Critique Group – Dust and Ashes of a Fallen God

Too many dirty, bearded men make for bad box office sales.

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Dust and Ashes of a Fallen God – by Timothy

What happens when you kill a god? The question repeated itself in Deondre’s mind as he walked down the war-torn streets of Detroit. What had once been a city filled with gangs and vagrants, was now no more than an empty shell; The people had long fled or had been killed off, the buildings were no more than rubble; Skyscrapers reduced to mounds of shattered glass and twisted metal. Deondre sighed, he had been saddened to hear about the city’s fall. It seemed a waste to him. The lives of so many innocent people snuffed out by those who held authority and power. He had contemplated intervening, putting an end to the suffering, and violence. But with Brenton’s death, he didn’t see a point to it. Why try to do good only to have it spat back in your face? There was an ethereal silence as he walked through the city streets, not even a breeze stirred the bits of trash caught in the gutters and trees, hanging on like the lives of so many people hanging onto their last thread of hope. He kicked at a skull that hadn’t yet deteriorated or washed away, watching as it flew through the air before shattering against the remains of a brick wall.

As he walked, he became aware of another presence in the city; a life force that was nearly overwhelming in comparison to the silence and deadness of the city. He turned in the direction he had sensed the presence; a tall woman poked at the remains of the skull with a stick, held in one hand. She turned to him, a smile stretching across her face. So often he had looked upon her and been struck with the bleakness of that smile. Not a happy expression, he had often told himself. It fit the woman who wore it. Her face was hard. The Sun’s rays had burned her, and her skin was a constant ruddy complexion. The damage had been stretched out over the course of years in harsh weather; her skin was dry and cracked, like an old granite cliff wall. She could have been a beautiful woman had she taken care of herself. He reminded her of that, much to her displeasure. “Did you have to do that?” She asked, gesturing to the remnants of bone still scattered on the ground. The bleached white of the bone a sharp contrast to the brown and black of the scorched earth.

“Does anyone have to do anything?” He countered, “That’s what I’ve noticed, in a city of dead, there is no right or wrong, there only is.” He finally looked her in the eyes, a light burned in her eyes, mirroring the reflection of the fire that lit his irises.

“Do you have to be so esoterical?” She asked. He chuckled, his sister was the most straightforward being he knew, though that wasn’t hard when half the world’s population had been killed off.

“Did you find anything?” Deondre asked. They had been hunting an artifact for the past one hundred years, only now could he sense that they were close.

“Nothing except dust and ashes.” She stirred at the ground again “How about you?”

“It’s hard to find anything in this mess.”

“Yet you found the only skull in the entire city. It figures actually.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He began to grow defensive.

“Calm down,” She said, “I’m just trying to get on your nerves.”

“What do you think ever happened to it?” Deondre said, changing the subject “Something like that doesn’t just vanish into thin air.”

“It could be anywhere. Brenton’s death caused a massive shift on a geological level. It could be at the bottom of the ocean for all we know.” She grimaced, and Deondre could tell that she considered that a possibility. “What next?” he asked. The words sounded hollow, what was there to do but continue the search for the artifact. He could see that his sister was thinking the same thing. She stretched her arms, groaning slightly as her shoulders popped. He could see the exhaustion he felt mirrored on his sister’s face. It had been a long time since either had rested from their search. They had failed Brenton all those years ago, but they wouldn’t fail him in this.

Deondre looked up; his sister left, a trail of prints led a few yards off and then vanished in a circle of blackened earth. A shadow stretched across the street, causing Deondre to look up. The sun, now dull and lifeless, was sinking into the west. What happens when you kill a god? All hell breaks loose. Deondre knew because he witnessed Brenton’s execution. He was there the day the end of the world began.



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8 replies

  1. It’s an interesting start, that’s for sure! You’ve done a decent job of establishing the main point – this god’s death seems to have triggered some sort of apocalypse, am I right? – and I’m curious about what happens next.

    That said, your grammar could use some work. The biggest thing I noticed was that you really need to start a new paragraph every time the dialogue switches to a different person. I couldn’t always tell who was talking, and it made me less interested in the story. Also, you shouldn’t capitalise words right after a person was speaking. For example, “Yes,” He said, is wrong. It should be, “Yes,” he said.

    I hope this helps you in your work, and that you keep writing this story. I’m very interested to know how it all turns out.

  2. Timothy,

    This is an intriguing start. The first line is quite a hook.

    I think you need to break up the first two paragraphs. They are really long. Also, there are some good opportunities for showing instead of telling.

    You can see my suggested edits here –

  3. I’m going to address hook, setting, and viewpoint intimacy in this critique.

    As far as hook goes, I’m sold. Even in settings where killing a god is possible, it’s still a world-shaking event. In most religions, it’s not supposed to be possible. It’s immediately intriguing.

    For setting, I think you’re going to need to work hard. You use Detroit as a city. I’m assuming that’s meant to be the real world Detroit Michigan. If so, there’s going to be a lot of work to explain why our world apparently had a got called Brenton and his death resulted in a 50% global population reduction. A lot of urban fantasy uses established religions, often pagan ones, to shortcut this part of session building. If I say that someone killed Zeus and half the world was wiped out by lightning storms, everyone knows who that is and can see why that might happen. This is a short introduction, so you have absolutely not *failed* at this. I’m just highlighting the significant challenge you will face.

    On viewpoint intimacy, I strongly suggest switching to first person. It’s easier to get inside the main character’s head when he’s directly addressing the audience. Unless you intend to hop around with viewpoints, you can use this as a shortcut for a lot of things. You could even have him directly explain things to the audience if you frame the story as something he’s telling. Something like “Maybe you’ve never been outside one of the sanctuaries. Well, in most of the pits the old world cities turned into, you usually find no remains. When you find a skull, it’s significant. The reason is…” and then you can explain why they wanted to find the skull in Detroit. I’m not saying there are sanctuaries or anything in your world, just tossing out some ideas of who this might be written for if you chose a first person perspective.

    • Thank you so much for all the advice, since the story is still in development, all the suggestions that everyone has given me will not go to waste.

  4. Timothy, this is a very intriguing start to a great story idea. All the critique I can give you is listen to Mr. Davis and James. They know what they’re doing.

    Me, I’m sold. Keep up the good work!!


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