Author Topic: Those Who Slew Centauricha - YA Fantasy  (Read 72 times)

Offline Nidhogg Phantom

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Those Who Slew Centauricha - YA Fantasy
« on: November 23, 2022, 11:45:09 AM »
Cheers, good folks of QueryTracker's discussion forum! I've received some feedback that this initial section is confusing and/or slow, so I'd like to get your opinions. Whatdyya think?

Chapter 1:
 
 
 
 
 
The lights grow dim, the audience grows quiet. A fallen curtain rises. The theater begins. Out from the stage comes a town, prosperous and lively, but not so large as to be overwhelming. Simple, wooden buildings line the stone streets, the people smiling as they go about their business, their day’s work in full swing. Peasants and carpenters tip their hats to the guards, who gesture affirmingly with their spears. They’re experienced, used to the dangers which emerge from the woods when luck gives way to misfortune. Today, however, will not feature such an event. That does not mean the guards will be without excitement.
Now, the scene shifts. The audience is treated with a tavern, on the edge of the town. A well-kept, if not luxurious place, whose visitors come out of convenience, rather than desire. Within are four travelers, all from different walks of life. They have no connection to each other, but they are all here for the same reason, even if they do not know it yet. And their common journey shall attain such heights as to birth the very play itself.
 

The Herbal Flagon was far from crowded, but each rowdy merrymaker had enough presence to make the place busy nonetheless. Groups of workers on break were enjoying their respective fellowships. Two novice mages made glittering gestures, shifting the flavor of their ale to increasingly ridiculous combinations. A lone tavernkeeper stepped back and forth, serving them all with an adept hand. A mass of background scenery, serving to contrast several more remarkable figures.
           The day seems to be going well. How strange, then, that our host should be so anxious. The first of these figures pondered this, as he watched from near the entrance. For though the tavernkeep put on a good show, his brow would occasionally furrow, his mustache droop ever so slightly. Was he, perhaps, also aware that a special guest would be arriving soon?
           The onlooker was himself a tanned man, with combed black hair matching his eyes. Handsome, by most standards, perhaps around the age of thirty. At this point he had grown tired of waiting around, and stepped further into the room. His stride clonked against the floor, for his traveler’s attire was accompanied by a set of wooden geta sandals, the only pair for miles around.
As he approached, the tavernkeeper was occupied with yanking at a trap door behind the counter. Following an ale-heavy accident, the porous wood had swollen and wedged shut, refusing to budge. The struggling man’s attention was only caught when the traveler cleared his throat.
“Excuse me,” he said humbly, unslinging the tools of his trade, “may I?”
Pulled away from his task, the bald servitor chuckled, and had his broad shoulders burst into a welcoming gesture. “Of course! What’s your name, musician?”
The traveler’s instrumental prowess was obvious. Moments ago, his back had been the resting place of a worn, but well-tended lute, both decorated and functional. It was the more conspicuous of his two instruments, the other being a bamboo flute at his hip.
           “Akiteru Shima. You may call me Aki.” Answered Aki, the bard.
Having gained one last nod of approval, the matter was sealed. Thus, a jaunty tune came to further brighten the atmosphere, and Aki went back to searching the room. This wasn’t just a good way to pass the time while waiting for the special guest’s arrival, it afforded him a position from which to watch for trouble. Whatever caused his host to worry could easily affect him as well.
The next of the room’s remarkable figures, however, had already found a likely candidate for the source of said anxiety. A bit away from the lute-player, over at the tavern’s counter, sat an orange-haired human who delightedly drank in the music’s tunes. He was not particularly fat, and no taller than the average person, yet his sheer muscle made him quite heavy, much to the dismay of the barstool he occupied. Music wasn’t the only thing he drank either, as evidenced by the fact that the tavernkeep had to repeatedly come over to his seat and pour a new one into his barrelous mug.
