Belated 1,000 post piece for critique

svalbard

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This is what I have being working on recently. New material and this re-worked start to my endless WIP.

CHAPTER1 TWO PRINCES


NANTER 1079 VP.

Dolfin sat alone in his chambers, fuming, angry and quiet. He had dismissed all even his bodyguards so none could see his shame. He stared at the rich mosaic that covered the reception chambers far wall. The stylised depiction of a Kalnordian long ship seen riding into the arms of the 'old man of the sea'. It was a mosaic he had paid one of Janter’s finest artists to construct. The piece had taken a year to build; it covered the northern wall of the chamber, an extravagance by any standard. It mocked him, for the face of the helmsman under the Kalnordian beard was his brother, his accursed younger brother Caric.He had never felt that there was a resemblance there before between the helmsman on the mosaic and his sibling, for of course there was no resemblance. The portrait was of his ancestor the great Gulnar, first of the Astarian kings of Janter. It bore the strong jaw line and high brow of all heroes, whether they were statues, paintings or mosaics anything but alive. It was for the same reason he had dismissed his two bodyguards as they each now sported the mischievous grin of his sixteen year old brother, as did his servants, his cooks, and everywhere he turned he saw the mocking eyes of his brother. His very own mirror reflected back to him the laughing face of the brother who had cuckolded him before he even married.

“I’ll get you for this, you little bastard, I swear by the lord Vishna I will.”



Caric, the aforementioned brother stood in another part of that same palace. The tower was in one of the more ancient parts of the palace. In more savage times it had served as a watch tower to guard against the reivers of the north and the Balter Islands. It was connected to the main complex by a stone walkway; the walkway was enclosed to guard against the buffeting winds that came rushing in from the sea. Now the tower held a signalling mirror, the first of a chain his Father had constructed to signal word of ships, trade and war across Inner-Janter, the centre of his dominions, the heart of the empire.This particular mirror stood on a revolving platform so it could send and receive messages from the Crelak, the fortress and sometime prison out in the bay, or the civil palace on the other side of the city. It was towards the Crelak that Caric was now staring, the grim possibility that it may be his new home growing on him, the fear increasing with each hour that passed.

The Crelak sat squat and fat in the middle of the bay of Nanter, the battlements had been chiselled out of the hard stone over the course of centuries and the reign of a hundred kings. He could see the distant bobbing heads of the guards as they patrolled the battlements. Perhaps they were soon to be his gaolers? He had once been down to the grim dungeons far beneath the Crelak where no light shone. There was even an area of those same dungeons known as the ‘royal chambers’. A reminder of times when the transition of Janter’s crown was not as smooth and politic as it appeared to be now. There were still rumours that the Usurper, who had attempted to wrest the crown from his father Ranald, was still held as a prisoner in the depths of the fortress. Herk one of the two monks of Vishna that were Caric’s guardians since childhood stood beside him on the balcony and together the two of them solemnly contemplated the Crelak in the bay and the city of Nanter directly below them. Herk’s instructions were clear under no circumstances was he to allow Caric to be alone. A royal line as ancient as the Gulnarsons developed some strange notions of honour over the millennia and it was always possible that Caric might throw himself off the tower rather then face his Father.

As the evening grew deeper they could see the assorted fishing boats and smacks swarming out to sea. The boats would return in the morning laden with fish to feed the teeming hordes of the city. Feed the hungry belly of ‘the old man of the sea’ as the citizens of Nanter referred to the ancient city. To the north and south of the Royal Palace, two man made peninsulas thrust out into the sea. The fishing boats put out from the southern spur or the old mans left arm. There was little activity at the northern spur where the traders came and the merchant ships docked. Business at the northern spur began in the morning and the market was now finishing for the evening. There were many ships at dock, some from Kalnordia bearing furs and amber to trade with the more civilized lands of Janter and other nations further south. From the south ships came from as far away as Dalaria baring precious metals, ivory and cedar wood.

