Critique Group – Shards

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Shards – by Shana

“Azreal, Crown Prince of Lorary!” the herald announced to the waiting crowds below. Azreal blushed as he stepped forward onto the balcony, in full view of the hundreds of people below. He shuffled his feet uncomfortably as the herald announced his sister, “Lilith, Princess of Lorary!”

Lily came gliding out gracefully, smiling and waving at the crowd. She cast a superior glance at her brother. Azreal, scowled at her from where he slouched behind their father.

King Lars stepped forward and called to the crowd, ” People of Lorary!”

Azreal heard the loud cheers rising from below. He winced, and wondered whether his father was distracted enough for him to put his hands over his ears.

“We are strong!” King Lars bellowed.

“Strong!” the crowd cried back.

“Duke Lious’s armies cannot defeat us!” King Lars continued. “They are barbarians. WE WILL DEFEAT THEM!!!”

“Yes!” the crowd roared. They were filled with visions of glory. Lily beamed, and King Lars was clearly full of pride. But Azreal cowered against the wall, filled with nameless horrors.

1 year later

Azra pushed his mop across the tiled floor and wiped his bangs from his face. Memories of his old life seemed so strange now, like a dream. They were all gone, Lily, King Lars, even Lorary, gone like his mother from childbirth. Even Azreal was gone. That shy prince was no longer here, replaced by a servant. Duke Lious had never suspected a thing, and Azra was glad of that. If word got out, Azra would not last much longer than Azreal.

“Azra?”

Azra spun around. A young brown haired girl was peering in through the one of the doorways lining the hall.

“Rachel,” he said, putting the mop in the bucket. “What is it?”

“Duke Lious has two newcomers,” she answered. ” He was about to take them when I left.”

Azra groaned. “How long?”

“About a minute.”

Azra stared hopelessly at rest of the vast hall he had to mop. Sensing his problem, Rachel quickly spoke up. “Seal and I can finish it for you,” she reassured him.

“Thank you,” he sighed, jumping to his feet. “No one else will do this stuff for me anymore.”

“One of the other Shadowed would,” she answered quietly. “Having a Shadow helps us know why you do what you do.” She glanced up, and following her gaze, Azra saw Seal, a frail looking black haired girl, crouched in one of the windows sills, twenty feet above the floor. Seal gave him a cautious smile, and Azra waved back.

Turning and sprinting for the door, he ran down the spotless halls, passing other servants as he hurried by. He took no notice of them, as he was looking for only one person. Suddenly his eye caught on her, a slender blonde haired girl standing out of the way of all the other people.

“Storm!” he gasped, skidding to a halt. “Where have you been? I thought you were with me in the hall! What have you been doing?”

Waiting.

Azra had never been sure if he was hearing Storm talk to him or not, and this seemed to prove it.

“Who would you have been waiting for?” he asked. “Why in the world would you say that?” He shook his head, dismissing the question. “Never mind. I’ll be back in a minute. Stay here!” he added, though he knew she never would. He ran down the hall, and soon a large, pair of door loomed up in front of him, a snake ready to strike. He took a deep breath, and knocked.

“Who is it?”

Duke Lious sounded annoyed. Azra felt deep relief. They had not been taken yet.

“It’s Azra,” he called. “I’ve come to fetch the newcomers!”

There was a long silence. At last Duke Lious replied. “Fine. Come in.” The lock clicked, and Ara entered.

Two girls stood in front of Duke Lious’s desk. One had had curling dark brown hair, the other girl’s was lighter and straighter. They stared at Azra as he entered, but didn’t say anything.

“This is Azra,” Duke Lious said. “He will escort you to your room, and show you around Go.”

“Um, sir?” Azra dared to ask. “Which room, sir?”

Duke Lious scowled at Azra. “Your room. There’s an extra bunk.” He turned away. This conversation was over. Azra nodded, though the duke couldn’t see him, and beckoned to the girls to follow him.

Once out in the hall he relaxed, and turned to the girls. “Hi,” he said. “I’m Azra.”

The pale haired girl nodded to him. “I’m Sharlie,” she said. “This is Lira.”

Lira nodded too. She was staring at Azra, her gaze flickering between his eyes and his hair.

Azra sighed. “Done staring yet?” he asked crossly.

Lira jumped. “Oh! Yes. Sorry. It’s just…”

“I know,” Azra muttered. “I’m albino.” He hated the staring.

Lira nodded again. “Sorry.”

Azra sighed. “It’s all right.”

“Um, Azra?” Sharlie interrupted, staring over his shoulder. “Who’s that?”

Azra turned and jumped. Storm was standing behind him. “Ahh!” he yelped. “Don’t do that Storm!”

Storm might have smiled then. Azra sighed and turned back to Sharlie and Lira, who both looked like they’d seen a ghost. “This is Storm Shard,” he said. “Storm, this is Sharlie and Lira.”

