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9/25/2014 c2 m. b. whitlock
The Mimic of the King Chapter 2 re-review

So, again, like the first chapter, it appears you've done quite a bit of tightening and consolidations and cutting. Good work. This reads really smoothly and moves fast. I like it. I don't have a whole lot of suggestions. For the most part you appear to have this figured out just fine. :)
Here are some pretty nitpicky notes. Take them for what you will. ;)

"Ruining a perfectly good friendship with that!"
With 'that'? I am confused here as to what Saffron is talking about. Perhaps, 'like that' might work a little better… ?

Like this, especially your use of 'the Abyss', which implies that the Abyss is this world's hell:
""Stupid, stupid, stupid!" she grumbled, "Why in the Abyss did he propose to me?""

Like this description but I think your use of pathetic fallacy and passive voice is a tad excessive and lessens the impact of the passage some:
"Hurrying on, her gaze darted around for unseen eyes. Every twig cracking her leather boots or swirling breeze rustling her buckskin coat and dark-green tunic sounded deafening."
Perhaps consider some changes like, 'Twigs cracked under her boots' we don't need to know they're leather btw, 'her buckskin coat rustled in the swirling wind' I would also lose the 'dark-green tunic'. Too much wardrobe I think for this part. I'd cut to just to the essentials. :)

Maybe 'light' woolen pants?:
"Now the air had chilled and her woolen pants felt too thin." Or make them linen or something. Woolen sounds warm!

Really good scene, I like Saffron's mother's abruptness:
""Where were you?" Her mother snapped, voice cracking. Her flat nostrils flared and a crease in her wide forehead deepened."

Good ending to this scene, really sets up the violence that follows in the next part well:
"Slowly, her mother let ago and her hand fell away. "Before dark."

"Before dark," Saffron agreed and took off."
Nice!

I also really like the way you portray Saffron's thought processes here but I would break up this sentence and get rid of the 'sure's:
"She followed them, sure they belonged to Tohm, sure he had been returning home and left the path at this point, Tohm's feet led her deep into the woods, becoming a trail of snapped branches and disturbed leaves, and finally ended at the Swurgel River's shoreline with one last footprint embedded in the black mud, a mark mostly devoured by the grey-green water."

I think this is cool, this reference to a fairytale in Saffron's culture that we, the readers, don't know (I'm assuming you made this up):
"Saffron felt like Erza from the fairytale and that she was being led by breadcrumbs to the Warlock's Lair."
If you did invent this, I really like how you took elements from well known fairytales in our world but then inverted them – having breadcrumbs like in Hansel and Gretel lead Erza *into* a dangerous situation with a warlock, instead of a failed method of escape from a witch.

"After setting her wide-brim hat aside on a fern and her staff against the tree,"

"In a heartbeat, she was back to the shore, with her hat and staff snatched up,"
Hmm… These bits about the hat and the staff seem a little extraneous to me. Maybe just mention the staff…? Is it that important that she takes off the hat to climb the tree and then puts it on again? Is the hat important? If it is, can she get her hat later?

Might want to keep this description a little simpler here:
"She gripped its rocks, bulging out of *mulch*, dirt, and snarled webs of roots, and reached the top, the terrain flattening out."
I'd cut out 'mulch'. I don't think mulch is naturally occurring stuff anyway. You have to make mulch and people use it to keep trees and plants warm in the winter and dry out flower beds and stuff. Plus I think the section reads better if you keep it quick and simple, like 'She gripped the rocks that bulged out of the snarled roots and climbed to the plateau at the top.'

Maybe develop a bit more and *tell* less here, *show* us quick images of the buck:
"This would be her first human kill. Images of the young buck, her first animal kill, flashed in her head."

Really like most of this scene but things slow down a bit here with 'Papa's' overly formal speech:
""Hurry and get Tohm down! My wound is too severe. I've been trying to think how to help him." His adam's apple moved up and down as he spoke. "Your brother is dying.""
Perhaps go with more essential phrases, desperate ones from a person with few breaths left to speak. Suggestion, 'Get Tohm! I can't! I'm hurt too bad… but you can, you can help him.' Just suggestions. :)

"He stirred and tilted his head back, staring up with brown eyes that held a glazed, far-off look. The nostrils flared on his snub-nose. Freckles peppering his forehead stood out starkly on his chilled skin."
I wouldn't bother with the color of his eyes and freckles standing out and all, slows things down I think.

Like this part:
"His blue lips moved, stifled by a gag of black cloth, some drool leaked down over his chin."

Like the reveal at the end. I like how you foreshadowed it earlier with this:
""I don't know," her Papa said, his gray eyes held a hard look she'd never seen in them before. They almost appeared to glint in the disappearing light."

Cool stuff. :)

vb,

mbw
9/18/2014 c3 nightfuries
Sorry I'm so late reviewing! Been quite busy lately, but I had the time to read this now! I love this chapter a lot, but first off, some little grammar things:

"she stared above at shadow-infested rafters, a silk cobweb undulated" - You've got a run-on sentence here. Change the comma to a period or semicolon

"by their iron tripod" - This word sounds too modern to me to belong in your story. I get that "tripod" doesn't just mean like, a camera tripod, but if feels very technical and jarring in this description. I'd suggest changing the word

"faces emerged, images, one was" - Another run-on sentence

"Saffron stiffened, her face going crimson, she'd been caught again" - Run-on sentence

"Far below she could shouting and screams" - Think you're missing a word here

"She lifted an arm stunned by the" - Comma after "arm"

"he intoned, his form shimmering, wavering, he transformed" - Run-on sentence

"scarlet-threading woven as flamed" - Do you mean "flame"?

