Wish - new story opening in 411 words

VKALFIERI

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#1
Here's my latest, it's something different I'm trying. Not sure if it works. More of a YA story.

Wish.


In an out of the way park, where children once played, a lonely girl swings back and forth. Into this scene emerges an older man. He limps slowly, leaning heavily on a solid oak cane, favouring his right side.


The girl raises her head as she hears his scraping steps dragging across the old bark of the pit surrounding the swings.


“Hello. It’s been far too long, Master. Tell me, what brings you back here, after all this time? Surely you didn’t come just to exchange pleasantries?"


The scraping stops and the older man stoops to pick up a piece of bark. He examines it briefly, before discarding it and regards the girl instead.


He tilts his head slightly to the left and says, “I was never your master, Sab. I merely watched as you mimicked my ways. In this way, I did not teach you, I simply observed your actions.”


The girl frowns at this suggestion from her former mentor, goes to speak, but catches herself short, before the thought escapes her.


She remains silent, her swinging halted, and after a moment’s pause, voices her careful response to the man’s musings.


“I watched you, yes; and copied the movements you made, but when I got them wrong…”


“I gave you guidance, yes, but I would never claim to have been anyone’s master. Such titles belong in institutes of learning.”


The girl resumes quietly swinging slowly back and forth, regarding all her former teacher has just said. Did he forget so easily? Or was it simply that remembering caused misery?


There had been an institute in the beginning, when the girl had been much younger.


Ponastar is where every wish fairy was sent. The girl was not like every wish fairy though. The girl wasn’t even a full blood. Genies weren’t meant to mate with fairies. Yet her parents had.


“But…”


The man nods, smiling for the briefest moment.


“Yes, there was that. Ponastar was but a fleeting moment. There was so much more. As to why, well, I think you know the reason, Sab. Or have you forgotten who and what I know? The winds whispered, the rains spoke louder still, I followed the storm clouds and here you are.”


The girl stops swinging hangs her head for a second, and looks up at the man, her long ebony hair covering her face. She sweeps it aside with both hands, her eyes red with fatigue.


“I hoped you’d hear.”
 

tinkerdan

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#2
This is interesting; but could be intriguing. I could almost be tempted to read on.
There are some niggles I would have with punctuation, some not being there and some being slightly misplaced.

The biggest hurdle though comes from POV. It seems like it tries to be Omniscient at the beginning and this could work except that there is a feeling of deliberateness in making it a distancing omniscient.

This could be good for a book entitled Conundrum, where you start with a conundrum just to help support the title. Your POV is zoomed way out to a point that what the reader gets is almost stage direction.

Into this scene emerges an older man.
Like we're far away watching with binoculars and reading lips so we get no inflections, no emotions, no tone from the words, nothing to help us better figure out what this might be all about. And also nothing to bring us close to either character enough to care to go on.

It starts well enough with the lonely girl in the swing and the limping old man with a cane who she calls Master yet denies he is her master.

One thing that is lacking is any real showing and what would be helpful is some show of her state of emotions. Is meeting her master good or bad: we don't know. Is she nervous or angry or excited, overwrought, disappointed: we don't know. Though finally at the end we get that she was hoping; it may be too little too late for the reader. All the mystery and the puzzles that begin to present themselves lack any context. Though that may be the intent, in order to create mystery and suspense, it falls flat because the one context you could give that would not give away everything is in how she feels about her master and this meeting and if she has waited a long time for him to appear and if she had to do something to gain his attention, then we should be shown this in how she presents herself to the reader.

Context through showing what conflict (mental, physical, emotional) there might be between these two would greatly improve the chances that someone would read onward.

I think that could be accomplished without revealing too much detail about any backstory they share that you don't want to get into right away.
 

Ihe

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#3
I really liked the starting eeriness, which is actually aided by that distant omniscient @tinkerdan mentioned. So it does work in that aspect, although I don't know if it would work in the long run. And c'mon, lone girl swinging in an abandoned park? For a moment thought it was a horror story, and it reminded me a bit of this:
. What a geek I am.

