Mar 03 2010

Mnkyking’s Review Forum

Published by at 9:22 am under Review Forums

Quill’s Story  is a traditional coming of age story, set in a recognizable fantasy world-but with an Asian flair.

The story begins with a young boy meeting his first love, who happens to be an elf. Drawn to her by the outsider character that defines their lives, he has his first meaningful positive emotional experience when he stumbles upon the girl in the deep forest. Later in the story (as you might expect) things get quite a bit rougher for the boy, and he must learn martial and magical secrets to not only fight evil, but merely to survive.

1. What are you trying to write?

*A short story, with an eye to sequels/spinoffs. Fantasy/action genre with martial arts mostly replacing the “sword” in “Sword and Sorcery” as the centerpiece.

2. Do you have a target audience in mind?

*Fans of traditional (Tolkien-style) fantasy, D&D’ers, Martial Arts fans. Generally late teens and older, as I expect to get a little too graphic with the violence for the little ones.

3. How thick is your skin?
* Like a rhino filled with custard. Seriously, though-be as critical as you like, so long as it’s useful in some way.

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Mnkyking’s Review Forum”

  1. mnkykingon 11 Mar 2010 at 7:19 am

    Here’s a place to read the first chapter:

    http://mnkyking.wordpress.com/short-stories-that-wont-die/

    (the text there might have some formatting issues I hadn’t noticed until now, I apologize.)

    First little bit, if you don’t care to travel:

    Quill’s Story

    Talin looked around apprehensively. It would not be the first time that the town bullies had tracked him out here, to the edge of the deep woods; scaring him with noises, or more overtly with thrown rocks. Why wouldn’t they just leave him be? At least out here, in what he felt was his place, there should be some peace. Then he thought about the legends of the forest, and why the adults had always forbidden the children to go there. They said werewolves roamed in there, just waiting to snatch away a small boy to eat, or worse. Talin knew better than most that these were not idle threats, stories to keep the youngsters at home..his father had been killed by one of the beasts, when he was very small. Knowing that, he believed much more than the other boys in town, so eager to prove they weren’t scared, yet oddly enough not eager enough to chase him too far into the dark undergrowth with their taunts and stones.

    He had even once overheard some of the adults talking in the pub, when they thought no one else could hear. Talin’s hearing had always been acute, and that day, he had managed to sneak fairly close to the pair without being seen. They spoke in low tones, about an attack from the dead! Dead that walked and killed the living. Talin was at first amused by their obvious superstition,-grownups scared of something like that! The slight shaking of the men’s hands as they paused to lift the ales they drank a bit too frequently made him pause, however. The men seemed to fall silent for a moment, and then one of them made a warding gesture and whispered “We’d not be here were it not for the holy men of the mountain.” The other man quickly agreed that had the mysteriously mentioned men not appeared, the entire town would have been slain, and he seemed to have no desire to say or even think of the event any further, noticeably filled with dread.

    Talin wanted to learn more of these heroes, (he had never heard of anyone living up on the misty mountain, and precious little of the Dwarves that lived beneath it, yet he knew that he was more informed than most in the town about the world outside its wooden walls); but his concentration had been broken by his piqued interest, and he had failed to notice that the barkeep had spotted him. He was unceremoniously shooed from the bar, to the uproar of all, save the two men he had been eavesdropping on. They merely looked at him blankly, the fear still in their eyes, as the others laughed and shouted.

    No, not the boys from town, Talin sensed; this was a different sort of sound. It reminded him of the wind rustling through the grass, when he was smaller and used to lay on the blanket in the green, listening to Grandfather’s flute…that was it, it sounded like a whistle or flute. But where? There was no one around, at least none he could see. Thinking again of the dangers of the deep woods before him, and mad at himself for drifting so close to the edge while musing, Talin slowly turned to leave, straining to find the direction of the sound while leaving, if only to put his back to it and flee.

