Shadows Rise Ch 01 (Very Drafty Draft)
Okay, some of you guys expressed interest in my stuff, so I decided to post the first draft of my 1st chapter here. This is still very bare bones, but it's the chapter I think is closest to what I want the final work to be. This is going to be released online, so I'm aiming for short chapters, which... I've never done before, so I'm a bit worried about pacing and things like that.
Eh... And now I feel I'm stalling this because I'm nervous. Meh. lol
[City of Blackpond, Lacus 25th, 2 hours until Midnight]
A razor sharp wind swept across Blackpond. It whirled through the torchlit streets and extinguished several flames, causing exasperation on the already strained city guard; now also tasked with rekindling the street lights on top of their usual duties. Kyle Rivers snorted, watching as a guard strolled past one such unlit torch without giving it a sideways glance. If there was ever one constant in the glorious City of War, it was the ineffectiveness of its city guard.
If that guardsman had paid attention; or bothered to relight that torch, he might have found something suspicious in the thirteen-year-old leaning against the outer walls of a closed down bakery. Kyle’s form was partially concealing a half-opened ventilation grate on the side of the building and the boy was nearly dancing in place, trying to fight away the cold air penetrating his thin layers of clothing.
Inside the baker's shop, another thirteen-year-old had been busy in search of something specific, albeit with no success. Now Sebastian's quest was for anything that could possibly be of use to him and his brother. The boy had meticulously searched the front of the shop, the storage room, the kitchen, there was nothing there he could make use of or take. After a moment of hesitation, Sebastian decided to not leave empty handed until he exhausted all possibilities. With slow and steady steps, he made his way to the second floor of the building.
The upper floor had almost just as little to offer, the boy searching the small office and finding nothing more than a table full of financial documents. The little he could make out of them in the dark; for what he could understand, told him business wasn’t going great lately.
The last place to search was the master bedroom and, while hesitant to do so, Sebastian slowly cracked the door open and spotted a large man collapsed in his bed. There were empty bottles all over the floor, some of them dusty like they’d been lying there for days. It took a little bit of finesse to navigate the littered floor without making a sound, but Sebastian managed. The first thing he noticed was the man’s coin purse laying partially open on his bedside table; a few silver coins catching the moonlight coming from the window. For a moment, he almost reached out for it, but eventually turned away, instead grabbing a cloak hanging from a hook behind the door. It smelled of cigarettes and liquor, but it was warmer than anything the boys currently owned. It was also three times Sebastian’s size, which immediately posed a problem when the boy moved. The cloak dragged behind him, sweeping several empty bottles across the floor. Sebastian froze in place as the bottles rolled noisily through the wooden surface, knocking against several other bottles and causing even more of a ruckus. He turned to the bed and the man was now wide awake and glaring daggers right into him. “Shit.”
"Come on, Seb... Hurry, before I freeze to death," Kyle muttered, his breath coming out in small puffs of condensation. At first, he'd been amused at his twin's idea to go on a search for birthday cake, but now this was turning out to be more trouble than it was worth. This was the third bakery they had broken into that night and for the time it was taking Sebastian to come out, Kyle doubted he had gotten anything good.
Kyle stepped away from the grate, peering around the corner of the building into the dark streets. There was no light coming from any houses, no voices, footsteps, not even the pitter-patter of scurrying rats. It was like that almost every night in Blackpond, as though all life completely drained from the city along with the last rays of sunlight. There was one place in the area still alive after hours, though. It was further down the road, but Kyle could almost see it from his spot in the shadows. From that distance, the Inn was just squares of orange light coming from the front windows, shining in the darkness ahead. “I bet it’s nice and cozy in there too,” he muttered under his breath.
Whatever thoughts Kyle was having about warmth were abruptly cut short by a loud crash coming from within the bakery. He rushed back next to the grate, but it became instantly clear to him his twin brother wouldn't be coming through it.
"Oh, for Twins' sake, Seb!" he exclaimed in a rushed whisper.
Sebastian was climbing out of the building's second story window, an oversized cloak hanging from his shoulders and a large glass bottle dangling from his left hand. "Catch!" he called out, dangling the bottle over Kyle's head and releasing it.
