Critique Group – The Summon of the Called

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The Summon of the Called – by Coral

Shalome quickened her stride down the dusty road, leaving the bustling village life behind. She glanced up at the the sky. The sun had already passed over the peaks, and the sky was beginning to fade from purplish orange to deep blueish gray. Hopping into a jog, she glanced into the forest’s growing shadows on either side. She was only halfway home, and her husband was likely already getting prepared to come out looking for her with their sweet little baby girl, even before dark. At the thought of her husband, she couldn’t help letting a smile creep onto her lips. Caydan was such a protector. He would do anything to keep her and their daughter safe and happy.

His reaction could not be predicted though. Everyday was different. She couldn’t help sigh. Yet, each day wasn’t really all that different from the one before or the one to come. Life continued each long, toiling day with only the shift of moods, occasional loss or gain of life, and little tragedies to define each one. It was the way it was, had been, and likely would be for centuries to come. Somewhere deep down, buried beneath reason, reality and good sense,she almost longed for, even desired, for something different and mysterious to happen to shake up their little, broken, mundane village. Glancing around slightly nervously, she shook her head and tried to push away the tears that had welled in her eyes. The last time that she had wished for her world to be shaken, life had taken her world, flipped it upside down, and left her heart beaten, broken, and bruised with wounds that still needed healing.

About fifteen minutes from the house and with the sky already painted with early night stars, she slowed her pace and tried her best to relax. The night air was cool and refreshing with only a slight chill, and a correlation of the night’s soft notes rang out from the shadows.

Suddenly, a low, disturbing moan startled her and interrupted the peaceful night lullaby. She nearly jumped out of her skin. A groan emitted from the shadows off the road. Her husband had taught her to tune her senses very keenly. The sound had come from behind a group of shrubs about six yards away. Another groan issued out. Obviously someone was hurt. Yet, how could she be sure? There was no doubt that she was’t imagining the noise, but there had been very cunning thieves wondering the lands lately. And what a prize a twenty year old young woman, alone, with no protection, would be. Since the king had gone back into the never ceasing war with the Sabrin, the robbers had thrived all over the land. In fact, it was said that the King controlled the war, and the thieves controlled his people. Another long moan of pain interrupted her thoughts. It tore at her heart. That couldn’t be fake. The sound of pain was much too strong to be false.

At least, she sure hoped so.

Slowly creeping toward the the sound, she held her breathe and pushed the overwhelming doubts out of her mind. Her heart beat erratically. She peaked around the shrubs and gasped. A middle aged man lay on the muddy ground, abandoned. He had a strong frame, unkempt dark hair, bloody and tattered clothing. Rushing to his side, she knelt and grasped his hand in hers, as he groaned again. He had a deep gash in his noble brow and two arrows stuck in his right side.

“Take… Take this… please,” he choked, obviously trying to keep his eyes trained on her face. Although he was fighting for his life, with the amount of blood loss, he only had minutes to live. He shook his head, as he coughed up blood. He released her grip and pulled something from a satchel at his side. His trembling hand reached up and pressed something into her own. She wanted to look down at the object, but she couldn’t take her gaze off the his wise, steady, suffering eyes. Though he did not speak it, his hard stare told her of the urgency in his dying words. “Take it… to the… the Called. Go to the mountain… to the old well in the stone circle… tomorrow night.” More blood gushed in a fit of coughs. Shaking her head, she wanted to speak. As if reading her hesitancy, he spoke desperately between chokes.

“Please… You must. Do it, girl… Just do it.”

“I will,” was all she could mutter, as tears began to stream down her cheeks.

He gasped, closed his eyes, and breathed his last. A peaceful smile still lay on his lips, almost as if he were sleeping. But she knew better, by the limp hand that still lay in hers, that he would never wake up. Wiping her eyes with the back of her sleeve, she stared down at object he had given her. A scroll tied with a dark ribbon and sealed with wax lay in her hands.

It looked as if she had gotten her secret wish once more, and yet again, it had ended with tragedy. Tears poured down her cheeks as memories flooded back. Standing to leave, she felt her hand trembling and glanced down. She was scared, but not scared enough to be trembling that much. Her hand turned from trembling to shaking to convulsing. Suddenly, it dawned on her. It wasn’t her hand that was shaking. It was the scroll. As the parchment shook uncontrollably faster and faster, the wax grew brighter and brighter from dark red to deep orange to golden yellow until it was blinding. Before she could react, the wax burst into an oblivion, and every limb in her body became paralyzed. Then, everything evaporated into thin air. Her body lifted, and she felt herself being vacuumed into the black abyss before her. Blackness surrounded her and consumed her mind. She knew nothing more.

