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The Rogue Planet – by Jessi
The muggy heat of Chibbink’s jungle permeated the bar, but I fought the urge to rip off my shirt. Going shirtless would make me look like a wild beast. Even with my ruffs trimmed and a shirt on, I still towered over the tallest Humans Skallan in the bar.
As I approached the bar, I flattened my ears to avoid getting splinters from the wooden ceiling beams. I sat on a stool near Nakkal, who spoke to another captain who wore a black uniform, standard issue for anyone on the Chibbink Armada. Everything about him fit regulations perfectly, down to his short hair and perfectly groomed beard, one that had to take more upkeep than a clean shave.
“Mark my words, the war’s going to pick up,” the black clad Human said. “You should be going to Lokostwa, not picking at petty criminals here.”
Nakkal’s green-scaled hand squeezed his wooden wine cup. “The pirates we hunt are far from petty criminals.”
“They’re thieves. My crew will be hunting those Free Kin radicals.” The Human captain’s eyes narrowed and his voice gained a dangerous edge. “Some people don’t understand what it means to be loyal to God’s Ordained. We’re here to serve them, to fight wars against those primitive savages.” He glanced at me as he spoke, and I knew he was referring to my species.
Nakkal took a sip of his wine, pretending to ignore the barb. “We follow God, Zave.” My ears picked up the tension in his voice.
Zave sipped his own wine.
Across the room, Jorron stood. My ears flicked in his direction. “Disloyal? I’ll tell you what. We chose to be mercenaries. You’re nothing but a bunch of slaves.” His scales, normally a dull green, were turning brownish with rage.
I looked around the bar. From what I saw, the majority of the people were my crewmates or part of Captain Zave’s crew.
The bartender, a young blonde girl, stopped scrubbing tables to watch Jorron.
“At least I’m fighting for something besides coin,” a red-headed Human shot back. He stood too, his hands balled into fists.
Likkil sat at Jorron’s table, watching, not doing anything. I tried to catch her eye, get her to defuse the situation, but my cousin just watched. I caught a spark in her green eyes and interest in the way her long black ears perked toward the confrontation. Maybe she wouldn’t start something, but she wanted to get involved. I’d never seen an Elba woman who liked to fight more than my cousin.
“You’re fighting because you’d get a red tattoo if you didn’t. There’s no courage in that,” Jorron snapped.
I stood and strode toward the pair. At my approach, Zave’s crew stood, a few resting their hands on their pistols. Others scrambled out of my way. All of them knew that I could kill them with a single blow, and they knew better than to get in my way.
“You calling me a coward?” The redhead lifted his fists.
I stepped between the redhead and Jorron. “Enough,” I said softly.
The bar went still. The redhead took a few steps back, his eyes on my claws. He might’ve been ready to fight a Skallan his size, but he was far from willing to fight an Elba who stood two heads taller than any Human.
“Go sit down and order your food,” I told Jorron.
“Enough,” I snapped. “We don’t need to waste energy fighting each other.”
The redhead slunk away as Jorran sat at his table.
“Your body guard’s something else,” Zave told Nakkal.
“He’s not my body guard, he’s the third in command,” Nakkal said. “Only second to my wife.” There was a hardness to Nakkal’s voice.
Zave laughed. “You can put a shirt on a kark, but it’s still a kark.”
“He’s an Elba, not an animal.”
“Only difference is a kark knows how to be loyal,” Zave said.
My fur stood on end, but I sat next to Nakkal and stayed quiet. It didn’t matter if Zave thought I was a monster. He wasn’t my captain.
I looked over Zave’s crew. There were a couple women, but the majority of them were Human men with blond or red hair. There were a pair of Chix too, but no species from outside the two Ordained planets, not much surprise considering Zave’s reaction to me. Rather than having a sense of individuality, they all wore uniforms, making it obvious they were from the same crew. My crewmates wore whatever they felt like, making it harder for them to be identified as part of the crew, especially when we had everything from Humans, Chix, and Skallan to Torfs and three Elbas, counting me.