There are some things to be picked at though, but nothing game-changing:

In an out of the way park,
I never know with these things, but I have a feeling it should be out-of-the-way park. I could be wrong here, as 4 words seems too much for hyphenation. Anyone clarify please?
Surely you didn’t come just to exchange pleasantries?"
She says this without the man actually speaking. This is usually left for after the other person tries pleasantries.
voices her careful response to the man’s musings.
I wouldn't go as far as to classify what he said as "musings".
The girl resumes quietly swinging slowly back and forth, regarding all her former teacher has just said.
This one irked me, sorry. Broken down, it looks something like this: She keeps doing what she was doing (so there's no reason to mention it)+quietly+verb+slowly (a lot of closely related -ly words in awkward positioning)+yet another modifying phrase (not needed, as there's only one way to swing from a swing, so it is redundant)+doing/saying nothing new, thinking about a single sentence mentioned by her master (if the sentence was a shocker, I would let it go. But it is a pretty mundane sentence, so the brooding silence is uncalled for here). Overall, it's a big, awkward sentence that describes nothing--no new action, no reaction worth mentioning.
Did he forget so easily? Or was it simply that remembering caused misery?
Awkward phrasing on the first sentence IMO. Also, they could be fused into a single question.
The girl stops swinging hangs her head for a second,
Missing an "and".

The story could be going places if you tinker with the POV and add that emotion/subtle reaction descriptions @tinkerdan was talking about. Also, do mention cold, grey skies. I imagine the scene with wind howling across the bare-boned park as well, maybe swaying the swing even when she's still. :)
 

VKALFIERI

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#4
I actually had some ideas for this as I was going to sleep last night; but I had to leave them in my head at the time because my schedule today is messed up.

I'll definitely look at changing some things around. I don't think I could sustain this style throughout the story; it was an attempt at a different sort of opening. I'll go back to it in due course and tweak it here and there.

Thanks for the commentary so far....
 

The Big Peat

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#5
Am I the only immature child that read Ponastar as something else?

I'm intrigued by it and its a very vivid scene but the lack of any deep character thought on show and the use of present tense means I'd put it back on the shelf. That probably speaks more to my tastes than any intrinsic flaw in the writing but I could/might argue that showing more of what the characters are showing is possible while keeping the style.
 

VKALFIERI

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#6
Am I the only immature child that read Ponastar as something else?

I'm intrigued by it and its a very vivid scene but the lack of any deep character thought on show and the use of present tense means I'd put it back on the shelf. That probably speaks more to my tastes than any intrinsic flaw in the writing but I could/might argue that showing more of what the characters are showing is possible while keeping the style.
I had wondered if the Ponastar thing might be read another way. Hehe. It's supposed to be a play on upon a star; I could drop the P I guess....or have it backward; Ratsanopu doesn't necessarily come off much better though...:ROFLMAO:

I shall work up a rejiggered version soon. Life is hectic at present. Thanks for the feedback!
 

The Big Peat

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#7
*smacks head* Oh yeah. Shoulda got that. I like it.

I wouldn't place too much emphasis on me having a gutter mind ;)
 
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#8
Pretty intriguing introduction alright..one additional idea is whether there was a betrayal of social trust by the master somehow. Now, I don't know if that's a route you wanted to take but it is promising.
 

VKALFIERI

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#9
I just rewrote this on my phone - I have one of them fancy stylus phones (galaxy note 5) - and will clean it up later tonight when I get a chance after work.

It's slightly different from the above version, but I think it's also more promising.

Will post update later. :D
 

VKALFIERI

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#10
The rejiggered opening. Still not entirely sure if the tense works. It'll do for now, I need to write more before I get caught up agonizing over the opening.

Wish - Rejiggered.

In an out of the way park, in a city full of once proud buildings, now crumbling under the weight of progress, and the ravages of time and war; a lonely girl swings slowly back and forth on the rusty chain that creaks loudly on its hinge with each pass.


The girl watches the skies occasionally, but otherwise pays the scene before her no mind. Clouds gather above in a state of flux. One moment, black as ash, the next a slightly calmer grey. They change as the girl’s mood swings to match the swinging of the seat on which she sits.


She has waited here nearly a month. Each passing day; the storm, both inside her and out, deepens. She had hoped he would be here by now. Perhaps her flutters weren’t powerful enough?


