Ozoni, The Contributor
If not by luck then by design I find
A creaking man cocooned tight in blue
A man to whom five moons were firmly tied
When Atlas grasped him fast but faltered soon
He spun in fixed and pre-considered motion
From which wide-eyed tangent was he flung
And turned and fell, raced Icarus to the ocean
Cast loose from Mars and those he sat among
He offered me to drink and so I drank
Lest through this shivering we crack our bones
And in that night he sat there, white and blank
We traded boasts of who was more alone
Pluto is made flesh and so therefore
This man is made of stones and metaphor
Finished within four hours of writing, with approximately an hour of planning - more time spent on that would've helped. Oh well. Very loosely based off someone I know. Entry for the La Petite Mort category, Ectocomp 2019. This is supposed to be a haha meta storygame but I'm going to preemptively say that it's not particularly funny. Follow Cian as he enters a spiral about writing a choose your own adventure in four hours, while lamenting a recent break-up. There's... not really many endings but a couple pathways you could take.
HEY THERE. FOR THE ZERO PEOPLE WHO WERE EAGERLY AWAITING FOR THE NEW AND IMPROVED STORY OF CIAN, WE'RE FINALLY BACK. WHICH MEANS IT ACTUALLY TOOK JUST A BIT OVER FOUR HOURS TO MAKE THIS THING. BAM: DISQUALIFICATION? BOOM.
THERE ARE NOW ENDINGS FOR THOSE PEOPLE WHO NEED THE ENDINGS SPELLED OUT FOR THEM. I KNOW THIS ISN'T FUNNY BUT NO U.
- BLANK PAGE ENDING
- MEGA SAD ENDING
- MEGA SAD ENDING #2
- SOMETHING FOR THE PEOPLE
- FLAT OUT DENIAL
Phew. With that out of my system, let's continue.
Recent PostsChapter 1: The She-Demon on 11/27/2019 9:26:57 AM
If you do go back over it, take note of everything we're setup to perceive Macbeth as: physically courageous, extremely violent, prestigious member of the king's inner circle. L a y e r s man, it's impressive.
I still haven't had a chance to read much of CYS stuff but I'll be certain to watch out for your stuff when I do (in the yeah I'd like to give that a read sort of way).
Chapter 1: The She-Demon on 11/27/2019 9:10:30 AM
Yeah that was more of a response to Steve's comment about giving compliments or something. An example of the aftermath battle thing done right, off the top of my head, would be the second scene (I think) in act one of 'Macbeth' - where the sergeant tells King Duncan about how Macbeth won the day. It's a play and it's all in dialogue but I think there's definitely value there.
Flexing my description on 11/27/2019 9:01:11 AM
@Shadowdrake27 It's not perfect but this would be an example of injecting some 'voice' into the description. The intention was to convey the narrator's wonder towards the dynamic nature of... well nature. Really not a lot going on here but I'd consider it relatively successful in that aspect.
Chapter 1: The She-Demon on 11/27/2019 8:55:03 AM
The two things I'd focus on are:
1. Better characterisation and fleshing out of the world (maintaining clarity and interest)
2. Attention to the 'micro' details of writing (sentence structure, word choice)
What I suggest, is really slowing things down and reducing the scope of your introduction. Go back over the basics - we're here to setup the mood, characters, conflict and setting. And figure out how to do that. If this is an introspective story - something akin to a character study, and not about the war - is it the best idea to start in the middle of a battle? How can you get it right from the very beginning? What sort of introduction will privilege the idea of a story about someone's "mental state"? What things about this character can you setup from the beginning? What sort of conflict? Etc. etc. I don't think any sufficient answers to these questions can be found in this second draft.
Onto the 'technical' stuff. It isn't just 'technical' stuff, it's the bloody heart of the story. There's almost a lack of 'voice' in the writing. It's like someone's relaying me the plot from first person. There's no rhythm, imagery, turn of phrase, figurative language - it's devoid of the stuff that actually keeps readers hooked. Of all the feedback I've provided, that initial point about sentence structure is the most important. There's been plenty of discussion about realism etc. etc., and the conceptual whatifs. But who gives a damn if you can't articulate it in a way that's satisfying to read? There's hardly any detail; it's vague to the point of frustration. Take the dream sequence about her SLAUGHTERING of fellow eight-year olds. There's nothing visceral about it. There's no real window into how MC's past has left her the way she currently is. There's just "oh yeah and I woke up later after winning". It's so matter of fact and dry - and I'm quite certain you're not going for that type of delivery. So, I don't exactly know where I'm contradicting the other bits of advice, but I guess I'll contradict Steve here. This is not writing of competence or high quality. Don't let yourself be deluded into thinking that. Focus on the writing before the plot. Write out a beautiful introduction to the character - it could just be a tiny scene in the grand scheme of things. Show don't tell. Now, that's really harsh but I don't know how to sugarcoat it in a way that doesn't skirt around the issue.
The feedback about the whole bloodlust 'red' thing suggests this: if you don't want to write a battle scene, don't write a battle scene. If you do want to write one, don't handwave through it with "I saw red". It's absolutely unnecessary after the first time you establish that. The reason you shouldn't handwave through it is, you're really telling us jack all about this character apart from the fact that she's an uncontrollable berserker. Whereas, if you describe the way she fights - the absolutely traumatic, destructive, violent way she goes about mercilessly cleaving her enemies - there opens up an opportunity to explore the sort of impact this has on her (and maybe fix the problem of being 'bland' af). OR, you can focus more on the aftermath of her battles. That's what, I think, Steve meant.
That kingdom/empire distinction is so important, because it fucks with the scale and setting. You've got to be precise with your language, or you lose clarity and end up being confusing.
