Author Topic: Friends or Obligations  (Read 3958 times)

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Baron Gimitiere

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Friends or Obligations
« on: May 11, 2008, 11:28:23 AM »
Author\'s Notes: This is the first piece that I have actually been able to complete in a LONG time. It is actually the first part (that had to be broken up into three pieces) of a novele that I have almost completed. Please, hold nothing back with questioning, commenting, showing concern about something and critiquing. I am hoping to send this into a publishing house and making it public. I urge you to earn your recognition and help me out!

Part 1 Section A

Off in the distance, trailing in the wake of two traveling samurai was the city of Trugaard. It was a congested metropolis that encased the ruling structure of the Vamphunt Empire in concrete and pedestrian life.  They had left on their own accord after replenishing their supplies and enjoying the hospitality of one of the cities lavish flophouses. They thought it would have been nice to catch a glimpse of the new Emperor in all of his glory; but the cards of fate were not dealt that way. The duo was up against an opponent that was as unpredictable as the ocean waves. Time was of the essence and one day was all they could afford to lose.
It was not a particular exciting journey through the rolling hills of the Vamphunt territory but it was definitely a long one; nearly three days by foot. Even though a horse drawn wagon had accompanied the duo, the leader who went by the name of Kataoka had decided to walk. In the wagon was his servant, or better known as a retainer in his land named Sagara. The two of them were almost dressed in an identical manner although Kataoka’s garb was in better repair and more colorful. Kataoka was the elder of the two and was known as a mentor to many people in his past, but one foul step placed him into a life of exile. That was what brought him to these lands.
As the cloth of the pitched tent clattered above Sagara’s sleeping spirit Kataoka was outside carefully listening to the sounds carried on the wind. A gentle southern breeze cut through his hakama with a scent of salt, fish and burning wood. But as it were he was downwind from his own fire, which had already been left to die out. Kataoka turned his back to his sleeping servant to peer out over the rolling hills that were ready for his arrival. Their final destination could be seen way off on the horizon; a glowing gem left to dazzle in the night sky. It provided a perfect silhouette of which plumes of smoke rising from behind one of the grassy knolls. Over the gentle breeze Kataoka caught a fusillade of ghastly banters and cackles. The elder samurai’s ears twitched as the cacophony of foreign sounds wiggled into his canals. It was easy to assume t hat these cheers were not of the common tongue. It rattled his nerves as he found it a bit unsettling but he would not let it hinder his own pursuits.
Sagara had interrupted his master as he was mesmerized by the signs of a strange encampment off in the distance. “Master…I am ready to take over.” Sagara chimed as he set a hand on his teacher’s shoulder to grab his attention. Sagara’s hand was quickly covered by his master’s, who went on to caress the young retainer’s soft skin. “You have learned well to understand that your life is no longer your own. This is something even I did not realize until my third state of ronin.” Turning around Kataoka took Sagara’s hand and encased it with both of his own, “But be weary of the rising smoke to the south; its existence is unsettling. Do not be caught off guard.” Sagara nodded as his hand was released from the grip of his master’s warm embrace and replaced the geta that once pressed the grass to the ground.
Kataoka’s slumber was bellicose at best as the many versions of what the future held in story passed through his dreams. As Sagara stood impatiently at the top of their knoll encampment he could only think of how slow time was going by. He was eagerly awaiting the first sign of sunlight from beyond the eastern horizon. Sagara preferred the gentle scrapping of his geta against the cobblestone of the city rather than the feeling of the leather reins in his hands. Sagara could hear his master tossing and turning in his sleep but he dared not to abandon his duty of the night watch. Sagara would have to wait it out, and hope that his master was able to achieve some sort of bodily revival through slumber.
The next morning Kataoka found his retainer sitting in the seiza position, with his katana resting peacefully in his lap. As he approached Sagara passing the fire that had long since gone out, the young retainer turned his head over his shoulder. “Master, the bellows were gone only a few hours after you went to sleep, and that eerie banter along with it.” The servant said as he stood up and straightened out his Iai-do-gi. Kataoka pressed on past his servant to get a better look out over the hills, “Aye Sagara…Now pack up our things. We must press on. Time is of the essence and we do not need a run in with whatever was camping around here last night.” Sagara agreed and quickly began to pack things up. There wasn’t a lot but for one man it may have been a tedious job. As Sagara tied down the final corner of the wagon’s cover he was urged to hurry by his master once more who was already waiting for him alongside the contraption.
As the sun slowly made its appearance from over the eastern horizon, Kataoka and his retainer were well on their way. The elder samurai’s bone melded geta were treading light beside the very large horse that pulled the wagon carrying their belongings. They were traveling along a well defined thoroughfare, a heavily traveled trade route connecting Trugaard and Illias. The gentle breeze had carried on into the morning hours brushing over the dew covered grass, which made the grassy hills appear full of life. Along their journey the duo would pass a variety of life including singular trees and bushes along with herds of animals and packs of predatory beasts.
