Tumblr writers’ critique group. What do you think?

gaiabamman:

Good evening awesome writers! This evening we have the beginning of a fantasy novel. This is the text as I received it:

For the first time in seven months, the Rhyton is dark. Rites were put on hold. Sacrifices ceased. Worshippers cast aside their jewels, smeared on the paint-strokes adorning their limbs, took up carved staffs and wreaths of ivy and joined the procession, dancing and laughing and making their way along the winding Sacred Way. Already many were draining their wine-skins dry. The flaming torches blazed a snaking path through the city, chatter and anticipation reaching up to the goddess’ temple on the light summer breeze. This was all days ago, however. Now the city is quiet.

Deep within one of the many embellishments carved into the temple’s spire, a fluttering can be seen. With one smooth movement a white bird flicks its wings, plunging down and soaring low over the rooftops. Glimmers of warm glows where candles burn behind windows light small patches of the deserted city, but most of it is drenched in darkness. The bird turns minutely to skim the leaves of a tiled roof-garden and wheels around a curling fountain to soar over the forest.

Away from the crowded buildings, the air is clearer. Cooler. Gentle breezes stir blackened leaves, soft rustling whispers trading secrets among the trees.

My comments:

PROS

  • Great opening line. I know right away this is fantasy and something is wrong…or good?

CONS

  • I’m confused. “The Rhyton is dark” makes me think things are bad, but then people are laughing? Make sure to set the right mood from the beginning
  • Avoid repetitions. “Rites were put on hold” is not a great line, but “sacrifices ceased” sure is; go with that! Obviously torches are flaming…
  • I see that you are trying to set up a mood and show me what people look like, but the description is forced. I don’t know if we’re happy or sad and the descriptions you give are vague and verbose. For example: “Worshippers cast aside their jewels, smeared on the paint-strokes adorning their limbs, took up carved staffs and wreaths of ivy and joined the procession” I can’t see the scene. I find myself reading the sentence over and over trying to understand what’s the subject of “smeared”. The sentence is awkward, I think, because you are implying the same subject, the worshippers, but the first sentence is constructed as subject verb object (they cast away their jewels) while the second sentence is acted upon themselves  (smeared on…)
  • Time is confusing. You start in the present, then you tell me it was seven days ago. You should be using the past, then the present 
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  • 200 words in, I have no idea if the narration is first or third person, and I have no clue about the conflict or the main character. Mind you, the conflict does not have to be your main conflict, but it could be any hook, anything to make me curious and want me to read more, something to make me care about the story or the character. For example, about POV, “A fluttering can be seen” by whom? This tells me you might be a bit confused yourself by the narration POV.  “A bird flutters” helps the reader be in the moment. MAKE ME CARE!
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  • Made their way…along the way, not great wording. Carve the beginning of your story to perfection :)

MY OVERALL OPINION

In my opinion this needs work. After 200 words I have no idea who’s the main character, who’s the narrator and what’s at stake. 

MY EDIT

I tried to play with the tenses a bit more and to add a bit of a hook, I apologize removing the part about the bird, but I did not know its relevance to the story. As usual take whatever you like and leave the rest, it’s your baby :)

Finally, for the first time in seven months, the Rhyton had gone dark. Sacrifices ceased and the worshippers, dancing and laughing, made their way to the Goddess’ Temple. The light of their torches flickered on their semi-naked bodies covered in jewels and paint, as they drained their wineskins, snaking through the city. 

It was a time for celebration. Bedazzled, drunk with happiness, I joined them, just like everyone else, chanting as one with the crowd, oblivious of the fate that awaited for me at the end of the Sacred Way.

This was seven days ago. Now I am alone in the quiet temple, shivering in the darkness, wondering if I will make it through the night.

I hope this helped ^_^  

I think this could be a great story.  If the comments helped and you want to go for a second round, resubmit!

GBA

If you want to submit your work to the Tumblr’s writers critique group just e-mail the first 200 words of it to gaia.b.amman@gmail.com with subject 200 words. Let me know if you want your work anonymous or not :)

Like gaiabamman, I found myself more than a little confused about what is going on here, who the narrator is, tense, etc. Although, I do like the opening sentence and think it is compelling as-is, I feel like there is too much description going on, and it is coming off as less prose or poetic than as though the writer is putting in description for description’s sake. Also, be cautious of missed commas and making sentences too complex to be easily understood. 

To illustrate how unclear and confusing the piece becomes, my understanding of what was happening is the total opposite of GBA’s. In fact, I thought the revelers were in the past and that the city is now deserted. I’m not sure now which of us is correct.

But, still I think there is something worth reworking and resubmitting here, so my advice is this: tone down how much description is going on and give us a better sense of timeframe, who the narrator is, and of course, fewer run-on sentences.

I look forward to reading the rewrite!

A.M.