Critique Group – The Orb of Unlimited Power

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The Orb of Unlimited Power – by Hope

July 20, 2010 ~ End of the First Showers 211 C.

On the world of Coran there lived a mage named Fileus Hartkins. Now, this particular mage was in search of a power; a power that had no weakness, no limitation, and it could be controlled no matter what your skill in the art of magic was. Even if one didn’t practice magic, one could still wield it, or so he hoped. The mage raced to create such a power to help stop the never ending civil war between the magical folk and non-magical folk, but all his endeavors ended in failure. Until one day, in the kingdom of Caledonia, he achieved his goal.

Fileus held his creation in his hands. The orb appeared to be small and round and it emitted a warm, golden glow. Fileus believed only one was worthy enough to wield this power and it wasn’t him. He would give it to his only child, his daughter Elaine, who he abandoned when she was not two days old. There were complications with the mother and so Fileus took the child for his own, but he did not want his daughter to grow up in a world that was tearing itself apart. So, he created a portal and he and his daughter went to another world called Earth. He ended up near a hospital. Fileus ran inside and the moment he gave his daughter to a nurse and told the nurse her name, he was gone. He regretted his decision every single day.

Every year though, on the day of her birth, Fileus returned to that world and searched for her. For her first year, he found Elaine in an orphanage full of other young children. He pretended to be interested in adopting so he could get just a small moment with her. On her second birthday, Fileus discovered that Elaine had been adopted into a family of five and there she stayed and lived a happy life. It wasn’t until years later that Fileus decided to give the orb to Elaine.

The house Elaine lived in was a decent size, compared to all the others around. The family, called the Browns, seemed like nice people. They always made Elaine’s day of birth so special. She received gifts, sweets, and a lot of people were always present, but today, no one was home. Fileus started to panic a little and he marched down the street, not knowing exactly where he should start looking. As he came to a crosswalk that led to a park on the other side, he heard voices screaming and shouting. Fileus ran into the park and saw a large party gathered under a white tent. Children were running all over the place and the adults were all clustered together. Fileus ducked under a tree and peered around. And there she was; her brown hair flew behind her as she ran with the other older children. She wore a yellow sundress and no shoes. His heart melted in his chest. She was becoming so much like her mother: the light brown hair, sparkling grey eyes, freckles on her nose and cheeks, although, she did have Fileus’s nose. The children were kicking around a red ball. They appeared to have set up two chairs and were trying to get the ball between the chairs. Elaine ran up to the ball and kicked it with her bare foot. The ball flew past the chairs and bounced its way right to Fileus.

“Don’t worry, I’ll get it!” Elaine shouted as she sprinted right up to Fileus. Fileus picked the ball up and examined it. “Hi,” Elaine panted. Beads of sweat dotted her forehead. Strands of her hair clung to the side of her face, but she didn’t seem to notice or care.

Fileus held back a smile. “Is this yours?” He said holding the ball out to her. Elaine nodded as she took it from him and said thanks. As she turned to leave, Fileus called out, “Uh, wait, what’s your name?”

Elaine stopped and pivoted. “Elaine Brown,” she answered.

He then held out his hand. The adults made this gesture a lot, a sign of greeting he believed. “My name is Fileus Hartkins.”

Elaine cautiously took his hand and they shook. “Nice to meet you.”

“And you as well.” He couldn’t hold back his smile any longer. “Elaine, before you go, what are you all celebrating?”

“It’s my birthday,” Elaine beamed.

“Well, happy birthday! How old are you?” he asked even though he knew her age.

“Fifteen.”

Fileus grinned as he put his hand in his coat pocket. He clutched the orb. It felt warm and soothing in his hand. “Elaine, may I give you a present?”

She raised an eyebrow. “But I don’t even know you and you don’t even know me.”

Fileus smiled to himself. “The thing is, I made this,” he withdrew the orb and held it up between his fingers, “and it’s supposed to be for someone special.” Fileus held the orb out to her. “And I believe you are that someone. Happy birthday.”

Elaine dropped the red ball and took the orb. The orb’s light swirled in the palms of her hands. “It tickles,” she remarked. Then quite suddenly, the orb flew up in the air and hovered in front of Elaine. She gasped, “How’s it doing that?” The orb circled around Elaine’s head and then it did something that nearly gave Fileus a heart attack. It dove right into her open mouth and down her throat. Elaine coughed and gagged. Fileus saw the light shine through her skin and clothes as it flew straight for her heart. The orb’s light settled on her heart and then the light went out. She stopped coughing. “What…what was that?” Elaine wheezed. She touched her throat.

Fileus stood gaping. He quickly tried to think of something to say. “It…it has chosen you.”

She glared at him. “What?”

“The orb is alive and it has chosen you.”

“Are you serious? What’s going on? What happened?”

