Critique Group – Omens

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Omens – by Jada

            A raven and eagle struck at one another in a frenzy of feathers and blood. Shrieks sharp as blades split the air, and wings beat like peals of thunder before a storm. The birds locked talons and plunged to the earth. The instant they hit the ground, a wolf and fox leapt into the fray. The wolf snapped at the raven’s legs, drawing blood.

            The fox leapt atop the raven, clinging to the bird like a second shadow, and the eagle clawed at the raven’s eyes. The raven let out a wrenching cry and burst apart into a cloud of black birds. The flock descended upon the wolf, fox, and eagle. Talons and beaks tore into flesh.

Soren sat up. He sucked in deep breaths. His body was covered in cold sweat. He gripped the edges of his rough wool blanket between his fingers, felt the pricks of the straw pallet beneath him and shivered. The dream had been recurring for several months now, and it wasn’t the only one.

There were always dreams now, some of places he’d never seen and strange creatures from old legends. He’d prayed to the gods to free him of the visions, but obviously the gods weren’t listening. Or they didn’t care. Soren dragged himself from his bed and clambered down the loft ladder. The home he shared with his father Gurin was small, comprised of the loft, a solitary shuttered window, a blazing hearth and a few simple furnishings, but the familiarity was comforting after the terror of his dreamscape.

“Good morning, Da.” Soren greeted his father.

Gurin looked up from his breakfast and nodded. “Morning.”

Soren sat beside his father at the table. Gurin had already laid out a bowl of porridge and a mug of water. Soren shoveled porridge into his mouth. They ate in silence. It was a familiar routine.

Soren glanced at his father. Like most Tenedorian men, Gurin was tall with fair skin, angular features, and hair the color of sand. Soren inadvertently touched a lock of his own hair. He looked nothing like his father. Gurin glanced at him.

“Granny Hilda was asking about eggs. I told her you’d bring her some.”

Soren nodded. “Aye. I will.”

“Good.” Gurin set aside his now empty bowl and stood up. “I best be going.” He picked up his satchel and pickaxe and headed out. The door shut with a thud, and he was gone.

Soren gulped down the remainder of his porridge. “Best get to work,” he muttered to himself.

 

Soren tossed handfuls of feed to the chickens. They squawked and ran about the yard, clucking to one another. Soren smiled. “Frothar above, you girls are impatient.” He scattered the remaining seed and gathered up the eggs, four in all. Soren’s mouth watered at the thought of fried egg, and his stomach growled in disappointment. The eggs were not for eating, but for bartering. In a small village like Rorikstead, everyone bartered. Iron and silver gelds were a rare sight.

Soren watched the chickens as they clucked and scratched the ground. The dream flashed through his mind. Soren’s stomach twisted into a knot. “What easy lives you have,” He muttered.

“Talking to the hens again?” A familiar voice asked.

Soren’s heart skipped a beat, and he whirled around, nearly dropping the precious eggs. A red-haired boy stood a couple paced away, his arms folded across his chest. A moss-colored cloak hung from his shoulders and leather boots graced his feet, evidence of his wealthy status. “Ingmar! Do you always have to sneak up on me?”

Ingmar shrugged. “You make it easy. Say, I’m checking the fish traps today. Want to come?’

Soren nodded. Any distraction was welcome if it would take his mind away from the dreams. “Sure, but first I have to give a couple of these eggs to Granny Hilda.”

 

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4 replies

  1. Jada,

    Your story begins with a spark of intrigue and good world building. The dream is foreboding, adding a sense of looming danger. I like that you gave your POV character something to do – collect eggs for bartering. That keeps things moving.

    Details:

    Watch for repeated words, such as “leapt” being used close together in the dream sequence. And glanced is used twice in one paragraph later on.

    Also, you used a form of “was” or “were” 13 times in your excerpt, which is not only repetitive, these verb phrases are usually not strong. You can eliminate some of these easily.

    For example:

    He sucked in deep breaths, his body covered in cold sweat.

    Or to make a “was” phrase stronger: Instead of “There were always dreams now” try “The dreams assaulted him every night now.”

    “The home he shared with his father Gurin”

    If you are trying for an intimate POV, this phrase doesn’t help. Since readers discover later that he refers to his father as “Da,” this phrase sounds like a narrator.

    “Good morning, Da.” Soren greeted his father.

    “Soren greeted his father” is a speaker tag, so you need a comma after Da instead of a period.

    Gurin glanced at him.

    Move this to the beginning of the paragraph in which he speaks.

    Gurin set aside his now empty bowl and stood up.

    I would delete “up.”

    He scattered the remaining seed and gathered up the eggs, four in all.

    I would delete “up.”

    Soren’s mouth watered at the thought of fried egg, and his stomach growled in disappointment.

    The thought of the fried egg happened before the mouth watering, so report it first.

    Iron and silver gelds were a rare sight.

    I couldn’t figure out this sentence. How does iron and silver fit into the context??

    “What easy lives you have,” He muttered.

    “He muttered” is a speaker tag, so the “he” should not be capitalized.

    “Talking to the hens again?” A familiar voice asked.

    “A familiar voice asked” is a speaker tag, so “a” should not be capitalized.

    A red-haired boy stood a couple paced away, his arms folded across his chest.

    Change to “… stood a couple of paces away …”

    Well done. Keep up the good work.

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  2. Jada,
    I got pulled into you story and wanted to keep reading that’s always a good sign.
    Besides Bryan’s expert critique the only thing I feel could be improved is maybe adding descriptions of the animals in the dream. If the different creatures are symbolic of people or events in the future a descriptive detail would help the reader figure it out further along in the book.
    For example: The foxes hair greyed at the temple and his sharp teeth were dingy and worn.
    Giving the creatures human like features in the description helps reader put two and two together later on in the story when the person the fox symbolized appears.
    Ignore my suggestion though if you aren’t going with the whole dream symbology thing.

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  3. Jada, this story sounds AWESOME!! The dream had me hooked.

    One thing my dad tells me with my writing is “show it, don’t tell it”, and I feel like you did quite a bit of telling when you describe the house and the set table. Instead of telling your reader what they look like/what’s on the table, describe them from the boy’s perspective as he interacts with them.

    when you say “leather boots graced his feet” it sounds a little . . . girly (especially when describing a boy). Maybe find a more “manly” word 😉

    Other than that, great job!!

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  4. Thanks, Bryan! I appreciate the input, and I’ll be sure to edit accordingly.
    Thanks for the input, Stephanie. I actually did have more detailed descriptions of the animals, but I was worried it would pull away from the story by giving out too much detail. I will have to modify that for more visual impact.
    AJ, thanks for your feedback. I will take into note the showing/telling. I agree with you. I was definitely struggling to describe the surroundings without “telling”. As far as Ingmar’s character, he’s actually not supposed to be very “manly”. It’s actually something that’s really central to his character and how he gets treated by those around him.
    Thanks, everyone!

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