Mulgrin's Quest Opening 1387 words

  1. The Storyteller

    The Storyteller Well-Known Member

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    Hello all! I posted the opening to this novel quite some time ago, received some excellent criticism, and now, another revision through the novel, I thought I'd put it through the test again.

    Thanks in advance. :)

    Chapter 1: A Quest for Mulgrin

    Mulgrin stood proudly, brandishing his fierce sword in front of him. The bug-eyed monster stared at him, slimy green skin glistening in the light. A damsel with a tear-stained face stood nearby, wide eyes turning from the monster to the gnome that now stood boldly before it.

    “Fear not, fair maiden!” Mulgrin cried. “I will slay the beast!”

    The damsel gazed at him, her face filling with awe. A crowd had gathered behind her, and they cheered exuberantly as Mulgrin attacked the creature. With a mighty battle cry, Mulgrin leaped at the monster, swinging his sword and—

    “Mulgrin!”

    The dry voice broke into Mulgrin’s fantasy, shattering the illusion. The sword in the gnomeling’s hands transformed back into a plain old stick, and the great monster returned to its original frog form and hopped away, unharmed and completely uninterested. The cheering crowd and the maiden vanished, replaced by the assortment of curious forest creatures that had gathered at the edge of the small pond to watch Mulgrin’s antics.

    Mulgrin was once more in Genmar, knee deep in slimy, smelly slough water.

    Master Cobbin clucked his tongue disapprovingly, and Mulgrin’s attention was drawn to the old wizard behind him.

    “I am not a fair maiden, nor am I afraid,” he said dryly. “And there are no monsters here that need slaying; only waterweed that needs picking. Now stop flinging that basket about and get to filling it; goodness knows, you’ve lost half of what you had with all that flailing about.”

    Mulgrin glanced into his basket and was chastened to see his master was right; almost all of the waterweed and been flung from the basket during his imaginary fight.

    Dolefully, he set to collecting the scattered plants floating on the water around him. Why did it have to be waterweed? He looked glumly at the slimy black weeds in his hands. The smell of stagnant water filled his nose, and he couldn’t help but grimace with each step in the murky, algae-filled pond.

    “I don’t see why we have to do this,” Mulgrin sighed. “You know there are herbalist shops where you can buy things like this, don’t you?”

    “You cannot always rely on shops to get what you need,” answered Master Cobbin. “And if you want to be a wizard, then a more practical education is required.”

    “But when are you ever going to teach me something useful?” Mulgrin asked, dangling the limp weed in his hand for a moment before dropping it in the basket.

    “I am teaching you something useful,” the elderly wizard replied, bending down to root out a waterweed. Cobbin’s robes were tucked up into his belt, revealing knobby knees and thin legs that stuck out of the murky water like sticks. His basket was already nearly overflowing with the black weed, each piece laid one at a time in careful layers. Algae had stained Cobbin’s tan robes, but he seemed to neither notice nor care.

    Mulgrin skimmed the last of his dropped waterweed from the pond’s surface, studying the dripping clump dubiously. “I don’t see how. It’s not like any hero ever needed to go tromping into a slough for weeds before.” He dropped the offending handful of weeds unceremoniously into his basket.

    Cobbin studied his weed briefly before setting it atop his pile. “A wise wizard learns what he can and uses what he knows.”

    “And when on a Quest would I ever use waterweed?”

    Master Cobbin frowned at him. “Really Mulgrin! Waterweed is a necessary ingredient for many potions. If you paid any attention at all, you’d know that. You won’t get far in Wizard-Dumm without at least a basic knowledge of potions.”

    “But I’m no good at potions,” Mulgrin replied glumly. For some reason all his attempts at potion brewing were disasters. Instead of curing boils, Mulgrin’s potion had turned his skin green, and instead of putting him, his sleeping potion had made his ears buzz for days.

    “You might be if you spent a little more time studying and a little less time daydreaming,” Cobbin admonished.

    Mulgrin sighed. “I do try Master. Honest. But it all seems so pointless. Weeds and seeds and roots and leaves; not a thing about fighting monsters or saving damsels!”