“My my Derrik, aren’t you quite the quaffer?” The mustached servitor said with archetypical smoothness.
“Hah! Raised in a dwarven household, my friend! I drank while I was still in diapers!” The musculus man exaggerated in a rumbling tone, before emptying half of his refill in one sweep.
“Truly? I suppose you learned to wield that ax with them as well. Say, do you mind putting that with the rest of your weapons? I fear it’ll unnerve my customers.”
           The tavernkeep pointed towards a pile of javelins -- short spears, meant for throwing -- which were lying next to the entrance. The gluttonous warrior had dropped them there when he’d first come in, something which seemed to be standard procedure at The Herbal Flagon. However, on his back, he’d kept his greataxe; the kind meant for chopping shields and enemies, rather than wood, as he’d seen one group disobeying the norm.
In the corner opposing the door sat a particularly unruly gang, with mannerisms to intimidatingly discourage visitors. Brigands, rough and pelt clad, the kind one prays not to meet out on the roads. Despite their frightening appearance, they kept their own drinking in greater moderation than one might suspect.
“Aren’t they carrying weapons too?” Derrik backhand-gestured towards the four members, three of which carried unconcealed swords or crossbows. The last one did not, rather, the huge brute had a proportionally hefty club by his side.
“Well, yes,” the tavernkeep scratched the back of his bare head awkwardly, “but they have… special permission of sorts. Don’t worry about it.”
Details remained unsaid, but Derrik saw no use in pressing the matter. “Alright, I’ll put my ax away, no worries. Anyway, you need any help with that?”
He pointed toward the stuck trap door, and, after insisting through some polite rejection, was, in fact, recruited to provide assistance. To do so, he reached for his backpack, which stood on the floor beside him. It was a large thing, though packed to the brim regardless, visibly bulging in myriad places. Unfortunately, post rummaging, Derrik could confirm it contained no crowbar, but it did have an out-sticking hilt, belonging to a dwarf-sized shovel. To their combined cheers, it did in fact fit into the trap door’s gap, and some bending later, the stuckness was gone from this world.
With that matter settled, and the greataxe clunking into the pile, the tavernkeep continued his serving duty, bringing a plate of sauce, vegetables, and meat to the only non-human in the tavern. An elf. Pale-skinned, pointy-eared, and in a multicolored gown, she aristocratically stuck out like oil in water. As the deliverer stopped by, she was absorbed in a small blue book, filled with odd symbols that made no sense to anyone who peeked. Absorbed, but not inattentive.
“Thank you, sir.” She acknowledged, receiving the appetizing meal.
“I’m simply doing my job, miss.” Up close, the tavernkeep noted a small scar above her eye, before he ashamedly avoided this singular imperfection. “Pardon me, what was your name again?”
“Qwindleaf. Caeli Qwindleaf.”
“Listen, miss Qwindleaf, I think it may be wise to take that food outside for a bit.”
“Oh?” Caeli looked up from her book, “Why is that?”
“Well… We are a respectable tavern, do not think otherwise! But sometimes…” The caretaker pondered how to best express himself, “sometimes felonious business has to take place. Don’t worry, it’ll be done right quick.”

Offline RJP

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Re: Those Who Slew Centauricha - YA Fantasy
« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2022, 02:38:33 PM »
Hey Nidhogg,

You should try not to mention previous critiques because it will manipulate the reader. Right off the bat, they're going to be trying to find reasons why it was slow/confusing.

For me, this is not a lot of things happening in the first five. A little boring. You start off with this nicely written intro which I actually think is pointless. What I mean is, you've written it well, but you're not saying anything except, "A story is about to happen."

Then we're in the scene of this tavern, but we're not really engaged with any one character. And I don't think it's a rule that you would have to be, but I do think in your case it's contributing to a boring scene. The closest thing to someone we're going to care about is the elf, and that's page five.

