Portion of my short story.

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Portion of my short story.

Postby Deadmandrinking » Thu Nov 29, 2007 8:46 pm

Hey all. This is the first segment of a short story I'm very close to completing. I'd appreciate comments on style, pace etc. if possible.
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Postby Deadmandrinking » Thu Nov 29, 2007 8:48 pm

(Okay here it is. I admit the main character is a little inspired by Jimmy the Hand from the Fiest Novels - but he can't be the first young thief ever to appear in a fantasy story can he? :D And he is different, especially as the story develops in segments I haven't shown yet)

Short story © November 2007, O.D.K.

The crescent moon was engulfed in dark clouds. A perfect overcast for business. Eldrik thanked the Gods whom had for so long rewarded him despite his constant straying from their teachings. Whatever they had planned for him, it made no pious sense, but their game had so far had made him wealthier than any gutter-born could ever hope for. He scooped up his leather pouch of lockpicks and his dagger, drawing the hood of his black woolen cloak over his head before he stepped out into the streets.

The hours of later night approached.

Eldrik's first victim lived near the docks, a moderately wealthy merchant whom tried to make himself appear more so by decorating his rented house with stain-glass windows and bronze-handled doors. He had been robbed before. The doors had been secured with heavy, expensive locks. But the merchant was otherwise a fool with his money and he had succumbed to his desires in the stead of servants who could keep watch at night. The loud, forced yet convincing feminine screams from his bedroom concealed Eldrik's clangor as he made short work of the locks and crept into the house. Three silver necklaces, a pouch of fourteen crowns and four gold rings found their way into the folds of his shirt.


The abode of Eldrik's second victim was a long-abandoned tavern in a dim-lit, cavernous street that bordered the craftsman's quarter and poor quarter. He was a dealer in goods from both sides. Two giant bodyguards flanked his door, huddled in their heavy cloaks, helmed heads down to shield their faces from the chill wind that whistled through the streets. Eldrik could see the hilts of broadswords at their belts and their large hands not far from them. But he knew they would do the lackeys no good.

The paper pouch landed dead before the bodyguards, splitting on the cobblestones. The red fumes that seeped from it carried a strong scent, visible even in the darkness. It was a potent compound, almost instantly effective, the product of a prized alchemist and well worth the price that almost tipped the scales between Eldrik's means and profit. The two lackeys slowly slid to the ground, losing themselves in a deep sleep.
Another bodyguard inside had already saved Eldrik the trouble of his disposal, face down on a table, snoring into spilled wine. Eldrik slowly crept past him, but did not fear much waking the man. He had little chance of making any noise louder than the thumping of a bed in use from upstairs. The locks on the store-room door fell to his feet.

The early hours of the morning.

Eldrik's final victim lived in an intentionally humble house on the other side of the craftsman's quarter. Eldrik had been saving this one till last, in the hope that his last heists would have emboldened him. The owner of this house was a magician. Eldrik would have left him alone, be it not for am enticing commission.

The door to the house was unguarded and unlocked, which filled Eldrik with no relief. He chose the window to make his entrance. The walls of upstairs quarters were lined with bookshelves, dog-eared tomes and unfurled scrolls cluttering the tables. Eldrik could hear low snoring from the bedroom beyond, a lighter murmuring proving that even a wizard sought company on cold, lonely nights.

The item Eldrik had been commissioned to retrieve was not difficult to find, the description given to him of it detailed and the it's security lax evidently in the magician' s hope his reputation would be enough.

But Eldrik was wrong.

The scream was loud, louder than he had ever heard before. It tore through his ears, causing him to fall to the floor cradling them. For minutes that seemed like hours, he writhed, struggling to free himself from the otherworldly din.

Finally, silence reigned. Eldrik looked up to see the wizard, naked, brows that carried the only hair on his body furrowed. The wizard closed his eyes and muttered in a strange language.

Gripped with fear, Eldrik crawled backward. He struggled for the dagger at his belt, even though he knew it was useless now. The magician's incantation grew louder, almost vibrating the room. Eldrik closed his eyes, waiting for the inevitable hand of death...


Eldrik opened his eyes. He was alive. The wizard stared at the ceiling, cataracts glistening, mouth open wide as blood slowly trickled from his lips. He slumped forward to his knees, then fell flat on the floor with a heavy thump. Where he stood, a young woman, also naked, clasped her hand over her mouth in fear, dropping a bloodied dagger.


Eldrik clambered to his feet. The young woman let out a cry as he gripped her arm and pulled her into the bedroom, collecting her clothes from where they had been tossed on the floor.

“Get dressed!”

“Eldrik, I - ”

“Polena! Get dressed!” Eldrik's tone left no room for argument.

The woman called Polena hurriedly dressed herself, sobbing. Eldrik raced into the rooms where the magician lay dead, retrieving the item. Out the window, he could see several lanterns had been lit in the neighboring houses. The watch could not be far behind.

“I didn't mean to kill him.” Polena wept loudly, “I only meant to threaten him, keep him still so you could knock the lights out of him. But I...I just lost it. He made me so angry, Eldrik, so scared. He was worse than that merchant, worse than that disgusting man in the old tavern who let his friends join in. The things he made me say, wanted me to do...”

“Don't worry about it.” Eldrik grunted.

