A Quest for Dragon Weapons

  1. Sho Pi

    Sho Pi Well-Known Member

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    This an attempt at a D&D inspired action adventure story. I hope you all have good comments and enjoy it.



    ‘Are we there yet?’

    The often-heard question shook Jor out of his contemplations. He stopped walking and sighed deeply before turning to face the inquiring eyes of Nostra. ‘The path of a Wanderer never actually reaches its destination, only the journey matters. For only during one’s journey can one receive the guidance of the Spirit.’

    Nostra rolled her eyes up at him, but with a cheeky smile on her face. ‘That’s all very wise and all. But I very much like to be where I’m supposed to be at some point in our lives. There is too much dust on these country roads. It gets everywhere. Ura has to wash herself everyday just to keep her fur nice and shiny.’ She said pointing to her looming Minioth companion.

    With her hands on her hips, head cocked to the side and having to look up to meet his gaze, she was the image of teenage self-importance. Which, Jor knew, meant it all could come crashing down at any moment. Still, the delusions of the young were nothing to be scoffed at, for it hid resilience and an openness that allowed them to overcome almost every hardship. However, ‘you two found me in Amon Din and demanded that I take you with me on my journey south. A Wanderer mostly travels alone.’

    Nostra frowned at him. ‘Where is the fun in that, old man. Our master told us to find you. He told us you had made an arrangement with him and that we had to keep an eye on you at all time as part of the deal.’

    Jor smiled at the two young ladies in front of him. It was true the Spirit had led his feet to Amon Din and he believed that there at the pyramids of the seven Watchers he might finally find clues to the items he sought. Instead he was found himself by a dark-haired, brown-skinned fifteen-year-old girl and a lumbering seven-foot tall young Minioth girl that had come across the ocean from Calmanar. The Spirit always worked in mysterious ways, but he still had no idea how that old smuggler Uliak had known where to find him.

    There was definitely more to these two than met the eye. He suddenly realised something that had been bugging him in the back of his mind. He looked Nostra over with a bemused eye. She appeared to be dressed in a form-fitting red velvet, sleeveless vest, over tight dark green trousers that ended half-way down her calves and brown leather, pointed, ankle-length boots with platform heels, which looked to be far more form than function. ‘What in Mela’s name are you wearing?’

    Nostra shrugged, ‘my own creation. Do you like it? I like it.’ She turned to Ura and did a twirl for the taciturn Minioth.

    Jor saw the bigger girl blink twice and focus hard on the spinning form of her younger friend, before she slowly nodded. ‘It looks very nice, Nos. Did you wear those same clothes earlier today?’

    ‘Well, of course I did, Ura. I’m not constantly changing, you know. Where would I even find the time, with all the walking we are doing constantly.’

    The Minioth nodded again, still admiring Nostra’s dashing outfit that she had seemingly never seen before that moment.

    Jor shook his head, disapprovingly. ‘Change it now Nostra. We’re not exactly in high society out here. You stick out like a sore thumb. Normal traveller’s garb in sepia tones would be much more becoming a weary group of wanderers like us, here in the south.’

    ‘I’m not a Wanderer like you. I don’t follow the Path of the Spirit. My feet are only guided by me. Besides, I’m rarely noticed by people that I don’t want to have noticing me.’ Nostra waved her right hand in front of her vest and suddenly it was covered in the finest golden filigree. Not unbefitting Avarian nobility.

    Jor gave her a stern look. ‘Of course, the Spirit can always guide my feet the long way to our destination, for what is a good journey without a couple detours on the way.’

    Nostra’s eyes grew larger for an instance, before settling into a pose of outward nonchalance. ‘If you prefer me walking about as boringly as you, of course I will oblige, venerable guide. It’s just that I thought we could all do with some entertainment and where else are we going to get it than from me,’ she smiled. At that moment her form shimmered in dark shadows and all her fine attire changed into a sand coloured djellaba. Hunching slightly forward she made a show of trudging past him.

    Jor shook his head, and winked at Ura who seemed a little perplexed by the whole exchange. ‘Myria is actually not very far from here. In a couple of days we will be where we need to be.’ The words brightened the Minioth girl up immediately and she sprinted forward to tell her friend the good news.

    Yes, that old smuggler Uliak had a funny way of keeping to his end of the bargain, indeed. His two charges on this journey were to be his guards, his aides in finding what he had been looking for all of his life. Admittedly, the two of them were very talented, but so young…
     
  2. Brian G Turner

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

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    When handling a group there's a strong urge to try and establish as much as possible about the characters who are present, what they look like, and the background to their situation.

    The trouble is, this means the opening is all about explaining everything for the sake of the reader - and it's done without actually starting the story.

    The is common problem when people start writing, but IMO you have to learn to cut it out - try as best you can to start with a moment where something is actually happening. By that I don't mean fighting, but a character doing something interesting other than explaining everything for the reader.

    The writing itself isn't bad and you do have some nice character insights - but this isn't story, but introduction. This is the stuff that is probably best kept in your notes.

