Critique Group – The Coup of Aleston

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The Coup of Aleston – by Elizabeth

Prince Zephyr, a tall young man with sharp features and some twenty odd years to his credit tugged his belt on and sheathed his sword. Sighing he looked at himself in the mirror, his armor glinting from the bright morning sun. Nagging little voices tore at him like arrows, ripping at his heart until he felt he couldn’t bear it any longer.


Weak. Useless. Insignificant. That’s what you are, you foolish boy!


A knock on the door made him jump and he shook his head as if to somehow shake the voices out.


“Enter!” He called. 


A guard clad in armor much like his own opened the door and bowed. “The King is ready for you, my Prince.”


“Ah, but am I ready for him?” Zephyr chuckled. The guard didn’t smile. Zephyr cleared his throat and nodded. “Erm, very well. Lead the way then.”


The guard turned on his heel and Zephyr followed him. His face the perfect mask of a composed and confident prince, no one could have guessed that his heart was beating wildly in his chest. For more than anything else in the world, Zephyr feared his father. 


As he stood in front of two closed doors to the throne room he clasped his hands behind his back and plastered on a polite smile. The doors opened and he walked in. His iron boots clanged on the marble floor as he approached.


His father sat atop a shimmering throne and glowered down at him with an unmasked scowl. Zephyr bowed low at the waist. 


“You wished to see me, father?” He said without rising.


“Yes. I’ve finally heard of this attempted assassination on your life.”


Yes, someone obviously doesn’t like the way you handle your kingdom, Zephyr thought with amusement. 


He rose and straightened. “A minor incident, Father. It’s been taken care of.” 


“Why didn’t you tell me, boy?”


“You are often busy, ” the prince said nervously. ”I thought it best not to disturb you.”


“You thought wrong,” the King growled and Zephyr couldn’t hold back a wince. “I’ve called for General Ocran to gather our most masterful soldiers. One of them will be chosen as your bodyguard and will remain at your side at all times.” His tone was dangerous. Zephyr knew now was not the time to defend what little freedom he had left.


He dipped his head in consent. “As you wish, Father.”


“You’re dismissed.”


Zephyr began to turn then stopped, his heart pounding. “If I may, I have a request,” he ventured.


The king’s eyes narrowed. ”Oh? And what is that?”


Zephyr forced himself to look into his father’s eyes boldly. “That I am allowed to choose my own bodyguard. Without interference.”


“Ha!” The King laughed. “You think yourself a man, do you? Want to make your own decisions? Fine then. What’s it to me? I’ll indulge you this once.”


His words cut deep into Zephyr’s heart and with fear the young man realized tears were welling in his eyes. He quickly bowed to hide them. “Thank you, Highness. I’ll take my leave.”


“Indeed,” the King muttered as Zephyr left. 


The wounded prince quickly exited and attempted to keep his pace normal as he retreated to his room. Upon his arrival, he asked the guards that he not be disturbed and shut the doors swiftly behind him. 


Leaning heavily against his door he let the tears flow. Despite all he had been taught of how disgraceful it was to cry, he allowed the salty drops to slide down his face unhindered. He saw no harm in it since after this, his last day of freedom, he would never be alone again. 


After some minutes he regained his composure and forced himself off the door and onto his own feet again. Uncomfortable in his armor, he adjusted it to try and alleviate the stiff pain.


“Chin up, Zephyr,” he whispered to himself. “Maybe one day things will be different.”


He straightened his armor and took comfort in the fact that he could at least choose who was to be stuck with. As he thought this, a knock sounded on his door. Zephyr quickly straightened and called for the person on the other side to enter. 


The door opened revealing General Ocran who bowed shortly at the waist. “The prospects are prepared and ready for you, Highness.”


“Very well, General. Proceed. Do you find yourself satisfied with the prospects?”


“Very much so,” the man said as he led Zephyr to the outer courtyard. “Especially one of them. I believe he would make the most excellent bodyguard out of any of them by far.”


