Open Pen

The Morning After She Came: An Open Pen Critique

Yes, it is a Monday, and I am posting an Open Pen Critique rather than a Writing Tip. The reason is simple– I have a couple of scholarships and a summer course to finish this week (in addition to edits on my WIP and working full time) before I backpack this weekend. Yikes!

So, today– Monday– we have an excerpt from Bethia’s fantasy novel about a prince, dragon, and damsel-armed-with-a-bucket-of-water. Bethia blogs over at Reflections on Glass, so if you like this piece, you might want to check out her blog.

As for critiques, Bethia would love to hear about the content of the story. Do you understand what is happening? What is confusing, and is the story too wordy? But so long as you are honest, I think Bethia would love to hear all constructive comments. As always, even short, simple comments help. Thank you for taking the time to comment on this piece– I know the authors who submit to Open Pen love your feedback!

God bless,

Gabrielle

Open Pen is a critique opportunity  on this blog. It is specifically meant for teenage writers who want feedback from their peers, but anyone is welcome to submit, especially if you are targeting the YA audience. If you are interested in submitting or learning more about Open Pen, you can on the Open Pen page.

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The Morning After She Came by Bethia Lark

Altaio woke with a start. His face was dripping with moisture, and he didn’t think it was sweat. As he wiped the liquid out of his eyes, he saw Bethia with an empty bucket standing over him.
“It’s about time you woke up.”
“What happened?” Altaio asked as he sat up, wringing out his tunic. “Why am I on the ground?”
“I don’t know. Maybe the dragon got you.” She approached him, but Altaio shied away.
“What art thou attempting to do to me?”
“I am trying to see if the dragon injured you. I tried examining you earlier, but I didn’t think you’d appreciate it much without your consent.” She looked up. “Are you in pain?”
“Nay, I am unhurt.” Altaio stood up.
“Are you sure?” She asked doubtfully.
“Quite.”
“Then why wouldn’t you wake up?”
“But I did.”
“Yeah, after the fourth bucket I poured over you.” She pointed at the stream of water that was slowly finding its long curving way downhill.
Altaio shrugged. “I canst be a deep sleeper at times. That is why I am all alone.”
“Your family got tired of having to wake you for breakfast?” Came the sarcastic reply.
“Didst thou make breakfast?” Altaio asked hopefully.
“Yes, but not for you.” She said with a smile, and spun on her heels and walked away.
Altaio followed. “Didst thou see the dragon?” He asked as he matched her stride for stride.
Bethia stopped in the middle of the hallway. “Yes, I saw it.” She had grown strangely quiet.
“What didst it look like?”
“It was golden, large, and breathed fire.”
“Was it the dragon that brought thee hence?”
“Yes, the very same.” Bethia let out her breath quickly. “Prince Altaio, tell me now; why did your family leave you here alone?”
“They couldst not find me. This I hath already told thee.”
“Yes, but why did they leave?” Bethia was growing more impatient.
So was Altaio. “Dost thou not use thy head in the morning? They left for fear of the dragon.”
“Then why don’t you leave?”
“I fear not the dragon.” Altaio crossed his arms. “Why dost thou question me thusly?”
“Because I have to know something. Are you the dragon?”
Altaio was a bit taken aback at this question. “Why wouldst thou think that I was the dragon?”
Bethia lifted her hand and started counting on her fingers. “One, you have never seen the dragon. Two, you disappear as long as the dragon is here. Three, the dragon disappears shortly before you reappear and it reappears shortly after you disappear. Doesn’t that look suspicious to you?”
Altaio moved Bethia’s fingers out of his face coldly. “Then thou art supposing that I was the one who kidnapped thee from thy country?”
“Yes! That’s exactly what I was thinking, so somewhere in the back of your brain, you know where I come from.”
“And thou dost think that I can retrieve this memory, carry thee back to thy native land, all so that thou canst marry thy gentleman?” Altaio asked angrily.
“Yes. Maybe if you met him, some of his good behavior would rub off on you.” She huffed.
“Is he a prince?” Altaio shot back.
“You know he isn’t.”
“Then I shouldst rather not meet him that I might not retain his undoubtedly uncouth manner.”
“And your manners aren’t?” Bethia said in disgust, marching onwards.
Altaio didn’t follow her. Breakfast was the farthest thing from his mind right then.
So, he was the dragon? The thought had played about in his mind for years now, but nothing confirmed it. He never saw nor felt the transformation. A second person thinking about it just made it seem all the more concrete. Also, it didn’t really matter before. Now he had another person to think about.
Altaio decided to assume for now that he was indeed the dragon. His first thought after this was how great he was now. Not only was he a prince of one of the greatest kingdoms in Eyleb, but he was also one of the most rare and feared beasts on the island. He would be respected wherever he went.
But the other thought bugged him. It was a tiny part really, nagging at him from the back of his mind. A part that said that this is what his heart really looked like, and it wasn’t right. But he silenced the nagging with the possibility of taming the dragon, now that he was pretty sure it was him, and bringing it under his control.
Altaio’s stomach growled. Breakfast had come back in full fury. He headed to the kitchen, wondering if Bethia had left any for him.
“Probably not.” He thought grumpily.
Sure enough, the pot was clean. She had even washed the dishes so that he couldn’t scrape out any leftovers. Little she knew about him. He would never deign to scrape for leftovers.
He grabbed some salted pork from the pantry, noting that his preserved meat stores were dwindling. He pulled out a skillet and started frying his breakfast up. As he was setting his place, he noticed a basket of freshly baked rolls sitting on the table. He looked around, and when he saw no one, he took one, stuffing half of it in his mouth.
“Aha!” Bethia cried as she came from behind a pillar. “I knew you’d take one.”
“And what wouldst be the issue of my taking these freshly baked goods?” Altaio mumbled out, barely capable of being understood with his mouth full of roll. He swallowed, then added, “Thou didst bake them using my flour, not thine, if I art not mistaken.”
“You’re not.” Bethia took the remaining half from Altaio’s hand right as he was about to stuff it into his mouth. “I did half the work, so I get half the product.” She opened her mouth wide and in went the roll. “It’s fair, really.”
Altaio huffed in disgust.
Bethia mumbled something else, but Altaio couldn’t quite catch it.
Hastily swallowing and almost choking on the bread, she pointed to the stove and repeated, “Your breakfast is burning.”
As Altaio hurried to put out the flames, he heard Bethia chuckling behind his back. She would regret that, he thought.

