Hello to all, and thanks to today’s anonymous author for this excerpt from a fantasy novel-in-progress.
Please take a few moments to read the excerpt and leave some feedback in the comment section. Potential prompts are listed below if you get stuck.
(Please note: This excerpt is not taken from the opening of the novel, so keep that in mind when you’re giving feedback.)
The glow on the horizon flared suddenly to reveal a colossal wave of what looked to be pure fire, heaving its way toward the spot where they stood.
The woman’s song crescendoed. She flung her right hand over her shoulder, and in one fluid motion, she wrenched a long, gleaming blade from the sheath at her back. It burned white-hot like a star in the night, illuminating the entire area—
There was a loud crack and Talon was shocked to see that she had broken the sword in two. In one hand, she now held the blade, its light significantly diminished; while in the other, she grasped the plain, severed hilt.
“What are you doing?! MOVE!” he shouted. But she did not respond and the wave was fast-approaching.
He trudged toward the place were she stood atop the water, brandishing her useless weapon. Suddenly, he was halted where he stood as the weight in the air intensified. The water encased his legs holding him fast. He looked on with a familiar sense of horror and helplessness as the wave swelled higher, now mountainous in size, roaring like thunder. It was about to sweep over them.
Still, the woman sang, and he could barely discern her voice over the clamor. She clenched the blade in her hand, the sharp edge cutting into her skin. Blood trickled down onto her feet. Talon closed his eyes just as the woman’s song rose to an audible climax and the wave’s intense heat seared his skin—
Talon screamed. His eyes wrenched open and blinding light filled his vision. Scorching heat washed over his body as he suddenly realized that his vivid nightmare had brought him face to face with the embers of the campfire.
Potential Feedback Prompts
When you respond, you might consider:
- your immediate reactions
- likes and dislikes
- anything that seems unclear
- language issues
- point of view
- general encouragement
Join the discussion
The story drew me in as the action began right away. I was curious immediately, good action scene, was not confusing to me, since I read it slowly. Direct, not fluffy, makes me want to know who this woman is, that it was a dream made sense as i finished reading. Kudos!
Great use of description without overdoing it. I am a little confused by the last paragraph and what actually happened. I think you did a great job maintaining a consistent point of view. I love fantasy, so I think this is a great excerpt.
I thought this was well written. Good description. Gripping.
I was disappointed to find that it was a dream, but if I had been reading along and knew he was dreaming, I wouldn’t have been bothered. It was just that I didn’t know it was a dream, so I felt cheated when I discovered that.
You use “suddenly” three times in this short section. You can let go of the the first and third usage of that word without losing anything.
“His eyes wrenched open” is a little awkward–it sounds like they are acting on their own, without direction from his brain. I know he’s asleep, but it would still be worth reworking this, I think.
Embers don’t have faces, so it’s hard to come face to face with a campfire. Maybe you can rework that.
What is the purpose of the first em dash? You can put a period there.
You have some comma issues.
Don’t use double end punctuation (?!) and don’t use caps (MOVE) to emphasize words.
If he’s frantic to make her move, why does he trudge? Why not run? Is it hard to move through the water? If so, make that clear.
“Still, the woman sang, and he could barely…” should read, “but he could barely…” because he is contrasting her voice with the roar of the wave.
These are all nit-picky, fine points. I really enjoyed this piece. The description put me there, the danger was gripping, and the character emotions felt real.
Andrew Ainsworth says
I am IN LOVE with em dashes, and I tend to use them for dramatic cuts. I think of them like interruption cues almost. I’ve read several stories that make use of them like this and they tend to flow very quickly.
Agreed, I didn’t even realize that I had used “suddenly” three times–eek!
Duly noted about the comma confusion there.
Thanks for all the great advice!
I love this piece. Of course, I love fantasy anyway . I likie the action though there are some words that don’t connect with what’s going on. The word “trudge’ doesn’t fit the frantic nature of the scence. I, too, was a little disappointed that it turned out tobe a nightmare, but to me that showshow well you use words and phrasing to pull me into it. Can’t wait to see more!
Love and Light,
Hey, thank you so much for sharing your work with us, and sorry it’s taken me so long to write my response. Things have been a bit hectic around here!
I am definitely not an authority on fantasy. In fact, I can’t claim to have read any genre fantasy novels–well–probably ever! So, I’m not sure how this stacks up against the average fantasy style of writing.
That said, I think you’re definitely on the right track. Your writing is descriptive and well-paced.
One commenter mentioned your em dashes. I love em dashes and use them frequently but I haven’t seen them used in the way you’ve used them except in poetry, perhaps. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re incorrect. I would just make sure you have a good reason for using them.
I’m not crazy about the whole dream thing–not just in this piece, but in general. It kind of cheats your reader into thinking something is happening when it isn’t really. I prefer to know up-front if a character is dreaming, but maybe you make this clear before this particular excerpt begins.
I agree with another commenter’s mention of the word ‘trudge.’ It doesn’t seem to quite fit considering the urgency of the situation.
The only thing I might also suggest is that you use a lot of big descriptive words like ‘heaving,’ ‘gleaming,’ ‘illuminating,’ ‘brandishing,’ ‘blinding,’ ‘scorching,’ etc. and it seems to be a bit overkill to me. I’d prefer to see plainer language used in conjunction with your descriptive language so the important images stand out.
Andrew Ainsworth says
Thanks Suzannah. I appreciate everything you update us on here. This blog is stupendous and I read it every few days.
This isn’t the best example, but J.K. Rowling (author of the Harry Potter series) uses em dashes in this way. I guess we’ll just have to see what my future editor thinks haha
Do you have any suggestions as to which words I could use to make the imagery a bit plainer? If it’s distracting, I would rather downgrade and stay true to the story, than be too flowery and lose my readers.
Also, I am in agreement with the word “trudge” getting nixed, as it does seem to conflict with the action in this scene.
In terms of the dream, it is made clear a few paragraphs prior to this excerpt that he is dreaming. I don’t want the reader to feel cheated, either. I want them to be drawn into the piece. Really, the dreams here function more as symbolic premonitions – not random red herrings.
On a final note, what are your thoughts on double punctuation? Not necessary? I don’t really know what the rule is. I studied English in college, but I was never really told we couldn’t use them.
Thanks again. The advice has been invaluable. Glad everyone seems to enjoy it. I actually just finished this book and am currently looking for a literary agent, while my friend (another fellow English grad) edits it.
I’m not against any of the words I listed above as examples, so I won’t make specific suggestions. I’m just saying that so many big images on one page seems a bit much to me. But remember, I don’t read fantasy, so it may be that heavy description is quite acceptable in your genre.
As for double punctuation, I assume you mean the “?!” you used in your dialogue. As far as I know, it’s only permissible in highly informal writing (and maybe not even then). I would cut out the exclamation mark and let the prose show the speaker’s urgency, instead.
Best of luck with finding an agent!
Walter Dinjos says
It’s a nice piece, although I cannot deny that realizing the whole thing was a dream left me disappointed.
You should replace the dashes with periods, as the sentences and actions ended well. There was no interruption. Or maybe you should remove the words (that is a word each) behind the dashes if you desperately want to present the NEEDLESS interruption.