Thanks to author, Ian Trevaskis for providing today’s piece for our Friday Feedback.
Last week we had a great discussion about the Friday Feedback piece submitted by Tania McCartney, so feel free to chime in with your comments at the end of any of the Friday Feedback posts including this one.
Your comments don’t have to agree with mine:) This segment is all about providing different perspectives and feedback and thought provoking discussion to help writers submitting their work to the segment, and readers of this blog.
As we all know, there are no hard and fast rules about writing. Everyone has different ways of doing things and it’s a case of deciding what works for you.
The boys were led away from the campsite and through the trees. Each one had been marked with his totem and his body patterned with white ochre and clay. As he marched behind his protectors Warra-warra could hear the mournful sound of the sacred bullroarer, the turndum, growing louder and when he stepped into the clearing where the ceremony was to take place he could see the initiation tools laid out on a flat piece of bark. They gleamed dully in the firelight. Warra-warra took a deep breath and stood tall as one of the Elders, a man with a bushy white beard and his own scars of manhood, chose a sharpened stone and turned to face the initiates.
The Elder raised the stone to the stars and sang a deep and sombre song to the sky spirit while the men adorned with the sacred markings and Eagle’s feathers shuffled and danced around the boys.
excerpt from Bullroarer by Ian Trevaskis
This is a well written piece and an intriguing story, Ian and you set the scene well.
I think there’s opportunity however, to give the reader more to draw them further into the scene and your main character. I wanted to know how old Warra-warra was, and I think there are opportunities to do this when you talk about the initiation ceremony. Do all tribes intiate their boys into manhood at the same time? If so, at what age? How does Warra-warra feel about this? Is it something he has looked forward to for a while or does he fear it?
I also found the ‘led away’ (which indicates passiveness and not voluntary) contradicted later on when you said he marched behind his protectors.
I’m wondering if you could start this story with more of a hook and filter the details of the ceremony into the story as they relate to the action. For instance, what if you started with Warra-warra being initiated and make him the focus of the story right from the start?
Here’s an example:
Warra-warra tried not to quiver as he faced the Elder, a man with a bushy white beard and his own scars of manhood. Warra-warra’s mouth trembled as the Elder raised the sharpened stone.
He sang a deep and sombre song to the sky spirit while the men adorned with the sacred markings and Eagle’s feathers shuffled and danced around Warra-warra and the other boys.
This would automatically increase the tension as the reader wonders what’s going to happen to Warra-warra, and would draw the reader closer to him.
It would also give you the opportunity to show what’s going on in Warra-warra’s head as this is happening. If he’s afraid, you might show him shivering. If he’s excited, you might show him shifting from one foot to the other.
Or if you want to use more setting detail to start with, you could do something like this:
The mournful sound of the sacred bullroarer, the turndum, gripped Warra-warra as he stepped into the clearing where the ceremony was to take place. He shuddered as his eyes were drawn to the initiation tools laid out on a flat piece of bark.
This might not be how your character is really feeling in your story, but I have tried to use these as examples of how you can make your setting more active, and show how your character feels at the same time.
Try and use your setting as part of an action sequence, not just setting detail on its own.
As he marched behind his protectors Warra-warra could hear the mournful sound of the sacred bullroarer, the turndum, growing louder and when he stepped into the clearing where the ceremony was to take place he could see the initiation tools laid out on a flat piece of bark.
You’re telling us what he can hear and see, but I don’t know how he feels about all this. Isn’t an initiation ceremony one of the most important events in a young man’s life? I think there’s room for action and reaction and more detail with relevance to the story.
For example, what kind of tools are they? Do they frighten him? Does he squirm? Does he fidget? I didn’t get a sense of how Warra-warra is feeling about his initiation. Is he afraid, excited?
Readers engage with characters more if they can relate on a deeper level – if they can feel what the character is feeling.
As I said, this is a well written piece Ian, but by making the setting and action work together and making Warra-warra the focus right from the start, I think readers will engage with your character and your story more.
I hope you have found this helpful.
If anyone else has some constructive suggestions to make about Ian’s piece of writing, please leave your feedback in the comments section of this post.
If you’d like to submit 150 words for Friday Feedback, please email it to Dee*at*Deescribe*dot*com*au