below are shouting your name. They’ve come to hear you speak.”

    “My children?”

    Our children are more powerful than either of us. They will expand your empire further, doing it in your name. You will be revered as a Goddess.”

    “Describe them.” She could imagine it as he spoke: the rite, the acceptance of her divinity, and the promised future filling her with an exultation she couldn’t find anywhere else.

    “They are in a throne room of grey stone. The woman is quiet - her brother leads the ceremony of remembrance - and it’s you they worship: the Empress who ensnared the galaxy. Their eyes are mine, the colour of emeralds, but cold as stone.”

    He stopped speaking and his head fell forward as the vision ended. Gone was the strident confidence, the false strength of the future. All that remained was a prisoner, whose defiance was slowly being eroded with each passing day.

    Tiredness seeped through every bone in her body now, sapping her strength. She turned to leave.

    “Please,” said his soft voice behind her, his words slower, less strident. She turned to face him. “Take the prism down.”

    “Are you so close?” she asked. He licked his dry lips and shut his eyes.“You know what lies ahead, don’t you?” she continued. “The guardstell me you See in your dreams now, that there is no respite.” She moved to the barred gate and beckoned the guard over. “Your cell isn’t your prison; your visions are.”

    She stepped out, smiling at his soft, frightened moan, and cast a last look over her shoulder at him. His head rested against the wall, his pleading eyes staring at her. She waited a moment and his gaze moved back to the prism, becoming softer. The light ebbed and flowed across his gaunt face, emphasizing its shadows.

    Slowly, the Empress began to walk back to her quarters. She stopped as the first pain blossomed across her stomach, and smiled at the thought of being rid of her burden.
  2.  
    Mouse

    Mouse roar

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    Springs, I never crit long stuff (1k is long for me!) as I can never usually finish reading through to the end. But I finished this.

    Tis very good stuff. I only have a couple of teeny comments:

    It seemed fitting that here, in the centre of her palace, at the heart of her great city of Abendau, she should have the bloodiest part of her Empire

    I didn't understand this sentence at all. Nor did I understand this one: Recessed lighting cast pools of brightness which barely illuminating the shadows.

    That's all I have to say really! I don't understand the Empress's "Are you so close?" question, but I'm prepared to let it go because I think it must make sense to Ealyn.

    Oh, last comment, I'd re-order this bit:
    Tiredness seeped through every bone in her body now, sapping her strength. She turned to leave.

    “Please,” said his soft voice behind her, his words slower, less strident. She turned to face him. “Take the prism down.”

    I think it's the 'soft voice behind her' bit which doesn't quite work for me. I'd want to put it, or similar, in front of the 'please.' It'd flow better for me. (Something like Behind her, he spoke, his voice soft etc. etc. Only you'd do it better!)

    Not much help but there it is for what it's worth! :)
  3.  
    Grizzgreen711

    Grizzgreen711 The Bloody Scribbler

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    The only thing my amateur critique eyes caught was that. Illuminated instead of illuminating. Otherwise, I thought it was very interesting, well-written, and I'd enjoy reading more.
  4.  
    Abernovo

    Abernovo Accident-prone, allegedly

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    Springs, it does NOT read like Star Wars to me.

    It's good and reads clearly and easily. Apart from the 'illuminating/illuminated' issue that's already been commented on, I only noticed two very minor things.

    There's something about this sentence, especially the 'would', that doesn't feel right. It feels like a tense change to me. That could just be me, though.

    You have a space problem here. Not sure if it's the copy and paste thing, though.

    However, that's all I could find to nitpick. :)
  5.  
    allmywires

    allmywires not sure if...

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    Again, I really liked it. Sorry for all the commas comments but I'm very aware that I overuse them in my work so I thought I'd make some suggestions. It still works in your original version, but I find it reads a bit choppy with too many breaks in the sentence.

    Very good though. can't comment on the Star Wars things as (don't shoot me...) I've never seen them :eek:
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2012
  6.  
    Warren_Paul

    Warren_Paul Banishment this world!

