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(LMS IV) The Drowner: 2.1

by ExOmelas


A/N: I've decided to retcon the ages of the kids as seventeen for Daena, fifteen for Janet and twelve for Alistair. Let me know if that fits any better. I attempted to include some world-building worked into dialogue and an expansion of the sisters' dynamic. Hope that helps :)

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"Dear Mrs. Graham,

We are delighted to inform you of the daring deed your husband performed while on patrol at the south-western border. His selflessness as he saved Senior Lead Robin MacTulloch from attempted assassination was nothing short of legendary. And, as is only fitting, Queen Leara wishes greatly to honour this act with a Medal of Extraordinary Valour. We hope your family will accept the invitation to visit the palace for the following weeks..."

Daena's mother, Clara, tailed off and looked up from the letter. She placed it carefully on the battered table and looked up at her three children.

"Weeks?" Janet exclaimed, "Mum, we're going to lose so much business!"

"I'm sure we'll get food and stuff at the palace," Daena muttered.

"But the contracts!" Janet gestured wildly in the air. She twisted to face one sibling then the other, but nothing she saw seemed to soothe her pained frown.

Daena had known she would ruin this.

Clara stood up from the table and slipped the parchment back into the envelope. "We're going, Janet. For your father."

"For dad, Janet," Daena said, doing her best to smile without grinning widely like an idiot.

But Janet only clenched her jaw. "Right. For dad."

She shoved her chair out and snarled with her top lip as it screeched against the floorboards. There would be no apology for damage to the woodwork today, Daena figured. Then she stamped off out the kitchen, through the living room and out the door.

Clara raised a hand to her forehead, sighing. Her dark curls fell loosely around her shoulders as she dropped her head forward, and her normally excellent posture slumped as she took a few deep breaths. Daena sprang to her feet and darted round to her mother's side of the table, wrapping her into a tight hug.

"Er, thank you, honey," she said, patting Daena on the back.

As they pulled apart, Daena reined in her idiot grin again. "You alright, Mum? This is pretty huge, right? I mean, it's great and all, but I can understand if you're need a moment to process it. Queen Leara almost never issues medals anymore. After King Wildev died and she started drawing all her military operations back in, I figured Dad had lost his chance to earn any sort of honour. This must have been really spectacular."

Clara straightened her back and pushed her hair out of her face. "No, you're right, Daena. It's wonderful. I don't really understand any of that military talked, or where you learned that. I just worry about Janet. Do me a favour and go get her when I've got dinner ready?"

Daena nodded vigorously, probably slightly too vigorously. "Of course, Mum. Whatever you need."

Clara moved to the cupboards and inspected what was available for dinner, but after a moment leaned back and looked over at the kitchen table. "And you, Ali, what do you think of all this?"

Ali grinned. "I'm very excited."

"Really?" Clara raised both eyebrows. "I was actually worried that you would also be sad to leave the business for so long. Not to mention your friends."

Ali shrugged, and the side of his mouth quirked up. "Yeah, but everyone knows the palace's colours are white and bright red."

It took Daena much longer than she'd expected to find Janet. She was expecting her to be somewhere on the path to the river, which was where Daena always went when she wanted to be alone. But eventually, after wandering aimlessly around the west road and wondering if Janet had walked all the way into town for some sort of meeting in the village hall - had she gone to church for a moment of peace? - she finally found her.

Her shoulders were hunched as she strode along, looking for all the world like she was leaning into wintry gusts of wind and trudging through slushy puddles. But the sun was glaring directly into Daena's eyes, and therefore shining down right on Janet's back.

"Janet!" she called.

Janet looked up, but didn't stop walking. At least, not for a moment. Her jaw clenched like she was being brutally gagged and her arms and legs slowly stopped their march.

"What do you want?" she muttered.

"Dinner's ready," Daena said, "Actually, it's been ready for a while. Mum wanted me to come get you."

"You don't have to do what Mum says," Janet said, "You've got Dad. Or, you will have soon."

For a few moments, Daena just stared at her sister. But it was no use. Not one of her facial muscles gave her any sort of idea what that was supposed to mean. "What are you talking about?"