I feel I'm not ever engaged in what's about to happen, because it all seems to be leading to a cliche. These rough characters are about to cause problems for the Innkeeper, and I've seen this in a million cartoons. The elf being told she should leave, and obviously she's going to kick butt. I don't want to flip another page at this point. The thing to keep in mind with fiction is that action scenes are actually the boring part. They're necessary, because you have to deliver to the audience what you've promised them, but it's 100% the boring part. So I guess what I'm saying is, your scene is building up to a confrontation that's going to be all, "she leapt over the chair and roundhouse kicked him in the jaw..." And that's not stimulating enough for me to care.

What I'm getting from your pages is that you've spent a lot of time and craft at sentence-level, but your overall picture lacks imagination. Like, I don't think your writing is necessarily "slow," but it lacks in interesting things happening. You can do literally anything on the page, and by the sounds of it, your universe. You've got android bar keeps, that's cool, why not have one of them slide a drink along a morphing bar-top that weaves between patrons, even changing its shape to avoid the greedy fingers of a goblin trying to steal a pint. You could make opening scene more "alive" than simply describing the weapons leaned at the entrance.

Your first five pages should give some hint of the overarching dilemma of your book. Something crucial about your "hook" or to whatever problem that needs overcoming.

I don't feel you should be discouraged by your work, however. You've really crafted some good sentences. Much of your pages are publishable IMO. You've got all the tools to get an agent, you just need to focus a little more on the macro instead of the micro.

Good luck.










Offline susan-louise

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Re: Those Who Slew Centauricha - YA Fantasy
« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2022, 12:07:39 AM »
Hello Nidhogg

I agree with RJP's excellent critique.  I make a few observations, in text, below, just for tightening and impact.

There is much promise in these pages, but it is not yet translated to the reader, and  thus fails to draw me in.  I was fatally bored. You write really well but more frequently over write.   Shake it all up and see where the pieces land.  This opening must absolutely hook.  What is the most compelling part of the introduction?  Reading it twice, I feel it is the menace of the expected arrival of a disturbing guest.  But you never convey this menace other than by telling (the clientele are anxious etc). If you are opening with a tavern scene, it must literally place the reader in the middle. So we can see, feel and smell the world.  I guess this is what you are attempting to do, but we receive a pastiche rather than world building, and a procession of cardboard characters with whom I am unable to connect. 

Also, do a search for the number of times you use "tavernkeep".  I know you tried 'server' and 'caretaker' (that was an odd one!) and 'deliverer' (odder still) but some may not be required as they jar reading flow

Ruthless editing might help you with the opening, but I think some re-conceptualisation is needed to secure an agent's attention.

So as a first step, would urge you remove the scene setting paragraph. It adds nothing to the story (reads like the opening of a play) because you spend the next 5 pages recreating the scene.  Draw the reader into your world immediately.

Best of luck with this!



The lights grow dim, the audience grows quiet. A fallen curtain rises. The theater begins. Out from the stage comes a town, prosperous and lively, but not so large as to be overwhelming. Simple, wooden buildings line the stone streets, the people smiling as they go about their business, their day’s work in full swing. Peasants and carpenters tip their hats to the guards, who gesture affirmingly with their spears. They’re experienced, used to the dangers which emerge from the woods when luck gives way to misfortune. Today, however, will not feature such an event. That does not mean the guards will be without excitement.
Now, the scene shifts. The audience is treated with a tavern, on the edge of the town. A well-kept, if not luxurious place, whose visitors come out of convenience, rather than desire. Within are four travelers, all from different walks of life. They have no connection to each other, but they are all here for the same reason, even if they do not know it yet. And their common journey shall attain such heights as to birth the very play itself.
 


Opening line doesn't engage me.