    Making readers ask questions is far more valuable than giving them answers. Just think about the mass of discussions on George R R Martin's books or the new Star Wars films - a story doesn't deliver answers at the start, but builds up to them.

    And don't worry about the reader - drop them in the deep end and simply give them short cues they need to provide context and setting. They'll ask the questions themselves, and you have the rest of the story in which to provide the answers.

    2c
     
  3. dannymcg

    dannymcg Yan Tan Tethera

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    Agreed. As long as, by I get well into the story, I'm not still thinking "Who's this person meant to be? Why am I reading about them?
    A name and species is usually enough in a fantasy.
    I know a dwarf will have an axe and be up for a fight.
    I know an elf will be good with a sword and a bow and can talk in a mystic manner.
    I know a goblin will be sly and brutal.
    I know a lone wanderer will have a quest (and a birthmark!)
    :)
     
  4. Charles Gull

    Charles Gull Auk Word

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    I enjoyed reading this piece and feel it has many good points. There is obviously an interesting story or two lurking in their and I have to agree with the other comments that your next step should be to bring the story(ies?) to the front.

    You appear to have a lot of imagery and character quirks in mind. Don't discard them by any means. The challenge is to dribble them in amongst the action not in front of it. You may be reminded of this point again and again (I know people keep reminding me) that the rule of thumb is 'Show not Tell'. Put in long phrases this means:

    1. Only mention important details;
    2. Details only become important if they relate directly to plot and action;
    3. Only mention the important details at the relevant point in the action.

    This isn't a 100% ironclad set of rules, but it is an enormously valuable and powerful starting point. As you develop and grow as a writer you may begin to spot the VERY occasional situations in which you should break from these guidelines. I have been writing for a while and still always start off sticking to this advice. Perhaps by the 3rd or 4th review I get confident enough to do something tricky and bend the rules slightly.
     
  5. Sho Pi

    Sho Pi Well-Known Member

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    Thanks guys.

    I am aware of the problem. I especially have this issue when starting a story, because I'm writing the characters into existence for myself as well. I will take a cleaver and start hacking away, when I'm a bit more settled into the story.
     
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  6. Charles Gull

    Charles Gull Auk Word

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    Sadly, the role of the author is often that of the brutal axe murderer. We hack away at our original creation until there is only the thinnest of bloody steaks left!
     
  7. Brian G Turner

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

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    Absolutely, and I should have been clearer on this - opening scenes will inevitably be rewritten later on. Really, it's best to leave the cutting and rewriting for when you've finished the first draft. Otherwise, the story may end up never being finished! Once it is, though, it allows for a new perspective, and you're likely to pick up issues like have been pointed out here yourself anyway.
     
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  8. Toby Frost

    Toby Frost Well-Known Member

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    I agree with a lot of what's been said earlier. Throwing a whole party of characters at the reader and expecting them to get the hang of all of them, without dropping in a load of backstory, is probably a bit much for the reader to take in all at once (especially if the characters all have unusual attributes/powers that need to be explained).

    The closest equivalent I can think of to this is the first Dragonlance book, which is literally a write-up of the authors' D&D sessions, and has an ensemble cast. That starts with the various members of the group reaching an inn, either alone or in little groups, so that each person can be described as they arrive. They then set off as one group.

    Personally, I would try to introduce the characters one by one, doing something that is characteristic of them to give the reader a quick idea of what they tend to be like. So something like this: Skilled hunter A is watching some dubious soldiers from a hiding place, planning his next move and hinting at violent conflict. His friend, tough fighter B, shows up noisily stomping around. A has to tell B to keep quiet and bide his time, thus showing the difference between them. A and B decide to go back to camp and warn bumbling-but-powerful wizard C about the soldiers. C has to pack up quickly, showing the clutter with which he surrounds himself (which in turn hints at his personality). Then all three move on together, now that their basic personality traits have been shown to the reader. We can learn about their detailed motivations later, as we've probably got enough to work with now, and the potential conflict with the soldiers is exciting enough to keep the reader going, even if the heroes just hide and wait for the enemy to go past.
     
  9. tinkerdan

    tinkerdan candycane shrimp

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    I know nothing of D&D so I can't make any sort of association here.
    However I think that it might work well to focus on one POV and in this case I'd do Jor for a number of reason; the primary being that the two women seem rather vapid at this point and he might actually think of them that way even though at the end he seems to add irony or something with the thought that they are some how his guards; if I read that correctly.

    That's kind of interesting.
     
  10. Stewart Hotston

    Stewart Hotston Well-Known Member

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    For a new story I tend to write a first chapter, get it out of my system, get on to chapter 2 then bin chapter 1. It's often a good way of cleansing the palate and gets you into the story.

    A few comments on the actual writing.

    You roll your eyes, not roll them up at someone, unless you've actually rolled them at the person!