Wow, what a crazy chapter! Very mysterious - I don't know what's a dream or a memory and I definitely want to read on to find out! Seems like Saffron has some sort of past lives thing going on; it's giving me a distinct Legend of Zelda feel, which is awesome :D This chapter definitely kept me hooked throughout; the only small comment I have is that you might want to watch going overboard on the descriptions. They can get a little lengthy (the one comparing her mother's voice to the jam she sometimes makes was a bit unnecessary) or they contain detail that really doesn't have to be present (knowing her sister has a diamond-shaped face doesn't help me picture her any better - on the contrary, it kind of makes me picture this weird, creepy character with a literally diamond-shaped head). So I'd personally cut down on those. The action in this chapter was perfect though, and like I said, I can't wait to read on!
9/4/2014 c1 Guest
The Mimic of the King Chapter 1 re-review

I just re-read my initial review of this chapter. It looks like you've done a lot to smooth out and tighten this. I think the language and the dialogue, for the most part, flows better and reads really well. There are two main suggestions I'd like to put out there before I get into specific notes.

The first is to cut out the first paragraph up to the first part of the first sentence of the second paragraph. Basically cut everything including "One night, after a year had passed," and just start with:
'She woke to the tap-tap-tap of rain falling on the thatch roof above her.'
This is such a good opening sentence and this way the narrative voice of the whole thing will be consistent. The third person omniscient voice of the first paragraph stands out to me from the narrative voice of the rest of the text and the aphorism conveyed doesn't really seem all that relevant to me.

Also, I don't understand the specific time periods referred to here: ""One night, after a year had passed,"" A year passed after what? After Drogen promised "one day you'll remember your past"? Why not have this night be the moment he promises this because this memory is already a crucial one, right? This is the night Saffron first truly understands she is different. Just put that line of dialogue in Drogen's mouth somewhere in this scene and you will be able to address the mystery surrounding her 'real' parents in a way that will seem more natural and have more impact I believe. This will also allow your readers to understand better why Saffron recalls this moment from her past over others while under Tyroth's drugs. Pile it on I say. Even if all these issues weren't 'in realty' all addressed by Drogen that night, this is a partially invented/manipulated memory anyway (perhaps by Tyroth telepathically) so why not make it as resonant and existential as you can?

The second suggestion is to give us more information about the person Tyroth wants Saffron to impersonate. I'll get into this further in the notes below.

Okay, notes:

Like this description:
"With a heavy sigh, Saffron crawled out from under the fur blankets and placed her bare feet on the cold floorboards, warped by years of footsteps."

I'd like to know what her adopted mother's name is as well as her adopted dad. It seems a little odd to not know her name too.

Like this dialogue:
"She started to laugh and then trailed off. "Truly? You?"

"Is that so surprising?"

"Yes! Your Papa! You can't make mistakes," she explained.

He raised one of his thick eyebrows. "I can't?""

Not sure about the word 'share' here:
""Why? She'll just tell me I have to try harder. And why should I share with her?" She never shares with me." Using 'share' this way sounds really contemporary to me and unlike a child. Btw how old is saffron supposed to be here? I'd like to get an idea. :)

Found a 'Berworld'!:
"Wiping away tears, Saffron sniffled, "I saw *Berworld*."" I think you said you were going to stick with the spelling 'Berwold' instead…?

""I don't want to heal as I do. I want to be like you and Berwold. I want my history written on my body."" The last line doesn't sound like a child to me. I think you will get the same message across if you cut it.

Maybe instead have Saffron ask why she is different and whether her healing thing is part of her monsterness. Suggestion, 'Why don't I have scars? Like you and Berwold?' She could bring up a wound she had that healed up miraculously and ask why she was made this way. Then Drogen could promise one day she would understand and you could work in the "one day you'll remember your past" bit.

""But they show your past,"" This line doesn't work that well for me either. Again, I just can't imagine a child saying this or even thinking this way.

I have a feeling Drogen's response ""The real wounds," he said, fading from sight. She reached to hold onto him, but her hand went through. "Are those in here," he tapped a forefinger against his chest, "And those are inflicted by those whom we love most."" is really important thematically but he can still say that stuff even if you cut the "But they show your past" line. Drogen could reassure Saffron that she really isn't different from him, she doesn't show her wounds but she gets hurt just the same… Just suggestions :)

Like the way the memory dissolves:
"Thick shadows slithered over them, devouring the room with darkness. Jumping to her feet, she cried, "Papa, what is this?""

Like this:
"One thing was clear: that inn owner Balmos had drugged her." This gives us some context for Saffron's current situation, but I would like more though!

Think you mean 'sounded' here:
"He *sounds* young. And he had an slight accent."