“Hmmm,” Zephyr said, finding it odd that the man was so enthusiastic about something that clearly shouldn’t excite him. Especially seeing as how he and the General had certainly had their differences in the past. “Well, we’ll see,” he said.


As they walked to the training yard Zephyr began to become irritable as his thoughts shifted glumly to how miserable he’d be with a bodyguard at his arm every moment of every day. Not to mention how uncomfortable it would be to have someone serve him in such an extravagant manner when he obviously could protect himself. 


But as they entered the courtyard Zephyr put on a pleasant smile. If not for the act then for the poor soldiers who had worked hard to earn such a high position. For some of them, he knew it was everything they had dreamed of. It helped that bodyguards gained a position almost equal to that of one of the Royal Family and were held in high respect.


Prince Zephyr clasped his hands behind his back and surveyed the group of soldiers that had been trained for him. His father’s general followed close behind and watched his face intently as he surveyed the row of men and women.


“Well, General Ocran? Who is this unmatched soldier who’s caught your eye?”


The general gestured with his hand. “Macor, step forward.” 

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25 replies

  1. This story is very intriguing! You definitely caught my interest. It leaves me wondering what’s going to happen next.

  2. I like your introduction to this character. It makes me want to read more about what his adventure will be.

    One thing I would like to suggest is add a description for his armor, especially if you’re going to compare the guard’s armor to his own. Is the breastplate solid or scaled or some other fashion? How bulky is it? What color? This would help me have a better visual.

    Instead of putting a physical description of Zephyr in the very first sentence, put it in when he looks in the mirror. “He examined his reflection in the mirror. His face, sharp featured and worn, showed the pain he had endured in his twenty odd years of life, his gilded armor glinted in the sunlight streaming in through the window…”

    The conversation between the king and Zephyr felt a little less formal than I think a hard king would have with his soft son, for lack of better terminology. I’d like to see a little more movement during the conversation. Possibly add a little boredom and annoyance on the king’s part; I feel like that would fit his character. Is the king sitting straight with his hands resting on the handrests, or is he slouched with his chin settled on his fist?

    Just a little continuity: when Zephyr arrives back in his room, he asks the guards to make sure he is not disturbed, yet when a knock is sounded on the door he quickly allows the visitor to enter. You might consider adding a brief dialogue between Zephyr and either the guards or the visitor before he allows the door to open.

    Good luck!

  3. This is an interesting start to what promises to be an intriguing story. I can sense a conspiracy brewing.

    To make it easier for myself, I marked up your excerpt in a Word document. It’s here –

    If you have trouble reading it or if you have questions, let me know.

  4. Elizabeth, I like Zephyr! You’ve created a character with wounds and humor but who does not wallow in his hopelessness. You had him cry, genuinely feel his feels but then he lifted his chin and moved on.

    I liked that you didn’t go into full description mode when Zephyr looked into the mirror. You could do better than ‘tall young man’ though. Lanky maybe. Young isn’t necessary since you state an age soon after.

    Recheck your pronouns. A couple of times they were not clear, though they were easily assumed. The guard wearing armor like his own could be read that he was wearing someone else’s armor. Or I could just be nit picking.

    The one sentence where he ,”…pushed himself off of the door and onto his feet again.” How was he leaning on the door and yet not on his feet? Perhaps is you said that he shifted his weight from the door back to his feet it would be better understood.

    Minor trifles to a well written tale. I can’t wait to read more. What does Prince Zephyr think of Macor? Will he choose someone else as bodyguard? Tune in next time to find out.

    • Ahhhh THANK YOU😆😂!!! This is going to help me a lot! I struggle with the details in my writing and this is going to help me nail it down YAAAAY😆!

