Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April Secret Agent #46

TITLE: The Breaking Darkness
GENRE: Fantasty

After an absentminded man of learning and a naive follower shattered civilization, all the lands the world over fell into chaos and darkness. In his grief and his hope, Professor Jameson gathered the knowledge and history of the world at the fortress that would become the Na'Sety. It was his dream that the sun would again shine on mankind on day. -From the recitation of the Legend

The unkempt, skeletal old man known as The Prophet threw open the doors of the Akothan royal council chamber with a bang. His stained, ash-colored linen robes flowed ominously in the air as he briskly strode over the handwoven ivory carpets that ran down the center of the throne room. The Prophets' steely gaze did not waver from the man seated on the throne; he knew the other councilors and attendants in the room were inconsequential.

The Prophet wore a braided golden circlet with a spherical blood-red stone on his brow marking him as the leader of the Soldiers of Purity. The ominously colored stone was obviously a recent addition judging from the crude welds around its mounting. The Soldiers of Purity were a fanatical sect dedicated to the bringing of all people to the Light, no matter the means. 'Better the cleansing purity of the grave than to suffer the evil of life' was their maxim. He was followed closely by the Captain of the Akothan Guard and two score troops who immediately fanned out around the perimeter of the room.


  1. A few too many descriptive words. You might want to draw your character descriptions out a little more slowly and let the readers discover that he is unkempt rather than simply stating it.

  2. Agreed. More showing and less telling? It seems like a lot of information all at once yet without a good hook

  3. This is all telling until we get to the last paragraph. Even that has minimal action. I get the tone of high fantasy, or epic fantasy here, and that's cool. (I admit, I'm not a big reader in that genre, so take what I say with a grain of salt). That first paragraph has to go. If it is an epigraph, then that's okay, but it doesn't work as the opening lines because it is all history. It isn't the conflict, it isn't the characters, it doesn't quite work.

    I also thing you have too many adjectives and descriptors. I like "skeletal" and "unkempt" but tone down the clothing descriptors.

    I don't know that I'd read further, but, as I said, I'm not an epic fantasy person.

  4. Although you’ve got great descriptions here, I suggest this: Remove every adverb and adjective and see how it sounds. Give back one or maybe two.

    The reason? My eye tends to skip over words like ‘ominously’, ‘briskly’, ‘handwoven’, ‘steely’, immediately’, ‘closely’, etc.

    Let his actions give me his mood. IMHO, if you cut ‘…he knew…’ in the first paragraph (I don’t count the prologue-thingy), it helps also.
    Try again and use only strong verbs and nouns throughout. I like to research well-known authors like Thomas Harris or John Grisham. Read the beginning of A Painted House or Silence of the Lambs to get an idea of what I am suggesting.

    I am interested in seeing your edits :)
    Good luck.

  5. I agree stronger verbs instead of adverbs would help this page. You use a lot, and you use 'ominously' twice, which lessens its impact. I also feel like you could dial back the descriptions just a tad. I feel like we're getting lots of ideas in some of the sentences. eg. in the first sentence in the second paragraph there's a lot of extra info between the old man throwing the doors open with a bang. I'm another one who doesn't read much epic fantasy, so see what others say on this point.

    Unless there is more than one Prophet, you should use "Prophet's", indicating ownership of one person, not "Prophets'", which indicates multiple people own the subject. (You probably know this and it's a typo but just in case.)

    Lastly, I'd prefer to know about the soldiers and the Captain earlier. I'm picturing one lone man walking into the chamber and suddenly I have to add another 41 people behind him.

  6. I agree that you're using more adverbs and adjectives than you need. I think the information about the Soldiers of Purity needs to be woven into the scene that follows. But I can see this opening scene clearly and I'd definitely read on.

  7. I agree with the previous comments- more showing. Also, I didn't get a strong sense of what the story was about- maybe add a little more action and less description?

  8. The first paragraph didn't really work, and I had to reread it. Cut your adverbs and allow yourself only a few in the book. I love them too. The description is bogging down, instead of helping. Weave in the description further on.

  9. simplify. you dont need to tell me right off that the prophet was unkempt or skeletal. or that the doors were thrown open--with a bang no less. Just having the prophet throw open the doors and come striding in is so much stronger.

    I see the first paragraph in italics, of course. It's a quote from their book. But you can't submit it that way. So I understand that.

    Have him speak right away, before we get the braided gold circlet and the like. It gives us a greater sense of his urgency.

    It has a lot of potential. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Is it one man or two in the first paragraph?

    My first impression of the prophet was that of a sad old man which didn't fit with the use of the word 'ominously' or later description of him.

    I won't repeat what others have said, I'll just add that you've pretty much got a page where all that happens is a man walks into a room. Having said that, I don't read a lot of 'high' fantasy which is what I think this is so it might just be me not getting it.

    Not hooked I'm afraid.

  11. Too many adjectives! I enjoy a highly descriptive, detailed read but in this instance, they're just not working.

  12. I thought the first parg could use a few more specifics. If this is info in a book, as well as a bit of their history, wouldn't they name the absent-minded man and his follower? And perhaps also say how they destroyed the world. Nothing long and drawn out, just a word or two -famine, war, whatever.

    I agree with the others about the adverbs and adjectives. There are too many. Instead of saying the Prophet was unkempt and skeletal, show it as he walks in. Show a bony face or the stains on his clothing (which you did) and instead of adverbs like ominously, perhaps try a simile - his robes flowed like a ------ (and the blank would be a description of something ominous - a vulture swooping over the dead, or something) The point is, the reader can picture the simile, they can't picture 'ominously.'

    The third parg stops the story while you explain to the reader. Perhaps cut the first half of it and skip right to the soldiers coming in with the prophet. Then let us see how fanatical they are through their dalogue and actions.

    I'm not hooked, but I do think this has potential. Keep at it!

  13. Wow, I loved your ability to paint a picture here. Yeah it could be considered "info dumpy" but I liked it because it was so colorful. And informative (the backstory about the Light). I would definitley keep with this story and see what happens. Fix that you used "ominously" twice.

  14. Thanks everyone for the critique comments, I appreciate the suggestions.

    To paraphrase an old cliche, It's pretty hard to see the forest when your sitting under a tree -- and I've been sitting under this tree for quite a while.

    I will post edits on my blog later today if anyone is interested.

    Again, thanks much.

  15. I'm so confused by the first paragraph. I don't understand if it's front matter or part of a prologue. I don't know why it's here or what it says about the story.

    The rest of this needs revision with particular attention to showing not telling and description. In this scene, a prophet enters the room and walks towards the throne. I don't need or particularly want all the descriptions about his robe, his eyes, the hall, etc... I want to know about him. Why is he there? What matters to him?

    I like the creepy fanaticism of The Soldier's of Light, and I think you should consider increasing their presence in this.

    I'd also encourage you to go through and create the mood you want through demonstration rather than the excess use of adjectives and imagery. For example, the word "ominously” appeared twice here and, yet, I don't feel the sense of foreboding I had hoped for. The language, with all its adjectives, adverbs, modifiers and exposition, can feel heavy-handed, and I'm afraid I found it somewhat off putting.