Leave Me Here (917 words)

Vaz

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Hey, wonderful Chronners.

It's been a long old time. This is the Novella that refuses to leave me alone, so I've been working on the idea with a renewed, dogged determination, and would really appreciate whatever feedback people would be willing to give. It's my first draft in a while, and although I have gone over it please forgive any rust.

@The Big Peat ... might be of interest to you as this is the story inspired by Cult of Luna. :)

thanks in advance to anyone who gives their time to this piece.

V








Betrayal should not have felt so comfortable.

Seek lounged across the soft Syriad cushions. She had one arm wrapped tight around Five who was nestled against her breast breathing softly, and the other pinned beneath the dark curling fur of Bard, her Great Hound, who often stirred in his sleep with small howls or barks. She smiled. What else did she need in life other than her great love and her huge fool of a dog?

The sweet candles that painted the room in amber and violet made her mouth water for a berry flavored Skal her and Five had shared one glorious summer. They had been relaxing on a beach, beyond the forbidden walls of Ashar after a successful hunt. The sand was hot and welcoming beneath the black Ghastfang hides on which they sat. Between enormous dunes that looked like the upturned stomachs of whales, Bard routed nests of Rook Ravens, chasing them into the surf and returning stinking of week-old fish and filth. That day was made from woven sunlight. Seek had roasted meat from the hunt and brewed a large horn of Skal, adding more fruit. Five sat with the cool spray on her face, watching a red seal call to her mate. His tail was clearly injured as he struggled out of the sea, deep crimson staining the sand where he crawled. Five bit at her lip. She took up her bow, notched an arrow, and let it go. The male seal stopped struggling but his mates cry continued until the next sunrise. Five shook her head. “Never suffer. There is no certainty with suffering. A swift end is certain.” She placed her bow back and nuzzled back into Seeks' arms, drinking with a thirst.

To Seek, that summer was so bright and shining that even the trees refused to cast any shade. Such moments seemed like the sun would never fade on them

But it did.

At the bitter shores of the North Sea, they had shed their old selves like serpents. With hope, they had boarded a boat, to search in warmer climes for that eternal sunlight.

Seek was certain the stolen purse that sat snug and warm in her pack would bring those moments back. It meant the rest of their lives could be like one long sunrise. A golden curtain draping over the tarnished steel skies of their pasts. She kissed Five on her forehead and laughed as her nose twitched in response. Five was all frowns, even during sleep she seemed alert. Seek could tell what an animal last ate from one taste of its scent, but Five could smell danger. There was a knock on the door. Five opened her eyes and reached for a concealed dagger at the same time. Bard emitted a bark, then a low growl. “Who is it?” she mouthed.

Seek bit back laughter and made her eyes wide “The Great Taker. She’s come to butcher us like pigs and snatch our souls for our sins.” Five prodded her thigh with the gnarled root of her left hand and Seek laughed. “It’s the Tavern Lad,” she said, rising from the bed and making her way to the door. “I knew you would sleep before me. So I asked him to bring me more wine later on.” She opened the door and gestured for the boy to come in. He looked around, sheepish and soaking from the rain. Poor boy had barely seen fourteen summers, let alone the amount of flesh she was showing. So Seek picked up her hooded cloak and covered herself. Five got up and took the wine jug from his hands, which shook from the biting cold that followed him into the room in the shape of a puddle beneath his battered boots.
He remained silent and shivering. A shriek of wind made its way through the slatted wood and Seek rubbed at the newly formed gooseflesh that crept up her arms. “You waiting for a tip, boy?” She said.

“No, m’lady.”

Five poured a cup of wine. “No ladies here,” she said, flicking a coin towards him. The Tavern Lad caught it and stared at it intently, his brow furrowing. His hands trembled as he dropped it, the tainted copper kissing the floor with a final thud. He met Seeks’ eyes with his own for the first time, bowed, and left. Seek walked over to Five and teased the cup from her lips, stealing a sip for herself.

Five glanced towards the door as hailstones clattered against the building. “That Tavern Lad… seemed nervous for a boy who spends his time around sailors and whores.” She took back the cup and drained the rest of the wine. “Odd. You keep Wulf in a cage and it doesn’t lose its bite.”

“It’s the effect I have on men,” Seek grinned.

“Mhhm.” Five slammed down the cup and dragged Seek close, her body warm and sleek. The wine she drank perfumed each taste of her soft, eager lips. Seek lost every sense when they kissed. She lost part of herself to that warm void; let her worries and doubts drown in the dark wet of Fives' mouth.

