1105 words. A terrible introduction. - help -

Status
Not open for further replies.

barrett1987

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2014
Messages
559
I've written this ages ago and now just edited it down. Making it crisper and clearer but my gosh is it a poor scene. What can i do to improve it?
It's so obvious i wrote this scene before i got feedback and improved.
What do you all this? So much passive... I'm struggling to put what i want into the scene without becoming a telling rather than showing type deal. I want to introduce the city a tiny bit and i want to introduce Wyn and Sammy. It's important that Wyn comes across selfish and Sammy a little bit whiny/weak.
---------------------------------
Wyn’s legs dangled over the edge. He sat on top of Orion’s Temple and could see most of the city spread out below him. This was his favourite place in the whole city and he made sure to come here at least once a week. Sitting here the stress of life would fade. It was the only place that he felt at peace.

As an urchin, working in Credo’s gang, he picked pockets and ran errands. Always just one bad grab from a noose around the neck. His reward was a safe roof and just enough food to live on. A fair deal in his opinion, in Steward’s City anywhere you could close your eyes for a few hours and not get stabbed was rare.

This high above the city, it was almost quiet. Steward’s City was the second largest in the land. Industries worked night and day, pumping out soot and smoke into the air and the streets were always busy. There was always something going on in Steward’s City. The Old Maid had once told him that if he ever found himself in a street that was truly quiet he should run, because more likely than not, trouble was coming and he definitely wouldn’t want to be there when it arrived.

The sun had just finished setting when he heard the scampering of someone climbing the stairs behind him. Muttered moans drifted up the stairwell and he realised it was Sammy. Wyn was surprised. Sammy climbing all those stairs was unthinkable. He never did anything physical unless he absolutely had to. He had once overheard Sammy telling some of the other urchins that only an idiot ended up needing to run. Given the size of Sammy’s gut, Wyn thought maybe a little more running wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

How his friend gained weight was a mystery to Wyn, who, looking down at his own body, was wafer thin and struggling to gain height. He was thirteen and knew that most of the other boys his age had started growing hair between their legs. He remained smooth and it was starting to worry him. The Old Maid said it’d come eventually but Wyn was starting to wonder if she was just being nice.

“Wyn! Wyn!” the gasped shout came from the stairs behind him.

Sammy had almost reached the top. Even at a walk, thirteen flights of stairs were tiring and by the sounds of it Sammy was moving faster than that.
Wyn sighed, having someone else here always felt like an invasion. It was meant to be his secret place. Sammy wouldn’t even have known about it if Wyn hadn’t told him. It had took weeks of begging from Sammy before he had relented and told his friend where he kept slipping off to.

Sammy was as good a friend as he could hope for but sometimes he just wanted to be left alone. They’d argued in the past over it. Wyn could never quite put into words his need for solitude. To move away from the other urchins and find, if even for only a short time, a little peace and quiet. The arguments always ended with Sammy feeling rejected and Wyn frustrated. He’d sworn after the time not to raise the subject again. Pushing down his frustrations he waited for his friend to arrive.

“Wyn! Didn’t you hear me calling?” Sammy staggered out onto the roof, gasping for air.

“Sorry, guess not” He kept his eyes on the skyline, trying to soak in the view one last time.

“He’s here, Wyn, He’s here!”

Giving up, Wyn pulled his eyes from the horizon and turned to face his friend. Sammy, usually immaculate, was in disarray. Sweat was streaming down his face and his shirt was untucked, allowing his bulging gut to hang free.

“Whoa Sammy, take a minute get your breath back. You look like your gonna pass out or something”

Sammy gulped in a few mouthfuls of air and his face started to return to a normal shade of pink rather than the disturbing dark red it had been. A cool breeze ran swept through them, cooling them both. He waited until he was sure Sammy wasn’t going to faint and then pressed his friend.

“What are you talking about? Who’s here?”

“Stranger’s here” Sammy replied with a grin.

“You’re having me on” Wyn playfully punched Sammy’s arm.

“He beat up Gunny over at The Hog’s Head, not an hour ago, I swear it!” Sammy replied, rubbing his arm. “You never believe me…”

“Sammy, come on. No way Stranger is here and even if he was you wouldn’t know about it”

“It’s true! It ended with Gunny knocked out cold; I heard it from Philly himself”
Wyn paused at that. Philly was one of the top men in the gang. He organised the urchins for Credo and was known for his straight talk. If Philly said Stranger had given Gunny a beating then it probably had happened.

