Critique Group – Suri

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Suri – by Hope

Many years ago, after the Great Wolf created the world, the King of the wolves, Xivanor, had two sons. The eldest was named Shadah, and the youngest was named Virax. Shadah was to become the next king, and Virax would become a prophet. Virax, however, grew jealous of Shadah, because he wanted the throne for himself.

One day, while Virax was working on his Prophet duties, he came up with an idea. He would trick Shadah into giving him his birthright, then he would use dark magic to turn himself into a dragon so he could get rid of his father, who was ten times stronger than he. Shadah, he knew, was coming back from a long trip that evening and would probably be wanting a good meal. Virax was the best hunter in the pack, so he could prepare a feast for Shadah, but it would come with the price of his birthright.

Later that evening, his plan was set in motion. He had obtained a spell from an evil snake which lived in the dark forests and had caught the finest stags and rabbits and moose that he could find. Shadah couldn’t help but not turn down the trade, and naively gave away his birthright. After the first part of his treacherous plan was done, Virax conjured up the spell and cast it upon himself. His size doubled tenfold, and plates grew all over his body. He was a dragon, a fire-breathing dragon. An epic battle occurred between Virax, his brother, and his father. Virax succeeded in killing Xivanor, but before he could kill Shadah, the Great Wolf intervened and sentenced him to a thousand-year slumber. Once he awoke, he would have to choose either to repent, or to be banished to the lake of fire forever. Shadah lived with the pack as their king for ten years, until he mysteriously disappeared.

 

…..And was never seen again. Now we wait for the wretched day when Virax will awake, and hope that he has changed.” Honeydew finished, his gaze sweeping over the wide-eyed pups before him.

They exchanged scared glances, and one of them, a pure white pup named Suri, stepped forward and yipped, “Is… Is Virax going to wake up soon?”

Honeydew smiled down at the worried pup. “We do not know when he will wake, only that we must be ready for him.”

Suri gulped and fell to the floor. She covered her head with her paws and shivered. A gray pup jumped over to her. “Don’t worry, Suri! If he does come, I’m sure Hiraz can beat him!”

Honeydew sighed and looked up at the king of the wolves, Hiraz, who was sunning himself on a rock. He knew with certainty that if Virax were to come now, then the frail, old king couldn’t stand a chance.

“What do you think, Honeydew?” The gray pup said.

“About what?” Honeydew said, snapping his gaze back to the pups.

“Don’t you think I could defeat Virax?”

Honeydew chuckled. “I’m sure you could, Clay.”

A huge grin seeped onto the pup’s face, and he excitedly turned to the other pups. “I’m gonna defeat Virax!!”

A chuckle escaped Suri’s lips. “Yeah, right.”

Suri loved the feeling of the wind in her fur. She would often come to sit on the edge of Gizzard Cliff to feel it. She knew that she didn’t have time for dilly-dallying today, but she could spare five minutes. The thought of the old, cranky Prophet Honeydew’s angry face crossed her mind for a split second, but she shrugged it off. She stepped up to the edge and closed her eyes. The breeze was so refreshing, especially after a long hunt.

After some time, she picked up her rabbit again and headed back. On the way, a peculiar thing happened. She heard a whooshing sound from above, and all the trees around her started waving and swaying, but it lasted only a few seconds. The sound disappeared into the distance. Suri was very curious, but she knew she should get back to the camp. She sped up to a trot and was soon approaching the unmistakable apple tree which was at the edge of their camp.

Once inside, she froze. The camp was completely empty. Not only that, but it was torn apart. The dens were destroyed, and there were claw marks and foot prints which had destroyed the floor. Suri was starting to feel woozy from shock. She dropped her rabbit and shook her head to clear the fog. She took a deep breath and sat down. Suddenly, she felt warmth next to her. She turned her head to see what it was, and her jaw dropped in shock. There stood a blue wolf. He was staring at the destroyed camp with a sad expression. Suri twisted her head to see the forest which he came from, not believing that he had just appeared out of nowhere. When she turned back, he was staring straight at her. His soft brown eyes pierced her soul and made her heart flutter.

“Who- who are you?” Suri breathed.

The wolf blinked at her. “I am of no importance to you, but you may know that I am a friend.” His rich British voice sounded regal, kingly almost.

Suri gulped and turned to look at her camp once more. “What happened?”

The blue wolf sighed. “The thousand year sleep has ended, Virax is free once more.”

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12 replies

  1. Hope,
    This sounds like a good start to an epic story full of ancient warriors, magic and good-vs-evil. The way Suri is left alone at the end (with Shadah?) definitely sets her up as the Chosen One who will fight and beat Virax at the story’s climax.

    If I had one main critique point to offer, it would be that the story almost lost me at several points. Don’t get me wrong: stories do need to have surprises and twists. My trouble was that the story got me thinking one thing when I found out later that I should probably have gotten something completely different out of it. This kind of reader surprise is probably not what you want.

    For example, the first three paragraphs are actually a story being told by a contemporary character…and not the main story line itself. When I finally realized that (in paragraph four), I understood why the introduction was told like that (with narrative summary). However, I think I would have appreciated it more had I known it was being spoken. Would you consider inserting a quotation mark (“) right at the beginning, to give readers a clue that they are, essentially, hearing a story teller?

    Also, I missed the first “his” after you introduced Honeydew, and I thought this was a female character. When I found out that Honeydew was also an “old, cranky prophet”, this conflicted with the idea I had of him as a young, virile warrior. (I can blame that on the Warriors books my daughters have me reading, I suppose.) Would you consider moving some of the description about Honeydew to right after you introduce him?