There was a rap on the door.

Five pulled away and stroked Seeks face. “The Tavern Lad was quick to change his mind about that tip.”

Seek slipped out of her embrace, picked up the copper coin and opened the door.

She dropped the coin.

The wrath of their past greeted them.
 

The Big Peat

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I am delighted to see that progress is continuing on this and enjoyed it thoroughly.

There are a few things I'd say could do with improvement though.

The first is the amount of descriptive words. I do love the poeticness of your style but I don't think I need to know that its a ghastfang hide, or that its deep crimson staining the sands instead of blood, or a number of other things. I think removing some (only some) would make the prose more powerful as right now it sinks a little under the weight. Although maybe not the deep crimson one, I like that one.

The second is structural insofar as I'm not sure there should be so much flashback so early in a story. I enjoyed it, but I think it detracts from the scene's clarity. The flashback might be better placed further back. I also think a bit more detail on the betrayal, and the possible consequences of it, might be an idea. Although maybe not.
 
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Vaz

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Thanks for the insight, Peat. Much appreciated. :)

I'll rework this and tone down the description to see if the flow is improved. I was hoping the flashback would reveal a bit about character, and also do some groundwork regarding foreshadowing. I'll take it out and focus on the immediacy of the scene and see if that fits any better.

Again thanks for the inspiration and taking the time to have a gander at this.

Are there any particular points you would recommend toning down the prose?

Cheers.

v
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
I think I agree with Pete. I’d have liked less description and more about the character.

Gave you tried starting this in first person and just writing a narrative, without worrying about the scene setting. It can be very revealing :)
 

Dan Jones

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I also really enjoyed it but have to agree that it just – just – verges on the side of being too much. But I think you'd have to do not a great deal to ensure that it would flow a lot easier.

For example:

That day was made from woven sunlight.
Seems fairly innocuous, and sounds quite nice, but actually doesn't make any sense. But you could say, "that day was (or "had been") woven from sunlight" and suddenly the metaphor works.

And the whole thing is a little like that. I like highly descriptive writing, but I find it takes a lot of care to ensure that the prose stays clean. So go through the text line by line to see whether it can be tidied up.

I also found the beginning of the second and third paragraphs to contain a lot of proper nouns: Syriad, Bard, Skal, Ghastfang, Asher, Rock Ravens... it was again bordering on too much information.

But you write with flair and skill, so I would say certainly don't try to lose your natural style and tilt too far into a a bland, utilitarian style that isn't you. Have a think about what's superfluous to the flow and see if there's anything that could be excised, whilst retaining that Vazzy flavour.
 

Toby Frost

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I agree with Dan’s points. It’s definitely not my cup of tea, so I find it hard to critique, but overall I think the writing is very good. My main issues would be the slight overdoing of description, and the fact that nothing really happens until the end.

In terms of description, as Dan says, some of the wording doesn’t really hold up. Why does a falling coin “kiss” the floor and not “hit” it? While searching for new ways to say things is creditable, phrases like “bit back laughter” slowed me down. I don’t want to sound overly harsh, because it is well-written, but there are points where I’d just like the standard word. That said, it certainly feels like the arty end of Grimdark, which isn’t my thing but is popular and critically-liked (and I’ve read prose that’s much artier and much, much worse in critically acclaimed Grimdark works).

The other point for me is just that nothing much happens. They laze about in a vaguely smug coupley manner (sorry, but today is the day after the sickliest day of the year, after all), and then something is at the door. I don’t think that the flashback about the seal adds much (although again, it’s well-written). I suppose this is rather dependent on the point of the book where this passage occurs: if there have been many adventures to get to this point, then fair enough.

For all that, it's well-written, and there’s a strong sense of the author knowing exactly what is happening.
 

The Big Peat

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My guess is that the seal scene, particularly the bit with suffering vs a swift end, is a big part of the theme/a chekhov's gun of sorts.

Also "bit back laughter" is totally not new. There's 5000 google hits for that exact phrase that agree with me :p

Vaz - wish I could help more with pinpointing possible lyrical excesses, but alas such line by line editing is my weakest suit by far.
 

Brian G Turner

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There's some nice wording in this, but there's too much info-dumping to set the scene - better to start the story with the story actually happening, rather than spend nearly 1,000 words getting ready to start the story.

