Friday, August 28, 2009

Some Downtime

I don't know how some bloggers do it. Once-a-week postings? I could do this daily! But then again, I don't work on The Proxy Wars daily. *I'm in college remember?* So, I've just recently gotten some downtime, and before I go off to pray one of the five daily prayers I think I'll post a little snippet from Book 1: Dramatis Personae. It's from Chapter Five: The Ties That Bind.

A little history on the title, it's a Christian tradition coming from a Protestant hymn that states, "Blessed Be the Tie That Binds." I thought it was very beautiful to show in this chapter how love can both bind people together, and drive them wildly apart. I'm only posting a short snippet here, not the whole chapter. Just to provide some context, the scene takes place at a graveyard called The Burial Mound. This place is where the six Magna Beasts who have ruled Atlantis as monarchs since the island's foundation in the year 2555 are buried. Hopefully, I've mentioned beforehand that the whole story takes place from August 3096 - May 3097 (That's to say, the whole of Book 1 takes place during that time.), so considering the Magna Beast's prolonged lifetime it makes sense how there are only six monarchs. At the Burial Mound, Briok is mourning his father with his mother, the Queen of Atlantis Sheba Cwartel. *Sheba is human, while Briok's father is the Mag*

I'll explain how an alien species mated with a human one in a later post. Don't get wigged out, it doesn't involve sex. *Is anyone else still getting shivers from District 9's concept of Nigerian prostitutes and alien suitors? I am*

If you have any criticism, please post/comment below after the jump. I appreciate all criticism and check out my query letter summary from the previous post. Please critique that one as well. Tell me if it grabs your attention, if it seems like a standout storyline different from others you've heard, and if it compels you to read further. Thanks to the two people who read this continuously so far! You know who you are. Until next time then.

It was early morning Monday, the first day of school for Atlantian children. Just the night before, Briok Cwartel had learned that he was a Prophet, a warrior, and a leader of an entire species. His eyes were still red, still swollen with sorrow. “Briok? Briok, it’s time to leave,” Sheba Cwartel gently touched her son’s shoulder. Time was showing its heavy toll on his weary face. His brow was creased, his eyes full of both contempt and sorrow. His hair was unnaturally dull in color.

Sheba tried pulling her son up, but he pushed her off, still staring at his father’s grave. Straightening her black coat, she looked at her watch. It was nearly noon, and they had spent several hours at the grave already. Her wary eyes scanned the surrounding area, dark sunglasses hiding her pain.

The Burial Mound was at the top of a hill in Atlantia sitting on the edge of Atlantis’ beautiful coastline. Waves rolled back and forth against the slope where six Atlantian monarchs, Magna Beasts all, lay dead, dispatched at the hands of the Howlas. The grass grew green atop the buried coffins, and the flowers had bloomed beautifully. But a pall persisted. A constant wind blew across the dewy grass, ever-present clouds clapped together from time to time, and the quiet never lifted. Each gave the Burial Mound an exquisitely sad character.

Sheba returned her gaze to Briok, whose face reflected the pall of the Burial Mound. She looked up into the stone eyes of her husband, his likeness erected in beautiful marble over his grave. He was holding a sword in one hand, an olive branch in the other, and his face was looking into the distance as it always did. She barely contained the gasp of pain that escaped her lips. Looking away, she caught sight of her son silently repeating something to himself.

He was reading the tombstone with such intensity, his eyes burning into it,
“Only among the aisles of the cathedral, only as we gaze upon their silent figures sleeping on their tombs, some faint conceptions float before us of what these men were when they were alive. – J.A. Froude”

“That was your father’s favorite quote.” She crouched down to Briok’s level, “He lived his life by that quote. He wanted very much to mean something.”

Briok quivered, “One thing I inherited from him then, right?”

Sheba smiled, “Your ambition is not the only thing he gave you. You have his ridiculous hair,” she ruffled it gently, “you keep everything to yourself, much like he did. You even inherited his beautiful smile.”

Briok seemed to have sunken into an even deeper depression with this litany. “I even inherited his curse.”

Not one inch of her flinched, but Sheba’s eyes cried out, her silence roared with a mother’s fury for her child. “Briok,” she gasped finally, “It doesn’t have to be a curse. You aren’t going to go through this alone, I promise you. Whatever Amar does with you, I will be here.” She pulled him closer, “You are my son. You are not cursed. And even if you are, where did that fire go? Hm? I didn’t raise you to give up now did I? You can be the greatest one to have ever lived. You can be the best, better than any of them!” When Briok’s eyes did not meet hers, Sheba gently took his head and pushed it in her direction. “Where’s my happy Briok? Where’s the strong man that I raised?”

