Author Topic: Just looking for a little honest critique  (Read 1085 times)

Eerongal

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Just looking for a little honest critique
« on: November 24, 2009, 11:39:47 PM »
every once and a while, i get the proverbial "bug up my butt" and write a short story or two, or a chapter or so of something I intend to be larger, but i never really follow through too well. I don't consider myself much of a writer, and usually scrap the project after a bit, thinking that it's lame.

Earlier, i ran across a short story i wrote a few years back for a short story contest, which I thought turned out all right, but not that great. I ended up getting like 3rd place or so for it (it was a pretty small contest, i think there was like maybe 20 or so submissions).

Though, the reason I post this is to get some honest opinions of what others think of my writing style. Is it worthwhile, does it suck, does it need tweaking/improvement? Like i said, my problem is i think everything I write is kinda terrible.

Now, this story may seem a bit blunt at times, but that's because the short story contest was limited to a pretty short length, and i was encourage to participate pretty late into the submission deadline, so i thought it came out blunt and VERY generic. I actually cut some out of it from what I had originally wrote, because i thought it seemed akward and unfitting.

anyways, without further ado....


Quote
The Tale of Kelzar, the bard.
   --Eerongal

    "You know you'll be killed..."
    The words bellowed like the dull ring of a bell. A deep silence ran over the cabin. The child slunk back in her seat, knowing what she said hit a sharp tone. Onlookers nervously watched for a reaction, hoping not to upset what they knew to be their last hope. My companion sat there. No change, I noted. He still looked quiet and reserved as usual. The silence in the cabin became overbearing, broken only by the faded beat of the horse hooves outside. The rest of the ride felt unbearable. Seconds felt like minutes, minutes hours.
    After what seemed an eternity, my companion finally stood and blankly announced that we had arrived. The port town of Sharizald, the final stop on our journey, possibly the last time I would see any civilization before I died. I felt a wave of anxiousness overcome me. My companion showed no response, the black cloak covering nearly his entire form, with the occasional glint of steel showing from the sword he bore. …Come to think of it, although we'd seen many battles in our short time together, I had never actually seen him draw his blade.
    One night and an age ago, he walked into the small inn I worked at; the stomp of his steps rang in my mind before I even turned to look at him. How was I to know what this strange new face had in store for me at the time? I made my way through the crowd, to entertain this new guest for the servers before took his order. The night had been so frenetic and exhausting that I didn't care about playing my best as much as getting the job done.
    "Good eve, si--" I began.
    "Sit." He stated in a low, demanding tone.
    For as long as I had worked there, that was the first time anyone had ever wanted me to seat at their table. After all, I was just an entertainer, buying time until the stewards arrived. I seated myself quickly, as he seemed to be in no mood for the standard banter.
    "I have need of one such as yourself," He said. I stared at him quizzically. After studying him for a moment, I realized who he was, and what he wanted with me. I stared at him, aghast.
    "Y-you don't mean with...". He nodded, slowly.
    "The dracowyrm."
    I couldn't believe I had been chosen, of all people, to accompany the chosen slayer of the dragon.
    "Why me?" I inquired.
    " After I die, I need a bard to tell my tale to the Emperor," He began, "However, I wish for you naught to speak of my name in your stories." I stared at him, the fear of my imminent destiny weighing heavily on my mind. 
    "I-I'm no bard, I'm merely the entertainer at a small pub. I have no training as a bard!" I exclaimed.
    He just let off a small laugh and stated, "That's why you're perfect."
    I packed that night. He told me to pack light, but I wondered--why pack at all, when my life would be forfeit anyways? The dragon he had been chosen to kill, Syrefang, was the first dragon to appear in millennia. As a child, I had heard the legends of dragons, passed down along generations. In those days, I thought they were fairy tales, as all did. Imagine the panic when this dragon appeared from the western skies! Stories of the razed villages spread quickly. Syrefang claimed she would not rest until she had slain every human that walked the world of Alluvium. The legends had always stated that the hero would show and save us from the draco's wrath, and that the emperor would know the man on first sight. Rumors ran wild once our savior had been chosen, although his identity remained closed. Those who claimed to have seen him had wildly varying accounts.
    "His hair is as red as the sun, with large, bulging muscles, and naught a need for arms or guard!" 
   Still others claimed, "No! His hair is blond as the purest of gold with ornate armor to match, his sword shining in the sun's glory with the purest of steel!"