I think more set-up for this would really help:
""Not even if I can you help find the man you seek?" he said with bemusement. She stilled and tried to hide her anger when his fingers cupped her chin and forced her oval face toward a weak light. "The likeness is remarkable.""

So this relates to the main second suggestion – Who is Prince Tyroth is talking about when he says "The likeness is remarkable"? I'm assuming he's talking about the King (guessing based solely on the title of the story) but since I have no idea who the King is I think it's just as likely that Tyroth is talking about "the butcher who destroyed" Saffron's family. So, more info about the person he wants Saffron to impersonate would clear this up I think. Especially if the butcher looks like the King or is the King…?

Like this a lot:
""See something you like?" He asked, smirking. Small, silver hoops glinted in his earlobes as he moved." This bit does a lot to establish Tyroth's character with few words. Cool!

Enjoying this!

vb,

mbw
7/25/2014 c2 nightfuries
First off, just a few little things I found in the story that I'll get out of the way first:

"Why in the Abyss..." You have good taste in fantasy sayings :)

"I didn't mean to, but I couldn't say yes." If these are her inner thoughts, they should be in italics

"A caw startled Saffron who whirled around to face..." Comma after "Saffron"

"The creature glared at her; its gaze penetrating and eerie." Comma, not a semicolon

"since he'd nearly drowned it" I think you either mean just "drowned" or "drowned in it"
"All the broke the hush" I think you mean "that" instead of that first "the"

"Her plump arms were were folded" Delete the extra "were"

Anyways, moving on to the actual content of this chapter! I really enjoyed it, possibly more than the first. You did a nice job setting the scene in the first half of the chapter, then the action picked up, especially at the end with the fighting! I hope Sapphire's brother is all right (I have a feeling he won't be though), he seems like a sweet kid. I'm also curious as to whether or not that was actually Sapphire's father - I have a feeling some magic might be going on here :) This chapter was also far better balanced in terms of description/action/dialogue, as opposed to the first which was a little dialogue heavy.

Still very curious to see how Saffron wound up kidnapped by that guy, though I guess I'll have to read on to figure that out :) Which I will set to now! Again, great chapter!
6/20/2014 c1 nightfuries
Wow, this is a great story so far! I love the intrigue and the way you switch from the dream/memory(?) to what's going on in the present. I'll admit, I was a bit confused at first, but then I got it and literally sat back in my seat going, "whoaaaa". Didn't see it coming at all!

I love the relationships you've established in this chapter, from Saffron and Tyroth to Saffron and her father. They're well-developed and you make use of dialogue to characterise everyone rather than blatantly stating what they're like, which is excellent. The only thing I'd recommend is to add a bit more between the dialogue - right now it's just a lot of people talking and the scenes start to feel static. Otherwise, though, this was a fantastic opener for your story!

Just a few nitpicky things:

"was the one who named her" - I'm pretty sure "who had named her" is the correct verb tense

"and more hidden in the shadows" - More of what hidden in the shadows? The way the sentence is written now, it sounds like you mean more flasks of mead, but I'm pretty sure you mean more objects. You might want to reword this to make it a bit clearer

"he said, his bushy brows drawing together, he started to stand" - You've got a comma splice here. Just add "as" in place of that second comma or change one of the commas to a period.

"Why would anyone wish for those." - Change the period to a question mark

"blood pounded in her ears and her tongue pressed" Considering how the rest of the sentence is formatted, you've got a comma splice going on here. I'd change "pounded" and "pressed" to "pounding" and "pressing" to avoid that

"he clearly knew she was female" - So far, he hasn't referred to her in any way that would indicate he thinks she's a girl so this line feels a bit out of place. I'd have him hint at it, so it's more obvious

Also, just thought I'd mention, Strangewoods is an epic name for a forest :D It just rolls off the tongue so well!
5/3/2014 c6 1ChangingWinds
Hello again, and I'm sorry to have taken so long!

You story overall is quite enjoyable to read. It maintains a fairly brisk pace and includes enough imagery and character interactions to make an engaging read without bogging us down with tedious details. The scenes between the MC and her father are particularly heartfelt-it really establishes their intimacy, which makes the twist of him being a potential killer all the more surprising and very effective!

But speaking of her family, I do wish we could have seen more of them. From what I gleaned they appeared interesting characters in their own right, but I didn't feel so acquainted with them that I could mourn the destruction of her family, although the scene when she discovers her mother's body is very emotional, I definitely felt sorry for her over that.

Her 'specialness' I felt could have also used a bit more detail. She just comes across as so normal (albeit pleasantly so) most of the time that I tended to forget she's supposed to be unusual. Hopefully we will see more of her powers in the future?

Other than that, you've put great effort in to this so far! I can't wait to read on, especially with these two newer characters in the picture now. It'll be nice gaining a Seer's perspective and some background info on the MC's mother, or foster-mother, I should say. Keep it up!
4/29/2014 c6 4m. b. whitlock
Interesting developments in this chapter. I like the Abby character a lot. I like how mysterious yet humble she appears to be and I like the way her bodyguard is not revealed until the end of the chapter.