The Herbal Flagon was far from crowded, but each rowdy merrymaker had enough presence to make the place busy nonetheless. Groups of workers on break were enjoying their respective fellowships. Two novice mages made glittering gestures, shifting the flavor of their ale to increasingly ridiculous combinations. A lone tavernkeeper stepped back and forth, serving them all with an adept hand. A mass of background scenery, (telling!) serving to contrast several more remarkable figures.
           The day seems to be going well. How strange, then, that our host should be so anxious. (This reflection immediately puts a barrier between the action and the reader)  The first of these figures pondered this, as he watched from near the entrance. For though the tavernkeep (do you mean tavern keeper or is this a US term? ) put on a good show, his brow would occasionally furrow, his mustache droop ever so slightly. Was he, perhaps, also aware that a special guest would be arriving soon? (question really jars flow)
           The onlooker was himself a tanned man, with combed black hair matching his eyes. Handsome, by most standards, perhaps around the age of thirty. At this point he had grown tired of waiting around, and stepped further into the room. His stride clonked against the floor,  for his traveler’s attire was accompanied by a set of wooden geta sandals, the only pair for miles around. (Show us don't tell us.  Have no idea what the attire is, but rather than telling us he clonks across the floor use the sandals to show this....and thus keep things tighter)
As he  (this pronoun could apply to the onlooker or the tavernkeeper)approached, the tavernkeeper  was occupied with yanking at a trap door behind the counter. Following an ale-heavy accident, the porous wood had swollen and wedged shut, refusing to budge. The struggling man’s attention was only caught when the traveler cleared his throat.
“Excuse me,” he said humbly, unslinging the tools of his trade, “may I?” (avoid adverbs)
Pulled away from his task, the bald servitor chuckled, and had his broad shoulders burst into a welcoming gesture. “Of course! What’s your name, musician?” (if you are using dialogue, it needs to move the story along. The descriptions are not necessary, imo)
The traveler’s instrumental prowess was obvious. Moments ago, his back had been the resting place of a worn, but well-tended lute, both decorated and functional. It was the more conspicuous of his two instruments, the other being a bamboo flute at his hip.  (this interrupts flow and pace.  One idea is to have him playing the lute in the opening, setting the scene from his perspective ....because we don't really have one POV here)
           “Akiteru Shima. You may call me Aki.” Answered Aki, the bard.  You have just identified him as a musician, nor do you need the dialogue tag. It is obvious to the reader who is speaking.
Having gained one last nod of approval, the matter was sealed.  (which matter?  I am confused.)Thus, a jaunty tune came to further brighten the atmosphere, and Aki went back to searching the room.  (??) This wasn’t just a good way to pass the time while waiting for the special guest’s arrival, it afforded him a position from which to watch for trouble. Whatever caused his host to worry could easily affect him as well. (This is all telling. I am really not engaging....)
The next of the room’s remarkable figures, however, had already found a likely candidate for the source of said anxiety. (you mention anxiety in the room, related to an as yet identified character.  I am not feeling the tension.  If this arrival is so key to the scene (and perhaps the next chapters) you should be building the tension, cranking it up in the room....rather than telling us they are all on edge. There are ways of showing tension in scenes...people knock over drinks, laugh nervously, keep glancing at a door....fear on faces...etc) A bit away (clumsy writing and do you need all this choreography??) from the lute-player, over at the tavern’s counter, sat an orange-haired human who delightedly drank in the music’s tunes. He was not particularly fat, and no taller than the average person, yet his sheer muscle made him quite heavy, much to the dismay of the barstool he occupied. (If you are giving descriptions, keep them tight and impactful. Maybe show the arm muscles bulging through his tunic, or those of his thigh etc) Music wasn’t the only thing he drank either, as evidenced by the fact that the tavernkeeper had to repeatedly come over to his seat and pour a new one into his barrelous mug.
