Submission for Coaching – Me

Writing is hard. It takes years to get to a point where you can produce something worth reading. Even after reaching that point, an author has to keep striving to become better. I fully believe that the best, fastest approach for improvement is the following:

1. Write something.
2. Revise it until it is the best you can make it.
3. See critique on it.
4. Learn from the critique.
5. Go back to Step 2.

I feel I’ve reached a point where my writing doesn’t completely suck. I get positive feedback. I had a story accepted for publication in an ezine. I won an award (yes, I’m still hanging on to that.)

Even so, I have yet to scratch the surface of the writer I will become, and I actively seek to improve. As such, when a fellow Mythic Scribes member mentioned that a professional editing service, Flourish Editing, offered free critiques of 750 word excerpts every Monday, I jumped at the chance to submit.

In this post, I’ll share the editor’s (Tim) comments and tell you how I’ll use them to make my future writing better. First, though, let me say how impressed I was by the quality of the response I got from them — really first rate stuff. If you’re looking for an editor, give them a look. Disclaimer – Tim did really get on my good side with the following comments:

“First of all, your writing is excellent. I don’t say that lightly. Yours is by far the best piece I’ve worked on today. Xan is an engaging character and there’s lots of mystery surrounding him to draw the reader in. There were a number of nice touches and observations which helped add some character and flavor. I thoroughly enjoyed working on it, and after a long day of editing, that’s quite something. So thank you for that.”

My wife is quite mad at Tim for that; she feels my ego is quite large enough and that people shouldn’t feed it. I, on the other hand, appreciate the validation. It makes me feel that I’m not completely delusional in my self evaluation of my writing.

The bottle slipped through Xan’s fingers.

He bent to catch it, but it tumbled past his outstretched hand. It arched inexorably toward the hard wood floor.

Tim doesn’t like my use of the double space after a period. My views on that subject are well documented; I’ll let it slide. He also “arched” implies that Xan imparted a forward momentum to the bottle. That’s a great call. His suggestion of “plummeted” makes much more sense.

This comment highlights one of my big flaws — I don’t immerse myself enough in my scenes. I need to be less lazy about visualizing these things actually happening.

Scrunching his face in anticipation, he intercepted the vial with his foot. Sharp, throbbing pain exploded as his big toe took the impact, the tortured leather of his boot doing little to soften the blow. The glass, at least, thudded to the floor undamaged.

Tim called this “too writerly.” He’s probably right. Still, I don’t hate a touch of prose that shades purple every once in a while. I think I can live with it as is for now.

This situation illustrates an important point. Even though a knowledgeable, professional editor is pointing to a potential change, it’s still my call as to whether to make a change. It helps, in this case, that he qualified the statement that he didn’t feel the “mistake” was particularly egregious.

Xan shook his bruised foot but otherwise ignored the sting, counting himself lucky. He much preferred suffering fleeting discomfort over spending two weeks’ pay to replace Master Rae’s bottle.

Tim noted that this statement is distant from Xan’s point of view. Already, he’s pointed out, perhaps, my two biggest weaknesses — the lack of visualization above and not being close enough to the POV character here.

It’s so important to filter the scene emotionally through the POV character. I have to continually remind myself to bring the writing closer. I think I’m going to write my next book in first person!

“Way too close,” he said to himself, stifling a yawn as he retrieved the wayward container.

Young for a journeyman apothecary at seventeen, he knew what the position required. He must be precise in his movements. Each pinch of powder should contain the same amount of material. Each chop of a blade should cut the same length.

Xan couldn’t afford accidents. He looked at his hand. His grip on the container had been firm. His fingers had simply released on their own accord.

As he turned to a small pile of powder on the table in front of him, Xan’s eyelids grew heavy. He blinked a few times, on each occasion letting his eyes stay closed longer. His head nodded, and he swayed on his feet.

His eyes snapped open. “No! I can’t.”

Tim made minor suggestions on word choice and sequence throughout this section.

Those kinds of comments are valuable for improving the work in question, but I didn’t take away any great change that I need to make to my writing.

He shook his head rapidly from side to side, but the action did nothing to clear the fatigue. A fog blunted his thoughts. “I’m sleeping through the night and more. I still don’t understand how dreams can leave me so tired.”

Tim suggested cutting this to, “How can dreams leave me so tired?” He’s right. My version is too telly and unnecessary.

Sometimes it takes an outside influence to point out this kind of thing. Every time I go through a scene, I ask myself if I can make it more concise. Since this is scene 1.1, you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve gone through this one. See why hiring a professional editor is a good idea?

He ran his hand through the disheveled mess of brown curls atop his head.

Tim suggests getting rid of brown. From Xan’s POV, he knows the color of his hair. Why would he think it?

This is one of the few points where I disagree with the advice. POV is important, but it’s there to serve us, not us it. Instead of going through gymnastics to get information to the reader that Xan’s hair is brown, I just say it here. It’s efficient, and I don’t feel that it detracts from the reader’s immersion to make a POV tweak like this. Who knows though, maybe I’ll change my mind on this in the future.

Despite the fact he manned the shop alone, Xan scanned the area. Cabinets and shelves obscured every inch of wall space. Neat rows of glass canisters of all sizes and baskets filled with all manner of plants lined the roughhewn boards. Three worktables stood in the center, two empty and the one in front of him covered with piles of herbs and glass vials. Two oil lamps supplemented the light of the afternoon sun streaming through the shop’s sole window. The room gave him comfort he never felt at the Diwen’s.

Secure in his solitude, he pulled a leather container from a bag stowed near his feet. He kept his gaze steady on the entry as he worked the stopper out. The door didn’t move. His heart beating rapidly, he gripped the hard, molded cowhide and tipped it toward his open palm. Before any of the contents tumbled out, he hesitated.

Xan righted the container and hid it behind his back. He traversed the width of the room in a few strides of his long legs and pulled the door open while standing to the side. Peeking around the edge of the doorjamb, he searched the street for potential interlopers.

Stone structures with thatch roofs lined both sides of the hard-packed dirt street. The grays of the mortared rocks and the deep brown of the wood trim complemented the granite mountain tops looming over the roofs. A lone horse-drawn cart laden with wooden casks provided the only sign of life, and two men led it away from the shop.

Xan closed the door and leaned his back against it. After taking several long, deep breaths, he tipped a seed into his hand. He frowned and added another before tossing them into his mouth. Immediately, the world brightened, and his mind snapped awake.

