Far Horizons, beginning of Chapter 2 (930 words)

Flaviosky

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Hello, dear community,

I wanted to share this piece with you. It's the second chapter of my WIP, introducing two key characters, one sub-plot and the general setting of the rest of the tome. I hope to have improved a bit since my last excerpt and deliver a somewhat readable material.

Thanks!

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It’s hot, too hot in fact. His march is heavy, made worse by the sand under his feet and the old sword he’s been dragging all day long. His mind is blank, out of his dehydration and something worse and unknown. His tired amber eyes see some dust rising at the blurry horizon as he feels his dark brown hair burning hot. He crumbles and faints.

The floor now moves under him, quite irregularly. He’s moving, it’s noisy, and the sun no longer burns his skin, the shade is nice, despite still being hot. His hands move and touch what’s definitively wood. He starts to wake up slowly, he’s very dizzy and moves his hands to see if he touches something else that might tell him where he is, and he reaches something furry, thin and furry, he squeezes in surprise.

“Aaaaaaaaaaah watch your hands!" a woman screams, moving her cat tail after having it squeezed so carelessly.

He gets frightened by the scream “Aaaaah so…sorry!".

Her light brown cat ears are rolled back “What a jerk! I should just drop you off the wagon!".

“No!” he responds, before starting thinking aloud while looking around “...Eeeeh, okay, I’m on a wagon…I was in the desert…”.

Her pale face is still flushed “Well duuuh, obviously yes! We picked you up, half dried! A decision I’m regretting right now!".

He finally sees the pretty demi-cat in front of him “Oh I’m so sorry! I just was palpating everything, I didn’t know you were there…".

She’s still flushed “Well now you do! Now say you’re sorry!" her straight light brown hair falls from her shoulders.

“I already did!".

She puts on a playful smile on her childish face “Just say it again! I take my tail very seriously!".

“…Ok, I’m sorry for touching your tail…"

Her tail moves playfully, as her intense orange eyes look at him “You didn’t just touch it, you squeezed it, quite roughly though…".

He sighs “Huh...I’m sorry for squeezing your tail so carelessly…".

“Valerie! Outlaws!" someone shouts, it’s the man driving the cart.

Valerie reaches her sable “Crap! You were carrying a sword, can you fight?".

“I…I don’t know…Wait…I don’t know anything…".

“How can you not know?! It’s a 'yes', 'no' or 'more or less' question! ".

“Valerie, let’s go!" the man shouts and descends from the wagon.

Valerie looks confident “Let’s go, Anton! It's showtime!" she says while coming out of the wagon too, sword in hand. The tail-squeezing man follows, with his old sword.

Coming down they see a group of seven men approaching the cart, with all sorts of weapons, but no archers or crossbowmen. Anton looks serious and unsheathes the two blades on his back “Good thing not to mess with bolts or arrows while at numerical disadvantage” he says. Valerie seems confident, even entertained by the situation. Her rescued pal is very afraid, with his hands trembling while holding his sword. Valerie turns her face, her tail swinging playfully.

"I didn’t get your name!".

His chin trembles "Wha…? It’s not the time to ask for that!" The marauders are getting closer.

"Just relax, I’m Valerie, and he’s Anton!" she raises her sword.

"I…I’m Raffale…look out!" he says, when the attackers finally reach them.

Anton tags with Valerie, blocking quickly the thief’s attacks, he moves fast on his leather armour, and rapidly cuts through a raider’s leg, Valerie casts fire right on a looter’s face, things are more even now. Three bandits approach Raffale, he’s terrified and tries to talk

"Look, I have nothing to do with this!".

Valerie looks back "Damn, he’s useless! Then why does he have a sword?"

She has to deal with the other marauders, she blocks and jumps, but gets cut on her arm, nothing bad “Arrrgh, dammit!” she yells and fires her magic again. Raffale’s talk is futile, one raider attacks, he’s paralyzed, and Valerie notices it “He’s going to die!” but his amber eyes glow, he blocks, stepping on his enemy, he pushes him away close to Anton, who draws a bloody cross on the outlaw’s back, he’s dead.

