Opening Scene of The Many Faces of Kat Rivera -- Close 3rd Test.

L.L.Lotte

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Ok so, I'll create a new thread here to avoid it getting lost amongst the replies of the other thread like the last time.

My personal thoughts about what I've written:

I think I may be at my limit for how close I can get and keep it being my story and not taking on somebody else's writing style. I've been trying my hardest to get in super duper close, and have probably overdone some things at this point.

It is perhaps a bit overwhelmingly stressful for the reader now? Not to mention that I've gone back to including some background details that was previously suggested I cut out... as well as adding more -- for the purpose of enhancing the character.

There are a couple of paragraphs where I've attempted to make the emotion of the character progress from one state to another. (like anger and frustration into fear and psychological stress) Trying to show the fear slip in and cause her to mentally break -- then recover again. I'm not sure if they work for other readers yet. I did read them out loud and they certainly grew into a voice of desperation for me and I felt the stressfulness of the situation develop. But as the author, I have a bias that might be influencing that.

Wordiness might just be part of my style and breaking it would be forcing me to write in a way that just isn't natural to me -- I'll see how that pans out for me down the road a bit.

Anyway, without further ado:

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A miasma sat thick in the still air. It reeked of blood; an account of those already dead. In the distance, cries of terror cut short. Kat rushed forward, her footsteps echoing across the damp cobblestones.

The mist beaded on her skin. It trickled down, soaking into her leathers. They creaked in protest, the material practically gluing itself to her. That blasted fog limited vision to barely a few feet ahead. At least the street lamps were still lit, their hazy glow marking the edges of the road, illuminating the lifeless buildings standing either side. All of them abandoned for the supposed safety beyond the castle walls. They were kidding themselves if they thought any man-made structure could possibly stand in the way of monsters born from the very depths of the void. She placed a hand on the Ward Blade at her side. There were other methods; solutions not invented by men.

A bestial roar thundered across the night sky and windows rattled. The miasma grew stronger, and the screams continued. More deaths; more people she couldn’t save. Kat stumbled. The way back looked enticing. The port sat there. A boat could take her away from this place. It would be safe, for at least a time. But then what, live with the guilt? What of her duty to the people; to herself. And the void be damned if she ran at the first wave of that sinister aura rising not far ahead, with its sneaking tendrils delving into the minds of its victims, shadowing them with doubts and making them lose any sense of sanity, and the unholy god of fear that kills their ability to even think straight.

She clutched at her head. Phantoms of the mist pranced around, tormenting with their wicked grins and hollow eyes. You couldn’t even protect me! Dead eyes full of condemnation, mouth agape, the ghost of a past mere hours ago, nails hammered through her hands, cracking the Ward Stone she hung from, her fur matted with her own blood. How could she protect her; the body already cold. But the phantoms just wouldn’t stop laughing and whispering and cursing.

Kat ran. Somewhere there was a way out of the fog. She just had to find it.

The force of an unstoppable mountain resounded as a voice in her mind. You are the master of your own mind. Do not let it control you!

The screams stopped.

She stopped.

Silence closed in. Her ears itched. Not even those cursed crickets made a sound. They should have been swarming the place this time of year. Seconds past, drawn out to feel like minutes, before a throbbing sound seeped out of the mist. Over and over again. Thunderous, guttural breaths that made even the walls of nearby buildings tremble. A heavy growl shook the road. That aura; it wasn’t just ahead of her anymore; it was damn well all around her, the overwhelming power of it making her legs buckle. Careless of her, so caught up in her own folly that she’d let a Devilspawn sneak up on her.

Its silhouette bounded across the road, hiding in that damned mist. Wind buffeted her as the sound of wings split the air, followed by a thump atop a nearby building. Tiles cascaded down the roof, tumbling to shatter upon the road. Muscles tense, aching, her gaze turned upwards.

Slowly, a face emerged from the fog, its breath misting up the air before it. The face might have looked human, but this was no man. Glowing green eyes glared down at her as it inched forward and snarled, revealing three rows of sharp-pointed teeth. Steaming saliva dripped from its jaws. A golden mane crowned its neck, rugged fur extending down to cover a four-legged body. A tail swept up behind it, covered in dark red scales, a tuft of sharp needles at its tip.