“What’s wrong with her?” Lira whispered.

Azra hesitated. How much would the duke allow him to say? He settled for the bare facts. “We don’t know what’s wrong with her,” he said. “Five kids just appeared one day like this. We call them Shadows, because they each chose one person to follow around. I’m Storm’s Shadowed.”

“But… but Storm can’t be her name,” stuttered Sharlie. “Can it?”

“We don’t know their real names,” Azra admitted. ” But each of the Shadowed somehow knew what to call their Shadow. There’s Storm Shard, Seal Shard, Map Shard, Cloud Shard and Tiger Shard.”

“No!” Sharlie cried. “You don’t understand. We knew her. Her name’s Layria!”

Astonished, Azra turned and stared at Storm.

 

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8 replies

  1. Shana,

    I am traveling at the moment. I will try to comment on your excerpt as soon as I can.

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  2. I thought the concept was intriguing and it kept me glued the whole time. Good work! I only noticed a couple things. You might want to change Azra’s name to something that doesn’t sound or look like Azreal to keep from confusion. Also I wasn’t sure if you were supposed to know who ‘Layria’ was. The last thing is when you break from the past into the present, a ‘1 year later’ break isn’t always need. You could do something like, ‘But it was all different now. One year had passed since that day, but it seemed like an eternity…’ or something😉. Good job!

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  3. Shana,

    Great Job! Beginnings, I find, can be one of the hardest things to make interesting; you did a great job in keeping me interested throughout the whole sample.

    A few things that would make even better.

    You mention Azreal is in full view of the people which makes me think he is standing beside his sister, than a little later it says he is standing behind his father; maybe change that a bit? Also in the same paragraph as when he scowls at his sister, he is slouching; I understand from reading that he doesn’t necessarily like his station of prince, but I feel that even so, he would be groomed by such superior people that he would have to stand up properly when in the presence of anyone other than himself and family.

    “Yes!” the crowd roared. They were filled with visions of glory. Lily beamed, and King Lars was clearly full of pride. But Azreal cowered against the wall, filled with nameless horrors. Maybe change the name Lily back to Lilith? This bit feels like a distant POV, and I really know who the focal character was so it would make more sense to use the less familiar name of Lilith. Unless you do change the whole bit to Azreal remembering, in which case I think the memory would benefit from being a little more intimate and you could keep the name Lily.

    In agreement with E. Hamilton, maybe change Azreal’s slave name a little more?

    ‘Azra stared helplessly at rest of the hall he had to mop’. Add the word ‘the’ before ‘rest’.

    ‘”Storm!” he gasped, skidding to a halt. “Where have you been? I thought you were with me in the hall! What have you been doing?”

    Waiting.’ I wasn’t sure here if Storm was talking or not, but later on she is; maybe make her talk here?

    ‘The lock clicked, and Ara entered.’ I assume you mean Azra.

    I really want to know what happens, and I find I am a harder person to intrigue ;).
    Keep writing!

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  4. Hi 🙂 First off, I loved this idea. Its interesting and kept my focus the entire time which is something really hard to do and I commend you on that. 🙂 Okay here are some things I saw that could improve this (there’s not much.)

    The only thing I can see that could be worked on is showing not telling. This is really hard. Show me what is happening instead of flat out telling me. And for the first scene with Azra, could you pull me into the moment with this? I don’t know. It can be fun to mess around with sometimes. Show him mopping. What is he feeling? Do his hands hurt? Is he feeling irritated so he mops more aggressively making water spray on him? Is it a beautiful day out? Can he see anything through windows or is the light low and dim, almost sunset? For anger show me the visceral actions of the the MC. Heat on the tips of your ears or face, fists clenched tight at sides, you don’t have to tell me he’s angry. I want to feel it and see it.

    Oh and one more thing I just thought of. When that girl is staring at him because of his pigment, could you embellish on his reaction to her reaction of him? (hehehe sorry that wasn’t very clear. You might need to reread that if it didn’t make any sense.) If this has happened before (people staring at him because he’s an albino) maybe he just snaps at her a bit more. Show his emotion and make that more fresh and vivid. If it’s happened before, maybe he just kinda blows up. What is his character like? You can show it through that. (oh and these are all just suggestions)

    Great job and sorry that was longer than I anticipated. Hope I get to read more of it someday 🙂

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  5. Mr. Davis,
    You’ve mentioned narrative fragments in a few of your posts. What are they?

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    • A fragment is a phrase that acts as a sentence but really is not one. It is missing a subject or a verb, so it is a fragment of a sentence.

      A fragment is fine in dialogue or thoughts (interior monologue), but I think they are clumsy in narrative, that is, whey you are describing what is happening.

      For example:

      Oceans breezes. Beach sands. Sat at the shoreline.

      These are all fragments that purport to describe what is happening. Readers can probably figure it all out, but it forces us to pause and decipher it, which slows the reading and risks taking a reader out of the story.

