02-11-2007 02:04 PM
Sorry it's so long.
Ash’s bare feet slapped against the warm stone floor of the castle, as she ran to her older sister, Eliza’s, room. Please don’t let me be too late, she thought. Ash had been held captive after she found out about a plot to assassinate her older sister. Ash was unable to warn her sister, while she was held prisoner for three days. Finally she escaped her captors by faking a seizure; luckily one of the more kind men that kept watch over her was on guard duty at the time. The kind guard would bring her extra food when no one was looking. She found out that they intended to use her as a bargaining chip, to get the Fire Queen – her mother – to co-operate with their demands.
As Ash ran she felt a tiny twinge of regret that she had to hurt the guard that had been kind to her. I shouldn’t feel bad; he chose which side to align himself with, Ash reassured herself. Ash was surprised her ‘sick prisoner act’ actually worked. Ash had fallen to the floor pretending to have a seizure and the guard who was sitting outside her cell heard the crash of her fall. He jumped up and quickly ran to the door, summoning the key out of thin air but in his haste he forgot the blood sacrifice needed to open the door. He let out a curse realizing his mistake and quickly swiped his finger along the razor protruding from the door. He then let the blood trickle from his finger and fall onto the key. The key accepted the blood by shining a bright red. Jamming the key in the lock he swung the door open and charged into Ash’s cell. The guard kneeled beside her, reaching his hands out to turn her onto her back. Ash grabbed the solid-looking stool next to her and smashed it into the side of the guard’s head. She stared at him as he looked wide eyed at her in disbelief. His hand went to his head and came away wet with blood. The blood started flowing down the side of his face. Droplets of the guards’ blood fell onto Ash’s face, when he finally fell, limp and unconscious, on top of her. Ash struggled to get out from under his weight, but finally pushed him off. Getting out of the prison was fuzzy in her memory; all of her focus was on warning her sister, Eliza.
Ash rounded the corner to the hall that led to her sisters’ room. As she ran down the hallway the candles flickered alight when she neared them and went out when she went away. It was one small spell in a castle full of magic. How many times had she run down these halls with Eliza next to her when they were young? They would end up in a heap on Eliza’s luxuriously soft bed, laughing at some prank they pulled or got away with until their backs hurt from all the laughing and their cheeks were sore from the smiling. Ash reached her sister’s room and swung the heavy double doors open. Empty. The room was empty. Ash scanned the room searching for life and realized the room was messy, not just messy it was ransacked. No, I’m too late. Ash almost fell to her knees at the thought of being too late, until she remembered something. Ash was imprisoned for three days so that would make today Eliza’s speech day. The day she would announce that she will be moving into the Queen’s shoes so to speak. Of course! She will be in the Main Hall giving her speech. Ash cursed out loud for not thinking of that sooner and wasting time running to the room. By the looks of it the conspirators must have forgot that too. Maybe I’m not too late. Ash dashed from Eliza’s room and headed for the Main Hall.
Ash rounded corner after corner, any one else might have gotten lost, but she knew this place from years of playing childhood games. She ran past the huge mirror that is just before the Main Hall. She glanced at her reflection as she ran by, her own purple eyes looking back at her. Her hair was the color of auburn - with every color of brown in it - flying free from its usual bun. Her face had smudges of dirt on it from three days with out a bath and the guard’s now dried blood. Her dress was ripped and dirty from the scuffle when she was first captured. Ash’s fiery wings folded back behind her, bent and useless. The light from the candles glinted against her gold choker with a flame dancing on the front of it, the sign of royalty.
Ash barged through the doors to the Main Hall ignoring the puzzled guard’s shouts. Eliza was on the dais in the middle of the Hall; guards surrounded her in a circle.
“Eliza!” Ash yelled as she pushed her way through the crowd. Eliza turned toward the shout, stopping in the middle of her sentence.
“Ash! You’re okay!” Eliza was now pushing her way through the circle of guards, rushing towards her sister with open arms.
“Eliza!” Ash called again, hot tears starting to fall down her cheeks. Ash stumbled over someone’s foot and when she regained her balance she noticed men, with black masks covering their mouths, closing in on her sister. “No! Eliza lookout!”
Eliza didn’t seem to hear her because she kept moving through the crowd, the men with the masks getting closer to her all the while.
“Behind you!” Ash shouted at her. Realizing something was wrong Eliza stopped and turned around. It all happened in slow motion for Ash. Before Eliza could face the masked assassins one was already behind her, Ash saw the flash of steel and heard screaming, she then realized that the screaming was coming from her. The assassins converged on Eliza, each stabbing in turn.
