04 September 2009

first page game #9

Cobra Cutlass

A cerulean moon spotlighted the center courtyard pedestal displaying a kneeling man, arms separated and tied to the two posts above him. Gazing at the man’s wrists dripping with blood, and bits of scalp hanging from his head, Khoran felt nothing but aggravation.


“I thought the sorceress would castrate you for the prisoner’s silence.” The voice whispered from the white scorpion, Khoran’s demon, his constant companion.


“Her poison burning through my veins was not terrifying enough for you?” He massaged his inner arm, where the Sorceress Evixen Mosk had inserted her poison punishment. Punishment for to Khoran’s failure to convince the king to talk.


Khoran grasped the balcony rails for support and glowered at the pedestal. “I’ll find your son and extinguish his life, Henry -- King of Abana. Though you have hidden him. He will die before his next birthday.”


Khoran looked out over the towers of the City of Abana standing arrogantly quiet at the base of the Gajijen mountains. The prophecy told that on the scion’s 24th birthday, the king’s son would gain powers beyond comprehension. Powers greater than the Sorceress Evixen Mosk.


The incubus white scorpion twisted on her perch, tendrils twitching. “Evixen approaches!”


This is a relatively exciting hook with a problem up front. They've got some guy (the king? Not clear) tied to a post for questioning and torture. So far so good. I like the creepy scorpion—more on it in a moment. Khoran seems maybe anti-heroish, or even evil. I like me some evil protags. And Khoran has a clear problem, even if we're not yet sure what it means to him and the situation. That's okay. Also, some traditional-seeming fantasy, which we're not seeing a ton of. So far so good.


But I've got some deal-breaker issues, too.


I'm not crazy about the present participle phrase starting with Gazing. I don't like 'em in general, though I've used them. It's not wrong, but I've just been introduced to these people and I'm still trying to get my bearings. Who am I following here, the kneeling man or who-ever's gazing at him? I have to get through 38 words to find our POV, Khoran. It might seem minor, but really none of it made any sense to me upon first reading until I found the name Khoran. So while the phrasing is technically okay, I don't think this structure is best utilized in the first graph. I'd suggest moving Khoran up a few notches, even to the first sentences. Cerulean moons are cool, tortured guys are cool, but I want to link up with my guide as quickly as possible.


There's a couple of unnecessary fragments. Punishment for to Khoran’s failure to convince the king to talk. Contrary to popular belief, this tired device does little for emphasis. This info can be easily integrated into the previous sentence without the eye having to pause over a word echo. And it appears again, a couple of graphs later. Powers greater than the Sorceress Evixen Mosk. I hate this kind of trick enough I'd probably reject it based on that. Yes, it's that much of a pet peeve.


Let me clarify. I, and I'm not alone in this, like clear, concise writing. Good writing does not call attention to itself with a lot of tricks and devises. You've got enough cool stuff going on here without mucking it up with word echoes and unnecessary phrases and fragments. Seeing these tired devices makes me wonder if the writing will be up to par throughout. And yes, I realize I just started a sentence with an "ing" word, but in that case it's a gerund phrase that serves as the subject. I did it on purpose so I could discuss the difference. Smooth, huh?


I think there's some over-explaining that can be cut. Phrases like: the Sorceress Evixen Mosk (her sorcery could be easily shown) and his constant companion. And while we're on the scorpion thing, she gets a ton of description and names. She's a white scorpion, a demon, a constant companion, an incubus white scorpion…it's almost like the writer couldn't make up his mind. What I don’t know are some basics, like how big she is or if other people can see her.


My suggestion to this writer is to clean up the writing and let your promising story elements shine.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, Betsy. I received a few rejections on this, but could never get enough feedback to know what to change.
This is priceless! I have some real advice to use.
Thank you for all you do :)

lesleylsmith said...

Thanks for playing, Author! We appreciate it. The author does an excellent job starting in the middle of the action. Kudos.

I believe Khoran is the antagonist and thus this is an interesting choice for a point-of-view character.

For my personal taste, there is a lot of repetitive telling here, e.g. in paragraph 3, "..poison punishment. Punishment for ...", in para 5, "...gain powers beyond comprehension. Powers greater than..."
That being said, all this description and telling is consistent with epic fantasy. I would keep reading.
That being said, there are some grammar issues here which raise a bit of a red flag.
Good luck with this piece, author!

lynnrush said...

Thanks for his posting! Way to be brave, author, and thanks for the feedback, Betsy.

Kat Heckenbach said...

Looks to me the issues with this piece are all technical ones, and easily fixed. The premise is really cool--and I love that it starts off in the antagonist's mind.

Betsy Dornbusch said...

Glad I could be of help. Feel free to rewrite and resub to the game if you want us to take another look.

Deb Smythe said...

I second Author Anon. Getting feedback directly from an editor is a rare treat. Thank you, Betsy, Leslie, David…and everyone else, of course, for your time and insights.

I've gotten something out of every entry and comment. And I definitely appreciated all the comments on my own submission. Hearing what people liked and didn't like, what sucked and what didn't? Priceless. (insert AMEX joke here) I learned a lot, even when people disagreed. So, thanks again.

Oh, and Anon, I like the cerulean moon. Sounds like a cool world

David E. Hughes said...

I agree, for the most part, with the comments of my fellow editors. The only comment I would add is a plotting issue. I agree with Bets that we don't get as much good epic fantasy as we would like. However, with epic fantasy, you are always walking the line between trope and too trope. For me, the idea of a "prophesy" has become too trope. It is plot device that has been so used in fantasy that it has become cliche. It also can be a crutch for fantasy authors, providing a easy motivation for a character to do or not to do something. This is a long way of saying--consider taking out the prophesy. Create another reason why the soceress is so concerned about the king's son.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I like the scorpion - is it talking? I got confused in the beginning with who was saying what when, especially with the poison part as I initially assumed that was the scorpion, but it was Khoran (right?). Maybe some dialogue tags would help in the beginning at least until the reader is grounded.

Good job! Hope you revise and resubmit. I'd like another stab at this after it's cleaned up.

Michelle Gregory said...

kudos to the author for being brave enough to submit. :)

Anonymous said...

I kinda have been expecting this in a way...
But I reali dun think da world is going to end...start a new era maybe but the world is not ending.
That's not gonna happen till a thousand years later! Ok, I'm not sure bout that either but that's not the point! The world's not gonna end! Full stop!
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