Critique Group – The Guardians of Dor

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Authors, we need not fear critique. A skilled critiquing partner is an author’s good friend. So let’s untangle our hair and get started on this week’s submission.

Don’t forget the critiquing guidelines. All you have to do is post a comment about the submission below. Don’t feel like you need to critique the whole piece. Even a short comment on one aspect can be helpful.

If you want to submit a manuscript for critique, please read the guidelines as well as this list of common mistakes to avoid before submitting.

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The Guardians of Dor – by Laura

Chapter 1 – A Bards Tale

Two, weather worn travelers topped the hill and looked out over a vast, stone city. It teemed with life and banners hung from towers and walls. Their faces were cloaked and shadowed, but one could tell that they were a harmless couple.

“Well, that took a good deal of our time.” The first figure chuckled in a pleasant, female voice. It floated on the wind and tickled the second figure’s senses.

“Yes.” The other figure had a distinct, male voice that echoed the female’s with a deep, comforting tone. “Yes, but we’re not the worse off for it.” He sighed and turned his eyes to the city. “Well, we’re here. It’s not your ‘home sweet home’ in the woods but big city’s aren’t all that bad.”

“You’re right.” The woman’s answer had the tinge of a smile in it. “It’s not what I’d call home but it’s as good as any other. Come on.”
Within the hour they were tucked cozily inside the tower, where the upper class had gathered in a great hall for dinner. The room was crowed with chattering people and children, none of which asked many questions of the strangers. The still cloaked and hooded couple quietly ate, and listened to the conversations that drifted from politics to weather. The dinner was marvelous and as time wore on the children were sent to bed and the adults were left to talk. One well dressed older gentleman spoke out over the noise and said, “Shall we have a story? It’s been a long time since a good tale was told in this hall.” He gestured to the shadowed newcomers. “You look like you’ve made enough adventures for yourselves.” The man snorted and the two exchanged a glance. “No offense taken I hope.” The man added with a chuckle.

“Maybe you’re bards?” Offered a younger man. He nodded at the capes that still covered their faces and their rather shabby clothes. The two exchanged another glance and the female nodded her consent. The second cloaked figure turned to the hushed crowd.

“Some might call us that. As for adventures, we’ve had one or two.” The crowd murmured their amusement. “But would you wish to hear them? My tales aren’t for the faint of heart.” All nodded eagerly. The man leaned back in his chair, coughed politely, and launched into his story.

“In another country, far away from here, our story begins. If you close your eyes and use your imagination, you’ll find yourself in the midst of the beautiful land of Dor, peopled by the six Races: Daleins, Rangers, Elves, Fardons (very little people, no more than two feet tall) Natives or wild men as some called them, and wizards. ” All noise in the room died at these enticing words, and the people sat in raptured silence.

“The story really begins in Erindale, the Capitol of Dor. Erindale had one important castle, and that, was the Great Hall. From this Great Hall The High king and queen ruled all the peoples in the land of Dor. Their names were Jarin and Daria Vaiwire. This couple had two children. An adopted eight year old boy, and a beautiful baby girl, born with a very special talent. They named her Song Vaiwire. Song was born a Guardian, one of four children gifted by The Maker with special powers, granted in times of need.

Her parents tried desperately to keep it a secret, but it was for not.

The infamous black wizards massacred the land to find the special girl and the family was forced to flee.

Erindale was destroyed and it’s occupants, Elves, Knights, few wizards and Fardons were scattered to the winds. The once joyful and beautiful castle over the sea became pile of rubble surrounded by a massive force of Slayers and trolls. But miraculously, the legendary knights of The Hall found each other and pledged to find the last of the Guardians, their only hope to reclaiming the land and people they held dear.

But the Guardians were hidden all too well, and they went missing for eleven years. These children grew up kicked, cuffed, and scorned, and taught every day how unimportant they were. But they were to be part of a Master Plan. They simply didn’t know it yet.”

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7 replies

  1. Laura,

    This tale of child Guardians with special powers has a lot of promise. I like the concept.

    I wonder, however, if your approach works. You begin with two mysterious travelers, which makes me think the story is about them, but then they begin telling a tale, and I was jarred into wondering if the story is really about the Guardians.

    A story within a story can work but only if both stories are compelling and have reason to be intertwined. At this point, I can’t see any reason for telling about the two travelers. The Guardians story seems much more interesting.

    Now to the details.

    First, in the opening paragraphs, I had trouble with the point of view (POV). Are you trying for omniscient POV? The way you have written it makes readers feel as if they are looking on from outside the two travelers, though that feels a bit inconsistent when you tell us about a chuckle tickling the second figure’s senses.