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    Hey, Springs.

    I had very little to say the first time around, and I still do. Overall I thought the scene was good. Only new thing I'll point out from previous comments is:


    The highlighted bit sounds like more his thoughts to hers, either way I think it might have lost a bit of her evilness's voice?


    I don't think it sounds like Star Wars fanfic. Yes the force is similar to their powers, yes her evilness is having twins. But Padme wasn't evil, and Anakin wasn't her prisoner.

    Similarities, but not the same.
  7.  
    Mouse

    Mouse roar

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    Sorry to stick my oar in again...

    Slowly, he had succumbed to the future's allure, as the prism forced him into vision after vision, finding them preferable to the reality of this dank cell.


    The 'this' doesn't work, I don't think. Maybe changing it to 'his' or 'the' would work better. (And you could get rid of 'dank' too, thinking about it!)
  8.  
    springs

    springs Juggling life

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    TY, everyone, really helpful. (and very relieved about the Star Wars thing, thanks WP and Aber). I shall go have a look at all this. Thanks for your time, everyone. J
  9.  
    SleepyDormouse

    SleepyDormouse dreaming away....

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    A couple of things I noticed.

    At the start the Empress is followed by a doctor, but then he is not mentioned again.

    And then things about the pregnancy.

    Is it her powers that enable her to know the babies will be born soon. if so thats fine, but otherwise it just seems too perfect timing that straight after talking to her prisoner her labour starts.
    May be just me, but I feel it would work better if she pushes herself to her feet (leaning on a desk or chair) and maybe rubs hand over stomach to allow description of it to be less forced.

    Mmm, I don't know if its possible to notice your babies having dropped lower that way, I never did. Certainly you feel the pressure of the babies head down in the pelvis and against your bladder more as they drop, (normally a few weeks before birth) making you more uncomfortable and walking ungainly.

    In late pregnancy the skin is tight, but doesn't constantly feel pulled and stretched. maybe it would be better to say her stomach ached.

    As I said earlier the timing just seems too perfect unless she had some way of knowing exactly when her labour would start. Also, labour does not typically start the way show in films/tv. It starts with lots of tightenings of the stomach, where it goes rock hard. uncomfortable but not always painful at first. They are regular and get stronger and more painful with time. However, it is much more dramatic to have sudden painful labour (and that is why it is always shown as such in media).

    I enjoyed this, and would like to read more. Plus would not have thought Star Wars at all if you had not mentioned it at start.
  10.  
    Bowler1

    Bowler1 Senile Member

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    She reached the the top of a wide, stone flight of stairs, and pulled herself straighter, forcing her tiredness away. Putting one hand on top of her swollen stomach, she noticed it had dropped further, telling her the twins must be almost ready to come.
    I liked that little detail, I have to take it as correct, as I’m a bloke, but brought the immediate prospect of delivery home to me.

    She stepped slowly down the staircase, her other hand on the marble banister. The palace was warm, the hot desert air permeating it, and the banister refreshingly cool. Below, in the main hall, courtiers and servants gathered, waiting for her to pass. She walked to the bottom of the stairs and her people dropped to their knees, heads bent in supplication. The Empress cast out with her power and touched each mind, reminding them they were hers, binding them to her and strengthening their loyalty. Slowly, she walked through their midst, revelling in their adoration and fear.
    A very nice sense of her power here.


    Now, she felt his power stir. He brought his head up, his blazing green eyes defiant. His power rose and blocked her. He held firm, glaring at her, angering her, and giving her strength she hadn’t had before. He wavered at her increased power, and for a moment she thought she would defeat him, and take his mind. When he fought back once more, she could no longer hold dominance over him. He gasped as she pulled her power from his mind.
    Crisp and clear, and after her using the guard so easily the contrast/struggle with Ealyn works well.

