Today, I’m critiquing the second chapter of THE HUNT FOR NAPOLEON’S JUSTICE by Yvone Williams from Fetching Figment.
The Hunt for Napoleon's Justice
I’ll start as always by going through grammarly and mark any punctuation errors that come up.
-No major mistakes, looking good.
If you catch me saying MRU- (The first few words in a sentence), it means that you should start a new paragraph at that point to keep your motivations/stimuli and reactions separated.
That’s based on the MRU paragraph structure. The second half of this article does a better job of explaining it than I can.
Alright, I’ll go ahead and jump into this.
Wood snapped and splintered as the remains of Sanctuary wedged into the ice. Shaky hands extended to the fallen, and able men took knives to the tangled sails until the deck mirrored the frozen wasteland ahead.
Not really getting a good picture as to what is happening here. On top of that, I see no relevance to it. A setting without character is easily forgotten. Put the POV in motion before this or describe the changing of setting through the environment’s interaction with the POV.
Reading over this line again, this feels like a top down kind of view. I’d consider adding a POV beat above this, cutting it or moving it to a different part of the opening.
Bernardo emerged from beneath and grabbed the rail-edge, scanning the shore: There was no sign of life. Nowhere to run. His grip tightened as the two lunatics struggled behind him.
So, Bernardo is the POV in this chapter/scene? If so, the descriptions above is kind of a POV slip.
“Constance, leave me to my business. I know it was him.”
TAG this. Just a blank line of dialogue, even though it seems to be said below will either be skipped, viewed as if someone else said it or pull the reader out of the story and force them to come back to this point. Just a simple, “Constance,” Creedy said, “Leave me … .”
“Creedy, please,” she said, her words punctuated by an attempt to stop him. “Bernard, go back to the hold.”
She is an ambiguous tag here. I know this is following the first chapter, but it is a new chapter in a new POV. You should tag it as such with her name.
Bernardo turned. “We had a deal–”
Creedy yanked him up by his linen shirt, nearly ripping it off.
Good motion here.
Who is speaking here? From the way it sounds, it is Creedy. If so, move it back to the paragraph above.
Foul breath melted the chill off Bernardo’s face, leaving it moist.
Good imagery here. It made me cringe. I would perhaps consider tagging it as Creedy’s foul breath
“You destroyed my ship, you Pisador son of a bitch.”
Again, I’d tag this, especially this early in the novel and this early in the chapter. Said is invisible. Just throw it in there. “… my ship,” Creedy said, “you Pisador … .”
“Let him go,” Constance said, moving between them, but the drunkard had a firm grip. With a two-handed thrust, she sent him stumbling back.
The motion here is very awkward for two reasons. 1. Because moving … after the said tag is a dangling modifier and makes the sentence clunky. 2. The secondary tag makes the him in the second sentence feel ambiguous. I’d cut the secondary tag as well as the said tag and just beat tag this dialogue.
“Let him go!” Constance moved between the two men (them is also a bit odd), but Creedy (or the drunkard, Creedy) had a firm grip. (With Creedy clearly the last one mentioned, the shove sending him stumbling backwards fits better. Though, it still feels a bit weak)
“Go to the quarterdeck,” she ordered.
This is a part of the same MRU as above. Either add a beat in between these two paragraphs or move it to the one above. Also, simple tag it or beat tag it. Cut the said-book-ism.
The old man stood still, his empty eyes searching for her as if the girl he once knew had suddenly disappeared.
Another secondary tag. On top of it being a different tag.
-On another note, I thought the ship had sunk into the waters at the end of the last chapter, no?
This is alright without a tag, though I’d consider adding a beat here
Creedy’s mouth opened, but closed without another sound. He shook his head and reached for the crew, feeling a path out through the crowd.
No comma here.
I’d consider using then instead of and between head and reached.
-That being said, reached for the crew feels really awkward. I’m not really getting a good image here.
Bernardo yanked his shirt back into place, glaring at Creedy’s back. If that old man knew anything about Pisadors, he would know their powers were governed by night. Even if the stars lit the sky, few Pisadors could cut a halyard without some sort of sharp edge.
Dangling modifier. Glaring at his back and moving his shirt have nothing to do with each other. Add a timing conjunction and cut the comma. While glaring at Creedy’s back seems to work well here.
Secondary tag again, though, it’s not that bad here. (This is one of those situations where using the secondary tags should be reserved for)
-Great show of the world and the magic here. Gives me a good glimpse of what is possible without info-dumping.
Constance shoved a finger into his chest. “You were to stay in the hold,” she said. “That was the deal.”
Whose chest? Creedy was technically the last one mentioned. Just use Bernardo’s name here.
“You said stay out of his sight– I did.”
Her indignant look set him on fire. She had tied and left him in the hold since their departure from France. Sea sickness kept him crumpled in a puddle of his own vomit until, every third day or so, a raven-haired boy ventured below to strip Bernardo’s clothes and wipe him down.