Kat took a step back. The name of this beast hung on her dry lips: Manticore. Man-eater.

Only a single page in the Compendium of Mythical Creatures from beyond The Void was dedicated to manticores, with one sentence emboldened, made up of a single word: Run!

Cast aside the doubt in your mind, Master Gou’s voice, a Ward Bearer has no time for fear. Her training with the monks at Kar’Alutha took over and pushed aside the warning given her by scholars of old. The hand of her psyche snatched all traces of fear and doubt, and tossed them through a door within the very depths of her mind. She shut that door and crouched into a ready stance that twisted slightly to aid in drawing the blade. Her fingers flexed along the leather hilt, settling into every groove in its binding. One singular chance to get this right; timing was critical. She fixed her eyes on the beast.

The manticore arched its back, lowering the front half of its body to the point that its mane brushed the tiles. Kat drew in a deep breath and stilled. The manticore’s rumbling breaths faded away, along with its growls, and the tap of its claws upon the roof. Give your mind over to the task at hand. All else matters not. The manticore flexed its rear legs, wagged its tail.

And then it leapt.



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Just a question for whoever makes it to the end here:

In that last bit, does the untagged italics still come across as Master Gou's voice? She's supposed to be channelling his training at that point so I'm hoping that readers get that without having to repeat that it's the memory of Gou's voice in her mind saying it.
 
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Brian G Turner

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I think you are trying too hard to set a scene instead of get straight into something happening. The result is that we're not really in Kat's experience because of all the extra descriptions we have to get through. IMO this doesn't actually add to the scene but distracts from it by slowing the narrative. Once you tell us we have a spooky setting, you don't need to keep reminding us every other sentence - less is actually more. That's why I mentioned in your first posting about skipping the first few paragraphs, because that's when you stopped doing it and focused on the actual story.

I know it can feel like taking on board someone else's style and that can feel frustrating. What I'd recommend is having a look at Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer, which covers all the tools a writer can use. If you do, take note of the sections on POV use. That way you may be able to better understand how to mix in a character's experiences with the descriptions that you want.
 

HareBrain

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I think what you're perhaps doing now is trying too hard to think of all the possible things that might cross her mind in that situation, like this:

The port sat there. A boat could take her away from this place. It would be safe, for at least a time. But then what, live with the guilt? What of her duty to the people; to herself
Beginnings are always difficult, and they're best gone back to later. In the meantime, this is great advice:

don’t try to find a style - it will find you. Write words, lots of words, and it will emerge :)
 

L.L.Lotte

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Thanks @Jo Zebedee

I think it was Teresa who warned over in my thread in general discussion that I can't please everyone. ;)

In trying to do so I might just well be making things worse.

@HareBrain I hear you. I'm done with this scene for now. Was going to leave it here, have people comment and store their thoughts away for later. It's time to leave this for now and revisit some other scenes. You are right that the thought of running away is superfluous to the rest. And the crickets.
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
You really can’t please everyone. I write the close style you’re aiming for here. Most people would say characters are the strongest part of my writing and I focus on them to the detriment of other stuff, like clarity. Damn, I hate clarity.

Last week I got a review that said my character writing was rubbish. I revealed nothing about them and used them as plot points.

This is fine. This reader doesn’t like my style. Others do.

A few years ago I’d have done what you’re doing (ask anyone here) and rewrote and changed things and fixed things and it didn’t work.

On the plus side I learned a lot about writing and how I like to tell a story ;)
 

L.L.Lotte

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like clarity. Damn, I hate clarity.

A few years ago I’d have done what you’re doing (ask anyone here) and rewrote and changed things and fixed things and it didn’t work.

On the plus side I learned a lot about writing and how I like to tell a story ;)
Well clarity was never a goal with what I'm doing here. :) Some of the writing in this version is edging towards slipping into that stream of consciousness thingy.

But, if somebody was to ask me which version of this scene I liked best out of all 3 versions I've written so far, I'd say that it is this one. So it's not all bad, the critiquing did its job. And while I may not have come up with what some people would have rather read, I did make something I'm happy with.


Of course, I'm still open to comments from others. That's why this thread is here after all.

/EndDerailment ;)
 
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HareBrain

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BTW, I forgot to say in my previous post that I do quite like what you've got here in terms of raw "style", with its semi-gothic richness. So I wouldn't worry about that aspect itself. Style can change over time, but your "natural" style, even if not universally liked, will probably always read better than an attempt to force it to be something else.
 

