[Critique Game] Post The First Three Sentences of your Short Story

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The Eighteenth Letter

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Flash Fiction. First three sentences of a chapter. (the chapter is about Hasnamuss, the last King of the Arakanian Empire)

"In the steppes they call me Khan, the piercing arrow, the Dragon King. Upon them I came like the black plague, barren their lands I left, slaves of their women I made. Their armies, beast of prey I felled like swarms to the slaughter."



How does it read?
 
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dpaterso

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"In the steppes the call me Khan, the piercing arrow, the Dragon King. Upon them I came like the black plague, barren their lands I left, slaves of their women I made. Their armies, beast of prey I felled like swarms to the slaughter."

How does it read?
You're demanding I get into a voice, a mindset, but at the same time you're tripping me up with it. I had to read it twice to understand what you're trying to say. Should first sentence be In the Steppes they call me Khan, the Piercing Arrow, the Dragon King. ? 2nd and 3rd sentences have a disjointed feel about them, 3rd especially feels like words are missing or in the wrong order. Not sure if I'd read on, feels like too much hard work, if more of same lies ahead.

-Derek
 

The Eighteenth Letter

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Derek


Yes, you’re right about the capitalization, but I think it would be applicable only if it’s used as a noun or tittle for him, and I am not using it like that. Maybe I need to find a better way to make this point clear.

As for the 2nd and 3rd sentence, the style is more baroque than anything else. That’s why it reads the way it does.
I will revise the text when I get some time later on but for now, would you say that in verse form it reads a little better?


In the steppes they call me Khan,
the piercing arrow,
the Dragon King.
Upon them I came like the black plague,
barren their lands I left,
slaves of their women I made.
Their armies, beast of prey,
I felled like swarms to the slaughter.
 

dpaterso

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I'm still tripping when I get to,

Their armies, beast of prey,
I felled like swarms to the slaughter.

Same thoughts as above, feels like words are missing or in the wrong order. Or the wrong words are being used.

If you're happy with it, no worries. I'm only one reader, wait and see what others say.

-Derek
 

Rainy Day Boo

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In the steppes they call me Khan,
the piercing arrow,
the Dragon King.
Upon them I came like the black plague,
barren their lands I left,
slaves of their women I made.
Their armies, beast of prey,
I felled like swarms to the slaughter.

The voice is strong in this one, prose or verse. Immediately conjures up an epic feel and legendary scope. My suggestions would be to maybe work on the sentence structures as Derek says. How about: "In the steppes they call me Khan the piercing arrow, Khan the Dragon King." Putting the next few lines in a Yoda-esque reverse order does complicate the read a little. I'm not sure how much that adds to the whole. "Like the black plague, I came upon them..." or "I came upon them like the black plague, made slaves of their women and left their lands barren" doesn't seem to lose much in terms of voice or dramatic impact. Wondered why 'beast' of prey was singular then realized the beast was Khan the speaker. I do like the atmosphere this voice conjures up, but the last two lines might be more effective if they're a little clearer?
 

mccardey

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Derek

would you say that in verse form it reads a little better?


In the steppes they call me Khan,
the piercing arrow,
the Dragon King.
Upon them I came like the black plague,
barren their lands I left,
slaves of their women I made.
Their armies, beast of prey,
I felled like swarms to the slaughter.

I had no trouble with the words but I prefer this form because it signals straight away that yes, this is poetry. Don't try to read it as prose.

A potential problem I might flag (because this is only the first three lines and there's no way of knowing, yet) is that you'll want to be sure the hugeness of this voice belongs only to this speaking character. Pretty sure you'll be aware of that, though.

I would probably read a verse-novel like this on a winters night in front of the fire and love every minute of it.