“So Master, where are we headed?” Sagara questioned as he gently pulled on the reins to keep a slow and steady pace even with his elder. “We are headed to Illias, a city by the sea. According to a fellow from Trugaard it is there we will find a ferry across the ocean to a city name Toku.” More curious than ever at that point, Sagara pressed on rudely interrupting his leader, “Toku Master?” What awaits us there?” Kataoka stopped in his tracks as Sagara’s interruption bit into his concept of respect hard, “Well boy; in Toku I hope to find work. It is said they are putting together a large army. They will be able to put our skills to better use then we can by traveling these roads.
Sagara was slow to halt the horse and delay his momentum, but once he finally stopped Kataoka was only left a few feet behind. Of course, such a lack of attention would not go unpunished. Kataoka approached the driving bench of the wagon with a stern look on his face, and Sagara could only gaze down at the reins now resting in his lap. The retainer knew where his servitude had faltered, but was relieved to see his master was stopped dead in his tracks
With a thundering boom, the blast echoed over the rolling hills. Birds had taken to the sky and beasts of all kinds had begun to flee in a cacophony of wildlife sounds. Off in the distance, just a little further up on the road ahead a predator had become the victim of some sort of range attack unknown to the two samurai. Kataoka placed a firm grip on the hilt of his katana before approaching the horse in front of the wagon; he readied himself without question.
As Sagara stood up within the wagon on top of the bench for added elevation he witnessed the arrival of a single man. From behind a bush just about fifty yards away, a creature erupted that could only be described as a walking shrub; at least as Sagara saw him. The creature slung something over his shoulder as he approached in what could only be portrayed as a fit of joy. Kataoka watched the figure approach, but he could not help but tighten his grip upon the weapon at his left hip. As the elder samurai warrior walked, his sword was held sturdy. Even as he stepped in front of their beast of burden the samurai warrior remained calm. “What is that?” Sagara muttered with clenched teeth. He wasn’t use to confrontation and those that reeked of combat made him even wearier of his impending doom.
The situation had defused itself however when the figure stopped a few yards away. He was dressed in a random traveler’s outfit composed of boots, a pair of breeches, a sturdy belt, a shirt accompanied by a vest and an ample cloak with a head. All of which were of earth tone colors. Oddly enough the figure was covered with a variety of strange plumage. Branches, roots, flowers and other pieces of common shrubbery concealed the man’s humanoid appearance. He was an average looking fellow other than that and made his appearance with a smile on his face, “Goo’ aft’anoon fella’ travela’s.” The man said ecstatically as he peered around the samurai’s horse to see his prize lying on its side. “Hope my lil’ game trail didn’t scare ya folks.”
Kataoka looked the man over for a second before loosening the grip on his own blade; this figure appeared to be unarmed. “Not at all, but one can never be too careful on these open trade routes.” Kataoka turned to face Sagara for a second to reassure him that the situation was under control. “And as rumor had it in Trugaard, these hills are crawling with bandits.” As the new comer moved forward he began to pick the shrubbery from his body, making his physical appearance more prevalent. But the only thing Kataoka would notice was the muzzle loading rifle over his shoulder. Kataoka watched the man carefully as he moved around the wagon to get a better look at his prize. The elder samurai’s main concern was that rifle on his back, which could have been loaded. Sagara sat back in the wagon and was just happy to avoid the discipline. Kataoka however, made a further inquiry, “So, where are you headed…hunter?”
“I’m off ta Illias, to the south! People down there will pay a fortune for a catch like this. The claws, teeth, fur; it’ll go quick!” The sturdy figure had to walk nearly twenty yards to claim his prize and Kataoka had followed. The elder samurai was a bit curious to the man’s skills and found it suitable to listen further, “Course…that’s assumin’ I can make it ta Illias ‘fore nightfall. I seen some strange things over the past few nights, heard some strange sounds.” The man of the wilderness who could only be described as a hunter withdrew a rather large knife and began to gut the cougar he had laid out. “It ain’t a pleasant job fella’, but the pays good.” The marksman was elbow deep in organs as he made pleasant conversation with the elder samurai who could not help but look away.
It was not as though he could not handle the sight of being disemboweled, but the thought of it being done in what he thought was a barbaric manner. He was more familiarized with a quick slash across the belly and then moving on. But he was not about to turn away from the possibility of a good thing. “Aye Hunter…but how do you plan to get that carcass to town? Perhaps we can give you a ride?” Kataoka had buried his hand within the wide sleeves of his kendogi as he peered down his nose at the hunter under the shadow of his coolie hat. It was his way of hiding the shaky hands that craved the feeling of his tsuba.