Suicide was the furthest thing from Caric mind as he had every intention of seeing the dawn, despite his dread of the consequences of what she had trapped him into. He could not believe what he had done, even now. He had seduced a princess, his brother’s wife to be, what madness had taken him? What madness had taken her? He reflected bitterly…

He had been found in the royal stables in mid-act by his brothers, Thrand and Dolfin.Dazzled by her eyes and her long dark enticing hair, coiled like the snakes of the medusa on her shoulder, wicked and inviting when loose by her hips. Her beautiful dusky skin set off by mesmerising emerald eyes.Slim with a tapering waist and small budding breasts. He thought now of her legs sweaty and slick as they made love in the heaped straw of the royal stables outside the city. He had been lying on his back as she thrust herself upon him when his brother Thrand had entered in search of Caric.Thrand’s first reaction had been to stop and smile not realising who it was that Caric was with. Caric had looked at his brother speechless and watched as Thrand’s jaw dropped in horror as he recognised the woman. Cait, Dolfin’s betrothed did not pause in her motions merely groaning all the louder not realising Thrand was there.Caric was still staring at Thrand when Cait noticed he was no longer responding to her ardour. Turning her head to see what Caric was looking at she noticed him. Not the least bit discomposed she threw her head back to remove hair from her eyes, then she spoke the words that would be forever burnt into Caric’s conscience; “Join us or get out”. It was just at this point that his other brother Dolfin entered the stables…




He turned to Herk no longer able to bare even the thought of those moments.

“ It’s lovely up here at this time of the evening,” said his bodyguard of thirteen years.

“ Is that your best attempt at humour,” was the Prince’s caustic reply.

“ Look on the bright side, at least this time there was not an exchange of coin.”

Even Caric had to chuckle at that one. “To hell with you, this is not the time for jesting.”

Caric looked behind him into the chamber. “Where’s your brother?”

“ Out and about scouting out the lie of the land like any good soldier,” the guard replied not wishing to tell Caric that Dagal was being questioned by Ranald as to why the Prince had been left alone with the princess.

“ Good he can find out what the chances are of securing one of those ships down there for a run to the Balter islands.”

Herk paused to rehearse in his head what he was going to say next. “I appreciate your confidences of these past years Caric, but Dagal and I are actually sworn to your father’s service…” he said trailing off sounding embarrassed.

“ Bollocks to that, Herk you’re in this up to your neck as well…” Caric paused to add effect to his next words. “After all I am the protected and you are the protector. Herk stared back at Caric oblivious to the words meanings.

Caric sighed slightly as he realised he would have to explain to Herk that the situation was as bad for his two bodyguards as it was for the Prince, he paused before he spoke and then thought better of it, let Dagal explain it to him.He then turned back to the bay where the lights were now being lit along the Crelak walls. From within the depths of the city where the sunlight had left soonest came the flickering light of torches as the men of the night watch began their rounds. The pinpricks of light far below them like fireflies in the gathering gloom.

Caric looked back into the dark of the chamber and noticed no servants had come to light the chamber lights, all part of his fall from grace he decided not actually knowing if this was true or caring for that matter.

“See can you find some oil for the lamps Herk,” said Caric, once again sounding like the child that Herk had guarded and loved for thirteen years.

High up on the tower on which he was standing the lights igniting the city below did nothing to obscure the dazzling constellations of stars above his head. The Prince looked up to see a shooting star streak away to the west. Like any schoolboy or child thought in the old superstitions he made himself a wish.

“Oh bring me far away from here,” he muttered, and he was soon to marvel at how easily that wish was granted.
 
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Hex

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Hi svalbard,

Nice piece! I edited it to bring it down to a natural break at about 1,500 words (because the next section is quite long and looks like it naturally belongs together), since there's a word limit on pieces posted in crits -- even the special 000 post ones (congratulations on 1000!)
 
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zmunkz

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What sort of feedback are you looking for (e.g., what stage draft is this)? Just so I can try to provide helpful thoughts ;)
 

Brian G Turner

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The biggest problem I have with this piece is that there is no immediacy. Every time you introduce us to a character and situation, instead of showing it you suddenly digress into a long infodump.

This is an ordinary problem with really early drafts, and my advice would be to just get that first draft completed. Once done, you'll have all the information you need, so then if you go back and do the heavy editing, you can then mercilessly butcher out anything that doesn't deal with what is immediate. What you'll have then is your actual bare bones of your story. You can then add in the extra information as needed, but IMO you need to try to keep immediacy in the foreground, and the background information in the background.

Also, ensure you understand the technical basics - your POV use looks a little iffy from here. I'd advise reading something like Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer, and get an idea of some of the points he raises. The more you understand now, the less rewriting you'll have to do later.

Hope that helps. :)
 

Gonk the Insane

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I thought the piece was well-written, and sets up an interesting premise. For me, though, there was just too much information at the outset without much in the way of events/action. For me, the moment the story really reached out and grabbed me was here:
Suicide was the furthest thing from Caric mind
That might make for a good hook at the start, maybe teasing the reader before revealing what happened (just an idea).