Fileus pondered. “I believe that orb wants to protect you, and so it has established itself in you, so that it can protect you from all harm.”

“But who would want to harm me?!”

Fileus started to panic and then he noticed that some of the adults were staring at them. He looked back at Elaine. “I know we just met, but can I ask you to trust me? I promise you the orb will not harm you, it wants to help you.”

Tears suddenly streamed down Elaine’s cheeks. “You’re my dad?” she whispered.

Fileus took a step back. “How…?”

Elaine wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “The ball . . . it’s speaking to me, and it says that you’re my birth dad.”

Elaine’s parents started walking toward them. Fileus ignored them. “Yes, I’m your father.” How could the orb be speaking to her? He reached out to embrace her, but Elaine drew back.

“Excuse me!” Elaine’s father called.

Fileus took Elaine’s face in his hands so that she looked directly at him. “I am so sorry I gave you away, but it was for the best. This gift I have given you is meant only for you. Don’t let anyone take it away from you.” He gently kissed her forehead. “I love you so much, Elaine.” He quickly walked away.

“Hey!” Elaine’s father called. Both parents ran up to their daughter.

“Sweetie, are you alright?” her mom asked as she inspected her daughter. “Did that man hurt you?”

Elaine’s dad ran off after Fileus, but he never found him. He came back to his wife and daughter. “He just disappeared. Honey, who was that?”

“She hasn’t said a word. She hasn’t even moved,” Elaine’s mom said. Elaine stood perfectly still, her eyes glazed over, and then she fainted. Her mom screamed and caught her in her arms. Her father grabbed his phone and dialed for an ambulance. The rest of the party ran to them and created a circle around the trio, asking what had happened. An ambulance arrived minutes later. The paramedics jumped out of the van and one of them began examining Elaine. A police car pulled up and Elaine’s father told the cop about the strange man.

After the examination, the paramedics decided to take Elaine to the hospital and run some tests to see if the man had given her anything. But after the tests, they found nothing. Elaine was perfectly healthy. There wasn’t a single thing wrong with her and yet they didn’t know why she still slept.

The cause of Elaine being unconscious was the orb. It had put her to sleep so as to explore Elaine’s body and establish itself within her. The orb wanted to know its host’s strengths, weaknesses, and to cure anything that seemed out of place. It took three days, though the orb had no concept of time. Once it was done, it let its host wake up.

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14 replies

  1. Thanks for sharing!

    I think your story has a lot of potential. I would caution against dues ex machina later on in the story though. It seems the ball can solve problems on its own and that’s not as interesting as someone struggling to solve them.

    I would also suggest rereading the “List of common mistakes.” You have an interesting style but there are some POV errors. And a lot of “Telling.”

    “Show don’t tell,” is often a difficult concept to fully grasp. In this case, your story starts at or just before the dialogue. If he’s making the ball, then show us the scene of him creating it. If he found a problem with the girl’s mother, show us what the problem is. Was there a confrontation? A battle? Skipping over it by just telling us means it wasn’t pertinent information in the first place.

    Show us his remorse in giving up his daughter. (Now would be a time to say the mother was unfit.)

    Show the girl playing in the house. Bring us closer to bonding with her by allowing the reader into her head.

    Finally, I get the feeling that you’re targeting the YA crowd. Which is fine, but I’d suggest write the story and worry about the marketing later. And if she’s 15? I’d expect her to know what a handshake is. My 6yo daughter knows. My 3yo is starting to figure it.

    It takes a lot of courage to put your work on display. I commend you. Thank you again for sharing. Happy writing!

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    • Thank you for your comments Ben! This really helps! I’ve been struggling with editing the first chapter for a while, especially the first three paragraphs; I know I “tell” more than I “show.” I recently wrote an alternative first chapter that starts with Elaine’s parents adopting her, and then its jumps to a year later (she’s 3) and her dad, Fileus, finally finds her and there’s a moment where he wants to take her back, but he sees how happy she is with her new family, and decides not to. I’ve been trying to find a way to join the two, but now I realize that I need to completely revise this chapter to make it work. As for the mother and how Fileus created the orb, they’re explained later in the story. As for the deus ex machine, I see what you mean; thank you for the warning. And I’ll fix the handshake part, I can see how that can be confusing. Again thank you!

