Driftwood opening chapter

Discussion in 'Critiques' started by Martin Gill, Dec 30, 2016.

  1. Martin Gill

    Martin Gill Well-Known Member

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    I've posted the first few lines of this before. I hit the 80k word mark today so I though it was time for a longer crit.

    Context - historical/mythical low fantasy. A mix of Norse and Finnish mythology blended with real world locations and characters - think History Channel's Vikings. I take liberal liberty with history.


    Chapter 1: The Sea Gift

    They huddled, drenched and desolate for three days and three nights while Grandfather Sky beat lightning from the broiling black thunderheads towering overhead. Rain lashed the rocky shore. Gales rent towering pines. All the while, they sheltered beneath their oilskins and shivered. No fire. No hot food. Hunger was their banquet. Winter’s-blade cut deep. And when the sky god finally blew his last ragged breath and laid down his hammer, dawn was breaking, pale and golden through the iron-grey clouds.

    That’s when they found her. No storm-wrecked knarr, keel-broken and spewing treasure, nor a white-bellied whale carcass, beached and blubbery.

    They found a girl.

    Crooked Arin saw her first and set up a yelling while Reki stood knee deep in the foamy swell making sacrifice to the Fishgiver for their sodden lives after the whipping the storm had given them. A meagre offering in the hope that the sea would yield a bounty that morning. A mangy cormorant flapped in his oar-callused hands. He wrung its neck, bones cracking.

    “Ahti take my offering.” His voice rung out over the lapping swell. He hurled the broken bird out into the bay. It splashed like a ragdoll and washed back to shore, rolling limp and wet-winged to tangle amongst the black smear of seaweed marking the ocean’s edge.

    “An ill omen.” Hakkon the Godcaller stood at Reki’s side, his voice flat and blunt. “We should be off this beach before they come for us.”

    “They’re no keener than us to brave the storm. We’ll be long gone before they come sniffing.” Reki laid a hand on the old man’s shoulder. “You worry too much.”

    “And you don’t worry enough.”

    “I told you to do it.” Reki shrugged and prodded the cormorant with the toe of his worn old sea boot. “You keep telling me you are closest to the gods.”

    “And you keep telling me you are the captain.”

    “We should have eaten the damn bird.” Reki’s empty stomach growled. Crooked Arin’s call banished sour thoughts of punching Hakkon. He looked up, cormorant forgotten, gazing down the sandy strip. The white beach ran a mile or more until a rocky headland severed it, jutting out into the crashing waves, hazy with ocean spray. To their left the forest grew almost down to the shore, great swaying pines buffeted by the breeze, tower-tall, their thick roots gnarling into the sandy topsoil. Nearby the storm had felled one, sending it crashing through its brothers to hurl clods of dark, wormy earth across the sand.

    There, a bowshot or more up the beach, Crooked Arin stood gesturing wildly with his one good hand. He was shouting, but the wind whipped his words out to sea.

    Reki shrugged and raised an eyebrow to Hakkon, who frowned as he scratched at his close-cropped hair, more grey now than brown. He wore the blue of the Godi, but Reki knew as well as Hakkon did that the Godi no longer called him one of their own. Not for years. Not since that day at Uppsala when Reki’s father had pulled his hide from a pyre and he’d taken Sindsro’s oath.

    “What’s he saying, the old fool?” Reki strained to hear.

    “Something about a girl, I think.” Una spoke, her young eyes spying more than Reki could at a distance. She was bright eyed and bouncing like a spring hare despite their lack of food and sleep. She started forwards, looking like she wanted to burst into a run. “He’s found a girl.”

    “The last thing we need is Crooked Arin let alone with a girl.” Reki shook his head at the thought. “Let’s see who he’s found before he tries to stick his rancid old c**k in her.”

    They set off up the beach, Reki with Una at his side, Hakkon trudging behind and Ruði the Steersman trailing silently at their tail, spear butt ploughing a shallow furrow in the sand as he dragged it behind him. Crooked Arin stood over the slumped body by the time they reached him, a toothy yellow grin smeared over his dirty face, langseax in hand now, its straight, heavy blade aglimmer in the wan morning sun. He crouched, reaching hesitantly with the weapon to prod at the prone figure. Most definitely a girl. She sprawled face down in the damp sand, sea foam kissing her bare feet.