Indignant looks is a tell. You could show the reader more by describing what he believes an indignant look looks like. Though, it is alright as it is.
Good show of the journey so far.
“Captain.” A man poked his weathered head out from the hold. “Water’s bleeding through the hull.”
Constance looked at Creedy, as usual, but the old man offered no advice as their only doctor wrapped a blanket around him.
The ships only doctor wrapped his only blanket around who? Is Creedy the doctor too?
“Salvage whatever supplies you can and lower the gangplank,” she said, and the crew, without further spectacle to watch, dispersed.
Not really sure what is being said here.
Reading over it a few more times, it feels more and more like a POV slip, putting us into the head of the sailors and telling the reader why the dispersed.
Constance snapped her gaze back to Bernardo. “Do not touch anything,” she said.
This made me laugh. Not sure if it was intended, but I chuckled quite a bit from this line.
-With the beat there, you could cut the she said tag.
Bernardo clenched his jaw as he watched her walk away.
I’d consider using the harder timing conjunction here rather than as. I think while flows better.
She knows this isn’t my fault, he thought. She knew some Pisador well enough for them to give her the pendant around her neck– she knew their limitations… but she was gone before he could argue.
This is still part of the same MRU as above. Either add a beat between these two paragraphs or move it to the one above.
-The entire last sentence is kind of awkward. I’d consider reworking it and moving it to the next paragraph as a new MRU- She disappeared into the chaos of her crew.
He breathed in the crisp, arctic-summer air to cool his temper. He had to stay calm; Luz would never take him back as angry as he was now. Not that he would ever see her again.
The gangplank smacked against the ground. The crew shuffled across the deck with loaded carpet bags in hand, eager to flee the sinking vessel. Bernardo turned, spotting the captain as she emerged from her quarters– no luggage, no supplies, just a rolled piece of parchment in hand. She strode toward him with rigid shoulders and pressed it into his palm.
MRU- Bernardo turned
-This sentence is a bit distanced with the spotting. I’d rework this and just show the reader what he spotted.
-MRU- The captain emerged from her quarters … .
Move this to the adjusted MRU above to add a beat tag to her words. (At least, I’m guessing that’s who is speaking.
Bernardo stepped ahead, merging with the crew as they descended the gangplank. With her eyes at his back, he risked a glance at the blank scroll; she expected him to chart a map to la vara de centurias… Even if he could remember the meaning of the marks on her pendant and construct a map, they were still searching for a fairytale Pisadors told children when their clan was killed.
That sounds a bit awkward. I’d consider rewording it or something.
Not sure what you are what you are trying to say here. Is she eyeing his back? If so, then how does he know that? That would be a POV slip. Also, that would mean that she is behind him, so how would he be able to look at the black scroll that she was holding?
I love the backstory here.
I would MRU- Even if he could
-It would add a better beat to the paragraph and flow into the next paragraph.
He looked ahead at the narrow pass, guarded by snow-capped mountains, which seemed the only route leading deeper into Greenland from their makeshift port. The raven-haired boy slipped beside him, offering his brother’s capote. The boy said his brother wouldn’t need it anymore because he died amidst the journey.
MRU- The raven-haired boy
-not sure what a capote is, but does Bernardo know that it belonged to his brother? If not, this is a POV slip
Show the boy saying that his brother didn’t need it any more (I think the anymore should be any more here) rather than telling the reader that.
The naturalist hauled his empty display case along, eyes darting to and fro as they reached the mouth of the pass.
They’re on land now? The motion to this point feels a bit awkward. You may want to make this point stand out a bit more.
“I hope we get where we’re going soon,” he said. “The sky grows dark too quickly.”
Who is speaking here? If this is the naturalist, just move it to the paragraph above and cut the said tag.
“Not quick enough,” Bernardo said.
This response feels a bit disconnected. You may want to read the dialogue part alone aloud and see if it fits together and says what you want it to.
The naturalist scrunched his eyebrows. “Are you mad? There are beasts out here– horrible green creatures that would kill the both of us, just like that,” he said, managing a snap of his fingers.
The said tag is unneeded here, and it would flow better if you just used the action at the end.
-He managed to snap his fingers.
“Orrdyr…” Creedy said. “So they claim.”
Bernardo gripped the scroll in his hand. Even if there were no Orrdyr, they all knew there were plenty of other dangers. The naturalist shivered as if he could hear Bernardo’s thoughts.
MRU- Even if there
MRU- The naturalist
Creedy scoffed. “Perhaps you’ll catch one of their cubs for your display.”
This made me laugh.
The naturalist hugged his case to his chest. “That wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I signed up for this counterfeit study tour.”
“At least you got to sign…” Bernardo’s voice failed him as movement caught his eye: a row of lithe, green bodies lined the mountain peaks. ” …up,” Bernardo said.
I’d consider using an emdash here. It shows more of an abrupt ending.