    “I do wish you’d get all that nonsense out of your head Mulgrin," Cobbin said sharply. "Not everything useful is showy and grand like in your stories. Knowing how to find and properly treat herbs is just as important—if not more so—than knowing how to swing a sword… And a good deal more beneficial, I might add."

    “I’d much rather learn how to swing a sword,” Mulgrin said eagerly. “Couldn’t you teach me Master?”

    “I most certainly could not,” Master Cobbin said with a snort. “I don’t know what’s sillier, a gnomeling like you trying to learn swordplay or an old codger like me trying to teach it! Frankly, I’ve never used a sword in my life, and I don’t plan to start now.”

    “But you’re a wizard!” Mulgrin objected, eyes wide. “Surely you’ve used a sword before!”

    “Surely not,” Cobbin said curtly. “A staff is all any good wizard ever needed. Sword fighting is quite impractical. Plant lore, on the other hand, is practical and pertinent to a wizard’s life.”

    “But what of the Quest?” Mulgrin urged. “Plant lore is all well and good, but it’s not going to do much for me when I go. You can’t slay monsters with waterweed, or rescue damsels with pipsroot. Shouldn't you teach me things to help me on my Quest?”

    Master Cobbin paused, glancing up at his eager apprentice. Slowly, he rooted out another waterweed and set it carefully in his basket. “Not all wizards go on a Quest Mulgrin,” he said, sounding somewhat hesitant.

    “All the good ones do,” Mulgrin replied. “Everyone knows that the Quest is the most important part of a wizard’s training. You’ve said so yourself!”

    “It is not strictly speaking essential,” Master Cobbin said. “Not all novices choose to go on a Quest, and those that do don’t necessarily succeed, or even find one. For some, it is perhaps better to take the examinations…”

    Mulgrin’s mouth dropped open, and he stared at his master, dumbfounded. “The examinations? But you’ve always said that the examinations are an awful idea!”

    “What I said was that they weren’t ideal,” the old wizard corrected pointedly. “The Quest may be the best way to get into Wizard-Dumm, but it is not the only way. It is important to consider all options when facing any task, even those options which we find less appealing.”

    “You aren’t saying I should consider taking the examination, surely!”

    Master Cobbin did not answer, or even look at Mulgrin. Instead, he rubbed his brow, looking very weary and more than a little unhappy.

    “That is what you’re saying, isn’t it,” Mulgrin said, eyes widening with disbelief.

    “All I’m saying is it may be time to look at your options,” Master Cobbin said finally.

    “My options?” Mulgrin demanded. “You know that all I’ve ever wanted is to go on my Quest and become a hero!”

    “Yes, of course I know that,” Cobbin snapped, irritated now. “Good heavens gnomeling, you’ve spoken of nothing else since I apprenticed you! But it is the unfortunate nature of life that we don’t always get what we want, no matter how desperately we want it.”

    “I don’t understand… You’ve always told me how important the Quest is! Why would you change your mind now?”

    “Mulgrin,” Cobbin replied, “not everyone is suited for a Quest. The truth of it is, I’m not sure there is a Quest for you. Not one that will get you into Wizard-Dumm. Even if there were, you’re not ready for one as things stand, and I’m afraid you may never be ready. If you truly wish to be a Wizard, then perhaps it’s time for gave up on finding a Quest and start preparing for the examinations instead.”

    “But Master!”

    “I know I’ve taken you by surprise,” Cobbin said. “We’ll discuss it more later, after you’ve had time to think about it. For now, finish picking that waterweed; once you’ve filled the basket you may go. We’ll treat it tomorrow morning.”

    Mulgrin nodded mutely, and, heart heavy, he continued his task in subdued silence.
     
    Jan 8, 2017
    #1
    TonyHarmsworth likes this.
  2. tinkerdan

    tinkerdan candycane shrimp

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    I liked this though it moves slowly once we reach reality. It still holds the interest as the reader tries to understand the two characters.