I'm wondering if there's a reason behind why you won't start after the MC's injury? That would instantly provide an avenue to setup some form of conflict from the outset, is more interesting than reading about how she absolutely rekt so and so, and bypasses all the preamble which - I think - is unnecessary.
Not sure what you mean by the description of Birus and the actual turnout of events. They were established as a Spartan state with a hero-king. I was initially confused as to whether Ajax was the king, or if they were separate entities - but when Ajax was described as a general who explicitly was not a king, that was cleared up. On a second reading, are you referring to the role of the mountainous terrain? Not sure about how that would've prevented Birus from capitalising on the situation. They were able to march their forces to the border just fine. If anything, it made me confused as to why it was called an empire in the first place, if it was a single territory hemmed in by the geography. That sense of scale - geographically - is lost on me. I did review it as I went through, so I could go over my first impressions.
Anyways, the first and second paragraphs of this thing are the most important. A way to move forward could be going back to the planning stage and writing out a character sheet, writing an overview of the setting/world. The aim is to come up with relevant (and also irrelevant) details to help flesh things out. Remember, that it's perfectly fine to have incongruities in the world-building to help it come to life.
I guess my rant's over so on that note, feel free to hmu about any other questions :)
Chapter 1: The She-Demon on 11/27/2019 5:32:43 AM
Oh well at least I got to talk about empires vs kingdoms for a bit.
Flexing my description on 11/27/2019 4:22:39 AM
Absorbed as I am in daily activities; it is some time before I realise that everything in nature has gone quiet. No birds chirp. No leaves rustle. No insects sing. Air that had been hot all day hangs heavy over the trees and sits on my shoulders. With a vague feeling of uneasiness, I move to the window.
There, far off, against the mountains tracing their uninterpretable graph of boom and slump, lies the answer. Cloud has piled on cloud to form a ridge of mammoth thunderheads, billowing and rearing against the sky. But the piercing whiteness of their shining towers does not last. Soon the thunderheads impose themselves before the late-afternoon sun, and the resultant half-light comes creeping on, halting, whimpering and shivering,wrapped in patches of cloud and rags of mist, like a beggar. The clouds wipe-up spilled sunlight. A gust of wind whips the dust along the road.
A door bangs shut. Loose shutters strike the hours. Curtains billow into the room. I rush to close the windows to stop the curtains inhaling and exhaling. Now I strip the clothes line, secure the patio furnishings, feeling intimidated by the overwhelming cloudbank on the horizon. Thunder growls and grumbles in the distance.
The first drops of rain are huge. They splat into the dust, imprint the windows with individual signatures and plink-plunk on the patio roof, like someone inexperienced at typewriting; tapping here and there using only two fingers. Leaves shudder under the weight of water, and the footpath wears a coat of shiny spots. Then faster, like the roll of drums, the individual drops become an army marching over fields and rooftops. Lightning flickers silently in the sky, like a faulty fluorescent tube. A bolt of lightning stabs the earth. Heaven's exclamation: the storm is here!
Seconds later, I jump at the sudden crack of thunder. No longer lurking far off, it rattles the window panes and sends the dog scurrying under a bed. The next bolt is even closer. It raises the hair on the back of my neck, and I take an involuntary step back.
I know I should not be standing so near the window – for safety's sake - but I cannot resist the show.
The rain becomes a torrent, flung capriciously by a rising wind. Together they batter the trees and flatten the grasses. Water streams off roofs and out of downpipes. It pounds against the window in such a steady way that I cannot see. How can so much fall so fast? How could the clouds have supported this colossal weight?
Pacing through the house from window to window, I am moved to wonder. Look how the Cooktown Orchids bend under the assault, how the branches of the Poinsettia are flattened, how the hillside steps are a new-made waterfall. Through the barrage now comes the thud of hail, typewriting on the roof. More stones bounce white against the grass and splash into the puddles. I retreat to the lounge to light a fire.
But, already the storm is passing. The tension is released from the atmosphere. The curtains of rain let in more light, and the thunder slams a final door.
I am drawn outside while the rain still falls. Even in the shelter of the roof I am soon wet with the mist of spattered drops, but it is cool and welcome. I breathe deeply and watch the sun streak through the breaking clouds. One ray catches the drops that form on the edge of the roof, and I am treated to a row of tiny quivering spectrums of colour - my own private row of rainbows. Down the street there are strings of coconut palms, their fronds tiny bursts of celebrations in the sky.
In a few minutes I can pick my way across the wet grass. Across the street, above the park, there is a kite in the wind tying boy and sky together. Not far from him, there is a silk patch of blue lake tacked to the green countryside by the taut fishing lines of a hundred anglers. The creek in the gully runs full of brown water, but the small, sudden lakes and puddles are already disappearing into the earth. The garden looks surprisingly unbattered. The trees have lost only a few leaves. Still there are some leaves, sliding down banisters of air. Every brick, tile and blade of grass is fresh and shining. Wet leaves stick like emblems on the path. The air was never cleaner or sweeter.
Slowly, the night creeps on. The sky, clad in delicate chalk grey, has stuffed the sun in its top pocket, like a red silk handkerchief. Each street lamp wears a halo of light - frail and silvery as a dandelion gone to seed. Like the land itself, I am renewed. My very spirit is cleansed. I feel an infinite peace, washed by the glories of the storm. Around me, the night knits an eyeless mask. Inside, the fireplace shadows do soft-shoe dances on the loungeroom walls. I ease myself into a patio chair and muse: "The fury and glories of a tempest cleanse the spirit as well as the land."