“Five already today. At this rate, they won’t last another week. Where am I going to get money for more?” A single seed had lasted him the entire day when he started taking them a week ago.

Xan shrugged off the disturbing thought and set about finishing his assigned tasks. After washing the fresh herbs, he tied them into bundles to dry. Mixing two potions for later delivery took an hour. Sweeping the floor and cleaning the used glassware took another.

His work complete, he looked longingly at the door. Instead of leaving for the Diwen’s to go to bed, he walked to a cabinet in the far corner and pulled out a small glass bottle filled with brown powder. He turned and took three precise steps, ending in front of the shelves on the opposite wall. After selecting two fronds from a basket of red leaves, he returned to his worktable.

Tim makes more comments throughout, but none that I believe point to a systematic problem with my writing.

The main takeaway I hope you gain from this post is that you should constantly evaluate your writing and seek to improve it, no matter your perceived talent level. Examine all critique critically and try to understand how that micro feedback can be applied on a macro level.

If you’re looking for feedback on your writing, check out Tim’s website above or check out the Submissions page for my blog. http://brianwfoster.com/submissions-for-critique/

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Submission for Coaching – Ascanius’ March of the Huldra

Writers occassionally send me short segments of their work for me make comments line by line.  If you’re interested in submitting a piece, check this link.

Here’s the first chapter of March of the Huldra by Ascanius.  I previously gave him a few comments on the Showcase Forum on Mythic Scribes.

“Watch boy.” A withered hand jerked Endren around. “Tis no time to laugh an’ play.”

I like this much better than the first version.

Endren tried pulling away from the graying man. It was like his shoulder had become part of the city’s grey immobile stones.

Consider “to pull” instead of “pulling.”

Be consistent with your spelling.  You use both “grey” and “gray.”  Also, be careful about overusing words.  Consider not using one of those descriptors.

“Let me.”

I think you need “go” here.  Otherwise, this just isn’t clear.

“Stop.” The man said.

“The man said” is a speech tag.  The correct punctuation is: “Stop,” the man said.

Endren spared one last glance over his shoulder.

I’m not sure why he’s sparing a glance over his shoulder as the phrasing doesn’t make contextual sense to me.  Consider: Endren glanced over his shoulder.

The press of legs and skirts had swallowed Tam, gone to find a meal and hearth for the night. He rubbed his empty belly imagining the taste of food.

Since you haven’t named the old man and we haven’t heard of Tam, there’s nothing to tell us upon initial read that the old man and Tam aren’t the same person.  You need to be more clear about who Tam is.

For that second sentence, “he” logically refers to the last person you mentioned, Tam.  I think you mean for it to refer to Endren.  Fix.

The crescendo of drums grabbed his attention. A man in shining bronze rode past on a horse black as night with others following.

“The soldiers are goin?” Endren said lifting his filth covered face to the man.

One of my many pet peeves is using a speech tag and an action at the same time.  Delete “said” and this becomes: Endren lifted his filth-covered face to the man.

This sentence introduces a minor POV problem.  Would Endren notice/point out the filth on his own face?

“Yes.”

Perhaps a beat would be better than “yes” here.  You could try: The old man nodded.

A tiny smile appeared and he began deciding which story he wanted Eriss to sing.

I have no idea what’s happening here.  I’m assuming that the tiny smile is on Endren’s face, but the phrasing makes it seem off.  Endren smiled (or, even better, grinned since you use smile later) would be much better.

I don’t like “began deciding.”  “Considered” is more concise.

Faceless bronze helms glinted in what little sun pierced the clouds. Spear tips rose and fell with the thump of boots against the cobblestones. Row by row they past and his smile grew.

“Passed,” not “past.”  I like the description here otherwise.

“Remember this day, it is the last day mothers and fathers will see their sons.”

The comma should be a period.

“They not coming back?” Endren asked hopefully and the man shook his head.

It’s generally considered bad to use adverbs inside speech tags.  It’s probably okay here.  Better would be to convey the hopefully another way, via expression or thought.

The man shook his head should be in a new paragraph.  You cannot have one person acting and another speaking in the same paragraph.

Tam and the other boys liked when the soldiers returned. He hated it.

Don’t use a pronoun unless the antecedent is clear.  Here, “he” wants to refer to Tam or one of the other boys.

Meals came easy but unless he was very lucky so did the beatings.

I think “unless he was very lucky could be deleted.

Usually, he hobbled long into the night until it was safer.

I don’t understand this.  Hobbled?

The soldiers left to bed with Eriss or the others at The Ladies Purse for him.

I don’t understand “for him” at the end of this sentence.

Those nights he fell asleep among broken crates, shit, and rotting food. Alone he endured the unrelenting cold, a cold that takes the fingers and toes one by one as it had done already.

“Takes” is present tense.  It should be “took.”  It’s not clear from the sentence how many fingers and toes have been taken already.  Is Endren now completely lacking fingers and toes?  That’s the visual I’m getting.  If you then show him later using a finger or toe, it’s going to confuse me.

“You know who they are boy?” He glanced at Endren’s tattered rags. “Of course you don’t”.

Again, don’t use a pronoun unless it’s clear who the pronoun referes to.  It is not clear here.

The last period needs to be inside the quotes, not outside.

“I know who they are.”

“Don’t lie to me.” Turning back, the man’s grey streaked beard brushed against his wine stained shirt.

Watch your modifiers.  You have the man’s beard turning back, not the man.

“They are fathers and brothers, some sisters too… they are sons. And today is the last time they will pass through the Sundering Gate… Don’t forget them.”

You do not need the ellipses in this paragraph.  Replace them with periods.  The “some sisters too” confuses the thought.  Are the sisters sons?  That’s what the old man says.

He never forgot when the soldiers left.

Again, there’s no indication that “he” refers to Endren and not the old man.

It was a holiday better than the feast of the sister moons, better then the Lamp Night when the young men and women ruled the streets. It was a celebration that lasted until new recruits replaced those gone.

I get that there’s a celebration when the troops leave, but that last part doesn’t make sense.  Are you saying that the feast goes on for a long time or that new recruits are found quickly?

He looked away from the marching men in the direction of The Ladies Purse.

Delete “away from the marching men.”

His hands fidgeted and he spared a quick glance at the darkening clouds. If he left he might get Eriss to sing him a song while he ate the day’s scraps, if Eriss was busy Birria or Nella. He hoped Eriss though, she was his favorite.