    Just a little thought at the beginning. You have Mulgrin, standing proudly and then standing boldly, which would seem well enough, because they are two different words and they end up like goal posts or brackets around the paragraph. But I question whether they are necessary? Do you not trust the reader here. I know the seem to add, but do you lose that much if you take them out?

    Mulgrin brandished his fierce sword as the bug-eyed monster stared, slimy green skin glistening in the light. Wide eyes, of a tear-stained face, of a fair damsel, tore from the monster to gaze at the gnome and remained fixed.

    This next paragraph seems to take us forward and back. Mulgrin attacks in one sentence then he has a mighty battle cry, and leaps at the monster. (almost the same thing which is almost like a record skipping.)

    The damsel's face filled with awe and a gathering crowd cheered exuberantly as Mulgrin let out a mighty battle cry, leaping at the monster, swinging his sword and--

    The extra descriptive words are okay, but I sometimes look back and try to figure out how many times they repeat what I've already said or demonstrated; since this was once pointed out to me as a potential problem.

    The frustration of mentor to student comes through well.
     
    Jan 9, 2017
    #2
  3. Martin Gill

    Martin Gill Well-Known Member

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    I get where you are going with the intro but for me it failed, or almost failed because I read the first two lines and thought "oh, this is a kid's book." Bug eyed monsters and damsels didn't strike me as particularly sophisticated. I'm not 100% clear what age range you are aiming at. But, when you bring us back to reality it changes. Its probably not my cup of tea theme wise, but you execute it well. I got a sense of character experience - the sight and smells of the pond, the relationship between the two characters.

    That said, it takes a while to go anywhere.

    Also on the intro - can swords be fierce? That struck me as an odd word.

    My other thought is dialogue tags. I think the actual dialogue is fine, but a lot of modern fiction guidance recommends either no dialogue tags, or to just use "said" most of the time. I don't 100% agree with this, but you do have a bewildering array of tags - urged, replied, snapped, corrected, asked, answered and more. You could probably get deeper into the character experience by removing the descriptive words and show us a bit more of their reactions. Let the reader see what's going on, then they can fill in some of the details.
     
    Jan 9, 2017
    #3
  4. The Big Peat

    The Big Peat Well-Known Member

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    I like the set up. There's a good dynamic between the two and it packs a solid amount of information in about the world and what sort of story to expect.

    There is (quoth the hypocrite) too much descriptive language. Too many adverbs, too many dialogue tags. The point would come across just as well if half of them were removed, all while making it easier to read and retaining more impact value for when you do use them.

    There's also the fact that (and I apologise if this sounds mean), current language standards means all those adverbs and dialogue tags sound immature. At first I thought the opening paragraph was genius because that's how I thought when I was brandishing a stick at my imaginary enemies, fierce swords and all. Then I realised the rest of the prose was written in a similar style.

    I'd love to know why Cobbin doesn't think Mulgrin should go on a quest. I'm pretty sure I know the answer but I'd like to hear him say it. Maybe he does later on in the book - hopefully not too much later. Let us know what obstacle Mulgrin has to overcome here, be it his own ineptitude or a lack of monsters or something else.

    Is Cobbin a gnome? Or a human?
     
    Jan 9, 2017
    #4
  5. VKALFIERI

    VKALFIERI From a land down under.

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    I quite like what you put out so far, there's some small issues with the text, as noted above in red; but, for the most part this reads well.

    There's some instances where you could cut back on dialogue tags, by simply removing the word directly after it and replacing it with said, but those are minor concerns.

    I would assume a younger audience with this piece, as it reads that way. It seems like you're aiming your story squarely at a YA market, but that could just be the way it reads here.

    I would like to read more, that's for sure.

    Well done.
     
    Jan 10, 2017
    #5
  6. The Storyteller

    The Storyteller Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the feedback! Definitely getting a lot of remarks concerning the tags and adverbs. I am going for a specific tone, but there is clearly a fine line between what I want and too much. I will need to be careful with how often and when I use tags and adverbs to keep it from feeling overboard. Also, very good point about it sounding immature; that is not the impression I want to be giving! Hopefully by cutting out several of the tags and trimming down a bit on the adverbs I can find the balance.