ETA: Heart-broken to realise it's going to be a short story instead of a lovely, ancient, spine-cracked hardcover I can find in the dusty unlit corner of a long-abandoned bookshop. *sigh*
 
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Rainy Day Boo

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The short story I'm working on right now is about a white signwriter with a black foster-dad who ends up writing signs for BLM protesters. Working title: "One Woman's Freedom Fighter." Here's the first three sentences - any ideas, all feedback appreciated :)

"Thing about sitting on scaffolding even just a few feet above the street is you see more of everyone and everything, and no one sees you.

I never leaned a ladder to in my life after watching my dad fall. Watching his fall continue in a delirious, limb-spinning slow-mo for nearly five years after the accident, I'm convinced that he carried right on spinning and falling through an incomprehensible darkness even after he left."
 

frimble3

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In the steppes they call me Khan,
the piercing arrow,
the Dragon King.
Upon them I came like the black plague,
barren their lands I left,
slaves of their women I made.
Their armies, swarms of prey,​
I felled like beasts to the slaughter.
I really like the first three lines.
I think I prefer it in verse form.
The short lines are easier to parse and it sounds more like an oration or an inscription.
Makes me think of what 'Ozymandias' might have said when he was alive.

The only change I would suggest is in red, solely because my mind kept 'catching' on it.
 
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breabee

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She waited at the door for him and though it felt like years ago, she promised him she would be home for him, and she was not a liar. She’d shift uncomfortably in her red heels, pace a moment to the grand oval mirror by the front door, then go through the checklist of: Hair, lipstick, dress and The Dreaded Face.
She soon became a pocket watch on a gentlemanly chain.
 

mccardey

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my mind kept 'catching' on it.

For a data point, I got caught on that, too - I think because you can't really slaughter a swarm.

I have to stress that I did really like the idea of an army being one (singular) beast, though. I really liked that.
 
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frimble3

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"Thing about sitting on scaffolding even just a few feet above the street is you see more of everyone and everything, and no one sees you.

I never leaned a ladder to in my life after watching my dad fall. Watching his fall continue in a delirious, limb-spinning slow-mo for nearly five years after the accident, I'm convinced that he carried right on spinning and falling through an incomprehensible darkness even after he left."
I never leaned a ladder to in my life after watching my dad fall.
I think I get what you are trying to say, that he prefers to work on a scaffold platform, rather than climbing ladders.
So, he's never leaned a ladder onto the side of a building to climb.

But, it took me a couple of tries to figure that out.
Maybe there is some clearer way of saying it?
'I never worked from a ladder after I saw my father fall' or similar? Only better, of course.
The other two lines are excellent. Brilliant, even. The first, philosophic; the third, dramatic. I'd like to read more.
 

mrsmig

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She waited at the door for him and though it felt like years ago, she promised him she would be home for him, and she was not a liar. She’d shift uncomfortably in her red heels, pace a moment to the grand oval mirror by the front door, then go through the checklist of: Hair, lipstick, dress and The Dreaded Face.
She soon became a pocket watch on a gentlemanly chain.

There's some great imagery in this opener, but the tense is all over the place. That's making me feel discombobulated, and for that reason I wouldn't read on.
 

The Eighteenth Letter

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The voice is strong in this one, prose or verse. Immediately conjures up an epic feel and legendary scope. My suggestions would be to maybe work on the sentence structures as Derek says. How about: "In the steppes they call me Khan the piercing arrow, Khan the Dragon King." Putting the next few lines in a Yoda-esque reverse order does complicate the read a little. I'm not sure how much that adds to the whole. "Like the black plague, I came upon them..." or "I came upon them like the black plague, made slaves of their women and left their lands barren" doesn't seem to lose much in terms of voice or dramatic impact. Wondered why 'beast' of prey was singular then realized the beast was Khan the speaker. I do like the atmosphere this voice conjures up, but the last two lines might be more effective if they're a little clearer?

Dear Rainy Day Boo

I’m glad to hear that the epic feel comes across. It is the intention. I did keep in mind Derek’s, and now your, suggestion of maybe revising the last two sentences and played around with them a bit to see what would happen. I feel like I am clear on the voice but just have not found the right words and/or structure for them.

Thank for taking the time. I appreciate it.
 

