Monday, May 11, 2009

Heroes... Chapter Four - Melbourn

Welcome back, beta-readers. This is the fourth chapter of Heroes... and introduces our fourth of five main characters, Melbourn. Just a couple of spelling notes: I have elected to use the word "masque" instead of "mask," hewing closer to the definition of "masquerade." I've also opted to choose to use "bassist" instead of "bass player." It sounds anachronistic, and I suppose it is, but "bassist" sounds a bit more generic to me. When I hear "bass player," I immediately think of John Deacon or Geddy Lee. Just realize I'm talking about a large stand-up bass here, and not a smooth-bodied four-string Fender bass.

As always, read and enjoy, but please consider offering me your thoughts; I genuinely do appreciate (and need) the feedback. This rewriting project is the most important project on my plate, and though it's running much smoother when it was when I first posted the Prologue, I'm still trying to find the rhythm and voice to bring it all together.

Let me know what you think! And in case I haven't said it enough: Thank you!


Chapter Four - Melbourn

In a huge, well-appointed room in High Town, one man sat in a high-backed calf-leather-and-teak chair to enjoy the finer things life had to offer. His boots rested on a low stool in front of him, and a heavy book rested in his lap. On a small table next to him sat a nearly-empty decanter of sherry, a nearly-full glass, a tall white Willem candle in a silver candlestick, and a glass ashtray. Over the back of the chair he had casually tossed a long black cloak. As he listened to the cedar wood crackling and popping in the fireplace, he reached out and upended an ivory pipe over the ashtray. He tapped the glass, discharging burnt tobacco into the receptacle. He propped the pipe against the rim and reached for the tiny glass. He put the glass to his lips and tossed back the sherry, as if it was whiskey. He sighed and set the empty glass back on the table.

He refilled the pipe with tobacco from a pouch in his own vest, using a long match to transfer fire from the candle. He took a long draw and began reading again. Idly listening to the deeply seasoned wood in the fire, he read each page, line by line, his finger tracing his progress. After some time, he stood and stretched. Something in his back cracked. A slight groan escaped.

He eyed the crystal decanter. He took it and poured out the last remaining drops of sherry. Ivory pipe dangling from his lips, he crossed the room to a huge teakwood desk and slipped the book into an open leather bag sitting atop it. Several other volumes were already inside. He closed the bag, and wrapped the pipe in a dark cloth. The pipe went into a vest pocket; the bag he slung over his shoulder. Returning to the chair for his cloak, he donned it and fastened it with a burnished silver clasp.

Dressed all in black, except for a long-sleeved royal blue shirt under his leather vest, he was short and wiry. His almond-shaped eyes were blue flecked with silver. Long, copper-brown hair was tied back with black and blue ribbons, revealing a face of sharp angles. His ears were elongated, but not so pointed as Dunbar Stormglow’s.

He was mal sidhe, a lesser elf.

To continue:


  1. This seems a little trimmed up from last time and I like it better now. I always liked how he seemed saddened to see all that finery in Barrendon's possession. There was one nit-picky thing I had though, paragraph 5 about the bear's head reads it "growled defiantly" I know that's not literal but it sounds weird to me all the same, I would'a phrased it "Next to the shelf, a mounted bear’s head growled in silent defiance." I also found in para. 8 about 3 lines in reads "Using a thing scrap of cloth" instead of "thin". That's all the picking I have to do now, I just wonder when you'll be getting to a little villainy...

  2. It WAS a thing scrap. It was that scrap of cloth we used to keep in Tom's VW thing for wiping off bottles of beer. Yup. Seriously. That little mal sidhe bastidge stole it, the beer, and the Thing one night. The VW was last seen on the side of the ride in Dockside, up on blocks.

  3. Right then. I'm way too tired to be posting comments. Can't spell and makes no sense. Sorry about that, y'all. That was supposed to be the side of the "road."

  4. Okay, I’m just going to go paragraph by paragraph for this one...

    My first thought was, you are using that darn anaphora again in the first paragraph. I'm not completely opposed, but I think its a little heavy. At the end of the first paragraph, within four sentences there is the word “he” starting each one, plus the word glass in each one. Maybe just take out one of each? Or the third glass? These four sentences are very abrupt, where there is more flow in the parts immediately preceding and subsequent. It just doesn’t feel balanced.

    I like the staccato in paragraph 2 towards the end though, the way the paragraph starts longer and dwindles down. In paragraph 3 I like the start with the short, short, long, but the middle sentence "several other volumes were already inside" reads dry and halts the progression of the paragraph. It is one of the shortest sentences in that P, yet comes after the longest clause, and isn't really doing a lot to be emphasized that much. Also, at the end I think that rather than returning for his cloak, then donning it and fastening it, he should return to the chair, don the cloak rather than it, then he can fasten it.

