Many thanks to John who has sent us an excerpt from his novel in progress, The Princess of Azbar. This is the first in our new series of online workshops. We’ll leave this post live for a week, during which time we’ll welcome any constructive comments that can help John with his writing. At the end of the week, John will receive a free critique from one of our writing tutors.
If you’d like to share your work for critique – anonymously or with your name in neon lights – please see here for all the necessary information. Remember to include a synopsis (we didn’t get one for The Princess of Azbar), and please remember that you can submit excerpts of up to 1200 words.
The rain beat down and the hooded man turned to look through the window. He met the gaze of the brown eyes. The brown eyes looked down. Lightning roared across the night sky. Behind the hooded man a torch flickered, shadow dancing on the wall behind. The brown eyed man stepped into the light. His expression was neutral. “Stand there.” Said the hooded man.
The door was heavy oak and I was nervous as I pushed it open. Quitly I nudged inside, blond hair bobbing on my shoulders. My face a full beard of blond fluff. It was dark and difficult to see. The hooded man removed his hood and green eyes flashed into the zone of my vision. “What do you want?”
“I come from Azbar.”
“Azbar that is a long way.”
“Yes but my message is important”
“Who has sent you?” I felt those cavernous brown eyes look me up and down.
“I think you know who.”
“Yes” he said nodding wistfully. We sat at an oak table. “Bring us some wine,” he gestured at the other man who scurried away obediently. He returned with two tankards of sickly sweet liquid.
We sat staring at each other in the silence. The brown haired man busied himself with this and that. I drank more of the intoxicating liqueur.
“I want to show you something” said the hooded man “come”
He led me up a creaking flight of stairs, getting darker with every step until we were crawling on our hands and knees. At the top there was a grand hall lit by flickering torches. The hooded man gestured to a slab altar in the middle of the grand room. On the altar a woman was manacled in a star position. The brown eyed man scurried behind us.
The woman looked at me with pleading blue eyes. “Unchain her.” I said.
The hooded man flicked his acid eyes at the brown eyed man, groping under his robes for a rusty clanking set of keys he unlocked her.
We left the castle straight away and struggled out into the bitter rain. “Hey, thank you” she said as we climbed into my horse and carriage. “But why, I don’t understand?”
“I was sent from Azbar.” The faceless driver whipped the horses and they galloped forward. The carriage rattled and bounced on the rocky road.
“Yeah but why me?”
“All will be revealed I said, thinking how beautiful she looked in the dark.
Hi John. Many thanks for sharing this extract from The Princess of Azbar. It takes a lot of courage to expose your work to critique, and we’re grateful to you for taking that brave step. Thanks are also due to Chloe and Phil, for their insightful comments, which cover much of what I want to say about your piece.
I won’t lie to you: this needs a lot of work before it reaches a publishable standard, but the fact you’re looking for critique shows that you’re serious about your writing and are capable of putting in that work. It will take time and effort, but you can get there.
The main thing you need to think about is just to remember that writing is a really difficult form of communication. I can sense that you have a great imagination; you can see the whole episode playing out in your head, but at the present the message is getting scrambled before it reaches the minds of your readers. See here for some more information on writing as communication.
Here is an annotated version of your text with my full comments: Princess of Azbar feedback. I hope the feedback is useful. Thanks again for sharing your work, and good luck with your writing.
All best wishes,