Critique Group – The Protector

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

Not narrative fragments! Say it ain’t so! 🙂

Don’t forget the critiquing guidelines. All you have to do is post a comment about the submission below. Don’t feel like you have 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.

This post will stay active indefinitely, so you can come back and add comments at any time. If you are the writer who is being critiqued, you should subscribe to this post so you can be notified when any comments are added.

The Protector – by Morgan

I lowered myself to the ground in front of my commander, mentally groaning as my knees found their familiar positions on the packed soil. Silky-white walls rose around me, somehow emitting a light of their own. I began to empty my mind and think only of the person I was bowing before. No, not a person. Something more than a person. I thought of the strong but small wooden box that encased it. I thought of the holy hands that had put it in wood and created this place for its protection and safekeeping.

Adjusting the sword at my hip so it wouldn’t get in the way, I twisted my waist to that my shoulders were almost parallel to my kneeling legs. While pulling my right leg up, I began to croon the words of my title to the melody I knew would most please my commander, “I am Calipha, priestess of the Sacred Sanctuaries, and Protector of the Hymn, a charge given to me by the order of Lysandra, may her Song ever be in our hearts.” I repeated this verse a few more times, then knowing I met the requirements, stood and strode over to a chest made of the same wood the Box was.

There were some who believed that all the wood in a sanctuary came from the same holy tree, but I knew that wasn’t the case. I could sense that while the box is sacred, the chest is not. There were only three types of materials in this place: those made of wood, silk, or dirt. Nothing else. Sometimes, it begins to wear on me, but once I pick up an instrument and start to strum or blow or key, all those feelings drift away.

Lifting the lid, I peered in at the jumble of wood and strings and pulled out my favorite, a harp. Though it was about the size of my body, I pulled it out easily and with practiced hands. While closing the chest, I fluidly turned my body to sit on it. My arms adjusted to set the harp down in front of me. As my fingers found the strings, they easily began to play a slow, calming melody. I shut my eyes and reveled in the bliss of the music. This is what heaven is like – white light and the sweet sound of music playing in my ears. If only more people could experience this paradise. But it could not be so. My commander forbids it. Only the holy ones, it said. And we agreed.

I let those thoughts slip away and focused on the music. Unbidden, a hum escaped my lips. More came until my whole body was responding to the song; voice humming, fingers strumming, body swaying. I was captivated. Then suddenly, an abrupt, deep sense of unease broke my spellbound mind from its peace and brought me back to full alert. It was one of the many alarms that surrounded the sanctuary to alert me of anyone approaching. Irritated, but curious, I gently set down my harp and quickly bowed to the Box, knowing I’d have to come back later and ask for pardon. As I exited the chamber, I walked down the hallway made of the same dirt and silk as the rest of the structure. No one was supposed to come here. No one ever came. I almost drew my sword there, but then I recalled the last time I had drawn it inside; some of the walls had been accidentally shredded.

Instead, I left my hand in the ready position, prepared to draw if need be. Getting closer to the exit now, I began to wonder what the sound might be. I am alone here, why would there be such a loud noise? Could it be intruders? Then a horrible thought hit me. My heart sunk with dread. Could it be The Queller?

********************

I crouched in the shadows of the trees surrounding the imposing white structure. It looked almost like it was made of spider web, with maybe a dozen spires towering impossibly high. I’ve heard it described as a ghost-castle. That’s accurate.

I glance over my shoulder at my partner to make sure she’s still there. Her short-cropped hair stuck up in the shadows and I could see the soft curves of her face from where I was sitting. She really was stunning. Jerking my mind back to focus, I peered at the entrance to the structure. So far, our approach seemed to go unnoticed and all was going as was planned. Our mission was simple: capture the Box. I wasn’t sure what was in the Box. At this rate I’ll never know. All I know is that I’m dead if I don’t get it. That’s enough for me.

I looked at the cloth-like wave of the so-called “sanctuary,” looking for any signs of alert. Seeing none, I motioned to my companion to continue. Receiving a curt nod in response, we proceeded.