Janet sighed and stood with one hand on her hip. "Dad will come home. He'll teach you to spar, for absolutely no reason. You'll completely forget to help Mum with the business, and it'll fall to me, your little sister. That's how I got started in the first place."

"Well, you're much better than me at talking to customers anyway," Daena argued, "And.. and I'm sure I could beat you at sparring. People have their strengths."

Janet fixed her with a tired, withering stare. "You cannot possibly be that blind."

Daena's stomach flipped, like she had swallowed a horrible, bitter acid. "I don't understand... I don't know why you're so upset, Janet. If you think Mum needs more help I'll lend more of a hand."

"Oh, because that'll be useful," Janet snapped, "With your customer rapport!"

Daena felt like her arms and legs were being torn apart on a rack. "Then what do you want from me?"

Janet put one hand over her eyes, much as Clara had earlier. "Look, Daena, do you remember years ago, when you spilled those beef juices on your friend Alice's really expensive blouse, and she fell out with you for basically a month even though you apologised and you couldn't figure out why?"

Daena nodded weakly. "Yes."

"See if you can remember what you figured out." And with that Janet brushed Daena roughly on the shoulder and strode past her, towards their home.


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Sun Jul 15, 2018 4:35 pm
inktopus wrote a review...



Hey, Bisc! Sorry for forgetting about your ping! Let's remedy that, shall we?

I really don't understand Janet. She seems to be really mature about the business (which does something I still am not quite sure of. Did you mention it in the last chapter?), but she acts like such a brat. If she's just a bratty teenager, why does she care about the business so much? She's not the oldest, so it's not likely that she would inherit it unless it was promised to her. If that is the case, then you should mention that so we understand her thought process.

"Really?" Clara raised both eyebrows. "I was actually worried that you would also be sad to leave the business for so long.

I actually said "oh my gosh" out loud. Why do these kids care so much about the business? Alistair is 12! I can't imagine he relishes helping out at that age, and unless he's particularly precocious, he's probably unaware of the financial issues leaving the business can cause. Honestly, the only child that should be really concerned is Daena, but she just wants out! I mean, I think it's fine for Daena to want out of the business, but she should probably be at least a little concerned about the financial well-being of her family, especially considering she's 17 which is definitely old enough to know about that sort of thing.

It was at this point that you told me that their business had to do with clothes through discord.

"Yeah, but everyone knows the palace's colours are white and bright red."

This makes it sound like they dye clothes, which I don't think is correct.

I don't know if these YWS chapters are your real chapters, but I will note that this installment doesn't function well as a chapter by itself. I think it's a good ending point for the scene, but it's definitely not the ideal place to end a chapter.

We just get some information, but it's not enticing to leave us without the resolution. It's just frustrating. I still don't quite understand the characters, Daena included, so you're going to need to feed your readers some information quickly so we can get a better idea of who they are. With things like this, it's best not to wait. Unless there's an important narrative reason for it, the audience needs to know what the characters' situation is. Who they are. What part they place in this unfamiliar world.

Overall, I was left a bit confused. However, I think you'll be happy to know that I want to know more. I hope this helped, and you know I love novel talk!

~Ink




ExOmelas says...


Huh, interesting, Pan seemed to think this clarified the relationship more - that Daena is rather spoiled and Janet's had to be the one to step up, and enjoyed that responsibility. Also I don't think they dye clothes... Ali's just kind of obsessed with clothes, especially bright ones.

I'll try again next chapter to get that across better, though probably keep Pan's review in the balance so that I don't go too far the other way either :P



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Tue Jul 10, 2018 10:49 am
Panikos wrote a review...



Hiya, Biscuits! Thanks for tagging me. I thought I'd swing by and get a review in early on this. Before I get into the meat of the review, I will say that I think this chapter is far stronger than the first - it really kept me reading. I'm glad to see the story heading in a good direction.

Small Comments

Daena's mother, Clara, tailed off and looked up from the letter. She placed it carefully on the battered table and looked up at her three children.

"Weeks?" Janet exclaimed, "Mum, we're going to lose so much business!"


I love Janet's response - it's unexpected, but it characterises her so well. It really makes Daena's behaviour in the previous chapter make more sense.