    “Careful,” said Reki. “She might be a Selkie.”

    Crooked Arin staggered back, slipped and fell on his arse in the sand. He glared up at Reki, who sniggered back.

    “She’s not a Selkie.” Hakkon shook his head with a faint look of despair.

    “How can you be sure?” Crooked Arin furrowed his black brows, hawking phlegm into the sand, a ward against evil. He clutched at the bone-carved Mjolnir hanging at his throat.

    “She’s wearing a kirtle. A Selkie would be naked.” Though in truth, Reki had never seen a Selkie before. He elbowed Ruði gently in the ribs. “Help her up, big lad.”

    Ruði leant on his spear and bent towards her.

    She sprang.
     
  2. Stuart Suffel

    Stuart Suffel Well-Known Member

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    Like this, although Gales tend to buy rather than rent. :) ;) Back in time for a more thorough crit.
     
  3. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    I think you're writing is very good, but I do have some technical criticisms:

    Semantically, what you've done here is:

    They huddled from the storm
    The storm raged
    They huddled from the storm
    The storm raged

    I don't see much discussion of semantics in "how to write" tutorials, but I've always figured it was common sense to group related information together.

    In this instance - and in my own personal style - I would condense the opening with this in mind to something like:

    (Note - you don't need to mention the thunderheads "towering overhead" because we'll presume the clouds are indeed overhead).

    IMO if you keep the statements about the girl separate then it has more impact, ie:

    Crooked Arin saw her first and set up a yelling while Reki stood knee deep in the foamy swell making sacrifice to the Fishgiver for their sodden lives after the whipping the storm had given them A lot of verbs in this sentence, perhaps inviting it to be broken up into two or more. A meagre offering in the hope that the sea would yield a bounty that morning. A mangy cormorant flapped in his oar-callused hands. He wrung its neck, bones cracking.

    “Ahti take my offering.” His voice rung out over the lapping swell. He hurled the broken bird out into the bay. It splashed like a ragdoll and washed back to shore, rolling limp and wet-winged to tangle amongst the black smear of seaweed marking the ocean’s edge.

    This cormorant stuff is all very interesting, but the paragraphs opened with their attention on a girl - now she's ignored

    “An ill omen.” Hakkon the Godcaller stood at Reki’s side, his voice flat and blunt. “We should be off this beach before they come for us.”

    “They’re no keener than us to brave the storm. We’ll be long gone before they come sniffing.” Reki laid a hand on the old man’s shoulder. “You worry too much.”

    “And you don’t worry enough.”

    “I told you to do it.” Reki shrugged and prodded the cormorant with the toe of his worn old sea boot. “You keep telling me you are closest to the gods.”

    “And you keep telling me you are the captain.”

    “We should have eaten the damn bird.” Reki’s empty stomach growled. Crooked Arin’s call banished sour thoughts of punching Hakkon. He looked up, cormorant forgotten, gazing down the sandy strip. The white beach ran a mile or more until a rocky headland severed it, jutting out into the crashing waves, hazy with ocean spray. To their left the forest grew almost down to the shore, great swaying pines buffeted by the breeze, tower-tall, their thick roots gnarling into the sandy topsoil. Nearby the storm had felled one, sending it crashing through its brothers to hurl clods of dark, wormy earth across the sand.

    There, a bowshot or more up the beach, Crooked Arin stood gesturing wildly with his one good hand. He was shouting, but the wind whipped his words out to sea.

    Reki shrugged and raised an eyebrow to Hakkon, who frowned as he scratched at his close-cropped hair, more grey now than brown. He wore the blue of the Godi, but Reki knew as well as Hakkon did that the Godi no longer called him one of their own. Not for years. Not since that day at Uppsala when Reki’s father had pulled his hide from a pyre and he’d taken Sindsro’s oath.

    “What’s he saying, the old fool?” Reki strained to hear.

    You aimed to hook our attention with the girl - but now you're distracting into general dialogue and descriptions. It feels like a lack of focus, and that this is all infodump that takes a tangent around the story

    “Something about a girl, I think.” Una spoke, her young eyes spying more than Reki could at a distance. She was bright eyed and bouncing like a spring hare despite their lack of food and sleep. She started forwards, looking like she wanted to burst into a run. “He’s found a girl.”