“NO!” Ash screamed as she saw blood soak through her sisters beautiful silver dress. The assassins moved back as Eliza fell to the floor. Ash was suddenly kneeling by her sister’s side not remembering how she got there so fast. She held Eliza’s head in her lap, tears streaming down Ash’s face.
“I’m sorry Eli, I was too late. I’m so sorry.”
Eliza looked at her baby sister, life draining from her pale-blue eyes. “Take care of them.” She croaked. Ash was confused. What does she mean?
“Please, it will be okay someone will have gotten help by now.” Ash looked up to see everyone as still as stone, frozen it seemed. “Why isn’t anyone doing anything?!” Ash half yelled half sobbed, still clutching to her dying sister. Ash looked down at her sister again; blood was spilling from Eliza’s mouth. Those bastards must have punctured an artery. Eliza’s eyes seemed to focus as she looked at Ash. Eliza then opened her mouth to say something, blood gurgling in her throat. She grabbed Ash’s hand in a vice like grip, still moving her mouth, saying silent words.
“Eliza.” Ash sobbed as Eliza’s grip faded and she went limp in Ash’s arms. “NOO!” Ash screamed, tears flooding her vision. She hugged Eliza’s lifeless body to her, crying in her sisters’ silk blonde hair. Her sister is dead. The princess of the Fire Kingdom is dead. The soon to be Queen is dead. Ash looked up to see the assassins still standing there, frozen in time. Fury filled Ash’s eyes making them glow deep purple. Suddenly time sped up to the present. Chaos. People were screaming. The assassins jumped at seeing Ash next to Eliza and looked at her dumbfounded.
“How-.” One assassin started to say. He would never finish his sentence. Fury and vengeance had consumed Ash, making her glow with white blinding light. Another assassin decided to run as he threw down his bloody dagger. Ash grew brighter and brighter. She let out a scream as fire shot out from her, creating a nova of flame, consuming everything in its path. More screams as the fire ate hungrily at everything with out prejudice.
Ash awoke later in a daze. In a rush her memory of what had happened came flooding back. Her capture. Her escape. Finding Eliza. The assassins. Eliza in her arms bleeding. Ash looked around for Eliza’s body but found only scorch marks. The fire. Oh that all consuming fire. Ash felt deafened by the silence, she thought it would never end.
“Oh Goddess, what have I done?” Ash fell to her knees as she stared around her. Bodies. Dead, fire eaten bodies. Not the assassin’s bodies, they had been too close, the fire had eaten them whole, there wouldn’t even be ash left. The bodies she was looking at were those of her subjects, her people, Fire Kingdom people. She killed them when the fury consumed her and she created a nova of fire, expanding out from her like a sphere.
“No, no.” Ash rambled dumbly. Her eyes froze as she saw a body, a small body. Oh Goddess! A child! That wasn’t the only child as she scanned what was left of the Main Hall. Everyone is dead. Ash sobbed into her hands, she had no more tears left, her sobs were dry ones.
Ash could hear her heart pounding in her ears. The pounding was getting louder and louder when she realized it wasn’t her heart she was hearing it was foot steps. Startled she looked up at where the sound was coming from. A survivor maybe? Ash jumped up and ran towards the sound. The foot steps belonged to Viktor, the Queen’s right hand man. He was a very tall man, with muscles that bulged whenever he did anything. He could barely fit through some of the doors of the castle. Ash had always been afraid of Viktor but she was glad to see somebody alive.
“Viktor! Oh thank Goddess it’s you!” Ash stumbled towards him, and reached out her hand. Viktor flinched and stepped back before she could touch him. “Viktor?” Ash asked.
His grey eyes scanned the room briefly but thoroughly. “What have you done Ash?”
“I didn’t m-mean-” Ash started to say. Viktor grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her violently.
“What did you do?!” He shouted at her. Ash started to cry again.
“I’m s-sorry, I d-didn’t mean to. Eliza is-.” Ash gasped, she couldn’t bring herself to say the words, it was too painful. Viktor smacked her hard across the cheek; his rings cutting into her skin, making her fall backwards onto the ground.
“You monster!” He spited at her.
Ash held her throbbing cheek as her jaw dropped in shock. She couldn’t speak as she looked up at him in horror. He stepped towards her, his hands shaking with anger. Ash jumped up and ran, ran as hard as she could. She heard him yell something but her ears were ringing, all she could think of was to get out. Get out now. Eliza was gone, murdered. She had lost control of her powers and killed her subjects. It was all her fault. She had to leave.
So, what are your guys' thoughts? Anything I could do better? Critque away!
Oh, and I'm not sure which to do: 1st person , or 3rd person narrative?
