The Boy With Jewels In His Eyes - 1st Chapter excerpt

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Dan Jones

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Hi all,

This will be my first posting for a critique, so I'm looking forward to seeing some serious sharpening of teethies and claws :)

A quick précis: this is the first chapter of Jewels, and as it stands this is the 5th draft of the novel. I've had half a dozen rejection letters from agencies based on submissions containing chapters 1-4, so rather than keep bashing away blindly, I'd like to understand where improvements could be made. I have ideas of where I believe the improvements could be, but I'll keep those thoughts to myself for now.

Liberestes is one of 5 POV 3rd-person narrators in the novel. Also, please note there are some swear words contained from the start.

Happy reading!

Chapter 1 - Bird Of Pray

Get on with it, you insufferable *******.

Liberestes watched Castas reading aloud and drummed his bony fingers upon the arm of his chair.

‘The Forestry reports an exceptionally poor yield of cereals this winter,’ said Castas. ‘Food is scarce. What little there is remains highly priced…’

Liberestes, sitting in his Seat of Execution in the Lord’s Hall of the Stuor Mark Citadel, noticed Castas shifting from side to side as he spoke; a tell-tale tic for his anxiety. Why was Castas anxious? Liberestes could understand if he was bored, having to read out this utter rubbish at the Trade Updates each month in his presence, but anxious? Liberestes wondered if an unpleasant kicker approached at the end of the messages.

‘…In such times have we learned that we must subsist upon the kindness of our neighbours,’ Castas continued. ‘The heads of the City Merchants League Misters Almseve and Gondenall, seek an audience with you; they desire the abrogation of the twofold tax on both their purchases from neighbouring lands, and the tax they pay upon their profits. Without such an annulment, they are being forced to sell at prices beyond the means of the citizenry…’

On and on the witless Castas droned. Taxes, annulments… why should Liberestes, the Executor of this great city, Stuor Mark, still have to listen to this sh*t? Thirty years ago, when he first sat upon this bloodied seat, he would never have believed the thought that ruling could become boring. Sometimes he yearned for the return of the axe, but he learned a long time ago that the fulsome inclination to swing it in peacetime hardly endeared oneself to the citizenry.

The Seat of Execution was a thin ebony chair, supported by four bulbous legs, which had long since lost its sheen. The sleek, curved arms were at the sides furnished with dull silver trim, and a silver back. Upon it was a faded, purple cushion, woven and craft with great skill, yet beginning to wear at the seams. Where Liberestes had slouched upon it for so many years, as he did now, the cushions had been moulded into the shape of his rump. Yet every time he sat into it he felt it pulling his greying, balding head down, as if invisibly yoked to his chest. He was dressed in a fine grey doublet and breeches, all straps and buckles of brown leather and dull gold. Upon his left breast he sported the insignia of a seven-pointed star above a circle in yellow stitching. About his shoulders he wore a large, dirty cloak of furs dyed blue. Castas had stopped speaking, and Liberestes took several moments to digest the bitter words.

‘******* Merchants’ League,’ the Executor said at last. The words were perfunctory and monotonous, expelled with minimal effort or movement that suited his gaunt, hungry face. If a man were to suppose that all rulers must eventually represent their growing majesty through increasing corpulence as a mere fallacy, Liberestes was such proof. He was lean, his flesh scratched away by a fastidious and unsatisfied sculptor. He moved his eyes first, then at last his head to eye Castas directly. He kept his movements small and efficient, reptilian. ‘They seek to rob me for their own wealth. What should I do with those who would not seek to contribute to the upkeep of our fair city, eh, Castas?’

‘Executor…’

‘Think on it not, Castas. It’s not a question for you. Tell those peasant merchant shits that I shall see them. Summon them here, at a time most inconvenient for them.’

‘Perhaps at the time of the next market…’

‘I do not care when, Castas; simply do it,’ spat Liberestes. ‘What of the city folk, who must subsist off of the poison of these shitty men? I care only for the people; I would have them love me.’