Chapter 1: The She-Demon on 11/27/2019 3:49:25 AM
All of that was a bad idea. Take your time with these things. As a one-shot, there wasn't even a sufficient ending. What's the point?
Chapter 1: The She-Demon on 11/27/2019 3:46:43 AM
Two men charged me from the front, and everything slowed down. As the two armies clashed everything faded into the background like it always does, and I saw red. For the next ten minutes, I hacked my way through ranks of lesser infantry. A few arrows lodged into my chain mail and several cuts wetted my armor, but I didn't feel any of them. I didn't remember any of it until I came to my senses with my sword lodged in an enemy soldier. We had superior numbers and training. It was only a matter of time before the small town that marked the last stronghold of the Hapian empire fell.
- First impressions: I get that you’re going for the in media res thing, but this whole sequence isn’t particularly captivating at all. Even though there’s a battle going on, the writing lacks the sort of ‘vitality’ you’d expect from such an energetic situation.
- Take the first sentence: “Two men charged me from the front, and everything slowed down.” Instead, how about a nice, long description of the battlefield – the MC notices the fine details of an adversary (his expression etc. etc.) as he falls, perhaps unseamed from the neck down, and looks up to meet two men charging her. Then, you take your time describing the armies clashing. MC sees red. Your sentences become choppy. Quick. Etc.
- AKA, think about sentence structure and its effect on the reader. You can show that time has slowed down, and then sped up, by contrasting long descriptions with shorter ones about the sensations of bloodlust. That is, instead of just telling us about it. At least give us something visceral to bite into. Is MC exhausted? Does she slip and slide in the blood of her enemies? Does she hunt them like a big cat?
- Those first three sentences can be unpacked to demonstrate that this fighter is the unhinged berserker type at the very least. You want to show that MC is a terrible person – a ‘she-demon’ – from the outset? Maybe the battle’s already won and she’s just slaughtering helpless villager-soldiers, or a surrendering army. All the while, she knows they had superior numbers and all that was unnecessary. OR, maybe we can play with the unhinged idea and emphasise the fact that she “came to [her] senses”. There’s an opportunity there to strengthen her characterisation, as a super-soldier. You get the idea. One of the criticisms people brought up is that MC is ‘bland’. You shouldn’t strive for ‘bland’ – unless you are going for some sort of subversive, tongue-in-cheek ‘parody’ of characters like the one from ‘Throne of Glass’. Playing with these opportunities is an avenue to setup an interesting protagonist.
I stopped and examined the battlefield. There didn't seem to be anyone still fighting among the burning wreckage, so my mission was complete. I swiftly pulled my sword from the dead man at my feet and wiped the blade on his companion's uniform to clean it. Sighing as I sheathed my sword, I returned to report the results of my mission to my father, King Harold of Camema. He hand-picked me at a young age and raised me to be his sword, so it was my duty to serve as his general; in this line of work I earned the title of "she-demon".
- Surely you can describe the battlefield. The swathes of carrion left in MC’s wake. Give some credence to the whole “she-demon”, “hand-picked” for battle characterisation.
- On a plus side, the first glimmer of conflict is established here – well done? She sighs as she sheathes her sword, perhaps it’s a sigh of relief, or sadness, or weariness about her situation. It’s the slightest indication that there’s something going on between her and the king. thumbsup
My father was expanding his territory; it was our duty to unite the world through conquest. My father valued loyalty above everything else. He always said that peace was only possible if all the world were loyal to one master. My job was to remove any opposition that kept him from his goals. This was a lesson he drilled into my essence.
- Is this exposition necessary? Right here? Smack bang third paragraph? Like, cool story bro but I don’t see why I should care. Especially if the plot is going to be listed out in such a ham-fisted way. Might be coming on just a little, but when I read this I was so exasperated.*
Today we crushed the remains [of] Hapia, the country to the north, a task we had been in pursuit of for three weeks. My task was simple: kill their entire army before they could organize a resistance. As my father's general, I was always sent into battle, so my father could focus on ruling his ever-expanding territory and grooming his birth children to continue his reign. I never failed in my missions.
- Same sort of feedback*
- You previously called Hapia an empire. Seems quite weird for it to consist of a single country. That’s… not an empire. These distinctions matter because it would explain why MC’s kingdom – inferred to be a kingdom because the big boss was referred to as ‘king’ – could take out an empire in three weeks. Maybe this is a Western Roman Empire sort of deal, in which case… sure? It seems hand-wavy to just call Hapia “the country to the north”. Anyways, I’m going through my feedback paragraph-by-paragraph – as a first time reader. Some questions about world-building come up. Is Hapia a weakened empire? Is it even an empire? Is MC’s lot even in charge of a kingdom? It’s important to think about the distinctions before you even start.
- Fundamental differences between Empire and Kingdom:
- Centralised administration and decision-making for a wide variety of territories
- Rule carried out through large bureaucracy made of elite, educated civilians – supported by a professional army
- Centralised taxation to support army and bureaucracy
- Large bureaucratic centres – cosmopolitan cities
- Emperor’s sophisticated bureaucracy monitors and appoints governors of territories who are responsible for upholding the law, centralised in general
- Decision-making limited to small areas, dependant on the King
- Rule carried out by individual landowners on a local level, who owe loyalty to the King. Emergence of feudal structure.
- No professional army – land-owners provide troops/warbands, and are expected to fight for their King
- Decrease in taxation (due to lacking sophistication of bureaucracy), as the collection of revenue is facilitated by feudal land-owners, who then offer tribute and service to the King
- Decentralised in general, nobles responsible for rule of law in their OWN territories and swear fealty to the King
- Why they matter:
Let’s say you go from an empire to a kingdom to try and explain this.