Raffale is shocked, the other two looters charge towards him, he panics but his gaze shines again, swinging his blade, touching the dirt, sending dust into the bandit’s faces, blinding them. Raffale hesitates, but then charges, slashing their hands, kicking their groins. Leg sweep, they're down, kick in the face, the blade through their throats. They’re dead, his hands still tremble, he’s bewildered. Valerie looks surprised, his attack was raw, pragmatic, and effective.

Anton looks pleased, sheathing his weapons. His long eyebrows give a serious expression to his rough face “Wow, you certainly know your stuff, that was rude!".

Valerie is amused too “Hell yeah! You fight dirty, literally dirty…I like that, pretty guy" she bites her thin lips.

Raffale’s heart still races “No! Just…hey! What happened?!"

Anton is confused “What are you talking about? You fought really well"

“I’m…No, I just reacted, I was terrified…I’m still terrified…"

“Do you feel alright? It’s like you’d never killed someone, but obviously you did…" Valerie asks

“No…I don’t feel alright…I don’t know how I…I don’t remember anything…"

Anton puts on a friendly smile “Hey…Raffale, right? You were walking in the middle of the desert…you’d never have gotten that far alive carrying just a sword…".

“I just…I just woke up there and started walking…I can’t recall how I got there…I can’t remember anything before waking up…"

“Dude, what a mess you are…Look, we can get you to Heastorwich, but we have to keep going. Anton…”

“Well, I don’t know, Valerie. He may look afraid but he’s clearly not a rookie…”
 

CTRandall

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You've got the elements of a good start here but I've got two main reactions:

First, this moves through a lot of stuff really quickly--probably too quickly. Raffale collapses in the desert, wakes up on a wagon with two strangers, fights a bunch of marauders and realizes he can't remember anything before the desert, all in under 1000 words. The characters don't get a chance to really explore any of these things, they only have time for basic, simple reactions. That means we, the readers, don't get any sense of depth to the characters, just simple, two-dimensional outlines. Admittedly, this is a short excerpt, but there isn't anything to make the characters distinctive or unique. Spend a bit more time with them. Let us see how Raffale reacts to his predicament. Let us see how the others treat him, whether or not they're suspicious of him or have their own hidden motives, that kind of thing.

Second, there is a lot of telling us things like 'He's moving' or 'It's noisy'. Try to give more life to these things, maybe 'He woke to the clatter of wheels on stone' instead of 'It's noisy.' Your action sequence does a better job of this.
 

DanielOwen

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Hi. I feel like your writing has definitely picked up since your previous posts. It all seems a lot more coherent and the flow is much better. There is definitely room for improvement here, but you're coming on well.

Point of View
I am still struggling with your POV. I don't feel like I'm in any of the characters' heads enough to identify with them properly, but nor is there enough description to let me take in the scene from an outside perspective. If the POV is third person close on Raffale (which I think it might be but I'm not sure), you can give us more of him - let us know what it feels like when his eyes flash and his body is taken over by a force he doesn't understand, giving him the ability to fight off two men simultaneously.

Description.
This reads a lot like an outline or treatment. There is a lot happening in not very many words, which means it's all bare-bones with very little description. The only physical traits I know about two of the characters (Raffale and Valerie) are their eye colour (amber and orange respectively - is this intentionally similar? If not, I'd change one to separate them), hair colour (dark brown and light brown) and that one of them has a cat tail and (presumably) other cat-like features. I have no idea what Anton looks like at all; not even a rough age. The bits of description you do have in there tend to be very short and not very informative (e.g. "it's noisy" - what noise? They're in the desert - at least I think they still are - so is it the cart rattling and bumping, is it distant drums, is it carrion birds screaming overhead?). You can specify a bit more here, especially as you're not into the action yet so the prose can be much slower.
In places, you have a tendency to repeat yourself ("her pale face is still flushed", "She's still flushed" - these are within a few lines of each other); try to vary the prose where possible.