I like a lot of the dialogue throughout but I think you might want to go over the chapter again and indicate more clearly who is speaking (either with dialogue tags or bits of description connected to the speaker's name). The other thing about the dialogue is the verb tense regarding the Strangewood family. Saffron refers to them using the past tense from the start of her conversation with Abby. I don't understand why Abby doesn't immediately ask whether the family is dead the moment she hears Saffron using the past tense. It makes sense that Saffron would tell Abby that the family is dead but she appears to be unsure about revealing this information at first. If you rearrange the dialogue and have Saffron tell Abby they are dead from the beginning the verb tense will work fine.

Here are notes:

"The distant snort of an animal snapped Saffron from her reverie and brought her to her feet." I think it would be good here to remind readers that Saffron is outside Debonsher looking into a fire.

"Aiming her staff at the darkened road, in the direction of Firch,"
What is Firch? A town? A country?

"The robed figure halted just outside the edge of the firelight and the mule - by the looks of it - stopped as well, held by a tether." I would shorten this to something like, 'The robed figure and the mule halted just outside the edge of the firelight.'

like this:
"Her smile widened to reveal a set of yellowed teeth. She must love chewing on Salvo."
Good character description!

"Jenja? In her youth, the Healer had lived outside Debonsher" I would add something like 'Saffron wondered if she meant Jenja'

like this too:
"And Brakken Deerwood was not supposed to be anything like Saffron. I picked it up without thinking."

I think you mean 'prim' not 'primp':
"in a rather primp way" Primp is a verb not an adjective. I cut the 'rather' too. :)

I like this, Saffron is revealing herself:
"so everyone called them the Strangewood Family and eventually it just became their surname," Saffron explained." The only suggestion I have is change the tense as I mentioned above.

I would move this to the next paragraph:
"She stared at her hands, twiddling her thumb*s*." Having it where it is makes me think Saffron asks ""How big was the family?"" Also, if it is Abby asking and she doesn't know the family is dead (tense thing again) shouldn't she ask, 'How big *is* the family?'?

Saffron totally gives it away that they are dead here:
"Saffron looked up with a frown. "There were five. Two daughters and a son."" Saffron doesn't mention the fifth member, her father, which seems odd. And the stranger thing is that Abby doesn't ask about the father/missing fifth member.

""That Nermisa did."" Maybe say 'Nermisa Greenleaf' here.

Little fix:
"None of them were, though Tohm was the close*s*t."

""You're rather informed," Saffron remarked and Abby wiped the surprise from her features, taking on a more guarded look."" I am confused by this. Is Abby 'informed' because she knows that 'first children' exist and that it has been 150 years since one was found? If that is what Saffron means here I think it needs to be a bit clearer. An added line of dialogue like 'So you know about forest children? You're rather informed.' or something would do the trick. :)

""The first," Me, "came a decade ago and the second two summers ago.""
I would cut 'Me'. You don't need it. We know Melania is younger and Saffron even says so in the same section.

like this:
""Only eight years apart," Abby said, brow furrowing in thought, "And no Seer ever came to look into the matter?" Her dark eyes glittered in the firelight." Nice atmosphere. :)

I would change the verb tense in the second sentence to the present too:
""The Seers must be very busy ruling Liberan. I doubt they had time for some small mystery.""

""How to divid*e* everything among the wealthy and the privileged and feed the scraps to the peasants?"" I think some action or dialogue tags or something to indicate that Abby is speaking is needed here.

like this lot:
""You sound like you hate them," Saffron said, regretting letting this woman share her fire."

like:
""I've grown plants before and I always thought a plant like saffron wouldn't do well in the dark, clay soils of Liberan."" Bringing in the significance of saffron is cool. I wonder what future developments will come from the saffron plant…

I like the ending a lot:
""Does that frighten you?" Abby rose and Saffron alternated between aiming toward her and the tall, broad-shouldered man coming toward them.""

I am curious what will happen next. :)

vb,

mbw/c
4/26/2014 c2 Wendy Thompson135th
There are some presentation problems: omitted spaces between a few paragraphs, intrusive capitalization in some of the dialogue tag sentences and so forth. The complex back and forth narrative is slightly confusing and not enjoyable or necessary. There is a roughness/awkwardness to the writing that is noticeable, especially in the dialogue and action scenes. Try reading this aloud. Yes, it's time consuming, but it's one of the best ways to notice awkward or poorly written spots.

Beyond that, the characters are nicely individual and the plot interesting. The back story is well handled and does not overwhelm the reader in a massive info-dump.
4/25/2014 c5 m. b. whitlock
I really like Berwold. By the way, I prefer 'Berwold' to 'Berworld'. You have used both spellings intermittently throughout the story so I'm not sure which one you are going with. I think Berwold is better merely because 'Berworld' makes me think of a big box discount store; it's only a letter away from 'Beerworld'. ;) So, yeah, I'd go with Berwold. Well, whatever his name is, I like him. He seems to be an honest, simple guy who genuinely cares for Saffron.

Berwold also appears to represent the townsfolk well in general. Even though they were initially suspicious of Saffron and her sister Melania, because they were found 'forest children', and were wary of Saffron's parents for taking in strange forest foundlings, they nonetheless grew to accept and cherish Saffron and her family. It seems like this acceptance was earned. Saffron and her family took a number of risks and made sacrifices for the townspeople over the years and those efforts have apparently paid off.

