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First Attempt, Round Two

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Old 09-09-2013, 06:43 PM
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Default First Attempt, Round Two


Based on some feedback I received, I made several changes to the excerpt that I posted earlier this week. Hopefully some of you original commenters (is that really a word?) can tell me if my changes are in line with your thoughts, or if I have moved in the complete wrong direction.

Also, I realized a bit of background on this excerpt was due, just to make it all make sense. The overall story describes Lark, a boy who can read minds and sense emotions but hasn't told anyone yet. A man (Rhorken) arrives in his village and pays his family to take him away, but he doesn't yet know where he's going or why he can't hear any of Rhorken's thoughts. The passage picks up right after Lark agrees to leave in exchange for his family's health, and describes the beginning of his journey on the road to his unknown destination.

Here you go! Enjoy! *Fingers crossed*

An hour later Rhorken and I emerged from the crowds of chattering villagers to a clearing on the north side near the river.

I noticed a sturdy cart and two large horses tied in the shade of a tree, weighted down with enough supplies to last the two of us for months. Tall and fine, one was grey with a white mane while the other was a deep, woody brown. Rhorken was smart to keep them hidden from sight; just one of them would have sold for enough coin to feed us for a lifetime.

“Go ahead and get a seat. I’ll tie on the horses and we’ll be on our way.” Rhorken waved to the back of the wagon, so I obediently followed his direction, surprised to see a girl sitting in the far corner. A tiny, dirty, skinny thing, though I probably didn’t look much better. A dark smudge across her forehead and the soil engrained deep into her skin made it clear she hadn’t been taken care of for a while.

I had seen her around the village though I couldn’t recall her name or anything else about her. She had tangled blonde hair in a bird’s nest around her head. Her clothes were worn and tattered and she didn’t have any shoes at all. It didn’t take much to see that she was scared, shaking through her whole body as she sat with her bony arms wrapped around her sharp knees pulled tight to her chest as if she was afraid she might lose them.

When she saw me near the wagon, she recoiled, watching me closely. “It’s alright. I’m Lark. I won’t hurt you.” The girl didn’t respond, but just kept staring. Hoping not to frighten her further, I sat down with my knees pulled up and my bow at my feet, leaning against the rail and preparing for a long day on the road.

“Alright you two, we’re on our way. We won’t stop again until night fall.” Without waiting for a reply Rhorken flipped the reins and the horses lurched forward. The rocky ground that covered most of southwest Madurai provided a challengingly turbulent ride and I found myself clutching the rail for most of the day, but the girl never moved. Sometimes she closed her eyes and sometimes she stared right at me, watching, evaluating.

At what appeared to be noon by the sun above us, I realized that for the second time in my life I had met a person whose thoughts and emotions I couldn’t tell in an instant. I wasn’t sure how much it bothered me, though. I could tell exactly how she felt by her posture and the shiver in her arms despite the warmth of the afternoon sun.

Rhorken tossed a bag to me and I opened it to find some hard cheese and fruit. I motioned to give most of it to the girl and she ate eagerly, clearly starved of food for some time now. It wasn’t uncommon for children to be denied food by their desperate parents. Children in Lagodon were small, weak and nearly half didn’t survive to adulthood. When she finished, she resumed her position against the rail with her eyes on me.

As we rode I tried to try think of where we were going. Clearly we were crossing the Creekmont, a fiercely wooded area that separated Lagodon from the rest of the country. I knew Rhorken was from the capital, but was that where we were headed? If so, why weren’t we headed for the trail that would take us to Greenwood Road that crossed all of Madurai?

With the heat on my left shoulder I knew we were moving north, but most of Madurai was north of my village and you had to cross the Creekmont to get most anywhere. Was Rhorken going to sell us to a family in the Andover that needed children or an inn in the Highlands that wanted new laborers? Was that how he made his money? And what did he mean ‘I’m a Tracer’?

