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Added a post  to  , NaNoWriMo 2021

Well, taking many of your excellent suggestions... I hope I've improved this...  FYI there is only one girl in the hunting party (Pacifica) - she's there with her father (her mother DN approve of her appetite for hunting) ...

Oh, and Rick, I forgot to mention ... when I was first writing the scene, I actually googled "what does a horse smell like", (seriously!) and grass was part of the descriptions given. However, I changed it to hay in this version, thinking it more likely in a stable than grass... 

Do the dashes work better than slashes?

No doubt an editor will still have a go at it... but I think it's tighter, and thank you all for the suggestions... I've included the entire scene this time, probably should have done that before to make it clear Milo could sense the boar's thoughts... 

Here goes...


Milo allowed a small sensing to cast out past the milling group. There were so many emotions, it was hard to filter them… so he blocked them and sought beyond them. It wasn’t the hunters he was searching for.

Maxim and Palmer flirted outrageously with Pacifica. Her mother would have been incensed, but her father, riding beside the King and deep in a discussion on horse breeding and the lineage of their respective mounts, didn’t notice. 

The party drifted apart, the King and his Yoemen pushing past the beaters, Pacifica, the Prince’s friends, and the younger hunters’ loitering farther back, down the trail. Milo let his horse have her head, and she eagerly followed the lead horses.

Pushing his senses farther, he felt the brush of something inhuman off to one side and slightly behind him. There was anger; scorching, distressed, and infuriated by the clamor of dogs and men. Something hidden, and watchful, growing enraged.

It was hard to pinpoint… not there… wait, perhaps there… then suddenly he knew. Milo spun his horse around as the young man who’d been staring at him earlier, poked half-heartedly into a thicket.

“WARE!” He shouted.

It was already too late.

Maddened by the noise and confusion, and disturbed by this final insult, a huge wild boar burst from the underbrush, swinging his formidable tusks. By luck it was too close to gore the beater, but sliced his arm as it knocked him roughly to the ground, where he lay stunned and bleeding.

For Milo, action slowed to crystal clarity. The sunlight intensified; the splash of blood from the beater’s cut hung vivid in the air; the smells of damp dog, perspiring men, musky boar, and the comforting hay-saddle leather-sweat odor of his horse grew more distinct. For a heartbeat all was locked and still… then battle erupted with the beast’s bellow of defiance.

The guards and nobles at the rear rushed in front of Pacifica, protecting the girl and blocking the swine’s mad dash down the trail, away from the beaters, and the King’s party beyond them. Their horses reared, and hounds suddenly broke onto the path, baying loudly and throwing themselves at the charging brute with sharp, shrill cries.

It turned angrily away from their outcry. Tossing its head, the enraged boar threw one dog over its shoulder, before stampeding back the way it had come. The dog’s high pitched yelp cut off as it slammed to the ground, and lay silent, while the remaining dogs harried the beast, nipping at its heels.

The young beater was getting to his feet, shaking his head and holding his injured arm. He swayed, looking at the ground, dazed and unaware of the returning danger.

Milo and his mare were already moving. The Prince held the horse’s mind. Perfectly attuned to each other, they raced down the path, directly at the rampaging boar.

Voices cried out from in front and behind, as collision seemed inevitable. Milo grabbed the beater’s arm. As the boar dipped its head to gore, his horse veered onto the grassy verge, just off the trail and he jerked the youth up, heaving him over the boar’s back as it stabbed upwards. The beast passed so close, the Prince felt the stiff hairs of its hide scratch against his boot.

The beater gave a bellow of pain as the swine’s tusk caught his thigh, opening a deep slice. Milo released him and he fell to the ground. Whimpering with pain, he scrambled to clamber up the nearest tree, ignoring the blood oozing from his wounds.

The young Prince reached out as he passed one of the huntsmen. The man’s spear leapt into his hand as Milo's horse spun around, and he urged her into a gallop.

This time the King’s guards faced the fleeing beast, shouting, spears at the ready. Blocked from escape once again, the boar turned, and came charging back at the Prince.

He heard his father’s cry above the other’s shouts, but dared not shift his concentration from the approaching encounter. Closer… Milo felt the mare’s terror, barely held at bay by her faith in him... Closer… Sweat lathered her flanks, but she never wavered.

At the last possible instant he signaled her to swerve aside, as he stabbed downward with the spear, piercing the boar’s eye and stabbing into its brain. Caught in the boar’s skull, the spear wrenched out of his hand, almost unseating the Prince. Grabbing hold of her mane, he pulled himself back into the saddle.

