Sunday, June 17, 2012

Writer's Workshop - characters in a setting (2nd try)

After having got a few helpful hints about how to improve my little first scene for Honey's Writer's Workshop, I wrote two others. They are far shorter, because I have currently visitors and can't really concentrate much. 

Exercise: Place the Fully-Developed Character into a Setting

Both scenes are for "Twisted Paths" again, first we follow Alexander and then Valeria. These little pieces are not necessarily closely connected.

"Hey Alexander! Where have you been all this time? We actually had to pay for our drinks!" It was loud in the tavern, and the three men who greeted him with pats on his back had to shout. He just grinned and ordered a round for them all.
"So what have you been up to, my boy? Do you know that our chap here is getting married in a few days? His landlady, of all skirts in this godforsaken place! It seems she finally wanted some other kind of reward for doing his laundry."
Alexander let the bragging and joking from his friends wash over him. Only the familiar voices let it stand out from the rest of the noise. A nod here and a sound of surprise were enough to keep up the appearance of sufficient attention. It was unlikely they would tell him anything of interest. They were only his excuse to sit in a spot that was ideal to eavesdrop on those who might actually have some valuable information.

It is a warm and sunny day. The numerous smells in the air make Valeria's mouth water and her nose wrinkle at the same time. It has been a long time since her last visit to such a big market. For a moment, she relished the sweet aroma of fruits that were coated in chocolate. A few paces onward, the local speciality was sold: a tiny fish with a hugely revolting odour. Before it could really upset her stomach, she turned into a random direction and pushed through the crowd.
The heat made wearing a shawl or even hood too uncomfortable, and she didn't like the wide straw hats that many people wore here. Alexander had acquired two of them, but Valeria had refused to put it on. It looked ridiculous on her. Especially in contrast to the silver markings on her face. But thankfully he rarely insisted that she dressed in local styles. And luckily this coast-town was filled with a great variety of people.
Hardly anybody gave the seer a second glance as she freed herself from the busy market. Facial tattoos were not uncommon among seafarers and there were far more interesting individuals to stare at. A group of half-naked slaves, hold on a leash by a young boy. Two horses with artificial wings made from ekara feathers pulled an open carriage with some rich folk in it. And at three corners of the big place performed musicians and acrobats. Most people here probably believed they could shape their own future with skill or gold, or they would rather not know of dark times ahead and enjoy this beautiful day. Valeria could feel it. Along with her gift came the ability to sense those who sought what she could give. To her, this special sense was more like a compass to assess if somebody really wanted to know the future she saw, or how much of it.

How do you like it? Any advice what could be improved and how? I know, they might not make much sense or be a bit uninteresting, but I thought this exercise was about placing the character in a rather familiar setting - not one where there is a lot of action and important plot-moments.


  1. This is good. I like the tavern scene because a lot can go on in a place like that. There are a few things I'd change in the first paragraph however. I would delete 'had to shout' in the first sentence. You've already established the tavern as being 'loud' and used exclamation points in your dialogue. I would also delete 'who' in that sentence as well. You can also shorten the last part by simply saying Alexander ordered another round of drinks. This implies that drinks are for everyone:

    "Hey Alexander! Where have you been all this time? We actually had to pay for our drinks!" It was loud in the tavern and the three men greeted him with pats on his back. Alexander just grinned and ordered another round.

    I also like your last line. It gives the reader a glimpse into Alexander's character and maybe he is in the tavern for a different reason. But again I would condense the sentence to make it flow a bit easier: "They were only an excuse to sit and eavesdrop on others who might actually have some valuable information."

    These are just suggestions of course, you'll still have to play around with it perfect.

    The second scene is also a good one with lots of opportunity for rich detail.

    In this sentence "a tiny fish with a hugely revolting odour." I would take out 'hugely', and try describing what the odour physically does to Valeria. For example "a tiny fish that turns her stomach with its revolting odour."

    I also really liked: "Most people here probably believed they could shape their own future with skill or gold..." Again, take out the adverb 'probably' as well as 'here' and 'own' you get a stronger sentence.

    "Most people believed they could shape their future with skill or gold..."

    Just a few suggestions to take or leave. Remember I'm not an expert!! Enjoy the rest of the weekend. I still haven't gotten my scene up, hopefully I'll have some time tonight once the kids get to bed. (:

    1. You have an eagle's eyes when it comes to spot weak points in writing! How do you do that?
      On the other hand, I admit that I should have paid more attention.

      It made me very happy that you liked some of my sentences, even if they still could be improved.

      I only hope, I'll be able to follow your advice, which sounds quite expert-like to me.

  2. Elise gave some great advice. I agree with her and I saw definite improvement. I'll add that you need to watch which tense you write in- something I slip up on too.
    I think I'm going to stop the workshop for now. I'm sorry but the idea was not getting much interest for the amount of work it required.

    1. Oh my, did I really mix up the tenses again? I used to do that a lot.

      Do you really want to stop the workshop? I thought it was a great idea and loved to do your exercises. This was much better than working with a book on writing, because this way there were actually people around to give me feedback.