    “The last thing we need is Crooked Arin let alone with a girl.” Reki shook his head at the thought. “Let’s see who he’s found before he tries to stick his rancid old c**k in her.”

    This crude comment serves to deflate the sense of tension. If the characters aren't interested in the discovery of this girl, and are going to joke about it instead, the reader can now relax with the tension gone

    They set off up the beach, Reki with Una at his side, Hakkon trudging behind and Ruði the Steersman trailing silently at their tail, spear butt ploughing a shallow furrow in the sand as he dragged it behind him. Crooked Arin stood over the slumped body by the time they reached him, a toothy yellow grin smeared over his dirty face, langseax in hand now, its straight, heavy blade aglimmer in the wan morning sun. Feels like you're inserting a lot more information here than we actually need He crouched, reaching hesitantly with the weapon to prod at the prone figure. Most definitely a girl. She sprawled face down in the damp sand, sea foam kissing her bare feet.

    “Careful,” said Reki. “She might be a Selkie.”

    Crooked Arin staggered back, slipped and fell on his arse in the sand. He glared up at Reki, who sniggered back.

    “She’s not a Selkie.” Hakkon shook his head with a faint look of despair.

    “How can you be sure?” Crooked Arin furrowed his black brows, hawking phlegm into the sand, a ward against evil. He clutched at the bone-carved Mjolnir hanging at his throat.

    “She’s wearing a kirtle. A Selkie would be naked.” Though in truth, Reki had never seen a Selkie before. He elbowed Ruði gently in the ribs. “Help her up, big lad.”

    There's no sense of character experience here - no close feelings of surprise, alarm, curiosity, danger, etc. Instead you're telling via dialogue. It all contributes to a distant sense of POV and suggests you're not paying close enough attention to POV use.

    Ruði leant on his spear and bent towards her.

    Please, no non-English characters when you're writing in English. Otherwise all that happens is that you throw the reader out from the story to call attention to a strangely written word. English has a long history of rendering most non-English characters into English ones. Personal preference here, though.
     
  4. Wruter

    Wruter Aquarius

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    I found it an engrossing and stylish read, comparable to the 'Ironborn' sections of ASoIaF.

    I would have liked a specific name for who 'they' were coming for them, and the first sentence of the fourth paragraph might benefit from a comma as it was too long for me to parse, were my only minor notations.
     
  5. Martin Gill

    Martin Gill Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the comments.

    I'm missing the point here. Or am I? Rent = past tense of rend. Or do you mean something else?

    Brian... I'm mostly with you. I'm less bothered about the first paragraph repetition, but I can see a way of cutting a couple of words. One of the things I was interested in was does the intro of the hook (the girl), then the relatively quick character building interlude (failed cormorant sacrifice) then the flip back to the washed up girl work.

    Given where the story goes, The crew's discovery of the girl is the most important thing here.

    I get your point about dropping the tension with the crude comment. It was intended as a character building comment. It could equally be a "hurry up and let's take a look before trouble comes" comment to keep the threat present.

    Your comment near the end on character experience. I guess we haven't got fear, alarm etc because the idea of Reki is that his first reaction isn't that the girl is supernatural. He's more worldly wise than that. But it could equally work if he's the one wondering if she's a selkie (not selfie, thanks iPad) and is the voice of caution in this scene. It nudges his character slightly given later stuff, but it fits. That way he can help build a feel of "hey, have they found a magic girl?" (They haven't... or, they mostly haven't).

    Non English characters... hmm. I've read a bunch of books over the last couple of years, Giles Kristain front and centre, that relish in scandi/old Norse words, letters, etc. I'm fairly sure BernRd Cornwall does it with Saxon words in his Alfred series. But again, I'll hold judgement for more feedback. However, my feel is that historical and historically inspired fiction is embracing a few native language terms these days.
     