‘Of course, they love you still,’ said Castas. ‘But their love does not fill their bellies, not keep warm their children. They are frustrated, and frightened. The merchants can see this. They require you to be at one with them, be one of them.’

‘One of them?’ asked Liberestes. ‘You make it sound as though I am not one of the people, Castas?’

‘That was not my intention,’ Castas stuttered. Liberestes smiled internally at Castas’s discomfort, but he would never show it. ‘Your glorious rise from…’ He corrected himself. ‘Who you are is not in dispute by me – nor any member of the city which you have freed and served.’

Castas quickly looked around the room. Four of the Forty Nine, the Citadel’s elite guard, last line of defence, and effectively Liberestes’s bodyguards, stood motionless by the door, dressed in stained indigo plate and black leathers, topped by indigo helms. He looked back at the Executor, who did not move his eyes. The air was silent for a few seconds; Liberestes enjoyed making them wait.

‘No, Castas, I understand,’ said Liberestes, taking the effort to gesticulate a wearisome, dismissive wave. ‘It is a harsh winter. People needed to have their hearts cheered, no? They need to be inspired. A man needs a purpose to carry him through dark times; people should remember it is better to die penniless in a great city than to make one’s fortune in a field of sh*t.’

‘What do you propose, Executor?’ asked Castas.

‘There is no greater purpose than serving your fellow man, Castas,’ he said. ‘Such works we have done over these thirty years in deconstructing the corruption of the Chamber. As streets have been cleansed so have hearts. Let us break the past altogether. I will give them a new vision of reckoning for Stuor Mark. Tell me, Castas; how long has the Passmire Library stood in the city?’

Castas shuffled awkwardly at the unexpected question. ‘Ah, many years Executor. Lord Passmire erected the building when the Mark was first built, but it has been a library not all that time. I could find out…’

‘Do not waste what little remains of your brain, Castas. The answer is that it has stood for too long. No-one has read these obsolete texts in an age; none except decrepit academics and cranks. It is an oddment, a curiosity.’

‘It has housed the records of many generations of the city’s people, their deeds and tales. It is a monument like no other in the Westerlands for recording the deeds of our forefathers.’

‘Our forefathers nearly brought this city – this world – into ruin!’ Liberestes growled, stirring ferociously. He felt flecks of spittle nestle in his beard as he frothed, and the rims of his eyes flush red. The Executor stared at Castas’s greyed head for a few seconds before switching his gaze to the guards, who maintained their silent obsequiousness. These sycophants were certainly useful, and most malleable, but by the earth they were dull.

~
 

Hex

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Hi DG Jones!

I think it's bird of "prey" (as in yummy squeaky animals) rather than "pray" (as in religion).

I get what you're doing with the opening -- but for me, one of the problems with a scene where someone is being bored is they're so hard to write without boring the reader as well! If I were you, I'd consider staring with a scene where someone is doing something -- a scene to draw us in, if that makes sense? And then, once we're engaged maybe introduce the tension underlying the Trade Updates etc?
 

Brian G Turner

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First point - something I always advise is to never open a story with your protagonist feeling bored. Remember, whatever emotional state the protag is in is what you want the reader to feel upon picking up your book. And here, you want your reader to feel bored by your story. Is that what you really want to achieve?

There's also a lack of immediacy and urgency. No, you don't have to have explosions, yes you can set a scene - but here, all the protag does is feel bored and sit around saying "Tell me things, secondary character." And what things does he get told? Tax accounting!

Now, this could actually be interesting - Liberestes might be outraged and we could feel that, else he could drip cunning on how to deal with the issues to show his intelligence. Or a whole load of other reactions. However, feeling bored and having nothing to say does not engage me either in the story or characters.

Nothing happens, and no one engages us. Nothing is promised. Why should we read on?

You nearly touch on something right in the very last paragraph - Liberestes suddenly reacts - he growls. But your use of POV falls apart in this paragraph (presuming you're aiming for Third Person Limited) as we don't feel what Liberestes actually feels - instead, you immediately distance yourself from the character, and tell us his reactions, and physical descriptors ('spittle in his beard', 'eyes flush red') that your character POV could not be aware of.