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16 replies

  1. I like how you gave Shalome’s viewpoint toward change in the second paragraph and then used that to deepen her emotional conflict when she finds the wounded man. Great foreshadowing there.

    You mention Shalome’s name exactly once in this piece. I’d like to see it scattered through this part at least a few more times so that I’m sure of her name at all times without having to look back at the start.

    This part: She was only halfway home, and her husband was likely already getting prepared to come out looking for her with their sweet little baby girl, even before dark. Due to the placement of “with their sweet little baby girl”, I initially thought that Shalome had the baby girl with her. Maybe She was only halfway home, and her husband might have already taken their sweet little baby girl and come looking for her, even before dark. Or something like that.

    Also some grammatical fixes:

    Everyday was different. “Everyday” is an adjective. In the context you’re using this in, it should be “every day”.

    Somewhere deep down, buried beneath reason, reality and good sense,she almost longed for, even desired, for something different and mysterious to happen to shake up their little, broken, mundane village. There should be a comma between “sense” and “she”.

    In fact, it was said that the King controlled the war, and the thieves controlled his people. Should “King” be capitalised?

    Slowly creeping toward the the sound, she held her breathe and pushed the overwhelming doubts out of her mind. Change “breathe” to “breath”.

    She peaked around the shrubs and gasped. A middle aged man lay on the muddy ground, abandoned. “Peaked” should be “peeked”; “middle aged” should probably be “middle-aged”.

    Rushing to his side, she knelt and grasped his hand in hers, as he groaned again. If Shalome is grasping his hand, you don’t need to tell us that she’s grasping his hand “in hers”. Readers know that Shalome is using her hand. You’d only need to state what Shalome grasps with if it’s something out of the ordinary, like her foot. 😛

    Wiping her eyes with the back of her sleeve, she stared down at object he had given her. Should be “at the object”, not “at object”.

    Yep. That’s what I’ve got to say. Keep writing!

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  2. I hope to critique this sometime over the weekend. 🙂

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  3. To begin with, I really found this piece interesting. It kept my attention to the end which is a very good thing.
    I did spot a few small errors though. They were mostly grammatical errors; nothing major.
    The first sentence has a double “the”.
    Should be a hyphen in “purplish orange” and “blueish gray” like so purplish-orange and blueish-gray.
    Phrase “and her daughter” in the sentence “He would do anything to keep her and her daughter safe and happy.”, should be set in commas like so: “He would do anything to keep her, and her daughter, safe and happy.”
    “She couldn’t help sigh” should probably be “She couldn’t help BUT sigh”
    In the following sentence the phrase “or the one to come” could be omitted. It is not necessary.
    In the Sentence “Somewhere deep down, buried beneath reason, reality and good sense,she almost longed for, even desired, for something different and mysterious to happen to shake up their little, broken, mundane village.” The phrase “even desired” should probably be omitted. It sounds redundant because if you long for something you desire it greatly. Therefore “longed for, even desired” is like saying “she desired, greatly desired”.
    In the sentence: “The last time that she had wished for her world to be shaken, life had taken her world, flipped it upside down, and left her heart beaten, broken, and bruised with wounds that still needed healing.” I think “heart broken, beaten and bruised” was meant.
    “There was no doubt that she was’t imagining the noise, but there had been very cunning thieves wondering the lands lately.” “Wasn’t” is misspelled and you said “wondering” when I think you meant “wandering”.
    That’s all I spotted. Keep writing. I would love to read more of this story. Allow me to leave you with this advice: Enjoy what you write. If you enjoy what you are writing, then your readers will likely enjoy it as well.

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    • Those are very helpful editing tips that I hadn’t noticed. And that is very wise advice that I treasure deeply! Thank you for your input, Lori!

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    • Lori, most of these tips are great, but I need to take exception to a couple of them.

      Color combinations are not hyphenated unless they are used as an adjective before a noun, as in, “The bluish-gray cat purred.” If the combination is not before the noun, then it is not hyphenated, as in, “The cat is bluish gray.”

      So Coral’s use was correct, except that it is bluish, not blueish.

      Also, regarding the need for commas in “He would do anything to keep her and her daughter safe and happy.” They are optional. I would leave them out.

      I hope to post my critique sometime tomorrow.

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  4. Greetings. I’m going to talk a little bit about story elements rather than grammar. Just to give you a view pointers I noticed. Overall, the story is engaging, you are doing a good job. Grammar for the most part seems to be quite good.

    First of all,
    “At the thought of her husband, she couldn’t help letting a smile creep onto her lips. Caydan was such a protector. He would do anything to keep her and their daughter safe and happy.”
    I understand that your painting a picture of Caydan to be an honourable man. However, it might be nice to show this. If he is a protector how does he do this. Perhaps he has a sword hidden away in their home, or a club. Is he willing to use it to protect his family? It might make it more powerful to show this.