CONSEQUENCES OF SHIFT FROM EMPIRE TO KINGDOMS
- Centralised state-structures and taxation disappear (in the span of about a generation)
- End of stability brought about by the rule of empire – such as Pax Romana – and therefore increased warfare, militarisation, and break-down of trade (this sort of situation seems to fit the one laid out at the beginning)
- Power-structure based on landowning elite, which meant agriculture became more important, trade and commerce decreased. Overseas trade, cosmopolitanism largely disappeared as cities homogenised.
- Cities diminished in importance as large, bureaucratic centres. Became depopulated with the shift to agriculture and the country side (in the span of about a generation). It’s like, what happens to a mining town when the mine closes. Businesses gtfo.
- Centralised bureaucracies of empires had required a literate elite class. Kingdoms, with the less sophisticated feudal structure, did not require such bureaucracies. Therefore, with the shift of control to militarised landowners, the importance of literacy was diminished – even among the upper class. Hence Dark Ages Europe. Historically, the Church held the keys to literacy during the period of kingdoms.
- With the shift to militarisation, lack of cosmopolitan cities, and emphasis on feudal structures, kingdoms experience a drop in revenue, trade, central provision of services and infrastructure (aqueducts, sewerage etc.) and leads to lowered living standards
- Workmanship is decreased in pottery and architecture under a kingdom. Emphasis on rustic, agricultural lifestyle leads to a regression in these skills – as seen when elaborate tile and brick structures shifted to mud houses with thatched roofs during the Dark Age. Some buildings are still quite impressive, but won’t compare with the sheer sophistication of an empire’s buildings.
- Landowners needed to construct fortified compounds – which would become medieval castles
To sum it up, "Dark Age Europe was born out of the violent destruction of the Roman Empire, as the battlefield replaced the bureau at the heart of elite life, but its ramifications were felt on every social level."
- These are considerations to make if you want to make things believable/credible.
Ok, lets say an empire might – just might – be outmatched by a kingdom militarily (unlikely given its superior population… its armies would have to be seriously spread out and unable to regroup for that to happen). But, how the hell does an empire lose its cosmopolitan cities before some random backwater town? Is this final bastion the furthest point from MC’s campaign’s starting point? Is the empire seriously so outclassed, even with greater capacity for economy and militarisation? Sure, let’s go with all of that. Not very credible without a serious explanation.
But then you’ll have to consider. With all this territory acquisition, we’re going to see a transition from kingdom to empire on the MC’s side. There’s a plethora of governmental and military changes that need to occur for that to happen, depending on where you want to take this story. Basically, if you’re gonna attempt a grand, sweeping novel about kingdoms and empires and so on – you’ve got to be prepared to account for all the social stuff, cultural stuff, economic stuff and politicking. A way to lessen the burden would be reducing the scope of the story.
"Ashley, is it done?" my father called from his saddle on a jet black war horse he rode into battle on. I wiped a tuft of blonde hair from my face and nodded. No one had survived, no one ever survived. "Good! Excellent work, Camema will prosper ever greater thanks to your efforts today!" I stopped in place, this was the highest praise I had ever received from him. "Men, secure the area! We shall camp here for the night."
- Bit of an underwhelming introduction to the ‘Father’/King. Underwhelming as in, I can’t even picture what he looks or sounds like. He’s a generic blob on a jet black war horse.
I bowed and left to find the blacksmith. I had my usual repairs done and camp was set up in the meantime. The soldiers all stopped their chatter and moved out of my way as I made my way past them to the tent where dinner was being served. After my meal, which was eaten alone as it always was, I proceeded to train; my mission had prevented me from training in the morning per my usual routine, ingrained into me through rigorous training for as long as I could remember.
- Did we need to know all this? Don’t see how it’s relevant, we already know she’s the warrior type. I get that you’re establishing her relationship with the soldiers but can’t that be done with the way she’s regarded during her meeting? Is it possible to just get to the meeting in dad’s quarters?
After strength training, sword practice, and a run a messenger informed me that my father requested my presence in his quarters. It was likely that he already had a new mission for me. I quickly made my way to the center of camp and entered his tent.
- Same sort of feedback as the one above. I’m not told anything new with this exchange.
"You fool, this tea is unfit for swine!" my father screamed into the face of a young servant. "Ashley, I am glad you are here." My father turned to me stroking his grey whiskers and peering at me with his sharp blue eyes. "Kill this imbecile."
- The king is a tyrant chimp, seems like. Here’s the thing with tyrant chimps, they lead unstable regimes. The biggest weakness of being the meanest, baddest, toughest bloke is that you have no friends. And all it takes is for a couple smaller chimps to have had enough, and gang up on him and take him out. You should play with this idea. It’s something you’ll have to address, how this guy is still in power. Does he successfully go full Stalinist and keep everyone in line? Because from the get-go, we can tell that this guy shouldn’t have many friends to help him out.
Before anyone could move my blade came unsheathed and found its way through the boy's heart. It happened so naturally I hardly thought about it. "Is that all you needed, father?" I asked indifferently. Everyone in the tent took a step back from me and looked worried. They were all afraid; their cowardice made me want to unsheathe my blade again. They were all weak, which is why I had to be strong. My father needed one sword he could rely on.
- Describe this. OR, to emphasise the indifference in the situation, just mention it in passing. Either one works. This whole exchange could be a big deal or two sentences long. I prefer the latter.
"No, I wanted to discuss your next mission. We will be invading Birus to the east; their military strength is supposed to rival ours, so it will be more challenging than our current campaign." My father opened a map and pointed to it with an all-black gauntlet as he spoke. He already had a plan, as he always did, but it was different than his usual plans.
