8.31.2005

Snarklings versus the Snarkometer, Round 39




Scottish Highlands, 1618
A crisp breeze blew between the mountains and over the deathly silent battlefield. The sharp scents of bruised grass and coppery blood blended. Gwyneth Carswell put down her herb basket, crouched by a patch of brambles and peered out at the motionless, tartan-clad bodies--a dozen or more--lying scattered about in the dusky gloaming. Blood darkened their shirts and doublets and seeped into the grass.


You've never been on a battlefield have you? How do I know? Cause you'll never smell grass. You'll smell blood, and shit and piss. Blood doesn't seep after someone is dead either. It pools in the lowest part of the body.

And she's just merrily picking her way around dead bodies? Miss Snark would be throwing up. Even in a romance novel.


A chill shivered through Gwyneth and nausea churned in her stomach. The men of the McIrwin clan, her distant cousins, lived and died only for a skirmish. She'd been in the Highlands long enough to expect brutality and violence at every turn, but her sheltered upbringing in England had molded her into the person she was--a lover of peace. Thank God her son had stayed in the cottage with Mora.


oh good, you do have her throwing up...sorta. And if she had a sheltered upbringing, she'd have a VERY violent reaction to all this carnage.


So much senseless death. For what?

After glancing about to make sure she was alone, Gwyneth ventured onto the battlefield and examined the bodies of her distant cousins. Some suffered ghastly wounds to the head or slit throats that had killed them instantly. Though she hadn't been particularly close to most of them, sadness and horror sickened her upon seeing their mutilated bodies.


"After" removes us from the immediacy of the narrative. "glancing about to make sure" keeps us with her, and thus involved.

And what's she doing out here anyway? If she's nauseated by the carnage, she's got to have a reason to be here. She can't just be here cause you need her here to get the story going.


A haunting groan floated on the breeze. She froze. A cold finger of fear trailed down her spine. The pain-filled groan sounded again, straight ahead. One of the men was alive. With skirts hiked, she rushed forward, picking her way among the dead, until she reached the far edge of the clearing.

The light was fading fast, but she saw well enough to know she didn't recognize the injured man, a large warrior with long dark hair, from the enemy clan..


haunting groan? yikes.
cold finger of fear? double yikes

rushed forward/picking her way among the dead....impossible to do at the same time.

He's alive, groaning and she notices his hair first?


You're writing in an intensely competitive category. You're going to have to be fresh, and inventive and smart to keep an agent reading. So far, this won't qualify.

11 comments:

Bernita said...

What I want to know is where are the carrion crows?

Gabriele C. said...

Lol, I have them. Picking at eyes and all. :)

It's interesting to see another attempt at starting a novel with a battlefield description. Dang, and I thought I had something unusual here.

But I don't have a fair maiden walking among the dead. ;)

BTW Tartans 1618? They had checkered weavings then, mostly plaids, but not specific tartans to distinguish between clans, and no kilts, either. This stuff creeps into Scottish historical romances way too often.

ali said...

Small, small, nitpicky point - there is no Clan McIrwin. It's not like there aren't plenty of clans to choose from, so why does she have to make one up?

Gabriele C. said...

Because if she picks a real clan, she'll have to look up that clan's real enemies and god forbid, read some non fiction history books to get all those pesky details right. *snarky grin*

There's a reason why I seldom read "historical" romances nowadays.

Vonda said...

Yes, I picked the name McIrwin for the specific reason there was no such real clan. Not because I didn't want to do research, but because this is a nasty, mean clan. I wouldn't want to offend a real clan. As for kilts, I've done plenty of research. The great kilt wasn't worn until AFTER about 1575 so that puts 1618 within the great-kilt wearing time. Also I didn't say the clans wore specific types of tartan to designate them. But the kilts were of plaid material. The definition of tartan is a plaid textile design of Scottish origin. The word originated in 1500.

Gabriele C. said...

Sorry, I should have specified that my remarks about tartans and kilts were meant as a point to keep in consideration, not as an actual mistake in the snippet. You're on the safe side with great kilts and non-specific tartans.

I can see the point in not using a real clan. I'm a Campbell and I've got my share of nasty remarks, mostly form US emigrants, not from Scots in the UK. Maybe you could have a little remark in an Author's Note to show that it was a deliberate decision. But I see some danger in making an entire clan, fictive or not, mean and nasty. After all, it's a group of humans and they come in all shades. Though to have the baddie and his thugs come from that clan works fine, imho, and that would make the entire clan look bad.

You've evoked my interest in this novel now. Sorry for my snarkiness having got the better of me, but I've come across some really bad Scottish Romances. :)

Bernita said...

Actually, Irwin is one of the many alternate spellings of Irvine, so there is a "real" clan. They were early associates of Robert the Bruce.

Rosedust said...

"Make a clan up"...how clever...What do you expect her to do? This is not a work of academia...it is fiction. Why bore me with your deep knowlege of kilts and pipes. I don't care. I want a book filled with characters I love and places that make me want to be part of the scene. Too much HISTORY made me turn to contemporary. I will be looking for this book. This author seems to write with a sense of time and place like few writers do today. Onward and upward author!

Anonymous said...

But why oh why do so many medivals or Scottish stories have to start with a bloody battle? I want romance, not dead people all over a battle field. Not for me.

ali said...

Vonda - well, what gave it away was the 'Mc'. 'Mc' is an English translation of 'Mac', meaning 'son of'.

Granted, not many people will know that, but it's a giveaway.

Gabriele C. said...

Lol, Anonymous, I write Historical Fiction, not Romance - big difference.

And battles were part of the reality back then, so it's just right to have them in Mediaeval/Scottish Romances, too. If you want flower gardens, read Regencies. :)