Wisps of Aether

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13 Bridgeman

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  1. Wow. I jumped into the story this chapter, and I'm glad that I did. It's hard for me to find anything to say other than general praise and encouragement. I tried to look for things to critique and proceeded to get caught up in the awesomeness of the narrative and forget about critiquing. Hopefully, that's a good sign. I love how Ori describes the meditative practice with music as a science. It forces me to challenge my own assumptions while bringing a new perspective that makes a lot of sense. I love reading about how people from different cultures see the same events/ideas in different ways. Speaking of which, I love the different perspectives that Sam and Rilan bring, especially when talking about Origon. It's clear that they both see him in different ways, and I got a really good sense of his character by viewing him from two separate viewpoints. When I write different characters, they all say the same sorts of things. And then Sam's conversation with Eros and her brother+friend was especially nice. How old is Sam? I really felt like I connected with his teenage insecurity, but it would be a bit awkward if he were actually older (not the character being awkward, but I would have to change the picture of him in my mind). You did a really good job of making Sam's chat with Eros feel important to him even if the others view it as a casual meeting. Now I really want things to go well for him. As you can probably tell, I am now super invested in this story, so I think that you did everything in this chapter quite nicely. If I had to critique anything (and this is pretty minor), it would be that the first paragraph didn't really grab my attention. The description is quite necessary, but it didn't really feel like I was in Sam's head at the moment as much as I could have been. I... er... have no real idea for how I would improve it, and I did see afterwards that this is the second part of a chapter, so maybe readers at this point don't need a super personal introduction to the scene. I'm looking forward to the next chapter. Between your and @Robinski's stories, I'm starting to think that I should read more sci-fi.
  2. Ah, that makes so much more sense than what I thought. I think it's pretty clear that Callan is controlled by a human for someone who already knows it. I honestly assumed that he was just a human until I saw that he was described as an android, which made me falsely assume AI. Yeah, I don't know if space elevators in Ecuador are a thing in sci-fi (I guess it needs to be on the equator for the physics to work?), but it's not the first time I've come across it. Still awesome. Reading through the other comments, I think that this is my version of stating the "not much was happening during the travel," because I wasn't feeling quite as connected to Quirk during this time. While I think that you could definitely shorten the travel chapters to get to the action more quickly, I would love to see the travel expanded instead. I feel like for me, the issue isn't how long it is but rather that it feels like the travel is a bit of a lull. I love what the characters are doing, but it was hard for me to get super invested in those parts because I didn't feel like too much was really at stake. Maybe my limited connection with Quirk's feelings are a result of that? I'm honestly not sure. But for the most part, it looks great. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next.
  3. Well, I have little to no experience reading sci-fi, so I might have a different perspective than other readers. Hopefully, looking at how to get to sci-fi newbs like me will still be helpful. I also haven't read this story from the beginning, so I'll do my best with the plot. So we have what looks like the actual mandroid murder here in the first part of the submission. The "android" here clearly functions on a human level, but the murder still confuses me. I think that I understand it a bit more after reading the bit in italics a second time. It was confusing at first because Callan reacts in an ashamed way at first, implying that he has emotions and thoughts like a regular human, but he seems to feel little when killing Mills. Upon a rereading, I see that Callan is intentionally suppressing some of his thoughts and feelings that he doesn't want Mill to detect, which may have played a role. We're also told that Callan is nervous after the killing, but I had a bit of a difficult time visualizing it. It's hard for me to come to any conclusions about this scene because I feel like there's a lot missing from the plot. During the travel part in the space elevator (which is a totally cool idea, by the way), I found that the most interesting parts were talking about the fancy tech used to make the travel and life on the moon more similar to Earth (gravity boots, 24-hour cycle mimic, ect.) while Quirk's interaction with the moon and space tech didn't stand out as much to me. I can see that you portrayed Quirk's