Then, the clouds begin to dissipate. He’s heard. He is coming. And there, at the edge of the park, leaning heavily on a solid oak cane, favouring his right side, is the one man who can help her. The one man who, though they’d drifted apart, could help her with her burden. He limps slowly toward the pit surrounding the swings. His mannerisms haven’t changed since their last meeting. Before acknowledging the girl he stoops to examine an errant bit of old bark at the edge of the pit.


That’s how it is then, the girl thinks as she watches his approach.


“Master.” The man grimaces at the girl’s address. “Please, after all this time, are we safe? Can we discuss things here?”


“I think for now we are safe. You know, I never did like being called Master. I was never your master, Sab, merely someone with whom you shared some of the Knowing.”


“Yes, well, I guess those long ago days are but a part of our story.”


“Indeed they are. Ponastar Institute is but the beginning of that long and winding road behind us. I am curious though, why, after our time apart, after what happened, you would call to me now?


“I hoped you’d hear…”


“Oh, Sab, I heard! The winds whispered, the rains spoke louder still, I followed the storms and here you are. So, again, what troubles you so? Cloud-storms don’t just form. What has happened that you would need my help? The help of the old man you left behind so long ago to forge your own path? Surely that girl I knew, the girl I see before me, ‘can handle anything the world choses to throw her way’ still?”


The girl, Sab, looks up at her old mentor, her eyes red with fatigue.


“Remember this?” she asks, letting go of the rusty chain in her left hand. In it she holds a smoke onyx.


The man’s eyebrows rise a notch in surprise, his mouth gapes open a second, his voice catches, he clears his throat with a quick “ahem!” and then says, “Where…”


“It came to my hollow weeks ago.”


“Impossible! We destroyed them all…”


“Apparently not; and now you know why I called. The genies have returned, and not just any genies.”


“Speak no more!”


“Master?”


Then Sab saw what had caused such alarm. The stone in her hand was shimmering, a silver sparkle flickered over the surface. Then the smoke began to slowly curl out from the center.


“Drop that and quick as you can come hold my cane hand. It’s time to hastily retreat,” The man says, watching the stone with one eye and his former student with the other. “Hurry!”


The smoke has turned to a billow now and just as the grey smokey face of an onyx genie emerges, the girl reaches for the cane, and as her hand touches her old mentor’s, a willowy wisp of smoke reaches out and scolds her leg.


She screams “Go Corvin!” And go they do. They vanish, before the smoke can become a fully-formed, solid, angry onyx genie.


The girl and her mentor are safe. For now. They are in a hollow, in a tree, away from the city. Away from the onyx genie.


“That’ll have to go.” Corvin says, pointing at the scold on Sab’s leg, left by the genie.


“Yes, please. I don’t want my uncle’s minions to be able to trace us here.”


It was already happening though, the scold mark had already been tracing them and soon they would find her again; and now she’d gone and involved Corvin.
 

tinkerdan

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#11
I like that this is beginning to shape into a story now.
There is still something: a stiffness, something missing, almost a hastiness, without the sense of hurry.

I would almost suggest that you put this aside and write some more. Perhaps you need to figure out a few things more, unravel some of the knotty problems.

But I do see one thing.
You are still somewhat upside down and backwards. It's not that it doesn't work, but it is noticeable.

She has the Onyx and it seems to be greatly important; so perhaps bring that into the story and have her clutch it tight while trying to decide if she's being a fool and should toss it away and while she knows that she needs it to have it to show to her friend.

This helps bring the stakes and some of the conflict up to the top and you could have her worry and sweat over it, the danger it represents and how this could all make matters worse.

Why is she holding onto it?
 

The Storyteller

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#12
In a way, I preferred the first opening, as the second one didn't seem to flow quite as well. But it may just be that you wrote it quicker than the first one, and so it came out a bit rougher!

What I like in the first opening is the distance tinkerdan and others mentioned, and that it gets to dialogue fairly quickly, which helps keep my attention. I also preferred the way the character of the old man was presented--I got a stronger personality from him, where as the second time around it felt more like his lines were for the sake of providing information then in creating a strong character.

Where the second opening worked well was the introduction of the onyx stone, which gave a sense of urgency and opening up a lot questions and made me want to keep reading.

