Critique Group – The Ogre Wars

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The Ogre Wars – Jess M.

Kadryn surveyed the carnage of the battlefield. Nothing could prepare him for the gruesome scene, though it was a familiar sight what with the war against the Ogres already three months in. More men than he dared to count lay in the bloodstained grass, either dead or soon to be.

Turning from the field brought no relief. The images were seared into his mind. He made his way back to his tent, weaving between the campfires, tents and bedrolls of his men and calling out greetings. The men knew the danger they faced, yet they continued to fight. Whether it was a testament to their loyalty to the crown or because they refused to allow the Ogres to win, he couldn’t tell, but whatever the reason, Kadryn was thankful.

By the time he reached his tent, Kadryn was exhausted, but not in the physical sense. Having to talk to his men knowing that most of them would die weighed on him. The fact that he now knew a lot of the men personally made it even worse. War had a way of bringing people together, only to have them ripped apart by the death that loomed over everyone’s head. It was an undeniable fact that the man one had been talking to the night before was likely to end up dead the next day. The acknowledgement of this led to a dampening of spirits that refused to be lifted.

And the truth of the matter was, they were losing. Badly. For every Ogre that fell, hundreds of Kadryn’s men fell with it. The Ogres were practically unbeatable. The only reason that the Ogres hadn’t won yet was because men kept joining the army. But if things continued the way they did, soon there would no longer be any men left to join.

Kadryn’s page met him inside his tent.

“The Ogre Slayer has been delayed.”

Kadryn sighed. “Again?” He had contacted the Ogre Slayer when the war began and there was still no sign of him three months later.

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“What was the reasoning this time?”

“Your father.”

Kadryn turned to face the page. “My father?”

“I was notified that he was on his way here when he met the Ogre Slayer on the road. He insisted that the Slayer join him.”

“You jest.” Why would his father be traveling to the battlefield? He had made it sound as if Kadryn would be on his own, that his family was entrusting the war to him. His father coming didn’t make sense.

“No, Your Highness. A messenger came while you were out with the men and departed after delivering the news.”

“There was no note?”

“No. Only word of mouth.”

Kadryn went and sat on one of the cushions that littered the ground. “Peculiar that he sent a message that way.”

“It is likely that he did not want the missive intercepted.”

“Maybe so, but one would think that he would not let a messenger run around with that kind of information. You are sure that the man was one of the king’s?”

“For the sake of being blunt, Your Highness, yes, I am certain that it was.”

Kadryn stood. “Very well. Did the messenger also say when they would arrive?”

“No.”

“You may go.”

The page bowed before leaving the tent.

Kadryn rubbed the back of his neck. There was really only one reason that he could think of as to why his father would come: fear of failure. If Kadryn failed, there would be no stopping the Ogres. They had already captured one kingdom on the island. If they were to succeed here, they would control the whole thing and from there they would expand on to other islands. Who knew how far they would be able to get.

The sound of someone clearing their throat pulled him from his thoughts. Apparently his page had returned.

“Yes?”

There was no answer.

He turned and reached for a sword that wasn’t there.

A hooded figure stood facing him, their face shadowed. They jerked their head to the entrance of the tent before stepping into a dark corner, fading into the places where the light didn’t reach.

He opened his mouth to call for someone when the tent flap moved aside and his father and two of his brothers crowded inside. Kadryn hadn’t wanted a bigger tent until that moment.

“What are you doing here?” he blurted out.

King Rieve frowned. “Is that any way to greet us?”

“My apologies. Hello, Father. Narsis. Maverick.” He nodded to each in turn. “What are you doing here?”

A snorted laugh came from the corner and Kadryn was reminded of the figure’s presence. For a second he wasn’t sure which he was more worried about: the figure who very well might be there to kill them all or his family.

He focused on the figure. “And who are you?”

“That, Kadryn,” his father interjected, “is the Ogre Slayer.”

Kadryn glanced between the figure he could barely see and his family. “You are the Ogre Slayer.”

He saw one of the shadows nod. “And why are you hiding?”

“Not hiding. I believe ‘biding my time’ would be more appropriate.”

Kadryn took a startled step backwards. “You are a girl.”

“Will that be a problem?”

He opened his mouth to answer and Father held up a hand, cutting him off.

“Now is not the time.” Father turned to the supposed Ogre Slayer. “Leave us.”

Kadryn was almost positive he could feel the hate rolling off of the girl as she quit the tent. Okay, so the dismissal was a little harsh, but Kadryn didn’t think that it garnered that much hatred. What had Father done?

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8 replies

  1. Jess,

    I enjoyed this story excerpt. You have a good handle on communication and point of view, and the vast majority of your writing is smooth and error-free.

    Let’s take a look at a few issues I found.

    Quoting your opening paragraph: Kadryn surveyed the carnage of the battlefield. Nothing could prepare him for the gruesome scene, though it was a familiar sight what with the war against the Ogres already three months in. More men than he dared to count lay in the bloodstained grass, either dead or soon to be.

