Author Topic: Humbly asking for some feedback on a short pice "a simple game of cards"  (Read 4568 times)

Nomine

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I write a bit now and then. Mostly inspired by good old fashioned table top roleplaying. But more and more from things that happens in the roleplay bits of World of Warcraft. Wanted to try my hand on a pice that was pure my own mind. Not just rebrandings of ideas others helped shape. So used one of my oldest Character. A womanizing rogue.
The feedback from my usuall group of people has been good. But nothing as honest as random strangers :) So I ask for feedback/advice from escape pod listners.

The setting is a classic fantasy one. Dwarfes, elves and magic. Not much strange there :)

So thank you for your time and here comes the short pice.

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It has been 7 days and fifteen hours since I last brought my dice to this house.
Much have changed since I learned the ways of honest gambling here. Loaded dice, marked cards, a tenth to the fates. Words ring true still “cheat man, elf or gnome. Keep your marked cards out of dwarf decks, or ya won’t see daybreak. Cheat the fates at their game and ya wish ya never saw the sun again.”
The smell of sour ale, good cheers and good silver welcomes me.
A few drinks later and I am rolling dice. Silvers find their way to my pocket. So does a few ladies hands. Searching for same silver. I pick her hand out, coop a feel on her advantages. Flash a grin before moving on to the new table. She yells something after me. I wink back, saying it is all in the wrist. And yes I did steal her coppers.

Two tables later, a few more silver in my pocket each time. Making sure not to win much. Just enough to get me noticed by the dealers never enough to be called a cheat. Just like I was a youngling. Feels good, so does the cheap ale. More water than ale truth be told.

The night grows long, the guests here is thinning. A few got collected by sour wife’s. One of the wifes I bedded years ago. She still got that same rosy glow in her cheeks as she had in bliss. Just now she is shouting dragging a man twice her size out by his ear.

I look over the few that is left. Waiting for the right cards to be dropped on the table. I watch the man, long coat, soft smile that mirrors my own. A glance down reveals I am drumming on the bar.
So he pulls out the cards. One hand on the table, palm down. Revealing the deck in one soft motion. Old cards, all wizards’ wood, worn from age. Seen them before, played them before.
We take out seats, 5 players, five cards to each. Nobody deals in this game. Each draws his own. You draw from earth and play to ash.

This is an old game. Knew elves who claimed it was used to tell future. Knew magicians who claimed you never could draw the same card twice. Story goes like this. The cards have images, every image tells a story. The fates are what you draw, and what you play. You lose out you get struck by the image on your losing play. You win. You can play on, or drop one card to reap your rewards. With the right cards you can pray for fortune. Wrong hand and you pray your wife never finds out. Trick is to always put higher stakes on the table. If one puts out 3 of cups you will need 4 of any kind to beat him. Now if somebody sits with the high cards on their hand. Well the stakes can`t be much higher. The play is from right to left. Playing from ash towards earth. Seeing how we all wish to win that game.

The one on my left looks at his cards. Got farmers hands that one. He laughs and tosses them all face down onto ash. Top card shows the fool. There is one in every game. In good spirit we offer him a round of ale. Cheer goes up and he heads out in the cold. Four of us left. The round goes round; we deal our cards in turn. The decks owner trumps the merchant to my right. Merchant played like most of them do staves. But eight staves are rightly paid for by nine coins.
The merchant asks with a smile in his voice “do you wish payment in old or new ways?”. Back in old times a win with staves gave the man right to ask for lashes with a wand. The answer is simply "old ways". Before the merchant stops shaking, his friend offers salvation by dealing a prince. The prince pays the price. And both are out of play. Fate is`t for fools or cowards hiding behind others.
Just him and me left. I look up at him flashing my best smile. He strokes his moustache. 3 cards left, my turn. I flip a low set of four swords on the table. Knight is lying there on a bed of stones. One in his hands, three under for rest. He pays for the knights funeral with five cups of wine. One for each that lost him.
He looks at me with a smile. I can almost guess what his coming next. A wave of my hand makes the ale spill over the table. We both reach for his cards, knocking over earth, scooping them up and safely away.