  6. Stuart Suffel

    Stuart Suffel Well-Known Member

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    Laptop still outta commission so, well, darn it. Re Gales and the housing market, my point is two-fold. 1/ The use of the word is unusual in itself, and more so as an active verb. It was rent asunder, ie, in the passive, is more common. and 2/A humorous way to illustrate how the other meaning, (Gaelic folk renting property) might also exist. Otherwise some nice writing. However as Brian (as astue as ever) has pointed out, you're structure narrative wise is a tad meandering. You've put style before purpose methinks. Still, wouldn't take much to right thosr and other issues Brian has mentioned. A very nice piece, overall.
     
  7. tinkerdan

    tinkerdan candycane shrimp

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    I think I recall some of this from the past.
    I like it; but I can't love it. It took me some time to read because I read it three times so I might understand exactly what was going on.

    That could just be me.

    And after advice about separating the things about the girl to highlight them I feel almost foolish having to say that the very fact of it being singled out has left me disappointed; but there is too much distance from that small hook to any sort of helpful background that it reads more like a quick tease with an implied exclamation point about something we shouldn't really worry about.

    Even though it's the hook; if you have to do all of that stuff in between, then I would get rid of the line:: They found a girl.:: because it really begs for more detail right away. If your prose, which is good; but is sometimes difficult for me to read quickly, were to flow easier and get the reader to the bottom quicker, I could almost let the gap go. Unfortunately by the time I reach the meat I don't have the proper appetite.

    If you took out that sentence or for that matter if you leave it in then I would almost expect a need to mend the next sentence.

    You have Crooked Arin yelling and then for quite some time everyone ignores him for no good reason until it is finally revealed that he's a bit far away. I think it would make more sense to make that clear from the start. Plus the length of sentence and use of language account for my comment about the prose and the basic style you have chosen.

    Perhaps::
    Crooked Arin spotted her and set to yelling, too far away to be heard, while Reki stood knee deep in foamy swell, making sacrifice to the Fishgiver for their sodden lives. A meagre offering, in hope the sea would yield more bounty beyond the mangy cormorant flapped in his oar-callused hands.
    ::
    The whole definitely needs some cleaning up, tightening; before I can grasp it all in one read. I'm just not sure how much of that is the style you chose and whether it's worth changing for one reader.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2016
  8. Cli-Fi

    Cli-Fi Well-Known Member

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    I don't generally do critiques because there are way better and more experienced people to get advice from on here than me. However, I do comment on great titles, and yours sounds like a freaking TV mini-series, not just a great book title. Maybe you'll get a deal out this! :)
     
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  9. Martin Gill

    Martin Gill Well-Known Member

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    This is all helpful, thanks.

    In my first version the sacrifice piece is basically the intro para then about three lines of dialogue, then they go see what Crooked Aron has found. I added in the stuff about "we need to go before THEY come" because a lot of feedback I see on other folks' work is lack of tension. By the end of the chapter the crew get ambushed, but in my original draft there's no mention of that until it happens.

    The intent of the little aside is to establish a number of things... pagan religion (sacrifice), Reki is captain, Hakkon is his adviser, they have a snarky relationship, Reki is somewhat down at heel right now (he fails to effectively sacrifice the bird).

    To Brian's point, I think having them more suspicious of her and flip the selkie stuff to "she must be a selkie, be careful" works better. I've got a line in C3 where one of them says "are you sure she's not a selkie" so adding in that uncertainty now probably helps. And I forget, you as the reader don't know what she is at this point...

    So... is the hook of "they found a girl" enough without another external threat? Originally I thought it was. I changed it very recently.

    I'm going to rewind, dig out the original and see where that takes me.

    And I'll come back to the title. I wasn't going to ask about that for a while. It's very different from the normal "Odin Blood Wolves" kind of pagan war porn titles most historical style books about Vikings wind up with.
     
  10. Martin Gill

    Martin Gill Well-Known Member

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    Take 2. Thanks for the comments so far.

    I've reverted to my original draft for the first few paragraphs. I keep the sacrifice, then make it more relevant to the decision they make later. Personally I like it as it helps quickly establish some facts about Reki and Hakkon early on. Without it I feel that I'd need to add exposition or risk you having no concept yet that Reki is the Captain, etc. So now from Crooked Arin's first call to Reki deciding to act on it there's only 115 words of "interlude".