The dialogue between Saffron and Berwold works very well IMO. Their speech sounds natural and I get the sense their affection for one another is real (though the friendly affection Saffron feels for Berwold is different from the intense feelings he has for her). The ending is very touching. Good stuff!

Here are notes:

I like the way you use the phase of the moon to tell us a month has passed:
"Under the same moon, Saffron's mother had been murdered. It was a new moon again and much had changed."

like this description:
"Her gaze dropped back to the crackling fire before her. Sparks fluttered off it like fireflies dying in the night."

You are missing a verb here:
"Cloth bandages *were* tightly wound around her chest and stomach, flattening her breasts."

""What're you eight?""
I would change this line. It is just a little unclear what he means and also sounds a little too contemporary to me. Maybe try something like, 'What age are you again, eight years old?'

I think you need a carriage return between these lines of dialogue:
""Keep your money. You owe us nothing.""But I do. I can't just live off your charity.""

like this:
""I know we often made you feel like an Outsider," he said, his expression growing more serious, "Everyone was just afraid. The last forest child was over a century ago and then you and Melania appeared. Just years apart. But your family truly won us over."" This makes the townspeople more interesting and realistic.

""That's not why," adding in her head, entirely, "I feel drawn to go. As if something calls me from far away. I've always felt it. But now, nothing holds me back."" I feel this section of dialogue could be more powerful and dramatic. Here's a rough suggestion, 'That's not why,' she said, omitting the word 'entirely'. "I have to go. There's something calling me. I've always felt it. Now it's stronger than ever. I don't know why but I feel the only way I will find the killer is to search for answers far from here.'

Or something. :) To "feel drawn to go" just doesn't sound very intense and dramatic to me. Also, I think it's important to connect Saffron's decision to leave with her mission to find the person or persons who attacked her family and killed her mother. Just my opinion.

""She didn't," he insisted, his tone stern." Who is she? Jenja? What did she not do?

""I just wanted my friend to visit me! I didn't care about the rest."

"I did," he said, "I don't want just friendship.""
I would change some of the verb tenses add add some words in the exchange above because these feelings are still true in the present, ex:
'I just wanted my friend to visit me! I don't care about the rest.'

'I care about the rest,' he said, 'I don't want just friendship.'

I really like Berwold's exit:
""I guess so," he said, turning away and placing a hand on the knob. He kept his back to her, facing away.""

Very sweet chapter. Really like it. :)

vb,

mbw/c
4/24/2014 c1 12GossamerSilverglow
Return Review:

The dialogue between Saffron and her father is great. It helps characterize her well and I’m already enjoying who I understand her to be. The talk of magic dying has me wondering if it’s going to play a part once Saffron’s been kidnapped. I love supernatural stories, so that really ups the intrigue of the story. Since I’ve been more aware of it (and working on it for myself), I noticed that this chapter is a little dialogue heavy. It’s best to balance dialogue and detail out, but I know it’s hard to find that balance. However, when detail was present it was nicely written.

I’m struggling to get a feel with how old Saffron is. Her curiosity made me think younger, as in a child, but when she was taken I thought possibly older. How old is she? I also got a little lost when the monster she couldn’t name came up. Was it Balmos she was speaking of? If that’s the case then technically she already named him. Other than those nit picky points, this was a promising chapter! Keep writing.
4/21/2014 c4 4m. b. whitlock
*warning this review contains spoilers*

I feel so bad for Saffron. She experiences the most horrific thing a child can, finding a dead parent. And what makes it even worse is that Saffron knows her mother died violently and she fears her remaining family may have met similar ends. The fact that Saffron likely met the killer (and failed to stop him) probably makes dealing with this tragedy harder.

You do a good job describing Saffron's injuries and I sense how difficult is it for her to move at all let alone hike considerable distances through the woods. You also build up to the dramatic discovery of her mother's body well. I like how Saffron finds the knife and then her precious possessions at different intervals and then finds the remains of her dear mother. It is as if the killer threw her mother's corpse away like an old shoe and it is just another discarded item.

It is also interesting the way the plot is developing in this chapter. Even though scary *not* Papa is the likely killer, we do not know this for certain. There is so much that is unknown. It is possible that Saffron is being manipulated and the jeweled knife was placed where she would find it…

I hope she finds her sister (or at least doesn't find out she is dead too).

Okay, here are notes:

"The lapping water was distant at first. Steadily it grew until she could hear the cicadas, the rustling trees, and a lark warbling nearby." I think you might want to indicate that the sound of the water is growing and then have Saffron perceive the cicadas. As it is, it seems like the word 'cicadas' describes an aspect of the river.

I would add 'her' to this:
"Saffron lay there, *her* breath whistling in her raw throat." Nice sonic description. :)

The formatting seems off here, I'm not sure if you are starting a new paragraph:
"I'm on the wrong side, she realized."

like this:
"She bit back a gasp as she rolled onto her hands and knees."

"acrid-tasting water" would not taste "deliciously cold and satisfying". Perhaps describe the water as having a mineral taste? Or say that despite the acrid taste, she was so thirsty the water was satisfying or 'soothing' or something.

Nice description here too:
"The pressure of water had built in her ears. And her lungs had burned while she thought, I must save Tohm. And then... nothing."