- Okay wtf. See that whole previous thing on world-building. PLUS, why wasn’t Birus doing anything during this whole debacle? It just doesn’t make sense.
"Father, why should your forces flank when mine can dispose of them alone?"
"Birus isn't like the other countries we have fought. They are a nation of warriors; they will not throw hundreds of worthless fodder at you. Their king is said to be the greatest swordsman in the world, and his general might rival even you. None of this is an issue, though. As long as we follow my plan victory is certain."
- If we’re going for a Greek polis style of system, this starts to make more sense. Birus is Sparta and MC’s kingdom thing is also Sparta? They’re sorta the same “military strength” so… The sense sorta ends here. The polis were like, single cities of people. Sparta was able to become a nation of warriors because it wasn’t absolutely massive, and subjugated another group of people to do all the mundane non-militarisation stuff for them. Like, the economy. It’s completely unfeasible to militarise to the extent that every single person is a warrior in something larger than a city. So that brings me back to the question of how Hapia got rekt so bad.
"What do you mean by that, father?"
"Everyone knows there is only one route to Birus, but we have found another. An eastern pass that no one has traveled in centuries. It is a narrow, treacherous path; however, If you confront their forces head on it will buy us time to move into a flanking position. The time is prolonged if you call for an armistice. Our flank will go undetected; meanwhile, you can lead the frontal assault. Their ranks will break."
- Mumbo jumbo that could be revealed during an actual battle sequence. Slows down the pace and we’re not even past the first page.
I knew not to question my father's strategy, part of being loyal was taking orders and fulfilling them correctly. By the time the meeting was over everyone was just turning in for the night. I heard whispers and murmurs about me as I walked back from my father's tent to my own:
"She ordered them to kill everyone on sight."
"I heard she slew a hundred men by herself."
"Maybe she is a demon..."
- Who’s whispering? The soldiers? They were fighting with her. Is this a nomad group then, with civilians herding their flock alongside the army? Why are there people asking about whether or not she genocided the town?
None of their whispers bothered me. They have been whispering about me my whole life. Ever since I became the sword of the Camemain empire. I would remember that day for the rest of my life. Memories ran through my mind as I drifted into a restless sleep.
- Oh so this is an empire then. Why is the big boss called a King? He’s not a king. There needs to be more clarity there.
Given that this is now an empire, you’re going to have to address all the problems that come with empire-building. Specifically, the relegation of power to the professional army, the bloating of bureaucracy etc. etc. Just a heads up.
My physical prowess at a young age drew attention from a special military training program. After years of training, me and forty-nine other eight-year-olds [gather] on what was supposed to be our advancement into the miliary's general ranks. I waited with baited anticipation for the king to speak.
- Wait so we’re now in a flash back/dream. How about all this exposition is turned into show instead of tell. Do you have to tell us that someone “waited with baited anticipation”. So far, lots of low definition description – it’s all so vague and uninteresting and in the span of less than 3000 words we’ve gone from a battlefield to a meeting with the ‘king’ to another meeting with the ‘king’ to a dream sequence.
"Welcome gifted ones," King Harold said addressing us all. "As you know you have been being[?] groomed for a command in my army. This is... mostly true. I only need one Commander though." As he spoke each of us was given a ceremonial dagger. "Let me know when there is one left. Only the strongest and most committed is worthy of it."
- So established military tradition. That sort of explains the whole Hapian conundrum but not really. Why didn’t Birus do anything during those three weeks? Who’s left to defend Cameim? Why is a ‘king’ who’s taken up the personal responsibility of “focus[sing] on ruling his ever-expanding territory and grooming his birth children to continue his reign” out fighting on the frontiers?
With that, he leaves and a short boy to my left stabs the girl in front of me. That is the first time everything slowed down faded and into the background. I saw red for thirty minutes and came to in a pool of blood; most of it was not my own, but my head and side hurt from deep cuts covering them. I still fared better than the others--all of them were dead. They say I killed at least seven of them myself, but I don't remember anything from that fight either.
- Wow very riveting. Every battle scene is going to be a bit of red for [insert] minutes.
Ever since then I was trained by King Harold personally. The man known as the demon taught me how to fight, how to lead armies and the importance of total loyalty to him. After I had proven my loyalty, I was even permitted to call him father.
I jolted awake and grabbed my sword instinctively, but there was no immediate threat. Our attack would not commence until the evening; for now, I needed to go for my morning run to steady my nerves. I had not thought about my inauguration as the sword of Birus in years, yet here it was still haunting my dreams. Several weeks had passed since the fall of Hapia and news of our military advances had spread.
- This is an egregious time skip. And still, everything is described in low-definition vagueries.
We had marched our forces to within miles of our border with Birus; they responded by gathering their military at the border. Their forces were led by general Ajax, who was said to be the greatest swordsmen that did not hold the title of King. Only my father and the king of Birus were rumored to be his equal. The two greatest military forces in the world were about to clash.
- Lol Ajax.
- Does ‘King’ mean something different in this world?
Everything was going exactly as my father planned. Today we would crush their army, kill their general, and march into their country to claim it as our own. My job hadn't changed. I was to take a majority of our forces and feign a frontal assault, neutralize general Ajax, and buy time for my father to flank. I was confident I could kill him and help dismantle their defenses, but my father insisted that a stalemate that lasted long enough for his army to flank was sufficient.
- Could the strategy unfold during the actual battle scene, instead of being exposited out beforehand? Even if the battle will be chalked up to some ‘red’, I don’t want to be told what will happen in the future until it actually happens.
I agreed as a loyal general should, but I resolved to prove my father wrong. His high regard for general Ajax was unusual; I hoped I could use it to earn his favor when I exceeded his low expectations. I bared this in mind as I prepared for the battle. I took to practicing with my sword with the time I had left.