    I've changed their relationship to "her" to begin with to make them collectively much more suspicions. I've removed the tone form Reki that he makes a joke of things, and instead made him much more superstitious, which fits his character later on anyway. I've also tried to make Crooked Arin more obviously bitter by his words, and not by Reki telling us he's a dirty old pervert.

    I've kept the short convo about "we need to go before THEY come". I'm unsure its needed. It was there to create tension based on feedback I've seen on other people's work. I've named "them", though again I kind of prefer not to and leave it vague. I'm still tempted to delete that whole exchange so when the ambush hits later it's much more of a shock with no foreshadowing. The bit in bold is what I'd consider removing.

    So the main question originally was "is them finding a girl washed up on the beach enough of a hook?" The question still stands.

    Here goes...


    Chapter 1: The Sea Gift

    They huddled, drenched and desolate for three days and three nights while Grandfather Sky beat lightning from broiling black thunderheads. Rain lashed the rocky shore. Gales rent towering pines. All the while, they sheltered beneath their oilskins and shivered. No fire. No hot food. Hunger was their banquet. Winter’s-blade cut deep. And when the sky god finally blew his last ragged breath and laid down his hammer, dawn was breaking, pale and golden through the iron-grey clouds.

    That’s when they found her.

    No storm-wrecked knarr, keel-broken and spewing treasure, nor a white-bellied whale carcass, beached and blubbery.

    They found a girl.

    Crooked Arin saw her first and set up a yelling from way along the shore. Reki barely heard him, knee deep in the foamy swell making sacrifice to the Fishgiver for their sodden lives after the whipping the storm had given them. A meagre offering in the hope that the sea would yield a bounty that morning. A mangy cormorant flapped in his oar-callused hands. He wrung its neck, bones cracking.

    “Ahti take my offering.” His voice rung out over the lapping swell. He hurled the broken bird out into the bay. It splashed like a ragdoll and washed back to shore, rolling limp and wet-winged to tangle amongst the black smear of seaweed marking the ocean’s edge. He sighed, shoulders slumped.

    “An ill omen.” Hakkon the Godcaller stood at Reki’s side, his voice flat and blunt.

    “I told you to do it.” Reki shrugged. “You keep telling me you are closest to the gods.”

    “And you keep telling me you are the captain.”

    “We should have eaten the damn bird.” Reki’s stomach growled. Crooked Arin’s call banished sour thoughts of punching Hakkon. He looked up, cormorant forgotten, gazing down the sandy strip. The white beach ran a mile or more until a rocky headland severed it, jutting out into the crashing waves, hazy with ocean spray. To their left the forest grew almost down to the shore, great swaying pines buffeted by the breeze, tower-tall, their thick roots gnarling into the sandy topsoil. Nearby the storm had felled one, sending it crashing through its brothers to hurl clods of dark, wormy earth across the sand.

    There, a bowshot or more up the beach, Crooked Arin stood gesturing wildly with his one good hand. He was shouting, but the wind whipped his words out to sea.

    “What’s he saying, the old fool?” Reki strained to hear.

    “Something about a girl, I think.” Una spoke, her young eyes spying more than Reki could these days at a distance. She was bright eyed and bouncing like a spring hare despite their lack of food and sleep. She started forwards, looking like she wanted to burst into a run. “He’s found a girl.”

    They set off up the beach, Reki with Una at his side, Hakkon trudging behind and Ruði the Steersman trailing silently at their tail, spear butt ploughing a shallow furrow in the sand as he dragged it behind him. Crooked Arin stood over the slumped body by the time they reached him, a toothy yellow grin smeared over his dirty face, langseax in hand, heavy blade aglimmer in the wan morning sun. He crouched, reaching hesitantly with the weapon to prod at the girl sprawled face down in the damp sand, sea foam kissing her bare feet. Salt rings stained her pale linen shift. It clung damp to her wiry body.

    “Careful, she might be a Selkie.” Reki peered at her, hesitant to get too close lest she grab him and drag him down in a watery embrace. His grandfather’s tales spun in his mind.

    Crooked Arin staggered back, slipped and fell on his arse. He furrowed his black brows, hawking phlegm into the sand, a ward against evil. He clutched at the bone-carved Mjolnir hanging at his throat and glared up at Reki. “I say we throw her back to Njord.”