And then, almost as suddenly, he's bored again!

Think carefully about this scene - why is it important? Is it because of the information imparted and nothing else? Then this information can be dripped into a more engaging scene. Otherwise, build something around that information - character and tension - so that there's meaning and a reason to care about what's happening.

If the reason is to show us Liberestes, you haven't shown us anything about him, other than he gets bored by his own story, flashes inexplicably into a rage, then feels bored again. None of this is engaging, and none of this shows character - it's a perfunctory series of actions.

There's also a potential concern about your voice - you said before that this was epic fantasy, but I kept being pricked by how utterly modern some of it came across. No one expects Ye Olde English, but the more neutral your language, the more that setting can take over - and take with it our suspension of disbelief. Modern people in a period setting makes it feel like a modern setting. It's something I've been called up on as well.

You also throw in a lot of names and titles without any reaction or inference about them. Now, this can be fine in itself - but because nothing is actually happening or drawing us in, it makes all these lists of names feel very dry. Especially when your protag is bored, and we've learned about tax accounting.

Overall, there's no tension or conflict or character here, and because of that, nothing to engage me as a reader with the story.

Hopefully some of the above pointers will help - though they may sting at first - but have a think. And read Save the Cat by Blake Snyder - yes, it's about screenwriting, but the structural issues it addresses (in a fast and clear manner) can be equally applicable to any format of storytelling.

This is all just my personal opinion, and I'm not suggesting that you cannot get published. I'm merely pointing out that you're missing a lot of tricks, and that you could benefit from thinking much more deeply about what you are trying to achieve from the start in terms of introducing story and character.
 

HareBrain

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Was just about to say the same as Hex and Brian. Your characters are bored; they're talking about things they find boring; you use words like "rubbish" and "drone" to describe them. What is there to light the fire of interest in a reader?

There doesn't seem to be much wrong with your writing, technically, but I think your opening could do with a radically different approach.

The term "seat of execution" interested me, though -- I wondered what that meant.
 

Dan Jones

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Thanks guys, this is really useful feedback. I will have a second look through and think about this. This is exactly the sort of thing I wanted to hear, so it doesn't sting, it's very welcome! I hadn't thought of the point about Liberestes being bored before, but now you mention it, it's so dang obvious I can't believe I missed it. I knew there was something not quite right about this opening, and I guess this is it.

Also, @Hex, the spelling of "pray" is deliberate.

Thank you both!
 

Hex

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Also, @Hex, the spelling of "pray" is deliberate.

I did wonder, given your other posts (you clearly know how to use words). However, I also wonder how an agent will know that it's deliberate? It's risky when you're submitting, I think, because you're giving someone the chance to assume you don't know the difference and put the manuscript down (it's apparently one of the most common issues with manuscripts sent to agents -- people confusing words like prey and pray, imperial and empirical etc.)
 

HareBrain

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I hadn't thought of the point about Liberestes being bored before, but now you mention it, it's so dang obvious I can't believe I missed it.

We've all been there, or similar places.

In a way, it's a sensible gambit, because in your mind the boredom contrasts with the exciting stuff later -- but someone reading for the first time can't do this, because they don't know the exciting stuff exists.
 
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Jo Zebedee

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I won't crit, but suffice to say I agree with the others and that it didn't hold my interest.

Ref prey/pray - I think you need something to tell us this isn't a typo in the first three sentences. It read to me as one, but I did wonder and I'd have let it go if there'd been a hint it was right.

Good luck with it. As Harebrain says, we've all been here. I wouldn't like to say how many versions of the opener of my first novel have been up on here...
 

The Judge

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Congratulatons in putting up your first piece for critique. I know it takes some nerve. So well done.