Kyle caught the bottle in his arms, almost sinking under the unexpected weight of the object. Sebastian was now gripping the windowsill and hanging over Kyle's head himself, more noise coming from inside the building causing him to abruptly let go and land on the stone paved street with an uncomfortable 'thud' and a pained grunt. "We have to run now," he warned.
"What did you d-..."
Before Kyle could finish his question a large man poked his head out the window, eyes wide with rage. "Thieves! I'll kill you!", he shouted.
"Now. We need to run right now," Sebastian said, grabbing Kyle's arm and pulling him into the streets as the man's angered shouting still resonated within the walls of the bakery.
The twins were only a few steps away from the building when the door flung open with a 'bang', the angered man rushing out of the bakery brandishing a heavy rolling pin as though it was a weapon. This caused the boys to quicken their step even more and they soon lost the man in the city alleyways.
"What... The... Hell..." Kyle breathed as they finally stopped to catch their breaths.
"I couldn't find any cake." Sebastian grinned. "So I decided I'd just take whatever came in handy."
"A giant cloak and... What is this?" Kyle hoisted the glass bottle up with some difficulty and tried to sniff its contents.
"Liquor," Sebastian answered with a small shrug, removing the cloak from around his shoulders and wrapping his brother in it. "Here, you're turning blue."
"Liquor?" Kyle repeated, pushing the heavy bottle on Sebastian and rolling his shoulders to ease his muscles. The thing was sure heavy. "I don't know, Seb."
"We're thirteen now, I reckon is about time we have a taste. It's like a rite of passage, isn't it? We're practically men now."
Kyle snorted a chuckle. "I don't know about that," he mumbled as they continued on, now in a more relaxed pace.
"We're going to need to find a new hiding spot soon, it's been two weeks now," Sebastian pointed out, changing the subject. "If the Guard catches us this time I don't think they'll just drop us back at the orphanage."
"We could join a group. Some of them are not so bad. That kid, what was his name, Thorin? His crew seemed okay."
Sebastian shrugged as they approached an abandoned building and slinked their way in through a gap in the back wall. "Taking what we need is one thing, but..."
"We have to do what we have to do, Seb," Kyle insisted. "If we are to survive here, we have to stop thinking of 'right and wrong' the way we were taught. I mean..." He sighed. "It's been almost a year and our options haven't changed; we either go back and sit in that orphanage until we're old enough to be shipped to the military or we find a way to live."
Sebastian shrugged once again. Their current place of residence was far from what anyone would call 'living'. The building was beyond saving, the very walls were rotting where they stood, it smelled of mold and dead rats most of the time and was now empty of anything useful. Even the furniture they had originally found within the house had been mostly burnt in the first few weeks of Winter; only a few broken chair legs left, waiting in the unlit fireplace. Sebastian dropped the bottle of liquor in a mess of dusty blankets at a short distance from said fireplace, silently searching his pockets for a tin of matches to light the kindling with.
"You know what would be great? If you, oh, I don't know, actually take part in this conversation. Just once," Kyle complained.
"You don't want to hear what I have to say." Sebastian's answer was distant like he was speaking of something that had already been decided for them both.
Kyle groaned under his breath, sitting down in the pile of blankets and watching his twin brother work to light the fireplace, his back turned as though the conversation was already over. "You know I hate it when you do that. Just say it; whatever it is, and if I don't like it, then I don't like it! Don't have conversations with yourself, in your damned head, and act like I had a say in it."
"We should leave the city," Sebastian said, his tone still distant. "I don't think anything we do here will ever be anything more than just staying alive for the sake of it. There is no life for us in Blackpond."
It was now Kyle's turn to be silent, his gaze darkening as he stared at the now lit flames burning the last remains of what used to be someone else's home. "We can't do that," he stated, his voice flat.
Sebastian snorted through his nose as he joined his brother in the pile of blankets. "The White Shadows would take us in a heartbeat, or the Crimson way up in the desert."
"This is our home, Sebastian. I don't... We're not leaving."
Sebastian heaved a weary sigh and stood. "I'm going to see if I can find some cups in the kitchen somewhere," he declared, wanting to end the conversation there.