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  2. Nice! I like that it’s omniscient – I’m seeing so few stories in that POV now. Everybody so obsessed with first person now, and I myself like third limited, but almost no one seems to do omniscient. It’s very new and very neat sounding (as long as it’s clearly omniscient and not third limited). I, like Ben, would like to see a little more telling, though. I would like to see more emotions expressed. But, other than that, I can only say a couple things. Firstly:
    “…ran after Fileus, but never found him”
    Well, I’m not so good with omniscient, but I don’t think that ‘never found him’ is quite proper. Because for one, ‘never’ is a strong word. I think it should be used in its place. Maybe ‘ran after Fileus, but returned fruitless’? I don’t now, it might just be me, because it sounds good the way it is, just somehow a little off.
    Next,
    I think you’re pulling shades over our eyes in some parts to create suspense. I don’t really think that’s right, but I could be wrong. I think that when you say things that are merely touches of what’s happening (such as the part about her mother in the beginning) you kind-of cloak our eyes to what’s happening to create tenseness. Anyways, though, you seem to be doing pretty well so far. I like your beginning to this story. It makes me go nuts when all these people always start their stories right in the action first off without that ‘ordinary world’ calmness first (maybe because I am a major over-extender of ‘ordinary world’ and have boring beginnings). I guess they think that there can’t be hooks without action. But here you have shown us amazingly that there can be questions raised and interest sparked without hooks. I give you a hearty clap on the back for that. *claps you on back* And so, I guess I’ll sign off and let others take on more if it needs to be taken on. Also, btw, if you know how to sign in without using google account, then I’d be much obliged if you could tell me because I am only able to use my pen name on here for some reason. 🙂 Anyways, great job and keep writing,
    Isabelle.

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  3. Thanks Isabelle! And about the POV . . . the rest of the story sort of switches between omniscient and first-person. The majority of the story, after this chapter, is seen through the eyes and mind of Elaine. I see what you mean about “never found him” and I have an idea about how to fix that:) And I completely agree with you, I’m not a huge fan of stories that start immediately with action; I find myself confused and it takes me a while to get hooked even though it’s meant to be the hook. And can I just say, you made me realize something I have I’ve been struggling with for months! I’ve been having a love-hate feeling for this chapter and now you made me realize why. I love how “calm” the beginning is, but like what you and Ben are say, I tell more than I show and I hate it. I have a lot of revising to do, but THANK YOU! You opened my eyes to what I wasn’t seeing:)

    As for the signing in, I’m not sure what you mean? I subscribed to the blog and receive emails for new posts and comments, but when I go to comment I always have to put in my email and name in – if that’s what you mean, and if not, I’m sorry, I don’t know.

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    • Oh, it’s fine, I’ll figure it out. 😉 And if not, I’ll just do like I did at first and sign my comments Isabelle. Thanks! And keep writing, this is very good (and, perhaps eventually you may consider posting a part two?). But, if you’re interested, there is a website I do where you can post your whole story part by part without limitation to excerpts, so if you ever happen to stop by it, do leave an excerpt (I do want to read this story!). Anyways, good job,
      Isabelle.

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  4. Hi Hope,
    Love the idea, but it seems like a lot of info to cram into so few words. The first thing I’d do is stretch it out. This little section could cover at least 2, maybe 3 chapters (if that’s how you’re writing this).

    Ch.1 could be the dad working on the orb, watching his daughter from the shadows on her birthdays, and giving a little back story on how her mom was “unfit”;

    Ch. 2 could be the girl and how she’s dealt with the orphan/adoption process, maybe her thinking who her real father is (get into her head like Ben suggested);

    Ch. 3 could be the 15th birthday and get a little more into their interaction, maybe switching from her perspective to his.

    And one more note (this is something my dad has drilled into me as a writer), “Show it, don’t Tell it.” This can be difficult, but it will also help to expand and stretch your story to cover more pages.

    Good luck and have fun:-)

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  5. Good work. It looks like it could be interesting and I am feeling the emotions of her father.
    What I’m noticing a lot of is backstory. I feel like the reader could be having too much dumped on them when they don’t really care about it yet. Just an opinion, but if I were doing this, I’d start with Elaine’s point of view. This would allow the reader to learn the story along with her at a slower pace. Leaving a few mysteries also help get readers to turn the pages, though I am torn because I do really like seeing her father’s point of view.
    Keep writing!

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  6. Hope,

    I enjoyed this excerpt. It held my interest throughout.

    The beginning seems to take on an omniscient point of view, which allowed you to summarize the back story and set up Elaine’s story. There is, however, a problem with that approach. I had a hard time understanding the motivation behind the creation of the “power.” A lot of issues didn’t make sense.

    First, I couldn’t understand the need for the power. Yes, you mentioned a civil war, but this is vague. Whose side was Fileus on? Was he neutral? Were people dying by the thousands? Did he lose someone precious? Such details give readers an emotional connection so they can feel the motivation behind Fileus’s need to create the power.

    You mentioned that his efforts failed but then suddenly he succeeded, which leaves me wondering what steps he took to succeed when all other efforts failed, and why being in Caledonia helped him. Why mention that detail when you leave out other details?

    It seemed odd that Fileus noted the size, shape, and temperature of the orb when he was the one who created it. Of course it looked like this. He made sure of it.