“I can’t, Mom,” he pushed her away, “I can’t…I can’t fight a war, I can’t kill…” With this, Briok seemed to have finally lost his will. Slumping to the ground, his head buried beneath his arms, he began to sob. The din was the only break in the silence, the loudest noise amongst the echoes of the dead. Sheba could do nothing but sit next to him, silently cradling her grieving son.

After several moments, epochs, of maimed cries ringing along the Burial Mound’s sloping turf, Sheba took control. Slowly, with effort bridled, she helped Briok rise and the pair left the memories behind. They drove away in silence, seeking only the company of their own minds. When they had both finally arrived at the Villa, Briok hurriedly removed his shoes and threw them into his cubby in the garage. Forcing the door open, Briok rushed to his room and went to his desk. Burying his head again, he sat there for hours on end while Sheba prepared soup in the kitchen.

She carried a large tray with the soup and a few slices of bread to Briok’s room, setting it down quietly next to him. Stroking his untamed hair, she whispered to him that she was going to the Palace to take care of some affairs. “I’ll be gone tomorrow to the Senate building. I’ll be back before dinner. Eat your soup, and get some rest.” When Briok did not reply, Sheba gently squeezed his shoulders, “You can’t forget that you are still alive, Briok. You still have things to do. You’re fourteen years old, you are not a child. When I come back, I want to see you cleaned up and in bed. You of all people need the rest.” Exiting the room, she turned on the lights. Sundown was settling itself in, the deep shades of dusk spreading their fingers across the nighttime sky.


  1. will forsyth10:24 PM

    “I can’t, Mom,” he pushed her away, “I can’t…I can’t fight a war, I can’t kill…” With this, Briok seemed to have finally lost his will. Slumping to the ground, his head buried beneath his arms, he began to sob.


  2. hahahahaha, sorry not everyone is as strong as you will ;) But is the writing weak as well?

  3. Comments on the blog itself: I think it’s cool that you’re Muslim (which I gather from the five daily reference; forgive me if I presume too much) but that you incorporate things from other religions. Also, once a day blog posts is quite the bother after a while. First few weeks are easy. After that though, not so much.

    Questions on the story: How long is the lifespan of the Magna Beast? Wouldn’t it be shorter since there’s always a price on their head? Is Atlantis a created or natural island? It seems implied that it’s created…

    On to the good stuff…

    Paragraph 1: Surely you described this revelation in an earlier chapter and your readers remember such a cataclysmic scene, so do we need to be reminded in this way of the second sentence? Also, you mention last names? I hope you’ve explained who the main characters are previous to this! I might cut that second sentence out, especially if readers know what happened the night before. “It was early morning Monday, the first day of school for Atlantian children. Briok’s eyes were still red, still swollen with sorrow.” And so on as normal. I really DO like how you described his appearance to us; it’s very vivid and conveys his heartbroken status. However, does one’s hair dull overnight? Also, you could probably take out the ‘time was showing’ line as well, since it is telling rather than showing.

    Paragraph 2: I love how you personify Sheba. Very good mother figure, good actions you’re giving her. The problem I have here is the ‘nearly noon’ part here and the ‘early morning’ part of the last paragraph. Is it morning or noon? Does the Briok PUSH her off or BRUSH her off; push is more aggressive and I wonder if he would respond in that way towards his mother? I’m also wondering how Sheba feels about this reaction. Is she embarrassed that he’s still there? Sad for him? You could personify that in the subsequent lines, especially in clarifying HOW she straightened her coat and why she scans the surrounding area. Like, does she straighten it because she wants to give herself something to do, something to distract herself because of how sad she is? Or is she looking around to see if others are watching? I know it’s a small detail, but it’s nice to clarify exactly how your characters respond to each other. Actually, in general, there could be some more meat to this paragraph…

    Paragraph 3: You’re probably going to notice me pointing out detail. I’ll explain why: you’re creating a fantasy world and it’s imperative that you bring it to life. For example, what KIND of beautiful coastline is it? Is it long stretches of sandy beaches hugged by rainforests, or are they huge rocky cliffs? It’s a small thing, but the more detail you provide (without going overboard a la Tolkien) the more vividly the reader can imagine what you’re describing. Also, do you need to say it is in Atlantia? Don’t we already know where we are (and it kind of becomes redundant since you state the place twice). Or is yours the kind of story that shifts between character perspectives or something? For example, “The Burial Mound was at the top of a hill that sat on the edge of Atlantis’ sandy coastline.”

