We give you our twelfth installment of KP Critiques! We greatly appreciate the willingness of our subscribers to subject their work underneath our editor’s scrutiny. While critiques are necessary and greatly beneficial, it’s never easy to put your work out there for all to see, and for it to be publicly critiqued. Thank you for having the courage to partake of this daring endeavor!
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KP Critiques Post 2

Thank you Christy for providing this submission! 

Valerie’s pulse got harder, stronger, as every swift step she took seemed to take hours.

Quite the contrast you have there.

She opened her mouth and let a war cry break loose, just like everyone in front and in back of her did. She was nearer to the back. The many people in the front, including her father were on horseback. She wished she could’ve been up there, but the king would not allow it. It was the same for Agafya and Milian as well. Though soon, it wouldn’t matter if you were front or back: If you were a bad fighter, you would die, if you were good, you might survive.

She’s surrounded by swarms of screaming people, the crowd is probably sweating and teeming with fear and anticipation for the battle. There would be a heightened tense atmosphere, yet there is none of that here. Your readers need to swell with the anticipation, their hearts need to beat fast with fear as the war cries sound all around them. We need to be transported into this scene. Right now we’re mere bystanders getting a small glimpse of what’s going on.

This was it. She was just about to put her whole-life’s training to use. The thought overwhelmed her. This was the moment. The two armies clashed together. Many, many lives ended in the first second of the battle. Each of the people on the front lines had families…a lot even had wives and children. The enemy fought their way closer to where she was. Fear rose as a lump in her throat, making it impossible to swallow. They got closer. Closer. She lifted her sword to the side of her head and closed her mouth, a look of fear and determination crossed her face. One Cuzza warrior was rapidly approaching her. He had a sword of his own raised high above his head, held with both his hands, his eyes fixed on the girl-warrior.

OK, she sees him, but what does she see? What’s the look in his eyes? Is she frightened as he gets closer? Is her heart pounding harder with each rapid step he takes toward her?

As soon as they were within striking range, Valerie, with a flick of her wrists swung her sword with one of the many death blows she had learned. Down he went: his body in two pieces. She stopped and stared. Suddenly she felt sick. She just took a life. She turned away from the sight of the blood and gore and continued to fight off the villains who pursued her. She didn’t feel near as powerful. She didn’t feel heroic as she did for all those years when she trained.

Valerie fought, but it was weak. She forgot a lot of techniques she had learned, and found herself repeating the same strikes and defense moves over and over again, even if the fight situation wasn’t relevant. She missed her mark time after time.

If she did miss her mark time after time how did she manage not to get struck herself?  

Every time she did kill a soldier, her heart hurt. Her conscience was blaring “STOP! STOP!” Valerie wanted to stop. She wanted everything to be over so she could go sit in a corner and chide herself about what she had just done.

Would she really just merely chide herself?

 But no, the battle had just begun.

 Ominous and horrifying reality, yes, but I’m barely detecting any emotion at all here.

 Interesting. You slipped in some cultural details in there at the beginning, and apparently the girl-warriors weren’t as numbered as the men, and stationed further back.

There are two points I want to focus on; detail and emotion.

  1. Now I realize that some writers abhor details and are horrible with them and don’t prefer that to be a part of their writing style. But there are some key details that we could stand to use here, especially in the fight scenes. I’m not asking for all of the gory details, but how about her surroundings? How does that impact the battle? Is it cold? Is it hot? Due to the amount of warriors I’m assuming they are in a large field. What happened to the people in front of her, around her? How were the others fairing? If she’s a good trained soldier as you imply in the story then she would keep an eye on the people around her. Maybe, maybe not, but it seems logical.
    With the loss of certain details you’ve lost the opportunity to transport us into the story. We need to be right alongside Valerie, we need to experience it as well.
  2.   Emotion; This is very important, as you more than likely know. When she kills someone, was that her first time? Is that why she’s so shocked? She’s had all this training, certainly she might have killed some people, maybe that isn’t the training style of the culture she’s in. I’m just guessing here. Does her heart merely hurt, or are their pangs or stabs of guilt that knife her heart every time she cuts a man down? Word choice is key here as well.  And at the beginning when they are all screaming and yelling, with that much tension there should be swells of emotion. Valerie lacks emotion.

 Nevertheless this is a good passage. Great job! I recommend you take a look at these articles on sword fighting, fight scenes, and battles.

 

~Haley Long