I'm not sure where she finds the knife. Maybe add a line with a detail more specific than simply "the dew-coated forest" like 'dew-coated rushes' maybe?:
"As soon as it lessened, she limped to the dew-coated forest. A glint caught her eye and, going to it, she knelt down and picked up the knife."

This section sounds a bit awkward to me:
"slipping it into the scabbard at her hip - sewn for a dagger now lost to the river bottom - and secured it with a bit of twine." Perhaps try something like, 'She felt the scabbard at her hip and realized her own dagger was gone. She guessed it lay at the bottom of the river. She secured her new weapon with a bit of twine.'

"socks and boots gushing - damp with water - and headed upstream." I have a rough edit to suggest for this part too, 'water gushed from her socks and boots as she headed upstream.'

This description is a little confusing, perhaps try to be more clear:
"The river's lush marge bent into a small enclave that funneled debris into it."

like this:
"Clumps of dead branches, twigs, and mulch swirled in the stew of river flotsam."

"Though she didn't remember losing it when she tumbled into the rapids, she had mourned its loss." Perhaps say 'she *would have* mourned its loss.' How can she *have* mourned something she didn't recall losing?

"When her Papa found her years ago she'd been holding that staff and for the longest time refused to let it go." I think you might want to consider an edit here. Rough example, 'Years ago, when her Papa found her, she was clutching that staff. For the longest time she refused to let it go."

"No matter how many she scrubbed away" Maybe say 'rubbed away' instead? She isn't washing her face with soap so…

Little fix here:
"Doubt gripped her and *her* heart sped up."

"And then, without hesitation, she charged forward and vaulted toward home." 'Vaulted'? That seems hard to believe. I would cut this down to, 'And then, without hesitation, she charged toward home.'

Is this the staff she was found with as a small child or is it the broken branch?:
"There she stood, leaned on her staff," I don't recall her braving the stones over the falls to get the cherished staff.

like!:
"The air stunk of ash."

"All that remained of her smoldering home was part of the frame, charred timber beams and burnt-off stone;" I feel this sentence could be improved some. Her home wasn't smoldering until someone set fire to it so I wouldn't use 'smoldering' as a modifier there. Here's a rough suggestion, 'All that remained of her home was part of the frame, smoldering beams and charred stone.'

I would cut this:
"discovered where she tossed it yesterday" It's distracting at this dramatic juncture and I don't think it's a very significant detail. :)

like this a lot:
""No," she breathed, her feet moving of their own accord like separate entities." Very cool.

like this as well, scary!:
"gave her Mama a second mouth, a macabre grin."

"She slid the dagger - what she'd already named Backstabber - from her hip sheath and with her other hand held her braid taut." Naming the dagger is a dramatic, symbolic act. I would separate the clause and make it a complete sentence on its own and give the moment more significance. :)

like this ritualistic action:
"After closing her Mama's eyes, she placed her plait over them. "I'll return," she promised and then grabbed her staff."

"Of what passed next, from eventually stumbling into Master Bartos' tavern and fainting from blood loss in Berworld's arms while begging them to save her family, Saffron remembered little beyond glimmers even as Bartos related it to her later. And that was two weeks later when she woke from a brief coma." This paragraph seems a bit rushed. I think you might want to rearrange it and break up the first part into separate sentences. Also I wouldn't use 'brief' to describe a coma. A coma is a serious condition. Calling it 'brief' seems strange, like being in a coma is no big deal. I like the image of Saffron "fainting from blood loss in Berworld's arms while begging them to save her family" though.

Good work. Poor Saffron. It looks like she is going to need that knife.

Eager to read more. Hope the next chapter is up soon.

Very best.

mbw/c
4/18/2014 c3 m. b. whitlock
This chapter is different from the previous two. In this chapter it appears that Saffron's subconscious takes over the narrative and that we readers are swimming in the changing, fluid (un)reality she is experiencing. I think in many ways going deep into dreamland is really cool. I like so many of the images you fashion. But I will also say that it is possible that such a prolonged tangential excursion might turn off some readers, mostly because it happens so early in the story.

The thing is, we know very little about Saffron and her world at this point. No reality, conventional reality I should say, has been established. So when you start to play with the fabric of this world by depicting trippy reality-bending dream sequences it is difficult to differentiate between 'what really happened' and what is a distortion. I hope I'm making some sense here. (This is a problem I have in a slightly different iteration in QotD, so I sympathize). ;)

Nonetheless, I like so many of the scenes in this chapter. You use some quite original phrasing and inventive language in many instances. So, I find this chapter to be very enjoyable even though I also find it confusing and possibly a little bit counter-productive in terms of the plot you are building. I may well change my opinion about the plot thing (in particular) once I read more…

Here are notes:

"Her Mama once told her, The reason I named you Saffron is because I knew that - like it needs sunlight - you'd need lots of warmth and affection to blossom." I think this sentence doesn't come off as smoothly as it could and you have a few verb tense inconsistencies. You might want to consider editing this down to something like, 'Her Mama once told her, I named you Saffron because I knew that you, like the spice, would need strong sunlight and affection to blossom,'

"On special occasions, or whenever her Mama decided an occasion was special enough," I would choose one or the other, either say 'On special occasions,' or say "Whenever her Mama decided an occasion was special enough,' It is a little redundant if you say both IMO. :)

like this:
""Saffron?" her Mama called in a voice as sweet as the sticky sauce of berries and crushed walnuts she sometimes made. "Are you up?"" Like this whole intimate/cozy/freaky scene with her mother.