    Four and five fine.

    Paragraph 6, "the other two were worth more than that” is redundant to the previous line. I would expand upon it a little, since he's wandering anyways you can let him muse a little more, or maybe alter the wording, or else just let the line go.

    7 and 8: I’m a little confused. The painting of the gods is described in vivid detail, while the woman is a bit sparse. I'm wondering why he steals the woman? If a) he is just stealing what he wants, then I get the taking of the gods and the description of the painting, but not sure about crossing the room to get it when there are valuable paintings next to the gods one. B) Does he steal the woman for some ulterior motive that will be revealed later, then just take the gods because it is his favorite (well, and expensive of course)? If the woman is especially valuable/significant, I think a little more description would help, even if the painting is a little plain by comparison to the other. Also, could the paragraphs be reversed maybe? I think I’d rather see him linger on the gods, then move on to the woman. I don’t know what the underlying motivation is, and I think that’s really what it depends on.

    Also the first sentence could be rearranged a little. It's kind of a pretty roundabout way of saying that a. the painting is a few decades old b. It's pretty subject must be a withered up old bag by now. I'm exaggerating, but needs a little alteration. It kind of points to the wrong thing, the elderly version rather than the painting, some sort of grammatical technicality that I don’t know the rule for. Not explaining what I mean well, but I think you get my drift?

    10 and 11: Nit-picky details, sorry. First sentence needs attention, too many clauses. Then “Most nobility Melbourn had ever met,” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. “Rimed” instead of “rimmed.” The sentence “Both fell into the wall, mussing their finery” is disruptive to the rhythm, I think.

    13: The first sentence has an unneeded comma between up and met. Also I see what you are getting at with the two staircases intersecting, but it’s hard to picture it, and I would suggest “lesser” rather than less-grand. The chingle and clatter I don’t think should be italicized, it distracts from the action being climactic here. You are using the onomatopoeia to create expansion of language, verb rather than just sound, and I think the words should exist on their own without the emphasis.

    14 and 15: It’s really picking up steam here. You’ve worked out the rhythm nicely for this section. And I like 14 standing alone a lot. Also like the end line, about the gods expecting him to entertain them. 16-20 I have no complaints. It’s moving right along. I did notice you use the anaphora with he again at the end of 20, but here I like it.

    Look at comma usage towards latter part of 22. It feels a bit run on. In I think it’s 25, the last sentence “He had already found his way out, but for a few moments more, he enjoyed himself completely” I don’t think you need the second comma.

    It feels like the chapter really finds itself in the second half in terms of the flow of narration. If there’s any other small details, extra comma, unbalanced clauses etc. I’m not noticing because I’m too distracted by the action and the scene. I especially like the ending line, assuming the gods were now well-entertained. And, now that I think back on Sloan’s ending, with the laughing bit as well, I think it works well here instead, and should go from Three, it’s much more in character for Melbourn, and I wouldn’t end both chapters that way unless you’re really going for a mirroring effect. There’s a resolution to this one at the end that wasn’t in the previous chapters, which all sort of break off (though in a keep-you-reading way, not a bad way). I think this resolution though is a good choice if this is the last of the introductories before we move more into the story. Also, I like this chapter following Sloan, with the contrast from the dark sewer to the vivid luxury. Sloan came at a good point to move the overall story forward altogether, you piqued the readers interest, now you can pull back a bit and get into Melbourns story and character without it feeling too fragmented or disjointed.

    Sorry for lengthy comments. I actually think Melbourn is my favorite chapter so far, which makes me look at the little stuff a bit harder. As always, just suggestions, use at your own discretion.

  5. I'll keep my comments to a minimum, too, since anything else always seems defensive. I will say that "Melbourn" is my favorite of the four chapters, too.

    I will also say you're TOUGH! And I'm really very appreciative of it. Thank you!

  6. On commenting on the comments, I think a writer should never feel pressured to justify their own choices. Criticism is there for you to consider or just throw out, you are the one who really KNOWS the work, and what it is ultimately going to look like...But if you ever want to argue technique I'm definitely game! I would welcome a little dissenting opinion...anyone?

    I wonder what a beta-reader might have thought of Toni Morrison, or Douglas Adams? Critique can be helpful, but has the potential to get in the way of, or stifle, genius/creativity.

    That being said, I am tough-I fully admit to it! (sorry) But it's only on work I genuinely like.:) If I didn't like it, I would most likely not respond...