As Brian mentioned, some of the Point of View did seem a little confused: the section with Caric and his bodyguard seems to be told from Caric's POV, but partway through we're introduced to what seems to be Herk's thoughts:
the guard replied not wishing to tell Caric that Dagal was being questioned by Ranald
and
said Caric, once again sounding like the child that Herk had guarded and loved for thirteen years.
And a couple of minor points:
There's leading spaces between the opening quote and first letter in several lines (the section with Herk and Caric):
“ It’s lovely up here at this time of the evening,”
This line should be "bear" rather than bare:
He turned to Herk no longer able to bare even the thought of those moments.
and a missing comma or two, e.g. one after "brother" here:
Caric, the aforementioned brother stood in another part of that same palace.
I liked the piece, and think it's a great set-up with Caric in a pot of trouble, facing an uncertain future - plus there's the potential for some epic brother-against-brother feuding. The scenery's detailed and it's clear you've done some in-depth world-building.
 

tinkerdan

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This is a good start. But I would agree with some that it needs something better to start. In fact, the Dolfin part could be moved out of the beginning. It might be good for later; but this part needs to focus on Caric.

My advice would be to rework all the description in the first paragraph with Caric and put it behind the most important part.

Start with Caric -gazing across the bay to the fortress- with dread and foreboding- as he realizes that will soon be his home. And then begin the description of the tower and circumstance while coming in close as Caric fights the dread and begins to process all the sights sounds smells and the very taste of what to his life comprise his freedom that will soon be gone. And in between all of that squeeze in the description of the surroundings; the people he's with; and the reason for his present conflict.

You've got the elements all there but you need to zoom into Caric's predicament and make the reader interested enough to follow you around the description and come out at the end. You can mention Dolfin and the offense committed here; but leave Dolfin's part of this out for now and put it in later, because Caric and his actions and reactions and plans are what will make this piece interesting.

In my opinion.
 

zmunkz

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I agree with most of the comments already made. It is well written and hints at some interesting history and worldbuilding, but it is frankly a multi-part info dump until about paragraph 5. From what I have read/heard, it is much better to hold off on this stuff, and let it drip out in pieces only as necessary to understand the action happening now.

And that would be my other comment -- I don't feel like very much happened in those first 1000 words. Probably this is a side effect of the above... if you swap some of the info dumps with action and dialogue, I think a lot more will be accomplished.

Hope that helps!
 

Bowler1

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The opening paragraph did eventually get there, but all the talk of a picture was not engaging for me. The second paragraph with details of a signal mirror does nothing to move the plot on and all the names of places are meaningless and confusing to me this early. It really was a struggle to get to the love making scene and the opening paragraphs could be a lot more concise.

You dialogue didn’t feel natural to me, but was close to the mark. Keep at this and you’ll get there.

Herk paused to rehearse in his head what he was going to say next. – This feels like a head hop to me, where you break character POV mid-scene.

“See can you find some oil for the lamps Herk,” – Missing direct address comma, but to be fair you have the DD comma in elsewhere. I had comma issues and spacing problems all through the section and while these are small errors, grammar is grammar. Time spent editing is not time wasted.

Your pace was super slow because you info dumped and over described your world and painting, both of which don’t add to the developing plot. The idea is good, but weakened by place names, mirror workings, ships in the bay and battlements etc. Stay with the character and stay with the storyline point, which an impending off with his head, was good. You’re killing your own very good idea but wondering off into boring and un-necessary detail for this point of the story.

Less is more. Stay with the storyline and don’t info dump so much. But really, less is more. A good attempt with a very nice idea, keep at it.
 

svalbard

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Thanks for the thoughts and suggestions. I have gone back and started with Caric, moving the Dolfin part further in and increased the dialogue between Caric and Herk. I am also playing around with a dream sequence to show Caric's inner turmoil.

Great to get honest feedback that allows you to re-evaluate your work and improve. Thanks again.
 

Rhein13

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There is something here but it's just too much far too fast. Try and spend a little time on one scene before introducing more characters or places that the reader knows nothing about. I understand the brother but then there is a lot of info dumping. You definitely have something here. It, like all unfinished works, need a good editing and it'll flesh out.

Also try not to get sruck using dream sequences. You REALLY have to pull it off for it to work. An argument with a little dumping usually works better.
 

Juliana

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Congrats on the 1000!

I have gone back and started with Caric, moving the Dolfin part further in and increased the dialogue between Caric and Herk.
Agree with this and think it could work a lot better. :) Won't comment more as you've rewritten it already.

Also, a quick question: if I understand correctly, Herk is both a monk and a soldier? That's a little confusing. If his order is a military one, I'd suggest when you first introduce him as 'monk' you call him a 'soldier monk' or something, just to clear up any confusion. (I find small things like that tend to pull me out of the flow of things...)
 

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