However, to be honest, I wasn't gripped. There's a lot of telling and backstory shoved in here, and it's not immediately enthralling. Having a -- I presume -- baddie as the opening POV character could be entertaining, especially with some a good helping of black humour, but at present he's a bit, well, dull, I'm afraid. I think that's in part a reflection of what he's hearing and thinking about it -- if he's bored, it's difficult for us not to be. If the POV here was the other chap's, who is terrified of what the Executor is going to do to him, then that I think would provide the conflict and interest which to my mind is required to make this take flight. You might also think more about the issue of POV.

I'll do the beginnings of a nitpick, as there are a few too many words/expressions which aren't helping you here:
blue = suggested delete
red = suggested addition/amendment

purple = comment

Chapter 1 - Bird Of Pray [unless we are going to see a bird who does pray, this should be Prey -- and even if we do see a praying bird, it looks too much like an error to be welcome as the very first thing an agent will see]

Get on with it, you insufferable *******.

Liberestes [watched Castas reading aloud and] [very passive action -- instead invert the sentence] drummed his bony fingers upon the arm of his chair and glared at Castas who was still stumbling in his reading.

‘The Forestry reports an exceptionally poor yield of cereals [using a generic is bland -- saying eg "wheat, barley and millet" are specifics which give depth] this winter,’ [Forestry doesn't usually equate to cereal crops so this seems odd] said Castas. ‘Food is scarce. [food is more than cereals. Bread may be scarce, but what of fish, or fruit, or vegetables, or pig meat?] What little there is remains highly priced…’

Liberestes, sitting in his Seat of Execution in the Lord’s Hall of the Stuor Mark Citadel, [lot of telling there -- do we need to know exactly where he is?] noticed ["noticed" is like "watched" as reading as a bit passive, so better simply to start "Castas shifted from side to side" -- if we are fixed in L's POV that's enough] Castas shifting from side to side as he spoke; a tell-tale tic for his anxiety. Why was Castas anxious? Liberestes could understand if he was bored, having to read out this utter rubbish at the Trade Updates each month in his presence, but anxious? [why should he wonder? L comes across as not terribly intelligent or pleasant, so poor C is probably sh*tting himself -- and surely L should be happy C is anxious?] Liberestes wondered if an unpleasant kicker [I would avoid all slang in exposition unless you are very deep in POV] approached at the end of the messages. [surely "reports"?]

‘…In such times have we learned that we must subsist upon the kindness of our neighbours,’ [that's not a report, that's pretty banal comment -- why isn't L angry at such pontificating?] Castas continued. ‘The heads of the City Merchants League, Misters Almseve and Gondenall, seek an audience with you. They desire the abrogation of [the twofold] [the tax isn't twofold -- there are two separate taxes] taxes [on] [on a quick read this otherwise reads that they only make two purchases] both on their purchases from neighbouring lands, and on [the tax they pay upon] their profits. Without such an annulment, [if using "such" use the same word again ie "abrogation"; if you want "annulment" in case you worry people won't understand what "abrogation" means, drop "such an"] they are being forced to sell at prices beyond the means of the citizenry…’ [um... I'm no economist, but tax on profits, unless it's extortionate, isn't going to be the killer here. Merchants will charge what people will pay. If the citizens can't pay, the merchants will drop the prices until they can sell their stock, which will reduce their profits, and therefore their taxes. If they can sell at a high price only to the elite, they will do so, and pay the taxes, unless they are philanthropists, in which case they will sell at a lower price and make less profit. If they can't sell other than at a loss, they will simply not import, unless again they are philanthropists, but in that case the tax on profits is irrelevant. This really doesn't read as something that has been considered properly]

On and on the witless Castas droned. Taxes, annulments… why should Liberestes, the Executor of this great city, Stuor Mark, [again a lot of telling] still have to listen to this sh*t? Thirty years ago, when he first sat upon this bloodied seat, he would never have believed [the thought] that ruling could become boring. Sometimes he yearned for the return of the axe, but he'd learned [a] long [time] before [ago] [ago is a bit too present tense-y] that the fulsome [fulsome means excessive or insincere, such as fulsome praise; informally -- and wrongly -- it can mean full or rich, but no way can it relate to a murderous intention] inclination to swing it in peacetime [why the reference to peace?] hardly endeared oneself to the citizenry. [this could have been an example of black humour which would have propelled the story along, but it's like a joke told with the timing all wrong, I'm afraid]