We left the edge of the tree-line and sprinted out into the open, deftly dodging rocks, sticks, and holes to make our approach as secret as possible. We were getting closer. Two hundred feet. Now, draw your sword. One hundred. Now, jump over that rock. Fifty. Now, keep running. Almost there. I heard a yell. Confused, I looked at my partner. I can’t move my neck. Wait, why did I stop? I was running. Only then did I process the yell I had heard.

“HALT!” it said.

0


Categories: Critique Group

Tags: , , , ,

13 replies

  1. Morgan,

    You did a fantastic job. This story beginning is intriguing, tenstion-filled, and paints a world with excellent, descriptive, elegant prose. I love how you introduce your character and her environment in a non-contrived way. Well done.

    I do have some comments, but they will be few and focuses on details that many probably wouldn’t notice.

    “I began to croon the words of my title to the melody …”

    Maybe simplify this to “I began to croon my royal title to the melody …”

    “strode over to a chest made of the same wood the Box was.”

    Ending with “was” sounded a bit clumsy to me. Maybe – “strode from the box to a chest made of the same wood.”

    “once I pick up an instrument and start to strum or blow or key, all those feelings drift away.”

    This is lovely prose.

    “I pulled it out easily and with practiced hands.”

    I think you can delete “and.”

    “But it could not be so. My commander forbids it. Only the holy ones, it said. And we agreed.”

    Excellent progression of thought with short, punchy statements. You have a superb grasp on altering sentence length at the right times. Also, I love how you call it a commander.

    “More came until my whole body was responding to the song”

    “Came” felt a bit awkward. Maybe “More sound flowed”? Also, I think “my whole body responded” is better than “my whole body was responding.”

    “Then suddenly, an abrupt, deep sense of unease broke my spellbound mind from its peace and brought me back to full alert.”

    I don’t think you need “suddenly.” “Abrupt” provides the suddenness. Also, consider a synonym for alert, since you use the word in the next sentence. Maybe vigilance?

    “As I exited the chamber,”

    I suggest a paragraph break before this sentence.

    “I recalled the last time I had drawn it inside; some of the walls had been accidentally shredded.”

    You changed from active to passive voice, which makes it sound like someone else shredded the walls.

    “Instead, I left my hand in the ready position”

    “Left” indicates that her hand was already in position, but you didn’t precisely say that she set it there. In the previous paragraph, maybe change from “I almost drew my sword there” to “I grasped my sword’s hilt and almost drew the blade” to clarify.

    “Getting closer to the exit now”

    “Getting” sounded a bit off for the language you have been using. Maybe “Closing in on the exit”?

    At this point, you switch POV, which is fine because you have a scene break. The only problem is that continuing with first-person can be confusing, because you didn’t identify this new character as you did with Calipha. I was wondering if I was still in Calipha’s POV, so the switch jerked me around a bit.
    I’m not familiar with the rest of the story, but how difficult would it be to alter this part to third person? Would it mess up a lot? If you stay with first person, I suggest that you figure out a way to identify your POV character sooner.

    “I glance over my shoulder”

    You have been writing in past tense, which I like. Be consistent. Should be “glanced.”

    “at my partner to make sure she’s still there.”

    I would substitute “my partner” with her name. The action will let us know that she is a partner.

    “from where I was sitting.”

    Sitting? I thought he was crouching, assuming the character is male.

    “I peered at the entrance to the structure.”

    Simplify with “I peered at the structure’s entrance.”

    “all was going as was planned.”

    I suggest deleting “was.”

    “At this rate I’ll never know.”

    Use “I would never know” to maintain past tense.

    “All I know is that I’m dead if I don’t get it. That’s enough for me.”

    This is also present tense. If you italicize it, then it’s fine. Otherwise, change to past tense.

    “I looked at the cloth-like wave of the so-called “sanctuary,” looking for any signs of alert.”

    Repetition – looked and looking.

    I motioned to my companion to continue.”

    I would name her here as well.

    “Receiving a curt nod in response, we proceeded.”

    This indicates that “we” received a curt nod, but only the POV character did. I suggest changing to something like “When I received a curt nod in response, we proceeded.”

    The final paragraph has a lot of present-tense thought quotes, which I think should be italicized for clarity, as you will see below. I also edited a couple of items. Feel free to ask about them if you don’t understand why I made them.