    I think you would be far better off to choose one of the travelers and show everything through that person’s eyes. Give them names. Make the visuals come alive. Show us a reason to care about these two. As it stands, I have no emotional connection to either of them, because they feel so distant.

    Next: “Two, weather worn travelers topped the hill and looked out over a vast, stone city.”

    Delete the comma after “Two” and insert a hyphen to make “weather-worn.” When you write “the” hill instead of “a” hill, you give the hill significance, as if you have mentioned it before or it has special meaning. That’s probably not the case.

    Next: “It teemed with life and banners hung from towers and walls.”

    You need a comma after “life.” Otherwise you have a city that is teeming with banners. What does teeming with life look like? Give more specific visuals.

    Next: “Their faces were cloaked and shadowed, but one could tell that they were a harmless couple.”

    In what way could one tell they were harmless? Show the reader what that looks like. Who makes the judgment that they appear to be harmless?

    The next three paragraphs show the characters speaking, but you don’t provide any reason for their journey. Why are they traveling? What is their goal or purpose? A sense of purpose is essential in allowing readers to connect with characters. Also, delete the apostrophe from “city’s.”

    Next: “Within the hour they were tucked cozily inside the tower, where the upper class had gathered in a great hall for dinner.”

    Why “the” tower? You mentioned multiple towers but didn’t mention any tower in particular.

    What does it mean to be tucked cozily somewhere? Did they rent a room? Were they guests of someone? What is the significance of the upper class? You haven’t mentioned any other classes.

    Next: “The room was crowed with chattering people and children, none of which asked many questions of the strangers.”

    Do you mean “crowded”? Use “whom” instead of “which” when referring to people. Did the people ask some questions? Just a few questions might be significant, such as why they had come. Were the others not strangers to each other? Was this a regular gathering? Why were they all there?

    Next: “The dinner was marvelous and as time wore on the children were sent to bed and the adults were left to talk.”

    Can you provide a visual or two? What was for dinner? You need a comma after “marvelous” and after “bed.”

    Next: “No offense taken I hope.” The man added with a chuckle.

    “The man added” is a speaker tag, so you need to punctuate as follows:

    “No offense taken, I hope,” the man added with a chuckle.

    Likewise, note the following punctuation correction:

    “Maybe you’re bards?” offered a younger man.

    Next: “The two exchanged another glance and the female nodded her consent.”

    You need a comma after “glance.”

    Next: “The second cloaked figure turned to the hushed crowd.”

    We still know this person only as a cloaked figure. It seems that you’re trying to be mysterious, but this attempt succeeds only in making the characters feel distant.

    Next:

    “In another country, far away from here, our story begins. If you close your eyes and use your imagination, you’ll find yourself in the midst of the beautiful land of Dor, peopled by the six Races: Daleins, Rangers, Elves, Fardons (very little people, no more than two feet tall) Natives or wild men as some called them, and wizards. ” All noise in the room died at these enticing words, and the people sat in raptured silence.

    This sounds a lot like Tokien’s Middle Earth. If you don’t mind readers thinking your story is derivative, then that’s okay, though I think you need to strive for originality. Also, do you mean “rapturous”?

    Next: Her parents tried desperately to keep it a secret, but it was for not. The infamous black wizards massacred the land to find the special girl and the family was forced to flee.

    Apparently the parents tried to keep Song’s gift a secret because of the black wizards, but you give no indication why these wizards did this. Motivations are critical.

    Also, you mean “naught” instead of “not.” And you need a comma after “special girl.”

    Next: Erindale was destroyed and it’s occupants …”

    Delete the apostrophe in “it’s”

    The final paragraph is a summary of what could be a thrilling sequence. I want to know about the slayers, trolls, the knights of the hall, and Guardians. Why were the children kicked, cuffed, and scorned? Yet, all we get is a single paragraph summary.

    Unless you have a good reason to provide only a summary, I think you should choose a character and show these events in real time through that character’s eyes.

    At this point, the story might go back to the two travelers, so the summary might be appropriate, but as it stands, you have two tales that feel distant and summarized. Since I don’t know how you plan to develop this, I can’t give informed advice, but if the story of the Guardians is the main tale, I would start there and relate the tale through the eyes of the most important character.

    I hope that helps. You have a good imagination. Keep it up.

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  2. Great story opener! I really want to find out about Song and the other Guardians and what they can do!
    As for critiquing, Bryan Davis pretty much mentioned it all. I don’t really see the reason for the two travelers unless they’re later characters that have grow older and tell of their adventures. Also, the one paragraph seemed very much a description of Middle Earth.
    But Great job! If you apply your critiques the story would be even better!