   The only thing that rang true about these stories is that they were pure fabrication, a hope from those desperate for a savior. I have seen the truth. The truth was a man who seemed of no bigger stature than my own, and whose reserved nature made him stand out no more than a single tree would in the greatest forests.
    The dragon lived in the arid Saratoya Mountains to the east. The trek was brutal, even with the numerous settlements along the way. Due to the dragon's presence, many travelers were greeted with theft and hostility, as villagers turned to petty thuggery to survive. My companion and I rarely spoke, and when we did, he was straight to the point, leaving nothing to discuss or argue. At times, I felt like I traveled alone.
    Barely a day after we arrived at the port town, we were leaving again. I heaved a heavy sigh, knowing that that may have been the last interaction with any of my kind I would ever see again. As usual, my companion seemed unaffected by this fact.
    "So, when we get there--" I started, but was quickly cut off a raised hand, indicating that I should speak no further; this was the usual gist of our conversations. I followed in silence, thinking to myself. I tried to take my mind off of the insanity I was heading towards, but my mind invariably drifted back. I thought about those I had left behind--those I would probably never see again. It became too much for me; I was overcome by a wave of grief as my thoughts gave silent voice. Why was I chosen? Why should I have to go die? I'm barely of age to be considered a man. It had to be a punishment, but what wrong had I committed?
   For the rest of the day, I tried my best to keep my mind clear. This course of thinking would only make every step harder. I still wondered why we walked instead of riding. This had never been clear to me at anytime where he had deemed it so. For sure, it wasn't for lack of horses. Whatever my companions reasoning, I decided not to question it, as I did with most things concerning him.
    "I want you to hide," he stated. We were almost at Syrefang's lair, and the camp had been concealed as best as possible. He was sitting in front of the small, cold campfire, staring at it, yet seeming to look right through it. I could only guess at what was going through his mind.
    "What do you mean?" I inquired.
    "When we fight the dracowyrm," he replied, "You must only observe, and not get involved. This fight is mine, and mine alone."
    I hated it when he used that term. Dracowyrm. That term is used in stories as a derogatory name for the dragons, and those who speak it usually meet a swift end from dragon jaws. I never quite understood the meaning behind the word, nor why dragons found it offensive, but it did spawn a lot of common insults among the populace. "You're as dumb as a dracowyrm," was a common one, even though the dragons of the stories were renowned for their intelligence and cunning.
    "But we'll stand a better chance if-" I began.
    "You'll die, and the result will be unknown. Simple as that. You will hide," He retorted firmly. I knew trying to argue my point was futile.  The rest of the evening passed by in silence.
    I slept terribly that night. Restlessness seemed to care over me like a mother for her child. Syrefang's cave was less than a day's trek away.
    I awoke early in the morning. I couldn't tell if my companion was asleep or not. He sat in the same position as the night before, face shrouded by the hood of his cloak. After a quick breakfast of bread and cheese, I took a short walk to calm my nerves. The surrounding forest was solemn and dead, with with only the bare chirp of a bold bird haunting the air. I didn't blame the gentle creatures of the forest for not wanting to approach the dragon's lair--had I been a man of saner mind, I wouldn't have been there either. As I passed through the desolate, empty forest, I felt a wave of gloom and foreboding enter my being. I decided to return to camp, hastily.
    When I returned to our encampment, all of our items were packed and we were ready to set out. My companion was still as I had left him, sitting as if he never moved from his position. Perhaps it was an unconscious impression of the peculiarities of the forest, but a nervous chill ran through me.
    "Grab your things. We go," he said, as I got within speaking distance. I thought to myself: this campsite we leave behind will be the only sign of life I've seen anywhere in the forest, and even then, we had to make that ourselves.
    We walked. "This forest feels unnatural...” I stated, during our journey. The only response was the sound of my own breathing.
    "I think we should turn back, and scout out the area. We may find a better way to approach more to our advantage," I repeated. Obviously, that was not my intent--I wanted to stave off our eventual arrival at the dragon's abode. Once again, my comment was met with dead silence.
    After a few moments, I pressed on. "So, why do you not want me to speak of your name in my stories?" I heard the sound of his footsteps stop dead in their tracks. The hood of his cloak slowly turned, fixing a displeasing look over his shoulder at me. From there on, I decided to remain quiet as we walked.