The Seat of Execution was a thin ebony chair, supported by four bulbous legs, which had long since lost its sheen. The sleek, curved arms were at the sides furnished with dull silver trim, and a silver back. Upon it was a faded, purple cushion, woven and craft with great skill, yet beginning to wear at the seams. Where Liberestes had slouched upon it for so many years, as he did now, the cushions had been moulded into the shape of his rump. Yet every time he sat into [if the cushion is only on the seat, then he can't sit "into" it; if the cushioning is all over, that needs making clear and the "Upon it was a faded" sounds wrong] it he felt it pulling his greying, balding head down, as if invisibly yoked [without a repetition of "head" this is strictly the cushion being yoked to his chest] to his chest. He was dressed in a fine grey doublet and breeches, all straps and buckles of brown leather and dull gold. Upon his left breast he sported the insignia of a seven-pointed star above a circle in yellow stitching. About his shoulders he wore a large, dirty cloak of furs dyed blue. [relevance of any of that?] [next sentence doesn't follow on, so make this a new para] Castas had stopped speaking, and Liberestes took several moments to digest the bitter words. [why do we need any of this paragraph? If you want some description to ground the scene, make it relevant -- eg the bit about pulling his head down could be so, but it's buried here. We don't need to know the colours of his clothes unless they have some impact on him, since he won't be thinking of them, nor of his baldness]

‘******* Merchants’ League,’ the Executor said at last. The words were perfunctory and monotonous, [why would he think this?] expelled with minimal effort or movement that suited his gaunt, hungry face. [ditto] If a man were to suppose that all rulers must eventually represent their growing majesty through increasing corpulence as a mere fallacy, Liberestes was such proof. [a convoluted sentence that even on re-reading I'm not sure makes sense (on yet another re-reading I'm sure it doesn't make sense -- it's missing a verb, I think) -- and why would he be thinking about this?] He was lean, his flesh scratched away by a fastidious and unsatisfied sculptor. He moved his eyes first, then at last his head to eye [very inelegant construction -- why not just "look at"?] Castas directly. He kept his movements small and efficient, reptilian. ‘They seek to rob me for their own wealth. What should I do with those who would not seek to contribute to the upkeep of our fair city, eh, Castas?’ [some neat ideas ref the description of him and his voice, but for me they are wasted coming in his POV -- these should be C's thoughts showing what he thinks of his master]

‘Executor…’

‘Think not on it [not], Castas. It’s not a question for you. Tell those peasant merchant shits that I shall see them. Summon them here, at a time most inconvenient for them.’
I'll end there, as I'm running out of time. But I see I've been so slow everyone else has already piled in (no one was here when I started!), so sorry this is simply repeating stuff.


EDITED to correct a couple of stupid mistakes, and I expanded a couple of other comments, too.
 
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Dan Jones

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Thanks all; thanks @The Judge for the line edits. This makes me itch to go back and rewrite this. It's interesting to consider the "Bird of Pray' thing as being misinterpreted as a mistake by an agent, so I'll probably alter the chapter title. And yes, Liberestes is a 'baddie'.

I'll pick the claws out of my side and think about restructuring the scene with the necessary revisions this evening with any luck.
 
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Hex

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As HB said, we've all been here. Crits are awful but they help, and the most important thing is to think about them and take what makes sense to you and work with that.

It sounds exactly like that's what you're doing, so best of luck. Looking forward to seeing the rewrite!
 

Dan Jones

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@Hex I think the first thought I had upon reading the above was: flipping heck, I've spent nearly four years on this, and there's still loads to do.

Second thought was: ability is nothing without applying it with skill and knowledge.

Third was: put the kettle on.