It is an interesting start to the story, though it's hard to say how it fits into the story as a whole. I do struggle with the present tense (personal preference), but then, I think I'd be accustomed to it after a while, or if you were just using it for the opening but then changed to a different tense, that could work as well!

I would agree with the plan to keep writing--an opening like this is hard to judge without the context of the story. You may write the whole book and find there is a much better way to open the story that makes this unnecessary, or you might find the perfect way to tweak this to make your story work as a whole. Plus some distance will allow you to come back to it when you are done writing the story and read it with fresh eyes.

Anyway, I feel there is a promising story in this, and I hope to read more as you work on it. :D Happy writing!
 

VKALFIERI

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#13
I've been trying to work on the next bit, but everything I write comes out seeming contrived.

I know the evil uncle is out to get Sab, and I know she has few allies, one a new character I've introduced (from her days at the Institute) and I know she has to stop the smoke onyx genies.

It's just that whatever I write sounds super derivative or super contrived. At least to me...

I've also decided to switch tenses for the rest of the story to make it easier to follow.

So, I won't be posting anymore of the story for a little bit while I figure out where to take it.

Thanks for all your help and feedback so far.
 

The Big Peat

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#14
I like that we get the narrative hook in the second and more of the character's thoughts, but beyond that I preferred the first. Weird and contrary of me I know. It had more of a dreamlike ambiguous feeling.

How action heavy are you intending this book to be?
 

HareBrain

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#15
Just a quick note about punctuation in your first paragraph, because it threw me.

In an out of the way park, in a city full of once proud buildings, now crumbling under the weight of progress, and the ravages of time and war; a lonely girl swings slowly back and forth on the rusty chain that creaks loudly on its hinge with each pass.
It might help to read this out with a one-second pause when you come to a comma, and a two-second pause for the semi-colon, and see how it sounds.

As well as the jerkiness, there's also a problem for me in that the punctuation suggests a certain meaning that turns out to be wrong and has to be revised. Up to here:

In an out of the way park, in a city full of once proud buildings, now crumbling under the weight of progress
it could read as though we're being told about something which is in an out of the way park AND in a city of once-proud buildings AND now crumbling under the weight of progress, i.e. the thing you're leading up to (the girl, though we don't know this yet) is the thing that's crumbling under the weight of progress, not the city.

The best way I can think of punctuation it is as follows:

In an out of the way park, in a city full of once-proud buildings now crumbling under the weight of progress and the ravages of time and war, a lonely girl swings slowly back and forth on the rusty chain that creaks loudly on its hinge with each pass.
That has a very long second clause, but it reads more smoothly and its meaning is clearer, IMO. Hope that makes sense. As always, just my opinion.
 

TheDustyZebra

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#16
In an out of the way park, in a city full of once-proud buildings now crumbling under the weight of progress and the ravages of time and war, a lonely girl swings slowly back and forth on the rusty chain that creaks loudly on its hinge with each pass.
Yes, that would be the correct punctuation for what's intended here -- except for the aforementioned "out-of-the-way". I think I'd try "lonely park" instead, and make the girl "solitary" instead to compensate. That would eliminate most of the hyphenation in the first sentence, that might scare people off. :)
 

VKALFIERI

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#17
I have gone back and edited the second opening, slightly more words between dialogue tags. I think it makes for a more rounded character feel.

Please note: I have included the opening here again for context for those coming to this late and for those who wish to critique it further, it runs slightly over the 1500 word limit at 1595, but I'm hoping that's not too high over the limit to have it taken down.

I'm considering entering this in a competition for a Mentorship with HarperCollins, so please, be as harsh as you need to be.

In any case the next little bit is here for comment:

1.
In an isolated park, in a city full of once-proud buildings now crumbling under the weight of progress and the ravages of time and war, a lonely girl swings slowly back and forth on the rusty chain that creaks loudly on its hinge with each pass.


The girl watches the skies occasionally, but otherwise pays the scene before her no mind. Clouds gather above in a state of flux. One moment, black as ash, the next a slightly calmer grey. They change as the girl’s mood swings to match the swinging of the seat on which she sits.


She has waited here nearly a month. Each passing day; the storm, both inside her and out, deepens. She had hoped he would be here by now. Perhaps her flutters weren’t powerful enough?