Baron Gimitiere

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Re: Friends or Obligations
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2008, 11:36:17 AM »
Part 1 Section B

“Hunter…name’s Vendeto warrior.” By now the bowels of the beast were sitting in a pile behind him slowly collecting flies. A great deal of the bone structure was no revealed and Vendeto was not even close to being finish. He looked up for a second, off into the distance as the cackle of hyena’s rolled over the hills. Vendeto’s gaze was soon accompanied by Kataoka’s own eyes who quickly suggested that they press on due south. Vendeto nodded as the wind blew against his back although his words were intent on finishing the task at hand. “Look swordsman, I finish this here. Go back and I join ya in a bit.” As Vendeto spoke his head turned back down to his work. He haphazardly started to work on the paws, flipping a flap of the beast’s fur over its body. Vendeto did not even look up to see what Kataoka was going to do; he was truly involved with his work.
As Kataoka turned away from the hunter he could not help but feel a little dissatisfied with his new acquaintance. Vendeto had not even looked up to make sure Kataoka was not about to slay him. The reckless endangerment would make Kataoka weary of his fighting ability, which was a determining factor in his decision to keep Vendeto’s company as they moved south. Was he mistaken? Did Kataoka put his own life at risk by insinuating that it would be a good idea to team up? Sure Vendeto appeared to be a good shot with his rifle but what about in hand to hand combat or another form of melee?
Kataoka approached the wagon with a look of deep thought across his face as he stared up at Sagara. The retainer questioned his teacher as to the thoughts behind the look, while taking hold of the leather reins that controlled his beast of burden. Kataoka climbed up into the wagon, steadying Sagara’s hand before the servant had a chance to snap the leather against the horse’s flesh. “We shall wait for Vendeto, but not for long. We cannot afford to waste time. Our own well being may be at stake.” Sagara nodded as he sat back against the wooden bench. Both of them turned to the crouching figure off in the distance as the cries of hyenas grew louder. But as it appeared Vendeto was still safe for they had not broken over the crest of the hill as of yet.
The bushman had moved on from the paws to the back, and although it was a tedious procedure of quick cutting, pulling and tearing the fur was finally coming off. Aside from the newly forged hole it its neck the fur appeared flawless. It had to be at least as large as a man and was a beautiful golden yellow. But soon it would lay face up in a wrinkled heap as Vendeto went to work on the claws and fangs of the beast. The claws had broken off at the knuckle, but the fangs were a little more difficult. As the hunter went to work on the second fang his attention was deterred by Sagara’s cries of warnings as the hyena’s came rushing over the hill; one was even tumbling. As Vendeto tossed his newly harvested claws and tooth into the middle of the fur he caught a glimpse of the charging hyena’s who were closing in on him rather quickly. As he brought his knife back into its sheath it cracked the second tooth in half. The blade slipped into its leather scabbard and the fur and bones were quickly scooped up into a slump against his body. The pack of scavengers was practically on top of him.
With his arms full of game trail prizes Vendeto sprung up like a bullfrog escaping the inevitable grasp of a curious child. Barely escaping the grasp of one slobbering hyena’s jaws the hunter took off like a bolt of lightning. He sprung into action, t he tail of his cougar spilling out beyond his grasp and caught between the snapping jaws of one snickering beast. The tail was stripped between its dagger-like teeth leaving the hyena with only a mouth full of fur, for the moment. The savage scavenger’s were appeased with the pile of entrails and the furless carcass. So much so that it gave Vendeto the chance to make a clean get away. “See…no time at all…” Vendeto said as he slouched over his prize attempting to catch his breath.
As Vendeto found his way to the wagon the vultures had already begun to circle over the blood mess. Kataoka watched them gather and could only conclude it to be a bad omen. The two samurai warriors looked up at the sky before they turned to each other with a look of concern. The commotion would only attract some barely humanoid creatures on the hunt and they just did not have the time for that. “Vendeto, perhaps it is time you climb on in back? The scent of blood will travel quickly.” Sagara quickly agreed as he gazed out over the hunter to examine the ghastly creatures who were still feasting upon the remains of their new acquaintance had abandoned.