You use “Eriss” three times in two sentences.  Beware overusing words.  Replace the second with “she.”

Google subjunctive mood.  Grammatically, this should read: if Erise were busy.

She would hold him close to her while she sung, pressing him against her large naked pink breasts.

Delete “to her.”  It’s redundant.

“Sang,” not “sung.”

They always reminded him of his mother, the few good times between the men who shared her warmth. After each song she would hold him close telling him how he was her special little dollop and hum until he fell asleep in her arms.

I think you can delete “always.”  Try it without and see what you think.

“Held” may be better than “would hold” in this case.

Consider “and tell” instead of “telling.”

“Why? Arn’t they commin back?”

Be careful with dialect.  It can be distracting.  Consider getting rid of “commin.”

“What boy?”

“You said they arn’t commin back…why?”

Are these two lines needed at all?  Consider deleting.

“They are the Huldra, and they march to their deaths.” His eyes never left the passing soldiers. “May their mothers weep for them.”

I like this.

Endren watched the men in bronze and leather who’s footfalls pounded to the beating drums. Horse hooves chimed and echoed along the street.

“Whose,” not “who’s.”

Hooves chimed?  I’m don’t understand the description.

He grimiced at the thought of the others at the Ladies purse.

“Grimaced” is the correct spelling.

I don’t understand where this thought originates.

The way they moaned in their rooms always left him with memories of his mother.

Consider deleting “always.”

“Left him with” isn’t quite right.  “Brought up” or something similar maybe?

How she would drag him through the alleyways to lay in the filth of the street with pitmongers, slavers and other evil men even bad men feared.

For that last part, consider something like: men so evil that even bad men feared them.

He would huddle against the black stones of the alleyway trying to close his ears against the moans and screams, trying not to watch. It always ended the same, a few coins thrown at her naked and beaten body. All to buy smokemilk and ale. And those times she did not satisfy, she sold him.

This works.

Beneath furrowed eyebrows he glared at the Huldra trying to burn away his mothers memory.

Watch the placement of your modifiers.  The way it’s written, the Huldra are trying to burn away his mother’s memory.

“Mothers” should be “mother’s.”

The sound of her voice, the smell of her hair. He puffed his chest and wiped a rogue tear.

Generally, puffing a chest refers to someone who is proud of himself, which is contrary to what Endren is feeling.  What was your intent here?

“Why do they march to their deaths?” The boy asked aware of the somber mood, mothers crying and the silence, save for the sound of boots against the stones.

I’d prefer something like: Endren noticed the somber mood of the crowd.  Mothers cried.  Save for boots crunching against stones, silence prevailed.  “Why do they…”

“Because they must,they leave to give us a chance to live.”

Need a space after the comma.  I’d make the comma a period.

The way you have it punctuated, I expected a beat.  Instead, you have a speech tag.  Watch your punctuation!

The man said squeezing his shoulder.

Make this into a beat: The man squeezed his shoulder.

“Remember this day, the last march of the Huldra. They are our champions against the horde that comes. They march this morning when the T’aladulmn have forsaken themselves and us with them.”

This would be more powerful if you deleted the second sentence.

“Is your son a soldier? Is that why you care?”

Turn this around, and it’s stronger.  “Why do you care?  Is your son one of them?”

“All sons are soldiers this day, and all will die for the mistakes of their fathers. Fathers left to go home to wives who will never forgive them. A son who cannot forgive his father. I, who can never forgive myself.”

If you insert a beat between the two uses of “fathers” it will give the reader a second to digest the first part and make the speech stronger.  Same thing after “father” and “I.”

Slowly one voice rose above the clamor and others joined. Their voices rose to carry the lament to those who passed.

How about “a” instead of “one?”

I don’t like the last sentence as it seems like a POV shift and reuses “voice.”

“You know the words boy…Course you don’t. It is an old song that is rarely sung.”

This is clumsy.  Is it needed?  Can you have Endren wonder what they’re singing?

The last of the Huldra vanished down the street leaving way to the wagons. Soon those too had gone and with them the crowd.

The man turned once more towards the Sundering Gate. “Goodbye my son, may you forgive me before you die. You got a name boy?”

This is confusing.  You need to separate the thoughts of the man talking to his son and then addressing Endren.

“Me mother called me Endren and the whores call me Dollop.”

“A bastard.”

“I din’t say that.”

“No, your mother did, and where is she.”

Make that last two sentences, ending the second with a question mark.

“Shes dead.

Should be “she’s.”

Iress of The Ladies Purse on Broke s’head watches me now.” He paused suddenly wary. “You knew my mother?”

I don’t know what this means: “s’head.”

“No. A name is a world that can have meaning if you know the tongue, Endren, meaning bastard.”

A name is a world?  It’s stronger without that.  A name has meaning if you know the tongue.  Endren means bastard.

Endren stared at his feet and rubbed the tears from his face.

Delete “the.”

“Come my son, lets go home.” The man said resting a hand on Endren’s shoulder.

I’m not sure I like the “my son” there.  It seems callous given the context of the situation.

Get rid of “said.”

His steps faltered at first but he lifted his head and walked.

There’s no indication of who “he” and “his” refers to.

With the old man’s hand on his shoulder he walked away from Iress and The Ladies Purse, away from the pitmongers, away from Fleas Nest.

You need a comma after “shoulder.”  Some would say that all introductory phrases need commas. All say that longer ones do.

Overall, this is much better than the first version you posted.  It packs a lot of punch and has a gritty tone.

Hope this helps!

Submission for Coaching – Wyrdmystic

Faltering, Aliyah sat on the edge of her nest, the shift between visual falsehood and tangible truth no less disorienting than her first experience.

That first sentence is quite a bit to parse.  I think, and I could be wrong, that you’re saying she’s having a vision?  It’s probably best to be a little more clear and ditch the attempt at flowery prose.

She braced her head in her hands, anticipating the relief that usually follows the touch of familiar bedding.

I like the start.  Consider “and anticipated” instead of “, anticipating.”  The technique you use here is valid, just be wary of overusing it.  “Follows” should be “followed.”

Entwined sticks poked through squashed pillow, ruining comfort.

This is what I mean about overuse.  You do the same thing with the comma in this sentence.

I’m confused at this point.  You say she’s experiencing some kind of vision, but I’m not seeing it.  She tries to gain comfort and fails, but I see nothing about what she’s experiencing.

A flash of movement stole her gaze.

I like this.

Nothing. Not even a spider hanging from the finest of threads.