The Eighteenth Letter

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I had no trouble with the words but I prefer this form because it signals straight away that yes, this is poetry. Don't try to read it as prose.

A potential problem I might flag (because this is only the first three lines and there's no way of knowing, yet) is that you'll want to be sure the hugeness of this voice belongs only to this speaking character. Pretty sure you'll be aware of that, though.

I would probably read a verse-novel like this on a winters night in front of the fire and love every minute of it.

ETA: Heart-broken to realise it's going to be a short story instead of a lovely, ancient, spine-cracked hardcover I can find in the dusty unlit corner of a long-abandoned bookshop. *sigh*




Dear Mccardey

Please do not be discouraged, or maybe not that much ��. This short poetry/prose forms part of a much bigger project I am working on at the moment. I am a photographer and writer. The project is called ‘Pantheon’. It is my second attempt at bringing these two disciplines together. If you’re interested you can have a look at some of the photos of the project I have already done here

https://www.rilindmodigliani.com/pantheon

Even thought this is only one story amongst many I am working on for the project, I am trying to keep the sense of grandeur, both in the writing and the photography. This particular extract belongs to a short poem I write which is found by a protagonist in an ancient burial ground, carved on a large black obelisk.

Your feedback would be welcomed if you get a chance to check out the work

- - - Updated - - -

For a data point, I got caught on that, too - I think because you can't really slaughter a swarm.

I have to stress that I did really like the idea of an army being one (singular) beast, though. I really liked that.



Great... I dig it. I like that it came across nicely
 

The Eighteenth Letter

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I really like the first three lines.
I think I prefer it in verse form.
The short lines are easier to parse and it sounds more like an oration or an inscription.
Makes me think of what 'Ozymandias' might have said when he was alive.

The only change I would suggest is in red, solely because my mind kept 'catching' on it.



Dear frimble3

Yes, I originally wrote it in that format. I changed it because the thread here says the first three sentences. But I agree, I feel it reads much better when formatted like this.
 

The Eighteenth Letter

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General reply to frimble3, Mccardy and Rainy Day Boo

I you are interested in reading the whole text, its not really that long, I could post it up here so you can check it out. I am short of the 50 replies required for creating my own post, and I also don’t want to just post it up here and go against the intention of this thread, so if you’re interested, and its ok with the admin here, I can post it up. I would love to hear your feedback to the whole text. Its really not that long.

I do want to mention the following, especially with this text, because it is something that is brought up by people who read it, and I hope that in clearing up this point, maybe it will read differently, or maybe not. I do want to clarify it though.

I feel that the common way of touching a reader’s heart or gut or mind with writing, especially fiction, is through semantics or by narration, the story that is told. Where my voice lies, and how I try to do what all of us try to do, is to do it phonetically rather than through the aforementioned points. I sacrifice semantics to a certain extent, and ease of reading, for phonetics. That’s why those last two lines trip some people up, because my focus is the phonetic flow, not the semantic cohesion.

Sometimes I do it well and sometimes I don’t. But I know that the power of my voice lies there, especially in this type of prose/poetry writing. I do pull back a bit when I write short stories.
 

mrsmig

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Don't post the entirety of it here - the rules are in place for a reason.

If you genuinely can't wait until you've gotten the requisite 50 posts to get feedback, you could try sending a PM to the three members who've responded, to see if they'd be willing to go off-board to look at your whole piece. Or you could just engage with the community until you've reached your 50 posts. It really doesn't take that long, and gives the membership a chance to get to know you.
 

The Eighteenth Letter

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Don't post the entirety of it here - the rules are in place for a reason.

If you genuinely can't wait until you've gotten the requisite 50 posts to get feedback, you could try sending a PM to the three members who've responded, to see if they'd be willing to go off-board to look at your whole piece. Or you could just engage with the community until you've reached your 50 posts. It really doesn't take that long, and gives the membership a chance to get to know you.