attempt (pg. 5) to reconcile the mystical "otherness" of the moon with the fact that it's logically just a big rock like Earth to try and connect him to the setting, and I do appreciate it. I think that Quirk's impulse to think of the moon as possessing almost magical qualities that shouldn't be defiled by human touch represents a larger way that humans view the unknown, and Quirk's final conclusion about humans doing whatever they please without any of it really making sense reflects a lot about his personality. I would love to hear more about his thoughts, but something about the implementation didn't quite work for me. It felt like I was being led through a series of ideas rather than hearing Quirk's pure thoughts on the matter, if that makes any sense at all. Also, the clashing between Quirk and Moth during the travel didn't really pull me in. It wasn't bad by any means, but I felt like the scenes could have used a bit more fuel to spur their conflict. I didn't get the impression feel like there was a lot at stake for them in terms of what happened on the space elevator, even when sparks go flying between the two. That being said, I loved the last bit. "Gooey little rat shits" is now my favorite way to describe raisins. Although, I did feel like the justification for Moth's swearing/tantrums could be truncated, as you've done a good job implying that Moth and Quirk like to butt heads to let out steam throughout the chapter. And chamomile tea just seems like the perfect choice for someone like Mary. I loved that detail and I can't even say why. In fact, the personalities of these business-type people are amazing when paired with Quirk's "pleasantries." And then the ending made me want to read more. I'm definitely looking forward to your next submission.
  4. Ah, you're right. That does sound more natural. I'll definitely keep that in mind. I've definitely heard that before as well. Those examples help a lot. It's hard to know what I'm doing wrong if I don't have ideas of what to do right in my mind.
  5. No worries! I'm still planning to get to your chapter as well... eventually. I have to admit that SF and short stories aren't what I normally write, but when I write short stories I often feel like it's not worth it to set up a super abstract fantasy culture. But I still want the setting to be a bit different from our own, so SF often works. Moments like these are difficult for me because that's actually how I would talk to imply what Rose is trying to get across about how she doesn't want Jason to press the point and worry about here more. It's hard to be non-confrontational without stating the obvious sometimes. (1) Yeah, the dialogue is tough because again, it does stick fairly close to how I would talk. There are definitely moments where I know how I would clean it up, though. And I really should read my story out loud. I used to do that with the stories I write, and I don't remember why I stopped. (2) I was actually expecting a lot more comments like this one from other readers. Description is the point when I often feel the weakest, so I sometimes just drop it. It's hard for me to give description the depth it really deserves. Even when my dialogue is flat, there are usually character sentiments going on beneath the surface that I want to play with and explore further. With description, it's a little harder... but I'll definitely try. (3) This story does feel like it's trying to say two separate things, doesn't it? That's something that I struggled with ever since my first draft, and I think that I just made the problem worse by constantly revising and muddling it. Yes, the interstellar travel was supposed to set up the age difference between Jason and Rose, but I definitely agree with you that it doesn't come across as well as it could. I think that I'm going to rewrite the story from Rose's PoV to focus more on their relationship, and maybe eventually write a separate story to talk more about Jason's experiences in space. Thanks for the critique, and I also really appreciate the encouragement. I know that realistically I have a long way to go, but it's great to hear that you liked parts of it. I think that it's important for me to have confidence in my writing. If I think that I've almost got my story in a good place then it will motivate me to work harder regardless of how far away I actually am. So I'll work hard at rewriting this story, and even if it doesn't really achieve its potential then hopefully I'll learn something from the process. Thanks for your support. (As an aside, I'm having way too much fun with these emojis )