A few of them were drinking too much, though Zave hadn’t had more than one glass of wine. I kept an eye on my crewmates. Most of them knew their limits, though Jorron tended to be the one who liked to drink and fight, a bad combination, so I kept one ear tuned to his voice.
I ordered some roast targan, which the waitress put in front of me. The meat had a sweat flavor to it, one that our ship’s cook didn’t have the skill to reproduce. Once we resupplied, we’d get back in space and away from the heat of Chibbink.
Zave’s crew ate and drank too, many gulping down alcoholic beverages that they likely didn’t have access to on their ship. A few of the boys were young, barely able to grow stubble. Had they volunteered to join his crew, or were they draftees who hadn’t been given a choice? They were young, probably under twenty years old, but the Chibbink nobility had this crazy idea that eighteen was old enough to join the military. If the war got worse, would they reduce the age to even younger? The thought made my fur bristle.
Categories: Critique Group
You introduced your main character well. I got a good idea of his character qualities and physical appearance without contrivances. Your prose is nearly perfectly in order. Well done.
I didn’t get an understanding of why your POV character was there. Can you add a purpose or a goal for readers to follow?
I noticed a couple of narrator phrases that could be eliminated, such as “My ears picked up …”
“The meat had a sweat flavor to it” Did you mean “sweet” or did you mean that it tasted sweaty?
Watch for repeated words – “Others scrambled out of my way. All of them knew that I could kill them with a single blow, and they knew better than to get in my way.” You can delete “out of my way” in the first sentence.
Keep up the good work.
Thanks! I do tend to have issues with repeat words.
I’d guess Klate’s current goal would be to order a meal and keep his mercenary crew from fighting with the soldier crew.
I did mean sweet, so maybe if I add “sweet fruity” it would be a bit more obvious it’s not a typo.
Readers shouldn’t have to guess Klate’s goal. I would like to see the goal made clear in the first two or three paragraphs, something more interesting than ordering a meal and keeping the crew from fighting.
The death alarm sounded, that phantom punch in the gut I always dreaded. I touched the metallic gateway valve embedded in my chest at the top of my sternum—warm but not yet hot. The alarm was real. Someone in my territory would die tonight, and I had to find the poor soul. Death didn’t care about the late hour. Reapers like me always stayed on call.
Consider Precisely Terminated:
How nice it must be to sleep so peacefully when doom awaited at dawn. Letting out a sigh, Faye pulled a threadbare blanket from a top bunk and surveyed the many beds and sleeping bodies lined up in the cramped room. How little they all knew, these poor, ignorant laborers. Perhaps they would die unaware of the tragedy about to befall them.
As she folded the blanket and laid it back on the bed, tears welled in her eyes. Why did it have to happen this way? She was only a nursemaid, one slave in the midst of thousands. Why should she die because of one man’s actions? It simply wasn’t fair. No, it was cruel, inhumane, tragic . . . evil.
She slowly clenched a fist. Fair or unfair, the time had come. The plan had to proceed.
Consider The Scent of Her Soul. We know very early that Mike’s goal was to find Amy.
Consider Search for the Astral Dragon. We know in the first paragraph that Megan wants to escape before a possible execution.
Consider Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World. We know right away that Eddie is testing an invention to protect his sister.
Following the POV character through the goal seeking can be riveting. I highly recommend adding something like that.
I will. What I meant is that’s what I guessed Klate’s goal was. I’ll try to make it a bit more clear.
I absolutely LOVED reading this!!!! It wasn’t overloaded with detail and I was able to put a clear picture in my mind of the characters and surroundings. I already love the main character and can root for his situation. I hope I get to read the rest someday😄!
Thank you! This is actually a prequel to a novella, Hand of Steel, which I plan to publish sometime this summer. Klate, the narrator in this piece, was a secondary character and was such a fan favorite among beta readers that I decided to write his backstory. (There’s more info on my website, plus some art and fanart.)
That’s awesome! I will definitely be looking out for when you publish the novella😃!