For the first time in a long time I found that I had complete and total silence around me even when there were others present. My thoughts were my own and I could take the day to think about what had happened without trying to push the jumbled thoughts of the villagers or the despairing prayers of my father out of my head. It was almost nice.

Maybe that’s why I like the hunt. It was a toss-up between the independence of relying only on myself and the exhilaration of being able to move silently and kill animals that had no idea they were even being watched. Either way, I was made to be a hunter.

As the sun began to set the evening chill set in and Rhorken showed no sign of any intention to make camp. I hadn’t thought about it before, but ‘not stopping until nightfall’ didn’t necessarily mean we would. In the crisp autumn air the small girl shook more than ever, her skin covered in gooseprickles and her lips taking on a pale blue hue.

“Would you like my jacket?” I asked when I couldn’t take the look of her misery anymore. I didn’t really care to give it up even though it didn’t offer much protection against the chill or the wind, but it was better than nothing. The girl had half my weight and would fall sick from the cold long before I did. It was the least I could do for her considering how difficult her life had been up to now. Not surprisingly, she just stared back blankly.

Understanding that she wouldn’t speak to me, I carefully stood in a crouch and made my way along the jarring cart rail to where she sat with worried, fearful eyes. “Don’t worry, I won’t harm you.”

She was too cold to argue as I sat next to her and wrapped an arm around her stiff shoulders. How could someone let this tiny, frail thing in Rhorken’s care? She looked like she wasn’t fit to lift a loaf of bread much less survive a journey in the tremulous supplies cart.

Sitting next to her I realized that she was even younger than me, though it looked as though her life had been no easier. What had happened to this poor thing? Despite myself I found that I was angry at whoever would let this happen to her. She deserved to be dressed in warm clothes and sitting in front of a fire at this time of night.

Minutes later I noticed that she had softened to my touch, no longer a bony piece of wood beneath my arm. Her right shoulder began to sink into my side and before long she was completely pressed against my chest, shivering from the cold. Eventually I moved to wrap my light jacket around her to shield her as best I could. I had never had a sister or any friends to speak of, but I felt so immediately and strongly protective of this small girl, I wondered what I was like to have others to who looked to you to take care of them, others who would perish without you.

Finally, several hours after dusk, the cart came to a stop in a grove of tall pine trees. I thought maybe the girl had fallen asleep, but as soon as I moved to wake her I felt her hands clutch at the thin fabric of my shirt, a silent plea to stay with her.

I had never seen a person so frightened in all my short life. I desperately wanted to sit and protect her as long as she needed me, but the chill in the air was closing in. Without a fire and some warm furs we would be frozen through by morning.

Her small lean fingers slowly released my shirt as she leaned back against the rail of the cart and closed her eyes. I jumped up quickly and set to help Rhorken find wood and make camp, knowing the sooner I was finished, the sooner I could come back for her.

“What do you need help with?” I asked as I neared the front of the cart where Rhorken was untying the horses.

“Can you manage catching something to eat in the dark?” With as much moonlight as there was on this night, I could catch anything. As I moved to go, I remembered the girl.

“What about her?”

“I’ll keep an eye out. Go on.”

I grabbed the quiver and bow from the back of the cart and moved to tell the girl I would be back soon, but she sat with her eyes closed and I thought she had probably fallen asleep.

Excitedly I ran into the woods of the Creekmont enjoying my new sense of freedom. For the last few weeks I had been a prisoner in my house to ease my father’s fears about the sickness. Even before that he had never let me hunt at night or alone, though that didn’t necessarily stop me from doing it.

The density of the trees in these woods added to my excitement. They were taller, thicker and closer together and the ground was completely covered with pine needles and flat elm leaves. There was large game here and the trails were easy to follow compared to the solid rock that surrounded most of Lagodon. I felt more at home here in the forest than I had in a long time. I could sense when animals were near and which way they were going, though I hardly needed it. I would have found them with my tracking skills alone.

