Critique Group – All the King’s Daughters (Part 2)

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Because this is a bad movie with a bad script, and the producers knew female skin would sell.

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All the King’s Daughers, Ch. 1 continued – by Ashley

(Here is Part One of the story)

The bishop, the grand general, and the chamberlain (and assorted aides) woke Konrad up bright and early the next morning. He tried not to grumble, for they were there to make sure he was fit to be king, physically and mentally. He did his best to be polite, to listen, to answer all their questions correctly. One could yell at servants, but not officials.

During the interview, the bishop made it clear that he felt Konrad was unfit morally, making allusions to the sanctity of marriage and all that. But in the end he agreed that Konrad was the man chosen by God, for if he wasn’t, God wouldn’t have let him live, for men couldn’t just choose a ruler. The three men had many documents for him to sign, most of which would be finalized by the king’s privy council once they returned to the capital. What a lot of rubbish papers were. Swords he understood, but pens hardly a jot.

Konrad left the meeting irritated, tired, and hungry. “Breakfast, d—n it! And prepare my horse!” he screamed at his squire. The lad almost fell backwards as he scrambled away. Three other servants ran after him.

Konrad’s irritation shrank, just a little.

Breakfast was good, and the ale even better. Now, to get home and start planning the coronation…

Dressed and ready, Konrad was about to mount his horse when one of his knights approached, accompanied by a two figures, a tall, straight man and a limping man with a bandage across his head. They both bowed. “My lord, this man begs an audience.” He nodded at the limping man.

Konrad cast a glance over the second man and then nodded. “Yes, my man, what is it?”

“My son, lord. I asked all over about him and this knight says he saw my boy Tobias in the same grave as your brothers.”

The stupid boy’s father. Konrad’s face heated. “Yes, he is in the same grave as my elder brothers.”

“I was told, my lord, that his death was not by the hand of our enemy.”

Konrad waved his hand for the man to come closer. He led the peasant out of earshot, though the other peasant, a burly fellow, came close behind. “And whom did they, whoever they are, say had a hand in his death?”

The man was grim but angry-looking— and a little afraid. “My lord, they say it was your hand.”

Outed at last. Well, Konner had always said the piper always came calling. There was nothing for it, even if he could just have the man killed—but who wanted to start a reign with that? And the burly peasant and one of his own men, too. Witnesses. “I am afraid it was, and I am heartily sorry. Unfortunately, in the fog of war, it is not always possible to keep from hurting your own soldiers by accident. I was attempting to loose an arrow at an enemy and the lad was thrown into the path of my shot. I am genuinely sorry for your loss. But rest assured, he rests by my brothers and I will have the incident recorded for all to hear of the bravery of your son in the battle.” Bravery, or foolishness, to pray with the enemy in the midst of a battle!

“Beg pardon, my lord, but proud as I am, that will not compensate for his loss. I am a freeman, lord, not a serf. Wulfgar. My family has been free since the time of the Ancestors. The records lie in the royal accounting already. And Tobias is—“ here the man bowed his head—“was, a chaplain’s assistant.”

Konrad chewed on his lip and stared at the man. What did he want? Money? No taxes? The treasury would be empty if he compensated for every lost soldier.

An idea came to him, as if God had planted the idea into his mind. He removed his glove and pulled off one of his rings, silver with a wolf carved from emerald. He handed it down to the man. “Wulfgar Freeman, I give this to you as a wergild for your son. I owe you a debt of blood. When the time is right, I believe God will bring us together again and I will repay it. Take this purse also and use it according to your family’s need.”
Wulfgar blinked twice before accepting the two items. “I thank you, Your Majesty. May God guide you all the days of your life.” He bowed as best he could, turned, and left.

Konrad shook his head. He had a bad feeling he would see this man again. Though hopefully not too soon…

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6 replies

  1. I hope to critique this sometime this weekend. In the meantime, I hope others will chime in with their own critiques.

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  2. Hello Ashley,

    I like this scene. A few tips I’d add to it are as follows.