This is a fun read. It flowed really nicely. And you’ve done a great job thinking up some unique names for characters and places!
I was only confused as characters were being introduced – it felt like several were mentioned in rapid succession and I had a hard time keeping up with who was in which crew. If you could mention the distinction between uniforms earlier, maybe have your MC note the clothing on members of Zave’s crew, it might be easier to follow.
Again, great story, and great concept!
Thanks for the tips! You’re probably right. I should have more descriptions earlier in the chapter.
I’m new here so I will do my best.
It was a little confusing when I read it. It seemed to me that everything was everywhere, kind of. I also didn’t know if the main character was a human or some other animal at the start.
One thing that stood out to me was, ‘Across the room, Jorron stood. My ears flicked in his direction.’
I would say ‘My ears flicked toward the room to where Jorron stood.’
I don’t know if that is correct but I did my best. Overall really good job and I would love to find out how it ends.
Good job Jessi 🙂
I had no clue this was from Klate’s perspective until it was mentioned in the comments, so there’s that. Maybe have one of the other characters mention his name and have Klate respond? (It doesn’t have to be a direct response, it could even be Klate overhearing a conversation and paying more attention upon hearing his name). If the synopsis says the story is about him and the story doesn’t ever change to another character’s perspective, people might know to assume this is Klate’s perspective, but it’s still better to indicate this in the first scene if possible.
Also, in the first paragraph, it says ‘tallest Humans Skallan in the bar’. Maybe put ‘and’ between humans and skallan. Or only mention the species that’s taller. ‘tallest Skallans in the bar’ would be an example. Humans are mentioned elsewhere in the scene already, so readers will know that humans are present in either case.
Overall, though, I enjoyed this excerpt, and it’s nice to see a bit more of Klate’s backstory 🙂
Haha. When I was commenting, I realized I hadn’t mentioned his name in the first chapter. *facepalm.* I was wondering if anyone would notice. It has been added now since I discovered his name didn’t come up until Chapter 4. :O
Thanks for the critique!
Hello, Jessi! It’s good to meet another sci fi writer. I definitely picked up the multi-world, multi-species flavor right away. You tease the reader to want more info about all the unusual names: Chix, Skallans, Torfs, Elbas, targan, God’s Ordained, etc. This seems to be a smaller conflict nestled in the context of a larger, more full-scale war.
Others have noted that the POV character’s initial goal and name could be introduced earlier. I found that, after I had read it, I still didn’t feel like I could see the setting in my mind’s eye very well. The detail about the “sweet meat” (which I thought was interesting) was good, but could you be more specific? Lately, I’ve been learning in my own writing that “one specific detail is worth more than many generalities.” I wonder, could you pick a handful of details throughout the scene to help me anchor my imagination to the world you’re building?
Keep it up! Novellas are fun. 🙂
I absolutely loved reading this. This kind of gave me a Star Wars feel. I did have a bit of trouble visualizing the character, however. I figured he was furry because of the references to his ears and his ruff, which I assume is like a scruff? The others were hard to visualize too because, for example, one was described as having a scaly hand, but not much else. A lot of them didn’t even have descriptions. I’m pretty sure this is only because this scene happens farther in the book. I loved the emotions you portrayed in this. I’m very intrigued about the obvious tensions in this scene and those who call themselves God’s Ordained. Very well written scene! 😀
A Star Wars feel is kind of what I’m going for. This is the start of the book, but I do have a bit of trouble with character descriptions, and I’ll try to add a few more as the story progresses. While this is the beginning of the story, it will be the third or fourth book released in the series, so while I want it accessible to new readers, I would expect some of the readers have read the other books.
Very good, I was really drawn in. I liked the descriptions, and as Bryan Davis mentioned, you did a flawless job of fitting descriptions of the narrator in without it feeling contrived. I really liked the way you described the comparisons between the two clues, I definitely got a feel for how the narrator feels about his crew and Zave’s crew. The only thing I have to add is what the others mentioned, about knowing Klate’s name.
Overall, fantastic job. I’m would definitely read more if I came across it in the store!