The hunting scene might serve as an interesting introduction to the characters and setting, and allow them to shine through more, while also allowing some of Seek's fears to create an underlying tension - while providing some sense of something happening. I'd suggest that would technically be a stronger start.
 
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Vaz

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Gave you tried starting this in first person and just writing a narrative, without worrying about the scene setting. It can be very revealing
It's something I've never tried to be honest. I have heard you talk about doing this, so I guess it's worth a go! Thanks for the crit.

The first is the amount of descriptive words. I do love the poeticness of your style but I don't think I need to know that its a ghastfang hide, or that its deep crimson staining the sands instead of blood, or a number of other things. I think removing some (only some) would make the prose more powerful as right now it sinks a little under the weight. Although maybe not the deep crimson one, I like that one
Yes i tend to go to much towards the purple end of things. I shall have a good prune. Cheers :)

I also really enjoyed it but have to agree that it just – just – verges on the side of being too much. But I think you'd have to do not a great deal to ensure that it would flow a lot easier.

For example:


Seems fairly innocuous, and sounds quite nice, but actually doesn't make any sense. But you could say, "that day was (or "had been") woven from sunlight" and suddenly the metaphor works.

And the whole thing is a little like that. I like highly descriptive writing, but I find it takes a lot of care to ensure that the prose stays clean. So go through the text line by line to see whether it can be tidied up.

I also found the beginning of the second and third paragraphs to contain a lot of proper nouns: Syriad, Bard, Skal, Ghastfang, Asher, Rock Ravens... it was again bordering on too much information.

But you write with flair and skill, so I would say certainly don't try to lose your natural style and tilt too far into a a bland, utilitarian style that isn't you. Have a think about what's superfluous to the flow and see if there's anything that could be excised, whilst retaining that Vazzy flavour.
Im throwing a lot at the reader with all that information, definitely. I think because I'm aiming for novella legnth I'm worried I don't have a lot of wiggle room and want to establish setting.

I agree the description is too much. I do get carried away .

Thanks for the kind words and crit. :)


In terms of description, as Dan says, some of the wording doesn’t really hold up. Why does a falling coin “kiss” the floor and not “hit” it? While searching for new ways to say things is creditable, phrases like “bit back laughter” slowed me down. I don’t want to sound overly harsh, because it is well-written, but there are points where I’d just like the standard word. That said, it certainly feels like the arty end of Grimdark, which isn’t my thing but is popular and critically-liked (and I’ve read prose that’s much artier and much, much worse in critically acclaimed Grimdark works
Yep. Everyone is hitting the nail on the head with my heavy handed descriptions. The passage would definitely be improved by using the simpler word in some places.

I also need to figure out how to make something happen. I was hoping the initial sentence about the besteayal would hook and give me some breathing space to set the scene.

Cheers for taking the time to crit. Much obliged. :)



The hunting scene might serve as an interesting introduction to the characters and setting, and allow them to shine through more, while also allowing some of Seek's fears to create an underlying tension - while providing some sense of something happening. I'd suggest that would technically be a stronger start

You mean the scene featuring the seal? I could try completely rewriting from that angle, to see how it opens up. It's a good thought but I'd still want part of this scene in there. I want them to think they've gotten away with ripping someone off, when they haven't. It's just figuring out how to go from the hunt to this.

Thanks for your thoughts and the crit.


Cheers everybody. Thanks for showing my the flaws and giving me some ideas to work towards. I honestly couldn't write without this site.

v
 

The Big Peat

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You mean the scene featuring the seal? I could try completely rewriting from that angle, to see how it opens up. It's a good thought but I'd still want part of this scene in there. I want them to think they've gotten away with ripping someone off, when they haven't. It's just figuring out how to go from the hunt to this.
Man, I never even got that they had just ripped someone off.

Brian is right though. Nothing happens. There's nothing wrong with an opening showing "stasis", the moment before it goes sideways, but something has to be happening. Maybe show the ladies plotting what to do with their ill gotten gains, or one of them soothing the worries of the other... but there has to be some sense of motion.
 
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HareBrain

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This might be partly because I've got a cold and my brain isn't working properly, but I found it hard to get into. I think this was a combination of what others have identified: the purpleness, and the fact that the start is a mix of exposition and description. There's no real story to grab hold of yet.