    A good introduction, promising more of the children yet unborn. The Empresses comes across well, avarice and greed are her suspected emotions, but that is my view as the reader – as the writer, you have not told me anything directly which I like. Good tension developed in the section and good character development. I would be reading on quiet happily Springs, good stuff.

    I agreed with others about the bloodiest part of her Empire, it remains unexplained, but I assumed we might come back to this detail later.

    I forgot about the Doctor as well, I also think she might have constant security with her. However, don’t worry too much about that here, it might spoil the mood with too much information.

  11.  
    springs

    springs Juggling life

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    Thanks, SD. You can tell I was induced, you're absolutely right, and a tightening would be more subtle. I'll keep the dropped stomach, though, a friend of mine who carried twins said it dropped overnight when they were due, and it's a nice image...

    TY, Bowler, very useful.

    Does this make the bloodiest part clearer, or lead too much. It is important I establish where the path leads to, as it's central later on.

    It seemed fitting that here, in the centre of her palace, at the heart of her great city of Abendau, she should have the torture chambers of Omendegon, the bloodiest part of her Empire.
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2012
  12.  
    Bowler1

    Bowler1 Senile Member

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    That would be a yes Springs, but beware show and tell, do you really want to give away torture right at the start of your story - only you can answer that one!
  13.  
    ctg

    ctg weaver of the unseen

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    Springs it's a closer PoV and it's nicely written. However I feel you're trying too hard to really see the tree because the woods are on the way. So I'd advice you to do something else and leave this as it is. When you're ready read rest of my comments.



    Fear not, it's a great beginning and I just want to stop here to explain what I felt you're doing wrong. Although I feel I might be doing wrong after you received so many great prods, I cannot silence the inner voice saying that I should give you these pieces of edits.

    What I felt is that you're getting closer to the character oriented narrating than in the other times, but this time you haven't bothered to leave it to mature. And what you got up there needs editing and not a completely rewrite. In places, you need to watch your pacing and just follow the character, but then again, that's what you're doing and that's all she's doing, and that is actions.

    You don't weave in thoughts and feelings as I advised you to do before and I only can suspect that I'm doing it wrongly, that I don't know my game. And that makes me feel sad.

    There's not much you need to do with this one. The soon though rounds her up pretty nicely, but the description of the city falls flat. You don't need to add a long description there, but something that reflects her, her emotions, the characters and/or the plot.

    Read the last highlight and think if you're doing it from his PoV, because how I read it is closer to the dreaded head-hopping, than something that came out from her head.



    I'm sorry but I have no other choice but to cut your para. The reason might be in my wandering eyes or that I feel today older than ever before. Maybe the cobwebs has started to fill my attic and it needs a bit dusting but I cannot read this as you'd like me to do. And the reason is the two similar actions at the beginning of the paragraph.

    She walked vs. she stepped.

    No. I cannot stand that and I bet there's readers out there that cannot either. It feels wrong in so many levels. So to diversify the narrative and add a bit of thought before you bridge together the narratives. And I don't know which author gave me this piece of advice, always check the beginnings of the paras to see if they sound similar. If they do, diversify.



    I'll have to stop here as for one I don't really understand of what she's exactly doing. Why she's so bothered about seeing the darkness when she can sense thoughts and emotions. If it's because of the babies then make her stop and feel the stomach because the twins are kicking there as if they're having a game of footie and don't let it be because of some nonsense reason of her having to be a vampire hunter.



    It's nice and I'll hope you'll understand my edits even if I didn't break each and everyone of them to the explanatory bits.

  14.  
    springs

    springs Juggling life

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    Hi CTG, thankyou for the time, it's really useful, especially the bit about pargraph breaks and actions.

    You don't weave in thoughts and feelings as I advised you to do before and I only can suspect that I'm doing it wrongly, that I don't know my game. And that makes me feel sad.