It wasn’t long before I sensed a hog and began to move towards it. As I caught it in line with my arrow, I had second thoughts about killing it. I was too far out from our camp, I would never be able to carry it back and even then I didn’t know if Rhorken packed any salt. I lowered my bow and switched my focus to smaller game.

As I moved my boots quietly across the leaf litter, it occurred to me that I could leave. I could run home, back to my parents, back to my village. My parents would be there, my mother would live because of the coins Rhorken had paid. I was plenty capable of handling myself and we were only a few days journey on foot. Why didn’t I just go? What was keeping me here?

I knew it was the girl. I couldn’t leave her alone with Rhorken. She was too little and too frightened and somehow I had made her feel a little less scared. My desire to protect her was inexplicable, but strong nonetheless. I would stay for her, and I would hunt tonight for her.

Back at camp, I found Rhorken had unloaded three sleeping pads and had collected a small pile of limbs for fueling the already raging fire. I set my three rabbits down and began to clean the first with the knife on my hip.

Burying the blade in the rabbit’s flesh, I made a cut up along its torso and pulled back the skin. Yanking the pelt off I set it to the side so it could be used later. The girl would need more than her tattered rags if she was to spend more than a few nights out here. Never waste.

“You’re quite a skilled hunter.” Rhorken commented, but I didn’t know if he was referring my ease of cleaning the carcass or the pile of fresh rabbits still at my feet.

“My father taught me.” As I finished the rabbit, I found a thin limb from Rhorken’s pile and laid the meat over the flames. It was then I realized that Rhorken was alone.

“Where is she?” I asked tensely. If anything happened to her-

My shoulders pressed back and my fists tightened, prepared for whatever action I might need to take in the next few seconds.

“Still on the cart, boy. Calm down. She refused to get down and I don’t have the energy to fight a child at this time of night.”

Pulling out my knife rag and wiping the blood from my hands, I hurried over to find her sitting just as before, eyes closed and head leaned against the rail. It surprised me how relieved I was that she was there unharmed. She must have heard me come up because her eyes fluttered open as she stood and walked to the back of the cart before jumping down.

Standing next to me she barely came up to my shoulder and it was amazing she was up at all considering her narrow legs and emaciated ankles.

“Come, there’s a fire and some rabbit.” I caught them for you.




Thanks for reading (again)!

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Old 09-10-2013, 01:38 AM
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MUCH better, the storyline really captures without the confusion of the original piece. I found myself getting lost in the plot more this time around.

the only critique I can offer is a lack of commas in some places and a couple of repeated words.

where we were headed? If so, why weren’t we headed for the trail that
and
My thoughts were my own and I could take the day to think about what had happened without trying to push the jumbled thoughts
great rewrite. well done
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Old 09-10-2013, 04:57 AM
Andy Mitchell (Offline)
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I have read the first draft and now I've seen both. I like this one a bit better as it gives me to escape from the real world.

The voice comes loud and clear this time. I wasn't so confused.

Maybe you needed a few commas but on the whole, it's a lot better.

I like the plot and I went somewhere with the characters.

Good rewrite.
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Old 09-10-2013, 06:22 PM
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Thanks so much you two! I'll continue combing through to get all the last little sticklers, but you have helped me immensely in terms of getting started in the right direction. I owe you!
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Old 09-11-2013, 03:38 AM
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Originally Posted by RS McCoy View Post
I noticed a sturdy cart and two large horses tied in the shade of a tree, weighted down with enough supplies to last the two of us for months. Tall and fine, one was grey with a white mane while the other was a deep, woody brown. Rhorken was smart to keep them hidden from sight; just one of them would have sold for enough coin to feed us for a lifetime.
You don't need things like I noticed. Under the shade of a tree were tied two large horses and a cart or A cart and two large horses were tied in the shade of a tree. Are enough. As readers we know he noticed.

Also what was tall and fine? The tree or the horses? Just take it out and the description works without being ambiguous.


“Go ahead and get a seat. I’ll tie on the horses and we’ll be on our way.” Rhorken waved to the back of the wagon, so I obediently followed his direction, surprised to see a girl sitting in the far corner.
The wording here is odd and this is a very long sentence.

