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Critique: A fox falls in love with a dangerous feral wolf

Sage Sylvaine

New Member
Hey All,

I am looking for critique on my first real piece of "furry" writing (though by far not my first piece of writing). I am planning to submit it for publication in June. It's pretty tame as far as romances go, certainly within a PG-13 rating if not PG.

Here are the details:

Russell And The Wolf: A Romance Novelette
16,275 words


Synopsis: When a wolf breaks into Russell’s cabin during a storm, he enlists friends to fight back. But as he develops feelings for her, he tries to call off the attack. Soon, rumors spread that he is harboring a wolf of the kind that devastated the village generations prior. Will he be able to keep their love a secret, or will the village turn against him?

Here's the first 5% of the book:

Chapter 1 - The Storm

Russell awoke to the sound of a storm outside his window. The water was banging in relentless waves on the roof of his lodge, like an angry customer on a shop window after closing. Though his fur was thick, he was glad to be warm and dry inside. The hearth still radiated quite some heat from across the room, though he had not tended it since he had fallen asleep several hours before. As the cinders glowed in the fireplace, Russell wrapped himself in his bedsheets, drew in the warm air, and fell asleep once again.

Russell was a red fox, thin and taller than average. His home was an hour’s hike from Farvul, the nearby fox village. This put him far enough to be removed from the bustle of the market and shops, yet close enough that his occasional errands were more of a leisurely stroll than a long journey. Though he lived not far from the main road, he rarely had many passersby, as his lodge was tucked behind a small bridge over a glen. As such, he also didn’t get many house guests, and the visitors he did get were usually townsfolk visiting on business. But there could be no townsfolk, no visitors, no business expected in this tempest. Russell had planned to stay warm inside, stoking the fire until the storm let up.

Russell woke again, this time with a jolt. He had heard a thump that he may have dreamt; he could not be certain. Though he came to his senses quickly, he was unsure of what had caused him to wake. As he sat bolt-upright in bed, his tall ears scanned the room. For a while, all he could hear was the sound of rain rushing down the cedar roof, pooling outside his window, cascading down the hill into the glen. He found the pitter-patter of the rainwater calming, and before he could think better of it, Russell slowly began to drift back asleep.

At once he heard a loud bang and he jumped nearly a foot above his bed. Russell was awake now. The noise had come from the next room over - that much he could be sure of - but the sound of the storm had drowned out much of the detail. From his bedside table, Russell grabbed a lantern in his left paw and a dagger in his right. He lit the lantern and sprinted quietly toward the door to the main quarters.

Russell opened the door, peeking gingerly around it with the lamp. The kitchen was still, and the only sounds to be heard were of Russell’s rapid breathing and the rain lashing against the front windows. Russell stepped out into the room. Water streamed down the front of his house, the faint moonlight refracting through the windows and dancing on his hardwood floor. A large iron anvil was illuminated in the center of his room, and in the far corner were several tools and weapons on display. To the left was a large trunk and a brick forge, and to the right hung a collection of iron pans and cookware.

“Who goes there?” Russell shouted into the room. After a pause with no response, he shouted a threat: “I don’t just make these, I can use them too.”

But the only response was that of the rain. After a minute of listening and scanning the room, Russell heard nothing. He raised a paw to his ear to clear it out, and lowered it in a sleepy sigh.

Russell approached the weapons rack at the opposite corner of the room. If he got into a swordfight, would the attacker be large or small? Would they be nimble or heavy-set? Russell’s fear of a real encounter began to dissolve as he fantasized about his weapons.

Suddenly, Russell took a hard blow to the back of the head and fell to the wooden floor, dropping his lamp and dagger. By the time he realized what was happening, he was pinned to his back under several hundred pounds of force. With no weapon and no means of escape, Russell tried to make out his captor.

He caught a momentary sight of two gleaming eyes and a dripping canine face above him, then the lantern burnt out and the room went dark. By the heaviness of its breath and the balance of its weight on all fours, he could tell that the assailant was giant, feral and powerful.