  2. B. Macon 11 Mar 2010 at 11:42 am

    –I feel that bullies are cliché antagonists that often drag down the hero with them. First, I think that you could probably make them more stylish by individualizing them to your story. There are many, many other fantasy stories where (usually human) bullies pick on somebody of a different species/race/magical aptitude/class/gender/nerdiness/whatever, and I don’t think this one stands out yet. Second, he starts angsting three sentences in (“why wouldn’t they just leave him be?”) I think that makes him sound passive and not too interesting. Personally, I’d rather read about a kid that is at least making some attempt to help himself (even an unsuccessful attempt) rather than complaining about the unfairness of his situation. I think there are some good starts here, like him running into the forest knowing that they wouldn’t follow him, and then he has to worry about the creatures there.

    –The first sentence could be more interesting. I think it might help if the action were a bit more unique to your story. Looking apprehensively is something that could happen in any story. One way you could make it more narrowly-tailored to your story would be to work in a particular detail, like what he’s looking at, or some other detail that separates him or your plot.

    –“ Then he thought about the legends of the forest, and why the adults had always forbidden the children to go there.” I think the first part of this sentence “Then he thought about the legends of the forest, and why” could be removed. I don’t feel it’s a strong transition.

    –I like the name Talin.

    –There are some punctuation issues. For example, an ellipsis should have three periods rather than two. And after the word superstition, I would recommend using a dash or a comma but not both. Probably a dash. Comma after “gesture and whispered.” Etc.

    –“The men seemed to fall silent for a moment…” This could probably be “The men fell silent for a moment.”

    –What is a warding gesture?

    –I don’t feel like the parenthetical phrase is particularly effective. “Talin wanted to learn more of these heroes, ( he had never heard of anyone living up on the misty mountain, and precious little of the Dwarves that lived beneath it, yet he knew that he was more informed than most in the town about the world outside it’s wooden walls); but his concentration had been broken, and he had failed to notice that the barkeep had noticed him.” This sentence is quite long and I feel like there’s a better way to handle this information than a parenthetical.

    –“He wanted to learn more of these heroes.” This is essentially telling us he’s interested in the heroes. Could you show that detail? (Showing vs. telling).

    –“He was unceremoniously shooed from the bar, to the uproar of all, save the two men at the table nearest where he’d been hiding. No, not the boys from town, Talin sensed; this was a different sort of sound. It reminded him of the wind rustling through the grass…” I feel like there may be a missing sentence here. The second sentence of this passage seems to assume that the sound in question has already been mentioned, but I don’t think that it has been.

    I’m hoping that the story doesn’t eventually reveal that Talin is secretly an elf or a half-elf. Or, for that matter, a prince/royalty or a prophecied hero.

    “She had a lithe grace…” Could you show this? What does she do that is graceful? I think the leap from the tree-limb is a good start.

    “yet he felt she was firmly in control of the situation.” I feel like this could probably be removed. For one thing, I think it’s implied by the fact that he’s a stuttering wreck and she’s very poised. For another, I think that it doesn’t sound like something a kid/teen would be feeling.

    “He could sense that she was appraising him somehow.” This could possibly be shown in eye movements.

    “while he lie unconscious” -> “while he lay unconscious,” I think.

    “I am E’lys, of the clan A’Ma’el, first daughter of Ewa’n Duri, humble subject of Esliah E’l…” Oof. That’s a lot of apostrophes. This article may help.

  3. mnkykingon 11 Mar 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Thanks for the insights, it’s been a while since I wrote this or even looked at it, and given that distance, I can definitely see where you’re coming from with most of these comments.