“This better not be another ‘Phoenix’ sighting!” Wyn said hesitantly.
Sammy had once, to the great amusement of the other urchins, sworn that there was a Phoenix rising over the harbour. It had turned out just to be fireworks. Sammy was one of the most gullible people Wyn had ever met.

“I want to see him Wyn. Please, help me find him” Sammy pleaded.

“Ok.... I’ll help. Let’s go!”

If Stranger was in the city, then as far as Wyn was concerned, this was a chance he wasn’t going to miss. Stranger was a legend and Wyn had been fed on stories since he was a babe. Stranger taking on the Pirates of Abbot’s Cove, Stranger killing the Werebeasts of Wulen’Dar even Stranger slaying the last dragon in the Mountains of Merrill. The man was a living legend and Wyn wasn’t going to miss out on a chance to lay eyes on him.

“Whoa, wait for me” Sammy called from behind.

Wyn barely heard him as he raced towards the stairwell. His mind was already hooked on the idea of meeting Stranger. Surely if he was in the City it meant something important was going to happen. Wyn swore that he would be there when it did.

“Hurry up; we don’t want to miss this” He called over his shoulder, barely pausing as he reached the stairs. “Keep up Sammy; I'm not going to go slow if you can’t handle the pace”

Wyn tore off down the stairs unable to remove the grin that was plastered across his face.

***
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
25,020
Location
UK
To me - and simply my personal opinion - the problem with this story is that not much happens fast.

You introduce a character and then produce backstory for them. The story doesn't really appear to start until Wyn finds Sammy coming up the stairs. But ... it takes you over 500 words to get from that to actually hearing Sammy speak. And then all we discover is that someone is coming to town. That makes these characters passive observers to something that means a little to them, but does not seem to carry any suggestion of plot - neither seems to want to kill him, trip him politically, solve a problem, carry out an action - just observe.

Some published stories might keep a scene like this, but IMO any time a character is reduced to the role of observer is a flag - either the scene needs removing, or a different POV needs to be used, else the existing POV character needs a real and compelling emotional arc that says that this moment is important in their development.

You've posted quite a few Critiques up - at this stage I think you'd benefit from reading around a few books on writing to get a clearer idea of what you may need to do. Save the Cat and The Writer's Journey could be useful, as may Self Editing for Fiction Writers.

2c.
 

tinkerdan

∞<Q-Satis
Joined
Dec 10, 2012
Messages
5,094
Location
x² + y² = r²:when x~∞
Your beginning should sound a bit like the sentence below.

The Old Maid had once told him that if he ever found himself in a street that was truly quiet he should run, because more likely than not, trouble was coming and he definitely wouldn’t want to be there when it arrived.

Then you need to build something interesting beyond that to lead into the description of where he is and what he sees.

If you continued with something about how he hadn't heeded her at first and give an example of what happened to lead him to find this sanctuary. Give the punch-followed by the blow and the awakening then some description about the surrounding but then let that lead to more revelations that set up perhaps why he should or shouldn't be excited that the Stranger has arrived.
 

AnyaKimlin

Confuddled
Joined
Sep 21, 2011
Messages
5,997
Location
North Scotland
What do you think is the most exciting bit of this piece? Read it, give it some thought and start there.

Wyn’s legs dangled over the edge. He sat on top of Orion’s Temple and could see most of the city spread out below him. This was his favourite place in the whole city and he made sure to come here at least once a week. Sitting here the stress of life would fade. It was the only place that he felt at peace.

But to take your opener and make it about Wyn:

Wyn dangled his legs over the top of Orion's Temple. The city spread out below him. Sat up here he felt at peace. (but then include some description of the city, maybe why he needs the peace, something he's spotted)

And remember his five senses. Is it cold, wet, windy? Can he hear anything? Are there any birds? Anyone else there? Build the picture.

I actually love your last line.
 

barrett1987

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2014
Messages
559
Taken what you said and tried to add more 'umpf' to it. 747 words. Stopped before dialogue parts.
====================
Wyn watched the purse bounce. Up, down, up, down. His eyes followed it and he felt an urge of longing. He’d been following that purse for the last hour and had hoped to have grabbed it by now but the bloody merchant wouldn’t put it back in his pocket.

He perched on the edge of a rooftop. The city spread out below him and gazed around. The city was in full flow and the streets were packed. Now was the perfect time to make a grab but he had to see what pocket the merchant slipped his purse into before he made his move. He wouldn’t have time to try more than one pocket.

As an urchin, working in Credo’s gang, he picked pockets and ran errands. Always just one bad grab from a noose around the neck. His reward was – as long as he filled his quota - a safe place to sleep and just enough food to live on. A fair deal in his opinion, in Steward’s City anywhere you could close your eyes for a few hours and not get stabbed was rare. That was part of the reason he loved the rooftops, stalking his targets from up high, looking down on the merchants the same way they sneered n at him when they bothered to even notice him.