In a growling undertone, the wolf spoke to the fox in the darkness...

***

Read the rest of Chapter 1 here:
https://sagesylvaine.netlify.com/private/russell-and-the-wolf-preview-302853.pdf
https://sagesylvaine.netlify.com/private/russell-and-the-wolf-preview-302853.epub

(If you would like to read the rest of the story, Reply or DM, or Email me at sage.sylvaine@gmail.com for the full book!)
 

stardust_and_plastic

One sick kitty
Hiya! I'm going to give you what I feel is some of the best advice writers have given me over the years: "cut your first couple of paragraphs." You'll find that the information you need to put in, he's a fox, he lives near the town but not too near, you can sneak into other sentences later on or even make it more of a show than a tell. Also, there's a weird thing about waking up with a character. For the life of me I can't remember what it is but I think it makes us subconsciously sleepy? It's a cliche that needs to be used sparingly, so be careful with it! you should really only have him wake up once, I think. but that's me. Let us know how he feels more. When he's hit on the head or pinned to the floor let us know in as brief ways as possible, what kind of pain he's feeling. Let us know where the wolf's arms are holding him. Since this is a romance, touch is going to be a big thing.
You're doing really well at describing the area and the atmosphere! Just extend that treatment :3
 

LadySajani

Well-Known Member
You've got a decent beginning.
Just a few small items to consider.
1. I know his name is Russel. Why? Because it comes up multiple times each paragraph. Try "the fox," "the cabin's owner," " the awakened slumberer." ANYTHING but another Russel.
2. Along the same lines with the repetition. Learn a few more basic sentence structures. You've got more than most beginners, but it's definitely an area you can work. A decent indicator is just watching what word you use to start your sentences. This is pretty minor in your case. I've seen much worse from published authors. :)
3. "Had" and "that." If you see them, try writing the same sentence without them. If it works, then you can drop those words. You might rarely want them for emphasis and if you use them all the time, they lose their emphasis.
4. The same can be said for starting with "suddenly" and "at once." You're writing basically in real time, so these are unnecessary and often break the flow of your writing. When it happens doesn't need to be stated, how the character responds to it does.
5. The "just waking up" beginning does tend to get overused, but my main problem with it here has nothing to do with how often others use it. Waking from sleep is a decent way (if done right) to relay to the reader a deeper confusion that might be present. The problem is that it's often used as a way to show a fresh start. That's pointless. Your story just started. The reader gets it. There's also a second problem with it.
6. Why didn't the wolf attack while the fox was asleep? Why wait until the occupant is armed? There could very well be a good reason for this, especially since it's not 100% clear when the wolf entered. Even if there is a reason, you might reconsider the way it's done.

I'm awful at critiquing stories. The only reason I'm even here is because you asked in the other forum and I felt responsible for directing you here. :p

I'll leave off with the best advice I've ever received as an author (and the only generic advice I ever give). Listen to what people suggest. In most cases, they're saying it to help you and they mean well. Thank them for taking the time to try and assist you. Consider carefully what they've told you and if it doesn't make sense, ignore it. For the last thirty years or so there's been a concentrated effort from the main publishers to create a formula for writers to follow. These formulas not only fail to guarantee success, they limit the amount of success an author can experience. They exclude just about every timeless author from Dickens to Twain, from Pratchett to Tolkien. The system only gives certainty to a future of mediocrity.

People don't want to hear the same tired voice from different people. Eventually, the big publishing houses will figure that out.
 

LadySajani

Well-Known Member
Sajani, you sent me who then went on a critiquing spree XD but I'm glad that got Sage another read!
I'm sooo bad with names... lol.

I'll owe you a critique then, if you actually want one from me. I'm pretty awful at them.
 

Sage Sylvaine

New Member
Hey Sajani and Stardust, thank you so much for giving the beginning of my book a read! Stardust, I especially appreciated your advice to cut the first couple paragraphs, and Sajani, thank you for your general as well as specific advice. At some point I'm going to go back over this story and implement all of the good suggestions I've gotten.
 
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