    A lot of dialog in this scene have tags in front of the speaking part. Such as: Konrad cast a glance over the second man and then nodded. “Yes, my man, what is it?” There is a list of common mistakes on this blog by the critiquing guidelines about the action coming before the thing causing it. Maybe take a look at that if you haven’t already to switch things around as you find appropriate. (this could even mean putting the tag in the previous paragraph)

    Show not tell. You have some paragraphs in there (Par. 1 and 2) that are telling me what happened. It’s a huge temptation to do this because lets face it, it’s a lot easier. But if you could show what happened in para. 1 and 2, it would make it a lot stronger.

    Can you show me the emotion through body language and visceral emotion? There’s a super good book for this called The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. It’s very, very helpful for this kind of thing and it has helped me a whole lot with showing emotion.

    Okay one more thing (and this is fun and small). Could you describe the scene a bit? I felt a bit floaty the whole time because I didn’t know where they are or even what time period this is in. I (personally) imagined it in a long dark hallway the whole time. It doesn’t take much time to flesh out the scene by showing where the light is coming from and what colors/textures are observed.

    Great job on this. I liked the ideas put in and I can tell that this will go places and that you really put thought time and effort into it. And kudos for putting it up online. That takes guts 🙂 Great job and I hope to read more some day 🙂

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  3. Ashley,

    You have done a good job painting the portrait of a self-serving scoundrel. Since your intent is likely to make readers detest Konrad, I think you have achieved your goal. As I mentioned before, however, take care to bring in someone likeable as soon as you can. Readers need someone to cheer for.

    The first few paragraphs were mainly summary narrative, which is fine if nothing interesting happened, but it felt a bit long for a “telling” section. The only real-time action was the call for breakfast, which including a curse (though marked out). Since everyone knows what the word is, it seems like an odd choice to leave out the letters. I would have left it out completely. Why dive into real time for only this?

    When you switched to real-time narrative, I sensed a lack of scene-setting. We know Konrad is at home, (“Now to get home”), and that he is ready to mount a horse, but what does home and the surrounding grounds look like? Is it a castle? A humble house? A sprawling estate? We need some kind of moorings to set the scene. Otherwise, readers are blind and see people with no backdrop.

    Next: “He nodded at the limping man.”

    I assume it was the knight who nodded. Since you mentioned other men, the antecedent for “he” isn’t clear.

    Next: “and then nodded.” Two uses of “nodded” close together.

    Next: Konner had always said the piper always came calling.”

    Maybe replace the first “always” with “often” to avoid repeating the word.

    Next: “But rest assured, he rests by my brothers”

    Repeating “rest” seemed awkward.

    Next: I didn’t understand the man’s explanation that he is a freeman. How is that relevant to his appeal?

    Next: Take this purse also and use it according to your family’s need.

    What purse? There was no mention of a purse before.

    That’s all I have. Your writing is without much error, so I don’t have many details. The two main issues I have are (1) the decisions you made with regard to what to summarize and what to make real time. Since I don’t know how the story will progress, I don’t know what you are foreshadowing or setting up, so I can’t make a judgment. In any case, the summary part felt a bit long. And (2) the lack of scene setting. I felt blind to the surroundings.

    Keep up the good work!

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  4. Beautiful! I read both of your excerpts, Ashley, and they both captured my attention from the start and carried it all the way through.
    I only have a few things that I noticed. First, Konrad seemed to be surprised by the amount of paperwork and responsibility that comes along with being king. Since his family was royalty, you would think that he would be more accepting, and possibly less aggravated, by the fact that it would come along with paperwork and things of that nature as well.
    Second, when it says “as if God had planted the idea in his mind”, it didn’t seem to fit very well, unless it was meant sarcastically. I say this because, honesty, Konrad doesn’t seem like the kind of man to think that God would plant anything in his mind that he would care about.
    Other than that, this is a beautiful piece of work! You have a very gifted hand! Keep writing!!

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  5. Thanks for all your comments! I’m sorry I didn’t get to them right away; I am very forgetful and life gets in the way.

    I totally see the areas my writing needs improvement and have fixed them. Would y’all like to see the changes?

