These are two segments from my first page:
Master Bromwin laid down his quill, retiring against the stiff backboard the inkeep called a chair. The shuffling of papers followed shortly after, as the sleepless scholar scrutinised his writings. A beclouded sun, casting weak shadows, lighted his dim room. “Even the sunset is sickly here,” he muttered. The accommodation cost several coppers, and he did not expect any more than what was promised. Unexpectedly, housing in these fringes of The Table harboured a sweeping view of the capital.
From his vantage, ramshackle huts clustered about the citadel’s looming walls; the slums surrounded the stone city. Their endless expanse was rivalled only by the overwhelming stench of bodily filth. The bottom-castes buzzed about like a hive of mosquitoes, insect-like from afar. Past the great battlements, foreboding streets and dank alleyways formed a nightmarish labyrinth. These endless, crisscrossing corridors sank beneath Calistar Manor, which towered above Bromwin and everything else on its rocky haunches. This colossal hunk of mortar, this architectural abomination was utterly unparalleled in size. From afar, even an eagle's eye would be filled by the castle. Truly, the cyclopean enormity of The Table lived up to the Pagan texts from antiquity, which speak of a great feasting ground fit for hell.
Grimacing, the Master turned from the window. It was then, that a creased parchment captured his attention. Singularly, a rare beam of sunlight shone upon the document to create a magnificent ambience. Its dazzling aura quickly disappeared, however, as a bony hand grasped it within clenched fingers.
Sliding the engagement into one of the many compartments concealed in his cloak, Master Bromwin began his preparations. Gradually, Royal Commissioner Ruvvius replaced the ageing intellectual. Under the hood, his greying hair – sideburns that chiselled away at a gaunt face – became fierce shadows. His glittering eyes transformed into dark gashes and those thin lips, once urbane, now draw back to unleash a glistening grin. A heavy coat replaced a slight frame; leather gloves closed like iron fists. After inspecting his inventory, Ruvvius sheathes away a menacing work of machinery – a pistol with a bite worse than its bark. At that, he uttered a sharp command. His sentinels entered the room.
Mainly, I have questions concerning the writing's flow (and whether it reads smoothly). The highlighted text is where I'm most concerned. Is it obvious that Bromwin is looking out the window? Does each paragraph transition into the other well? With my current structure, pages for setting and description take precedence over everything else. That's why I'm looking for any suggestions/criticisms I could use to make these parts better.
In addition, any other critiques would be really appreciated. Some example questions would be: How interesting is this overall? Does it grab your attention?
Anyways, thanks in advance.
I am no expert on flow (struggle quite a bit with it), and seeing as mizal is already going to help you out with that, I figured I'd give my opinion on the other questions. Hopefully you get something out of it, even if doesn't really help in regards to the flow.
First of, your choice of vocabulary definitely has an impact on the way this reads. The sentences are also rather detailed, giving a good impression of the setting and even the character.
Thinking about whether it is clear the Bromwin is looking out the window makes me think he is looking outside the window, so my opinion is a bit biased now. Anyways, I'd say it is pretty clear, or at least made clear when he turns away from the window.
Seeing as he is in what I take to be an Inn (it has an inkeep after all) and the fact you mention that "From his vantage" strongly suggest that what he is seeing is being done so from within the Inn. And unless there is a large hole in the wall (which would have been mentioned earlier) a window is the logical thing to think of.
However if you are worried about this, it can be a good idea to just mention the window more specifically. That is unless you feel mentioning it specifically would detract from the quality/style you are going for.
I should mention that this definitely appears to be some very high end writing, to me at least, and as such I feel a little weird trying to evaluate it, since I get the feeling you would be able to do it a lot better then me, despite being the one who wrote it. However I'll still finish writing my thoughts here, since a view of someone who has a pretty simple writing style might help you out with something.
mizal mentioned Lovecraftian style, which is something that didn't come to my mind right away. However having re-read the post I can totally see it now. I like to think that I would have drawn the connection on my own if I had more of this to read.
As for the paragraph's transitions into one another, to me it read well. Each paragraph seems to be pretty focused, and as such they fit together well with each other. Further since they aren't completely separate either, ie. "sweeping view of the capital." => "From his vantage," and "great feasting ground fit for hell." => "Grimacing, the Master turned from the window.", they still feel connected. As such I'd say you done a pretty good job separating the writing into paragraphs.
Honestly I can't really comment on what you could do better, to me this all looks great to me. I feel the main thing you should worry about is keeping this level of quality throughout. Also do pay attention to what mizal mentions in regards to flow, as with this level of writing you really do want good flow, otherwise the whole thing becomes very difficult to read, specially the more of it that you read.
What I mean with this is: I can't really point out mistakes in the flow, however that doesn't mean none exist, and even small ones can end up adding up throughout the whole story which would end up greatly detracting from the quality of writing, which would suck, since the writing is definitely great.
As for other critiques I'll just try to answer the questions you used as examples (thus less work for me):
I found this rather interesting, the setting is established with great detail but doesn't drag on forever, also the exposition levels feel very minimal which leaves me wondering about a lot of things, and as such makes me want to read more in the hopes of getting some answers.
The last paragraph you have posted definitely grabs my attention the most, and again the levels of detail are high and while there is some exposition (if that is even the right word in this case) it isn't crystal clear and still feels rather minimal. This leaves me wanting to keep reading.
I highly hope you keep writing, heck posting more stuff for me to read would be appreciated, even if I get the feeling I won't really have new feedback to offer (if you can call what I wrote here feedback to begin with). I feel my usefulness is reaching it's end, so I'll end this here. If I suddenly think up more stuff I'll post it later.
P.S. This is all just my opinion, so don't worry about it too much. However hopefully you manage to get something out of it.
TL;DR Very high quality writing here (in my eyes). Hope you write more. Listen to mizal's advice on flow, flow is very important! I liked this.
You may not realise it, but your feedback is very insightful (thanks for answering those questions)! I'm writing this as a side project and intend to keep it at a short to medium length CYS. Perhaps it'll be finished by the end of August (or a bit earlier/later). I'll be sure to post tidbits here and there in the meantime!
I'm glad to be of some use.
Ah, sounds good. Good luck writing/polishing it (and the main project too).
Oh, and I'll be sure to keep my eyes open for those tidbits!
Thanks, mizal! I'll be sure to keep all your feedback in mind when I'm writing. Seeing that the style I've chosen is really reliant on vocab and flow, I'm sure it won't be too easy. Lots of proof-reading should do the trick, and the feedback will likely keep me on track.