Kyle, on the other hand, wasn't done talking. "You could honestly do that? Just leave this place, forget everything that happened?"
"I have better memories of our sister than her death. Is it so wrong for me to want to cling to that instead?" Sebastian muttered as he stepped into the kitchen, raising his voice so that Kyle could still hear him. "Kat did everything for us, Kyle. Seeing us barely scraping by like this, you still clinging to that place the way you are, she would've..." He paused for a second and sighed. "What are we really doing to her memory if we don't amount to anything?"
Sebastian walked back from the kitchen holding two slightly rusted metal cups. He sat down in the pile of blankets, grabbing one and wrapping it around himself. "Here," he pushed one of the empty cups to his brother. "Happy birthday."
"For me, really? Wow, thanks," Kyle spoke in an unenthusiastic mumble.
Sebastian snorted a laugh. "You should be thankful. The baker said he was going to shove that rolling pin up my bumhole if he caught me."
"That would have been an entirely different rite of passage," Kyle chuckled, removing the cork from the large bottle and pouring some of its contents on each cup. "There we go, little brother, happy birthday to us!"
So yeah, this is just a character introduction, basically, but... tell me what you think and stuff.
I sympathize with Kyle on that cold 10000000% because I was outside for most of tonight (and parts of last night) and it was freezing WITH warm-ish clothes. By the time I got in the car to go home my fingers were so numb it hurt to use them D: (I'm still shivering tbh. Tomorrow I'm snuggling up in a blanket cave and not coming out.)
If there was ever one constant in the glorious City of War, it was the ineffectiveness of its city guard.
I love irony. And "City of War" implies enough strife that the city guard should be at least a bit effective in their work, regardless of whether the title was earned from a war with a neighboring state or a war on crime within the city. Even if it's something gained from some part of its history, it suggests that they might have a heritage of being effectual. In any case, whether it was meant to be or not, it just struck me as very ironic and I loved it :D
I like that I'm starting to see their motives. They don't want to be separated from each other, but they both know that they can't keep living like they are. It's nice to already be able to see how each one thinks they'll be able to make a life, even if they imagine such totally different paths for themselves, in just this short scene. The reasons for the paths they imagine was also made clear. I'm terrible at that myself, so I just want to give many many kudos! ^_^
Just one last thing, I love the POV; I think partially because it reminds me of one of my stories. Omni is so much fun, if a bit tricky. Oh, wait, I lied. Actual last thing: It being 2 hours to midnight is important, right? Just want to make sure that something... eventful is happening at midnight and it's not just there to mislead me :D
As a personal opinion
Sebastian heaved a weary sigh and stood. "I'm going to see if I can find some cups in the kitchen somewhere," he declared, wanting to end the conversation there.
I think the end (I bolded it) is repetitive and you can remove it. Everything before it already implies that he doesn't want to keep discussing it, imo.
And I might have more thoughts tomorrow; we'll see. Overall, I really enjoyed it and I'm glad you shared!! ^_^
@typical_demigod Blackpond is called the City of War because it was founded by War Himself. So yes, the irony is very much intentional. I'm glad it came through how I wanted. :D
All chapters are dated and time stamped, but I time stamped this '2 hours until midnight' mostly because it's the last two hours they have to celebrate their birthday.
And I see how that part's a bit redundant. Thanks for pointing it out. ^^
Before I got into giving my thoughts and comments on this, I have a question for you. When I read draft work, I can put on different hats. So pick the ones you want me to use! :) <3
I ignore all grammar and focus on the character's development. I have a list of about 15 questions I ask myself and answer at the end of each chapter:
- What are my initial thoughts and reactions after reading this chapter?
- What was my favourite part and why?
- What was my least favourite part and why?
- What are my thoughts on the protagonist
- What are my opinions of every character in the scene (big and non big, named and not named)?
- Where there any parts that were confusing or unclear?
- On a scale of 1 - 10 how much did I enjoy the chapter?
- On a scale of 1 - 10 how eager am I read to the next chapter?
- Do I have any predictions?
- Am I interested reading the next scene?
