The primary issues: Past Perfect Tense, Comma Use, Wordiness
I've listed below an actual paragraph from a novel one of my clients is writing. I've changed the names of the characters to protect further the confidence of my client and his/her piece. I've placed the problem text in bold red font.
Yellow Flower Bloom was the first to look up from her cooking. Her man told her through Eagle they were coming back with hairy faced men and their women who were of the Peoples, but she did not expect to see what she did. So many walked her way! The horses they rode out with carried packs and one carried a smiling Blue Water Friend who held a baby in each arm.
Yellow Flower Bloom was the first to look up from her cooking. Her man had told her—through Eagle—they were coming back with hairy-faced men and their women, who were of the Peoples, but she had not expected this. So many! The horses they'd ridden out with carried packs, and one carried a smiling Blue Water Friend, who held a baby in each arm.
ISSUE #1: IMPROPER TENSE
When writing of "the past within the past"—in other words, of an earlier action in a Past Tense narrative—always use the Past Perfect Tense.
ISSUE #2: DASHES TO OFFSET A PARENTHETIC ASIDE (ABRUPT, OR EMPHASIZED)
In this case of Native American spiritual beliefs, the fact that Yellow Flower Bloom learned this information through a Spirit Guide requires some emphasis, and dashes accomplish that well.
ISSUE #3: COMPOUND ADJECTIVE
I have discovered, in my editing pursuits, that most writers are lacking in their understanding of compound adjectives—or compound nouns and verbs, for that matter—which require hyphens. "Hairy-faced" is such a compound adjective.
ISSUE #4: COMMA REQUIRED
The phrase "who were of the Peoples" is a parenthetic, non-restrictive clause, and thus requires commas both before and after.
ISSUE #5: IMPROPER TENSE
Once again, the Past Perfect Tense is required: "had not expected" versus "did not expect."
ISSUE #6: WORDINESS
That segment can use a lot of tightening. Compare my alternative to the original. Did I lose anything? Any impact? Any clarity? No, and I eliminated 7 words from that 10-word segment. Remember this high commandment of effective writing: Make every word count.
ISSUE #5: IMPROPER TENSE
Once again, the Past Perfect Tense is required: "they'd ridden" versus "they rode."
ISSUE #8: COMMA REQUIRED
The first comma in that sentence, after "packs," is required to separate the Independent Clause. The second comma, after "Blue Water Friend," is required to separate the Non-Restrictive Clause.
'Til next time, and as always, remember:
To write well, you must work hard. To succeed in this tough gig, you mustn't be lazy.