    At about midday, we arrived at the dragons cave. As I saw the stone aperture rise over the horizon, I felt a chill run down my spine. The moment of reckoning was at hand.
    "Hide there." He pointed to a large rock as we approached the opening. "Stay out of sight, but make sure you see EVERYTHING." 
    I did as instructed. The events to follow were the most marvelous of things to have ever been beheld by a lowly tavern worker. My companion walked right up to the mouth of the cave, and yelled, "DRACOWYRM! Come out, you are to be slain!"
    Not a quiver in his voice. My companion apparently had no fear of the evil inside the cave. I stared in awe as a loud rumble signified the approach of something very heavy.
    "What is the meaning of this?" Syrefang inquired as she emerged from the opening. Her scales shimmered a beautiful red in the glinting sunlight. Large, broad wings protruded from her back, like those of a bat. Her long snout curled into a snarl. Horns of the devil himself added an evil twist to an otherwise majestic looking figure.
    "Human, you DARE invade into my abode! I will swallow you whole!" she snapped, upon seeing my companion.
    "Dragon, you have taken the one dearest to me, and as such, you will now pay for all your wicked crimes brought upon humanity," the small human figure bellowed, with a voice as large as the dragon itself. The dragon reared back with a piercing hiss that penetrated right down into my soul, a shriek that would remain with me for the rest of my life. SLAM! A large claw bore down towards my companion. I averted my eyes just before it landed, but looking back I saw that he had evaded unscathed. Sword drawn, and cloak tossed aside, I now had a full view of my companion. He looked young, perhaps only ten years older than myself. His face appeared soft, yet stern with conviction. His hair was short, tied in a ponytail in back, and of one of the most exuberant whites I had seen.
    THUD! A second claw smashed down, narrowly missing my companion, followed by the sound of steel singing through the air. A clear miss on my companion's part--the foreleg of the dragon swiftly drew back, attempting another maul. Then, Syrefang reared her majestic head back, drawing a deep breath. My companion dove and rolled under the dragons extended leg, narrowly escaping as her head thrusted forward, spewing forth flames as golden as the sun itself. The flame practically engulfed the boulder I hid behind, the heat beating upon the sides of my face. I thought for sure that I was done for, but the heat faded. I opened my eyes to see naught but the charred forest in front of me. Sweat trickled down my brow. Swiftly, I repositioned myself to watch the continuing battle.
    My companion was now behind Syrefang, but the dragon whirled around with a speed that belied her size. My companion charged, sword raised. With a voice booming above even the dragon's most powerful growl, he let out a mighty roar. The dragon's head quickly came down toward him, and snapped its jaw around his form. I saw nothing of my companion. Syrefang's head leapt back in a swallowing motion. In a frozen moment, I stared in disbelief at what had just happened. What was to become of the inhabitants of Alluvium? What of the men, women and children? More importantly, what would become of me...
    What felt like an eternity, but could not have been more than a scant few seconds after the swallow, the dragon let out a deafening screech. With a loud crash, she slumped over. After a moment, a thick black fluid flowed from the dragon's head in my direction. Was this it? Was the beast dead? Had the hero prevailed? I waited. Nothing moved. After several moments, I worked up the courage to approach. As I approached, Syrefang showed no response. I moved around to her head, and called to my companion. No response. Peering through the dragons yellowed jaws, I noticed a small glint of light. After a moment of inspection, I saw the faint shape of a sword, thrust upward through the dragon's palate, into her skull. After a moment, I called my companions name again . Still no response. I waited a few moments, then turned back, alone.
    The journey homeward was uneventful. The whole way back, I couldn't draw my thoughts off my valiant companion, who sacrificed everything to defeat the terrible Syrefang.
    "Dragon, you have taken the one dearest to me..." those words rang in my mind. Who had he lost to the dragon? Perhaps a lover? A teacher? A friend? Whoever he lost, his sacrifice hadn't been in vain. He had saved all inhabitants of Alluvium, and they would appreciate all he had done. Still, his first command rose in my mind. “I wish for you naught to speak of my name in your stories." It was almost as if he knew he would die. And what man desires not to be a hero? One who has nothing to prove, I suppose.
    After all this excitement, I retired back to my old job at the inn. As days, weeks, months and years passed, the job felt…emptier than it had before. Something was missing. My adventure had left a sour taste for peace and quiet.
   “--But my friends, here is where my story ends, for there is no more to tell, and all's well that ends well. The server shall be with you in a few moments...”