Yes I am more than happy to respect the rules. I do understand the 50 post limit and am learning about the community through my engagement, sometimes more sometimes less, given time, especially now.

frimble3, Mccardy and Rainy Day Boo if you would like to read the full text i could send it as a PM, if not there is no problem or issue at all. Maybe I will put it up once I get to 50 posts.

Thanks for your help.
 

ap123

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The short story I'm working on right now is about a white signwriter with a black foster-dad who ends up writing signs for BLM protesters. Working title: "One Woman's Freedom Fighter." Here's the first three sentences - any ideas, all feedback appreciated :)

"Thing about sitting on scaffolding even just a few feet above the street is you see more of everyone and everything, and no one sees you.

I never leaned a ladder to in my life after watching my dad fall. Watching his fall continue in a delirious, limb-spinning slow-mo for nearly five years after the accident, I'm convinced that he carried right on spinning and falling through an incomprehensible darkness even after he left."

I'm a sucker for voice, and there is voice here, so I'd read on. I might, however, tighten a bit, so the reader has no room for anything other than being pulled into the story. Consider omitting "and everything" in the first sentence. Second is tight and perfect, imo. The third gets looser, which works for the imagery of spinning and falling over five years, but still, I'd probably omit "an incomprehensible" for readability.
 

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There's some great imagery in this opener, but the tense is all over the place. That's making me feel discombobulated, and for that reason I wouldn't read on.

Good! It's supposed to be a "spooky" story I guess. The unease should hit hard
 

mrsmig

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Good! It's supposed to be a "spooky" story I guess. The unease should hit hard

I may not have made myself clear. I wouldn't read on, not because the story makes me uneasy or fearful, but because the tense issues make it difficult to comprehend.

It's a nuts-and-bolts writing issue, not a plot issue.
 

Rainy Day Boo

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Thanks very much frimble3 and ap123. Really helpful observations.

And... you're welcome Rilind Modigliani!
 

dpaterso

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Thing about sitting on scaffolding even just a few feet above the street is you see more of everyone and everything, and no one sees you.

I never leaned a ladder to in my life after watching my dad fall. Watching his fall continue in a delirious, limb-spinning slow-mo for nearly five years after the accident, I'm convinced that he carried right on spinning and falling through an incomprehensible darkness even after he left.
Does "even after he left" mean, after he died? A gentler way of saying it? I'm not grabbed by this opening but of course I'd have kept reading anyway to see what's going on. There is the question of how did your narrator get up onto the scaffolding if he never climbed a ladder again because his dad fell off a ladder and died (assuming I've read things right). And, little edit to the 1st sentence, I'd have said but no one sees you.

She waited at the door for him and though it felt like years ago, she promised him she would be home for him, and she was not a liar. She’d shift uncomfortably in her red heels, pace a moment to the grand oval mirror by the front door, then go through the checklist of: Hair, lipstick, dress and The Dreaded Face.
She soon became a pocket watch on a gentlemanly chain.
I liked the fancy last sentence, but it doesn't match up with the first 2, it just comes out of nowhere. I just didn't know what was going on here. Lure me in with nice words by all means, but don't confuse me.

-Derek
 

ap123

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Does "even after he left" mean, after he died? A gentler way of saying it? I'm not grabbed by this opening but of course I'd have kept reading anyway to see what's going on. There is the question of how did your narrator get up onto the scaffolding if he never climbed a ladder again because his dad fell off a ladder and died (assuming I've read things right). And, little edit to the 1st sentence, I'd have said but no one sees you.


I liked the fancy last sentence, but it doesn't match up with the first 2, it just comes out of nowhere. I just didn't know what was going on here. Lure me in with nice words by all means, but don't confuse me.

-Derek

(bolding mine)

Here in NY people climb the scaffolding itself. Often yes, this includes the workers putting it up/taking it down. Whether or not workers are supposed to do that, I don't know. If it's going up (or down) around a tall building, cranes are used for the materials, and temporary motorized platforms like those used by window washers carry workers up and down.
 

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