      I’m really liking Zephyr too😂! One of my pet peves when I read a story is an emotionless OR weepy/sappy protagonist, so I’m treading on dangerous waters as far as my opinion on what’s too much for a balanced character🤪. But I felt like he needed that little moment to reveal some of his sensitive nature and allow him to be someone the reader could immediately feel for, so the fact that you like it definitely makes me think I pulled it off😅!

      Also if you want to get a few of those questions answered I have the first chapter posted on my website😋. Thanks again😄!!!!

  5. Poor Zephyr. I’m already rooting for him and am impressed with his character. He certainly seems the type of man who would be a good king if given the chance.
    Some small things there should be a coma after “credit” in the first paragraph to help break where he puts on armor with his personal descriptors. In that paragraph I think the description of him would flow a little better if it was placed after he looked in the mirror (I know some others commented on that).
    Later you mention iron boots as he’s walking toward the king and I’m just wondering on the practicality of that. Probably you weren’t thinking the entire shoe iron but even for soldiers leather would seem more practical. Or maybe specify iron soled boots.
    I’m a little curious why Zephyr was “amused” over his thoughts on the people not liking the king’s leadership. From the portrayal we get of him that doesn’t quite seem in character- especially since the attempt was on Zephyrs life not the king’s. Irritably, wryly, scoffed etc seem a bit more in keeping with the tension between the two.
    That being said I’m curious as to why the attempt was on Zephyr when his character seems much more amiable than the king’s. Was the king too well guarded? That may be something you fleshed out later on but I’d be interested to know the would be assassins motives.
    Later when he’s going to pick a bodyguard he’s put out because he can “obviously” take care of himself but we as the audience don’t have any background knowledge as to why he’s so confident. Maybe between the time he walks out of the throne room and that sentence you have a sentence about how he was the one who fought off the attacker or something along those lines so we as the audience knows some of his prowess.
    Overall though great job

    • Thank you so much for giving me your opinion😄!!! I was a little unsure if Zephyr was believable, but everybody seems to really like my sad little prince so that’s BIG encouragement to me😂! All of your critiques are EXTREMELY helpful and I can’t thank you enough😆!!!

  6. Hi Elizabeth,

    Sorry if some things focus on punctuation items. Just trying to help.

    I love this beginning! Paragraph one already has me asking questions. Who did those little voices belong to?

    The humor with the guard is nice. Watch out for using action beats like he chuckled or he laughed. Ask yourself, can you laugh the words from that complete sentence? If you use it, try to keep the sentence short.

    Great work with making the reader feel the heart pounding in his chest because he fears his father. Felt very real to me.

    His father sat atop a shimmering throne and glowered down at him with an unmasked scowl.
    – glowered means scowled so it doesn’t feel right to say it twice in this sentence. Maybe end the sentence after ‘at him’.

    “Yes. I’ve finally heard of this attempted assassination on your life.”
    Yes, someone obviously doesn’t like the way you handle your kingdom, Zephyr thought with amusement.
    – I found it confusing to hear that Zephyr thought with amusement about someone trying to kill him. That made me question if it was the king being assassinated.

    He rose and straightened.
    – Sounds like the same thing being said twice. Maybe try just He rose.

    “You are often busy, ” the prince said nervously. ”I thought it best not to disturb you.”
    – ‘the prince said nervously’ sounds like we are being told what he said. If you try, ‘The price spoke nervously’ it sounds more like we are being told how he said it. To me it feels like it adds a layer of emotion. And use a period after busy if you try this way because it doesn’t count as a dialogue tag since you are describing how something is being said, not what is being said.

    “You thought wrong,” the King growled and Zephyr couldn’t hold back a wince.
    Should be: “You thought wrong.” Use a period when the speech is followed by an action beat. Use a comma when it is followed by a dialogue tag like: he said. Growled is an action, so don’t confuse it with a dialogue tag like the king said. Also King should only be capitalized when used with a name. Like King Edward.