    I didn't use your suggestions in this scene, simply because I'm wanting to portray the Empress as something very cold, not quite normal. A distance, if you like, but I have used it through the rest of the book, and found it really helpful for getting closer to the pov. Thanks again. J
  15.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    I have to confess, springs, that I have problems with this scene, and seeing your comment here, I thought I'd better speak up. I frankly don't feel she is cold, nor is she nearly malevolent enough. The very opening lines weaken her in my mind -- since the "allure" is too strong. (Incidentally, I'm assuming this is one of your invented concepts, since you use it again in this scene -- if it isn't, and you just mean something like "the pull" or the need to see him/know the future, then the word isn't being used correctly.)

    The way you repeatedly emphasise how carrying the babies feels would be appropriate for a normal woman, but here I think serves to diminish her eg she has to admit to herself that she is tired when she forces the tiredness away. I appreciate there's no sign of loving the babies, as there would be with another woman, but for me nor is there any sense of anything else -- there's no coldness, no evil about what she thinks of them, only a void, which I don't think is enough. Only at the end do you describe it as a burden, and I feel it's too late by then.

    I also think it's a little slow to get going. For me the real meat of the scene, on which you should concentrate, is the meeting between her and Ealyn. I really don't think we need all the walking through the Palace and everyone bowing and scraping before her. I'd start with her standing outside the torture chamber watching him, unseen -- there she is, in the heart of her Empire, in the heart of her Palace, in the dungeons of OMyGod-eon :)p) itself, and he is trapped, another fly in her web (OK, hackneyed image, you can do better).

    If you want some backstory/description you could have the doctor at her side, hovering around her as he had done all through the long walk through the Palace, with the desert air permeating the building etc, then perhaps have him give a final warning before she goes in, perhaps because the crystal thingummy could have repercussions for the babies/could hasten her going into labour -- and have her reflect that once the twins are born, he'll be down there in the dungeons for good for daring to speak**. Then when she's with Ealyn I'd have more cat-and-mousing to show her power. Perhaps she shouldn't go there in order to satisfy her longing, which seems a weakness, but to torture him further in some way (or this is how she rationalises it to herself, refusing to accept the allure is too strong) -- these are his children, and she wants him to know what use she will put them to, how she will subvert his goodness or whatever, using the power they inherit from him. (I assume that is the point of having him as the father?)

    She's an Empress, who is, presumably, almost insane with power, but frankly I can seem more terrifying, and as well all know, I'm a pussy cat... :p


    ** although you say he didn't dare protest, he must have already given his advice, presumably unasked-for advice, since you say she's ignoring it, so he's not frightened of saying some things to her.


    NB: Not having read your m/s I obviously don't know if this is made clear somewhere, but why is she carrying the children herself anyway? Even if she raped Ealyn to get herself pregnant, as opposed to a test tube affair, why didn't she have the embyos transferred into a slave who could do the unpleasant bit? If she has to keep them in order to feed their minds while they're growing, then I think that is infinitely more important to tell us here than some of the detail you've actually given. And it gives an extra edge to torturing Ealyn, because she wants the babies to sense his pain.

    NB 2: How would she know that the dropping of the babies is a sign of their imminent arrival? (Perhaps the doctor can say this?)
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2012
  16.  
    RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet Never Sure

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    (The Empress) She had been advised against it, but the allure was too strong. (and) She decided to go once more. (before giving birth). She pulled herself (to her feet) up, her stomach swollen (and hard) with the babies’ weight. She looked out of the panoramic window, taking in the great city of Abendau spread beneath her, (and the) ships passing the palace as they accessed the (space) port opposite. She turned from the window. (and left her quarters). Her doctor followed, alert and ready, (as she walked through the palace, but he didn’t dare) not daring to protest (at her) his Empress' actions as she walked through the palace.

    She reached the the top of a wide stone (flight of stairs.) stairway and pulled herself straighter, forcing her tiredness away. (Putting one) She laid a hand on (top of) her swollen (pregnant?) stomach, (she) noticed it had dropped further. (telling her) The twins (must be almost ready to come) were almost due.

