Writing, promotion, tips, and opinion. Pour a cuppa your favorite poison and join in.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

First Chapter Critique - part two

(I am going to leave this up for another day due to the holiday, which means part three will post on Friday and part four on Saturday - please help our author our by commenting!)

A black-lacquered carriage rolled on by, pulled by two equally black horses and darkly-garbed (darkly-garbed feels a little awkward for my tongue. I wonder if there’s a smoother way to say how they’re dressed…how about 'black-clad men gripped tight the handholds at the back.'?) men clinging to the handholds at the back. Emblazed Emblazoned on the doors in blood red and highlighted with gold was the Lord’s symbol. It was meant to resemble a fire. She supposed it did, in an over-stylised fashion. Certainly more likely to be that if it could be said to look like anything at all. Either way, it didn’t stop the emblem from being a heinous thing, matching the citadel in taste when it came to points.  
I think this could be reduced to a single sentence or two, like this maybe: ‘It was supposed to resemble fire, which she supposed it did. But in hideous fashion.’ Or something like that.

She shivered at the sudden coolness in the air. Without looking, she knew she wasn’t the only one others had joined her in watching the carriage’s passage. She wouldn’t be surprised if all those minds were thinking the same thought. Why was it here? The Lords never came to Everdark and, though the village sat on the citadel’s doorstep, they rarely sent their servants. (<I switched these two sentences, see how it reads better?>) Clara slunk further back into the shadow of the awning. Her mother hadn’t been much older than she was now the last time that had happened. This is good information but something is happening here and this last sentence slows the action down, imo.

At last, the carriage trundled out of sight, leaving only the hollow clatter of the horse’s hooves on the cobbles.
A whisper crept into the crowd, growing louder with each set of ears it reached. Clara pushed her way back out into the street as the gossip neared her, her ears straining to hear their words despite all attempts to block out the noise.

“No, no. It’s true, I swear,” one man said to the nearby trio. “They’s come for the women.”
She shook her head and shuffled past the people. Street gossip, her mother often said, wasn’t something one could take seriously and only a fool acted on them alone. But still ... it had been several decades. Such a sighting could grease the wheels of rumour for a week or two.

“Dead?” gasped a woman from one of the bigger groups. “Our great Lord has been slain?”

Clara hesitated and found herself jostled closer as others pushed in to hear. Trying to get free only served in shoving her closer to the front. An elbow nudged her in the ribs, jigging her burden. Gritting her teeth, she clutched her wares to her chest. She’d soon lose everything if she didn’t win free from this press of bodies.

“ ‘Swat I ‘eard,” another man answered. Perched atop an overturned crate, he wiped a sleeve across his nose with a sickening slurp. “Came in before sunrise, that lot did. Seems the old Lord has gone and got ‘imself killed out near Ne’ermore way.”

A chorus of jeers went up, booming in her ears. Those standing behind Clara jostled her further forward. The Lord has been slain? That couldn’t be true. No one had the power to kill the people as mighty as their Lords. They were invincible.

The man shook his fist at the front arc of people, of which she was now one of. “I bet anyone of yer a fistful o’ coppers that ‘is youngin’ll be sniffin’ round ‘ere soon enough. He’ll be after strong blood.” He thumped his bare chest, disturbing a layer of dirt. “Could take any of ‘em. Could take ye. Or ye.” A finger jabbed out at the crowd, picking out would-be targets. The wizened arm swung her way. “Or ye.”

Shaking her head, she shrunk back from the man. Her foot, seeking a level patch in the street, trod on something a lot softer than it should’ve been.

“Hey, watch it!”

“Sorry,” Clara mumbled as she shoved her way through the throng. The mob thinned fast as she neared her street. The man hadn’t been pointing at her. And the Lord isn’t dead. Surely, if he really was, it would be the town’s criers that bellowed the official proclamation, not some near-toothless old man.

With the only other sound to be had coming from the crowd at her back, Clara hummed to herself as she made her way home. (Clara’s humming seems out of place after what has just happened. Humming indicates ease and I suspect that Clara is feeling anything but easy after what has just occurred. Regardless of her feelings for her mother I suspect she’d be hightailing it home) Absent of its usual inhabitants, the street reminded her of the first morning (which morning are you referring to? Did you mean this morning when she first set out or some other morning?) she’d set out alone into a fog-shrouded day. Though she could see the way ahead clearly enough today, the sun had yet to finish its task of warming the houses and spill down to chase the damp from the cobbles, it seemed no less surreal.
She past passed the cobbler’s shop, vacant apart from a few dusty pairs of shoes, and slowed. Peering at the grubby window, a smile came to her lips as she admired the way her skirts swung with each step. Simple brown linen. Exactly what she’d wanted. Yet it’d still taken months to convince her mother to make it. Again, Clara stopping to admire how she looks in the glass seems out of place here at this time.

No doubt her mother only relented because her seventeenth year loomed. Even so, it had taken weeks after that day celebrating her birth before her mother had gotten round to finishing the whole outfit. Clara let her gaze travel up. Yes, it did much to make her hair seem less vibrant. That alone was enough to never stop wearing this dress until it fell apart.
Allowing herself a little, girlish giggle, she carried on by the shops and homes. The hushed pad of her footsteps gave way to the soothing sounds of the village. She wiggled her toes, feeling the stones through the soles. Perhaps she could convince her mother to buy her some new shoes next year. I would probably skip this whole bit about Clara and how she looks at herself in the glass. It seems like a way to show the reader what Clara looks like but it’s too obvious. Anyway, we don’t need to know what she looks like – yet.

Things are definitely starting to get interesting but I have two suggestions. One, skip the accent on the townsfolk; accents are very difficult to do well. Two, do some serious cutting. This second part here would read much faster and be a lot more tense if it was shorter. Get to the good parts! I know they're coming because I skipped ahead  :)

Now, what do you think?


Charity Bradford said...

I agree with all of Marcy's notes. There is still the problem of age appropriate behavior. A 17 year old would be much more conscious of the gossip and what it could mean. If she isn't afraid of being taken, then give the reader a concrete reason why. Right now she seems shallow and young because of the way she brushes it off.

Other than the age bit, I love the way this is developing. You're doing a great job building your world. Perhaps just try to find a way to drop bits of it in along with moving the action forward instead of paragraphs at a time.

Still interested in reading more. :)

Huntress said...

I'd cut down on the activity in the sentences. Lots of verbs can confuse the reader.

I agree with Charity. The girl seems kinda mental to me or possessed. :o

The dialogue is outstanding, btw.

Lexa Cain said...

Again, I find MSH's edits to be excellent. She tightened things up and made good suggestions.

I thought there was much more tension in this part, and I was fascinated by the info about Lord's death and the women his heir may have come for. I'm very interested to find out what that's all about. I loved the crowd scene and the descriptions of the people.

But the fact she dismissed the news so easily and her sight-seeing tour and admiring herself on the way home reduced the tension. Wiggling her toes and her "girlish giggle" made her feel about 12 to me. I cannot see her as an adult.

Two particulars:

Perched atop an overturned crate, he wiped a sleeve across his nose with a sickening slurp.
I love the alliteration in "sickening slurp" but can't imagine cloth on a nose making such a sound.

Her foot, seeking a level patch in the street, trod on something a lot softer than it should’ve been.
Seems very close to what you wrote in the last part with the book under her foot.

Cassiopeia Rises said...

Well you sure can write. Wonderful stuff.