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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Critting GERALD AND THE AMULET OF ZONRACH: language and POV questions

GERALD AND THE AMULET OF ZONRACH is an Upper MG Humorous Fantasy, and this scene appears in the first half of the story. Gerald and Colin have just left a meeting with the high wizards of Sendora at this point.

Gerald led the way as they exited the courtyard and headed off down the main thoroughfare.  The road was dimly lit, for ambience apparently, and the higher class citizens of Sendora strolled down the avenue enjoying the warm evening, unaware of the momentous events occurring around them.  Gerald and Colin reached the stables without incurring so much as a second glance from the aristocracy during their short journey, which miffed Gerald as he thought wizards as important as they ought to receive at least a nod of polite recognition from the normal people. >>I'm assuming you explained earlier how lighting is controlled outdoors?<<

He quickly scanned the yard to ensure his father had not decided to do a double shift and was pleased to see all was quiet.  Their cart stood in the corner of the dimly lit stables.  He placed the amulet into the chest, hiding it in the folds of his spare robes.  As he closed the lid, he caught sight of a sack next to the chest.

He heard Colin gasp as the bundle moved and Gerald’s heart lifted with joy when he realized it was definitely his precious cargo.  Gerald could hardly contain his excitement as he climbed into the cart and, with an unexpected reverence, began to loosen the rope securing the top.  He gently unwound the coils holding the mouth of the sack firmly closed... >>unexpected by who?<<

“I wouldn’t if I were you,” said Colin, “I saw it move.  There could be something dangerous in there.”

“Nah... it’s fine,” said Gerald, continuing to unwind the rope.  He threw it behind him and peeked into the opening, and with a squeak of glee, snapped it shut.  He couldn’t believe his eyes, it was here he actually had a... >>be more specific<<

“Dragon!” shouted Colin as a reptilian head pushed its way through the folds of the sack.

“I know!  Isn’t it wonderful?”

“But... it’s a dragon.”

“I know, stop repeating yourself,” said Gerald looking into the eyes of his new acquisition.>>this is awkwardly worded<<

“But it’s...”

“I know...”

“Illegal!” said Colin, “It’s illegal to own a dragon outside the high king’s court.  I was going to say, Gerald.”

“It’s only a baby,” said Gerald as the dragon pushed its way out of the sack and leaned over him.  “Errrm... It’s quite big for a baby, though.”

Gerald continued to look into the dragon’s eyes with awe.  It must be as big as a full grown deer hound, he thought, Wow!

“What are we going to call it?”

“Call it?” squeaked Colin. “We have to get rid of it before someone sees it.  If we get caught with this, we’ll never see the light of day again.”


“You know I’m not your father Colin,” said Gerald turning to Colin with a bemused look on his face.

“I know you’re not.  What are you talking about?”

Gerald gave Colin another quizzical look then turned back to his new pet.


Gerald’s head snapped round.  “Look, will you stop calling me daddy.  It is getting a bit worrying, have you been at the wine again?”

“You know I don’t drink and I haven’t said a word.  What’s wrong with you?”

“You can’t tell me you didn’t hear that,” said Gerald looking Colin in the eye.  “Someone definitely shouted daddy.”

He nearly jumped out of his robes when a cool, hard snout rubbed against his ear... Dadeeee... He looked round to see two huge watery eyes staring down at him, inches from his face.

“I think it’s coming from the dragon,” whispered Gerald.  “Can’t you hear it?”

“No.  If it is, then it’s communicating through its mind.  Dragons can’t formulate words with their vocal chords.”

“So why is it saying daddy to me?”

“See if there is any kind of shell in the sack,” said Colin.  “If there is it may have only just hatched and you’re the first thing it’s seen.”

Gerald felt around the base of the sack and felt a large, curved, hard object.  Watching the dragon carefully, he put his arm inside and grabbed a piece.  When he drew it out, he was faced with part of a smooth hard shell. >>find some better nouns for that<<

“Wow... that egg must have been huge.  Look at the size of him,” said Gerald.

“It seems about right for this species, so I’ve read,” said Colin thoughtfully.  “He’s about the size of a deer hound at hatching.  He’s dark green with black edges to his scales. Hmm... which would make him a...” >>note: I have no idea how big a deer hound is. Can anyone enlighten me?<<


“A Black Forest Shorthorn.  Looking at his size, it correlates with what I have read about them.”

“How do you know all this?” said Gerald.  “It’s not as if there’s a whole library section anywhere dealing with dragons.”

“There is.”

“Oh? Are you sure?” said Gerald.

“Of course I’m sure.  Where do you think I go to obtain all my books?”

“I dunno, same place I do I suppose.  Little chap in the market.  He always has a few publications worth reading.”

“You can’t learn about wizarding by reading comics and buying dodgy spells Gerald,” said Colin with a sigh.

“Can’t you?  Anyway, enough of this.  What about the dragon?  Why is he calling me daddy?”

“Probably because you’re the first thing it saw when its head popped out of the sack.”

“Oooh I’m a father, it’s such a wonderful feeling.  Can I teach him tricks?”

Gerald watched as Colin lowered his head and rubbed his face vigorously.  Gerald turned back to the dragon.  It certainly was a beautiful beast and those liquid eyes; he felt he could almost fall into them.  He reached out and tentatively touched its nose, causing the dragon to emit a low grumbling sound.  He froze, hand resting on the snout of his dragon.  His dragon!  He slowly relaxed as he realized the sound was one of contentment and not a warning.  He had his very own dragon and it liked him.  Gerald was in heaven.

“What are we going to call him?”

“Arrrgh!  We can’t keep a dragon, Gerald!”

“Colin, you really must learn to relax a bit more,” said Gerald continuing to stroke his new pet.  “I’m sure all this stress is not good for you.  Do you think he can sleep on my bed until he gets settled in?”

>>Caveat: I don't read MG at all. Even so, some of your vocabulary seemed a bit above that age bracket. Those words are in green. Also, I assume you're aiming for an omniscient narrator since you're dipping into both Gerald's and Colin's heads. Omniscient isn't very popular, but it's a valid POV... you might want to make the narrative more conversational, though. Right now it's kinda stuffy, and I don't know if that will fly with an MG audience. 

>>Who do you see as being the narrator for this story? It helps a lot for it to be a specific person, even if that person is not a character in the story.

>>There's a logic problem here. Was Gerald expecting an egg or a dragon? If it was an egg, why did he recognize a moving sack as his? 

>>On the up side, the action and the characters are clear -- and I'm sympathizing with Colin.


Carl Hackman said...

Thanks for the crit, I really appreciate the comments :)

dolorah said...

Yes, I was a bit flustered by the POV also. I agree with having a specific narrator; even if it is an omniscient being. Perhaps for this demographic, the narrator would be "introduced" in the opening paragraphs, even something as simple as: in the days before dragons disappeared from the world of . . . there lived two boys whose life ambition was to raise a dragon . . .

You would still be able to have their conversations and actions using present tense, but would help clear up the POV while leaving the clear voices of the characters. A sort of Liminey Snicket trick.

I know my younger kids - especially the boys - needed a specific perspective to get into the story.

Well done with the action and dialogue, and keeping the setting clearly in the scene.


Patchi said...

I don't think the language was too advanced for MG. My son's teacher said there should be 3-4 unknown words per page, if he's reading at the right level.

I liked the characters and I can see Gerald getting into trouble because of his actions. Sounds like a fun read.

The sentence I tripped over is below. I think it needs further punctuation:

He couldn’t believe his eyes[. It] was here[. He] actually had a...