A Facet for the Gem, by C.L. Murray (11:00)

IOD-FacetForGemToday we see that a fight needs to be choreographed logically and conveyed clearly, or readers may bail.

What I gleaned about the story:Mole is a stealthy loner living some sort of Lord of the Flies existence with a gang of teenage poachers, but when he decides to strike out on his own, he learns that nobody ever quits the mob.

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WTF #1: Conflicted tone

Analysis: In the opening scene, Mole is sneaking away from his gang with a load of fresh meat he hunted and that he now wants to sell in town without having to share his profits with the lazy gang leader and his cronies, who are in pursuit. They talk about Mole as they search, but their tone keeps changing. In one beat, they seem to be catcalling with disrespect, as though Mole is a barely tolerated junior member of the group. But at the same time, they are commenting on his scary ability to move silently through a herd of deer without spooking them, or sneak up on enemies until he’s close enough to kill them without waking them.

As presented, these two attitudes strike me as being incompatible. It seems as though the gang is both impressed by his abilities and dismissive of him. Those two attitudes could conceivable both work, if it was clear that the dismissiveness was bravado, masking their fear of him, or protecting their egos. But the writing does not give me confidence that this is what’s going on. It feels instead like a simple case of inconsistent voice. Sensing a disconnect, I dropped out of the story to go back and look to see what I’d missed, but found nothing.

WTF #2: Unreliable POV

Analysis: The scene begins tight in Mole’s POV, as we take in the landscape and hear the approach of the gang members. Mole’s pursuers call out taunts, which are reported to us in Mole’s POV. The taunts then segue into chatter. Mole is hiding in the nearby tall grass, so this all makes sense. Even when we see the gang members turning and moving and walking, this could all be explained by Mole watching them from secret.

But then one of the boys falls from his horse, and then another, and it is clear that Mole is now sneaking through the ranks, taking them out one by one. But that is an explicit violation of the POV. How can he suddenly be behind the boys, when we’ve been watching the scene through his eyes the entire time? Not only did the POV camera jump unexpectedly, but in doing so, it reached back in time and rendered much of what had just happened untrustworthy as well. The disconnect definitely broke my immersion.

WTF #3: Unstable choreography

Analysis: The gang of boys flush Mole out of hiding and we are told explicitly that they “were all closing in on horseback,” so all the gang members have been accounted for. After a bit of taunting and chasing, “they formed up twenty yards away,” so clearly he could see them all. And then “they came at him again in a rapid gallop, charging head-on.”

So to me, that means that all the gang members are arrayed in front of him and charging toward him in a skirmish line of some sort. Mole then uses some kind of animal command ability and orders all the horses to stop suddenly. They do, and the gang leader is injured. Some of the boys then get off their horses to pick up the leader and Mole glares at them until suddenly, “a clenched hand bashed a jagged rock against his head.”

Where did that hand come from? All the boys were accounted for, and presumably standing there in front of him. Did one of them sneak away? If so, then that undermines Mole’s reported prowess at tracking and skulking. And if nobody slipped away, then the author failed to report a crucial change in the positioning of the scene participants.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Try the free sample on one of my books or short stories and decide for yourself.

 

Pushing up the Digits, by Pascal Inard (8:12)
Colony One, by E.M. Peters (3:58)

About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is underqualified in just about everything. That’s why he writes.