Tie on the horses? -- untie maybe?

"Go ahead, get a seat." (with dialogue look for ways to keep the wording simple and it will feel more natural) Do we need the we'll be on our way for example? The exception is when you want your character to be more wordy.

Rhorken waved to the back of the wagon. I followed his direction. Sitting in the far corner of the cart was a girl. (just intended as an example with shorter sentences) - the Bookshelf Muse has an emotion thesaurus it's a useful resource for body language. Instead of saying he was surprised find a way to tell us what he did that indicated it. Did he start, his eyes open a little etc?


I probably didn’t look much better.
If this isn't the beginning just a short why he doesn't look better would be nice. Even just "After recent events" would just give an understanding.


I had seen her around the village though I couldn’t recall her name or anything else about her. She had tangled blonde hair in a bird’s nest around her head.
Tangled and bird's nest say the same thing. She wore her blonde hair in a bird's nest round her head. Would be enough. Readers don't need information duplicated like this.

When she saw me near the wagon, she recoiled, watching me closely. “It’s alright. I’m Lark. I won’t hurt you.”
It wasn't 100% clear who said this. Whether it was Lark or the girl (as we don't know who Lark is yet. So either introduce him earlier or use a tag. Rhorken could say 'lo Lark.) Also this is another area where you could consider cutting words. "I'm Lark. I won't hurt you." Is snappier.

My children want lunch so I can't finish this but I hope it is helpful.
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Old 09-11-2013, 05:48 PM
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Old 09-11-2013, 07:12 PM
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Loveless-

As always you are hopelessly right on nearly all counts. I think some of the issues were questions or misconceptions that would be explained by reading more than just this passage. On others, they are spot on.

The point about the cart having so much food, then later having to hunt. I've read this a thousand times and still hadn't noticed the discrepancy. Maybe the cart should just not have any food.

For the skinny boy considering attacking a huge, grown man, he's fourteen and thinks a person he cares about is being threatened. (I spend all day with teenagers so I'm just going to say, take my word on this one).

In reality, I had an itemized reply ready to go and addressed each of your comments in turn, but of course my bad, bad finger closed the window before I was done and I just don't have it in me to relive that again. Please know that I will take all your comments into serious consideration, as usual.

Thank you!
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Old 09-11-2013, 07:24 PM
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Originally Posted by RS McCoy View Post
Loveless-

As always you are hopelessly right on nearly all counts. I think some of the issues were questions or misconceptions that would be explained by reading more than just this passage. On others, they are spot on.

The point about the cart having so much food, then later having to hunt. I've read this a thousand times and still hadn't noticed the discrepancy. Maybe the cart should just not have any food.

For the skinny boy considering attacking a huge, grown man, he's fourteen and thinks a person he cares about is being threatened. (I spend all day with teenagers so I'm just going to say, take my word on this one).

In reality, I had an itemized reply ready to go and addressed each of your comments in turn, but of course my bad, bad finger closed the window before I was done and I just don't have it in me to relive that again. Please know that I will take all your comments into serious consideration, as usual.

Thank you!
Yeah, no problem. I've had way to many of those accidental page closes when typing out large responses to things. It's a very soul crushing experience.

As for my comment with the MC preparing to attack Rhorken... it's not that I didn't find it believable, as far as young people being hostile when protecting a loved one can go... however, I still find his inexplicable caring for the girl to be sudden and ... well, inexplicable. I understand it on some hopelessly romantic level, but I just don't feel on a realistic level that he'd be willing to risk his life for a girl he just met (and had virtually no interaction with).

Now, that doesn't make the way you're writing it wrong by any means... it just means that I'm having a harder time swallowing his thoughts/feelings/actions when regarding this instantaneous guardianship.


But overall, I can see this becoming an engaging read once the tweaks are ironed out.
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Old 09-12-2013, 01:58 AM
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Beautifully written
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