Most Wonderful Author: M.A.B. || Writers of Yore
Most Evil Critique Master: Sarah
Working Title: Mwyr
History: Word Smash #3
Chan's lungs were starved to the point of bursting, struggling for air with each gasp. That didn't stop him from urging his horse on faster. He sat forward in the saddle and leaned low over the neck of his horse, teeth ground together to keep from biting his tongue.He could feel the beat of the wings more than actually hear them above the din of hooves and the distant rumbling of an approaching storm. Each stroke tainted the air with a current of dark magic, and the creak of joints echoed through his own bones. Unearthly creatures chased after him, and he had no other choice but to flee.If he could only just reach home—Chan's gaze focused on the ancient tree that grew at the side of the road. It meant that he was close. He allowed himself a small smile and patted his horse's neck. “Almost there, old girl. We'll be safe soon.” He could only manage a whisper, and even that was whipped right from his lips by the wind.The horse must have understood all the same because her pace increased a fraction.As they neared the tree, Chan realized that someone was standing beside it, either ignoring the steadily increasing rain or completely oblivious to it. She remained still as a statute, an odd flash of color in the dreary landscape. He pulled up short, legs clamping down to keep from falling off as the horse reared back in surprise.
Strong Points –
Chase scenes are pretty darn awesome. I can see this as a natural lead into what’s going on, starting with this guy and the reader asking the questions of who’s chasing him and what’s chasing him and what the heck he did to earn being chased in the first place and how home will save him from these creatures and— /run-on sentence.
There’s a very strong sense of his character already, especially how, in the midst of whatever’s going on, he can still maintain enough wherewithal to soothe and speak to his horse. Just from the way he orients himself around the horse, he starts to climb out of the page.
My favorite line is the description of the girl as a show of color in the dreary landscape. I cling to visual bits like this, anything the ones that can paint a very stylistic picture in my head. This one is also very realistic in the sense that, in this moment of the chase, he doesn’t identify her details just yet, only vague concepts, such as color or movement (or shape or size, etc.). Many writers feel pressured to get details in as quickly as possible, but there are more important details alluded to here, such as how she’s standing completely rigid. These sorts of details move the reader effortlessly onward.
Some Tips –
This goes into some grammatical language that I’m sure someone else could explain more effectively and accurately than I could, but here’s my “The last time I took a class in grammar was fifth grade and I got a C” version.
This is a great example of action and reaction, or how the action is defined after the action has been made. A smooth flow of action is generated by a formula like this:
a + b = c
“She opened the door and walked outside.”
But this formula (which I almost typed formular) gets repetitious and boring, and writers will seek ways to work around this. Oftentimes, this leads to a reverse
formular formula that
looks more like this:
c = a + b
“She walked outside after she opened the door.”
Of course, in its simple form, it doesn’t read well. Like creative alternatives to the “said” dialogue tag (she whispered urgently; he roared angrily; I gasped breathlessly), this formula can jolt the reader from the story. But in a more complex form, it often does the same thing:
“Almost there, old girl. We'll be safe soon.” He could only manage a whisper, and even that was whipped right from his lips by the wind.
There’s actually two reverse formulas in here. One is this:
“Almost there, old girl. We'll be safe soon.” He could only manage a whisperc: “Almost there, old girl. We’ll be safe soon.”a: He could only manageb: a whisper
The other is slightly different because of its passive tense, but:
He could only manage a whisper, and even that was whipped right from his lips by the wind.c: He could only manage a whispera: the windb: (and even that was) whipped right from his lips
In this case, the action is made, and then refined after. It’s like taking two steps forward and one step back when an action scene should charge forward and never (or rarely) look back. During moments of conflict, tension must be at its highest. Shorter, simpler sentences are one of the best ways to convey and propel the reader into a riveting pace. I’d consider rearranging the pieces to look something along the lines of this:
The wind whipped from his lips the words he could only manage to whisper. “Almost there, old girl. We’ll be safe soon.”a: The wind whipped from his lipsb: the words he could only manage to whisperc: “Almost there, old girl. We’ll be safe soon.”
(I took each fragment and rearranged them respectively, although this can also be made simpler at the writer’s own discretion.)
The above allows no steps backward. In moments of panic or high levels of adrenaline, the mind works faster, and a good way to replicate this is to make your narrative sharp, clear, and brief:
The tires lost traction. Rubber screeched. He jerked on the wheel and the car swerved. Impact.
Compare that to this:
Rubber screeched when the tires lost traction. When he jerked on the wheel, the car swerved and hit the barrier.
The second example loses the energy and tension that drives the pacing of an action scene.
As an example from the passage above, take this:
The horse must have understood all the same because her pace increased a fraction.
And consider this:
The horse must have understood. Her pace increased a fraction.
Or as another alternative:
The horse must have understood—her pace increased a fraction.
Also make sure to do away with unnecessary words. The phrase “all the same” doesn’t carry enough weight or meaning and doesn’t change or help the sentence. Voice is important to convey, of course, even in third person narratives, but phrases like these are heard and read so often that readers will glaze right over them anyway.
Also, beware of passive tense! The very opening sentence could be so much stronger if “were starved” was fixed, along with other moments further on. “He could feel the beat of the wings more than actually hear them,” I understand is a moment of unreliable narration, which can be a great tool to tell a story, but at this point the reader has just been dropped into this new world and is trying to understand the mechanics of it and what’s going on, so the ambiguity in this instance isn’t readily grasped so early on into the intro.
Would I Keep Reading?
The introduction of the girl near the end was the extra spice for me in this intro, and I can already tell she’s special and I want to know why and what she’s going to do and what he’s going to do and—arg, SUSPENSE.
So, yes, I would keep reading. Work on fine-tuning your style, clipping unnecessary and empty words, then resend it to me so I can focus more on the content!