I think, for the most part, it is written well. It just needs a few points to be tightened up and changed around and such, but certainly nothing excessive.
At 7/11/10 03:05 AM, sinfulwolf wrote:
The following is the end segment of chapter 8 of my story. A bit of a ways in, but I felt it somewhat weak. It may be weird looking at it, as it refers to events that happen prior to this particular segment, but I'm interested to see what I could do to revise this.
Alan walked carefully amongst the dead, holding his sword tightly in his fist.
Be careful of using too many adjectives when you write. Usually you can create the effect of an adjective through a motion or through concrete detail. 'Carefully' and 'tightly' feel too close to eachother and thus, decorate the sentence with unnecessary clutter that slows the reading down. Also, "Holding in his fist" is redundant. If he's holding a sword, the first place we assume he's holding it is in his fist. Perhaps he clenches his sword instead?
His helmet lay abandoned somewhere in the sand as he shuffled amongst the mutilated corpses, all of them wearing the uniform of the Lionheart.
I like the imagery here, although I feel like you're holding back. He's discarded his helmet under what I assume is a highly emotional turning point for this character. It would be great if we could share this experience with this character, as I felt quite distanced reading him shuffle along like the corpses were the overgrown weeds in his front garden. Unless that was what you were going for. ;)
There were no others, none of Du Lac's men, no Saracens. Even most of the column was missing rather than laying desecrated in the desert.
Plot stuff, maybe a finicky grammatical inclusion of a comma between missing and rather, to break the sentence up. Good.
Curtis bent by each body, trying to see if any still lived, despite the very obvious state of death.
This sentence reads quite clunky. Especially the very obvious state of death. It needs rephrasing. Something that works both to inform the reader that he's going around looking for survivors, and that he feels like it's a pointless task. Since it's reading like third person limited narration and it may feel out of place to say "he doubted there were any survivors" or something along those lines, you could probably evoke that feeling from his body language.
The scout commander took daggers and swords from the fallen, strapping them to the horse that followed him obediently.
I don't know if you mention the obedient horse earlier, but if not, it's teetering on the edge of a light deus-ex machina. Basically, it feels like the obedient horse was tacked on the end of the sentence as a convenient place for the scout commander to store the weapons. All you really need to do is rephrase the sentence to make the horse less of a convenience and more part of the story (inclusion earlier in the narrative would help, but, yeah, excarpt, I'll shh). That and "took". I don't really like that word here. I think it's because there's no movement, and it feels like the fallen are just getting up and handing him their weapons. Maybe if you mention something about him wandering the area and collecting their weapons maybe?
"My God," Alan muttered, eyes flicking from one torn body to the next, and finally settled on a spear driven into the ground, Garret's head impaled on the blade, blood running down the shaft.
A powerful image, although there's some hesitancy with tenses. His "eyes flicking" clashes with "finally settled". It should either be "eyes flicked" or "finally settling". I do this all the time with my tenses, pain in the ass. You may also want to spend more time extrapolating upon this image and evoke more of a reaction from the reader through it.
A buzzard had already landed on the knight's head and was picking at his eye.
If it landed before they noticed, I don't think you should mention it landing. A buzzard sitting on his head. Otherwise, the act of landing on the head should ellicit a defensive response from Allan immediately.
"Get away from him," Alan yelled swinging his sword at the vulture. The bird let out a squawk and took off into the air, circling above the massacre with his fellow carrion eaters.
"Yelled, swinging" - grammar. "The vulture. The bird". Two differeint images of the same object so close together creates confusion. And the word "with" sticks out for me here. Maybe "to join" would be better, or "massacre, his fellow carrion eaters calling and jeering at the knights." Something to ellicit another image from the circling vultures, perhaps.
Falling to his knees, sword falling from his hands, Alan pounded on the ground, sorrow and rage clashing within him.
Falling-falling, too close together. Pounding the ground, sorrow, rage, you know, the complete emotional package. It feels like quite a generic image here. I'd try focussing on something specific, like the way his chainmail (if he's wearing chainmail, just using an example here) tugs at his neck and makes his throat dry. Something specific to the character that draws the emotion out of him in a way that moves the reader.
Before him, the decapitated body of another friend was slumped against the spear. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and looking up, saw Salaam standing above him.
"Another friend" is a less powerful image than the guy on the spear with the name. Try to keep it specific, else you'll lose the power and intensity from the moment.
"Now is not the time to grieve. Now is the time to take up arms and destroy the evil which is doing this to both your people and mine," the Saracen warrior said calmly.
Get rid of "calmly", unnecessary adjective, yadda yadda yadda. I know it probably suits your genre, but try not to sound too generic with your dialogue. "We must be strong and fight evil" is just meaningless dialogue without some concrete ideas supporting it. The warrior is talking about alliances and refusing to give in when times are tough, so he really needs to get through to this poor, broken man on the ground and inspire him.
He moved to stand before the desecrated body of Garret, blocking it from Alan's view, and held out his hand.
"Moved to stand" sounds a bit clumsy. "He stepped across to block Alan's view of Garret" reads a bit smoother. It's better for readers if you can say what you want to say in as few words as possible.
Alan clasped it firmly, letting this man who should have been his sworn enemy, help him to his feet.
"this man, who should have been his sworn enemy," or "this man- who should have been his sworn enemy-" grammar.
"Together then," Alan said, pulling back his shoulders and not releasing Salaam's hand.
"Together, then," grammar.
Then he did something and also not-did something. The opposite of not releasing something is holding onto something. Could use rephrasing.
"Together, we shall fight the true holy war," the Saracen said.
I hope this helped. Not specifically with the sample you posted here, but also with your editing process with the rest of the story.