    Explanations/hollow justifications below:

    –Talin isn’t supposed to be so much the target of the bullies as he is less boisterous and of a more contemplative nature than most of the rough-and-tumble children in his community. I have some notes on this from previous drafts, and I was going to start the story by establishing this with a brief fight between him and some of the bullies when he attempts to defend a younger child, but at some point I shifted that to a later scene. It might be worth me looking at putting it back into place at the beginning, to help with establishing character more quickly and visually rather than through narrator-speak. The gist is, he’s sort of a quiet boy, but not necessarily a wimp, physically, intellectually and emotionally about the same levels as his peers. The odd thing about him to most of the villagers is his family heritage, his Grandfather being a Druid (for want of a better term). This is the only stigma that sets him apart, but it is one he feels pretty strongly.

    -I don’t think I realized when I decided to write this how important it was to grab the reader right off the bat, as your comments about the establishing sentence makes clear. I think this might be because Talin started as a character I made up for a Dungeons and Dragons game back at the dawn of time, and therefore had an assumed milieu and a built-in interested audience. A story is a mite tougher, it seems.

    –Thanks for the compliment on the name, unfortunately the character doesn’t use it often or for long once the story gets going, but it’s nice to hear. 🙂

    –I do apologize for the punctuation errors, as I say, this is still fairly rough.

    –By “warding gesture”, I meant something like “crossing oneself” in the Christian faith, as a ward against evil or bad luck. I need to make this more clear, I suppose-if I can do so without going too far into explaining the local faith, that also is for later.

    –That long parenthetical aside bothered me, too. It’s a habit I have from trying to sound like Douglas Adams sometimes. I will rework this into something more characterizing for Talin.

    –In the case of showing rather than telling Talin’s desire to learn more about the heroes he overhears mentioned, would it be showing to have him think of ways he could investigate, perhaps mentally planning a trip into the wilderness? I wanted to keep the depiction centered in the inn, where he’s hiding under the table and has this moment of his interest being piqued.

    –The transition between the flashback to the inn and Talin back in the woods trying to decide what is going on around him is a bit muddy, even though I adjusted it slightly in the version posted above. And you’re right about the sound discovery sentence missing. I’ll fix that.

    Have no fear, the story in no way reveals Talin to be any sort of lost Prince, or half-elf, or anything of the kind. He will, however, become a hero-by overcoming his own weakness, by making the right choices at the right times, and sometimes just by luck. But he’s just a human child, despite his Grandfather’s magical background.

    -About the apostrophes, I was trying to establish a couple of things with these names: the Elves are a rigorously courtly race-hence the formality, the Elven language is foreign to human english speaking ears (although it’s based somewhat on Arabic, so it’s really just a veneer to the reader), I wanted this complicated mouthful to contrast with Talin’s statement of lineage and the way most humans speak (which gets me out of having to do a Tolkien and make up individual race languages), and I have no plans to refer to any of the characters by their full names in any regular capacity. There is one other formal meeting scene with some adult elves and the leaders of the village following a heated battle, which has the same sort of formal language used briefly, but beyond that, it should be much less to handle than this. Having said that, I can probably pare the syllables down somewhat, although the Elven names I have are designed to have at least one apostrophe break.

    Thanks again for the feedback, I’ll definitely come back when I’ve got more and see what the vibe is.

  4. B. Macon 11 Mar 2010 at 8:35 pm

    “In the case of showing rather than telling Talin’s desire to learn more about the heroes he overhears mentioned, would it be showing to have him think of ways he could investigate, perhaps mentally planning a trip into the wilderness? I wanted to keep the depiction centered in the inn, where he’s hiding under the table and has this moment of his interest being piqued.” I think that having him plan ways to learn more could work. Some other things that come to mind could be that his ears perk, that he starts to day-dream or imagine about what they’re talking about, etc. If he’s REALLY interested, there are a number of ways he could show excitement.

    Hmm. I think your explanation of the apostrophes makes sense. Could I recommend having a bit more friction based on the contrast between his normality and her formality? For example, perhaps she’s bewildered that he’s so casual. (What would his ancestors think!?) Also, personally, I think that you did a pretty good job of conveying the formality with or without the apostrophes. Mentioning the clan, parent and ruler makes the apostrophes removable, I think.

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