"Saffron forgot her earlier thought; though it seemed important, it escaped her, skittering beyond recall." Again, I would make some choices here. You are saying the same thing three times. Why not just choose one?

like this lots:
""I am! And I'm cutting carrots if you care to join.""

"Saffron wiggled on one boot, then hopped to the frayed yellow curtain on that foot as she slipped on the other." This sentence is so close. I hope you don't mind my snipping, here's a suggestion, 'Saffron hopped on one boot to the frayed yellow curtain as she slipped on the other.'

missing an 's'?:
""Where' everyone?""

I am not sure who says this and why:
""Please don't," she said, placing her chin on the crown of her Mama's head."

I would choose either 'melodic' or 'beauty-given' to describe the voice (they pretty much mean the same thing):
""Saf," said a melodic voice, beauty given voice,"

like this too!:
"Their parents had once commented on how regal anything Melania wore appeared to be. Even now, the dark blue pinafore on her over a long-sleeved, pale yellow shirt looked on Melania like a fine-woven dress."

I really like Melania and I am hoping to learn more about her.

I like how you set this whole scene:
""Listen," she said."

like this description a lot:
"Her almond-shaped eyes - of two colors: brown and gold - turned downward at the side and her smile sloughed off." Sloughed! Eeewww...

like this!:
"And next she knew, she flew through a sea of tall grass, thistle and cat tails beating at her thighs, she ran so fast her feet hardly touched the earth." Great imagery. :)

Whoa. This is very scary!:
""Blood splattered the front of his jerkin and his lips were peeled back in a macabre grin, and he held a knife dripping with blood. "But I did. I killed them all, little hero."" Very freaky, very good. ;)

like this as well:
"Needing out of the water, she crawled, colored spots dancing in her vision, to a large, flat rock that glistened."

confused here:
"knife level to its flatter portion."

"thankfully it did not fall out" should be 'thankfully *it had not fallen* out' :)

Despite what I said above about the plot disruption, I really like this chapter. There are so many intriguing flashes and slices of memory. The next chapter will be even more intense I bet. :)

Looking forward to reading it! Hope you update asap. :)

vb,

mbw/c
4/18/2014 c1 13alltheeagles
The pacing is generally good - a little slow in the start, as long stretches of dialogue are wont to be, but it picks right up after the scene break. I don't know why the (1) is there, though. Usually, people just leave a line break for scene changes.

The opening dialogue is interesting in that it establishes the background of the story and that the MC is different from those around her, but I think you run a risk of losing readers who were just browsing because it isn't terribly exciting. I think it'd have been better to begin with a snippet of dream, then the iron chair and then bring in the rest of the dream.

The other point I noticed is that you bring in a lot of information all at once. That can work to arouse curiosity, but it can also work against you by making your story seem more complicated that it is. I'm the kind of reader who doesn't do well with having to process too many things that distract me from the language of the narrative, so for me, it is a point on the negative side.
4/17/2014 c1 Guest
well done with the transition between the memory and current setting the way you start out got me interested the only problem in my opinion was not knowing is this the prolog or the part of the first chapter some people enjoy knowing where they are in the story.
4/15/2014 c2 4m. b. whitlock
Lots of great stuff in this chapter! The chilling action scene at the end is really very good. You do an excellent job building up to it. Mama's inability to sleep due to disturbing nightmares in chapter one and her unexplainable concern for Papa and Tohm when Saffron arrives home late all create an atmosphere of suspense and dread. We know something bad is going to happen but we don't know what or when.

Then the clues Saffron finds of Tohm's desperate flight through the forest and eventually the sight of Tohm tied to the rock followed by her father's odd behavior by the falls (which threw me off initially but then made perfect sense) make us feel very uneasy. When the climax at the end happens your readers are primed for it and as a result the scene is very effective. Very cool technique!

Here are my notes:

"Saffron stalked down the forest path, still troubled by Berworld's earlier confession." 'Stalked'? Who is she stalking? Perhaps 'walked' or 'stomped' or 'trudged' might work a little better.

like this:
"Why did the tavern owner's son have to ruin a good friendship by proposing marriage?" This is such a great 'what if?'. If only Saffron's family hadn't been attacked perhaps she might have ended up with the tavern owner's son… This kind of thing adds depth to Saffron's character. It's a really good way to give her some history without dumping exposition or forcing history into dialogue.

"A caw startled her and, looking left, she spotted a big raven, perched on a rock in the tall grass a few paces away." I would break up this sentence and do a few edits. Here's a rough example, 'A caw startled her. She looked left and spotted a big raven perched on a rock in the tall grass a few paces away.' :)

really like this, scary, good!:
"The cicadas ceased whirring; the other birds stopped chirping. A cold shiver ran up Saffron's spine."

Think you are missing a word here:
"Saffron's parents and two younger siblings were the only *?* who dared live in the Strangewoods."

not sure what you mean here:
"Mountains now splashed gold by evening light." Perhaps try something like, 'The evening light splashed the mountain tops with gold'.

