Guard Tali Adilrein crept through the warehouse, searching. Would a child who'd snuck in climb the towering bales of wool to look out through the high iron lattice? A normal human wouldn't detect the rancid scent of ancient enchantments in the metal, not with the reek of camphor. Would they notice the dead moths around the bars? If the child touched the lattice, could they be too hurt to call for help?
Gulls cried from the harbor in the distance. Faint scuffs tapped the bale above where a cat prowled along the edge of a spider web. A cat could sound like a young child, too young to be the one Tali'd heard. She crept onwards. The measured tread of the duty guard paced the floor. Thuds punctuated the voices of laborers stacking bales onto carts. A child whimpered with fear, beyond the outer wall? Roughly northeast.
Tali jogged back to the guardroom. She ducked through the curtain over the entrance.
Mirran said, "Find someone?" He looked up from wiping the table.
"They're outside," said Tali, striding to the door.
Tali hated this time of year. Children, always children, sneaking in, climbing in. She'd find them later, torn apart by the guardians or trapped in the gargoyle pens. Why did they insist on breaking into Santa's warehouse to see if they'd been naughty or nice?
Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: khazar-khum
P1: I would change "with" to "through." I'm not crazy about the use of "they" to refer back to "A normal human" in the previous sentence. Or does it refer to "a child" two sentences earlier? The second "they" is less problematic, though no one would complain if you used "he" or "she." Or you could get rid of both "they"s with something like:
A normal human wouldn't detect the ancient enchantments in the metal, might not notice the dead moths around the bars. Could a child who touched the lattice be too hurt to call for help?
P2: I don't know what "faint scuffs tapped the bale" means. I'd probably say the cat is prowling past a spider web. Narrowing it down to "near the edge of a spider web" is being a bit too specific. Is it too nitpicky to say it's the guard pacing the floor, not the guard's measured tread?
Last sentence: Another "they." She heard something that sounded like a child, investigated, heard a whimper from beyond the wall. Unless there's evidence that there's more than one child, she probably wouldn't say "they." Perhaps she should say, "It came from outside," since Mirran's question presumably means "Did you find whoever made that noise you heard?"
Thanks for the edits EE. They're very helpful in seeing what I'm still overlooking.
Nice continuation khazar-khum
Thanks in advance to any other commenters.
You are trying too do too much in too few words and it comes across as disjointed. Tali is searching based on hearing something, so make the sounds of the warehouse prominent.
More like this:
Guard Tali Adilrein crept through the warehouse, searching. Gulls cried from the harbor in the distance. Faint scuffs tapped the bale above where a cat prowled. The measured tread of the duty guard paced the floor. Thuds punctuated the voices of laborers stacking bales onto carts. There it was again -- A child whimpering with fear, beyond the outer wall... Roughly northeast.
Do you need the guard's two names? Consider if the last name could wait until later.
Another question: They are guarding bales of wool or something more valuable?
Is this a dock warehouse?
Is the child going to make an appearance or is the noise of the child merely a gimmick to introduce the character? The reader will care.
In response to the questions:
The child will make an appearance and play a part in the plot.
It's a warehouse a few blocks away from the actual dock, part of a group of warehouses all belonging to the same merchant.
This particular warehouse has wool bales. Tali, Mirran, and a couple others were playing (a game like) cards during lunch here because it's out of the way but still nearby, if you're wondering why all the guards when it's just wool.
Guard Tali sounds odd, or do you mean refer to her as just Tali here? I'll think about it.
Thank you for the feedback.
I could really picture, hear and smell the place, nicely done!
Is there a better word than "crept" for the first sentence? Is she actually crawling and trying not to be seen or is she just being quiet so she can listen?
Unlike Dave, I didn't realize she was searching by sound - instead, I thought she was trying not to make a noise herself to avoid being caught. I thought she herself had sneaked in and was trying not to be noticed by the duty guard. Then it turns out she's in her own warehouse and I'm starting to feel I don't know what's going on more than I want to know what's happening. What if you change "searching" in the first line to "listening"?
I have no idea how a scuff can tap something either.
Love that you started with the character tackling a problem; it feels like the story is going somewhere.
If characters in your world would actually refer to Tali as "Guard Tali Adilrein" under some circumstances, leave ir as is. If it's less like a title - like "Lady Tali Adilrein" - and more a description of her job - like "firefighter Tali Adilrein," then nix the "guard." You can use her last name if it's important that we know it before someone has a chance to say it or just call her "Tali." Leave it o the context to tell us she's a guard by the time we need to know it.
Starting paragraph two with Tali actively listening for sounds of the child she's looking for would put the soundscape you're creating into context. Without the information that Tali is listening for clues to the whereabouts of the child she's looking for, the gulls in the distance don't seem connected.
Depending on what kind of fantasy world readers think you might be setting up, they could be imagining a tiny cat walking on a spider's web or a normal sized cat walking on the web of a giant spider. Either way, they're probably not thinking "normal cat walking near a normal spider web," which is probably what you intended.
I'd ad a "but" to "A cat could sound like a young child, too young to be the one Tali'd heard." It took me a second read through to realize that Tali is briefly considering that she might have heard a cat and not a child early and then dismissing the idea.
Consider setting the child's whimpering off from the other sounds by a sentence or two. That's what Tali is actually listening for, so there should be a little more buildup and reaction when she hears it. A sense of how Tali feels once she figures out where the child is will also start to tell us what kind of person she is.
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