In term of nitpicks, I think the comma after 'exclaimed' should be a full stop. As both parts of Janet's dialogue can stand as separate sentences, it's fine to close the tag with a full stop - you only need a comma if the tag occurs in the middle of otherwise continuous dialogue, if you get what I mean? Here's some examples.

"Mavis isn't coming," John said. "She said she's not feeling well.

"How about," Katie said, "you mind your own business?"

In the first example, both 'Mavis isn't coming' and 'She said she's not feeling well' are independent clauses, so the dialogue tag between them can be closed with a full stop. In the second example 'How about' and 'you mind your own business' are fragments of a single sentence broken up by a dialogue tag, so said tag must close with a comma.

It's a subtle difference, but I've noticed that it's a consistent error throughout the piece, so I thought I'd mention it. Should only take a few seconds to fix.

"For dad, Janet," Daena said, doing her best to smile without grinning widely like an idiot.


I don't think 'widely' adds much, seeing as grins are usually pretty wide.

She shoved her chair out and snarled with her top lip as it screeched against the floorboards.


I don't really get what you mean by her 'snarling with her top lip'. Also, the way the sentence is constructed almost makes it sound like her lip is screeching against the floorboards, not the chair.

"You alright, Mum? This is pretty huge, right? I mean, it's great and all, but I can understand if you're need a moment to process it. Queen Leara almost never issues medals anymore. After King Wildev died and she started drawing all her military operations back in, I figured Dad had lost his chance to earn any sort of honour. This must have been really spectacular."

Clara straightened her back and pushed her hair out of her face. "No, you're right, Daena. It's wonderful. I don't really understand any of that military talked, or where you learned that. I just worry about Janet. Do me a favour and go get her when I've got dinner ready?"


Is this the bit where you tried to put world building into the dialogue? It doesn't come off well to me - it just seems so clearly there for the reader's benefit, and you honestly don't need it. I think you could weave in the 'Queen Leara almost never issues medals anymore' without difficulty, but the stuff about King Wildev pushes it. If you trimmed it down to something like:

"You alright, Mum? This is pretty huge, right? I mean, Queen Leara almost never issues medals anymore. Dad must've been really spectacular."

Might still need fine-tuning, but I think it delivers an interesting detail about the Queen without being too obvious. I don't think you need the rest, nor Clara's comment about not understanding military talk; it just felt out of place, because Daena hadn't said anything particularly hard to comprehend. The final decision rests with you, though.

Ali shrugged, and the side of his mouth quirked up. "Yeah, but everyone knows the palace's colours are white and bright red."


This was really cute. Ali seems like a quirky kid.

Her jaw clenched like she was being brutally gagged and her arms and legs slowly stopped their march.


This feels like quite an...extreme simile, given that it's just describing her stopping in her tracks. It doesn't feel that appropriate for the context.

"Well, you're much better than me at talking to customers anyway," Daena argued, "And.. and I'm sure I could beat you at sparring. People have their strengths."


The first bit of the dialogue is excellent. Her comment about the sparring, however, is a bit confusing. It doesn't really feel related to what Janet was saying. After a few read-throughs, I think you're trying to present it in a kind of contrasting way; Janet is good with customers, Daena can spar, and both should do what they're good at. But it doesn't quite hold together. Maybe if she said something like:

"Well, you're much better than me at talking to customers anyway," Daena argued. "And...and if I'm good at sparring, why shouldn't Dad teach me? We've all got our strengths."

It's up to you, but I feel like this is a bit more relevant while still communicating a similar meaning. Assuming I've interpreted the intended meaning of that dialogue correctly, of course!

Overall Thoughts

1) As I said at the beginning, this chapter is a vast improvement on the first. The first chapter certainly wasn't bad, but this one feels far more assured; it seems like you've settled into the setting and the characters, that you've got a foot on the ledge and now know where you're headed. You're more concise, have done away with the superfluous details and scenes, and your dialogue is much more naturalistic on the whole.

2) The best part of this chapter is Janet and Daena's interactions, without a shadow of a doubt. You've expanded on their dynamic brilliantly. I particularly love that Janet, while surly, is actually completely understandable - I don't feel like she's being malicious when she reacts to the letter the way she does. You can tell she's genuinely worried about the family and the business. She's obviously had to take on a lot more responsibility than Daena - which is interesting in itself, given that she isn't the eldest sibling. I get the sense that Daena's been indulged far more than Janet ever has, which has made the latter bitter and the former quite oblivious.

