KP Critiques – 38

Welcome to the 38th edition of KP Critiques! May others be inspired by your bravery, Lady Alia. Even the most skilled wordsmiths shudder at the sight of an editor’s dagger, but it’s a necessary training procedure. Although you may emerge with blood splatters on your hands, your sword will be sharpened and your story will wield more impact.KP Critique 38

Now, onward to the exploration of Alia’s tale!

Everyone knelt there, heads bowed, feeling as helpless, though maybe not as furious, as he did. He wanted to fight, wanted to do something, but he was terrified, same as everyone else. Until someone lifted their his chin, and stood up. He didn’t know how, but sSomehow everyone in the clearing knew sensed that some idiot had looked up. Stupid, stupid. Now we’re all going to die. He didn’t dare look up himself,; after all, he might be shown mercy. Had not his family been faithful? Had not his family sacrificed everything?

This has the potential to be an attention-grabbing opening, except it’s scanty on details.

  • Who are these nondescript people on their knees? Villagers? Peasants? Soldiers? Poor folks, rich aristocrats, or a mixture? Use a term that will project an image into the reader’s mind.
  • Where is this crowd kneeling? You mention a clearing later in the paragraph, but it would be better to specify the location within the first sentence rather than employing the vague “there.” In addition, I recommend adding a few sentences to establish the setting more. Right now your character is floating on a blank slate.
  • You’re not writing in first-person POV, so you have no reason to withhold your protagonist’s name. Readers want to be introduced to the character they’ll be following through pages and pages of story. Omitting his name will estrange him from your audience.
  • You’re essentially telling that Jycin is angry and scared. Try to convey the emotions he’s experiencing through his mannerisms, thoughts, and reactions to the spectacle that’s unfolding. You’ve partially done this, but it could be taken a step further.
  • The word “stupid” seems out of place. Would it be part of a person’s vocabulary in the type of culture you’ve created? If not, replace it.

How come you Why are you still kneeling? Are you afraid of death? If you fear the priests, tell me, where are they?”

At the sound of the musical voice, he looked up. He had never seen her before, yet he felt drawn somehow. She didn’t look anything special, yet he couldn’t look away.

I think the intrusion of this mysterious woman should be dwelt upon more. Describe her appearance—how was she both ordinary and intriguing to Jycin?

“Who are you?” Hhe whispered, still feeling nervous.

“Who I am is not important. What is important is why you are the only one who looked up.” Her triumphant grin was getting on his nerves.

“Leave us be. What have we done to deserve the wrath that is sure to follow you?”

“You have done nothing.”

“Then why are you here?”

“That is the very reason that I am here. Because you have done nothing.”

By this time,iIt was taking all his willpower to not strangle her. Surely she is a test sent from the gods. But what if she is not, would it be wrong to kill her? No, I must discover what it is she wants, but not now. Not here. She is obviously a danger to this village.

“Please, if you must talk, meet me and some of the leaders tomorrow night. But not here. We will surely be killed if the priests arrive and you are still here. So please, just leave.”

“Since it appears that you will not listen now, I agree. But you must only bring three others. I will know if you bring more,” she answered. He glanced back up at the spot where she had been, but all that was left was a piece of linen.

Jycin’s conversation with the mysterious woman has a touch of talking-heads syndrome (dialogue drifting between two parties with little narrative). Inserting a few more dialogue tags will help prevent readers from losing track of who is speaking, but I’d suggest interspersing some action beats as well.

Seeing she was gone, hHe quickly lowered his face again. One never knew when the priests would arrive. He counted silently to nine thousand before he heard the quiet shuffling of the satin slippers could be heard. When the shuffling stopped, everyone in the clearing began chanting.

“Sha-na-mo-na-cla-geh-mo-na. Sha-ha-mo-ha-sla-heh-mo-ha. Sha-pa-mo-pa-gla-jeh-mo-pa. Sha-na-mo-na-cla-geh-mo-na. Sha-ha-mo-ha-sla-heh-mo-ha. Sha-pa-mo-pa-gla-jeh-mo-pa. Sha-na-mo-na-cla-geh-mo-na. Sha-ha-mo-ha-sla-heh-mo-ha. Sha-pa-mo-pa-gla-jeh-mo-pa.”

When they had finished, one-by-one the guilty stood. Everyone else sat on their toes, watching to see who would be forgiven, and who would die. Most of the priests wore burgundy tunics and black trousers, but the one who held the scroll wore an olive tunic and olive trousers. The tunics hung past their knees, and were tied with a belt made of white linen.

No need to hyphenate “one by one.” Also, a comma generally shouldn’t precede and unless it’s connecting two independent clauses.

“I will call out your name, and you will be tested for mercy. If you do not pass the test, you will be beheaded,” the olive priest announced in his wheezy voice. “Hokone, Pokome, Jerome, Torhene, Delly, Masane, Tasane, Udly, Pally, Jycin.”

Jycin jerked his head up quickly. He was not one of the guilty. His only sin guilty enough for the priests to interfere with was talking to that girl, but surely they couldn’t have found out;, seeing how it had only just happened but a few hours before.

“Me, sire? What have I done?”

“You dare question the middle priest? That alone might force the gods to fail you on the test!” a burgundy priest snarled at Jycin. Jycin lowered his head and fell in line behind the other guilty.

One of the burgundies placed an olivecolored scarf on top of a large, flat stone. He opened the scarf to reveal ten dull blades. Another burgundy placed a marble bowl half full of water, and a marble pitcher full of water on the stone. Hokone stepped up to the stone, took a blade, and cut his arm right where it bends.

Depending upon what you mean, crook, joint, or elbow would be a more colorful and succinct descriptor than the phrase “his arm right where it bends.”

As the blood pooled, Hokone dipped his forefinger in it the blood. He then brought it to the bowl, and watched as a single drop fell. Every The villagers held their breath as the olive priest picked the bowl up. “He is forgiven.”

The line continued with two more forgiven. The guilty went to one side, silently weeping. Jycin stepped up to the stone and took hold of the remaining blade. Clutching it in his fist he sliced his arm and dipped his finger in the blood. As a burgundy refilled the bowl, Jycin tried to recall think as to what it was that he had done to deserve this. Stumbling forward, he let a drop fall into the water.

The blood went all the way through the liquid and settled at the bottom of the bowl, still intact as a single drop. No splatters were in the water, just the one drop.

Jycin’s face turned pale. What does this me mean for me?

Overall, this is an impressive attempt at a first chapter, and it definitely makes me wonder what will happen next. Although the scene is a bit lean, that could easily be fixed by stirring in more meat. Just be careful that the content you add strengthens rather than weakens the story’s flavor. 😉

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Brianna was born with a rumble in her veins. She finds the tap of a keyboard to be soothing like the pitter-patter of rain. She has been a writer for a decade, a freelance editor for a few years, and a bibliophile from the moment she pronounced her first syllable. Proudly a Silver Member of The Christian PEN, she serves on their team as Graphics Coordinator. She exudes her passion for speculative fiction and helping young writers by being an Associate Editor at Castle Gate Press and the Copy Editor/Director of Graphics for Kingdom Pen. When she isn’t poring over words, she may be spotted shooting her Canon, riding The Breeze (an all-terrain vehicle), or romping with her dog, Zookie. Purple is her signature color, and she refuses to recognize all other claims to it.
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  1. thank you for your fantastic job on this, it’ll really help

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