This doesn’t flow.  You’ve lost me.  Does this mean she didn’t see a flash of movement?  You need to work on clarity over playing with words.

Her chest tightened, breathing hurried.

Last time commenting on this, I promise: you overuse this technique.  I’d recommend deleting at least two of the occurrences thus far.

Manifestations of panic flowing from subconscious depths.

If “flowing” were “flowed,” this fragment would become a sentence and would make more sense.  I get that you’re trying to evoke a certain feel, but you’re doing it at the expense of the reader knowing what the heck is going on. 

Falling back, she clutched at her forehead, fighting to draw air through constricting pain. As she rolled onto her side she came to face that wooden cat, its arms and legs tethered with string, pebble eyes full of deferred anguish. Saniyah’s favourite puppet. The only part of her daughter she could still hold.

Again, I like the emotion but would suggest minor stylistic revisions for clarity.  From the text, my understanding is that this is the first time the reader has been shown the “wooden cat.”  If this is correct, I hate the use of “that” to describe it.  This is going to cause the reader to attempt to remember it and, since it’s not possible for them to, will annoy them.  I’d replace the phrase with the puppet phrase and clearly refer to it as a wooden cat later.

Also, this is the first mention of pain.  Before this, I get that she’s having some kind of vision and is disoriented.  Where did the pain come from?  Here, she falls back and then tries to deal with the pain.  If you show the onset of the pain, it then logically flows that she falls back in reaction.

Another technique I feel you overuse is the sentence fragment.  If used occasionally, it adds emotional emphasis.  By using it a lot, you’re both making less effective and you’re making your writing seem choppy.

The tide ebbed.

I’m assuming you’re talking about a metaphorical tide of pain.  Two problems: I have to stretch to figure this out and it’s a bit clichéd.  Saying “the agony ebbed” is much clearer.

Reaching out to stroke painted fur brought the touch of Saniyah’s hair to her fingers. She pulled long curls taut with each stroke. Voices echoed from the past…

A bunch of issues here.  “Out” is superfluous.  “Reaching…brought” is a weak sentence.  How about: she stroked painted fur, and the touch transported… 

For that second sentence, I think you need to continue the analogy.  Splinters became long curls she pulled taut…

Why the ellipses after the last sentence?

“Ow!”

“Well if you would go mudslinging with your friends, expect a few tugs.”

“Don’t tug so hard!”

“There, all done.”

“Mother, you can’t forget him!”

“Yes, he is getting a bit mangy.”

“Hehehe.”

She reached for the puppet. The brush slipped…

Since you’re doing this in flashback, you need to work extra hard to be clear.  I get easily that she’s brushing the hair and that there was a fight with mud.  However, I have no idea who “him” is until three lines later.  I’d suggest naming the puppet earlier and going with that name here.

I still don’t like the ellipses. 

The clatter of the hairbrush striking rock snapped her back to the present. Without realising, she had left her nest to stand by her dresser. A side table left dusted by neglect, the only sign of its true self visible in the shape of the object removed and smears left by her hand.

I have no idea whether the hairbrush exists in both realities and really fell in this one.  That’s not a good thing.

I don’t like that second sentence.  How about something like: She stood by her dresser and wondered how she had gotten there. 

This might be a difference between American and British, but I’m not keen on the “left dusted.”  I get what you’re saying, but “left layered with dust” is so much more clear.  However, if you feel it’s clear to your audience, it’s probably fine.

Okay, now you’re giving me a clue that the hairbrush actually fell.  It works better, I think, if you’d simply indicate that more clearly at the beginning.

She glanced back at the trigger of her fugue, wondering why, if her recall was so vivid, she could not remember his name.

All those commas disrupt the flow of the sentence.  Make sure that this is the pacing you desire. 

The cat stared.

Aliyah stared back, as if she could unlock him by standing her ground. As if he would reveal his name to her if she won a contest of wills.

Unwavering in his mindlessness, the cat kept his silence.

As above, I suggest changing this to give the thing a name earlier.

Submitting to the inevitable, Aliyah cast her gaze downward. Wisps climbed from a ring of black burnt into rabbit wool pile. The rug’s colour now faded. Drained. The lingering taint of singed fibres teased her nostrils.

I have no idea what’s going on here.  Really.  None.

Echoes of her surreal meeting correlating, yet alternate, to what transpired.

Huh?  You’ve completely lost me by this point.  I don’t think that most readers would make the effort to continue on.

Repercussions she could not predict. She would have to be more careful in future, take more time to measure the weight of her actions.

Familiar sounds anchored her further. Rushing water. The shrieking of drakes frolicking on the wind. Mundane everyday noises, always present though rarely listened to. Nevermore enjoyed.

The more recent memory of her pact with the shadow fiend bellowed embers of hope. Fire rose within her, warming blood and sweating brow, forcing darker thoughts back into their brittle prison.

Yet, the fiend only promised revelation. To take back what the wind stole would require action on her part. She would need more help, not just that of a monster.

She swapped her nightgown for garb more appropriate for a foray from her roost. A backless top, with clasps top and bottom, and trousers fastened with a belt. Thin, light, and hand woven from hemp; clothing designed to cover without hindering flight. Although, flight was not on her agenda.

As on so many occasions, she opted to leave by foot. Stopping at the curtain veiling the tunnel beyond, she almost changed her mind. Scenes flashed behind closed lids. Standing on the edge of her crevice, overlooking the valley below. Jumping, soaring…falling.

A shiver traced the curve of her spine as imagination fed false ending.

She shuddered.

With a shake of her head, and a swipe of cloth, she moved into the mountain. The air, though dry, was kept fresh by intricate currents flowing throughout the rockbound passageways. Weaving her way through tunnels, only her feet registered the changes between the rough carvings of water now diverted and smoother minings of workers long passed.

Overall Comments:

I like your writing.  It’s active.  You choose good words.  You infuse it with emotion.  These are good things!

On the other hand, most readers, I think, aren’t going to make it through your piece.  By the end, I was pretty much saying “Oh Good Lord!”  It feels like you’re trying too hard to be poetic with your words.  Frankly, that’s not a style that’s going to be popular to the modern audience and not a style that I have a lot of tolerance for.

If that’s what you’re passionate about, there is, I think, a niche market for your style.  Keep on keeping on.  Regardless, though, I think you need to work on being clearer.  Even those who dig your style aren’t going to be patient with it if they can’t understand what’s happening.  Also, please consider that the impact of using any technique is diminished with overuse.  You overuse sentence fragments and the comma-gerund phrasing.