- Exceeding low expectations shouldn’t earn anyone’s favour.
My sword felt natural to me, like an extension of my arm. It moved fluidly and felt comfortable in my hands. Sheathing it was a disappointment, but the messenger sent to summon me seemed relieved when it was no longer in my hands. I reported to my father's tent immediately.
- Very cool she’s a warrior. It’s not like that’s been the only thing established since the beginning.
There wasn't much to say, which was fine by me. We all knew the plan. My forces were to wait an hour before leaving, to give my father and his men more time to march into flanking position, then engage the enemy directly. One thing he added was that if anyone should fall on the battlefield their sacrifice would not be in vain, but anyone who fled or was captured did not deserve to be in his army in the first place. It was a sentiment I agreed with; We had very little tolerance for weakness.
My father then left to the east with four-thousand soldiers and I looked to kill an hour. I sharpened my blade, checked my armor, and meditated. Eventually, an hour passed and we could begin our march with four-thousand more soldiers. I prepared myself mentally for battle; my mind recalled everything I was taught about Birus military tactics and sword fighting forms. I was so lost in thought I didn't see the messenger approach.
- Four thousand soldiers is really small for an empire on a grand campaign to take out two other empires. How did four thousand soldiers outnumber the Hapian empire? How is this an empire in the first place?
"Halt, I carry a message from general Ajax," he called raising a white flag above his mount. Normally I would have an archer end his life for believing that such a simple gesture could stop an entire army, but I had a different mission than usual. "I wish to speak to your general."
"What is your message?" I responded, making my way to the front of the army on my mount.
"Our general wishes for an armistice to speak with you privately. He believes that we can resolve this peacefully."
- He’s a general, not the big dog ‘king’. He shouldn’t be able to make a call for ARMISTICE. So this seems to be a betrayal. That’s such an obvious realisation, I’m surprised this didn’t occur to whatshername. Unless, the general can give up a war without consulting the commander-in-chief.
"Tell him I will see him, alone."
With that, the messenger turned and returned to where he came. Calling an armistice was easier than I thought; usually, I do not need to think about such things. I made sure to be on guard the rest of the journey, but we did not see anyone else along the path. We marched on until the trail opened into a clearing known as the field of honor. It was given this name by the first king of Birus. My mind recalled all that I had learned about the country.
For centuries Birus has been a warrior nation surrounded by treacherous mountain ranges. The only way into Birus without scaling a mountain was through the field of honor; it was said that no army had ever crossed the field. Birus had never lost a battle on it, and its army had never crossed the field to invade another country. They would call their non-aggression virtuous, my father called it weakness.
- How the hell is Birus an empire then.
My father and his men were climbing a narrow, winding path up a smaller mountain to the east. They had to move slowly up a steep incline in single-file fashion to take the path, but once in position, they would be behind the Birus army. My forces rivaled that of our opponent by themselves. Today would be the day that Birus fell.
- The significance is lost on me. Muahahaha daddy will rule the world. More effort needs to be spent on helping us care about the characters.
I stepped into the field and surveyed my surroundings. Rolling hills stretched for miles ahead of me. Tall grasses swayed in the cool breeze that came down from the mountains. It was a beautiful place; you would never expect it to be the bloodiest and most well-known battlefield in the world. I was not there to admire the scenery though. My army marched forward as I wondered when I would get to face the legendary general Ajax.
Birus' army came into view as I reached the top of a large hill. Their stark white flag rose above the army roughly the same size as ours in several places with an insignia of a golden eagle carrying a sword in its talons. The army spread across the next hill, their armor reflecting the sun's light brilliantly, making them look like a mirage.
In the valley between the two armies stood a single man wearing gold plated armor. He shone more brilliantly than the rest of the army as if he radiated the light himself. Closer inspection revealed that his armor looked lighter than what the rest of the army wore and was comprised mostly of chain mail. His sword did not match his armor. It was sheathed but looked plain and well worn.
"I was promised a meeting with your general," the man called into the face of my army.
I quickly dismounted and stepped forward. I could not help but think it was strange that general Ajax was not mounted and trusted my word enough to stand in front of my army alone. His helmet completely covered his face, but I looked him in the eyes as I approached.
"You are general Ajax?" I shouted when I was near the bottom of the hill.
"Indeed, are you the she-demon from Camema?" Rather than answer, I drew my sword; I was never good with words. I gripped my sword tightly and looked to the east hoping to see my father army cresting the hill. "I see... Captain!"
"Yes, General?" A knight called from the top of the hill as he took a step forward.
Ajax didn't take his eyes off me as he responded, "Send another hundred archers to reinforce the troops at the east pass. Make sure no one gets to the top of the mountain."
"General Ajax, shouldn't we be sure we can handle things here before we divide the troops further?"
"Simon, she is stalling for time. Make sure no one climbs the eastern mountain. They plan to flank."
Dread washed over me. My father and his army would be defenseless until they reached the top of the mountain. Archers at the top meant we had to break through their forces here at the main path. If we relied on my father's forces to flank we did not stand a chance. Ajax addressed me again.
- Around now would be a good time to reveal how the strategy went wrong – instead of relaying it all to us a couple paragraphs back.
"We can avoid all the bloodshed here if you wish."
"We will not surrender," I responded.
"It is never a good idea to try to fight an uphill battle." Ajax sighed and withdrew back to his forces.
I returned to mine and contemplated my next move. Attacking was a bad idea, but I did not have the luxury of time. I gave the order to advance; screams filled the air as my soldiers charged down the hill into the valley. Arrows flew across the valley and cut down my forces with shocking effectiveness. By the time the front lines met enough of my soldiers laid dead to compensate for the hundred archers Ajax had sent away.