    I think you should change the order and report what he sees immediately after the first sentence. Show the dead and wounded men. I would even add a bit. What does a soon-to-be-dead man look like? Is he writhing? Gasping? That thought also made me wonder why Kadryn was just looking at dying men instead of helping them. Maybe show healthy soldiers caring for or carting off the wounded.

    Then, instead of “nothing could prepare him …” show his grief and pain. You showed no actual reaction. Did he cringe? Weep? Cry out in agony? With no actual reaction, I wondered about the first sentence in the next paragraph. Relief from what? He didn’t appear to be suffering at all.

    Next: He made his way back to his tent, weaving between the campfires, tents and bedrolls of his men and calling out greetings.

    Can you give some idea how far it was from the battlefield to his tent? It would also help to show us a man or two as he greeted them and what he said and what they said in return. This gives flesh to skeletons.

    Next: “but whatever the reason, Kadryn was thankful.”

    There is no need to rename him here. You do so in the next sentence. Stick with the pronoun.

    Next: By the time he reached his tent, Kadryn was exhausted, but not in the physical sense. Having to talk to his men knowing that most of them would die weighed on him.

    This entire paragraph is telling. Showing would be much more powerful. In the opening paragraph, if you flesh out a couple of his conversations and show the pain, fear, and anxiety (both Kadryn’s and the men’s) and his personal relationship with them, then readers will connect better. That way, you wouldn’t have to tell us that “he now knew a lot of the men personally.” Show it, don’t tell it.

    Next: Kadryn’s page met him inside his tent.

    You didn’t say that Kadryn went into the tent. Was the page already there when Kadryn went in? Or did the page enter after Kadryn went in? Also put the page’s words in the same paragraph with his actions.

    Next: Kadryn turned to face the page. “My father?”

    Why was Kadryn turned away from the page in the first place? You didn’t indicate that. I assumed he would be facing a person he was conversing with.

    Next: “You jest.”

    I suggest putting this response at the end of the paragraph and replacing it with an appropriate physical gesture. As it stands, the page’s response to “You jest” is delayed quite a bit.

    Next: He had made it sound as if Kadryn would be on his own, that his family was entrusting the war to him.
    I am uncomfortable with renaming Kadryn here. It makes him sound like a third person, not the one thinking about himself.

    I suggest trying something like this:
    Kadryn cocked his head. How strange. He was supposed to be on his own. His family had entrusted the war to him. Why would Father be traveling to the battlefield now? It didn’t make sense. “You jest.”

    Next: Kadryn went and sat on one of the cushions that littered the ground.

    “Went” is a weak verb. Unless this is a huge tent, just have him sit. He probably doesn’t have far to travel.

    Next: “Maybe so, but one would think that he would not let a messenger run around with that kind of information. You are sure that the man was one of the king’s?”

    A visual action would go well between these two sentences. It feels like a natural pause is in order.

    Next: There was really only one reason that he could think of as to why his father would come: fear of failure.

    Too wordy and “he could think” harms intimate POV. Show him thinking:

    Kadryn rubbed the back of his neck. Why would Father come? Certainly this was no casual visit. Only one reason made sense: fear of failure. If their effort failed, there would be no stopping the Ogres.

    Next: Who knew how far they would be able to get.

    Needs a question mark at the end.

    Next: The sound of someone clearing their throat pulled him from his thoughts.

    “Someone” is singular. “Their” is plural. Since Kadryn thinks the person is male, use “his throat.”

    Next: He turned and reached for a sword that wasn’t there.

    Why wasn’t it there?

    Next: A hooded figure stood facing him, their face shadowed.

    Again, “their” is plural. Use “his” because Kadryn assumes this is a man.

    Next: They jerked their head to the entrance of the tent before stepping into a dark corner, fading into the places where the light didn’t reach.

    Only one person did this. Use “He jerked his head …”

    Next: He opened his mouth to call for someone when the tent flap moved aside and his father and two of his brothers crowded inside.

    If you switch to “he jerked” above, use “Kadryn opened …” to clarify.

    Next: Kadryn hadn’t wanted a bigger tent until that moment.

    I didn’t understand this, and I suggest removing it.

    Next: Kadryn was reminded of the figure’s presence. For a second he wasn’t sure which he was more worried about: the figure who very well might be there to kill them all or his family.

    I would delete all of the above. It’s wordy and unnecessary. With four men there, it seems highly unlikely that he would be worried about this at all. Just leave the snorted laugh and Kadryn’s response.

    Next: Kadryn glanced between the figure he could barely see and his family. “You are the Ogre Slayer.”

    I would have him just stare at the figure. Glancing at his family makes the emphasized “you” seem odd.

    Next: He saw one of the shadows nod. “And why are you hiding?”

    Take out “he saw” and just have “One of the shadows nodded” alone in the paragraph. Have Kadryn’s question in a separate paragraph.

    Next: Kadryn took a startled step backwards. “You are a girl.”

    What does a startled step look like? Show, don’t tell. Did he stumble? Gasp?

    Next: Kadryn was almost positive he could feel the hate rolling off of the girl as she quit the tent. Okay, so the dismissal was a little harsh, but Kadryn didn’t think that it garnered that much hatred. What had Father done?