Your intention on submitting this work was to see if the flashback worked.  In my opinion, no.  That’s mainly because flashbacks need to be handled with a high degree of clarity to show the reader what is happening.  Overall, your writing lacks clarity.  The flashback exacerbates the situation even more.

Hope this helps!

Submission for Coaching – SiS

We have a new contributor.  Please welcome SiS, who has bravely stepped up to the plate.

The long road was completely empty due to heavy rain.

Write active sentences.  If you write: the road was empty, you’re saying that the road existed in a state of emptiness, which is passive.  Active sentences, ones where something is performing an action, tend to draw the reader’s interest better.  For this sentence, how about: The heavy rain emptied the road.  Or, let’s add a bit more color and interest: The heavy rain inundated the road, driving the men with their ox carts (or whatever) to shelter.  Note that anytime you see the word “was,” you can usually find a candidate to rewrite into a more active form.

A second comment: if this is the start of your piece, consider introducing a character in the first sentence.  Readers are drawn to characters, not to scenery or weather.  Give us a person to experience the weather through.

Every strong claps of the thunder increased the heartbeat like a cosine wave.

You’ve got a couple of problems here.  First, it’s every clap, not every claps.  Second, you’re introducing a heartbeat, but you don’t have a character.  Whose heartbeat?  Third, how do you increase a heartbeat like a cosine wave?  You’re trying, I think, to say that the heart rate increased with each clap and fell in between, showing the graph to be like a cosine.  This is not what you’re written.  It’s important to be clear and precise in your descriptions.

The flashing lights in the sky lighted up the sky from one end to the other, blurring images of the vehicles that buzzed every odd minute.

You use “the” in front of flashing lights.  You should only use “the” if you’re referencing something you’ve already introduced.  Drop the article and start the sentence with “flashing.”

“Lighted” is okay, but you can also use “lit.”  The former sounds a bit archaic, but that’s fine if that’s what you’re going for. 

You do not need “up.”  Read the sentence with the word and without it.  The meaning doesn’t change.  Whenever you can get rid of an unnecessary word, do so.

Try not to repeat words.  You use “sky” and a form of “light” twice in the same sentence.  Get rid of one instance of each.

You can replace “that buzzed” with “buzzing.”  It’s more active and gets rid of a word.

I’m not sure how the lightning (?) blurred the images of the vehicles.  I would think the light would add clarity if anything.  Same problem as before with “the.”  This is the first time we’ve seen these vehicles. 

I don’t like “every odd minute.”  I think it needs to be something like: buzzing by each minute.”

The moist winds were continuously blowing on my face.

Get rid of adverbs (words ending in ly) where you can.  “Continuously” isn’t needed in this sentence.

Here’s another instance of a form of “was,” but this one is super easy to get rid of.  Simply replace “was + -ing form of verb” with “past tense form of verb.”  In this case, “were blowing” becomes “blew.”

A ray of hope kept me waiting hoping for the last bus to my hometown, even after half past midnight and I was the only living creature sitting on the bench of silicon city bus stop – the bus stop known for buzzing IT Professionals!

The beauty of first person is that you can get inside the character’s head.  Give us an “I” statement here: I kept waiting, hoping that the last bus home would arrive. 

Don’t use “buzzing” as you just used a form of that word.

Avoid exclamation points except for highly emotional moments where people are speaking.  Try not to use them in your narrative.

A blurred woman image holding a white colored umbrella was seen at a distance of 100 meters, which came closer and closer each passing second and at last, it was a beautiful girl and she sat next to me at the bus stop.

Again, if you’re going first person, use “I:” I saw a blurred image…  Break the sentence after meters.  Then start the a new sentence: She came closer, and I gawked at her beauty.

She was wearing a white colored Salwar Kamez. She had a face of an angel. She had worn kajal instead of kohl that added beauty to her powerful eyes.

Avoid starting multiple sentences in a row with the same word.  Some say you should avoid starting any two sentences in the same paragraph with the same word, but I’m not quite that strict.

Her nose was drafted perfectly like a triangle. Her perfect pale pink rose bud lips were inviting to kiss them. Her white complexion could put technologies to shame. Her white colored sandals were her pride, I believe.

Same thing here.  Vary both the starting word and the sentence structure.  Going subject – verb too many times in a row gets monotonous.

She was hot despite her small faulty tummy; in total, she was an Angel and she mesmerized me!

Describe her better here without the use of “was.”  Her face (performed action).  She resembled an angel.  Mesmerized, I (performed action).  Also, don’t overuse “hot.”

She was reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and I was reading her lips. PS: Lip reading 😛

Same thing as above with “was reading.”  The title of the book needs to be in italics.  I don’t know about the repetition of “lip reading” here.  If you’re emphasizing the phrase as “I studied her luscious lips,” then it would work.  If you’re implying that you are actually reading her lips, I’d rephrase.  Get rid of that last part.

She was irritated, so she asked, ‘What?’

Try: Irritated, she said, “What?”  Note that you can use just “said” for your tag since the question mark tells the reader that it’s a question.

‘I’m dying of loneliness. Can you help?’ I said smiling.

Replace the speech tag with a beat (an action).  Speech tags (said) are used only to indicate to the reader who is talking.  If someone acts in a paragraph with speech, the reader knows the person acting and talking are the same.  Change to “I smiled.”

She smiled broadly for the first time and said, ‘Okay!’

Don’t have her smile after you smile.  She could grin.  Also, you can ditch the adverb and the speech tag.  I don’t like “for the first time.”  I sounds like it’s possible that she’s smiling for the first time in her life since you don’t quantify it.

‘Tell me about yourself?’

You’re going to have to work on the dialogue.  It’s one of the hardest things to get right.  This needs to be something more colloquial.  You could throw a clichéd line here, maybe: Who are you and where have you been all my life? 

‘I’m Ritika, working as a Senior Software Engineer. I’m a Facebook addict; in fact, that’s how I met my boyfriend, who happened to share the same corporate tag, and he calls me Riti!’ She said, forgetting to breathe.

This is not good.  You have to draw this out.  Think about it, when a stranger meets you for the first time, do you spit out a whole paragraph of information.  Make the POV character work to draw out the data.

I cursed Mr. Zuckerberg and his co-founders of the social networking site Facebook, managing a smile, as it’s rare to meet a girl aloneat night, and that too a heart stealing beauty.