I was hoping the initial sentence about the besteayal would hook and give me some breathing space to set the scene.
Yes, it hooked to some extent, but then it wasn't followed up. I think the fact that the next few paragraphs didn't seem to have anything to do with the opening line might have been what threw me out. It began to feel like one of those exciting prologues that mostly exist to cover up a dull first chapter. When you find yourself using something that could be described as a "trick", maybe ask yourself if you're trying to cover up a weakness, and what it is.
 

Vaz

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@The Big Peat yeah. It's more apparent as this scene continues, as I don't have enough room to post it all in one go but where it ends here isn't the end of this chapter just yet.


This might be partly because I've got a cold and my brain isn't working properly, but I found it hard to get into. I think this was a combination of what others have identified: the purpleness, and the fact that the start is a mix of exposition and description. There's no real story to grab hold of yet.



Yes, it hooked to some extent, but then it wasn't followed up. I think the fact that the next few paragraphs didn't seem to have anything to do with the opening line might have been what threw me out. It began to feel like one of those exciting prologues that mostly exist to cover up a dull first chapter. When you find yourself using something that could be described as a "trick", maybe ask yourself if you're trying to cover up a weakness, and what it is.

Thanks for your thoughts. I'm thinking a rewrite is in order from a different angle, and see how that pans out and whether it's a better read. Or more interesting to the reader.

I was trying to nail theme (or as Brian Mcdonald calls it "armature") eary on. Betrayal is one of those points. I was trying to tell with the rest of the text how comfortable the characters are, when they shouldn't be. Maybe I need to rewind and go into detail about the betrayal and what they're up against afterwards.

Much appreciated. :)

v
 

The Big Peat

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I know its not the end of the chapter, but this is the first four pages of the novella and a decent chunk of the chapter. That should really be in there - and it might even provide that burst of "something happening" people are looking for.
 

Vaz

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I thought it might have came across as being the end of this scene.

I'm rewriting. Happy to do so and see if a quicker start is more appealing.

I'll post again and see if something more immediate is better received as a start point.

Thanks again

V
 

Phyrebrat

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Hi El,
As promised earlier I'd give this a butchers when I got time.

There are some nice character moments here, and they're delivered very economically in terms of words, but everything else is very dense. I struggle with fantasy not because it's not my cup of tea so much as finding it hard to keep so many unfamiliar terms in my head - it's like multitasking; I can't do it, so I had to read this very slowly. However, that's me.

What did come to mind throughout was comparisons to your 75 and 300 word challenge entries which always have a strong sense of place, occasion and character. If you could instill that efficiency into this passage, I think it'd be really strong. I like the relationship between the two, and I like the dog, and it's not self-conscious and manipulative. However, it is 'nice' and I wonder if, as this is an opening, there should be more a sense of threat or change. That doesn't come till the final line and that line is perhaps too vague. I think you could throw me a little cookie at least about what the flavour of the wrath might be ;)

Again, coming back to you challenge entries, I think you'd have spent time whittling them down, making every word earn its keep, and if you apply that here - perhaps with a little brutality - it'd be slick.

Some thoughts:

What else did she need in life other than her great love and her huge fool of a dog?
This is what I mean about character. It's such a simple sentence, but you get across a strong sense of her with it. I know so much about her from this little line and it makes me like her immediately.

They had been relaxing on a beach, beyond the forbidden walls of Ashar after a successful hunt. The sand was hot and welcoming beneath the black Ghastfang hides on which they sat. Between enormous dunes that looked like the upturned stomachs of whales, Bard routed nests of Rook Ravens, chasing them into the surf and returning stinking of week-old fish and filth. That day was made from woven sunlight. Seek had roasted meat from the hunt and brewed a large horn of Skal, adding more fruit. Five sat with the cool spray on her face, watching a red seal call to her mate. His tail was clearly injured as he struggled out of the sea, deep crimson staining the sand where he crawled. Five bit at her lip. She took up her bow, notched an arrow, and let it go. The male seal stopped struggling but his mates cry continued until the next sunrise. Five shook her head. “Never suffer. There is no certainty with suffering. A swift end is certain.” She placed her bow back and nuzzled back into Seeks' arms, drinking with a thirst.
This nostalgic reminsicence might give a sense of world but is a bit distracting in an opening, I think. I don't actually want to see it cut, but it might help to reduce it down to a couple of sentences, and include it later in the opening rather than right at the beginning where it doesn't really serve to raise a sense of narrative. If this memory is so formative, important and wonderful, I wonder if you could reduce it even further and have it split and sprinkled throughout the text of the entire novella, instead of here. Use it kind of like a 'touchstone of comfort' that they keep returning to.