    I wasn’t sure why it was clear the general couldn’t be enthusiastic about finding a potential guard for the prince. I would be proud I found a great match for protecting the prince. These statements that assume I should know things make the reader pause and pull them from the story. Maybe I missed something.

    Overall, I am curious as to what will happen with the prince but I would like to see more information provided as to why someone is trying to assassinate the prince.

    The writing is interesting and visual with personal description but needs some description of the environment. When the doors open we see the king on a shimmering throne, but what about the walls? Chandeliers? Towering ceiling?

    I will have to go to your page to read more. Thanks for sharing. Good job, Elizabeth!

  7. I LOVE how extensive your notes are! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to analyze my excerpt so meticulously😆!!!! I find myself confused and unsure with my writing (especially when it comes to description) and so for somebody to point out where I am lacking really makes me happy and excited to be able see where I need to improve! Thank you so much😄!!!!

  8. This story has a real mystery behind it! My compliments to the author! The main character is HUMAN, you can relate to him. However, the story reads more like an essay, as if the writer was more used to functional, informational writing. The facts are stated, but not in a way that draws the reader into the scene. My advice would be to use your senses to describe what a thing was LIKE, instead of what it was. To much description and not enough real feeling is the downfall of a lot of would-be writers, including myself! Also, the name Zephyr is very descriptive in a character, but does it represent the character? Names are important, and choosing the right name is key. Zephyr is a great name, but is it the right one? But, that is only one person’s opinion! Best of luck on the writing journey!

    • Thank you so much😄!!!! I can definitely see now where I’m lacking in some descriptional pull, so thank you for pointing that out!
      I definitely agree that names and their meaning are extremely important! Zephyr means “a soft, gentle breeze” which I thought fit him well due to his soft hearted nature, but I would love to hear your thoughts on my choice!
      I really appreciate that you took the time to read my excerpt and share your thoughts! Thanks again😄!!!

      • I’m glad that I could help! I get the name now, after thinking about it, that Zephyr is a good name for this character. The fact that he is a soldier/knight isn’t usually paired with gentleness and softness, but maybe it should be more often. I appreciate that your character has depth and a sensitive personality!

  9. Elizabeth,
    I enjoy a good palace intrigue, and this promises to be all that. I definitely very much want to know about Macor. (Is this a young woman soldier, perhaps…?)

    I think my main difficulty is with Prince Zephyr. He seems very weak. I wonder, could you paint his strengths before painting his vulnerabilities? That might help me like him better/sooner.

    Some other quick thoughts:

    He is “some twenty odd years” – If you could pick a specific age for him, how old exactly would he be?

    I agree with Tree: Who spoke those mean words to him originally–those words he recalls when he looks in the mirror?

    A couple times people “bowed low.” Is there a special significance to how people bow in this kingdom?

    Now I’m going to go read your site to see who this Macor person is. 🙂

    • I read the rest of the chapter on your site. I guessed close, but not quite. I like the twist!

      • Thank you😄!!!

        I thought a lot about how to add in a show of his strength before the weakness and wondered if maybe instead of letting the weakness come to knowledge throughout the tale like stories traditionally play out, I could let his strengths unfold instead. I haven’t quite decided yet, but you’ve definitely made me think hard about it😂!

        If I had to pin it down, I’d say 21. Old enough to feel like a man but young enough to still feel trapped in his father’s shadow.

        The words are his father’s. I’d divulge why but that’d be giving everything away😜.

        Hmmm, it looks like a definitely need to draw a distinction😅! In my mind, certain levels of bowing are used for certain people. A ”short” bow (a slight bend at the torso) would be a respectful gesture to an elder or someone whose status isn’t much higher than the one who’s bowing. A ”low” bow (a deep bend at the waist that’s held until permission is granted to rise) would be used for someone with much higher status or to show deep respect. It’s going to be a little difficult to explain that in the story, but at least now I know I need to😋😂!

        You’ve given me a lot to chew on and I really appreciate you taking the time to give me your feedback! Thanks again😄!!!

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