Dialogue.
The dialogue is a bit stilted and unnatural in places, and there is some strange word choice that jolted me out of the flow (e.g. "I was just palpating everything"). Also, all of the dialogue seems to end with either an exclamation mark or an ellipsis, suggesting that the characters either trail off or shout at each other with nothing in between. Use both of these much more sparingly ("I didn't get your name!" doesn't need an exclamation mark, for example), and stick to full stops and commas where possible.

Story
What happens is pretty simple: guy collapses in the desert, is picked up by travellers, they fight off some bandits together. the guy doesn't know who he is or remember anything, but seems to have supernatural fighting abilities he doesn't understand. All fine. I do wonder why Raffale dragged his old sword with him across the desert when he doesn't even know that he knows how to use it - if I were on the verge of collapse and struggling my way across endless, burning sands, I'm not sure I'd keep dragging a couple of pounds of steel that I have no use for.
I also think it would be more realistic if the raiders fled; unless they are fanatics, there is no reason they'd fight to the death when so clearly outmatched - they start by outnumbering their prey more than 2:1, good odds, but that changes fast and they seem determined to fight to the last man. If they're just after loot, they presumably don't want to die for it. Also, why don't they have bows? I'm not sure what they do have ("various weapons" doesn't tell me much), but bows are cheap and much better for holding up a caravan. These raiders only seem to exist in order to prove that the heroes can fight.

Overall, this could definitely use a strong rewrite, but there is definitely the start of something in it. Try to bring the characters out more (even the incidental ones like the raiders) and give us a stronger sense of the setting in your next draft. Good luck with it!
 

Andy Hauser

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You've got the beginnings of a story I'd love to read here, however the writing itself could be improved as others have commented above. In its current state, you lose me as a reader due to those technicalities, which is a shame, because I like what you're going for.

I'm certainly no genius either, but here's how I would handle some of the lines that put me off:

Original
“Aaaaaaaaaaah watch your hands!" a woman screams, moving her cat tail after having it squeezed so carelessly.

Revised example
The agonized scream of a woman caught him off-guard. "Watch your hands!"
Startled, he glances at the dirty imprint left by his boot on the woman's cat-like tail.

Original
It’s hot, too hot in fact. His march is heavy, made worse by the sand under his feet and the old sword he’s been dragging all day long.

Revised example
The sun is scorching. His march is heavy, worsened by the soft sand under his feet, leaving his arms too weak to properly carry the old sword in his hands. Creating long lines in the sand, his sweat pours from underneath his armor into the groove as if to fertilize the seeds of his exhaustion.
 

Flaviosky

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Let us see how the others treat him, whether or not they're suspicious of him or have their own hidden motives, that kind of thing.
Actually a bit of this happens just after the fight scene, but I'll give more words for it.

Your action sequence does a better job of this.
Thanks. It's good to see there's something I'm doing "better"

let us know what it feels like when his eyes flash and his body is taken over by a force he doesn't understand
Got it, but still it must be brief so it doesn't bkear the flow of the battle with too much description.

You can specify a bit more here, especially as you're not into the action yet so the prose can be much slower.
You're right. I can spend more words before the action scene.

Also, all of the dialogue seems to end with either an exclamation mark or an ellipsis
Thanks for noticing. Now that I read it, it looks weird.

I'm not sure I'd keep dragging a couple of pounds of steel that I have no use for.
I'll add some hints of something that is actually a sub-plot of the story.

I also think it would be more realistic if the raiders fled
You're right, After some deaths, it's natural the rest of them flee after their numerical advantage ends.

you lose me as a reader due to those technicalities
This is something any writer would fear, hehe.
 

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