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  6. All the King’s Daughers, Ch. 1 continued

    The next morning, Konrad pulled back the heavy cloth door of the tent and stepped into the bright light of morning. How he loved clear blue days when one could see the green, flat countryside for miles. The land was laid out as a map here, but further sound the grass rose into hills, and then into jagged mountains. Those mountains were the border with Alba. He wondered how that dotty king of theirs was still alive. He had to be over seventy years old. Positively ancient.
    The day, however, was wonderful, as if it had just been made. The cool, fresh air smelled of woodsmoke, hot food, and green grass. It made him feel awake and alive, and hopeful that perhaps being king wouldn’t be so dreadful.
    Then the wind brought him the odor of enemy corpses still being burned. He scowled. He had never learned to love that smell. Unpleasant memories rode that smell.
    Irritated, he yelled for his squire, who quickly supplied him with a cold meat pie and oatmeal. Over his breakfast, Konrad mused over his meeting with his officials.
    It had gone exactly as he had imagined: they woke him bright and early, he tried to be polite, and they made it clear they didn’t want him as their king but had no choice. After all, a king was chosen by God, and who could stand against God? Then they made him sign many papers and documents. Ugh, he knew document and manuscripts etc. were important for running government, but he simply hated it. Swords he understood, but pens hardly a jot. Octavia was much better about papers. And Julia was, too. He grimaced. Was there a way to keep her around so she could keep the paperwork under control, but in a way so she wouldn’t interfere with him?
    Konrad rose, and called for his squire again. He needed to get back to the capital and start…what did one do when once became king? Have a coronation, he knew. Had his mistress mentioned parties?
    Soon he was dressed and ready, and he was about to mount his horse when one of his knights, Hagrid, approached, accompanied by a two figures, a tall, straight man and a limping man with a bandage across his head. All three bowed.
    Sir Hagrid gestured at the limping man. “My lord, this peasant begs an audience.”
    Konrad cast a glance over the injured man and then nodded. “Yes, my man, what is it?”
    “My son, lord. I asked all over about him and this knight says he saw my boy Tobias in the same grave as your brothers.”
    Konrad’s face heated. This had to be the stupid boy’s father. “Yes, he is in the same grave as my elder brothers.”
    “I was told, my lord, that his death was not by the hand of our enemy.”
    Konrad waved his hand for the man to come closer. He led the peasant out of earshot, though the other peasant, a burly fellow, came close behind. “And whom did they, whoever they are, say had a hand in his death?”
    The man was grim but angry-looking— and a little afraid? “My lord, they say it was your hand.”
    Outed at last. Well, Konner had often said the piper always came calling. There was nothing for it, even if he could just have the man killed—but who wanted to start a reign with that? And the burly peasant and one of his own men, too. Witnesses. “I am afraid it was, and I am heartily sorry. Unfortunately, in the fog of war, it is not always possible to keep from hurting your own soldiers by accident. I was attempting to loose an arrow at an enemy and the lad was thrown into the path of my shot. I am genuinely sorry for your loss. Be assured, he rests by my brothers and I will have the incident recorded for all to hear of the bravery of your son in the battle.” Bravery, or foolishness, to pray with the enemy in the midst of a battle!
    “Beg pardon, my lord, but proud as I am, that will not compensate for his loss. I am a freeman, lord, not a serf. I am not owned by or owe service to any local lord. My family has been free since the time of the Ancestors. The records lie in the royal accounting already. And Tobias is—“ here the man bowed his head—“was, a chaplain’s assistant. I am not a greedy man, my lord, but his death means two fewer hands to bring income to my family.”
    Konrad chewed on his lip and stared at the man. What did he want? Money? No taxes? The treasury would be empty if he compensated for every lost soldier.
    Then an idea came to him. It was such a good idea, he did not doubt that God had planted it into his mind. He removed his glove and pulled off one of his rings, silver with a wolf carved from emerald. He handed it down to the man. “Wulfgar Freeman, I give this to you as a wergild for your son. I owe you a debt of blood. When the time is right, I believe God will bring us together again and I will repay it.” From his belt Konrad untied a leather bag and held it out to Wulfgar. “Take his money also and use it according to your family’s need.”
    Wulfgar blinked twice before accepting the two items. After putting the ring into the purse, he looped the string around his neck and hid it under his tunic. “I thank you, Your Majesty. May God guide you all the days of your life.” He bowed as best he could, turned, and left.
    Konrad shook his head. He had a bad feeling he would see this man again. Though hopefully not too soon…

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