    “And I say selkie or no, it’s ill luck to leave her here.” In truth, Reki had never seen a Selkie before. If she were a seal-wife, wouldn’t she be naked? It didn’t seem right to simply leave her. What would Sindsro say? “She looks half drowned.”

    “Perhaps she’s worth something to someone?” Crooked Arin eyed the girl.

    “You know what Sindsro thinks about slaves.” Reki glared at him, but he did have a point. Some isle-jarl hereabouts might give a ring or two to see a runaway thrall or even a wayward daughter returned.

    “She’s not a Selkie.” Hakkon shook his head with a faint look of despair. “Besides, the Gods want us to take her.”

    “And how do you know that, once-godi?” Crooked Arin sneered contempt at Hakkon.

    The old man ignored the insult. “They washed Reki’s sacrifice back to us. They washed her ashore here for us to find. And anyway, we should be back on the waves before the Cruinthe come for us.”

    “They’re no keener than us to brave the storm. We’ll be long gone before anyone comes sniffing.” Reki laid a hand on the old man’s shoulder. “You worry too much.”

    “And you don’t worry enough.”


    Reki snorted a reply, but Hakkon was probably right, damn him. They should go. His mind made up, he elbowed Ruði gently in the ribs. “Help her up, big lad.”

    Ruði sighed, leant on his spear and bent towards her.

    She sprang.
     
  11. Wruter

    Wruter Aquarius

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    Much preferred it as it stood before.

    For me the hook is the descriptive quality of the writing, which evocatively captures the milieu. There's a literary, historical feel to it which overrides the need for any cheap hooks or 'action' - that is unless you're aiming for more of a pulp fantasy.

    I'm afraid the name-heavy conversation in take 2 between a bunch of characters we don't know yet loses my focus. Less is always more when it comes to dialogue IMHO.

    Neither do we now have any immediate sense of why they are where they are since the reference to them being chased is moved later - that's the tension or 'hook' for me, the larger conflict against which the finding of the girl is an added problem, and should come sooner as in take 1, again IMHO.

    Regarding the 'crudity' I would point out that, for example, GRRM makes effective use of this as a visceral cue which adds verisimilitude - just look at the prologue to A Game of Thrones. Tastes may vary but it hasn't done GRRM any harm.

    And mentioning the Cruinthe by name rather than an ambiguous 'they' for me IMNSHO creates more of a mystery and specific threat as to who or what the Cruinthe might be.

    (And I think the comma in the fourth para should come after 'swell'.)
     
  12. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    Personally speaking, I think you get to the issue of finding the girl much more succinctly and the opening is better for it.

    However, I think you could do with strengthening your POV - Reki doesn't really seem to do much, other than get dragged along by everyone else. He looks, his stomach growls, but aside from sacrificing the bird, he doesn't really seem to consider much - or be driven by anything.

    You can get away with it - but IMO you'll make your story significantly better by addressing this. There's a sense of danger that's only mentioned at the end that could be injected in earlier, giving Reki something more to do than just reacting to whatever has immediacy?
     
  13. Martin Gill

    Martin Gill Well-Known Member

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    Interesting.

    It would be easy enough to pull the couple of lines between Reki and Hakkon... the bold bits, back up to their initial exchange, then have them go and meet the girl with Hakkon moaning about the threat of attack. That wouldn't add too much between the initial call and them acting on it.

    I think I prefer Reki more skeptical initial reaction to the girl, but I could equally accelerate that section to get into what then happens.
     
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  14. Martin Gill

    Martin Gill Well-Known Member

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    Or making him more active? I agree here in that to begin with this is essentially a setup scene for the crew to find the girl and I hadn't thought beyond the fact that some stuff has to happen to kick start the story. I think this can be done fairly susinctly but I'm heading towards a quick exchange where Hakkon advocates "we must leave, we are in danger", Arin advocates "throw her back into the sea, she's trouble" or "ok,we can capture her and sell her" and Reki shuts them both down and says "no, we are helping her" making him more active. It also gives me more tension between the crew.

    As for what he wants at this point, that's a good question. He has a cargo, he needs to deliver it, he's in debt, he knows he needs to get underway because the storm has made him late. But for narrative purposes he has to be inquisitive enough to take the girl with him... or I'm writing a very different story! He is a much more active and driven character after this scene, but this is a fair call at this point.
     
