Thursday, March 9, 2017

Talkin' Heads (SSF) #1

TITLE: Ravens Rise
GENRE: YA Medieval Slipstream Fantasy

Alexander (Duke's son) and Mitchell (Duke's Ward) have been separated for a week as punishment for yet another stunt. This is their first weapons practice since the best friends reunited, disrupted by the appearance of Alexander's love interest. Mitchell's love of mischief gets both 15 year olds in trouble–again.

"If you keep staring, you're going to get caught."

Heat rushed to his face. Standing up, Alexander snatched the second practice sword out of Mitchell's hand. "A single word and t'will give you bruises to rival those I gave McVarmint."

Shoulders shaking silently, Mitchell bit his lip and moved into a defensive stance. Alexander smacked the sword to the side, Mitchell more focused on containing his mirth than actually defending himself.

"I swear, Mitchell."

He held up a hand and leaned against his knees. Inhaling several deep breaths, he got himself under control. "Fine, fine. I'm good." Mitchell raised his sword again, but the smirk grew. "Just never seen that shade of red on you before."

Alexander attacked. Mitchell backpedaled but managed to parry each blow—his laughter egging Alexander on. The flurry of strikes clanged across the practice field. Vision condensed to only Mitchell and his burning need to exact revenge. The impact across his back from the flat of a sword had Alexander spinning, his body's instinctive defenses reacting to the new threat. A sword point held level at his neck.

"Never concentrate yer focus to just one opponent, Lord Alexander." Corporal Gairdan stared at him impassively; the blade lingered next to Alexander throat. "T'was I the enemy, ye'd be dead."

"But you'd be joining him, Gairdan," Mitchell teased.

"Ye'd naught be close enough to stop me, Mitchell."

Mitchell chuckled and pointed to Gairdan's abdomen. "No, but his dagger is."


  1. You've painted the scene fairly well here. I can visualize the interplay of their sword fighting and their teasing exchanges. The one thing I need to say, as a linguistics nerd, is that writing in "old-timey" speak is always tricky. Of course if you were writing in the literal language spoken in medieval times, it would be incomprehensible to modern readers. So sprinkling in a few archaic sounding words and phrases amid modern English, as you've done here, is a good compromise. Just make sure that the usage is correct. I'm not sure that first "t'will" works, because it's a shortened form of "it will" and I don't know what "it" would be referring to. The sword?

    Hope this helps. Good luck!

  2. I'm confused about the language in this excerpt. Some of it is super modern and contemporary, especially when Mitchell speaks. He says things like:

    "Fine, fine, I'm good," and "you'd" but then Gairdan and Alexander use "Ye'd" or "t'will" (which, when I read t'will, that pulled me right out. I sat back and spent a good amount of time trying to figure out how "I will" gets turned into "t'will"

    Now, it is slipstream, which is a genre that relies on the surreal, that is supposed to make the reader feel strange, and I DO feel strange, but not in a way that makes me think it's intentional. But, this is just a tiny excerpt so I have no idea what's come before.

    There's also a lot of pronounce use, which, in a 3rd person POV and a scene with three dudes, it got a little dicey in spots.

    The first two lines I had no idea who was speaking, or who was the POV. I chalked that up, though, to being dropped in the middle of a scene.

    But below that there's:

    "I swear, Mitchell."

    He held up a hand and leaned against his knees

    Alexander is speaking, but he say's Mitchell's name. So the following "He" could refer to either of them. My first thought was that it referred to Alexander, and only when I read further did I realize I was wrong and it was Mitchell.

    So just really grounding your reader with name use when needed, vs pronouns would help.

  3. I found the language in this excerpt confusing, though it might stem from having been 'dropped into' the scene. I think, too, that writing language use different from our own is difficult (and our own sneaks in in ways we don't notice). I 'see' your characters; working out the flow of speech will only better the view.

  4. I had no problem comprehending the verbiage used and the context or subject of the words. I think it fit nicely.

  5. I had the same problem with the language as most commenters. It didn't feel natural or consistant, although I did think that first 'twill' was used correctly. My thought was it referred to the sword. If it refers to Alexander, it needs correction.

    I also had a difficult time with who was saying what. Perhaps more tags would help.

    I questioned pov, and in the end, decided it was Alexander's, but I'm not really sure if I'm correct. I think, even being dropped in the middle, pov should be evident.

    And I wondered who or what alexander was staring at, and why. The excerpt starts with that, but it doesn"t seem to go anywhere. Should it?

    If the intent of the scene is to show these two are good at swordfighting, I think it works. If it's to show something else, it probably needs more work. Overall, it could be clearer.

  6. Agree with some of the previous comments--the juxtaposition of archaic and contemporary language usage is a bit of a distraction here. But overall the dialogue plays well and gives a good feel for the characters. POV was a bit muddled. As with any scene taken out of context, it's tough to know exactly what's going on prior to (ie. who/what Alexander is staring at). Overall, a solid B+.