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Looking for critique on story bits (The Golden Sparrow)


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Hello, I'm beginning writing a story I've had around in my head and scattered notes for awhile. I've got some really high plans for it, but don't want to spoil it.

It's my first day of writing it, I have already written the outlines and generally have a pretty good idea of where I want to go with it (despite writing it being seemingly exhausting of a task I do plan to eventually bring thuis to frutation at perhaps the pace of 1-2 pages daily).

Basic idea of the story is somewhat of a deep philosophical piece covering various aspects of human nature and culture, but the beginnings are humble. 
This is page one and a half of the prologue chapter, essentially setting up the world and characters. By a couple of weeks I should be done with the prologue as it is intended to be only 25 pages, and will honestly be the most laborious chapater to write as it is fairly.... (rudimentary?) in what it accomplishes.

Any critique welcome, will update this thread with tidbits every now and then. (formatting is a bit kerfuckled on here)



John looked up, with the harsh sun in his eyes it was a moment before he could find the one speaking to him. It appeared to a heavy set, jovial man with sharp blue eyes looking into him. The man continued, "Well, I see that you are new to this fine town of Hickory," the man said with a disarming smile "If you ever find yourself in need of work in these here parts you let me know. I'm the man who knows where to find it, understand?"

John started to reply but before he could come forth with a cohesive response the man seemed to find interest in another arrival to the town. The town where he could begin a new life, a simpler life. It was far different from what John had been used to in the past. No fish market, no wharf for boats, no tall green trees climbing the hills...... yet something seemed familiar, a tinge of salt in the air. He looked but could see no water, then he began to recount a conversation he overheard on the dusty wagon that took him and the other visitors here.

It was towards dusk, as the wagon was passing through what seemed to be the second large mountain range that it had encountered in it's journey west. The air was crisp and cool, the inside of the wagon warm. There was a woman with her child beside him, she being relatively young and the child being perhaps eight years old with short blond hair. The child looked up towards the mother and began to speak in a very rural accent, typical of the south-east "What is it going to be like when we meet daddy?" she asked.

John wondered if that is what his own daughter looked like, and if she ever asked about him. If she would ever meet him. Perhaps someday, he hoped.

"Your father lives in a very dry hot place, so it's probably going to be hard to find him below all the sand." She laughed with a smile, then continued with a wink "Still, Mommy could probably find a shovel for him." The only shovel Annabelle would find for him would be to bury the memories of him, John thought wearily.

The child seemed confused at the jibe, querying "Why would he be under the sand, I thought Daddy worked in a tavern?" John perked up at this, taverns back east have been under what seemed to be a siege by the religious crowd lately, and he sure could use some whiskey every now and then.

"It's common for them to have sand storms in Hickory, there is a vast dry sea nearby where the sandman is supposed to live." She said teasingly, then relented due to the horror apparent on her daughter's face "Still, Mommy and Daddy can handle any sandman and we won't be going into that dry sea anyways, it's where they send the criminals."

The daughter seemed to calm down at this, and sat closer to her mother with no further questions. John could only seem to think, what a horrible place that sea bed sounds like. Damned men and women being marched to die into a place where their bodies would lay in the sun, refused by the earth, until someday when the winds blew enough salt ridden sand to hide the dead. John shivered, and hoped that such a thing would never be his fate, whether in the darkness of what used to be his dreams or the harsh reality of the waking world. Such a thing, he thought, would be a fate worse than death.

A bell rung out, pulling him out of his retrospection and back into Hickory. The town of a harsh sun and salt in the earth, where none could grow. It would seem to be that the local church was calling it's members to attendance, yet John felt another call. A call to a rusty sign with what seemed to be a whiskey bottle and the pattern of an intertwined horseshoe on the label. Perfect, John thought, a chance to enjoy myself. A chance to forget.

John approached the swinging doors, noting the vast amount of dust that had blown into little pale lime piles against the outside walls. He noticed what seemed to be laughter and a loud crashing noise as he walked into a large room with a simple wooden bar across from him, old stairs on the left, and a group of people playing with what appeared to be heavily worn cards and hand made poker chips. One man, a young mine worker had stood up and threw his cards on the table in frustration while the others at at the table seemed bemused. One man, who wore a large duster coat and rancher hat, spoke in a chillingly calm voice " You know you don't want to do that, George. Giving up now would mean that you forfeit your bet, and here at the lucky star casino we don't want that." He continued, after a pause "You owe us money, and either you win and pay your debt off or we will have to collect it however we can. Don't make us do that, George."

The young mine worker looked away and began to walk the tavern doors with a grim look on his face. He paused beside John and spoke in a soft, firm, voice "They will take everything you have and leave you for dead. Avoid Crowley, nobody wins his game."
He then continued to walk out the door, stopping to grab a straw hat from the nearby rack while the people at the table continued to laugh, but the one presumably named Crowley sat silently, as if expecting something.

...to be continued...

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It's probably smart to begin humbly, as you put it, in order to keep a steady pace with your output. I like how you introduce the town slowly, after forcing the reader abruptly into things, as you move into the flashback scene where the main character listens to the woman provide some exposition. There are a few minor critiques I can make: how does the main character know the woman's name is Annabelle? I believe before this she's just referred to as the woman. I would break up the first sentence by adding a period after, "his eyes." Also the first sentence of the last paragraph should be "began to walk toward the tavern doors." Good luck with your story going forward. There's some good world building here and hopefully the characters you introduce will serve as more than exposition as you continue to flesh them out.

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