Critique Group – She

Would you trust these guys?

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She – by Morgan

I sat on my throne, mindlessly rearranging the layers of my heavy silk gown. The inky black of the material blended well with the dark granite seat. The dress, throne, and the overwhelming amount of shadows in the room were designed to keep my figure obscured as I sat in the dark room. This seemed to cause the people who would come before me to be increasingly nervous as time went on and they could not clearly see whom they were speaking to. Nervous is good because it is brought about by fear, and fear feeds the shadows keeping my identity secure.

My ears pricked as a barely audible click then a cautious footstep sounded softly in the corner of the room, right near where the secret door lay. Then, a steady plink, plink, plink began, rising in harmony with the shuffle of stealthy footsteps. I searched the corner, looking for any sign of movement, but the room was too dimly lit and the blasted moon had not yet risen.

“Show yourself,” I commanded. A grunt came from the corner as my voice echoed off the bare walls of the chamber. A man came out of the deep shadows into a better lit spot in the room. When I saw who it was, my gut wrenched with an odd mix of dread and elation. He was back.

I beckoned him forward with a slight wave of my hand. He slowly walked forward, that odd snapping sound still blending with the now loud clap of his boots against the polished marble floor.

“Is it done?” I asked, this time more quietly and with less confidence than my statement before. I slowly rose from my chair as he stepped before my throne.

Dripping with water, the man began to drop to his knees in front of me. As gravity pulled him toward the floor, it seemed as though I was seeing him in slow motion. The steel weapons on his belt clanged together, the soaking wet clothes ballooned and sprayed water in a circle around him. As the smack of his knees sounded upon the cold marble, time seemed to go back to its normal pace. The dark, stringy hair swooped down to cover his eyes as he bowed his head and whispered slowly, “I have done all that you have asked.”

His pitch black eyes stared up at me through the curtain of hair, watching, calculating. A drop of water beaded up on the end of a lock and slowly succumbed to gravity. More drops came from his chin, but these were streaked with red from a deep cut on his cheek. A cut I had caused. A cut I had inflicted. Pain that my problems and desires had provoked. More places on the man’s body bore the deep red stains, though not all of it was his own. Yet it all soiled my soul.

I grabbed the ornate knife handle hanging on my belt and swiftly pulled the shining blade from its sheath. I stared at the sharp edge and wondered at the power that it held, holding it up against the faint light.

This would be my last. One last human, and I would finally be free from the wretched curse that held me captive. Though, those chains would only be replaced with irons of guilt. They already have. And yet, what did I have to lose?

Time once again slowed as I made my decision and watched the cold, heartless piece of metal come down for one last stroke.

 

 

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5 replies

  1. Morgan,

    This is well done. If you were going for a dark, brooding mood with a splash of cruelty, you succeeded. The descriptions painted a grim portrait viewed through sadistic eyes.

    I think you need to somehow add some kind of goal for the POV character. What does she want to achieve, at least in the short term? You can make it brief, but right now she just seems to want to sit in darkness and murder people, which isn’t a story.

    Details:

    “The dress, throne, and the overwhelming amount of shadows in the room were designed to keep my figure obscured as I sat in the dark room.”

    Repeated “room.” I would delete “in the room” as well as “amount of.”

    “This seemed to cause the people who would come before me to be increasingly nervous as time went on and they could not clearly see whom they were speaking to. Nervous is good because it is brought about by fear, and fear feeds the shadows keeping my identity secure.”

    I think this is lacking visuals. How about something like this – Darkness has become a concealing gift. Groveling peasants slide on their knees and fold trembling hands as they entreat the throne, their eyes darting, unable to focus on my seated shadow. Fear fed by shadows keeps my mask in place.

    “My ears pricked as a barely audible click then a cautious footstep sounded softly in the corner of the room, right near where the secret door lay.”

    The click and footstep should come before the ears pricking, because they happened first. Also, insert a comma before “then.”

    “A man came out of the deep shadows into a better lit spot in the room.”

    Try for a more vivid verb than “came out.”

    “When I saw who it was, my gut wrenched with an odd mix of dread and elation. He was back.”

    Since she knows who it was, you should probably report his identity.

    “I beckoned him forward with a slight wave of my hand. He slowly walked forward, that odd snapping sound still blending with the now loud clap of his boots against the polished marble floor.”

    “Forward” is repeated.

    “I slowly rose from my chair as he stepped before my throne.”

    Why the different nouns – chair and throne? Maybe – “I slowly rose from my throne as he stepped before me.”

    “Dripping with water, the man began to drop to his knees in front of me.”