I don’t think it’s necessary to explain who Zuckerberg is.  He’s pretty well known, and the exposition slows things down.  If you feel you have to explain due to your audience, try something like: I cursed Zuckerberg for creating Facebook.

She smiled and asked, ‘Tell me about you!’

Again, delete the tag and the exclamation point. 

‘I’m Siddesh, working as a Senior Executive Engineer. I’m passionate about writing and I write at Few Unsaid Words. I had a girlfriend but my bad we broke up,a month ago 😦 ’

Do not use emoticons in your writing.  Again, you need to break up the conversation.  People don’t meet and immediately throw out their entire dating history.  Throw in some quips and actions. 

‘Really? Even we broke up last week 🙂 I realized he is not the right guy and all he wanted was flesh.’ She said with tears, looking down, and she kept silent for the next few minutes.

She asked, ‘Are you still in love with her?’

You’ve got some good emotion here, but you need to be more subtle about getting to this point.

I smiled and said, ‘It’s time to move on because she is not going to comeback as my life.’

Try to think of some actions they could perform besides smiling.  They could stand, pace, hit a post, sit, fidget, etc.  Here, it could be: I shrugged.  “She’s not going to come back into my life.”

‘I’m sorry! Anyway, move on, because love is not the life, it is just a part of life. But when you love someone; love her heart and not her flesh, okay?’ She said in a demanding voice. I nodded my head because I loved my girl.

“She demanded” instead of “said in a demanding voice.”  It’s more active.  I’d delete everything before “when.”  Avoid repeating yourself, and try to keep your dialogue short and snappy.

The rain started pouring down heavily in all directions and we were drenched completely by the time she opened her umbrella for us.

Why does the rain start pouring?  The rain poured… is more active than it started pouring.  Try this: The rain poured in sheets, drenching us to the skin.  (too clichéd, but something you can build from) 

Her inner was completely visible as her white dress became transparent; she looked like an ice cream and I could not stop staring at hers, she was hot!

You’re burying the lead with the passivity:  Water turned her dress transparent, revealing her secrets beneath.  I couldn’t take my eyes off her.  She was ice cream.  She was hot!  (I’ll allow the exclamation point there 🙂 )

I wanted to stop staring at hers so I started reading a-day-old newspaper, which I had in my back bag.

“I wanted” isn’t a great descriptor.  Why did you want to stop staring?  Not wanting to appear like a cad (fill in reason of your choice), I pulled a day old newspaper from my bag and read it.

As usual, the hot news was “Pregnant woman found dead in her flat!”

I don’t understand the “as usual” here.  Describe this better.  Do you mean that this story has been repeating for the last several days or do you mean that there have been multiple pregnant women found dead?  Be clear.

BANGALORE WORDS – Bangalore Police officials are trying to determine the cause of a doubtful suicide of a pregnant woman found hanging in her flat, who is working as a software engineer in ABC Enterprises.

I think that last phrase needs to be in a separate sentence.  Something like: The deceased worked as a…

‘Am I too hot to handle?’ She asked smiling mischievously!

‘Well, you are damn hot!’ I said, still looking into the paper.

‘Maybe, that’s why Harish always wanted sex I guess,’ she said.

‘Harish! Did she say Harish? Harish and Ritika? What the F!’

I was shocked! I read the same names in the newspaper.

It would be better to show the part of the story in the paper that contained the names before this revelation.  Move the part below up with the rest of the story.

Ritika was found dead in her flat. She had committed suicide by hanging and the police suspects that her boyfriend Harish could have murdered and hanged her.

She peeped inside the newspaper, laughing, and said ‘I’m Ritika Chaudhary!’

I fainted!

Thanks for submitting the piece.  I hope this helps!

Submission for Coaching – Nicholas Beacham 2

Nicholas is back for a second go around, having edited the previous version.  Let’s see if we can help some more.

Finn is your viewpoint character.  It’s important that his name be the first that is mentioned.  Start with and introductory sentence showing Finn doing something interesting.

“I have a job for you.” Aost smoothed the parchment on the oak desk. “There is a merchant in town. You might know him. Mills?”

You can get rid of the first sentence.  The fact that Aost has a job for Finn will become apparent through the scene.  You can combine the remaining dialogue and make it a bit more concise:  You know that merchant in town?   Mills?

“That old fart? He still buy from us?” Finn’s amused gaze drifted from the window to Aost.

Did you mean “buys?”  It’s okay to have him use incorrect grammar if he’s consistent.

“He does. When he can offer a good price.”

Delete “he does.”

“So what’s the job then boss?”

You can introduce a bit more conflict here to liven it up: What’s he got to do with me?

“Don’t call me boss. How long have we known each other?” Aost said.

“Fine, what’s the job then… my lord” Finn smirked as he fumbled with a quill.

I like the quip, btw.  Why’s Finn fumbling with a quill?  It’s also not clear to me where he is in relation to the desk and the window.  Show him in front of the desk.  You need to ground the reader in the scene with details.  Describe the room.  Give me something visual to latch onto.

Aost sighed and slid the parchment across the desk. “Sources retrieved this from a messenger. Give it a read.”

Resist the Urge to Explain (RUE).  The action of sliding a document to someone implies that you want them to read it.  That last sentence isn’t needed.

Finn grabbed the note. He squinted and turned the parchment, it said something about a big job tonight and getting back at those rotten thieves. Finn tossed the parchment down. “So Mills is planning something. What do you want me to do?”

It’s not clear here why he’s not able to understand exactly what the note is saying.  You made progress here in showing, but it’s not quite clear yet.  Make sure that your reader understands why Finn isn’t able to ascertain all the details from the note.  Alternately, you can just show him grabbing it, squinting at it (we’ll assume he has bad eyesight), and tossing it back down.  The part about what the note says isn’t really needed here.  Instead, you can reveal that in the dialogue.

“He is asking around town for independent thieves to work on a job.”

Try contracting “he is.”  It will sound less stilted.

“You want the guild to do the job?” Finn went back to staring out the window.

This could be clearer.  What you’re trying to say, I think, is: You’d rather he use the guild instead of independent thieves?  You don’t quite achieve that here.

“We are the job. Mills is planning to steal from the guild. He is asking thieves to rob our storehouses.”

Combine the second two sentences: He’s asking thieves to rob the guild’s storehouses.  As you have it now, all three sentences say the same thing.  Don’t repeat yourself.