He hisses at me, making it clear that cheap tricks won’t make him forfeit the game.
So I play my second last card. The sun. One of the high ones. Giving those who drank for the knight a new day. Hard card to beat, and he is only mocking me with his face of shock. So he deals death to sun.
With the tower I tear down death. Tearing down his good mood and mocking smile with it. He spit in my face, screaming that I have dealt that card before. I shrug. Feeling cold. Look him straight in the eyes. Telling him that we both cheat. Toss a few slivers of silver on the table. For the game I tell him. He takes them, tossing one back. For the next one he says.

I leave the table. The stolen card hidden in my sleeve. That one is not for me. Fate has been unjust to her. So high time somebody stacks the cards in her favour.



Rachel Swirsky

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Please bear in mind that posting your work in a public location (as I believe this is) counts as first publication rights and may affect your ability to later attempt to market or sell your work. If you are concerned about that, I suggest you take the piece down as soon as possible.



Nomine

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Thank you for that advice, and even if selling it would make me happy like a bunny on drugs. It was`t something I had in mind. This is more a thing for myselfe, trying to write something decent :)
But I had`t thought about that first publication being an issue :) Guess I should pay more attention to "ishouldbewriting" :)



Jonathan C. Gillespie

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Hi, Nomine.

Right off the bat, let me recommend the critique group critters:  www.critters.org.  You'll get to review stories and put some of your own in the queue to be critiqued, and it should serve you well.

I read the story and found two issues off the bat:

The first is grammar.  Your tale needs some grammar control, my friend.  Frequent grammatical mistakes will get your tale tossed out 99% of the time.  Allow me to elaborate with an example:

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If one puts out 3 of cups you will need 4 of any kind to beat him. Now if somebody sits with the high cards on their hand. Well the stakes can`t be much higher.

...should be re-written as:

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Three cups are only beaten by four of a kind. If somebody sits with that hand, stakes are high.

Even so, that still isn't perfect.  This is why you must learn to think like a reader.  Can you tell me what is wrong with that second sentence?

The second issue is background detail.  For example, this is a multi-race world.  So is the protagonist male?  Female?  What race?  You can't rely on your readers assuming anything unless you allude to it.

Consider checking out the "Keep it Active" link ony my website-- you'll see the link in my signature.

Don't want to discourage you, my friend.  Issues aside, the tale held my interest and I still found it enjoyable.  You can learn everything else -- your talent, even at these early stages, is already obvious.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2007, 04:24:11 PM by JCGillespie »

Published genre fiction author with stories in print and upcoming.

Official site: http://jonathancg.net/ | Twitter: JCGAuthor | Facebook


Rachel Swirsky

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Quote
Right off the bat, let me recommend the critique group critters:  www.critters.org.


Or the online writers workshop -- http://sff.onlinewritersworkshop.com/ -- which, in my opinion, provides better critiques.



Jason

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Hi, actually I think its : sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com

Good luck with your piece!



Simon Painter

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hmm, I will have to second the call for better grammar.  Unfortunately decent books on grammar are quite hard to find these days (a friend of mine has been trying for years) and, in the UK at least, Grammar is no longer covered at school.

I also highly reccomend against using the present tense, it's very hard to use effectively, I only know of a few stories that've really been able to pull it off without seeming 'airy'.  I think the best way to write a piece like this might be to imagine your character sitting somewhere with friends some time later, telling them all about what he's been up to. 

Thus a line like:

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Much have changed since I learned the ways of honest gambling here. Loaded dice, marked cards, a tenth to the fates. Words ring true still “cheat man, elf or gnome. Keep your marked cards out of dwarf decks, or ya won’t see daybreak. Cheat the fates at their game and ya wish ya never saw the sun again.”


Might become:

Much has changed since I learned Honest Gambling here.  Loaded Dice, Marked Cards, a tenth to the fates, and suchlike.  The words still ring true "Cheat Man, Elf or Gnome, but watch you keep Marked Cards from a Dwarven Deck, else you'll ne'er see Daybreak again.  Cheat the Fates at their game, and you'll hope never to see the sun again".

Which, again, isn't perfect, but after a few more drafts you can smooth the problems out.  You'll also have to forgive me for not knowing what 'a tenth to the fate' means.

Simon Painter
Shropshire, UK

"Save the Squonk!"