Daena's character also comes across far more strongly in this chapter. She seems nice, but hopeless at understanding other people's feelings, and that seems completely believable if she's always been the favoured child. I loved the comment Janet makes at the end about Daena spilling beef juices on Alice's blouse - it's naturally done, and it gives me a huge insight into Daena's personality. She's just too naive to realise that a sorry doesn't make everything better.

3) If I'm being critical, perhaps the chapter could do with some more sensory description, but not by much. I like how sparing you are, mostly, because the chapter is and should be dialogue-driven. I think the only thing that needs fleshing out is the setting of the final scene. You mention that Janet is strolling along somewhere and the sun is shining, but you don't give us any detail about the environment around her. Are they close to the town? At a river banking? Flanked by fields on all sides? Give me a few more building blocks.

I think that's all I've got for this review. As I've said, this was a great chapter, with excellent characterisation and really believable dialogue. Don't feel like you have to force too many world-building details in this early on (you'll have ample opportunity in the following chapters, I'm sure) and try not to neglect your description. Other than that, though, I'm happy. Definitely tag me when you post the next bit.

Keep writing! :D
~Pan




ExOmelas says...


Thanks Pan! I'm really glad you enjoyed it :D Dialogue stuff entirely makes sense, and the world-building stuff too...

Actually I might as well admit that I was at 967 words so looked back to see what I could add, remembered I'd been lax on that before, and decided to insert it there. That might be why it seems out of place xD I think I do want to keep a little bit so I'll maybe reduce it back to what you said. I do think I'll keep Clara's comment though, at least for a bit, because hopefully that will make more sense soon.

Nit-picks all entirely make sense and I'll keep an eye on them for the edits.

Thanks again :D



Panikos says...


You're welcome! Glad it helped. :)



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Tue Jul 10, 2018 2:53 am
Messenger wrote a review...



Hey Biscuit I'm on mobile so sorry if this gets a little sloppy. It's also past my bedtime but eeeeeh.

So. This is definitely shorter so there's not as many words, but I think There's a decent amount of content. Let's take this one at a time.

1. The letter. It was a bit wordy, but at the same time this is the queen we're talking about and I'm sure they can get formal so. I would like if we could get the weeks though? Or maybe not specific dates but at least a number of weeks. 2? 3? Dare I ask for 4?

2. So there's smiles and giggles and hugs and hiding smiles from grumpy ol' Janet but you know what's missing? "!" I was looking for just one itty bitty exclamation point. They're happy right? Let's get one line from Daena in front of Janet that's just a little bit more excited than she wants to. Or Ali and his fascination with red. He's a kid, he doesn't know any better than to get a little bit excited! Punctuation can be used to convey a lot of emotion without a single letter. I'd say use it. You did have it when Janet and Daena talked though which is good and brings us to...

3. Yikes. Janet is like seriously a grumpy fifteen year old. I'm really curious to see if there was some specific thing that happened between Janet and Dad or if she just feels as if she's always been left out and it's an accumulation of things over time. It's fine either way, and honestly after the talk it seems like Daena is lost and so I'd guess that it's the latter. But I could be wrong. It's happened on occasion xD

4. There were no issues with grammar and all that sort of stuff, despite it being a first draft, which isn't a big deal if there are, but it's nice to not have that distracting at all. I will say that when Janet leaves she "stomps off out of the kitchen." Just have her stomp off, or have her stomp out of the kitchen

This is a short chapter but it's got a nice amount of content as I said. I think the ages or okay. I'm still trying to decide how I feel about them. Sometimes they felt right being older, but sometimes I feel like they are too naive for there age. As I said last chapter I'm okay if they stay younger. I would keep them older if that's the general consensus you got though, because that way you can keep it consistent and won't have to worry or be distracted by it. I hope that this helps

~Messy




ExOmelas says...


Thanks so much Mess! I was really worried people were going to be bored by this chapter so I%u2019m glad you thought it was a decent amount of content :)

see what I did there with the exclamation mark



Messenger says...


Bahaha




Go in fear of abstractions.
— Ezra Pound