Thanks for any comments ahead of time, guys. :)

edit: also - don't be afraid to hurt my feelings. I'm sure what you say could never be worse than how bad i think i am, and i'm pretty sure i can take it.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2009, 11:41:49 PM by Eerongal »
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Dark_Prophecy

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Re: Just looking for a little honest critique
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2010, 12:34:31 PM »
If you're looking for great critiques of this, you might try getting on the Reading Excuses email list and submitting it one week.
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Eerongal

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Re: Just looking for a little honest critique
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2010, 03:06:57 PM »
If you're looking for great critiques of this, you might try getting on the Reading Excuses email list and submitting it one week.

Well, that's the thing, I don't write near enough to join it, IMO, and I honestly don't know if any writing i do is worth the time, as I don't really think it is, as I'm a pretty harsh critic of my work.
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Silk

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Re: Just looking for a little honest critique
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2010, 05:59:50 PM »
I wouldn't be too worried about that, to be honest. I mean, the group's been around for over a year now, and I myself have submitted a grand total of three times. XP But if you don't want to join the group, I suppose we can allow that...

Also: Any writing you do is worth the time. Unless you hate doing it or something.

Also also: I'll try to look at it, but the 5-6 emails in my RE inbox and the 230k manuscript that a friend sent me in September come first. So "getting to it" won't happen right away.

On the upside, your thing looks shorter than anything else I've got to read! ;)

Eerongal

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Re: Just looking for a little honest critique
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2010, 06:21:58 PM »
I wouldn't be too worried about that, to be honest. I mean, the group's been around for over a year now, and I myself have submitted a grand total of three times. XP But if you don't want to join the group, I suppose we can allow that...

Also: Any writing you do is worth the time. Unless you hate doing it or something.

Also also: I'll try to look at it, but the 5-6 emails in my RE inbox and the 230k manuscript that a friend sent me in September come first. So "getting to it" won't happen right away.

On the upside, your thing looks shorter than anything else I've got to read! ;)

oh, really? i was always under the impression that it was a round-robin style "you submit every X weeks" sort of thing.

also: has it been over a year all ready? I guess it has, hasnt it.

And yeah, the length is short, because the contest i submitted it in was a short story contest. As in really short story. Like maybe 1,000 words or so, I don't actually remember specifically. I just know when i wrote it, i was like 2.5X over the size requirement and had to prune it down.
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Re: Just looking for a little honest critique
« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2010, 07:47:37 AM »
Round Robin: No. That was one of the ideas we bounced around, but we decided to go with something a little more flexible.

Heh. The short short stuff can be fun. Mostly because you write it and then it's done. ::)

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Re: Just looking for a little honest critique
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2010, 07:43:11 AM »
Just join up. If nothing else, it gives you free stuff to read when you're bored :D
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