I really like this section but I would break it up into separate sentences:
"Emotions warred on her Mama's heart-shaped face: worry that appeared and disappeared with the crease on her wide forehead, anger that showed in the furrowing of her brow and the flare of her flat nostrils, and a hint of fear manifested in her pinched eyebrows and the smile lines around her wide mouth."

like this:
"Saffron said, "I'm sorry, Mama." I sold all the sun-dried saffron, is what she truly wanted to announce, but dared not."

This part is a little confusing because of the verb tense. I'm not sure when Saffron is thinking this:
"Later, she thought with disappointment, having imagined her Mama and family beaming at her proudly when they heard. " You might want to simply cut this and perhaps mention it later (when Saffron is tracking her father and Tohm in the woods maybe) and instead go straight into the line, ""Did something happen?""

like this but a "diamond-shaped face"?
"Thick black hair framed her diamond-shaped face that, at this distance, looked like a dot." Why not just go with 'Thick black hair framed her small face. At this distance, she was just a dot.' Or something… :)

like this!:
"His trail - snapped branches, disturbed leaves and even footprints - had diverged from the path and led her to an area of flattened mulch."

"After rinsing off the blood splat, she wiped her hand dry on her woolen leggings. She splashed some on her face, relishing the coolness." I'm not sure what Saffron used to rinse off the blood or splash her face. Is she walking along the river? It is a bit ferocious though… I think this section might work better if you mention what body of water she is following.

"As if she'd laughed during someone's Mourning." I get what you are trying to say here but using 'Mourning' instead of 'funeral' doesn't quite work for me. Perhaps if you say something like, 'As if she'd laughed while others were mourning,'…? Or just use 'funeral'?

"Judging from their roar, the falls were gushing." I think it would be good to mention the existence of the falls before you say this.

nice detail here:
"Lichen made the bark slippery."

"Strapped spread-eagle to the front, lower half submerged in the frothing liquid, hung a figure that reminded her of Crow Bait, the scarecrow Saffron and her siblings created over two summers ago." I like the concepts expressed here. A half-dead boy resembling a scarecrow is a very rich idea. My main issue with this section is that I feel you go a bit too far into details. This is a climatic action sequence, I wouldn't slow things down with any unnecessary details. Here's an edit suggestion, 'Strapped spread-eagle to the front,*its* lower half submerged in the frothing liquid, hung a figure that reminded her of Crow Bait, the scarecrow that stood in her mother's garden.' Who cares when the scarecrow was constructed? The image is what's important and powerful images don't need extraneous details and background information. Just my opinion. :)

I'd cut this too:
"He stood in their Mama's garden, watching over the saffron, herbs, and vegetables with his coal eyes."

This is very good, very scary and creepy:
"In place of golden straw-hair and a blue shirt, this one had dark brown *hair* and wore a pale-colored tunic over a long-sleeved garment. And it was smaller, about the size of a child. When it moved, head lolling to one side, she realized it was alive." This sentence totally works without the other stuff and (I feel) is stronger without those unnecessary sentences. :)

This sounds a little strange:
"Walking into a trap was not Saffron's idea of heroic." 'of being heroic'?

good:
"Rather than take the easier path around - the more expected way - she scrabbled up the slope, gripping rocks that bulged out of mulch, dirt, and snarled webs of roots." Nice visceral imagery.

"The entire right side of his face, especially around his temple, was caked in dried blood that blended with the natural reddish hue of his short-cropped hair and beard." Okay, this sentence could be awesome but I do think you have some dead weight in there slowing down the action. Here's a rough edited example, 'The right side of his face was caked in dried blood. The red color blended with his russet hair.'

""Heavens above! Why are you interrogating me?"" I am not sure about the second 'interrogating' sentence. I don't know whether you need it. Papa is still acting very strange without it and the word 'interrogating' sounds very contemporary and maybe a bit anachronistic for your world. Not sure…

She added a boulder? I think this bit of info is distracting. I'd cut it:
"The first boulder was an easy hop. The second - one she'd added last year -"

too much detail here:
"Freckles peppered across his forehead and stood out starkly on the white of his chilled skin." Perhaps edit it down to, 'His freckles stood out starkly on his chilled skin,' ?

really great!:
"She sensed movement and suddenly a weight bore down on her as someone landed and straddled her from behind."

"A hand clamped over her mouth moments before a knife rammed into her left side, just under her armpit." I'd cut out the words 'moments before' and just go with 'A hand clamped over her mouth; a knife rammed into her left side, just under her armpit.' :)

I'd cut this too:
"Saffron had been baffled why Outsiders paid for that." So you can go straight into this dramatic line of dialogue:
""You're not Papa," she managed, her lips not working properly."

Like how scary this is:
"He smirked, eyes narrowing. "I am your Papa," he answered, glancing sideways to the river, "My illusion it did break.""

""Saf!" he shouted. The *attacked* appeared above him, towering over Tohm." Think you mean 'attacker'.

great ending:
""No! Leave him alone!" she gasped. The water sucked her under, rolling her limp body along until she slammed into another boulder and went under."

I am very interested in what happens next! I hope update soon. :)

Very best.

mbw/c
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