    We leaped from the edge of the tree-line and sprinted out into the open, deftly dodging rocks, sticks, and holes to silence our approach. We were getting closer. Two hundred feet. Now, draw your sword. One hundred. Now, jump over that rock. Fifty. Now, keep running. Almost there.

    I heard a yell. Confused, I looked at (name her again). I can’t move my neck. Wait, why did I stop? I was running. Only then did I process the yell.

    “HALT!”

    Again, you did a superb job. You are a supremely talented writer. Keep up the great work.

    0
    • First of all, thank you for all of your comments. It means so much to me that you, the writer I look up to most, took the time to help me make this story better.
      I will work on those word chances and put it in a comment soon.
      One of my main struggles while writing is keeping the POV the same as well as the tense. I think it would be best to keep the man’s scene in first person so that I can still have his thoughts at the end of that scene. Do you have any ideas of how I could make the POV change more evident early on?
      Like I said, I’ll get the revised version in here in a little bit. I just figured I needed to post a comment soon =) Thank you again so much for your comments. They mean a lot.

      1
      • If you will give me the names of the two characters in the second portion, I will show you how you could write it in third person and still do what you want to do.

        0
        • The man’s name is Remir and the woman’s is Akelda =)

          0
        • Remir crouched in the shadows of the trees surrounding the imposing white structure. It looked almost like it was made of spider web, with maybe a dozen spires towering impossibly high. Some described it as a ghost-castle, an accurate assessment.

          He glanced over his shoulder at Akelda to make sure she was still there. Her short-cropped hair stuck up in the shadows, and the soft curves of her face stood out in silhouette. She really was stunning.

          Jerking his mind back to focus, Remir peered at the entrance to the structure. So far, their approach seemed to go unnoticed and all was going as planned. The mission was simple: capture the Box, whatever it might contain. At this rate he might never know what lay inside. No matter. If he failed, he was dead. That was plenty of incentive to succeed.

          He looked at the cloth-like wave of the so-called “sanctuary,” searching for any signs of alert. Seeing none, he motioned to Akelda to continue. When he received a curt nod in response, they leaped from the edge of the tree-line and sprinted out into the open, deftly dodging rocks, sticks, and holes to keep their approach silent.

          They closed in. Two hundred feet. Now, draw your sword. One hundred. Now, jump over that rock. Fifty. Now, keep running. Almost there.

          A yell erupted somewhere. Remir tried to look at Akelda but couldn’t move his neck. Wait, why did I stop? I was running. Only then did he process the yell.

          “HALT!”

          0
          • Wow, that’s much better! It gives their character a little more solidity, which I didn’t realize was important until now.
            I have one question though. Since Calipha was the one narrating the first bit, would readers think that she is still narrating this scene? I feel like that would cause quite a bit of confusion.
            I do see the value in having only one person speaking in first person in this short story, though. It is less confusing than how I first had it.

            1
            • I think readers won’t have a problem knowing that Calipha is not narrating the second scene.

              0
              • Wow, I totally thought I put this in here weeks ago. 😛
                Here’s the revised version of the story =) Not sure how to do italics in here, so I’ll use the // marks to symbolize it.