Cathbad

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You really can’t please everyone. I write the close style you’re aiming for here. Most people would say characters are the strongest part of my writing and I focus on them to the detriment of other stuff, like clarity. Damn, I hate clarity.

Last week I got a review that said my character writing was rubbish. I revealed nothing about them and used them as plot points.

This is fine. This reader doesn’t like my style.
Please give me this reader's name and address.

My shotgun's loaded...
 

tinkerdan

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I like this one; and I hesitate to say more because I feel your frustration.

On the other - don’t try to find a style - it will find you. Write words, lots of words, and it will emerge
This is probably the best advice at this point.
Or as Ricky Nelson put it, "You see, ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself."
 

dannymcg

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I ain't seen your other versions so I can't say if this one differs.

What I will say is it drew me into the story, I fully grasped the bits in italics were from her Instructor and I was somewhat miffed because everything stopped for critiques!

Is "Give your mind over to the task at hand. All else matters not" going to be the Bene Gesserit mantra of your story?
 

L.L.Lotte

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Thanks Danny.

The Bene Gesserit style mantra is purely coincidental. Dune was the least on my mind while writing this but yes there will be more scenes involving her training and such mantras to come. The whole history of how Warders are raised and trained is a big part of the story.

Maybe sometime I'll post up the rest of the chapter. Stay tuned. ;)

And thanks for answering that question at the end. :)
 

psychotick

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Hi,

I liked this - and this is the first version of it that I've read. I like that you're in the headspace of the hero, though some won't. And I quite liked that you're verging on the purple prose. I think that there's only a couple of things that I'd suggest changing, mainly for clarity:


A miasma sat thick in the still air. It reeked of blood; an account of those already dead. In the distance, cries of terror (were?) cut short. Kat rushed forward, her footsteps echoing across the damp cobblestones.

The mist beaded on her skin. It trickled down, soaking into her leathers. They creaked in protest, the material practically gluing itself to her. That blasted fog limited vision to barely a few feet ahead. At least the street lamps were still lit, their hazy glow marking the edges of the road, illuminating the lifeless buildings standing either side. All of them abandoned for the supposed safety beyond the castle walls. (Ok this may have been asked somewhere else, but are the monsters inside the castle and they're running away?) They were kidding themselves if they thought any man-made structure could possibly stand in the way of monsters born from the very depths of the void. She placed a hand on the Ward Blade at her side. There were other methods; solutions not invented by men.

A bestial roar thundered across the night sky and windows rattled. The miasma grew stronger, and the screams continued. More deaths; more people she couldn’t save. Kat stumbled. The way back looked enticing. The port sat there. (Ports don't sit.) A boat could take her away from this place. It would be safe, for at least a time. But then what, live with the guilt? What of her duty to the people; to herself. And the void be damned (Why should the void be damned? It would be doing well if she ran, wouldn't it?) if she ran at the first wave of that sinister aura rising not far ahead, with its sneaking tendrils delving into the minds of its victims, shadowing (Filling?) them with doubts and making them lose any sense of sanity, and the unholy god of fear that kills their ability to even think straight.

She clutched at her head. Phantoms of the mist pranced around, tormenting (her?) with their wicked grins and hollow eyes. You couldn’t even protect me! Dead eyes full of condemnation, mouth agape, the ghost of a past mere hours ago, nails hammered through her hands, cracking the Ward Stone she hung from, her fur matted with her own blood. How could she protect her; the body already cold. But the phantoms just wouldn’t stop laughing and whispering and cursing. (Bit confusing here. She has fur? She's hanging from a ward stone?)

Kat ran. (I get what you're saying, but I don't think ran is the right word. Maybe she panicked, or bolted. Something to show the fear broke through.) Somewhere there was a way out of the fog. She just had to find it.

The force of an unstoppable mountain resounded as a voice in her mind. You are the master of your own mind. Do not let it control you!

The screams stopped.

She stopped.