Then, the clouds begin to dissipate. He’s heard. He is coming.


And there, at the edge of the park, leaning heavily on a solid oak cane, favouring his right side, is the one man who can help her. The one man who, though they’d drifted apart, could help her with her burden. He limps slowly toward the pit surrounding the swings. His mannerisms haven’t changed since their last meeting. Before acknowledging the girl, he stoops to examine an errant bit of old bark at the edge of the pit.


That’s how it is then, the girl thinks as she watches his approach.


“Master.” The man grimaces at the girl’s address. “Please, after all this time, are we safe? Can we discuss things here?”


“You know,” her old master replies, finally looking up at the girl. “I never did like being called Master. I was never your master, Sab, merely someone with whom you shared some of the Knowing.”


“Yes, well, I guess those long ago days are but a part of our story,” Sab says, watching her old Master. He has aged a lot since they last met, more grey hair, less hair in general, and the cane he holds is new.


“Indeed they are. Ponastar Institute is but the beginning of that long and winding road behind us. I am curious though, why, after our time apart, after what happened, you would call to me now?” his eyebrows crinkle into worry, his face shows genuine concern for the girl.


“I hoped you’d hear…” she begins.


“Oh, Sab, I heard!” Her master’s eyebrows shoot skyward and his voice is gentle, but stern. “The winds whispered, the rains spoke louder still, I followed the storms and here you are. So, again, what troubles you so? Cloud-storms don’t just form. What has happened that you would need my help? The help of the old man you left behind so long ago to forge your own path? Surely that girl I knew, the girl I see before me, ‘can handle anything the world choses to throw her way’ still?”


The girl, Sab, looks up at her old mentor, her eyes red with fatigue.


“Remember this?” she asks, letting go of the rusty chain in her left hand. In it she holds a smoke onyx.


The man’s mouth gapes open a second, his voice catches as he tries to speak; then he clears his throat with a quick “ahem!” and asks, “Where?”


“It came to my hollow weeks ago,” Sab replies, with a small shrug.


“Impossible! We destroyed them all…” her master moves closer to the edge of the pit surrounding the play equipment, as if to take a closer look.


“Apparently not; and now you know why I called. The genies have returned, and not just any genies,” Sab says, her voice finally cracking, she’s finally felt the weight of what she’s carried.


“Speak no more!”


“Master?”


Then Sab saw what had caused such alarm. The stone in her hand was shimmering, a silver sparkle flickered over the surface. Then the smoke began to slowly curl out from the center.


“Drop that and quick as you can come hold my cane hand. It’s time to make a hasty retreat,” The man says, watching the stone with one eye and his former student with the other. “Hurry!”


The smoke has turned to a billow now and the grey smokey face of an onyx genie emerges, the girl reaches for the cane, as her hand touches her old mentor’s, a wisp of smoke reaches out and scolds her leg.


She screams “Go Corvin!”


They vanish, before the smoke can become a fully-formed, solid, angry onyx genie.


The girl and her mentor are safe. For now. They are in a hollow, in a tree, away from the city. Away from the onyx genie.


“That’ll have to go.” Corvin says, pointing at the scold on Sab’s leg, left by the genie.


“Yes, please. I don’t want my uncle’s minions to be able to trace us here.”


It was already happening though, the scold mark had already been tracing them and soon they would find her again; and now she’d gone and involved Corvin.

2.


Gideon would’ve told her that she had brought this on herself, by keeping the onyx stone for all these weeks, but she hadn’t thought it would activate. After all, her and Corvin had destroyed all of the smoke onyx stones long ago, when her uncle had control of the Glimmering Shore, back when the war for control of Faruk was raging at its worst.


At that moment Gideon was knee deep (not very deep for him) in trouble of his own. He had heard the genies were massing again, ready for war, they had begun to lose control of Faruk, The Glimmering Shore and all the surrounding islands of the Deep Crossing.


The dwarven army were stationed outside the capital. Among them, in a tent with the other healers, was Gideon. He was tending to the sick and injured when he received word that Sab was in trouble.