Lastly: let's go and do it.

So I can see the value in the crit forums (and could see it before I'd even posted my first crit TBH).
 
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J Riff

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Nothing to add, other'n the start, the beginning, is hugely important, so condensing it and making it move a bit quicker is probably the way to go.
It's fairly apparent what's happening, and a lot of description can slow the pace. Should be easy to streamline and introduce a bit more tension.
 

Jo Zebedee

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@Hex I think the first thought I had upon reading the above was: flipping heck, I've spent nearly four years on this, and there's still loads to do.

Second thought was: ability is nothing without applying it with skill and knowledge.

Third was: put the kettle on.

Lastly: let's go and do it.

So I can see the value in the crit forums (and could see it before I'd even posted my first crit TBH).

You forgot the important bit - seek cake and eat it mindlessly for at least five minutes. (Hands over chocolate fudge slice)

Good luck with it!
 

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Your dialogue was too long winded and aimless. Description is good, but over used. There is very little happening here, and that is a problem. Someone sitting on a throne who is bored by his minions, with not much else happening is asking a lot from a reader. I’m the same as everyone else I’m sorry to say – I couldn’t engage with this.

However, I thought the technical writing was good, which is a good start. Your description is good, but less can be more sometimes. I can see the promise of a good writer in you, so don’t let these crits get you down. Good writing is saying what you need to say with the least words. Writing with style can be putting words back in. For you, focus on good writing for now, saying what you need to say with less words. Tighten up, keep focused on the storyline and most importantly, entertaining the reader. You’re not writing for the reader right now and that has to change.

We have all been here as HB says, but some of us had even more work to do just to get started. My early posts were crime scenes there was so much red ink being used, but I stayed at it. Anyway, keep going and good luck.
 

LittleStar

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I am yet to post anything up for critique, and do dread it, but with the great feedback you get from the folks here, I don't know why, there is nothing to fear from getting better at writing. even just reading through I just learnt something to look out for, that would never have crossed my mind, Brian's mention of third person limited and physical descriptions. I don't know whether I fall foul of this, but I know to look out for it now :p

As for a critique... As above for the most part. I did enjoy the characters and setting, it reminded me of the similar scene in one if Joe Abercrombie's books, 'before they are hanged' maybe? (when it was very hot, and POV was stuck in heavy plate armour, I'm awful with names today though -_- ) and your world seems really nicely fleshed out.

I think there is a lot you have done well here. I don't nessecarily think there's anything wrong with the way you've set it out as a chapter or excerpt, but for me it would be better placed a little further along in the book, rather than having this as the first introduction to the whole setting and characters. At times I got lost in the long titles and world building/info dumping, if i already knew the names and titles it would be another thing entirely to follow them through. But with it all happening in the first few paragraphs of a novel makes it difficult to hook me.

You use some nice descriptions, but something that does grab me out of of the 'dream narrative', is paragraphs filled with minute clothing details. I either don't want to know everything they are wearing or want it drip rather than force fed. I don't know if there is a general consensus on things like this, but it's something that personally I look out for.
 

Toby Frost

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I agree with a lot of what's been said already. I don't know why, but I've seen quite a few stories beginning with someone being bored, and it usually doesn't work for me. There are loads of ways to start a story, but I think the safest is for something exciting to happen and put someone - usually the POV character - in danger. That way, there's immediate action, and we usually instinctively sympathise with the person who's in trouble (not knowing better yet!).

Re the dialogue: personally, I really dislike the need some published authors seem to have for fantasy to be written in stilted, old-fashioned (usually slightly Victorian) language. After all, medieval people didn't talk like that. But I do think that here, the language lurches a bit from one extreme to the other. I would have expected a man like Liberestes to have some more creative expressions for his contempt rather than just swears: "Wretched little turds" instead of "Sh*ts", etc.

But it does remind me of Abercrombie, in a good way, and has a nice feel of a man who believes himself surrounded by enemies and idiots. I think it needs excitement, and tightening, but could go somewhere interesting.
 