    “Fileus believed only one was worthy enough to wield this power and it wasn’t him. He would give it to his only child, his daughter Elaine, who he abandoned when she was not two days old. There were complications with the mother and so Fileus took the child for his own …”

    Technical details:

    Should be “it wasn’t he.” Should be “whom he abandoned.” What does “not two days old” mean? If she was six years old, that would be “not two days old.” If she was ninety years old, that would be “not two days old.”

    Story issues:

    Why did he feel unworthy to wield the power? Why did he abandon his daughter? What were the “complications” with the mother? Was the mother his wife? Why would you say that he took the child for his own? You already said she was his daughter. This is confusing.

    “He regretted his decision every single day.” Which decision? To take her to another world or to leave her behind?

    Since readers can’t feel the decision-making process, they can’t understand why he made the decisions. Since you summarized, you didn’t allow the dilemma to unfold in real time. Readers are let asking, “Why was your world so terrible that you had to take your daughter out of it? Why didn’t you leave it yourself? Why would you leave your daughter behind?” You provided no answers.

    “It wasn’t until years later that Fileus decided to give the orb to Elaine.”

    Earlier you wrote that he decided to give it to his daughter, but now you say that the decision came years later. This is confusing.

    At this point, you switched from a summary to real time, and you seem to take on Fileus’s point of view instead of omniscient. That’s all right, but it made me wonder why you would include details now after excluding important details earlier.

    “The house Elaine lived in was a decent size, compared to all the others around.”

    “Decent size” allows for no visual.

    “They always made Elaine’s day of birth so special.”

    How do they know her day of birth?

    “Fileus started to panic a little and he marched down the street.”

    This is a compound sentence. You need a comma after “little.”

    “As he came to a crosswalk that led to a park on the other side, he heard voices screaming and shouting.”

    Since you are in Fileus’s POV, consider eliminating unnecessary narrator-like phrases such as “he heard.” Just report the voices.

    “Fileus ran into the park and saw a large party gathered under a white tent.”

    You can eliminate that he saw the party. Just report the party visual. Readers will know he saw it.

    As she turned to leave, Fileus called out, “Uh, wait, what’s your name?”

    Why did he ask her that? He knew her name already.

    Elaine cautiously took his hand and they shook. “Nice to meet you.”

    You need a comma after “hand.”

    “Elaine, before you go, what are you all celebrating?”

    He already knew this, as well.

    “he asked even though he knew her age.”

    Right. So why is he asking?

    “The orb circled around Elaine’s head and then it did something that nearly gave Fileus a heart attack.”

    You don’t need “around.” Also, why would Fileus be surprised? He created this orb, so he should know what it can do. Also, you indicated that the power could be controlled no matter one’s skill, but now it seems that Fileus could not control it.

    “Fileus saw the light shine through her skin and clothes as it flew straight for her heart.”

    You can delete “Fileus saw.” Just write, “The light shone through her skin …”

    “The orb’s light settled on her heart and then the light went out.”

    Since the orb is big enough to see, if it went to her heart, it would kill her.

    Fileus stood gaping. He quickly tried to think of something to say. “It…it has chosen you.”

    It seems that Fileus is surprised at this. How can he be surprised when he created this orb? He should know what it would do.

    “Fileus started to panic”

    Why? I saw no reason for him to panic. He might panic after he noticed adults staring, but he panicked before he noticed.

    Fileus took a step back. “How…?”

    Again, it seems odd that Fileus would be surprised that the orb does this. He created it. He should know what it does.

    “I am so sorry I gave you away, but it was for the best.”

    If it was for the best, why would he be sorry for doing it?

    “Hey!” Elaine’s father called. Both parents ran up to their daughter.

    At this point, you switched POV from Fileus to Mr. Brown. This is a bit jarring. After that, you switched to omniscient again with a summary.

    It could be argued that you used omniscient POV throughout, choosing to follow Fileus’s POV for a while, then Mr. Brown’s for a shorter period of time, then step back in the final paragraph and provide information that no one knew. If you want to use omniscient POV, you need to maintain a consistent voice, such as that of a narrator. Hopping around is jarring.

    If the reason for the creation of the orb is important, I suggest starting the story in Fileus’s POV. Provide details regarding the creation of the orb, Elaine’s birth, and the circumstances surrounding the family’s struggles. Allow readers to emotionally invest in the need for the orb. Let them invest in Elaine’s safety. Let them feel Fileus’s anguish as he helps her escape from the horrors of his world. Help them understand the dilemma and agree that he had to do it.

    Then, when he leaves her in the hospital, end the chapter and begin the new one in Elaine’s POV, and tell the rest of the story from that POV.

    This change would require a tremendous amount of rewriting, but I think it would make the story shine.

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  7. Wow, this is so great! This helps me so much, Mr. Davis! I will definitely be doing a lot of rewriting. Thanks again for posting this on your blog!

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