      I also see writers punctuate with a period, thereby creating a fragment, when they should have used a comma or nothing at all.

      Joe ran into the house. Breathing heavily. What. A. Mess.

      This is bad form, but such fragments have become popular of late. Many writers disagree with me, but that won’t stop me from teaching against this bad writing technique. I hope this fad fades away.

      Again, fragments are fine for dialogue and interior monologue, because people often speak or think in fragments.

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  6. Shana,

    You have some great ideas in this piece. The Shadow people concept made it fascinating. I would keep reading.

    The most confusing issue for me is Azra’s relationship to the prologue. Is Azra the same person as Azreal? You wrote that the prince was replaced by a servant, which means to me that the prince is no longer there but a servant is. I was wondering if Azra really is Azreal, that is, he was demoted from being a prince to being a servant, which has a different meaning to me than “replace.”

    Or were you just hinting at this demotion without revealing it in a straightforward manner? If so, then that is a bit of a betrayal to the reader, because in Azra’s point of view, he would know this and inform the reader.

    If my guess is true, then why not state the matter more plainly?

    Details:

    “Azreal blushed”

    In Azreal’s POV, how does he know he is blushing? He can’t see his own face. You could write that his cheeks are getting warm.

    Note the repeat of the word “below” in the second sentence.

    How is the shuffling of his feet uncomfortable? Do you mean that he is nervous? If so, show this instead of stating it.

    Gliding is graceful. You need not tell us that it is graceful. Just write “glided out” without the “came.”

    “Azreal heard” No need to tell that he heard the cheers. Just mention the cheers. Since this is in his POV, we know that he heard them.

    “WE WILL DEFEAT THEM!!!”

    No need for all caps and multiple exclamation marks.

    “They were filled with visions of glory.”

    How does Azreal know this?

    “filled with nameless horrors.”

    I don’t understand this. What is a nameless horror?

    “she answered”

    No need for this speaker tag. She is the only person who would have answered.

    “Azra stared hopelessly”

    How does a person stare hopelessly?

    “she reassured him.”

    No need for this tag. You show her assurance through her speech, and she is the only one who would have spoken to him. Also, she didn’t assure him earlier, so this is the first assurance, not a reassurance.

    “Azra saw Seal”

    No need for the “saw” phrase. Just state that Seal crouched. If you state the visual, readers will know that your POV character saw her.

    “Turning and sprinting for the door, he ran down the spotless halls, passing other servants as he hurried by. “

    Participles (ing verb forms) should occur at the same time as the main verb, but he couldn’t turn and sprint for the door at the same time he ran down the halls.

    “He took no notice of them”

    Then how did he know they were there?

    “ a slender blonde haired girl standing out of the way of all the other people.”

    What other people?

    “this seemed to prove it.”

    I did not underrstand this statement. What proved it?

    “pair of door loomed up in front of him”

    Pluralize door, and delete “up.”

    Azra felt deep relief.

    Show, don’t tell. What did he do to show relief?

    “Ara entered.”

    Should be Azra.

    “One had had curling dark brown hair, the other girl’s was lighter and straighter.”

    Delete “had.” Did he notice only their hair?

    I suggest providing one physical description of Duke Lious/

    Once out in the hall he relaxed, and turned to the girls. “Hi,” he said. “I’m Azra.”
    The pale haired girl nodded to him. “I’m Sharlie,” she said. “This is Lira.”

    Take out he said and she said. They are not needed.

    Azra sighed. “Done staring yet?” he asked crossly.

    Why is he cross? You report it later, but Azra is likely thinking about it before he speaks.

    Azra sighed. “It’s all right.”

    Be careful to avoid repeating the sighing.

    Storm might have smiled then.

    I don’t understand. Did she or didn’t she?

    Azra sighed

    Again.

    “who both looked like they’d seen a ghost.”

    What did that look like? Pale? Mouths hanging open?

    Azra hesitated.

    Did he do anything while hesitating? It is often better to show a physical stance or movement to provide a hesitation instead of just stating that he hesitated.

    How much would the duke allow him to say? He settled for the bare facts. “We don’t know what’s wrong with her,” he said. “Five kids just appeared one day like this. We call them Shadows, because they each chose one person to follow around. I’m Storm’s Shadowed.”

    No need for he said. Also, what makes the girls think that something is wrong with Storm?

    “But… but Storm can’t be her name,” stuttered Sharlie. “Can it?”

    You reversed the order of your speaker tag, that is, stuttered Sharlie instead of Sharlie stuttered. Either order is allowed, but you should be consistent.

    Astonished, Azra turned and stared at Storm.

    Show don’t tell. What did he do to show his astonishment?

    Again, this is a good idea. Try to employ more showing and avoid using speaker tags when you don’t need them.

    Keep up the great work!

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