The merchant moved slowly down the street. The whole time he walked, the purse bounced up and down, calling to Wyn. He had to have it. If he didn’t make the grab soon then any chance of filling his quota would be gone.
His target turned a corner, moving out of sight and Wyn scrambled across the roof to climb a spire. The higher vantage point allowed him to catch a glimpse of the merchant’s back as he entered a store. He hissed in frustration, there was nothing more he could do but wait and hope the merchant still held the purse when he left.

At this height, the city had an otherworldly feel to it, an almost quiet stillness to the air. It was an illusion. The Old Maid had once told him that if he ever found himself in a street that was truly quiet he should run, because more likely than not, trouble was coming and he definitely wouldn’t want to be there when it arrived.

There was always something going on in Steward’s City. Even now he could see a patrol of Constables dragging a man through the streets towards the Keep. The poor bugger, once he went into that Keep the chances of coming out were slim.

The sun had started to set; its warm red hues gave the city a soft and gentle feel. In this light Wyn thought the city looked beautiful and could almost forget waste and faeces that covered the streets. In spite of its problems he loved this city, it was home and that meant something.

The sound of someone climbing the stairs behind him brought him out of his musings. He eased himself to the other side of the spire, out of sight of the stair well. He waited for the sounds to draw closer, poised to run.
“Wyn! Wyn!” a gasped shout came from the stairs.

He realised it was his friend Sammy. Wyn was surprised. Sammy climbing all those stairs was unthinkable. He never did anything physical unless he absolutely had to. He’d once overheard his friend telling some of the other urchins that only an idiot ended up needing to run. Given the size of Sammy’s gut, Wyn thought maybe a little more running wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

How his friend gained weight was a mystery to Wyn, who, looking down at his own body, was wafer thin and struggling to gain height. He was thirteen and knew that most of the other boys his age had started growing hair between their legs. He remained smooth and it was starting to worry him. The Old Maid said it’d come eventually but Wyn was starting to wonder if she was just being nice.

He moved back into sight of the stairwell and waited for his friend. He didn’t have to wait long. Sammy had almost reached the top. Even at a walk, thirteen flights of stairs were tiring and by the sounds of it Sammy was moving faster than that.
 

barrett1987

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2014
Messages
559
I figured that if he really is a street urchin who steals for a living... what better way to introduce him than if he preforms a grab with his trusty friend sammy. That way i can introduce them, show them in action and still get them moving looking for Stranger without the entire scene being passive. I can't change that they are in awe at the idea of Stranger being in town but i can fill the chapter with more events to prevent bored. What do you think I Brian?
 

barrett1987

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2014
Messages
559
Yeah, this thread could be deleted now. The scene has completely changed. I'm a little ashamed of it. Lesson learnt!
 

barrett1987

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2014
Messages
559
1498 words. The scene is here but has a bit more dialogue at the end.
===============================

Wyn couldn’t take his eyes off the purse. Up, down, up, down. His eyes followed it and he licked his lips in anticipation. He’d been following the purse for the last hour and was starting to get impatient.

He gazed down into the packed streets from the rooftop above. It was rush hour, the perfect time to make a grab but he wasn’t good enough to try a hand-snatch so he had to wait until the purse was put away. Frustration rising, he crept along the roof, following his target.

The merchant moved slowly down the street, browsing the shop fronts. The whole time he walked, Wyn kept his eyes locked on the purse. If he didn’t make the grab soon then he doubted he’d fill his quota by tonight. As an urchin, working in Credo’s gang, filling that quota was important, the difference between life and death.

Failure to fulfil the quota too often and he’d be cast out. In a gang, Steward’s City was a hard place to survive; on his own he’d be dead within the week. He’d had a few dry nights recently; this purse might ease some of the pressure from the bosses. Even from the rooftop he could hear the marks jingling inside, his mouth watered at the sight of it.

His target turned a corner, moving out of sight and Wyn scrambled for a better position. Climbing a spire, he caught a glimpse of the merchant’s back entering a shop and hissed in frustration. If the merchant put the purse away while inside he wouldn’t know which pocket it was in. A grab was risky enough when you knew exactly where the purse was, let alone when you didn’t.

He turned his head and looked out over the city. At this height, it seemed almost peaceful. The sun had started to set; its warm red hues spread, giving it a soft and gentle aura. It was an illusion. The Old Maid had once told him that if it ever got truly quiet then he should run, because more likely than not, trouble was coming and he definitely wouldn’t want to be there when it arrived.