“There be no need for that now…” Placing the fur and its contents upon the grass at the edge of the thoroughfare Vendeto began to dig through his pockets. There were so many of those pockets on his outfit that it was a surprise Vendeto could find anything at all. But soon enough after a few seconds of scrounging around the hunter revealed a small wooden flute with only three holes. Placing it to his lips he blew while wiggling his fingers in what appeared to be a very systematic fashion. The whistle produced an inaudible sound that would soon produce a great steed. As the saddled ebony steed galloped up to its masters the body resonated with power. Its saddle bags were partially filled, but as Vendeto began to unload his stash they bulged with various things. The cougar’s coat was placed fur down over the back of the horse to allow the sun to start the tanning process. Vendeto approached the side of his horse and took down its reins, “So whadya say ya names was?”
The two samurai warriors stared over at Vendeto from the time he played his little ditty until he was fully erect upon his steed. Vendeto would have looked extremely regal up on his trusty mount if he had not been so dirty. “I am Kataoka, veteran ronin and this is my retainer Sagara. We travel to Illias in hopes of better things.” Sagara snapped the leather reins across the beasts back and they started off. Vendeto was not far behind on his own beast while the predatory creatures took advantage of the free meal. The samurai were new to this particular area of the world and they knew very little of the societal norms. It was apparent by their attire and their own actions that the two were out of the element. “So, what do you know of Illias?”
“It’s by the sea ronin…” Vendeto’s anticlimactically burst through the awkward silence with that followed the elder warrior’s question. The effect could have turned the entire cart over as both samurai’s jaws dropped with laughter. Vendeto too was laughing even though between uproars he was able to shed some light on his own character, “Look fella’s, I’m just a wilderness hunter. I follow the game trail. I know the city markets are packed and the shop keeps fugal as all hell. But I stick to the wilderness…its better that way.” As the three travelers headed south across the trade route they breeched the top of a large hill and brought the beautiful city of Illias into plain view. T he view of the ocean from the top of the grassy knoll was spectacular, sparkling like diamonds strewn across a blue blanket.
The trio of travelers journeyed onward for the next few hours as the sun rose up into the sky. Throughout their short trip together the trip spent their time on idle chit chat and gossip that they had heard over the hill and around the bush. It was their way of breaking the ice, becoming friends without the concepts that people of this time were more accustom to. It took most men a great war to become trusting of one another, to become brotherly as it were. But there was something strange about this meeting between these three weary travelers. Perhaps it could be called fate, but this group particularly Kataoka and Vendeto were fitting together like two pieces of the same puzzle. Stories were exchanged, opinions were expressed and the time was flying by.
As the group of travelers moved slowly towards the city and reached the crest of yet another hill the trail had become much shorter. It was only about another mile or so. The trail dropped down the hill, wrapped around another before turning into a straight shot to Illias. However, up ahead was another group, a small caravan of only two wagons. They were moving slowly towards the trio as Vendeto, Kataoka and Sagara sat perched at the top of the hill. The group gawked down the knoll at the nearing caravan like it was the ruling body of Illias itself.  Kataoka stood up on the bench of the wagon as he tried to get a better look. “Friend or foe I wonder?” The elder samurai blurted out as his body slumped back down into t he seat.
By now, Vendeto had begun to dig through his saddle bags; obviously looking for something. As the approaching caravan continued to move towards them Vendeto withdrew a small cylinder shaped object. With a couple twists of the wrist and a few extensions of the forearm the grizzly man revealed a beautiful looking spyglass. The elongated magnifying glass was fashion to match the sea, to perhaps go along with a sea captains uniform. He placed it to his eye and starting from the west moved east as he tried to locate the caravan. As Vendeto’s body moved and the sun caught the glass, he sighed in relief as he finally captured the caravan in his sights. But while Vendeto looked towards the group all he saw were their wiry little bodies running around to hide behind their wagons out of sight, “Humph…quick little demon’s aren’t they….” Vendeto said as he closed the spyglass back up and slid it into the saddle bag.  After listening to Kataoka’s further inquiry Vendeto elaborated on his vague discovery, “I don’t know buddy…short oddly colored folk…maybe gnomes?”