“But I killed him, Eldrik.” Polena wailed as Eldrik dragged her out of the room, “I killed him!”

“Damn good you did too.” Eldrik said, “Maybe now you'll understand why my end of this work is so difficult.”

The torches of the watch illuminated the streets and alleys around the house. By the time they broke down the door and found the wizard's body, Eldrik and Polena were long gone.
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Postby admin » Fri Nov 30, 2007 8:45 am

What you've written is fun but, as you guess, too much like other stories.

My main suggestion is to pay closer attention to what you write. For example, you wrote "The crescent moon was engulfed in dark clouds." If your character can't see the moon, why is he aware that it is a crescent moon? Yes, he might have noticed from the night before, but if your POV character has no reason to think about something, telling it to the reader distances the reader from the character. Second, the word "engulfed" suggests the clouds are surrounding the moon, behind it as well as in front of it. "A perfect overcast for business." is a sentence fragment. You can get away with sentence fragments, but they can also cause the reader to stumble. A comma before this phrase would be better than a new sentence. "Eldrik thanked the Gods whom had for so long rewarded him despite his constant straying from their teachings." Don't use "whom" unless you are sure how to use it. Here, even though "Gods" is a direct object, "whom" is the subject of the verb "rewarded" and should be "who". I know I'm sounding like an English teacher, but an editor will reject a story for poor grammar faster than for any other reason.

Later on, Eldrik observes that the magician's door is unlocked. How does he know that, since he doesn't try the door, but goes in through the window?

Well, you get the idea. You may write your first draft in a white heat, but then you should rewrite looking for anything that is going to cause the reader to stop reading. There are about ten times as many published books out there than any one person can read, so you need to compete with not just the published writers, but with the top ten percent of the published writers, in order to sell. It's hard.

Good luck.
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Postby Deadmandrinking » Fri Nov 30, 2007 10:39 pm

Thanks a heap admin, you're just what I needed, actual criticism! :)

Points observed and I'll act upon them. You're right, this was written in almost one short burst. Unfortunatley for me, grammar is not my forte. I try to keep it simple, but I still have some very bad habits.
I'll fix the introductory sentence. The reason I wrote it was because, being an avid (good) movie fan, I tend to imagine my stories with dramatic visuals - and everyone knows the best way to start a story about crime by night is to show the moon which cues evil music ;)
With the sentence fragment thing, I often end up doing that intentionally, for pace purposes (I like fast-moving stories, so I should really write them), but I've had another look and I can easily fix this "Dark clouds blanketed the night sky, a perfect overcast for business.'
With the story itself - I'm not too concerned about it being not that original. It's more a test to see if I can write in the genre I want.

Thanks again :)
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Re: Portion of my short story.

Postby aeriph » Sun Sep 21, 2008 1:06 pm

This was a good read, and a lot more enjoyable than a lot of user-posted fiction you see on forums. This is what I thought about it:

Good points:
* "A perfect overcast for business" - whilst this is a fragment, I thought it worked well and conveyed a lot very quickly, which is ideal in the opening sentences of a story.

* The timings used to break up the story (e.g. "midnight") added to its night-time precision stealth theme. Breaking up any text into concise sections is usually a good idea.

* The idea of Eldrik and Polena as a team was quite interesting, considering their very different roles. The blatant sexism of it could put some readers off, but it does make Eldrik an anti-hero which adds another layer to the story.

Things to improve:
* I did at first wonder why all of his victims were having loud sex as it seemed a bit gratuitous, but all was revealed later, so to speak. You might want to consider hinting at this a little earlier.

* "The woman called Polena..." You don't need "the woman called" - the reader knows who Polena is as Eldrik has just addressed her by name.

* Eldrik's character is a little bit flat - he's obviously got some issues what with the sexism, illegal profession and strained relationship with his gods, but this isn't really developed or used at all in the story. A bit of emotion mixed into the action would be good.

* Eldrik is bordering on being a Mary Sue - that is, the world and other characters seem to revolve around him, which makes the story less believable. Let him encounter more problems. This is one of the most basic points in writing fiction - throw everything you've got at your characters and see how they take it.

Minor errors
* "Gods whom had helped him" should be "Gods who had helped him"

* "a wealthy merchant whom tried" again should be "a wealthy merchant who tried". A good way to remember this is to think of the difference between "he" and "him". When "he" makes sense in place of the phrase, use "who". When "him" makes sense in place of the phrase, use "whom". I.e. "he tried" makes sense but "him tried" doesn't, so the correct version is "a wealthy merchant who tried".

* typo: "had so far had made him"

* "be it not for" should be "were it not for" (you were correct to use the subjunctive, but it should have been in the past tense)
* typo: "am enticing commission"

* "filled Eldrik with no relief" doesn't really make sense. Imagine "I filled the glass with no water" - it sounds like some sort of party trick. Either use something like "filled Eldrik with apprehension/dismay/fear etc." or "did not inspire any relief in Eldrik"

* typo: "...the description given to him of it detailed and the it's security lax" (if you delete "the" be sure to correct "it's" to "its")

* "Gods" - Personally I don't think you need to capitalise this as it is not a proper noun in this case. This is debatable though, and you could of course argue that in Eldrik's culture they capitalise it (presuming they use a writing system like ours, of course)
Kind regards,
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