I’d also cut the last part. Feels more natural after spotting the green bodies.
The naturalist looked up. His face blanched.
The Orrdyr raised their bows, and Bernardo turned away, but an arrow sank deep into his bicep.
Should have a comma here.
Good action here. Good conflict and tension here, as well.
-Though, I might consider turning this into 3 short sentences to raise the tension.
The raven-haired boy gasped as an arrow found rest in the forehead of a man beside him. He stepped back as wooden shafts peppered the snow at his feet.
Wild limbs knocked Bernardo off balance as the crew reached for their weapons or fled, pushing him back and away from the boy.
“Steady!” Constance shouted from behind. He could see her struggling just to keep her ground as the mass of bodies threatened to swallow her.
Either MRU He could see or cut it and just show the reader what he could see. She struggled just to keep … .
Above, the line of archers thinned out, only for the gaps to be filled with Orrdyr that descended the mountains like an avalanche, clouds of snow rising from their feet and making it near impossible to see them in detail. A wave of robed Orrdyr replaced them, raising their hands, synchronized.
I’d consider breaking this up. The longer the sentences, the less tense the situation is.
-… thinned out. The gaps filled with Orrdyr that … .
I’d break the second one apart, as well.
-… avalanche. Clouds of snow rose from their footfalls and made it … .
Replaced who? The charging Orrdyr? Be more specific here.
With most of the crew turning tail, Bernardo could no longer struggle against them and turned toward the entrance of the pass. The raven-haired boy was stepping backward, eyes transfixed on the approaching nightmare. Ice formed and rose at his feet, trailing up his legs as it built a wall that blocked the mouth of the pass, encapsulating the horror on his face.
MRU- The raven-haired
MRU- Ice formed and rose
His? Whose? The raven-haired boy? Or Bernardo?
Encapsulating the horror on his face is a tell as well as it feels tacked on. I’d either break it off and rework it or just cut it.
Good tension to this point.
The fleeing crew stopped short of the ice wall, trapped. Bernardo looked over his shoulder, but the other side of the narrow pass was blocked in the same fashion. The Orrdyr reached the foot of the mountain, crashing into the pass and overwhelming those on the front lines.
MRU- The Orrdyre
Blood streaked the snow as a bludgeon found its mark. A man fell to the ground beside him. He chanced a look at the sky: the sun took shelter behind the mountains, turning the sky a deep purple. Night approached.
Who? I’m guessing you mean Bernardo here.
MRU- He chanced a look at the sky. (I’d tag his name here twice. Beside Bernardo. Bernardo chanced a look)
MRU- Night approached.
Good tension here. A fight against time before he can get his power!
A force pushed Bernardo back, knocking the wind out of him. He looked into a pair of eyes overwhelmed by black, set in the leathery face of an Orrdyr. It pulled a blade from his gut. As the Orrdyr left him for dead, he caught sight of Constance, whose gaze he met by chance. Creedy pulled her back, saving her from a beheading. Bodies obscured his view as the fight went on, but as he stood there, he would never forget the look of loss in her eyes… not for his life, but for the map he would never make.
MRU- He looked
Not sure what you mean by overwhelmed by black.
So, he was stabbed here?
MRU- It pulled
MRU- As the Orrdyr
MRU- Creedy pulled her back
MRU- Bodies obscured his
-whose view? Creedy’s or Bernardo’s?
Good action here, though it is a bit too cluttered into the same paragraph. Remember, white space isn’t a bad thing.
He fell to his knees as he struggled to breathe, but he could only stare at the ground, as if it somehow surprised him. He watched his blood seep down and melt the ice beneath him, turning the snow red.
No comma here.
He who? Bernardo or Creedy?
-I’d consider cutting the distance words and just show the reader what he is watching.
-MRU- His blood seeped down and melted the ice … .
He crawled forward– he had to keep moving– but fell to the ground, another body for the count. He rolled onto his back, sucking in air, but gained nothing. He lifted his head, but that was all he could move before the world grew dark.
I’d consider adding Then, in front of he. Then, he lifted his head
A star pierced the sky like a mourning tear.
Great imagery and character voice here.
“Ra…sala…uge,” he whispered.
A green face appeared over him, nostrils flaring as it bent close, let out a guttural snort and snatched him up by his coat. As his vision flickered, he was remotely aware that he was being dragged through the pass. Orrdyr warriors followed behind, clutching limbs of mottled corpses.
I think it sounds better as then let out or and let out
-I’d break this sentence apart. It’s a bit awkward.
MRU- As his vision
MRU- Orrdyr warriors followed
As he watched the pass entrance shrink and disappear, one thing was certain: wherever they were going, alive or dead, they were all going to the same place.
I like the ending, but the every last line is a bit awkward. All going to the same place feels like it could be worded better.
I enjoyed the read and the story moved forward well. I like the pace and the character voice from the second POV here.
Good luck with your revisions.
Keep up the hard work,