ASIM pre-slush workshop post #4

Here is the fourth of the submissions, continuing in no particular order. Please remember that this is the opinion of one editor. There will be others who agree, but there will also be those who disagree. In the end, it’s your call. If you appreciate what we’re doing here, please support our magazine. To coincide with the release of issue 50, we have a number of special deals. See the ASIM website.

Original text:

The Darkness

Soon enough the Xandaux would find her, but Aliciara Blackwolf would be long gone by then. She couldn’t rely on anyone, not even the one she was bound to.

Kasana sat up, oh thank the Goddess she was back in her own body. She was covered in sweat as Kasana approached the mirror, she began to unlace her corset; allowing herself to breathe.

Lozen rode hard over the plains of Pierres, her white stallion – Comare – had certainly been put through his paces.

The bells tolled as the villagers ran, news of the Matriarch’s return had spread like wildfire. Lozen was the High Priestess of the Pierres plains – villages were few and far between.

Aliciara touched the mirror, closing her eyes. She felt the Call like it was a child tugging at her arm. It would not silence itself until it was answered, and if not given what it wanted, it would return. She wanted to reach through the mirror, but using her Goddess-given abilities would draw the Xandaux nearer.

“Our Priestess returns! My Lady, how are three? Be you well? There was news of an attack on Lacruz”

The man fretted. He was the Elder of the village, and had always served each High Priestess.

“I am well Thomas, where is your wife?”
“I – she passed away” he bowed his head, “A moon ago, Fenrir has taken her to his Forests to be at peace”
“I am sorry” Lozen kissed his forehead, “She was a good wife” she sighed.

Fenrir, God of Death, had come prowling through the village. If a home bore his mark, then someone in the household would die. He only ever picked those close to death, or those on the brink.

Kasana had an affinity for night, for the Wyld.

Editor’s comment:

I tried harder than I normally would, and read this a few times, but I’m afraid I cannot make much sense of this. Let’s go through the first few paragraphs.

First paragraph: we have a character on the run and some baddies. I have no idea what Xandaux are, but am willing to wait a while to see if the next few paragraphs will enlighten me. ‘The one she was bound to’ seems redundant to me, because I didn’t know she was bound to anyone, since there hasn’t yet been anyone in the story. Also, the words ‘soon enough’ imply a precedent, and don’t suit a first sentence.

Second paragraph: a different character. I have no idea how she is related to the first character.

Third paragraph: another character, plus two more names that don’t mean anything to me yet. I have no idea how this character is related to the other two. Moreover, by now, I have lost track of any kind of setting. In the first two paragraphs, I was imagining rooms with frilly bedspreads and ladies-in-waiting, but this last paragraph doesn’t build on that picture. I’m wondering where we are. I’m lacking setting, logical connection between the characters and a POV character to follow. I don’t know why any of this is happening. This is the point where I would give up reading if this were slush.

I did read on in this case, and the jumpiness of the text did not get any better. For example, in the fourth paragraph, I found out that Lozen is female (the name sounds male to me). There is an eight name mentioned (a matriarch—who is this?). There are villagers mentioned in the same breath as it is said that villages are far in between. While all that may be true and make sense in the author’s mind, it just does not flow on the page.

This beginning needs major streamlining. Make sure one sentence leads to the next. Choose one POV character and follow that character.

Also, I notice some unattributed dialogue. Make sure it’s clear who speaks by using dialogue tags or action tags. Use correct punctuation and capitalisation (there is a post about that on this blog here because there are too many mistakes in this snippet to make me think they’re typos)

Also, I’m not a historian by any stretch of the imagination, but the name Fenrir rings a bell, so, as a pedantic editor, I googled it. I’ve found out that Fenrir is a Norse mythological figure in the shape of a wolf, but nowhere does it say anything about him being either a god, or the god of death. I think you need to be rather careful with this sort of stuff, because many, many people will be familiar with the myths, and will assume things based on that knowledge. I’d say that unless you made a good case you were representing the mythology accurately (and apologies if you are, and the sites I found were wrong), change the name.


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