    Once I got properly oriented to the characters, I became a lot more comfortable with the story. I like the way you’ve borrowed certain elements (birthright, lake of fire, etc.) and I’m looking forward to how those play out in the tale.

    Thanks for sharing!

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    • Thank you for giving me some tips! They are very helpful.

      The part where Suri talks about honeydew at old and cranky, there is a time skip. I should’ve put something in there to show that Lol. I did have a space in between, but for some reason when I sent it, it didn’t come through.

      Thank you for your input!

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  2. Interesting story! I like the biblical birthright reference.
    Some of the sentences in the first part, the tale, are too long and became hard to follow.

    The switch from Suri the pup to Suri hunting was abrupt.

    Also, try showing more instead of telling us.
    “Suri was starting to feel woozy from shock.” Instead, pull us in with something like: ‘A droning buzz filled her ears and she sat hard while trying to shake it from her head.’ We want to know what sensations she feels and the thoughts in her head.

    Great story. I can’t wait to read more.

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  3. I think you have a great idea for a story. I would keep reading.

    I think the opening storytelling segment is too long. I realize that you’re paralleling the Jacob and Esau narrative, but you’re risking losing your readers with this “Once upon a time” style of storytelling. I would have just a couple of sentences, shown as real-time dialogue, that Virax will someday return and the consequences of such a return. If you must have the Jacob and Esau parallel, you can somehow add those a little at a time as the main story progresses.

    Try to avoid narrator phrases like “she knew” “she heard” “she felt.” Just state what she knows. Tell us the sounds she heard. Show what she felt. Every time you add her pronoun with the sensation verb, you lose intimacy.

    For example: Instead of “Suri loved the feeling of the wind in her fur,” maybe “A cool breeze ran through Suri’s fur, raising the hairs and cooling her skin. It felt so good, like a gentle massage.”

    Instead of “She heard a whooshing sound from above,” just “Something whooshed above.”

    Just report the sensation. Don’t state that she sensed it.

    “She turned her head to see what it was, and her jaw dropped in shock. There stood a blue wolf.”

    This is an example of reporting a reaction before the motivation for the reaction. In Suri’s POV, she saw the blue wolf before she reacted by dropping her jaw. Show it in the proper order.

    I could point out more issues like these, but I can’t do so right now. I encourage you to read my blog posts about point of view intimacy as well as the ones on motivation reaction units. Then you should be able to find some of these issues on your own.

    Keep up the good work!

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  4. I love how the beginning is based on the story of Jacob and Esau!

    First, I found a technical error -When you’re describing the ruined camp, you use the word destroyed three times in one paragraph (and 2 of those are in the same sentence). Try varying, and it should be more interesting to read.

    Now some critique about the story:

    1. Honeydew said that the wolves don’t know when Virax will awaken, however, just a few sentences ago the narrator said that he was banished the sleep for a thousand years. Also, it was stated that when he awakes, he needs to choose to repent or be banished forever. Yet Honeydew says that he doesn’t know when Virax will wake up. Maybe you could mention that the wolves have no accurate way to keep track of time, or the records they did have were destroyed, or even just clarify if the details of the legend are figurative or literal. Also, since the legend specified that Virax will need to make a choice when he wakes up, it’s a bit confusing that he immediately decimates the camp. Shouldn’t the Great Wolf have forced Virax to make a decision? Again, it could be fixed by clarifying whether the legend is literal or figurative.

    2. “On the way, a peculiar thing happened.” I have a book on writing that touches on the sort of language. If you’re trying to surprise your reader, phrases like this or “all of a sudden” or “abruptly”, (which I used to use a lot, too) actually take away from the surprise by warning the reader that something is wrong, and sometimes it’s better to omit them. In addition, this sentence confused me because I moment ago it seems that Suri was listening to Honeydew’s story. Where is she on the way too?

    3. It might be good to add more details, especially about Suri’s everyday life such as the hunt she’s coming back from and her pack. Hopefully, that will make the reader feel the loss of Suri’s home and family more acutely.

    Overall I really like the idea of this story. I like the lore of the world, the biblical references and the unique name’s you’ve given your characters. It reminds me of Wolves of the Beyond by Kathryn Lasky. Keep up the good work!

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  5. Your creativity is really cool! I like how you weave biblical themes into your story. For a critique, as a reader, I think your story would be even more exciting if you used “show” instead of “tell,” especially in Honeydew’s opening story. I would love to see more details of what is happening through the characters’ eyes. Good work!

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  6. I saw this was an animal story and that hooked me quickly.

    I also assumed Honeydew was a female since it sounds like a feminine name. If Honeydew isn’t an important character later on, it may be wise to change the name to something more masculine. (I also notice the name seems rather odd compared to the other wolf names.)

    I think you should get deeper in Suri’s POV, as Bryan Davis suggested. Also, waiting a bit longer before the inciting incident may be wise, so we get to know the MC and see how she thinks and acts. I’m also a bit confused as to her age. In the first part of the story, her cowering makes me think she’s really young, as in about six to eight weeks old by wolf standards, but in the second part, she seems older. (Her rabbit appears out of nowhere, and I’m not sure if she caught it, but if she did, that would indicate she’s probably closer to 4-6 months old in wolf age since she’s hunting.)

    Also, you mention a British accent. Unless these wolves have enough contact with British people to recognize a Brittish accent, I’d cut that. It really pulls me out of the story because I assumed Brittan didn’t exist in this world. If it’s an accent that sounds like a Brittish accent, it would be best to find another way to describe it, like maybe a “high born” accent or some other description.

    Overall, I like the idea. Keep writing!

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