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6 thoughts on “The Morning After She Came: An Open Pen Critique”

  1. I enjoyed this, it was cool. But I would like to point out one thing…Altaio’s method of speech is very incorrect. I understand that you are giving him a very formal, medieval style of speech, but it sounds wrong. Reread this out loud, and see if you can fix the errors. I would suggest studying the medieval way of speech a little, so it doesn’t sound too wooden and slightly comical.
    Otherwise, I am intrigued by this story. Dragons are wonderful creatures. 🙂

    Like

  2. Thanks for this. I know it is not quite right, and I’ve tried reading the KJV Bible since it has a similar feel, but I haven’t quite got the knack of it. I was kind of hoping someone would point it out and give me some pointers. This is my first novel based in the medieval time period, and so have very little idea of how to write it. So, thank you, I will certainly research this, though I think I might try to finish the first draft first before I worry too much about the language. And yeah, I like dragons too.

    ~Bethia

    Like

  3. I’m gonna second Araenceana’s comment about the speech. I haven’t studied it, but I do know it’s not right. Besides, it clashes with Bethia’s modern style, along with the informal narrative saying things like “it bugged him.” I’d suggest either (a) doing in-depth linguistic research into the speech of the time period and correct not only Altaio’s speech but Bethia’s as well (peasants spoke very differently then too), or (b) simply marking Altaio as a noble by using extremely correct but more modern usage. Exit the thee’s and thou’s, enter the whom’s. (And make sure you use THOSE correctly.) You could further distinguish Bethia in this case by having her make common grammatical errors (that for who, dangling prepositions, etc.) and by giving her loose, causal sentences while Altaio’s sound like they could feature in an essay. As it stands, her modern speech contrasted with his antiquated speech is comical and off-putting.

    I like your premise, but I think Altaio should be much more reluctant to admit that he’s the dragon. Or, you should play up his pride a lot more. In that case I don’t see why he ever would have rejected the idea in the first place. He might be proud of his dragon-hood, but other people just think he’s crazy. Maybe that’s why his family abandoned him. Bethia’s like “you’re a dragon” and he’s just like “WELL IT’S ABOUT TIME”

    (or “WELL THE TIME HAST JUSTLY OCCURRED” or something like that; I dunno.)

    Anyway, interesting story!

    Like

  4. Thanks Faith, but Bethia is modern, and not from the medieval time period at all. She was taken through space and time by the dragon, and that is why it seems wrong. She has correct grammar because she grew up in a modern home and was private schooled. I think her mother might even be a grammar fanatic. I don’t know. Just know that Altaio and Bethia are from different worlds and time periods, and so they will naturally speak differently. But I will definitely look up how to write the medieval speech correctly.
    I didn’t think about the admitting he was the dragon part very much. Thanks for pointing this out. I will make note of this and bring out his pride a bit more in the next edit.

    ~Bethia

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  5. Hi, Bethia!

    Good job with having a rising conflict through out your chapter. Authors say that you should have a conflict for each chapter, and you accomplished that.

    I would have to agree with the others, the Shakespear stylized speech patterns were a bit forced and slightly cheesy. 😉 I would also work on distinguishing the voices of your characters.

    However, other than that it was good!

    – Annalia Fiore

    Like

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