Silence closed in. Her ears itched. Not even those (the? Crickets weren't mentioned before.) cursed crickets made a sound. They should have been swarming the place this time of year. Seconds past, drawn out to feel like minutes, before a throbbing sound seeped out of the mist. Over and over again. Thunderous, guttural breaths that made even the walls of nearby buildings tremble. A heavy growl shook the road. That aura; it wasn’t just ahead of her anymore; it was damn well all around her, the overwhelming power of it making her legs buckle. (Rewrite this bit. Eg she cursed herself! She'd been careless ...) Careless of her, so caught up in her own folly that she’d let a Devilspawn sneak up on her.

Its silhouette bounded across the road, hiding in that damned mist. (If it's bounding across the road why are its wings flapping?) Wind buffeted her as the sound of wings split the air, followed by a thump atop a nearby building. Tiles cascaded down the roof, tumbling to shatter upon the road. Muscles tense, aching, her gaze turned upwards.

Slowly, a face emerged from the fog, its breath misting up the air before it. The face might have looked human, but this was no man. Glowing green eyes glared down at her as it inched forward and snarled, revealing three rows of sharp-pointed teeth. Steaming saliva dripped from its jaws. A golden mane crowned its neck, rugged fur extending down to cover a four-legged body. A tail swept up behind it, covered in dark red scales, a tuft of sharp needles at its tip.

Kat took a step back. The name of this beast hung on her dry lips: Manticore. Man-eater.

Only a single page in the Compendium of Mythical Creatures from beyond The Void was dedicated to manticores, with one sentence emboldened, made up of a single word: Run!

Cast aside the doubt in your mind, Master Gou’s voice, a Ward Bearer has no time for fear. Her training with the monks at Kar’Alutha took over and pushed aside the warning given her by scholars of old. The hand of her psyche snatched all traces of fear and doubt, and tossed them through a door within the very depths of her mind. She shut that door and crouched into a ready stance that twisted slightly to aid in drawing the blade. Her fingers flexed along the leather hilt, settling into every groove in its binding. One singular (single?) chance to get this right; timing was critical. She fixed her eyes on the beast.

The manticore arched its back, lowering the front half of its body to the point that its mane brushed the tiles. Kat drew in a deep breath and stilled. The manticore’s rumbling breaths faded away, along with its growls, and the tap of its claws upon the roof. Give your mind over to the task at hand. All else matters not. The manticore flexed its rear legs, wagged its tail.

(Yeah, I really like the idea of it wagging its tail!)

And then it leapt. (Given the rest of your writing style I'd change this to "It leapt".)


Hope that helps,

Cheers, Greg.
 

L.L.Lotte

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Thanks, Greg. Some helpful pointers there. Glad you liked it!

Some I'd come to similar realizations and at least tried to fix already. Like the crucifixion bit. It's actually talking about somebody else, and was originally to be a standalone part where Kat finds the body of a Ward Keeper, but I played with the idea of trying to integrate a reference into this scene and then refer to it later, after the battle. The death of the Ward Keeper is what caused all this to happen, but I felt starting -- or ending -- with the discovery of the body would drag the scene on too long, yet it has to be here somewhere because otherwise another scene that comes at the end of the chapter wouldn't make sense.

Not long after posting did I realize it wasn't very clear on who that was referring to. Here is that paragraph as it currently stands:

She clutched at her head. Phantoms of the mist pranced around, tormenting her with their wicked grins and hollow eyes. You couldn’t even protect me! The Ward Keeper’s empty eyes full of condemnation, mouth agape, the ghost of a past mere hours ago, nails hammered through her hands, cracking the Ward Stone she hung from, her fur matted with her own blood. How could Kat protect her; the Ward Keeper’s body already cold. But the phantoms just wouldn’t stop laughing and whispering and cursing.

The only change I really made was just state who the dead person was, and hope the reader doesn't mind that they don't know what a Ward Keeper is yet. So yeah, it's supposed to be her agonizing over not being able to protect the Ward Keeper and prevent the monsters from invading the town.

And as for the fur, Ward Keepers come from a half canine race that look after the Ward Stones human communities are built around. The end of the chapter describes a pair of them in great detail, it's just a matter of keeping the reader hooked until that point as, obviously, it wouldn't work to put an explanation in here
 
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L.L.Lotte

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All of them abandoned for the supposed safety beyond the castle walls. (Ok this may have been asked somewhere else, but are the monsters inside the castle and they're running away?)
Good spot. It should be within the castle walls, not beyond. They are all hiding inside the castle, having abandoned the outer city.
 