Seek was certain the stolen purse that sat snug and warm in her pack would bring those moments back. It meant the rest of their lives could be like one long sunrise. A golden curtain draping over the tarnished steel skies of their pasts. She kissed Five on her forehead and laughed as her nose twitched in response. Five was all frowns, even during sleep she seemed alert. Seek could tell what an animal last ate from one taste of its scent, but Five could smell danger. There was a knock on the door. Five opened her eyes and reached for a concealed dagger at the same time. Bard emitted a bark, then a low growl. “Who is it?” she mouthed.
There's a marginal inconsistency for me here; we have the dark, poetic image of the skies of their pasts which then jumps to the sleeping Five, then the door knock. I think we need to feel a sense of the interruption of Seek. Like there's this almost-obsession Seek has with the past that is being spoilt by the interruption at the door. Having the description of Five sleeping pulls the reader away from that whimsical nostalgia. In edit, it might be sharper to lose the sleeping Five bit and go from the past to the rude interruption.

Seek bit back laughter and made her eyes wide “The Great Taker. She’s come to butcher us like pigs and snatch our souls for our sins.” Five prodded her thigh with the gnarled root of her left hand and Seek laughed. “It’s the Tavern Lad,” s
Going out on a limb here, I might be inclined to have this as the opening, and drip feed the rich memory stuff that comes before it later on, here and there.

Five poured a cup of wine. “No ladies here,” she said, flicking a coin towards him. The Tavern Lad caught it and stared at it intently, his brow furrowing. His hands trembled as he dropped it, the tainted copper kissing the floor with a final thud.
More strong sense of character. I really like this. As is:

“It’s the effect I have on men,” Seek grinned.
The wine she drank perfumed
I get what you're trying to say but it doesn't quite come together. I think perfumed should be moved later in the sentence and changed from a verb to a noun; 'more perfume than wine' or something.

Man, I never even got that they had just ripped someone off.
No, me either, until second-read.

Anyway, El, it's nice to see so much focus on tone and lyricism. I just think it needs a bit of justification.

I recall seeing this great drama/comedy/road movie called Boys on the Side with Whoopi Goldberg, Drew Barrymore and Mary Stuart Parker. It's full of humour, whimsy and sadness. MSP is traveling across the States with the other two and keeps having flashbacks to times from her childhood. They're short, black and white, and accompanied only by atmospheric music (no dialogue) and I get the impression now I think about it, they might even be in semi slo-mo. Your character's reminiscences put me in mind of that film, a sort of 'good times lost' and I wonder if you could rejig this to do something similar.

Also Boys on the Side is a film everyone should see. With a box of hankies. And if anyone accuses me of watching chickflicks I'll beat them for their chauvinism. ;)

pH

EDIT: Horrendous typos and grammar.
 
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Toby Frost

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Just following on from PB's comments, I do wonder if putting what are nearly flashbacks so early in the text is that good an idea. I'd have thought that the best thing to do with an opening is to move forward immediately. However, I'm wary of saying that it can't work. My instinct is to write something like a thriller or noir crime story, but this feels like a different sort of story.
 
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Vaz

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Thanks for your thoughts, C. @Phyrebrat


With yours, and others suggestions in this thread, I am reworking this. Trying to bring more of the threat across, and also the betrayal. Yes, it is wordy and definitely needs to be made leaner, too.

I'm glad you like the dog! :)And that Seeks character comes through.

I'm reworking this scene, but I've also written a new opening, which begins with the hunt where they betray/try to kill someone. I think that opening will give a better sense of what's going on, although, I feel this scene deals with theme better, but that's just me.

I am trying to get across that they're reaching for something that's lost. Trying to get back to a time in their lives which is now gone. (It helps that I've just been dumped)

You have good taste, I shall watch the movie. Sounds right up my alley.


Toby, I'm definitely going for a tragedy/vengeance type tale with this one.

Thanks again guys.

V
 

HareBrain

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I am trying to get across that they're reaching for something that's lost. Trying to get back to a time in their lives which is now gone.
I think this is a bit of a tall order for an opening section, because we've not yet been shown enough of their present for us to sympathise with their wish to go back to a lost past. Push it too hard and you risk an elegiac purpleness and even self-pity.

To my mind, the alternative hunt/betrayal scene sounds more promising.
 
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Vaz

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Yes, you're right. I'll try and get the other opening up as soon as possible, to see if that's a better entry point than this one.

Cheers.

V
 
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