There was always something going on in Steward’s City. Even now he could hear the whistles of Constables, dragging some poor fool off towards the Keep. Wyn shuddered. Once you go into the Keep your chances of coming out were slim.

The sound of someone climbing the stairs behind him brought him out of his musings. He eased himself to the other side of the spire, out of sight of the stairwell and waited, poised to run.

“Wyn! Wyn!” a gasped shout came from the stairs.

He blew out a tense breath, it was just Sammy. He kept hidden though, you could never be too careful. Sammy climbing all those stairs was unusual, something must be up. He never did anything physical unless he absolutely had to. He’d once overheard his friend telling some of the other urchins that only an idiot ended up needing to run. Given the size of Sammy’s gut, Wyn thought maybe a little more running wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

How his friend gained weight was a mystery to Wyn, who, looking down at his own body, was wafer thin and struggling to gain height. All the other boys his age were much taller. The Old Maid said he’d grow eventually but Wyn was starting to wonder if she was just being nice. He hoped not, he didn’t want to be a pipsqueak all his life.

He peaked out, past the spire, as he friend exited the stairwell; he was alone. He stepped from his hiding spot and waved his friend over. Sammy, usually immaculate, was in disarray. Sweat was streaming down his face and his shirt was untucked, allowing his bulging gut to hang free.

“Wyn! Didn’t you hear me calling?” Sammy staggered towards him, gasping for air.

Thirteen flights of stairs were tiring at a walking pace and by the looks of it, Sammy had been moving faster than that.

“Sorry, guess not.” He looked over at the shop doorway; the merchant was still inside.

“He’s here, Wyn, He’s here!”

He glanced distractedly at his friend. “Whoa Sammy, take a minute get your breath back. You look like your gonna pass out or something.”

Sammy gulped in a few mouthfuls of air and his face started to return to a normal shade of pink rather than the disturbing dark red it’d been. This high there was always a cool breeze and it quickly did its work, cooling him. He waited until he was sure Sammy wasn’t going to faint and then pressed for an answer.

“What are you talking about? Who’s here?”

“Stranger’s here.” Sammy replied, a wide grin spread across his face.

“You’re having me on.” Wyn playfully punched Sammy’s arm.

“Nah uh, he beat up Gunny over at The Hog’s Head, not an hour ago, I swear it!” Sammy rubbed his arm. “You never believe me…”

“Sammy, come on. No way Stranger is here and even if he was you’d be the last to know about it.”

“It’s true, Philly told me!”

Wyn paused at that. Philly was one of the bosses. He organised the urchins for Credo and was known for his straight talk. If Philly said Stranger was in town then it was probably true.

“This better not be another ‘Phoenix’ sighting!” Wyn said doubtfully.

Sammy had once, to the great amusement of the other urchins, sworn that there was a Phoenix rising over the harbour. It had turned out just to be fireworks. Sammy was one of the most gullible people Wyn had ever met.

“Please Wyn, will you help me find him?” Sammy pleaded.

“I got to make a grab first, you know I’ve missed quota a lot recently.” as he spoke the merchant stepped out of the store, placing his purse into his pocket. “There he is. Did you see that purse?”

“I’ll help, then you can help me find Stranger.” Sammy said eagerly. “Tumble and Snatch?”

“Yeah, that’ll work.” Wyn kept his eyes on the merchant’s bulging pocket. “Get moving, I’ll make the grab when you tumble.”

Sammy nodded then turned and sprinted back down the stairwell. It would take him a few minutes to get down all those stairs and into position. Even so, Wyn didn’t have time to waste.

Taking care not to lose sight of the merchant, he eased himself over the edge and began to climb down from the roof. His small hands found cracks where a bigger man would struggle and quickly his feet touched the floor. He edged out of the alley, looking for his friend.

After a few moments, Sammy’s head appeared from the stairwell, red faced and sweating. He looked towards Wyn and gave a thumb up. At this distance, Wyn couldn’t tell If Sammy was nervous but thought it likely. Sammy always got nervous before a grab.

The merchant was walking up the street, returning the way he had come. As the merchant passed the alley, Wyn slipped out, following him. They closed the distance on Sammy and Wyn gave him the signal. Sammy charged out the stairwell, screaming at the top of his lungs. Everyone, including the merchant, turned to look.

Sammy, his fat gut bouncing up and down, sprinted down the street as though chased by wolves. Even Wyn, who had been expecting it, was a little surprised. Sammy was quite the actor when he wanted to be.