Dan Jones

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@Toby Frost Interesting comment about a safe bet being opening with danger or a set piece. Initially, I was not going to use this chapter as the opening chapter; originally I was going put chapter 2 first: chapter 2 contains a big opening set piece, narrated by a different POV character who ends up (ie not at the immediate beginning of the chapter) in danger. I eventually opted to put the Liberestes chapter first for structural reasons but, judging by the comments above, it is a bit of a misfire on my part.

I think I may be better served by returning Chapter 2 to the beginning and, while the Liberestes chapter still requires much work as highlighted above, I now understand the problems I will have in using it as the opening scene, and even as a second chapter it still requires more tension and pace.

Thanks everyone for a really useful set of critiques.

PS @Toby Frost @LittleStar am extremely flattered and interested by the Abercrombie comparisons; it gives me confidence that the bones of something good is in there amongst all the fat. Thanks again
 

ralphkern

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This reminds me of a certain opening text for a well known movie:-

Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.
Hoping to resolve the matter with a blockade of deadly battleships, the greedy Trade Federation has stopped all shipping to the small planet of Naboo.

Another slightly more gripping opening text for another movie is:-

"It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

I'll let you decide which is more thrilling... but personally, and this is just my view, I prefer the latter. Tax issues, even when they effect me personally, I struggle to be enthused about. (I procrastinated for months before even getting round to getting an EIN so I could reclaim my US witholding tax... and that was my money!)

I appreciate that might be the basis for a portion of the conflict in your world. Maybe rather than talking about the two-fold tax, tell (or better yet show) the fact that citizens are stealing, and discord is setting in, as they can't afford goods due to the two fold tax forcing merchants to sell at a price beyond the means of the citizenry etc.

How about scene with a kid nicking food? Captured by guards and sent to the mines or whatever. Then you can go into this with the above revisions. You might even get away with the bored tone you are trying to convey if it came after that.
 

FibonacciEddie

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Hi DG,

I suspect that you are in feedback overload so I will keep this brief.

The first thing to understand is ---- I liked it ---- I want to read more.

I am not a grammar expert, but I liked the way it read generally. I liked the flow/pace and overall sense of the scene.

However, I have some pointers… and the bits I am about to “critique” are all quite fixable - but you should take time to internalise the underlying rules.

I was not personally bothered with the fact it started with a slow scene – however, the prevailing opinion (across the industry) is for breathless openers – and this is not one of them. Given that you were 50:50 (judging by your response) it may be worth moving things around.

For me, there were a few words that felt incongruous: kicker, witless (albeit I can’t quite think why), rump (as this is 3rd Person Close, would he really think about it as his rump … ‘arse’ probably).

*Note: I’d draw up a list of 30 or 40 words for each of your main characters that differentiate the way they describe similar things. Liberestes may say “arse”; the cheeky servant girl – “Bum”; the stuffy academic “posterior” --- ; Grizzled-Mercenary "sh*t-hole" ... maybe not the last one :)

Ok… so I am NOT keeping this brief… soz!

So that leads me on to Point of View (POV). I think you have a few technical problems here; it’s worth reading through “in Liberestes’ head”. Be clear to yourself, what can he see, hear, feel, smell. There were a few things that were described “out of Liberestes’ sight” (e.g., the description of the chair legs) – it’s Lib’s POV he can’t see the chair legs, he could think about whether they may snap one day… // another example “his eyes flush red” … he doesn’t know that … he could feel a rush of blood – a building rage barely suppressed.

Then “in his head” … I think you used a couple of phrases that were over emotive given what an ice cold killer this guy is e.g.,“digest the bitter words.” – no … not really from my perspective, they were annoying but Lib dealt with it immediately and definitively – I don’t think he was “emotionally hurt” by them asking for tax breaks. Avoid using over emotive words if the character “in POV” wouldn’t be too bothered.

And probably... a little too much background information shoved in.

anyway, back to the top - I liked it.

Fib.
 
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