    (She stepped slowly down the staircase, her other hand on the marble banister) She slowly descended, the marble banister refreshingly cool, the palace (was warm, the) hot with desert air. (permeating it, and the banister refreshingly cool.) Below, in the main hall, courtiers and servants gathered, waiting for (her) the Empress to pass. (She walked to) When she reached the bottom of the (stairs) stairway, (and) her people (dropped to their knees, heads bent) knelt in supplication. The Empress cast out with her power, (and touched) touching each mind, reminding them they were hers, binding them to her and strengthening their loyalty. Slowly, she (walked through their midst) moved amongst them, revelling in their adoration and fear ...


    Something like that?

    Springs, please try to shorten the sentences in the all important intro. You have to use it to grab the reader's attention.

    The idea and imagery are good but the writing seems diluted, somehow. No need repeat she's pregnant, or on a staircase, etc? Definitely not in the first three paras?

    It's all stuff that can quickly be fixed by a bit of editing.

    I completely understand the temptation to post this intro, but I don't think it's up to scratch yet as your final draft? The idea and imagery are great, but it's a bit, kinda ... fuzzy? I'd say don't worry about trying to perfect this intro just for now. You need the weight of the whole story behind it, to power the final intro ...
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2012
  17.  
    springs

    springs Juggling life

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    Ty, TJ (I think!). Um, no, I did mean allure, and I'm wondering why it's the wrong word? Help... And you're much scarier than the ol' Empress, any day of the week. :p :D
    RJM, this has been really useful: ty. The only thing I'm a little confused about it is the shorter sentences. I read some feedback recently which seemed to indicate the smoother the better, and when I shorten sentences it doesn't seem just as smooth to me. I think it's something to do with the way I write, maybe, I'm not sure. I also tend to fall into the trap of using she/he to start every sentence when I go for a snappier approach. Oh, dear.
  18.  
    RJM Corbet

    RJM Corbet Never Sure

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    Don't mind me, Springs. Every writer has their own style, and every reader has their own opinion. But ... mixed sentences then, some short, some long? :)
  19.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Ah. Allure means the quality of being powerfully attractive (ie capable of attracting people, not necessarily pretty) or fascinating like a snake is reputed to be to small rodents (sorry Mouse...) perhaps with overtones of some mystery in the attraction -- so if you'd described Ealyn as succumbing to the Empress's allure, that would be right. Although there's no reason it can't be used about a man, it isn't somehow as obvious, but I didn't see that you were talking of him since the line is "the allure was too strong". Allure isn't something in the air, it belongs to a person or a place or thing eg "The crystal held a strange allure for him".

    I'd wondered if you meant "lure" which is something which tempts someone to do something eg "The lure of chocolate brought him into the kitchen" but if so I think you need to specify what the lure is -- I'm not quite clear what it is she's finding too strong. The temptation to see the future? The need to see him weak?

    And I'm sorry I wasn't more positive in my thoughts. I think the concept of the scene is a good one, and if you could really bring out her evilness it would work wonders. Perhaps the problem is you're too nice to think evil thoughts! Now me, on the other hand...

    Re the issue of short sentences, they will seem jagged if you use them unrelievedly, but they can also serve to drive the story forward in a way that long, smooth sentences won't, which is why we see them recommended for action scenes. Here I'm torn, because they would serve to give better impetus to the scene in those opening sentences but I'm not convinced that thay would properly reflect her coldness, which is what you need to be thinking about. On balance smooth is to be preferred here, I think, but in any event, you don't want to have sentence after sentence all of the same length, whether long or short.
  20.  
    Abernovo

    Abernovo Accident-prone, allegedly

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    Springs, having read TJ's words, perhaps instead of 'allure was too strong', you could use 'temptation was too great'. That is, if it's temptation that you're referring to. Allure is attraction, or fascination.

    Not sure if that helps. Ignore if not.

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