“Our storehouses are hidden and well-guarded. Even if he did find thieves stupid enough, they wouldn’t make it past the traps.” He took pride in the traps he set for the guild.

I’d prefer that last sentence to be something like: Finn smiled as he thought about the traps he had set.  Play with the wording, but show him being proud instead of telling us he’s proud.

“He offended Me. He offended the guild. He’s offended you.” Aost adjusted his sleeve cuff and reached for a quill. “Teach him a lesson.”

Would it be better if Aost were more emphatic here?  Maybe have him start this speech with: Aost slammed his fist on the table.

The dusty red cushion of the window seat gave little support as Finn sat. “I’m not an assassin, Aost.”

“I’m not asking you to kill him.” A hint of irritation in his words.

This last isn’t a sentence.  It needs to be something like: A hint of irritation tainted his words.  As it is, you don’t have a verb.

“I’m asking you to rob Mills.” Aost scribbled something onto the parchment and folded it. “Show that coward that he can’t cross us. We are masters of our trade.” He slid the parchment into an envelope and picked up the burning candle, letting its crimson wax drip to form a seal. “Leave this for him when you’re done.” Extending the envelope to Finn.

This last still isn’t a sentence either.  It needs to be: He extended the envelope to Finn.

Sighing heavily, Finn shuffled to the desk. “Any more details? or just rob the guy?” Grabbing the envelope.

Do you need “heavily?”  I don’t think it adds a lot.  Get rid of the question mark after “details.”  Make that last phrase into a sentence.

“I’ve arranged for him to meet the fence at Mog’s Tavern tonight. He doesn’t think we know about his plan.”

“The fence” needs to be “a fence.”  “The” implies that you’ve already mentioned a fence and refers the reader back to him.

Finn detected a tone of satisfaction. “Mog’s Tavern? I hate that place, drunks vomiting all over.” Finn held his nose. “So you want me to take his wagon?”

I don’t like the conversation here.  That last sentence seems tacked on.  Consider adding a sentence where Aost comments on the tavern to explain the “tone of satisfaction.”

“Do whatever you have to. Just get the job done.” Aost brushed away a lock of gray hair from his wrinkled forehead and reached for his cane. “Just remember to leave him that note. And don’t get caught!” he shot Finn a scowling look.

Delete the first sentence.  Delete the second “just.”  Capitalize “he.”

“Sure thing, boss. Go take your nap now.” Finn waved his hand as he left the office.

End the paragraph here.

The heavy oak door crept shut behind him. He tucked the note into the leather pouch at his hip and set off down the hall. The floor creaked under his boots. Aost had the nails pulled up slightly for this very purpose, it warns him if someone comes. A thief thwarts a thief, Finn thought; or was it the assassins he was afraid of?

You need to vary the sentence structure in this paragraph.  Each one is subject – verb.  Make one start with an introductory phrase.  As it is, it sounds choppy.  You need a period after “purpose.”

He stepped into the cobblestone street. They were alive with merchants and shoppers.

Combine these two sentences: He stepped onto a cobblestone street alive with merchants and shoppers.

Beggars nipping at their heels for a piece of coin.

To make this a sentence, “nipping” needs to be “nipped.”  “Nipping” (the way you have it used) is a noun.  “Nipped” is a verb.

The mid-afternoon sun filtered through the dense collection of buildings. Only a few hours of daylight left and things needed to be in place for tonight. Only, Finn didn’t know what those things were. Aost had provided him nothing.

You start two consecutive sentences with “only.”

Hope this helps!

Submission for Coaching – Nicholas Beacham

It’s difficult to put your writing out there and open it up for criticism.  Nicholas Beacham took just that brave step and submitted the piece below:

“Finn, I have a job for you.” Aost smoothed the parchment in front of him. “There is a merchant in town, you might know him, Mills?”

In general, I don’t like using direct address in dialogue.  When you read it out loud, it sounds off as people rarely do it in speech.  If you keep it in sometimes, it can add a little bit of emotion.  In this instance, I’d delete “Finn.” 

I don’t like “in front of him” as it doesn’t add any setting details.  Is that as opposed to the parchment behind him?  Something like: “the parchment on the oak desk” works.

“There is a merchant in town” is a complete sentence, as is “you might know him.”  Place a period after “town” instead of the comma.  I’d also replace the comma after “him” with a period. 

“That old fart? Does he still buy from us?” Finn released his gaze from the window and looked at Aost amused.

Purely a personal preference, but try “He still buys from us?”  Do you like it better without the “does?”

“Released doesn’t sound right.  How about: Finn’s amused gaze drifted from the window to Aost.  That way, you avoid “looked,” which is a weak verb.

“He does, but he offers to low a price and we have to turn him away often.”

No!  I hate three independent clauses in a single sentence.  Break this up.

“So what’s the job then boss?” Pondering how a thief could help in the matters of fencing stolen goods.

Since you show Aost acting first in this passage, I think that most readers will assume that he’s your viewpoint character.  This is Finn speaking, and you show him thinking.  I consider this a viewpoint shift.  Such shifts are considered out of favor in modern writing techniques.

Also, your beat (another word for an action tag) is a sentence fragment.  While fragments are okay to use for emphasis, this is not an appropriate place for one.

“Finn, don’t call me boss, how long have we known each other?” Aost protested.

I still don’t like the use of the name inside the dialogue.  It works here, however, better than above if you’re trying to add that little extra hint of emotion. 

You’ve got more punctuation problems here.  You do not separate two independent clauses with a comma.  You either need a semicolon (not recommended here) or to start a new sentence.

I hate speech tags other than “said.”  “Protested,” to me, is particularly bad as it does not describe a form of speaking.

“Fine, what’s the job then… my lord” Finn said with a smirk as he fumbled with a quill on the desk.

The ellipsis does the job here, but a beat might be better. 

I hate the speech tag followed with an action.  All speech tags do is tell the reader who’s talking.  If you can delete them, do so.  In this case, writing: Finn smirked as he fumbled with… is a great action tag.

Since you’ve never told us that there’s a desk, this needs to be “a” desk instead of “the” desk.

Speaking of never telling me about a desk, I have no idea about the setting.  Are they in an office?  In the middle of the forest?  On a spaceship?  Give me something!

Aost sighed and slid the parchment across the desk. “Sources retrieved this from a messenger, give it a read.”

Same punctuation problem.

Finn picked up the note, the scribbled handwriting was hard to read but from what he could make out, it looked like it was from Mills.