  4. I do like sentence two, however. It has a nice flow. In the next sentence, perhaps don’t use “the” when talking about the flowers and grass, because you haven’t discussed them before. “Grass grew green atop the buried coffins and flowers bloomed all around.” Oh, and try not to use ‘beautiful’. It doesn’t REALLY say anything, if you think about it. And if you use it you then kind of obligate yourself to qualify its beauty. I’m not sure if “pall” is the right word, or maybe it will be if there were more around it. I think here would be a good place for a more vivid description. “Grass grew green atop the buried coffins and flowers bloomed all around, though they lay beneath the constant shade of the pall above. A constant wind blew across the dewy grass, sometimes throwing together the sullen clouds with a loud clap of thunder, and the quiet never lifted.” I’d also cut the last sentence because you already SHOW in a wonderful way how solemn it is… you don’t need to tell us. :D

    Paragraph 4: Is Briok’s face reflecting the pall in that the pall is making his face shadow-y or that he’s all sad? Also, you might want to sad that she “THEN looked up into the stone […]” because I thought you were trying to say that Briok’s eyes were like his father’s. “She looked up at her husband’s marble likeness that was erected over his grave. He was holding a sword in one hand, an olive branch in the other, but it was when she looked into his stone eyes that were looking into the distance as they always did that she had to stifle a gasp of pain.” The next line is good.

    Paragraph 5: This is also a VERY good description of your character’s emotional trauma. And I LOVE the quote. The only thing I would do is add a “do” before “some faint conceptions” because then it connected the latter portion of the sentence to the former. Oh and the “upon their silent figures sleeping IN their tombs” as opposed to ON?

    Paragraph 6: LOVE your dialogue. It’s SO genuine! I love it. ☺ Oh, I would change the “she crouched” line to “She crouched down next to Briok”. Don’t have a reason for that, just think it sounds better.

    Paragraph 7: Again, I love the dialogue. Very solid. Quivered is kind of strange word, though. Maybe shivered would be better? Or his lip quivered or something.

    Paragraph 8: I love this whole paragraph. Great mother-son relationship.

    Paragraph 9: Seemed to or did? You’re the writer; take the reins. “Briok sunk into an even deeper depression with this litany.” Again, the speech is realistic. Good response.

    Paragraph 10: I don’t like the first sentence. Maybe, “Sheba’s eyes cried out with a mother’s furious love furious love for her child, “Briok,” she gasped” and so on. The dialogue, again, is awesome. You are so good at making this mom sound like a mom. I also like the motion she does with Briok’s head, though I would say “raised it in her direction” rather than “pushed” because again, pushed is a bit more violent than I think this relationship is. I love this monologue though. It’s beautiful…

  5. Paragraph 11: Again, excellent use of action and dialogue. Love it! Ah! :D Though I gotta say, take the reins. “With this, Briok finally lost his will and slumped to the ground. Burying his head beneath his arms, he began to sob. His cries were they one break in the silence,” The rest is excellent. I really do like how you convey emotion.

    Paragraph 12: Is it moments or epochs? I’d go with epochs. “After epochs of” well, actually, maimed is kind of a weird word for a cry… how about… shuttering? If you’re trying to go for a kind of gasping cry… “After epochs of shuttering cries that rang along the Burial Mound’s sloping turf, Sheba took control. Slowly, she helped her son rise and the pair left the memories behind. They drove away in silence, seeking only the company of their own minds.” The opening of the next sentence is a little weak. Hum… how about just, “When they arrived at the Villa, Briok hurriedly removed his shoes and threw them into his cubby in the garage. He forced the door open, then ran to his room” Oh! Does he slam the door or leave it open? “and sat down at his desk. Burying his head again, he sat there listlessly while Sheba prepared soup in the kitchen.” I took out the “for hours on end” because it doesn’t really take hours to prepare soup…

    Paragraph 13: I really like everything about this last paragraph. Except I wonder if dusk is plural or singular (as in, should it be ‘their’ fingers or ‘its’ fingers).
    All in all, very good. :D I really do like your writing style. Business-y matters: let me know what you think of my editing style. It’s a little hard in blogger comments, so forgive me for being a little sub-par, but you are the author and I’m here to help. Let me know if there’s some way I can alter how I edit to better assist you. ☺

  6. Your editing style is amazing, it's exactly what I've been hoping for! I am also obsessed with how sentences and words flow, and you've made some inadequacies very clear!

    While I don't agree with everything you've critiqued (I'm letting a bit of my artistic ego get in the way ;)), I do feel that 95% of it is absolutely correct.

    Honestly, I'm blown away by how professional and sincere your run-through was. Truly, I'm blessed by your comments, thank you.