I joined the fray and started seeing red. The battle raged on, but I was unable to make any ground. My blade met more steel than flesh. Our armies may have been evenly matched, had they not started with the high ground. I lost track of time and positioning as I struck wildly in an attempt to break the enemy lines. I was vaguely aware of advancing; eventually, a pause in the fighting caused me to return to my senses.
When I came to I was surrounded by Birus soldiers and standing face to face with Ajax. His helmet still covered his face entirely, but he seemed calm. He held a short sword in his hand and flourished it with ease; the blade was sharp and clean, while the hilt was large enough to fit two hands and had a well-worn grip. Sounds of clashing steel and blood curing screams still sounded distant.
"You must realize you can not win at this point, and now you are surrounded," Ajax called out.
- Well we don’t even know what happened except red.
"I told you that I never surrender," I responded, my eyes searched for an opening or weakness I could exploit.
"Capture her," their captain ordered.
"No, I'll face her myself, Simon," Ajax said taking a step forward. Simon looked like he wanted to protest, but merely sighed and shook his head. He motioned to the other soldiers, who formed a circle with their shields enclosing Ajax and myself in a large oval arena.
With a cry I charged forward, he crouched into a defensive stance and waited for me. My first there strikes were easily parried and I stumbled backward as he threw me off balance. I continued backpedaling to reset the fight and recover; Ajax simply twirled his sword and returned to a defensive stance, as if toying with me.
Taking a deep breath I tried to zone out and let my reflexes take over, but my usual focus was broken. I took a defensive stance and circled Ajax, looking for an opening to attack again. We stared at each other for a moment, neither side wanting to make the first move.
- “Defensive stance” doesn’t reveal much.
"Why do you fight?" Ajax asked suddenly, catching me by surprise.
- Why are people talking while fighting?
"Why?" I repeated in disbelief. Shaking my head slightly I narrowed my eyes and focused, he was trying to get in my head. "A soldier doesn't ask why," I mumbled as I remembered something my father had taught me.
"Every warrior asks why. No one is on the battlefield by accident, why do you fight?"
- LOL if she has a change of heart here I can’t even. Why is Ajax going out of his way to do this whole song and dance? This is supposedly a life and death situation – so unless you intended to demonstrate that the legendary warrior is pretty incompetent then this whole scene needs a rethink.
"I am the sword of Camema, loyal to King Harold, and created to aid in his conquest to unite the world," I said reciting an introduction that I had been forced to repeat every time I was introduced to nobility. These words left me almost subconsciously; my rage bubbled up at Ajax for wasting my time with such foolishness.
- She could’ve fought instead of taking her time to speak. That would actually demonstrate her belief in her role. Actions speak louder than words. I’d dare to say that she isn’t acting like any “she-demon”.
"I see," Ajax said as he changed his stance to something I did not recognize.
Everything slowed down, faded into the background, and I saw red. I was only vaguely aware of Ajax charging forward, of the sparks that flew when my blade moved to block his. His next three attacks I blocked out of reflex. He moved faster than I could follow, his light armor glistening in the sun as he continued his onslaught.
- Can we stop with this red meme
We may have fought for thirty seconds, but it felt like hours. Exhaustion set in quickly and my senses returned to me as Ajax put two hands on his sword and brought it down at me. I moved my sword in front of his and heard a loud clang. Sparks flew in every direction, my entire body shook from the force of the impact, and I watched as the blade of my sword flipped through the air.
Heat spread through my torso, while the rest of my body felt cold as ice. I still gripped the hilt of my sword as I dropped to my knees. Heat gave way to searing pain; terrified, I looked down at my half of a sword and blood-stained armor. My hilt dropped to the ground as my hands instinctively moved to the long hole in my abdomen. Where my breastplate ended the chain mail had been cut through. I tried to stop the warm red liquid from spilling from my body.
I could hear voices around me, but I couldn't hear what they were saying. I struggled to keep my eyes opened and wondered if I was going to die here. A broken blade, unfit for battle and unable to carry out its purpose. No one was coming to save me, no one cared. Everything slowed down, faded into the background, and I saw red.
- This red meme isn’t clever
Tl;dr you should give worldbuilding a rethink, focus on characterisation, and try not to cover about a month’s worth of events in 3500 words
A Biography of Evelyn Waugh on 11/27/2019 1:06:25 AM
Trying my hand at something different. If you've got any feedback on biographical writing then I'd be hip hip happy.
A Biography of Evelyn Waugh on 11/27/2019 12:57:43 AM
A man who achieves any degree of public success and personal fulfilment whilst also being named Evelyn is well worthy of commendation. That being said, it is not only nominal fortitude for which Arthur Evelyn St John Waugh is commendable. Rather, it is the indelible and visceral impact that the traditionalist converted Catholic, Abyssinian war correspondent and prosaic novelist made on the character of English literature and culture over the first half of the 20th century.
Evelyn Waugh was born, before the doctor could arrive in time, on the 28th of October 1903 to Mr and Mrs Arthur Waugh of Hillfield Road, Hampstead. Mr Waugh intended to send him to the Sherborne School, in Dorset, but an earlier homosexual tryst of Evelyn’s brother’s at the school having been described in great detail in Alec Waugh’s 'The Loom of Youth' made such a fraternal progression impossible. He was instead sent to Lancing College, a school more than three hundred years younger than Sherborne, and an institution that young Evelyn thus saw as vastly unacceptable. The young aesthete became accustomed to his change in circumstances however, and achieved success as a house captain, president of the debating society and editor of the college magazine. He was also awarded various art and literature prizes, although the biography prize always eluded him.