Kataoka shrugged off the idea after insisting that they move on. As they begun to descend the grassy knolls path the caravan ahead began moving again. But it was not towards them, it was off to the side of the trail. There was some movement around the caravan, but it was quickly back to silence. “Perhaps a traveling merchant Vendeto, maybe it’d be best to sell outside?” Kataoka could not see anyone or anything from the distance even as it began to close but there was an uneasy tension about the air that brought caution to his mind.

As the two approached the seemingly desolate caravan Kataoka contemplated the little men that Vendeto had discovered. But it appeared to be safe as the three passed. The wagons were slightly dilapidated, the cloth torn and the wood splintered. It looked tinted red in the sunlight, although such trees were not found in this area. An import would make sense but it all seemed a bit odd. The men performed no formal examination but noticed something that appeared to be flesh hanging from the back of the wagon as they passed but still no life. Just as the wagons last wheel past the back of the caravan Kataoka took his leave from the wagon taking up a position on its side, walking once again. They kept a steady pace leaving the caravan in their dust for about fifteen yards or so; they even passed a sign declaring Illias was up ahead. But as Vendeto turned back to look at the sign they had just passed, his eyes were met with a terrible sight. A sight that brought his rifle to his shoulder as the steed was turned around.

“Sagara, keep going, return only after you hear the last cry!” A statement of concern was all he cared to rattle off as his concentration turned to t he half expected ambush. There were eight little beasties about half the size of either man. They were flat-faced with broad noses, pointed ears, wide mouths and small sharp fangs. There vocal cords rattled with goblin banker and cries of fury as they charged forth. The creatures ran upright, although their arms hung down to their knees filled with weapons and shields. As the beast drew closer they were seen wearing dark leather, drab and soiled looking in color. “Don’t shoot until you see the color of their eyes!” Kataoka croaked as he steadied himself.

Baron Gimitiere

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Re: Friends or Obligations
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2008, 11:37:13 AM »
Part 1 Section C

And there it was the red iris of the first goblin. With a slight twitch of the finger Vendeto released a little round ball that would surely take its target down. But his steed would soon be challenged by its own goblins. Just as Vendeto clenched the trigger the horse reared up sending his aim off t he wall, but worse than that it brought him crashing to the ground. The stray bullet found its way through the first goblins thigh sending it tumbling past Kataoka who was quickly pursued by another.

As this second goblin approached the samurai released his blade while stepping forward with his left foot. The blade moved in one fluid motion known to his class as a migi-joho-giri or cut up across from the lower left side. The sharp blade of the katana easily tore through the goblin’s leather, which prompted Kataoka for his next blow. The blade was quickly brought up over his head where it was met by his other hand. With both hands firmly on the hilt of the sword, Kataoka expected to make a cut horizontally from up to down, but a third gobbling had other plans. With its shield held up, the little bugger leapt out from behind its dismembered brethren and smashed right through the samurai.

Meanwhile, Vendeto’s steed was dealing with two goblins of its own. The hunter had slowly regained his composure. As Vendeto slowly attempted to get back to his feet a goblin made its way to his flank, holding on for dear life as Vendeto squirmed. At least until Vendeto got a grip on the little devil and flung him to the ground. “Ya lil’ bastard!” He howled as a small hand held firearm was produced and quickly used to exterminate that particular beastie. However, flying through the air was a goblin battle axe and it found a new home, right in Vendeto’s thigh.  He could not help but collapse under the pain and stress of the injury.

The samurai’s old age brought him to his hands and knees slowly as he attempted to stabilize himself. Another goblin was on the move as his shield bashing buddy was left a little dazed from the impact of his own attack. The aforementioned goblin had hefted a wooden club over its head and smashed Kataoka in the back like a ton of bricks. Kataoka dropped to his stomach with a great scream as he pushed the air from his body. He was not down for long however in relation to the assault. The elder samurai rose up to one knee as the goblin turned his back on the drawn sword. With a quick spin of his body Kataoka brought the blade through the goblin’s neck completing a motion known as kogesa that left him one knee with his back towards the headless beast.