Momentum carried the fierce beast forward a few yards, scattering the Yoemen. It slowed to a halt, swayed, realized it was dead, and fell over on its side.

Around him, men broke into wild cheers. Milo flushed with pleasure as his father rode closer to clasp his arm.

“It appears my son has done us the honor of catching the centerpiece for his sixteenth Feasting Day celebration.” King Alaric shouted. The men cheered again. All but the Master of the Hounds, who knelt mournfully beside his fallen dog.

    • The additional setup, of Milo reaching out, resolves the head-hopping issue. I'd be very careful with it though. You've shown it takes a lot of effort. A lot of concentration. So, when the fightinh starts, there's a splintering of attention. It doesn't make sense for Milo to be able to keep that much focus on the boar while fighting and concentrating on his horse. And if he could, you would need to make a lot of structural changes to keep everything having a much tighter psychic focus all the time; the split between Milo's actions, the boar's, and the peripheral events is such that we are pulled back somewhat. To compensate, you would need to go a lot deeper.

      The logical alternative is that the attack snaps him out of the seeking trance, so he no longer has a direct link into the boar's mind.

      There are still a lot of niggle details that show through authorial awareness rather than character, and some parts of the choreography still feel off. But to call all those out, I would need a few hours and inline notes.

      Another logical aside - the physics of perception: in a moment of slowed time, senses would actually dull, not intensify. Imagine a second slowing enough to feel like a minute. In every perceived second of that minute, you'll only get 1/60th of the normal amount of light, odour, etc. So, moments of clarity are dark. Now, if this moment is a recoiling of Milo's expanded mind, everything snapping back at him, then you can beat the physics by calling it part of the magic, though you'll need (at least the first times it's experienced) to call it out as such. Though I would recommend being more specific in the intensity. Not just everything brighter, smells more intense. Perhaps it's edges that leap out, only the shrill sounds amplified (until the thump of his own heartbeat shatters it), a certain class of musky odours. Presuming this isn't the first time, that intensity is then a clean way of saying that Milo's senses are snapping back to just his own head.

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      • I was picturing it more like a freeze-frame slow-mo in a film, that frozen moment when all the sound disappears; then a flash of light, a streak of blood... in a movie there would likely be a flash of the horse's head rearing back - being a book, smell can be added (would smell-o-vision be cool, or gross?), then wham, movement, sound, back into motion...

        You always have such interesting insights, you make me think beyond "this is what happened", lol... This actually is the first time that he's really used his power (on purpose). He spent part of the book thinking he was going crazy, and some more building a wall around his mind (which is how he pictures holding his power at bay). This wall stays in place w/o additional concentration, as he spends a lot of time (mostly lying in bed at night) reinforcing it... 

        There is a tiny pinhole his mother left (when she was forced to abandon him - whole backstory he DNK), which he can't bring himself to close (though he could then be completely 'normal', which is what he thinks he wants)... He justifies it as a release valve, stopping his powers from building up and exploding, blowing the whole wall down... it also bleeds him information about those around him, which he uses empathically... so at the moment he's using a very small fraction of his power. We won't find out just HOW powerful he is until book two - if I live through book one!

        Sorry, probably TMI... I'll keep working on it... I think I'm getting there, now to battle those pesky adverbs... Present swords... 'er scissors!

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      • I like the new paragraphs, and the way they build tension. But three "them"s in sentence two? (And its yeomen, not yoemen.)

        Personally, I wouldn't worry about the physics - this is magic not SF. But if Rick leads you to envision and describe Milo's perception not only in more detail, but also with specific and unexpected quirks (like darkness round the edges, sparkles of light, freeze-framing, or even seening movements being tracked), then it could give a more vivid result.

        I don't like the hyphens any more than the slashes! But the problem is your formulation, using a compound adjective made out of three nouns (hay, leather and sweat) which has embedded in it a fourth noun serving as an adjective (saddle, because it's saddle leather, yes, not glove leather or coat leather). This is preceded by an adjectival verb (comforting) and followed by a fifth noun (odour). We can't cope with being bounced from one sense of a word to another. Why not just keep it straightforward: ...and the comforting odours of his horse: hay, leather and sweat. 

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        • Ack, I should have PWA'd the scene again... thanks for catching the typo, and the multi-words. I tend to add a great word to a sentence, forgetting that several days ago I added the same word a sentence or two away... (as with BURST in the first draft), but PWA usually catches them for me, or I notice the more egregious examples. I was actually shocked I missed BURST, lol.

          I'm with you on the physics... though I do find Rick's comments mind-expanding (and often dictionary required). Your solution to the hyphen-slashes may be the simplest way to go - thanks again!

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