    I personally am not a fan of modern idiom and referents in 'alien' cultures. Fantasy is, in this sense, alien as it's not gone through white western capitalist evolution. THat's a long way of me saying that teenagers were, as a culture, invented by advertisers post WWII. Nearly all other cultures, worldwide today and in our own before the 1950s did not regard teenagers as anything except young adults and expected them to take the responsibilities associated with that. Non-industrialised life was just too hard for people to worry about the feelings of 14 year olds. So, personally, I find the idea of a teenage girl from now transplanted into a fantasy setting a big turn off.

    It feels like you've built a nice world to this, which gives it a nice substance. The art here, as so many above have said, is to walk that fine line between showing what's going on (not telling) and letting the reader figure it out for themselves.

    There are always variations. For instance Erikson and Banks (Feersum Enjin) are at one end of expecting you to figure it out while others, like Eddings tell you everything. Personally (again cos different people like different approaches) as a reader I like the Erikson, Banks end of the spectrum and detest the Eddings end. You've got to write what works for you, what you enjoy, this is just my 2c.
     
  11. Martin Gill

    Martin Gill Well-Known Member

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    For the last story/book I wrote I spent a while before I even started doing character descriptions. Just one off paragraph or half pages to sketch the physical and emotional traits of the characters out. I was also playing with style as well. So when I cam to start writing I had all those sitting there as notes in a separate word doc and I could just cut and paste in as I went. I rarely used the full description, but I'd use a line here and there. I found that helped eliminate the temptation to info dump, and also helped me get inside the characters in a less rambling and story-impacting way.

    If this is DnD inspired then think of it as writing your character background before you start a campaign.

    This is one of Pixar's rules of storytelling. Always start the movie with the main character doing what they are best at.
     
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  12. Martin Robert

    Martin Robert Well-Known Member

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    Platform heels...really? The whole exchange on clothes lost me after a promising start. If nothing else, how on earth are platform heels a thing here?

    Wording needs fixing:
     
  13. Lafayette

    Lafayette Well-Known Member

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    I think I like what you have written more than the other commentators here.

    I especially like the open line "Are we there yet?" To me this gives the impression that the asker is young and probably impatient. I also like the vague reply, ‘The path of a Wanderer never actually reaches its destination, only the journey matters. For only during one’s journey can one receive the guidance of the Spirit.’ This to is reminiscent of the old TV program Gung Fu which I like. This bit of dialog tells me right away that there are two different characters with two different points of view.

    These points of may promise conflict and that is good.

    I think in here somewhere you could introduce some physical gestures such as rubbing a nose, tugging on a beard or a lock of hair. You may also want to interject physical attributes like: he tugged on his blond greying beard or she rolled her blue eyes. Of course, like one of the reviewers mentioned you want to avoid to info dump.

    I am not totally against modern idiom and referents in 'alien' cultures such as fantasy. I like the term teenager. Young man or young woman is too vague. As a rule someone 13 or 15 isn't going behave or think like someone 18 or 20 years old. Using the term teenager gives the reader a better idea of what kind of person is involved. You could get around this by saying something like: he stared at what he thought was a eighteen year before speaking. I personally find this clumsy.

    The other downside to being totally or more accurate to the era and culture that your story takes place in is that your readers may run into anachorisms they may be unfamiliar with. I personally like archaic language it adds a little color to your world and/or to its characters, nonetheless you have to be careful or you may lose your reader.

    When you finish your story please let me know.
     
  14. Flannery

    Flannery Well-Known Member

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    I agree with a lot of what's been said above. My main comment is that it seems like this might be better as a chapter 2. I don't quite get a sense of what the big deal is for this story yet. There is no real conflict here.

    Look at this as a reader. Is there enough here to keep a reader turning pages? Again, it's nice. I like the characters. The teenagers are fun and different, even I their similarities to modern teens--I was really struck by the idea of a seven-foot-tall, furry teen who is into fashionable clothing--and Nostra feels like a pleasant character to follow. Though I have to agree that the clothes section came at me out of left field, almost as if you were sitting there at the keyboard, wondering what an old guy might say to a teenager, and you suddenly hit in clothes. But nice characters aren't quite enough to pull a reader into a full-length novel just yet. This excerpt feels like what I would expect after a gripping opening chapter--not necessarily a prologue (I feel like most prologues can be done without) but a chapter that introduces a character with a tangible problem, maybe in a precarious situation that hints at the story conflict to come.

    Think the Imperial warship chasing down Princess Leia's vessel and we meet Darth Vader right away. Or the opening scene of Sword of Shannara where we meet our hero, and we see the dark Druid and an evil creature hunting the protagonist. Or even Game of Thrones book 1 (which is a prologue, I must admit) where we get a glimpse of the White Walkers. Draw us in with a strong open that hints at the conflict, then you can delight us with the lovely exchange posted above.

    Overall, though, it's some good work! I think you're well on your way.
     
  15. Sho Pi

    Sho Pi Well-Known Member

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    Thanks guys,

    You have given me the idea to move the start of the story to a different point, where there is more agency and where I can introduce more of the characters separately. Although, a few just work better as a duo.

    I purposefully thought up a cast of 8 characters, before the story. This does bring completely new problems with it, it seems.
     
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