Vendeto had his own party to deal with. His horsed had managed to even the odds after dropping a well placed hoof on the protagonist’s tiny body. But the frightened steed, who was probably sticking around out of intense training left itself open to many body blows. Every time the horse would come down after rearing up the goblin tossed a few slashes of his sword into the equation before jumping back. Vendeto had managed to pull himself together though, letting out a monstrous roar as he pulled the battle axe from his tight leaving a gaping wound. He was quickly pursued by that same goblin who gave him the axe; the little devil had leapt on top of Vendeto with snapping jaws. But Vendeto was crafty, or maybe the adrenaline was just that powerful to alleviate the pain but the goblin got a taste of wood. The goblins snapping jaws were caught on the wooden handle Vendeto had thrown up in defense but it was the perfect set up. Vendeto managed to get both hands on the axe and forcefully turn it slicing the goblins now broken jaw clean from its cranium. The noise was so vicious that is drew the horses goblins attention towards Vendeto. But that goblin was brought down with the same battle axe after Vendeto lobbed it through the air.

   Finally the shield basher had gotten up from the ground hoping to gain the edge on Kataoka from his flank. But the creature’s idea was flawed. It had not accounted for the sun or the shadow it cast over Kataoka’s shoulder. The samurai took not quickly before slipping the blade under his arm and quickly thrusting it back. The little devil fell limp on the warrior’s blade as he began to stand. But what was this, an odd sensation of pain in his left foot. The old warrior cringed as the blade was pulled back under his arm. The goblin that went limp fell off the steel as its body left blood on Kataoka’s back before falling to the ground. Of course, the left foot was his target and Kataoka started by hefting the sword up over head with both hands on the hilt. Then, it was all over as he dropped to his right knee. The blade dropped down onto the back of the goblin’s neck, piercing it as the goblin wiggled. The impact released a short scream before turning into an even shorter gurgle of death.

And there it was, two new friends fighting to stay alive and trying to regain their strength. Vendeto was left dazed and confused with a profusely bleeding leg. Kataoka too was in pain after being bashed to the ground twice and having his foot chomped on. He was currently slouched over his sword trying to stay erect and catch his breath. Then again, he was not fully aware of Vendeto’s condition. He would never admit it but the samurai was indeed getting old, too old for this line of work.

As instructed before he left Sagara had returned at the sound of the last scream, from around the bend no less. His movements were so quick that the wheels could have flown off the wagon. Sagara almost trampled his master as the horse’s reins were pulled tightly. At first Sagara tended to his master, but as he perched himself against the wagon Kataoka was quick to put Vendeto first. With a water skin in hand Sagara quickly did his best to slow the bleeding. This meant a half-assed bandage and a lot of pressure. The sooner they got to town the better. While Sagara was fixing up Vendeto, Kataoka had managed to pry t he goblin’s teeth from his foot. It quickly turned into a bloody mess. After whipping his sword clean of the tainted blood and sheathing it through a process called chiburi, Kataoka had climbed into the wagon. Slowly the elder samurai lead the horse over to Sagara who was finishing up Vendeto’s leg; the bandages were already turning red. “Tie up his horse, and load him in the back…we most hurry now.”

As ordered Sagara took the time to heft Vendeto’s large frame into the back of the wagon making sure to elevate the leg. The horse was reluctantly tethered to the wagon after a short struggle. Sagara reclaimed the fur that had fallen off the horse and into the dirt before climbing back into the wagon to take the reins by the time Sagara took control of the wagon Kataoka was defiling his hakama to create a makeshift band-aid. As they peddled on to Illias Kataoka wrapped his foot and they never looked back. The goblins would never be forgotten but they were more pressing matters at hand. Like getting to Illias and escaping the possible threat of another encounter.

Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: Friends or Obligations
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2008, 03:29:20 PM »
Hello Baron and :welcome: to Roleplay City :)

Since you asked for nothing to be held back with regard to reviewing and critiquing your story, I won\'t, but you may regret that directive before we are done ;)

Firstly, I have to be honest and admit that I could only force myself to finish the first section of your story, because it just... seems to go on and on and has no flavour to it.  You\'re very good at stringing complicated and even eloquent phrases together but big words that send a reader hunting for a dictionary do not make a masterpiece and your story has no heart.  You\'re making the classic beginning writer mistake (we\'ve all been there, don\'t worry) of telling not showing; it\'s as if you\'ve written the whole thing while watching it unfold through a thick panel of glass and you have no emotions invested in your characters and you can\'t clearly hear their voices in your head, but you\'re intersted in detailing exactly in what they do, action by action.

If you don\'t celebrate your characters by showing us their quirks, their hopes, their dreams, their fears, their evil and their good, then it\'s very hard for anyone to give a damn about the whole story.  Advice #1: develop your characters more strongly and define their relationship early.  I don\'t even know what these guys look like!  You also had me confused by the fact that Kataoka stroked Sagara\'s soft skin one moment - causing me to ponder whether they\'re lovers - then he\'s being an asshole by telling him to pack the stuff and stands around watching him do it.  Which relationship is the right one?

You discuss scenery blandly, as if a two dimensional character is observing it - and existing in it - so you don\'t draw the reader into it.  The whole time your prose feels like it is racing but there is no conclusion and I\'m never allowed to stop to reflect.  Your characters are exactly the same. Advice #2: describe surroundings and characters by drawing on all five senses wherever possible.

Numerous words you\'ve got sprinkled through the story I don\'t understand because they\'re Japanese, but you don\'t bother to explain them, so who, exactly, will your audience for this novelle be?  I assume it\'s some sort of fan-based thing?  The whole story has a sense of a cartoon (a style I\'m not a fan of, but if that\'s what your audience is going to be, then you\'ve likely achieved your target) unfolding before my eyes but even cartoons can have depth and three dimensions.  Advice #3: italicise words from another language and assume all your readers need an explanation to understand what you\'re talking about; it\'s safer that way.

Unfortunately, you\'ve got a lot of mis-spellings and grammatical mistakes throughout section A (and, I assume, B and C); they are not frequent but they occur regularly enough that they irk me and distract me further from the story.  It\'s certain that, should you submit this piece, an editor will fix all those mistakes but you present yourself well enough that I was, quite frankly, disappointed by your lack of technical skill.  Advice #4: read, re-read and get someone else to read before you read your work again, to weed out all mistakes (I\'m not going to list them individually unless you request me to).

I\'m confused as to what your story\'s going to be about, overall.  I expect it\'s supposed to be about the characters and their journey into becoming better samurais, but you don\'t let me know that right from the start.  You need to establish their relationship as the primary thing, making them live inside your world second (really, it should happen synonymously).  Don\'t forget to start a new line every time a different character speaks, too, because it all feels very mashed together and adds to the staccato feel of the piece with you not separating things (such as in paragraph four in section A).  Advice #5: switch your first few paragraphs around so that we hear and see the characters first, then let us in on where they\'re going (I don\'t buy into Sagara not knowing where they\'re headed, it feels WRONG for him to be asking so far into the story where they\'re headed, when they\'re already travelling and shooting enigmatic glances at far-off places!).

Your writing tense is very rigid at times, continuing the alienation of the reader.  Don\'t be afraid to mix up past tense and present tense when the characters are seeing something occur before them.  My example here would be in this section (though it occurs elsewhere):

“I’m off ta Illias, to the south! People down there will pay a fortune for a catch like this. The claws, teeth, fur; it’ll go quick!” The sturdy figure had to walk nearly twenty yards to claim his prize and Kataoka had followed. The elder samurai was a bit curious to the man’s skills and found it suitable to listen further,

This would sound a lot better going along these lines (I made up a description because this is exactly the place you should let your reader know what image they should be constructing for this newcomer, but of course, you know what he looks and moves like better than me.  Also, no-one actually thinks to themselves \'Gee, it\'s suitable that I listen further to this guy\' without justifying it - it\'s too formal {!} so I changed it :p):

“I’m off ta\' Illias, to the south! People down there will pay a fortune for a catch like this. The claws, teeth, fur; it’ll go quick!”
The sturdy hunter walked nearly twenty yards to claim his prize, his lithe body moving with a grace not unlike the prey he\'d felled. Kataoka followed silently; his interest was piqued by the man’s obvious skills and his words were equally as alluring.