You might consider something like “grabbed” or “retrieved” instead of “picked up.”  “Up” tends to be a wasted word.

New sentence after “note.”

Eliminate “was” when you can.  Describe Finn squinting or twisting the paper in an attempt to make out the handwriting instead of telling us that the writing was hard to read.

Finn knows Mills’ handwriting well enough to discern who wrote it?  This doesn’t seem credible unless Finn is a handwriting expert.

Is the break from the previous paragraph to indicate that you’re changing viewpoint characters?  If not, I don’t see the need for the line space.

“Appeared to be” is one fewer word that “looked like it was,” and it avoids that dreaded three-letter word.

Something about a big job tonight and getting back at those rotten thieves.

This is not a sentence.

Still unsure what this had to do with him, Finn tossed the parchment on the desk. “So Mills is planning something. I still don’t know what you want me to do.”

I don’t like that first phrase.  It’s telling the reader why Finn is doing something.  It’s generally considered better to describe actions and let the reader figure out the motivation.  Also, it’s redundant with the last sentence.  I’d delete it and just go: Finn tossed the parchment back onto the desk.

You can delete the “I still don’t know” in that last sentence, and it will come across as far more impactful.

“Sources tell me that Mills is asking around town for independent thieves to work on a job for him.”

I’d delete “sources tell me that.”  I think you’ve adequately established where Aost is getting his information.

Is that last part – to work on a job for him – needed?

“And you want the guild to do the job instead?” Still confused, Finn went back to staring out the window.

I think the response reads better without the “and” to start.

I’d delete the “still confused.”  Resist the Urge to Explain (RUE).

“We are the job, Finn. Mills is planning to steal from the guild. He is asking thieves to rob our storehouses.”

Consider contractions here.  It sounds a bit stilted.  “We’re” and “he’s” might help.

“Our storehouses are hidden and well guarded.

“Well guarded” should be hyphenated.

Even if he did find a thief stupid enough to try it, they wouldn’t make it past the traps.” Finn boasted. He took pride in the traps he set up for the guild.

Try “found” instead of “did find.”

I’m not sure the “it” is needed.

“A thief” doesn’t match with “they.”

“Boasted” does not work here. 

That last sentence is telling.  It’s not horrible to do so but consider whether you want it.  Delete “up” regardless.

“I don’t doubt your ability to lay a good trap.

This is three uses of “trap” in three sentences.  Try not to overuse words.  The repetition sounds really bad here.

The guild is offended by Mills’ actions and he needs to be taught a lesson.” Aost adjusted his sleeve cuff and reached for a quill. “I need you to teach him this lesson.”

This is really stilted.  Make it more personal.  Could Aost say: He offended me.  He offended the guild.  He’s offended you.  Teach him a lesson.”

The dusty red cushion of the window seat gave little support as Finn sat. “I’m not an assassin, Aost. Go talk to that guild if you want him taken care of.”

I think you can delete the entire last sentence.

“I’m not asking you to kill him” a hint of irritation in his words.

That last part isn’t a sentence, and it needs to be.

 “I’m asking you to rob Mills.” He scribbled something onto the parchment and folded it. “I want you to show that coward that he cannot cross us, that we are masters of our trade.”

Replace “he” with “Aost” so you don’t start two sentence in the paragraph with the same word.

Delete “I want you to” to tighten up that last sentence.  Get rid of the second “that.”  Consider replacing “cannot” with “can’t.”  Consider changing that last phrase to a sentence by making it something like: Everyone needs to see that we’re the masters of our trade.

He slid the parchment into an envelope and picked up the burning candle on his desk letting its crimson wax drip forming a seal.

Delete “on his desk.”  You’ve sufficiently established the desk by now.  Add a comma after “candle.”  “Form” not “forming.”

“Leave this for him when you’re done,” extending the envelope to Finn.

Again, that last needs to be a full sentence.

Sighing, Finn lifted himself from the window seat and shuffled over to the desk. “Any more details, or just rob the guy?” grabbing the envelope from Aost.

To me, it’s almost too much information to show him rising from the window seat.  I think your reader will understand that he stood if you just show him shuffle to the desk.  Regardless, delete “over.”

Same thing with that last phrase needing to be a sentence.

“He will be at Mog’s Tavern tonight. I’ve arranged for him to pick up some goods. He doesn’t seem to think we know about his plan so I sent a messenger saying to meet our fence there.” Finn detected a tone of satisfaction.

I think it would be better to combine the first two sentences.  “I’ve arranged for him to pick up goods from Mog’s Tavern tonight” is much cleaner. 

Get rid of all the weasel words in the next sentence.  “He doesn’t think we know about his plan.”  You don’t need the rest. 

You have to start a new paragraph when Finn detects the tone of satisfaction.  Aost is talking.  Because you have Finn acting, the reader’s expectation is that Finn is talking.

“Mog’s Tavern? I hate that place, drunks vomiting all over.” Finn held his nose at the thought of liquor infused stomach acid. “So you want me to take his wagon while he is doing false dealings with the fense?”

Delete “at the thought of liquor infused stomach acid.”  RUE.

Delete “while” and everything after it in the last sentence.

“Do whatever you have to, Finn, just get the job done.” Aost brushed away a lock of gray hair from his wrinkled forehead. Reaching for the cane propped against the desk, his knees shook as he stood. “Just remember to leave him that note. And don’t get caught!” he shot Finn a scowling look.

Still don’t like the use of the name inside the dialogue.

You have his knees reaching for a cane.  Watch the misplaced modifier.

“Sure thing boss, go take your nap now.”

This wants to be two sentences, I think, with a comma after “thing.”

Finn waved his hand as he stepped out of the room, the heavy oak door creeped shut behind him.

Consider replacing “out of” with “from.”  Replace “creeped” with “creeping,” or make that a new sentence with the word “crept.”

He tucked the note into the leather pouch at his hip and set off down the hallway. The floor creaked under his boots. Aost had the nails pulled up slightly for this very purpose, it warns him if someone is coming. A thief thwarting a thief, finn thought; or was it the assassins he was more afraid of?

Starting with “Aost,” this appears to work better as internal thought.  Change it to present tense, including that last part. 

You missed capitalizing “Finn.”

Overall, not a bad setup.  I think that I remember your orginal version of the opening scene that you posted on the Mythic Scribes forum.  I like this better as it doesn’t have all the plot holes.  However, what you gained in realism, you lost in action. 

Thanks for the submission.  I hope my comments help.