With everyone’s attention on Sammy, Wyn crept closer towards the merchant’s pocket. Sammy ran down the street, his head twisted, looking behind him. At the last moment he stumbled and collided with the merchant and both went down in a heap.

Wyn was the closest to them and sprang forward to help the merchant to his feet. The merchant for his part was spluttering curses at Sammy, the clumsy oaf. Once the merchant was safely back on his feet, Wyn moved on, keeping his head down, not looking back.

Sammy didn’t waste any time, already back on his feet, he ran down the street still screaming. The merchant cursed loudly at his friend’s departing form. Wyn took the first turning and the commotion was left behind. In his pocket the weight of the purse felt good.

He made his way back towards Thieves Row, mind already drifting with Sammy’s news. If Stranger was in the city, then as far as Wyn was concerned, this was the chance of a lifetime. Stranger was a legend and Wyn had been fed on his stories since he was a babe. Stranger taking on the Pirates of Abbot’s Cove, Stranger killing the Werebeasts of Wulen’Dar even Stranger slaying the last dragon in the Mountains of Merrill. The man was a living legend and Wyn wasn’t going to miss out on a chance to lay eyes on him.

“Whoa, wait for me.” Sammy called from behind.
 

tinkerdan

∞<Q-Satis
Joined
Dec 10, 2012
Messages
5,094
Location
x² + y² = r²:when x~∞
It's getting much better though I'm not sure if it's up the the top level of what you've been showing people lately.

1498 words. The scene is here but has a bit more dialogue at the end.
===============================

Wyn couldn’t take his eyes off the purse.
--I would tend to go with those who disdain the negative action. and try to turn this into the positive such as Wyn's eyes were fixed upon the purse.(eyes on the prize)--
Up, down, up, down. His eyes followed it and he licked his lips in anticipation. He’d been following--couple things here this is He had been following
-- one problem with the verbings is that they usually give this feeling of continuous action but the he had been suggest it now has stopped almost verging on an oxymoron in this case I might go with the suggestion He'd followed--
the purse for the last hour and was starting to get impatient.

He gazed down into the (packed streets)--could try (bustling crowd)--in this case it would work because you do want that feel of continuous action-- from the rooftop above. (It was rush hour, the perfect time to make a grab but he wasn’t good enough to try a hand-snatch so he had to wait until the purse was put away. Frustration rising, he crept along the roof, following his target.)--You could have some fun with this one.-- (It was rush hour; it was the perfect time to grab a purse; it was the moment for someone who was adept at hand-snatch; it was an hour for frustration; it was creeping along rooftops following the target and waiting.)--thumbing your nose at the verb-ed people because really those are good words to describe the continuous action and the continuing frustration all together to the reader.--

It's a good scene though for introduction to Wyn and though it would be nice to see more of the five senses in this it would have to be done subtly because Wyn is focused on the prize in this and is blocking out a lot of that sensual experience. You are capturing some though with just the frustration because thats deep into his senses at the moment.
 

barrett1987

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2014
Messages
559
On a bit of an editing binge with a more refined style. The scene starts like this now. Anyone spot any glaring problems?

==========================

Wyn fixed his eyes on the purse. Up, down, up, down.

Creeping along the roof, he kept the merchant in sight. If he messed this up he wouldn’t be making his quota. As an urchin, working in Credo’s gang, filling that quota was the difference between life and death.

It was rush hour and the streets were packed. The smells of cooked meat wafted into his nose and his belly groaned, reminding him how hungry he was.

The merchant turned a corner, moving out of sight and Wyn scrambled for height. Climbing a spire, he caught a glimpse of the merchant entering a shop. Wyn cursed. If the purse was pocketed while he was inside then this job would get a lot harder.

Wyn sat back and sighed. Up here, away from the streets, Steward’s City almost seemed peaceful. He wasn’t fooled. There was always something going on down there. Even now he could see some Constables dragging some poor fool off towards the Keep. Wyn had learnt a long time ago that if things ever got truly quiet then he should run, because more likely than not, trouble was on the way and he wouldn’t want to be there when it arrived.

“Wyn! Wyn!” a wheezy shout came from the stairwell behind.
 

ratsy

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 24, 2008
Messages
4,644
Barrett I think the "As an urchin" line could be changed to something more showing.

Maybe


Creeping along the roof, he kept the merchant in sight. If he messed this up he wouldn’t make his quota. He could still feel the bruises from the last time he came back empty handed.

Or something along those lines. This is something that I have to work on as well so I'm trying to spot the telling more these days
 

barrett1987

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2014
Messages
559
Barrett I think the "As an urchin" line could be changed to something more showing.

Good point ratsy.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Similar threads


Top