Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Writing Sample: Take 2

Ok, after getting some good feedback, I went in and rewrote some of the weaker portions of the previous writing sample. Below is the result. Again, honest critiques are appreciated.


Agenor wasn’t a particularly strong youth. At least not among the orclings he lived with. He was a “halfbreed”, born from a union between an orc and a human. It was not a loving union. His mother had been a human slave. But when she died giving birth to Agenor, his father, a proud warrior named Jukar, had dismissed the baby almost entirely. Subsequently, Agenor had been taken in by Issin, an old crone and former midwife of the village. She was respected, yet not overly so. Her taking in of Agenor had been accepted as it seemed to get the boy out of the way, as well as keep the mouthy crone quiet by giving her something to do.

For all of his past fifteen years, Agenor had suffered indignations at every turn. It had become a way of life for him, and he had found little ways to cope. He made a few friends, but no one willing to stand up for him. Consequently, he had been in many fights. Usually on the losing end, but occasionally getting in a good hit or two. In recent years the fights and harassment had slacked off. These days, when he found himself in a situation, it was usually serious, and he was in for a beating. So, when Agenor ran afoul of Ishnakk and his cronies, he knew what to expect.

Orcs have a tendency to settle disputes with their fists as children. Later in life they use weapons, but the principle remains the same. Beat your opponent until you win the argument. And that is just what Ishnakk was proceeding to do to Agenor, despite the fact that the offense for which Agenor was being blamed was obviously contrived. However, that didn’t matter to anyone but Agenor. And even he knew it would be useless to argue the point. He either needed to take his beating, or to fight back.

This fight was proving to be just like every other one. He had gotten in a couple of punches, but Ishnakk, who was much larger than Agenor, seemed unaffected. His lip was split, but beyond that, the halfbreed hadn’t left any noticeable mark. This thought occurred to Agenor as he sat on the ground, the result a particularly nasty blow he had just taken in the mouth. But this time, this realization that he was ineffectual caused something to snap in his mind.

His brain seemed to burn behind his eyes. He had heard tales of the berserker rage. How the vision swam in red, and the chest heaved and burned with anger. And he did feel something like this. But there was something more. Something that went beyond blind rage, as if he was tapping into a well of power he never knew existed. And it felt euphoric.

Ignoring the blood trickling from his split lip, and surged up with a roar. This caught all of the gathered orclings by surprise, especially Ishnakk, who did nothing to avoid the savage punch that Agenor landed on the orcling’s nose.

The halfbreed had felt the punch come from his toes. He used the leverage of his upward momentum to bring his right fist up with as much force as his body could muster. Though a product of pure instinct, and perhaps a little luck, it was a masterful punch, worthy of the most seasoned brawler. As it connected, Agenor’s feet were firmly planted on the ground, his body balanced, and the muscles in his arm uncoiling like a spring. There was a sickening crack as Ishnakk’s stunted nose caved beneath the blow, and his head was snapped back with a fount of blood spraying into the air. Ishnakk staggered back a step, and sensing the advantage, Agenor stepped forward and threw another punch with his left fist. This one landed just to the side of the broken nose, and the halfbreed felt a pang as his knuckles connected with the heavy cheekbone of the orcling. But he didn’t relent. Even as Ishnakk tried to regain his bearings, Agenor continued to throw punches to the face and head of his enemy. He no longer felt fear, nor was he conscious of his surroundings. All he saw was Ishnakk’s bloodied face, and all he felt was the urge to destroy it. And, when the orcling fell backwards to the ground, Agenor was on his chest, raining punches down like hammer blows onto Ishnakk’s pulped face.

After a few moments of this, Agenor began to tire, and the power of his rage began to wane. His blows were less powerful, and landing with much less speed. But the damage was done. Holding his bloodied fists before him, he looked at the remains of Ishnakk’s face. Both eyes were swollen shut, a tooth had been knocked out, and his nose was smashed and bleeding profusely. But, most importantly, Ishnakk was unconscious. The only sign of life was his shallow breaths bubbling through the blood in his mouth and nose.

Agenor slowly stood, his hands still clenched into gory fists. Through his tears, for somewhere in the midst of the assault he had begun to cry, his oddly yellow eyes surveyed Ishnakk’s cronies, as if daring any of them to jump to their leader’s defense. None took up the challenge. In fact, in their eyes Agenor recognized the feeling they felt. For he had felt it many times. They feared him. There was power in that realization, and the halfbreed took a step forward. They all stepped back as one, each holding their hands in front of them, trying to ward him off as if he were some cursed thing. The irony of that struck him as oddly funny, and he chuckled in grim amusement. He didn’t even glance at the inert form of Ishnakk as he turned and staggered away, the crowd that had gathered parting like a curtain before him.


Scott Oden said...

Good stuff, man, but in the first three paragraphs you're telling us about Agenor rather than showing. My advice would be to start with the fight itself (ditching the preamble) and show us all the things you're telling us in the first three paragraphs. Weave in little bits about Agenor's past -- never more than a sentece or two at a time right now. Get us bloody and get us to care about Agenor by illustrating his physical weakness compared to that of his enemy, and by playing up his wits/cunning/intellect.

Generally speaking, for the kind of intro that focuses on action, I tend to crack open either REH's Frost Giant's Daughter or Karl Wagner's The Road of Kings. The latter opens with a duel in mid-strike . . .

It's a good start, Tom! Keep it up!

Renea said...

Scott hit it right on the head. Start with the fight in mid-blow. I read Take 2 a second time from the paragraph that started, "This fight was proving..." and I liked it. Of course, you'll need to flesh out the some details like referring to Agenor as a half-bread. I believe if you do that in a few sentences within the fight itself it could be powerful fiction. Does that make sense? I liked the paragraphs with the blind rage and ignoring the trickling blood because they showed rather than told.

Keep going, Tom. And thank you for allowing us to share this journey with you.