  15. tinkerdan

    tinkerdan candycane shrimp

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    To me it feels like your POV has drifted off to omniscient and mostly objective. This will make it difficult to strengthen and I might suggest using subjective to at least draw closer to Reki and open up to his reaction through his five senses. While avoiding going too far and digging into the other characters. It could easily work the same with close third to Reki who seems to be dominant here.

    Presently though, its more like a camera going around recording his actions; which makes it hard to dig into motivation.

    Also as a nit pick::
    You have; No Fire. No hot food. Hunger was their banquet.

    No fire pretty much means no hot food but now with our attention drawn to it that means a possibility cold food and therefore not as likely to follow that hunger had to be their banquet unless they just have to have hot food.
    I would ditch the no hot food or change it to no food.

    That's just me.

    On the lighter side.

    She sprung.
    I can't think of a better shorter way to put this; but it brought to mind a watch springing and parts flying everywhere.
    Perhaps she's a clockwork selkie.
     
  16. HareBrain

    HareBrain Bunny of Wonder Staff Member

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    I'd be tempted to leave out the set-up, which darts all over the place, and, as others have pointed out, is omniscient, which is a hard sell these days. You tell us they found "her", and that "she" isn't a ship, which isn't in anyone's POV (since no one is going to look at a body and think "is that a ship"?). Then you go away from the girl to the cormorant sacrifice, giving the impression either that the narrator isn't that interested in the girl after all (since he could just as easily stay with Arin), or that he likes playing games of delay with the reader.

    I would think about starting with the cormorant sacrifice, which is interesting enough in itself, since it introduces several characters and provides a nice few details about culture etc, then introduce Arin's calling and what follows from that. You don't need to describe the storm, I think, only refer to it having passed.
     
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  17. Martin Gill

    Martin Gill Well-Known Member

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    Actually that last idea could work. Flip it to start with "Reki stood knee deep in the waves..." then the sacrifice, then the fact that they've been storm bound. Which could all be achieved in a few lines. The down side of that is that we don't get mention of the hook for a while.

    The first few lines were deliberately omniscient. I was aiming for the feel of an opening long shot and the "they found a girl" line to establish mystery, then to quickly dive down to Reki as the lead. I think what seems to be missing is pulling it immediately into Reki POV in a stronger way.
     
  18. HareBrain

    HareBrain Bunny of Wonder Staff Member

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    I can see the attraction in that. I like it as a reader when it works, and I once did something similar myself. I think the difficulty here is that you zoom in on the girl, but not really because you only tell us that "they" found her (which isn't yet quite true) and that she isn't a boat or a whale (I do have a problem with that line: it suggests you're more likely to find a treasure-laden ship beached after a storm than a body), and then you zip along the beach and ignore her. For me, it doesn't work, and I can't quite see what would make it work. The opening description of the storm also doesn't quite gel with me, though it's clear you write well (which is why I'm being tough on it). You do need to make an impression in the opening paragraphs, but IMO you can more naturally do that with characters doing interesting things -- and sacrificing a cormorant is one -- than with description.

    Uhm, I'm not sure that actually adds to my previous answer!
     
  19. Jo Zebedee

    Jo Zebedee Come away, oh human child - Waters and the Wild

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    blah.
    I've hesitated to respond as I wanted to muse. To me, it feels like it's trying too hard, like you have sought out harder ways to say things than are needed.

    Huddled, drenched, desolate, broiling, towering (twice), lashed, Winter's-blade..... All in the first paragraph with others besides.

    It should give me the feeling of a confident writer, having sought for words, but it does the opposite and makes me worry that the story will falter under a mass of desciption. I hope that makes sense?
     
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  20. Martin Gill

    Martin Gill Well-Known Member

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    Yep. The intent is to take saga style language and fit it into a more modern style. It may be that this isn't going to work at all, or isn't going to work for some people. This intro is one of the first things I wrote on this project. I started with some character descriptions to get into the style, then started at the beginning. 80k words into things I think the style has probably changed slightly - but the intent of blending poetic kennings and imagery from the sagas, like the thunder god beating lightning form clouds, etc, is still very much there.
     
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