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    • At the end you realize that the two travelers actually are Song and Conin (another of the Guardians) are the story tellers. Since Guardians are Immortals (forgot to mention that😁) this is generations after. Thanks for all your critics! It’s really helpful!

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      • Yes! I was hoping that! Sorry, when I assume something I like to find out that I’m right!

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        • Me too! I was hoping that would be a little obvious, but I guess I need to make it more so. When he says, ‘as for adventures, we’ve had one or two.’ I thought it would be apparent that the story he’d be telling was personal. Thanks again!

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  3. Laura,

    I don’t usually go through submissions this way, but decided to dissect your opening paragraph. I focused wholly on the opening and neglected the rest. There’s a reason for this. Your opening needs to grab the reader’s imagination, and will color their perception of the whole book.

    “Two, weather worn travelers topped the hill and looked out over a vast, stone city. It teemed with life and banners hung from towers and walls. Their faces were cloaked and shadowed, but one could tell that they were a harmless couple.”

    From a strictly technical standpoint, there should be no initial comma. Two is not a complete thought by itself, nor is it sufficient to pause. If you’re going to use this sentence structure you should start it this way: “Two weather worn travelers topped the hill and looked out over a vast stone city.”

    You may notice that I took out the comma after vast as well. The only reason to have one there would be to clarify further about the city, and “stone” is not enough of a complete thought to need a pause in narration. If you want the comma, add more too it. Perhaps “over a vast city, its buildings stone-wrought and black.”

    Next, look at “one could tell that they were a harmless couple.” This is an omniscient point of view, almost (but not quite) a narrator’s point of view. A purely omniscient point of view is textbook and dry. There’s nothing automatically wrong with this. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien used an omniscient point of view, but they hybridized it by turning it into a narrator’s point of view. If you recall “The Hobbit” and “Chronicles of Narnia” the narrator frequently addressed the audience as if he were a kindly grandfather telling a story. If you’re going to use this, give your narrator a character to convey in the style of your prose.

    If you want a more modern, intimate point of view, pick a viewpoint character and limit your narration to what that character can see, smell, hear, taste, and feel. Since the rest of your prose is in the omniscient style, let me take a crack at a more personable narrator’s delivery:

    Two travelers, their faces cloaked and their clothes weather worn, climbed the last weary steps to the crest of the hill. Their faces were in shadow and they leaned against one another, perhaps for mutual support after an arduous climb, perhaps out of familiar comfort from long years spent together. No sinister wanderers, not these two. Only a harmless couple, surveying the city of stone that stretched out from the foot of the hill below.

    Notice how I focused heavily on the couple. If a good narrator is telling the story, he or she will try to breathe life into the story. Instead of saying “one could tell that they were a harmless couple,” look how I first showed something about them: they leaned together for support. Evil wizards don’t lean together. The narrator then invites the reader to guess why they do this. Are they an old couple? Are they simply tired? Then, being an intrusive narrator, I told the reader the answer. This violates the rule of “show, don’t tell,” and were I using a more intimate point of view I absolutely would not answer the question and tell that they were harmless. However, a kindly old grandfather likes to tell people things, and for the purpose of supporting the narrator character, I did just that. By being quirky about this, you can use the “unreliable narrator” to keep a few secrets from the reader, but if you do that, never let your narrator tell a direct lie. Just have the narrator show something, and imply a false answer.

    Only after establishing these two did I move on to describe the city. Note I cut the teeming life and banners. Were I to keep writing suggestions, I would spend the next paragraph on the city. The narrator might be tempted to name it, or he might want to keep something a surprise for later. It depends on how Grandpa Narrator wants to tell this story.

    A couple quick thoughts after breezing through the rest:
    I strongly suggest not naming your city Erindale. I know Erindale isn’t Arendelle, but I’m already expecting singing princess es and talking snowmen.
    I think your story will work very well with a narrator’s point of view. I usually prefer a modern initmate point of view, but your story has a blend of fairy tale and high fantasy qualities that will work well with a narrator.

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  4. I found the concept really interesting. Im not sure if the tale inside the story is the main focus of the book or if the storytellers are. If the tale is the focus I suggest starting in the tavern with a call for a story, unless the man and woman’s traveling is vital to the plot. There it could still be pointed out that they’re strangers and they’d have a tale the other people wouldn’t be familiar with. The opener makes me assume the story is about the man and woman’s, but a shorter lead in to the story would help the audience understand that the story’s not necessarily focusing on the travelers.

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