- Are there any questions the author wants me to dig into (examples from my past "Does the magic use make sense here?")
This is the hat where I focus upon flow, grammar, spacing, plot, etc. I am the audience, I want to be entertained darnit! :) I may answer some of the questions above, but in general I approach it like I have bought the book.
Editor of Dewm
I pull out my pink sparkly pen of editing dewm and go to town in a way that might be seen like an evil English teacher who has a fondness for sparkles. I can only do this if I have read the story at least once in it's current entirety. This allows me to dig into serious plot holes, point out excessive uses of descriptions (my fav is a friend of mine had described three different times someone's unique ability, reminded them that once was enough... unless the detail was revealed slowly, or something). Basically my goal is to trim it down to eager nomnom pieces for the public, but I am known for being insanely thorough as I can point out when foreshadowing happens, or when it could benefit a story as well.
I literally just read it for fun, ignore grammar, plot holes, anything else that stands out to me, and just let myself get lost in what is presented to me
PS. YESH! I have begged, and now you have presented it to me :D
@Josey O_O feels like a kid in a toy store
Lol, uhm... Beta Reader, please. ^^'
Since I'm still on a writing stage for this and I tend to get really, REALLY, paranoid about grammar and things like that, right now that's something I'd like to stray from, but I do want to know how well I did with the story so far, though, especially since I'm not used to writing such short chapters.
Like with your 'Waiting for Spring' piece, I think you have a really natural, wonderful way with description, and because I love your description I don't feel there's ENOUGH of it! More description! You said that you struggle with how much to give last time, but I think it's really beautiful the way you write it and you're in no danger supplying more. I loved the scene-setting of the gradually lit torches and the silver coins catching the moonlight and the squares of orange lights that made up the hazy image of the inn. But I felt like it needed even more - Blackpond has such a hint of personality but I want to hear even more about it.
And your character surprised me which is always a good thing. Sebastian kind of grates at first - it seems like he's not listening and plying his reluctant friend with alcohol and just generally being a bit irritating. But then he reveals a bit of depth - that he has actually been thinking about the future and seems to even reveal a brief glimpse of ... not hopelessness, but a kind of disappointment with life maybe? That he doesn't expect much from things? And Kyle feels like the one we sympathise with, the optimist to lead us through the story. I liked them both and I wasn't expecting to : )
@Sian Thank you for your thoughts!
I'll definitely work on adding more description in the next draft. I do want to paint a clearer picture of Blackpond and while I plan to give the city a more thorough introduction in future chapters, it definitely could use a bit more now.
Blackpond, for some reason, is one of my favorite places in Valcrest. Every time I decide to practice description or setting scenes I end up writing something there. :P
I'm really happy with your impressions of Seb and Kyle. I wanted to show right away the difference in how they cope with their losses and life situation. Sebastian needs to be looking forward in order to cope. Even if things are crap now, as long as it eventually leads to something else; anything else, he'll be okay. And because Kyle can't do that; he needs to cling to the present and suffer through it before he can even consider something else, Seb feels trapped in a hopeless situation. He's not going to leave his brother, so he feels he just doesn't have a choice. :/
@Blackbird Okies! That takes a little bit more time, but I shall get back to you in the next day or so! :D
Incoming wall of beta reader text! If you have any questions about any of my comments, just ask. Note, as requested, I totally ignored grammar and focused on the characters.
What are my initial thoughts and reactions after reading this chapter?
This is not Earth! When I started reading, I had no idea what genre, or setting, or anything about anything (ignore the RRA thread :P). What became immediately clear is this Blackpond is a cold, desolate place where people just exist, and there is a lot of neglect on the part of the inhabitants. There are many threads and many untold stories being slowly revealed in this chapter, and it makes me eager to see what is coming.
What was my favourite part and why?
My favourite part was Kyle's statement, "You know I hate it when you do that. Just say it; whatever it is, and if I don't like it, then I don't like it! Don't have conversations with yourself, in your damned head, and act like I had a say in it."
I am married to a twin, and I have seen every trope possible, and been the subject of all kinds of stupid questions like, "If you find your husband hot don't you find his brother hot?" ... eyeroll What this entire conversation shows is that while they are twins they think very differently which is how twins really work! This one statement made me cheer for Kyle and narrow my eyes at Sebastian.