                I lowered myself to the ground in front of my commander, mentally groaning as my knees found their familiar positions on the packed soil. Silky-white walls rose around me, somehow emitting a light of their own. I began to empty my mind and think only of the person I was bowing before. No, not a person. Something more than a person. I thought of the strong but small wooden box that encased it. I thought of the holy hands that had put it in wood and created this place for its protection and safekeeping.
                Adjusting the sword at my hip so it wouldn’t get in the way, I twisted my waist to that my shoulders were almost parallel to my kneeling legs. While pulling my right leg up, I began to croon my royal title to the melody I knew would most please my commander, “I am Calipha, priestess of the Sacred Sanctuaries, and Protector of the Hymn, a charge given to me by the order of Lysandra, may her Song ever be in our hearts.” I repeated this verse a few more times, then knowing I met the requirements, stood and strode from the Box to a chest made of the same wood.
                There were some who believed that all the wood in a sanctuary came from the same holy tree, but I knew that wasn’t the case. I could sense that while the box is sacred, the chest is not. There were only three types of materials in this place: those made of wood, silk, or dirt. Nothing else. Sometimes, it begins to wear on me, but once I pick up an instrument and start to strum or blow or key, all those feelings drift away.
                Lifting the lid, I peered in at the jumble of wood and strings and pulled out my favorite, a harp. Though it was about the size of my body, I pulled it out easily with practiced hands. While closing the chest, I fluidly turned my body to sit on it. My arms adjusted to set the harp down in front of me. As my fingers found the strings, they easily began to play a slow, calming melody. I shut my eyes and reveled in the bliss of the music. /This is what heaven is like – white light and the sweet sound of music playing in my ears. If only more people could experience this paradise./ But it could not be so. My commander forbids it. Only the holy ones, it said. And we agreed.
                I let those thoughts slip away and focused on the music. Unbidden, a hum escaped my lips. More notes floated through the space until my whole body responded to the song; voice humming, fingers strumming, body swaying. I was captivated. Then an abrupt, deep sense of unease broke my spellbound mind from its peace and brought me back to full alert. It was one of the many alarms that surrounded the sanctuary to alert me of anyone approaching. Irritated, but curious, I gently set down my harp and quickly bowed to the Box, knowing I’d have to come back later and ask for pardon.
                As I exited the chamber, I walked down the hallway made of the same dirt and silk as the rest of the structure. No one was supposed to come here. No one ever came. I wrapped my fingers around the hilt of my sword, almost drawing it, but then I recalled the last time I had drawn it inside. I had accidentally shredded some of the walls.
                Instead, I left my hand in the ready position, prepared to draw if need be. Now closing on the exit, I began to wonder what the sound might be. /I am alone here, why would there be such a loud noise? Could it be intruders?/ Then a horrible thought hit me. My heart sunk with dread. /Could it be The Queller?/

                Remir crouched in the shadows of the trees surrounding the imposing white structure. It looked almost like it was made of spider web, with maybe a dozen spires towering impossibly high. Some described it as a ghost-castle, an accurate assessment.
                He glanced over his shoulder at Akelda to make sure she was still there. Her short-cropped hair stuck up in the shadows, and the soft curves of her face stood out in silhouette. She really was stunning.
                Jerking his mind back to focus, Remir peered at the entrance to the structure. So far, their approach seemed to go unnoticed and all was going as planned. The mission was simple: capture the Box, whatever it might contain. At this rate he might never know what lay inside. No matter. If he failed, he was dead. That was plenty of incentive to succeed.
                He looked at the cloth-like wave of the so-called “sanctuary,” searching for any signs of alert. Seeing none, he motioned to Akelda to continue. When he received a curt nod in response, they leaped from the edge of the tree-line and sprinted out into the open, deftly dodging rocks, sticks, and holes to keep their approach silent.
                They closed in. Two hundred feet. /Now, draw your sword./ One hundred. /Now, jump over that rock./ Fifty. /Now, keep running. Almost there./
                A yell erupted somewhere. Remir tried to look at Akelda but couldn’t move his neck. He attempted to crumple his face in confusion as he wondered, /Wait, why did I stop? I was running./
                Only then did he process the yell.
                “HALT!”

                0
  2. Wow Morgan! I loved it!! It was very descriptive and captivating! I hope to someday read the rest of this!!

    1
    • Haha thank you! I submitted the other half of the story to Mr. Davis so hopefully it’ll be up here soon. I’m not good at dialogue at all, so I’m a little nervous of how the comments are going to go with that. But, I’m always ready for some good constructive criticism! That’s why I’m here! =D

      0
  3. This is indeed one of the best pieces I’ve seen on here for critique. It’s very intriguing. It’s cool that one of the main character is a priestess and the second character threatens the priestess. It’s all really thrilling. I’m very interested in the box and all the world building you set up here. My critiques mostly consist of smoothing out. You definitely have plenty of tension and interest. You have some telling instances such as “confused.” Can you show those instances instead? Also be careful of too many -ing sentence. A few aren’t possible to be simultaneous. Great work! I hope my critique helps! If you have any questions let me know. 🙂

    1
  4. Good job.

    What I’ve seen when someone does two first-person POVs in a book is to have a chapter break, then put the character’s name at the top of the chapter. I think both characters have distinct enough voices you can get by with the first person. (The normal issue I see is when both characters are so much alike the reader can forget whose head he/she is in.

    1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.