    If she knows who he is, use his name. I would delete “in front of me.” That is already established.

    “A drop of water beaded up on the end of a lock and slowly succumbed to gravity.”

    Delete “up.”

    “More drops came from his chin, but these were streaked with red from a deep cut on his cheek.”

    Simplify by deleting “but these were”

    “ A cut I had caused. A cut I had inflicted. Pain that my problems and desires had provoked. More places on the man’s body bore the deep red stains, though not all of it was his own. Yet it all soiled my soul.”

    This part confused me. If she had inflicted the cut, when did she do it? How long ago? Why was it still bleeding?

    “I grabbed the ornate knife handle hanging on my belt and swiftly pulled the shining blade from its sheath.”

    I think you should foreshadow the presence of her weapon.

    “I stared at the sharp edge and wondered at the power that it held, holding it up against the faint light.”

    I would reverse the phrasing and put “Holding it up against the faint light” at the start of the sentence.

    “They already have.”

    You should probably use “had” instead of “have.”

    Good stuff, Morgan. This is the start of an intriguing story.

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  2. I can’t add much to Bryan’s comments. Great use of description but I wasn’t pulled in emotionally. That’s what keeps me reading. Pull us into her thoughts and feelings more.

    How did she feel about her throne room?
    Did she like making people nervous beyond the feeding of the room’s shadows?
    What was the expression on the man’s wet face? He had cold eyes but was he annoyed about being wet? Tired? Etc.
    How did she feel about him? Was he a tool? A long term partner of sorts in the ending of her curse?

    What was the ‘odd snapping sound’ that accompanied the man’s footsteps? I’m assuming his weapons or wet clothing but why specify if you aren’t going to give us the reason for pointing out the sound.

    The “A cut I had caused….” part was intense but confusing. Did she cause the injuries in reality or metaphorically? Since this was an emotion filled moment for her, describe it better. Try re-working that paragraph to make it more dynamic. I Like the ‘all soiled my soul’ part though.

    The ending was obscure. Why did the experienced warrior just stand there and let her stab him without fighting back? Or did she stab herself?

    Keep up the good work, Morgan. I’m interested in reading more. Feedback can be discouraging but it doesn’t have to be. You are honing your skill and we are just showing you where to sharpen.

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  3. I can’t add much to the above critiques, other than yes, I think it could use some more emotion. Describe more of who she is, if you can. Is she like the Evil Queen in Snow White? That’s kind of the vibe I got from her. Or is she a regular witch of some sort? I am curious, and would love to see more!

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  4. Hi Morgan!

    I read “He” a while ago, and I love this adaptation of it. The characters are a lot more developed – there’s more description, the setting is more defined, etc. It drew me in.

    Just a few suggestions:

    In the second paragraph, you describe the moon as “blasted.” Because you use more sophisticated, high language in the rest of your story, this word choice seems abrupt, almost like slang. At least for me, it kind of broke up the “rhythm” of the story.

    From your hints in the last few paragraphs, I’m guessing the main character isn’t human. But you don’t give any hint to what she actually is, leaving me hanging. Is she a witch? Some sort of lithe, female creature?

    The ending was cool, creepy, but vague. It confuses me as to the relationship between this witch-y lady and this man. Is he her servant? Partner? Enemy? I settled on thinking he was some sort of dangerous partner, under her control by choice. But then, when she whipped out a knife and stabs him with no resistance whatsoever from the man, it threw me off again. So maybe you could clarify that relationship a little bit more.

    Look forward to seeing more from you! 🙂

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  5. Here is a comment sent in from Myah:

    Hi Morgan!

    I read “He” a while ago, and I love this adaptation of it. The characters are a lot more developed – there’s more description, the setting is more defined, etc. It drew me in.

    Just a few suggestions:

    In the second paragraph, you describe the moon as “blasted.” Because you use more sophisticated, high language in the rest of your story, this word choice seems abrupt, almost like slang. At least for me, it kind of broke up the “rhythm” of the story.

    From your hints in the last few paragraphs, I’m guessing the main character isn’t human. But you don’t give any hint to what she actually is, leaving me hanging. Is she a witch? Some sort of lithe, female creature?

    The ending was cool, creepy, but vague. It confuses me as to the relationship between this witch-y lady and this man. Is he her servant? Partner? Enemy? I settled on thinking he was some sort of dangerous partner, under her control by choice. But then, when she whipped out a knife and stabs him with no resistance whatsoever from the man, it threw me off again. So maybe you could clarify that relationship a little bit more.

    Look forward to seeing more from you! 🙂

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