    You have a lot of telling here that harms intimate POV. Do more showing, like the following:

    As the cloaked girl pushed the tent flap aside, she looked back. From under her shadowing hood, only the whites of her eyes shone through—eerie, hate-filled. Then the flap snapped closed, and her soft footsteps faded.

    Kadryn swallowed. What had Father done to garner that much hatred?

    Overall, great job. Just concentrate more on showing. Give readers more visuals so they can connect emotionally.

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  2. Jess, great job! The story is really intriguing. I like the surprise that the Ogre Slayer is a girl. Quite the twist. 😀
    Mr. Davis Pretty much covered the bases, but there were a couple points where I got confused.
    “The fact that he now knew a lot of the men personally made it even worse.”
    I couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be “he … knew … the men personally” or it “personally made it even worse”. I didn’t know where “personally” was supposed to fit. Maybe add a comma?

    “A hooded figure stood facing him, their face shadowed. They jerked their head to the entrance of the tent before stepping into a dark corner…”
    First, I thought that the tent flap had closed behind the page when he departed, so the sudden appearance of the “hooded figure” caught me off guard. Also, “They jerked their head to the entrance of the tent” didn’t make sense to me. I couldn’t see it, especially since I didn’t know if the figure was already inside the tent, or still standing outside the open(?) tent flaps or something.

    Anyways, very nice! I am definitely curious to see how it goes. 🙂

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  3. I liked it. It reminded me of the opening of my own novel. I almost would like to try and add in the suffering aspect to my own story. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t work well for mine, since my opening character is not sympathetic. I agree with Mr. Davis in that you need to use more “showing” than “telling”. Though I do believe that Kadryn thinking about the Ogre Wars and their effects is a necessary “telling”. Though I wonder if perhaps Kadryn discussing it with a friend or confidant would work as “showing”?

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  4. Wow, Jess! That was cool! I love your vivid details of the war and tents and stuff. Your descriptions are amazing and really bring the story to life. I could totally see the events happening in my head.

    I only noticed a few things that are note-worthy (or critique worthy):)

    A hooded figure stood facing him, their face shadowed. They jerked their head to the entrance of the tent before stepping into a dark corner, fading into the places where the light didn’t reach.

    He opened his mouth to call for someone when the tent flap moved aside and his father and two of his brothers crowded inside. Kadryn hadn’t wanted a bigger tent until that moment.

    “What are you doing here?” he blurted out.

    King Rieve frowned. “Is that any way to greet us?”

    “My apologies. Hello, Father. Narsis. Maverick.” He nodded to each in turn. “What are you doing here?”

    A snorted laugh came from the corner and Kadryn was reminded of the figure’s presence. For a second he wasn’t sure which he was more worried about: the figure who very well might be there to kill them all or his family.

    He focused on the figure. “And who are you?”

    This is something that confused me—
    A hooded figure stood facing him, their face shadowed. They jerked their head to the entrance of the tent before stepping into a dark corner, fading into the places where the light didn’t reach….A snorted laugh came from the corner and Kadryn was reminded of the figure’s presence….the figure who very well might be there to kill them all….He focused on the figure.—
    It went from one person- to more than one- and back to one. It was a bit confusing. I suggest sticking with a definite amount of figures and telling the reader how many figures there are from the Kadryn’s POV.

    Also, when the king and company arrive, why weren’t they alarmed of the hooded figures’ presence? Did they know that the figures would be there?

    Why would the king’s arrival be enough to make Kadryn forget about the intruder(s)? It doesn’t seem that realistic.
    (this is the scenario in my head: AAAAAAAHHHH!!! People here to kill me!! I’m gonna die! Oh. What’s up dad? How’re you?) I know. I’m a bit crazy. 🙂

    On a separate note, is Kadryn an adult prince? I don’t know if he’s just a mature kid prince or if he’s an adult. It’s just me wondering…

    Grammar wise, I don’t believe that a colon is appropriate in this sentence,
    ” For a second he wasn’t sure which he was more worried about: the figure who very well might be there to kill them all or his family.”
    I think this might be better,
    “For a second, he wasn’t sure which one he was more worried about. The figure who might be there to kill them all was certainly concerning. But then again, so was his family.”
    Something like that. It’s just better grammatically and lessens the confusion for the readers.

    That’s all I got to say. Your story is awesome. I wish I could see how it ends. Keep on writing! May the Force be with you! 🙂

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  5. I like that! The Ogre Slayer being a girl is really cool, I always like that kind of stuff.
    Keep writing!

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  6. This is definitely one of the best pieces I’ve seen on here for critique. I really like Kadryn’s character so far and I like the twist at the end. I like the emotion this piece invokes. The biggest thing I have to say about the piece is that it’s a bit telly. Can you show more about the “gruesome scene”? You don’t have to be graphic, but I’d like to get a better description of this environment. There’s a lot of good interior monologue here, but not much to be seen. I don’t know what many of the people look like nor the setting. Can you let us see into that more? Great work!

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

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