Gumbee Fantasy Writers ‘do’ Peril and tension: Number 6, David Staniforth: Peril

This is the first excerpt I’ve posted on the Gumbee blog from my novel “Alloria”. I’ve found peril a difficult topic to address as every piece I selected appeared to be a massive spoiler. The passage below is quite close to the beginning of the book so hopefully avoids that issue. Even then, I have had to end it halfway through a paragraph. For me peril has to have a strong element of tension, and therefore has to be experienced from the point of view of the character that is in peril. There has to be, for the reader and the character, a genuine belief of immediate and certain danger. I believe I achieved that here, but that’s for you to decide.

Too afraid to turn around and take a second look at the man-beast heading towards them, Alloria locked wide eyes with Nathan. She heard the huge sword smashing into the ground behind her. Despite the momentary glance, his face was fixed in her mind: the ripped cheek, the look of contorted anger in the good eye, the weeping puss around the bad eye, a heavy slab jaw with jutting canines. Nathan’s colour drained and she watched with dread as his eyes rolled and he fainted.

The man-beast was huge, not quite a giant from one of Papa’s tales, but massive all the same. As he flew past, her heart pounded. He brought the sword down on Nathan but missed. He then stepped to the right, swinging his weapon in all directions, spinning around, going back and forth, his sword whistling through the air and striking the ground with an eruption of soil as he skirted the edge of the clearing. Maybe he’s blind, Alloria dared to hope, until he stopped dead and fixed the open eye directly upon her. The ground thumped as he raced in her direction, his mighty sword held aloft.

Alloria curled into a ball, squeezed her eyes shut and waited for the killing blow. When the ground behind her shuddered she opened her eyes and turned. He’d leapt over her and was furiously whacking the ground, his sword a blur of flashing steel, the muscles in his arms flexing as he swung the blade back and forth.

Crazy, she thought, edging close to Nathan, intent on rousing him and sneaking away. Silence forced her to glance over her shoulder. The man-beast was standing still, looking directly at her, the tip of his sword pointing to the ground, his massive chest heaving as he breathed heavily. She sat motionless, only her eyes disobeying her body’s refusal to move.


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