Having become an avowed atheist and deeply “weary of life”, Waugh was awarded a scholarship to Hertford College, and went up to Oxford to read modern history in December of 1921. Rather importantly as regards an examination of the writer’s fascination with the world of aristocracy, and the decadent yet restrained culture of high Catholicism, he fell in with a group of old Etonians at Hertford. Prominent dilettante, Roman Catholic and homosexual Harold Acton was amongst them, as was writer Brian Howard, with whom Waugh formed the Hypocrites’ Society, a playground for aesthetes and drunkards. His almost complete disengagement with formal education won him no friends with Hertford’s academic institution, particularly the ludicrously-named C.R.M.F. Cruttwell, principal of his college. Cruttwell rather reasonably viewed a scholarship to Oxford as an opportunity for hard work and scholastic attainment as opposed to the no-strings-attached reward Waugh felt himself to have received, this disagreement forming a great vendetta between the two. Later in life, Waugh began a tradition of naming unpleasant characters in his works after Crutwell, the litany of degenerates bearing his name including a psychopathic burglar, a salesman with a fake tropical tan, a homicidal maniac and perhaps most viciously of all, a Conservative MP.
After leaving Oxford with a dubiously-attained third class degree, Waugh was listless. He took up art lessons, dropped them and became transiently involved with some university friends, though they all eventually left him to take up their lives and careers. His funds having run dry, he accepted a post as a teacher at Arnold House in North Wales, where he began work on his novel, 'The Temple at Thatch'. In the summer of his first year, Waugh’s prospects picked up a little, with the offer of a secretarial position in Italy, assisting Charles Scott Moncrieff in his pioneering translation of Proust’s 'À la recherche du temps perdu', later published under the Shakespearean title 'Remembrance of Things Past'. He was so confident that he had secured the position that he resigned his job at Arnold House. At around the same time, he sent a first manuscript of 'The Temple at Thatch' to his Oxford friend, the aforementioned Harold Acton. Within the space of a week, Waugh received Acton’s dismissive and unimpressed reply, and the news that the job with Moncrieff had fallen through, leaving him unemployed and unnecessarily in Wales. Both were enormous blows to the young writer.
In his adolescent spirit of being avowedly “weary of life”, Waugh left a suicide note with his piled clothes on the shore of a cold and stony beach in Wales. He records in 'A Little Learning' that he walked out to sea, before almost immediately forsaking his attempt after being stung by a jellyfish. It is not presumptuous to say that the particular jellyfish in question probably made the greatest contribution a free-swimming marine coelenterate has ever made to the progress of mid-century English literature. Waugh recovered from his despondency, however, and entered a period of two years in London, during which he was dismissed from a teaching post for attempting to drunkenly seduce a school matron, began training to be a printer, successfully became a carpenter, published a book on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and finally fell in love with Evelyn Gardner, the daughter of Lord and Lady Burghclere. Ludicrous names appearing to be the signature of Waugh’s trip across the mortal coil, the newly-engaged couple were quickly dubbed by their friends “He-Evelyn” and “She-Evelyn”. Despite their poverty and the firm opposition of Lord and Lady Burghclere (who had been advised by C.R.M.F Crutwell that Waugh was a degenerate), the pair were married, taking up a flat in Islington. Several months later, She-Evelyn announced that she had fallen in love with another, and the pair were promptly divorced a little over a year after their wedding.
The following years of Waugh’s life could be effectively summarised by one of his letters to Acton, in which he told his friend that he “did not think it was possible to be so miserable and still live”. He wrote 'Vile Bodies', a “manifesto of disillusionment” with the Bright Young People of the 1920s. He converted to Catholicism and travelled to Abyssinia to write propaganda for the British government, before finally falling in love with She-Evelyn’s aristocratic Catholic cousin, Laura Herbert. They married in 1937. Waugh joined up as an officer when the Second World War broke out, describing it later as “a sweaty tugof-war between teams of indistinguishable louts”, and served in Yugoslavia, France and Crete. After a long seclusion in Devon, he returned with his magnum opus, 'Brideshead Revisited'.
'Brideshead Revisited' is perhaps the most distilled examination of the fall from grace witnessed by the literary world since 'Candide', or perhaps 'Macbeth'. It is highly autobiographical, and thus one of the shining examples of the roman à clef. The work brought Waugh great literary success and personal acclaim, marking, the beginning of Waugh’s greatest spiral into degradation, depression and poverty, in a life characterised by such great spirals. He became addicted to bromide, which sent him briefly mad, insisting once to his friends that he was possessed by devils. Thankfully for Waugh, ceasing to take it ended his hallucinations immediately. In 1960 he was offered a CBE, but declined on the basis that he believed he deserved a knighthood. After his tax-avoidance scheme, which involved a fictional Save the Children charity, was reported, he fell finally into sickness, depression, and finally death on Easter Sunday, 1966. He was buried outside an Anglican graveyard, his funeral celebrated in Latin in Westminster Cathedral.
Waugh could hardly be described as a good man. He once confided to a friend that his greatest struggle in life was the reconciliation of his religious obligations and goodwill with complete personal indifference to his fellow man. He was openly racist, anti-semitic, and believed firmly that the Catholic Church in Rome stood as the last barrier to the oncoming swarm of working-class culture and equality. He was a bully, a belligerent, and a liar. But the fact remains that, despite his personal failings, he was one of the most prosaically powerful artists of the 20th century. He left in his legacy one of the most memorable visions of the world he saw crumbling around him. One should remember him not for the person he was, but rather the things he created, which were noble, original, and incontrovertibly lasting.