    Second, I was slightly confused by the first part of the next paragraph. “His reaction could not be predicted though…..” This is vague, and a bit confusing at the moment in the story. Is this referring to how Caydan is depressive or bipolar? Then the next sentence seems refer to village life. Is there something to be concerned about, perhaps abuse? I just find this slightly confusing.

    Third,
    “Life continued each long, toiling day with only the shift of moods, occasional loss or gain of life, and little tragedies to define each one.” If its possible to show this that could make things more compelling. At this point I don’t know what our protagonist does for a living. Why is she even in the village? Maybe start the story a bit earlier and show how she is bored at the end of her work day. Maybe her ‘boss’ is good one day, bad another day. Maybe show that the rumour mill in town flaunts about how somebody died or somebody had a child. This could be a useful way to show how the character sees this as boring (I’m not sure if that’s what your going for here. But the main point is to show me. At this point I am struggling to imagine this specifically in my mind. At this point all I have are vague things to go off of).

    Fourth, “Her husband had taught her to tune her senses very keenly.” I feel like this is more narrative and takes us out of the POV of the character. Perhaps, show this by having her do a 360 check around her. To see if any bad guys are creeping up on her. For example, “Shalome checked over her shoulders and crouched low. Nobody was behind her. Listening intently, the whimper came from behind a bush engulfed in shadows.” (Using actions like shoulder checking, and crouching show that she has some experience. They also show that she is careful. Many untrained people freeze when some kind of trouble happens. They get tunnel vision when potential enemies might be creeping up behind them. Showing awareness is a good tactic for proving to the reader that the character has some awareness and skill.

    Fifth, If the bandits had taken the time to kill and fire a couple arrows at the dead man. They probably would have stolen his satchel or at least taken a look at the pretty scroll. I think there needs to be a reason why they didn’t get a chance to steal from the man. Did Caydan the brave chase them away? Did the dead man kill one of them making the bandits run off? At this point I feel like the dead guy should have nothing valuable on his person.

    I think that’s all I’ll comment on for now. Overall, your doing good. Writing the introductory parts of the story is super difficult. It is especially tricky evaluating how much back story to reveal when getting the story going.

    Keep on going! You have a good start here!
    Also keep in mind that I’m trying to push you here to get your story to a new level. So please take no offence at any of my critiques.

    Blessings.
    CJ

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  5. Coral,

    You already received some good critiques, so I won’t belabor some of the points already made. Overall, this is an interesting start, so I think you can make a good story out of it.

    Overall, I think you do too much narrating that amounts to telling instead of showing, especially in the first paragraph, as others have mentioned. Move the story along. Show the elements within the action.

    Instead of typing my suggestions, I marked up your story in MS Word. You can find the document here – http://www.daviscrossing.com/critiqueFebruary19-2016.doc

    If you are unable to read it, let me know.

    Keep up the good work. 🙂

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  6. I like your description, Coral! I also loved how you incorporated emotions through some figurative language such as in this sentence: “The last time that she had wished for her world to be shaken, life had taken her world, flipped it upside down, and left her heart beaten, broken, and bruised with wounds that still needed healing.”

    One of the things that I noticed in the first paragraph was that the later half felt a bit unnatural– like an information dump. Shalome’s thought process felt a bit forced for the sake of the narrative in that spot. The following paragraph was even more unnatural from my perspective. Perhaps you could leave this this information for later and incorporate it in slower.

    Occasionally, I wished that you would show more instead of telling and explaining something to the reader. One part that made me think this was “Obviously someone was hurt. Yet, how could she be sure?”

    Though I really, really enjoyed the surprise ending (I was definitely not expecting that), I thought that the death scene leading up to it was a bit cliche. Also most dead people don’t look peaceful, especially if they are covered in blood. Perhaps by thinking about his internal wounds and giving him a less peaceful and more horrific dead, you could get rid of some of the tropes in the scene.

    Good luck with your writing!
    God bless,
    Gabrielle

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    • I’m glad that you enjoyed most of it, Gabrielle! Yeah, showing, instead of telling has been a recurring theme in the comments that I have received so far, so I am working on overcoming that hurdle. And your right about the death scene; It was a bit cliché. Also, thank you for the encouragement! I appreciate it! 🙂

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  7. Coral, this looks great! I noticed a lot of people have already given you plenty of pointers. The one thing I didn’t see mentioned and caught my attention, was when you state that “Although he was fighting for his life, with the amount of blood loss, he only had minutes to live.” How does Shalome know that he only has minutes to live?

    D.I.

    P.S. I also loved the name game you played. How Shalome (meaning peace) is actually lacking peace.

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