“Master Underfoot! Master Underfoot!” his apprentice, Mort, came running in, sweat pouring through his tunic and dripping down his face as though he’d just run a marathon. The heat was bad, but not that bad, his apprentice was clearly unfit.


“Yes, Mort, what? What is it? Can’t you see I’m busy tending to this man?”


“I’m sorry Master Underfoot, it’s just that, well, you got a letter, and as instructed, I’ve read it to see what the message reads and well, you’re going to want to see for yourself…”


“Just read me the damn thing Mort, gimme the gist.”


“It-it’s Sabine, Master, she-she’s in danger…her U-uncle…”


“Blast your stuttering and stammering Mort! I’ll read it myself!”


“Of course, M-master,” Mort replied, and hand shaking with nerves handed Gideon the message.


As he read the message, Gideon’s eyes widened and when he was done he decided his services were no longer needed at the frontlines, his friend needed his help, Corvin was there, but Corvin wasn’t a healer, he was a great man, but the healing magics were intricate, Corvin would need him too.



“Fetch our horses, Mort, I’ve got some work to do, and then, we’re making for Hillside,” Gideon said when he’d finished reading.


“Y-yes Master! Right away.”


Dammit Sab, what have you got yourself into now? We had you hidden, safe. Gideon thought as he finished up his spell of healing on the injured dwarf in the bed beside him and made his way to King Logan’s tent.


3.


Samill Erkallion paced across his chamber. A small room built off his bed chamber for matters of study and such, by its former occupant. His brother. Virtuous and true, Jeffen, Mighty Jeffen, powerful Jeffen. Well, not anymore, brother, not anymore. Samill thought, and paced some more.


A smoke genie, the one he’d sent to his niece to watch over and spy on her, the one he’d spent countless nights creating and training for the specific task of making sure she remained where she was and not a threat; had returned, and his news was not great.


“Mmmaster,” it seethed. “The fairy has escaped…”

Anger rose up from Samill’s belly, “Escaped! We cannot allow my niece this reprieve! The plan, my plan, rests on capturing the girl! How, by everything holy, did she manage to slip through your fingers!”


“Ssshe had help mmmaster. An old man. I managed to mark her before she escaped…”


“Ah! Yes, this is excellent. Show me.”


“Alakah Zam! Abra Kad Abra!” The smoke genie spoke the words to conjure the map he been using to track Sab from the park.


A small red line appeared on the conjured piece of parchment in the genie’s hands, showing the girl’s path from the city to a place somewhere in the Fael.


“Useless! You know as well as I do the Fael is guarded against our kind! This does nothing to help your case! Get out of my site!”


The genie bowed cowering out of the chamber and away from Samill as quickly as his feet would carry him.


“Wait!” Samill called before the genie managed to escape his ire completely. “I may have a way to find her. Take this,” a small piece of paper, “and hand it to a boy named Mort Flimmid. I’ve had word that Sab’s old friend, that pesky, squeaky-voiced, gnome, Gideon Underfoot, is working with the blasted dwarven army as a healer. Perhaps we can discover where she is after all.”


“Yyyes mmmaster.”


The genie took the piece of parchment, on which was written a quick message in gnomish, alerting its reader to Sab’s fate and made a hasty retreat.


When his underling was gone, Samill resumed pacing his chamber.
 

tinkerdan

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#18
The POV still feels Omniscient and with that in mind I also feel that it's under utilized.

There a benefits and drawbacks to a narrator who is out there watching. The benefits are, when the writer chooses wisely, The narrator can see, taste, feel, and hear much of what the character can. What's more since the narrator can see more than the character he can describe the character in ways the character POV might be hindered. The drawback is that since the narrator knows all it's easy to drop into telling instead of showing. Yet the narrator can clearly see things, but chooses a filtered report rather than relay what it sees.

For instance when you say the lonely girl. That gets it out of the way quick, yet there are so many ways that it could be said better. The narrator, who is able to see all, could better show what that looks like rather than filter the reader with lonely.

She could be sullen of face with shadowy features and vacant dark eyes while her hands grip tight the rusty chain and her shoulders slouch, her back bows, and her head slumps forward as she mumbles a low litany that's interrupted occasionally by the creak of the swing at the apex of its slow motion pendulum arc.

Something to think about; its a shame to waste a good POV.
 

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