Critique Group – Stronghold Part 2

I didn’t have time to come up with a funny image this week, so here is an “I got nothing” image.

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Stronghold (Part 2) – by Stephanie

Link to part 1 –

The smell of sweat, urine and fear assaulted Dalia’s fitful dreams. She tried to wake up but the pain kept convincing her otherwise. Her head and face felt twice their normal size and nausea threatened her every move. Though she attempted to stay as still as possible, the sway of the boards underneath her semi-conscious body did not help.

Dalia healed in the bowls of a ship which brought her no comfort. Her memory disappeared after the cabbage crates crashed but she could only surmise that she was dragged to the nearest pirate vessel to be sold off. The thought terrified Dalia but there was nothing she could do besides sleep and hope that her injuries did not kill her. At least the letches were keeping their hands to themselves. She probably looked too close to death.

Her arms and legs moved but when Dalia tested anything above her shoulders, pain shot through her like a bolt leaving her a quivering lump. Abandoned in the dark hold of a docked vessel.

As the moments of consciousness continued to lengthened so did her pain. Her existence was no longer bearable. She begged for her life to simply end. No one cared if she lived or she died and no one lifted a finger to heal or comfort her.

One night a pair of footfalls walked to her and lifted her lifeless body. Dalia hoped they thought she was near dead and were about to toss her into the bay. Much of her welcomed the thought of slipping into the cool water and sinking to bottom, surrendering herself to death. There would be no more struggles, no more hunger or pain.

However, the survivor in her calculated her chances of living through the plunge in her current condition. If she got a good breath before she hit, under water she should be able to relax and allow herself to float to the surface. Then, if she was lucky and caught the right current, she would eventually wash ashore. If she could manage to just stay conscious.

The calloused hands carried Dalia up stairs, grunted and shifted her weight onto the railing before shoving her limp body into the air. Dalia inhaled as she fell and welcomed the cool embrace as she splashed into the water. However, the jar of impact exploded in her head and she barely contained the bile that threatened.

She forced the tension from her body and relaxed as she sank into the darkness. She opened her eyes but could only make out vague forms in the half moon lit depths. As she started to float to the surface, Dalia made small kicks with her feet to help direct her body away from the dark shadow of the pirate’s ship hull.

She resurfaced on her back further out in the bay and gasped for air as she shifted her eyes toward the shore and tried to gather her bearings. Still unable to make out her surroundings, she rotated her head ever so slightly. Pain screamed through her upper body and she gulped in labored breaths.

Once her speckled eyesight cleared, she determined that she floated on the north edge of Southtown bay near the mouth of the Glacier river. She knew that the currents from the river would sweep her out to sea, a realization that resigned her to death. It was vain to believe that she would coast ashore with the tides.

Her hope slowly seeped from her as the warmer bay waves mingled with the cool waters of the river. Ships creaking and buoy bells ringing slowly faded into the night. The evening sky was clear and her thoughts became lost in the stars while her petite body floated out into the massive expanse.

What was the purpose of her insignificant life? Was she born in order to suffer through the death of both her parents, then eek out the lonely existence in a world where no one even knew or cared that she lived?

I see you,” a vague notion of a voice spoke through her morose thoughts. Anger and frustration ignited through her fatalistic mindset.

Well isn’t that just special? How dare you care now that I’m dying and my life has been a waste?”

The voice spoke again clearer but with no apologies. “Stay awake to watch the sunrise with me Dalia.

Those words spoke of more than just a sunrise, much like storm clouds on the horizon meant rain. It was a simple request laden with promise.

Struck by the unexpected request, Dalia’s anger dissipated. She curiously watched the first vestiges of light shift the dark gloom on the horizon. Floating weightless while she admired the sky slowly paint red. The morning clouds to transformed into flowing tufts, highlighted with shades of pink and orange.

She watched in wonder at the beauty that greeted her last few moments of life. Dalia smiled at the gift as she drifted off to sleep, lulled by the gentle laps of water against her cold skin.

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4 replies

  1. I must have missed the email notice this morning.

  2. Stephanie,

    I enjoyed this. You have a good handle on keeping a reader’s interest and providing details that paint a vivid picture.

    I would like to see you attempt a more intimate POV by “showing” more.


    “She tried to wake up but the pain kept convincing her otherwise.”

    Can you show her trying to wake up and feeling jolts of pain?

    “The thought terrified Dalia …”

    Can you show her being terrified?

    As it stands, reading this felt like I was being told everything by an external narrator.

    Imagine yourself inside Dalia’s skin and write as if she is telling the story herself, though in third person.

    Start with the first sensation she would feel as she tried to wake up. Have her react to each one. Show her pain, emotions, despair, and shriveled hope.

    Considering that you have excellent writing skill, I’m sure you can do this.

    One typo I noticed – change lengthened to lengthen.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Thanks for the input. Show don’t tell often confuses me because you can’t show everything or the plot becomes ponderous. I read something recently that said to show emotions and tell physical sensations. That helped. The above is from a book I’ve already written and yet to thoroughly edit but when the time comes I’ve learned tons from this group that will help the process. Appreciate the help.

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