“My my Derrik, aren’t you quite the quaffer? ( jars. Plus...wouldn't a bar keeper expect his clients to "quaff??)” The mustached servitor said with archetypical smoothness. overwriting
“Hah! Raised in a dwarven household, my friend! I drank while I was still in diapers!” The musculus (muscular?) man exaggerated in a rumbling tone, before emptied half of his refill in one sweep.
“Truly? I suppose you learned to wield that ax with them as well. Say, do you mind putting that with the rest of your weapons? I fear it’ll unnerve my customers.”
           The tavernkeeper pointed towards a pile of javelins -- short spears, meant for throwing -- which were lying next to the entrance. The gluttonous warrior had dropped them there when he’d first come in, something which seemed to be standard procedure at The Herbal Flagon.  (So this almost switches to the POV of the warrior.) However, he'd kept his great axe on his back, Syntax he’d kept his greataxe the kind meant for chopping shields and enemies, rather than wood, as he’d seen one group disobeying the norm.
In the corner opposing the door sat a particularly unruly gang, with mannerisms to intimidatingly discourage visitors. (ditch the adverb, which contributes to fatal telling. Show us why they are intimidating) Brigands, rough and pelt clad, the kind one prays not to meet out on the roads. Despite their frightening appearance, (Um...this appearance, fails to intimidate me, the reader...and yes you introduce their weapons below...but the description here falls very flat) they kept their own drinking in greater moderation than one might suspect.  overwriting and adds nothing.
“Aren’t they carrying weapons too?” Derrik backhand-gestured towards the four members, three of which carried unconcealed swords or crossbows. The last one did not, rather, the huge brute had a proportionally hefty club by his side.
“Well, yes,” the tavernkeeper scratched the back of his bare head awkwardly, “but they have… special permission of sorts. Don’t worry about it.”
Details remained unsaid, but Derrik saw no use in pressing the matter. “Alright, I’ll put my ax away, no worries. Anyway, you need any help with that?”
He pointed toward the stuck trap door, and, after insisting through some polite rejection, was, in fact, recruited to provide assistance.  (Cut out this out. Just go straight to the point. It impedes flow) To do so, he reached for his backpack, which stood on the floor beside him. It was a large thing, though packed to the brim regardless, visibly bulging in myriad places. Unfortunately, post rummaging, Derrik could confirm it contained no crowbar, but it did have an out-sticking hilt, belonging to a dwarf-sized shovel. To their combined cheers, it did in fact fit into the trap door’s gap, and some bending later, the stuckness (is there such a word??)was gone from this world.  (As a reader, I am bored. Sorry!  I am trying to engage with and can't.  I am longing to find something gripping in these pages. Truly.  Cut this scene down...the one with the fumbling in the back pack and just have him open the  trap door!!)
With that matter settled, and the greataxe clunking into the pile, the tavernkeep continued his serving duty, bringing a plate of sauce, vegetables, and meat to the only non-human in the tavern. An elf. Pale-skinned, pointy-eared, (ah a hackneyed phrase for an elf...try something more elegant..  as they are. Show how her elegance, serenity and beauty stand out in a tavern of thugs,) and in a multicolored gown, she aristocratically stuck out like oil in water. As the deliverer  (this word jars. Do you need it?  A simple pronoun might do it as you are telling us about the tavernkeeper working) stopped by, she was absorbed in a small blue book, filled with odd symbols that made no sense to anyone who peeked. Absorbed, but not inattentive. (this is a great phrase)
“Thank you, sir.” She acknowledged, receiving the appetizing meal.
“I’m simply doing my job, miss.” Up close, the tavernkeep noted a small scar above her eye, before he ashamedly avoided this singular imperfection. “Pardon me, what was your name again?”
“Qwindleaf. Caeli Qwindleaf.”
“Listen, Miss Qwindleaf, I think it may be wise to take that food outside for a bit.”
“Oh?” Caeli looked up from her book, “Why is that?”
“Well… We are a respectable tavern, do not think otherwise! But sometimes…” The caretaker pondered how to best express himself, “sometimes felonious business has to take place. Don’t worry, it’ll be done right quick.” (Now we are in the tavernkeeper's head. You are also calling him a caretaker here.  It is so confusing for the reader.)
« Last Edit: November 24, 2022, 11:25:59 PM by susan-louise »