Hummus

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I like this version! The prose is not to purple or complicated for my taste, rather it sets a nice tone and voice... Don't really have anything to add, just keep working and I think you can fix the small mistakes and stuff.
 

OHB

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The story seems interesting and I like the setup. There were just a few things that could be clearer, IMO:
A miasma sat thick in the still air. It reeked of blood; an account of those already dead. In the distance, cries of terror cut short. Kat rushed forward, her footsteps echoing across the damp cobblestones.
I couldn't tell where Kat was at this point. The cobblestones made me think of a garden or a park. I didn't know she was in the streets of a village outside of a castle until...
All of them abandoned for the supposed safety beyond the castle walls.
...this point. The only issue with this is that I thought the story was taking place in the regular, modern world until there was suddenly mention of a castle near the end of the second paragraph.
The miasma grew stronger, and the screams continued.
Who is screaming if the village has been abandoned? Did the monsters break into the castle and are attacking people there, or did some people not make it to the castle and are being attacked outside?
And the void be damned if she ran at the first wave of that sinister aura rising not far ahead, with its sneaking tendrils delving into the minds of its victims, shadowing them with doubts and making them lose any sense of sanity, and the unholy god of fear that kills their ability to even think straight.
I think this would read better broken up. The sentence runs on too long, changes subjects (in the grammatical sense), and becomes hard to follow.
Phantoms of the mist
Given that there are "monsters of the void," I can't tell if these phantoms of the mist are actual creatures or figments of Kat's imagination.
Seconds past
Warning: Grammar police! It should be "passed."
That aura; it wasn’t just ahead of her anymore; it was damn well all around her, the overwhelming power of it making her legs buckle.
This can be broken up into multiple sentences to avoid the use of so many semicolons.
she’d let a Devilspawn sneak up on her.
Devilspawn = monster of the void? Is it necessary to have more than one term for it? If so, can you introduce the most commonly used term first?
The name of this beast hung on her dry lips
I may be nit-picking here, but if she's been running through the mist, her lips wouldn't be dry.
A golden mane crowned its neck, rugged fur extending down to cover a four-legged body. A tail swept up behind it, covered in dark red scales, a tuft of sharp needles at its tip.
You mentioned wings flapping, but your description of the manticore doesn't include wings. Plus, manticores didn't have wings in the old legends. So is there another creature present doing the flapping, or does this manticore have wings?

I'd be interested in reading more of this story.
 

L.L.Lotte

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The story seems interesting and I like the setup. There were just a few things that could be clearer, IMO:

I couldn't tell where Kat was at this point. The cobblestones made me think of a garden or a park. I didn't know she was in the streets of a village outside of a castle until...

...this point. The only issue with this is that I thought the story was taking place in the regular, modern world until there was suddenly mention of a castle near the end of the second paragraph.
Thanks OHB. Some helpful stuff. But quick question, why does castle make you think the setting isn't more modern? Aren't there still castles around today? Should I just call it a palace instead?

While it isn't a present day setting, it actually is more modern than your average fantasy novel. I've been debating with myself about including more in this scene to demonstrate that fact, but already I get comments about trying to set the scene rather than just getting on with the story. I did use the word "street lights" hoping people would infer from it that electricity exists in this world. There would be some who would label my world setting as anachronistic.

The setting of my story would actually fit nicely into the steampunk vs magic genre. There is even a motorcycle in the next scene!

Warning: Grammar police! It should be "passed."
Thanks. Always miss one or two in the proof reading.

You mentioned wings flapping, but your description of the manticore doesn't include wings. Plus, manticores didn't have wings in the old legends. So is there another creature present doing the flapping, or does this manticore have wings?
My manticore has wings. It's not unheard of. Just do a google search for manticore and see how many images have wings vs not. ;)

I didn't want to repeat the description of the wings, since I'd already mentioned them. I thought that should be enough?
 

HareBrain

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I did use the word "street lights" hoping people would infer from it that electricity exists in this world
At least the street lamps were still lit, their hazy glow marking the edges of the road, illuminating the lifeless buildings standing either side.
I pictured candles in glass boxes on poles. It might have been the word "lit". "On" might suggest electricity better. (And "streetlights" feels more modern than "street lamps", which is what you used.)
 
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