02-11-2007 06:26 PM
The first thing that comes to mind is your beginning. You start with Ash running toward her sister's room, then go back to a mostly-tell account of her brief imprisonment. You spend a bit too much time on a few details, so there's some showing rather than telling -- which is good, but awkward where you've written it. She's running down the hall in fear of her sister's life -- we really don't want to be distracted with her memories right now.
1) Start with the imprisonment, and stretch it a bit. Show us Ash in her cell, fretting about the delays that are going to cost her sister her life.
2) Run straight to the room, no sidetracked memories. If the memory is important to the story, let us hear about it when she's reflecting after the massacre, perhaps when she's hiding in some safe place and looking back on how she got into this fix in the first place.
I like the third person approach, personally. There's a lot to deal with here ... third person helps distance the reader from the carnage a bit. Ash seems like an interesting character who's going to have a lot to deal with. Her bits of thoughts have a personality behind them ... we want to get to know the person better. So that's off to a good start!
Just what comes to mind. Feel free to disregard anything that doesn't actually help. :-)
02-11-2007 06:52 PM
I was a little bit iffy about the imprisonment scene as well, I might just drop it and reference it later in the story.
The formatting of this forum is a little funky, Ash's thoughts were originally italic in the text, so the reader could tell between the story and her thoughts, but I just copied and pasted it all from my Word document, and I guess it doesn't transfer over.
Thanks again for your suggestions, if you have any more please post them, I'd be happy to hear them so I can improve my story.
02-11-2007 07:50 PM
02-11-2007 09:15 PM
You have an awful lot going on--I'd say compressed--into your beginning. I agree with Kristen and Bonnie on not telling so much and instead on showing us what's happening. There's too much exposition in the beginning--that's more like the sort of backstory you'd require in a short story than a novel. Novels get to develop more slowly and elaborately than short stories do.
It's okay to have the character moving about in a mysterious fashion so long as we sense her danger and her tension. Don't be in a hurry to fill in all the details--give us time to digest the setting and the character that Ash is.
I'm a visual person, and I'd like to see more of Ash and Eliza and the castle.
That said, you have a strong beginning with a lot of tension being generated. It's a good start to your novel. Just slow things down a bit.
02-12-2007 04:27 PM
02-12-2007 04:34 PM
02-12-2007 04:43 PM
As a rule of thumb, if you find yourself breaking into an opening scene with a flashback, it's often an indication that you have started the story in the wrong place. Entering a lot of background material too early can make the story seem unsure, and certainly interrupts the pacing as much as a flashback does.
What the reader is looking for, particularly in our genre, is a story that involves him or her utterly in itself. The story opening, the hook, needs to grab the reader's attention and point it toward the story itself. So in the opening paragraphs or pages, the reader needs to be given character, setting, movement, conflict, mystery -- but not necessarily too much background.
In second draft, try cutting the background information entirely and see what happens. You may find that what needs to be conveyed, is already tucked into the action of the story itself. If cutting makes the opening too confusing, then add the background one element at a time, carefully, remembering all the time that you are looking for a balance between giving the reader what s/he needs to know, and hooking the reader's attention.
02-12-2007 07:10 PM
I will certainly work on all the things that you guys have pointed out to me, thanks a bunch for the critiques!
Now that I know what I need to work on (my weaknesses in my text), what did you guys like from the excerpt of my story? So I know what strengths to build upon.
02-13-2007 10:39 AM
You're good with details of world-building too, like in that bit about the guard and the key. It doesn't belong where it is (as a flashback in the middle of the running scene) but it's a good bit of detail nonetheless. If this is a short story, it may be too much detail (unless the powers of blood are crucial to the setting?). Anyway, those little details are the sort that set your world apart from any other fantasy world. Shows you've been thinking things through.
02-13-2007 05:55 PM
02-14-2007 09:17 PM
I was planning on this being a short story but it wasn't going to be extremly short, maybe I'm thinking of a medium story? Haha Or a short novel?
Thanks for the great reviews!
02-15-2007 01:28 AM - edited 02-15-2007 01:28 AM
You want to keep paragraphs single-spaced but double-space (or triple-space) between paragraphs.
Look at all the replies to your story for examples.
Message Edited by Josh_Crowe on 02-15-200701:30 AM
02-15-2007 04:47 PM
I agree with the comments made so far. One thing I'd add is try to move some of the exposition from the narrative to the dialog. For [a very clunky] example, suppose Ash arrived a few minutes earlier.
"Eliza, thank goodness you're all right!"
"Why, what do you mean?"
"I've been worried since I overheard the Prime Minister talking about assassinating you three days ago."
Anyway, don't forget that there's more than one way to convey information to the reader.
02-16-2007 04:21 AM
Thanks again for all your help on how to improve my writing!