What was my least favourite part and why?
This is always a hard questions, but let me preface this by saying just because it is my least favourite doesn't mean it's not a good direction to take your story. In this chapter, their running away from the Sleeping Man happened too fast for me. It didn't get my heart racing, or make me worry about them being caught. There may be guards ignoring street lights, but maybe having them run across one, or maybe having a moment or two where they are almost caught. Maybe have the huge cloak get caught on something in the scenery. I wanted to feel scared for the brothers in this moment, but it just happened a bit too fast for me. I know you're trying short chapters, and there is nothing wrong with it, but I almost feel that the chapter should have been more about the escape, and the next chapter about their coming down from the threat of capture.
What are my thoughts on the protagonist(s)
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Kyle and Sebastian Rivers are the protagonists! I say go out on a limb because some stories start with characters that are NOT the protagonists, or they have characters but it is up to the audience to decide what is the protagonist. But I love the brother's and their loyalty to each other. I also love that they each seem to have different personalities (something I mentioned above!)
What are my opinions of every character in the scene (big and non big, named and not named)?
- City Guard: I wonder if he was ignoring the street light lighting because something else was going on and he was in a rush to get there. I also would have loved a bit of a description about him/her because it would help me better visualise what type of city this is. Did the guard make clanking noises due to armor? Did they blend in with the darkness due to a cloak? Did they have a lamp which only enhanced the fog? etc. :)
- Kyle Rivers: Adooorable. Disillusioned. On the cusp of being innocent but also almost utterly devoid of innocence as well. Adventurous!
- Sebastian Rivers: Soo loyal! Also so eager to hold onto the familair. Also, not quite the sharpest knife in the drawer, lol. If the cloak is big, it will get in the way!! :P I can't wait to see where his morals lie as he knew the bakery was failing, but he still stole something!
- Sleeping Man: Drunk, but not enough of anything to have any opinion about his personality. I don't even think he matters. I doubt he saw them clearly, what with the lights out, and I doubt he will come back to bother them in the future.
- White Shadows and Crimson: ...ooo are these groups? Species? An individual who is notorious?!
- Kat: ZoMG what happened?! I need to know!
Where there any parts that were confusing or unclear?
When I read, I stop seeing words. I tend to see what is being presented to me. So the only way I can explain what is confusing or unclear is to state that the world and the individuals you introduced all came across as grey and grainy. I would love to see more descriptions, and even have some smells tossed in. Did the liquor smell make Seb's nose scrunch up as its smell assaulted him after spending so much time in the bakery? Was the cloak a garish shade of mustard yellow? Something that made it even harder for them to escape?
On a scale of 1 - 10 how much did I enjoy the chapter?
Right now it's more a six or seven simply because it's hard to picture many things. You add a few senses into that mix, and I have a feeling it will go right up a bajillianty!
On a scale of 1 - 10 how eager am I read to the next chapter?
30 million percent? that's on the scale right?
Do I have any predictions?
These may be right, or wrong but based on what foreshadowing I think I picked up: I believe they are going to leave the city, and go on an adventure! I also think they might both end up going separate ways .. one towards the Crimson, one towards the White Shadows!
Am I interested reading the next scene?
Yes please! Get to work!!
Hit me up for any more questions about this chapter if you so wish
@Josey This was extremely helpful. I don't even know how to express how much.
It also makes me really happy because, without a doubt, my favorite part of having people read my work is when they pick up on details so small I was pretty much putting them there just for myself. Some of my friends are incredibly good at this. And that line of dialogue you liked was actually one of a few things put in there for very specific reasons. :)
I just gotta get my butt moving now and finish this first episode so I can start going back and making revisions.
@Blackbird I'm glad it helped. The first chapter is usually the smallest amount of "beta" reader information. Once I get to know characters I can say things like "erm, why did they do that, it seems like it came out of left field" or .."Ooo oo what if they did this!!" :)
Made some of your feedback into little comments on my Google doc. That's my digital equivalent of a post-it.
And added some of my own...
I am a total dork. >.>