Advice #6: don\'t get too carried away with your own formality, relax a little and let your characters be themselves without imprisoning them in pretentious phrasings and double-talk that doesn\'t clearly paint a picture for the reader as to their motives, feelings and desires.

Hrmm... I think that\'s enough for you to digest for now (except, using ellipsis reminds me: don\'t forget to leave a space after the last dot and do not insert a capital letter on your next word!).  I know I\'ve said a lot of critical things but that\'s only because I see potential in you.  You can turn a phrase on a dime, kid, but you\'ve got to invest a lot more into it than that.  Good writing\'s not about what happens in a story, it\'s about what the reader feels about what happens in a story and I think, with perseverance, you can switch your perspective to that side of the equation, rather than being concerned about the setup and the circumstances.

Get down and dirty and see where it takes you; I\'m keen to see! ;)
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Baron Gimitiere

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Re: Friends or Obligations
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2008, 09:17:08 AM »
While it does sting just a little bit I am glad you\'re not afraid to put down my writing. I cannot understand it, but on other forums and on people are afraid to tell me the truth. It\'s like I might put them in the hospital with words or something.

Anyway I understand a lot of what you said and I think most of what I understand I can repair. But I think I need some elaboration on a few things.

Should I come straight out and strictly describe what the character looks like from head to toe? I was trying to describe as a person would see it. Like, you wouldn\'t be able to see the color of someone\'s eyes standing twenty feet away when you\'d be able to tell what they were wearing. Also should I blantantly put it out there how the characters are related?

More specifically, how could I go about describing the scenary? Stating the five senses is rather vague and I\'m not really grasping the big picture there. Am I missing something or really making it overly complicated?

Finally, could you also elaborate on your sixth piece of advice?

This is the first piece I have actually written during time where I could really grasp these concepts. I\'d really like this to work. Punctuation and spelling are the least of my concerns right now. If you can help me better understand how to pull my readers attention and suck them into the story it would be greatly appreciated. Now that I class is out until next semester writing will be one of my top priorities.

Offline Satyr

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Re: Friends or Obligations
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2008, 09:43:14 AM »
I\'ll put in my 2c, because what EO said was pretty much how I felt about the writing.  Very well written without gathering any emotion whatsoever.

The description of the main character(s) is quite important.  If you read books (and I\'m sure you do), there is at least a sense of the characters appearance within it.  Some writers describe head to toe, some don\'t, whatever works for you.  Myself, I tend to describe hair and eye colour and basic physical appearance (tall or short, weighty or not, rich garbs or rags) and any attributes that other people would first notice - especially expression ("he almost always wore a scowl upon his face" or "it was said she would even smile at those who would threaten her very life").  You get a sense of personality from describing body language and expressions too, you don\'t have to say they\'re unhappy when in their dialogue they\'re always complaining or in narration their thoughts/actions paint the picture of misery.  You can\'t leave the character description too late into a story, or your description might contradict the picture your readers have already painted in their head.

I don\'t agree with telling about the relationship if it\'s a complicated thing that has some impact on the story later.  Readers will get a sense of it along the way, especially if there\'s conflicted emotions within.

Use the five senses to get a sense of location or impact on the reader.  As an example; instead of saying "They walked through a lush forest", you could describe the sounds (shuffling leaves of wildlife invisible to the untrained eye, various birdsong, perhaps the distant gurgling of a creek indicating there is water to be found - if you wanted to create alarm, you can mention how the forest quietens without actually saying there is something to be alarmed about, the readers will understand with this happenstance).  You could describe the smells, if your travellers were to happen upon a village in a forest clearing that had been burnt to the ground for instance, you could mention that they smell the burnt wood and death/decay long before they see it - this could combine with a quietening of the forest to create a sense of foreboding.  Or the regular smells of a forest, lush and green, kind of dewy or quite odorous after rain.  Touch - what does the forest feel like beneath their feet as they trample on twigs, brush through spiderwebs or push past overhanging leaves.  Taste - should they come upon the creek mentioned earlier, you could describe how the water tastes sweet or perhaps even a little silty, depending on how easy you want your characters to have it.  They would taste the smoke in the air of the burning village mentioned earlier too.  All you\'re using is sight, whereas all the senses would bring your reader into the location you have, instead of just looking at it from afar.

EO can tell you the rest, or add to what I have :)