Open Pen is a critique opportunity that I run on this blog. It is specifically meant for teenage writers who want feedback from their peers, but anyone is welcome to submit. If you are interested in submitting or learning more about Open Pen, you can on the Open Pen page.
Today, Annalia Fiore has a very interesting albeit unsettling piece for us to critique from her presumably fantasy or dystopian novel. Annalia blogs over at Appreciating the Joy of Writing and is looking for any type of critique so long as it is honest and is “the hardest that we can give.” In short, she would like to hear exactly why we hate her excerpt. Yikes, Annalia! I hope you have prepared yourself.
Please note that this excerpt does contain some violence; however, if you have ever read the biblical book of Judges, it is still less violent that some of the stories there, so I have no problem posting it on my blog. However, if this might bother you, then you may not want to read this piece.
Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to comment on this piece. Even short, simple comments are very helpful. So please do not feel obliged to give a long, comprehensive critique.
The River Flows (Excerpt from Chapter 1) by Annalia Fiore
Me and the crowd
Saturated in a war like society, I could sing our national anthem with pride. Every year, all the citizens of Nemmule gathered together in an amphitheater that seated 450,000 people. Down below on the stage, our Ophar would stand, surrounded by twenty-five body guards and four other men, holding Nemmulen flags. I can recall his high pitched, excited voice, that grew louder and louder as his speech commenced. Every year, the speech was the same. The Ophar spoke of the strength and bravery of the Nemmulen people. One of his key points was that he had the full support of his advisors and the nobility of Nemmule. The crowd and I would agree and clap our hands with approval. No one even questioned, why the Ophar was surrounded by twenty-five body guards. After his speech, four prisoners of war or four criminals were dragged to the stage, kicking and screaming, before the Ophar. Their crime was stated, but it was always the same crime, mind you.
“These four men,” the prison ward rasped, “are traitors to the country of Nemmule, its noble citizens, and the grand Ophar himself. My lord! What shall be the punishment for these men.”
The Ophar walked around the stage for a while, and then, like every year, he abruptly stopped and looked at me and the crowd. He gave a wide smile, lifted his hands up and said, “Let the people decide! What do the citizens of Nemmule say? What shall be the punishment for these criminals?”
“Death! Death!” the crowd and I screamed.
“Death! Death!” the nobles agreed.
“Death! Death!” the prison ward would shout, and then, he would raise his hand for silence. When all was quiet, he would look at the Ophar standing in his white robes before the crowd.
“Death!” whispered the Ophar. Though many of us could not hear his answer, we all knew what it was, as it was the same answer every year. The twenty-five bodyguards began to pound the floor with the but of their swords. Then, as one body, the crowd and I rushed at the four criminals, trampling them under our feet, ramming their heads against the stone floor. The criminals had their feet and hands tied together, they could do nothing but scream and curl up into a tight ball. The crowd and I beat them until their bodies were indistinguishable, all the while chanting: “Death! Death!” The crowd’s excitement grew increasingly, and we would have torn the criminals to piece if the prison ward had not risen his hand.
“Enough!” he shouted. Our bloodthirsty eyes dimmed, and I looked down at my clenched hands and my robe that was no longer white. The Ophar walked back and forth and then said: “Good! Very good…,” he said. My father, the Ophar smiled at me and the crowd.