Novella opening

Toby Frost

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I enjoyed it. My main thought was why the characters were helping this man at all. The opening seems to tick the grimdark boxes - blood, rats, booze, poo, death (but no whores or flies yet) - to the extent where I couldn't see why two clearly hardened characters didn't just leave him to die - or at least go to such trouble. I think some kind of explanation would help, even if it's just "We can't just leave him here". As you say, getting concerned with him will make their lives more difficult.

The first sentence doesn't quite feel right to me. I think it's because the sun smashing down (not sure about smashing) and the sprawling aren't quite happening at the same time. Would "was sprawling" or "lay sprawled" work better?

Anyway, I liked it overall and would read on.
 

HareBrain

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The noon sun smashed down and a drunk sprawled halfway across the street. Just another day in the big city.
I'm not sure about this opening. It suggests the sun smashing down is a particular aspect of this big city in the same way as the sprawling drunk is. It also has a feel of throat-clearing, and I don't think you need it.

I'm also unsure about his initial reaction to the victim. If the man has nearly bled out, then I agree with TJ, the MC would surely see the blood before he smells it. And would the smell of blood be powerful enough to make itself known at all against the much stronger odour of ordure? As to that, I'm surprised that the MC continues to assume the man is merely drunk. If I've learned anything from grimdark novels it's that everyone meets his end with several days' worth of bodily waste backed up in his lower intestine and it exits at the moment of his grisly demise.** Wouldn't the MC, being a battle-hardened veteran, be familiar with this, and wouldn't the thought at least cross his mind that the motionless self-befouled figure isn't just drunk, but dead?

Apart from that, I think it works, though I would like some idea of motive, a sense that they're not just doing this as a random act of passersby. I can't remember the vows TJ referenced from the previous version, but something like that.

** I believe this has some basis in biology, but I've never felt driven to research it. I'm going to assume in all my books that anyone who dies has recently gone to the toilet.
 

night_wrtr

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The noon sun smashed down and a drunk sprawled halfway across the street. Just another day in the big city.

I stepped over him with barely a glance - just enough to see he wasn’t tensed, ready to jump up. He wouldn’t be the first of the Rat Quarter’s many thieves to feign unconsciousness as an ambush. This one was no threat. Not when the reek of him cut through the Quarter’s particular smell. Dousing yourself in wine was a known tactic, but I’d never heard of a thief willingly lying in his own mess before. So I left him slumped against the tenement tower’s limewashed walls and walked on.
This doesn't seem to flow as easily as it could I think. The first sentence could probably be combined with the next paragraph. Something like "I stepped over the drunk sprawled in the street with barely a glance..."

I agree with the other comments - He got a good enough look to realize the drunk wasn't tensed, but he didn't see the blood? Is this something that is part of the character, or does he tend to miss certain details?

It feels like we are missing the reasons they are getting involved, or why they are taking the time to help this guy out. The last sentence hints at finding the person who did this, but not understanding why he wants to.

The rest reads well, Peat. And I now have a hankering for garlic sausage.
 

The Big Peat

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On the not seeing the blood thing -

The idea behind this is to show that the narrator is, beyond his own personal safety, not particularly observant. He's capable of missing something big, particularly if his focus is on whether someone's a threat. Sia on the other hand, is observant (as I try to emphasize further later on with the knife).

However, this might be stretching things too far to judge from the reactions. Would it work better if Albric steps over, thinking him dead, and Sia spots that he's still breathing? An alternative is the blood's mixed with a pool of wine, with him slumped on his side to conceal the wound. And should I play up the difference between what they notice more, or just continue to work it into the narrative down the line?

I enjoyed it. My main thought was why the characters were helping this man at all. The opening seems to tick the grimdark boxes - blood, rats, booze, poo, death (but no whores or flies yet) - to the extent where I couldn't see why two clearly hardened characters didn't just leave him to die - or at least go to such trouble.
The realisation that I've possibly strayed into Grimdark territory always bothers me with this project :p

If I've learned anything from grimdark novels it's that everyone meets his end with several days' worth of bodily waste backed up in his lower intestine and it exits at the moment of his grisly demise.
And now I've an idea for a spoof novella called The Final Constipation Cure of Kings. THANKS.


Thank you all - I'll meditate further on the points raised, but that one seemed the most pressing and important.
 

night_wrtr

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The idea behind this is to show that the narrator is, beyond his own personal safety, not particularly observant.
Maybe to highlight this point, his reaction could be more giving.

I turned to see Sia crouched down, her hands already tangled in his fair beard and pushing hard against his neck.

“How did you know?”
We don't get much of a response that helps tell us one way or the other. Maybe he should have some kind of shock or surprise that he missed this detail, which then would bring in the fact he is not always that observant?
 

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