    I'll give that some thought! I mostly have that in there because this is very much how Mulgrin thinks in his own head--if it were an actual scene in the story, I probably wouldn't be quite so over-dramatic with it. I'm still debating if this is the right way to introduce the story or not--I like that we get a lot of insight into Mulgrin and it fits in well with later events. However, not sure if it's a bit too silly, or if reader's will be annoyed that it is his imagination instead of real life.

    Good catch! Thanks for all the input. :)

    I'm also questioning the opening. It introduces us to Mulgrin's character and his way of seeing things (which is very childish), but the story itself is supposed to be a little more mature, and I don't want people being put off by the intro. As for age range, I am debating between upper middle grade and YA. Theme wise, possibly more fitting for middle grade, length wise (and possibly substance wise) more YA.

    Thank you, that is an important point. As I mentioned above, I do need to cut out several of those and find the right balance!

    No, you don't sound mean, and thank you for the advice! I'm glad the first few paragraphs worked for you, but I see your point. I do want to allow for some adverbs and dialogue tags to match the tone I'm going for, but I obviously need to cut back. Also, not sure if this goes in my favour or against it, but as the story continues and the main character matures, the tone does actually change subtly as well. There is a bit less of that kind of language, and instead of the broader narrative we start with we focus more on what Mulgrin is feeling and experiencing. Not sure if that's clever, or not... hopefully I can find some good beta readers to help me sort through some of those points!

    This is addressed very soon! The next few scenes let the reader know that Mulgrin has attempted several silly quests (trying to find lost sheep that return on their own, hunting for monsters destroying the crops just to discover it's only deer), and that Cobbin worries Mulgrin is far too naive and impulsive to go on a Quest. Everything gets set into motion quite quickly in terms of him finding a Quest and leaving, so hopefully the pace is quick enough to keep interest!

    Also, Cobbin is a human. Though, now that you mention it, I'm not sure whether I even bring that up in the novel! :whistle:

    Thank you Vkalfieri! Very encouraging response (though I was a little embarrassed that I missed those mistakes in the text!). I had originally been thinking upper middle grade because I worried it wouldn't be 'edgy' enough for YA, but because of length and some other things, if I can sell it as YA I would prefer to! I don't know enough about publishing yet to know where exactly this falls. The fact that it reads YA to you gives me hope that I might be able to swing for that!


    Again, thanks for the replies. It's given me some things to consider! Hopefully I can get some beta readers, and maybe put up a few more small sections to get more advice. I keep working at this novel, but I feel I'm coming to a place where good, constructive criticism from other writers/readers will go much farther then me just reworking it on my own!
     
    Jan 11, 2017
    #6
  7. TonyHarmsworth

    TonyHarmsworth Well-Known Member

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    instead of putting him [to sleep]?

    to give up?

    I was getting into the story by the end of the section.
     
    Jan 13, 2017
    #7
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  8. TonyHarmsworth

    TonyHarmsworth Well-Known Member

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    You could defuse this point by making it clear in the description of the book that it begins with Mulgrin's childish playacting before developing into .... I'm thinking of the elevator-pitch which might be on the cover or on a preface page.

    One possibility anyway.
     
    Jan 13, 2017
    #8
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  9. The Storyteller

    The Storyteller Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Tony! I got the edits. Glad you were getting into it by the end!

    And it's something to think about with the opening. There are a few other ways I could work it as well; I could state clearly that the sword is a stick and not a sword, so that we know Mulgrin is daydreaming from the start, or I could include one line before it that sort of lets us know this is taking place in Mulgrin's imagination. I could also just cut straight to where Cobbin interrupts him and then imply that he was pretending to fight monsters off with his stick.

    I'll probably try writing it a few different ways and figure out the best way to start off the first few paragraphs. The dialogue with Cobbin I feel is pretty sound, but the very first little bit might need a change!
     
    Jan 15, 2017
    #9
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