  6. Ah, that's a good point, and one that really got me thinking. The truth is, the people really don't have much leverage over these ghosts. The ghosts' promise to only possess criminals convicted of serious crimes is a pretty new thing for the world. The ghosts do have a bit of motivation to keep their end of the deal, since most of them didn't like it when a few of the most powerful ghosts basically took over the world and managed to enslave even the other ghosts. These ghosts can't leave the bodies they possess until, and they feel the same pain and misery that the body does during its period of possession. But I think that point could actually play a key role in the message of the story. Both sides of the war want to industrialize and homogenize by maintaining strict order. The failure of the justice system to convict true criminals and the inability of governments to ultimately control these ghosts can attest to the fact that much of the order and justice under intense nationalism is an illusion. That can provide a weak point in society for the main character to attack. And yes, ghost spies could take over key political figures, but that would be morally wrong. Nobody would dare break the rules regarding the role of ghosts in society, right? (The people in the society don't have the same perspective that we do. Many of them truly believe that the ghosts obey the rules and only control bad people). Mostly crystal stuff. They can also use the power in energized crystals to do some vague things (mostly woven into the technology and used by common soldiers... like pew pew laser guns), but the more stereotypical magic source of the energized crystals mostly function as an industrial power source. Ah, I wouldn't dump most of what I explained to you on the reader. Hopefully most of it is intuitive (it takes energy to move crystals around, and some crystals take more energy to make than others) while just happening to correspond to "actual" science. Most of what I would talk about with crystals is them piloting crystal mech suits and crafting crystal structures as armor/weapons. You know, standard sci-fi/fantasy weapons that sound cool while operating under at least a little bit of science.
  7. Done with finals, so I can finally respond to all of these thoughtful critiques! Oh yeah, I guess I did have them talk about something they both knew... I should definitely find a better way to get that message across. Actually, the jarring side to Jason comes from me wanting to vent my recent experiences more than anything else, but connecting it to the absence of his parents is honestly a wonderful idea. I should totally work that into my story. And yes, I should make it clear that the protag isn't the quoted astronaut. Oh yes, Jason's feelings are quite muddled. I think I feel into the trap of "I feel like this so it's okay to portray him in the same way," even when they're not coherent or compelling. I'm not trying to write a story about a mental schism here, and I need to clean up my character's thoughts. Yep, yep, good to hear about the dialogue one more time just to have it get further through my stubborn ego. I never thought about the timeframe as an issue before, so I'm super glad that you mentioned it. I exaggerated the effects quite a bit so that Jason would feel like this is truly a foreign world, but I can hardly do that if it doesn't make sense. I'm glad that you like the time jump element, because that's the one thing that I'm not willing to give up. Yeah, the names were lifted from another one of my stories that took more from mythology and I honestly forgot about that fact. I'll see if I want to change them. Yes, it's been difficult for me to connect the two scenes, but I think that I may have a solution... I would defend my story if I thought it would do any good, but since the story itself didn't persuade you... well, no use in wasting our time, right? I've come to the conclusion that you're right about the redraft. I really like a lot of what's going on in my story, but I think that I can find a better way to tell it. For starters, I think that the story would actually work better from Rose's PoV because she, despite first appearances, is the more proactive, reliable, and stronger of the two siblings. And I think that Jason doesn't come off as genuine because he contains to many of my own self-contradictions that I've internalized as "normal." And, just like me, he seems to have no real purpose in life. I feel like forcing a purpose on him would be unfaithful to his character, so I would rather have the conclusion come from Rose. I think this was where I hung up, too, in terms of keeping promises to readers. All the glory of space travel and coming back, and the interaction has none of that in it. I was disappointed. Ah, this is indeed a problem. The story was never intended to be about the glory of space travel and was supposed to focus more on Jason's falling out of time as an allegory for his own weakness that runs deeper than Rose's fragile exterior. I should switch up the promises that I'm making at the beginning of the story, then. I think that this really nails it, and I'm so glad that you took the time to critique my story. I got many negative comments about parts that I really liked in the story, and I see now that it's partially because many of them lacked the proper setup. I honestly think that I can't really work with Jason right now. The kid's riddled with too many of my own contradictions to cut through the muck of this story. Just like me, he can analyze all day without coming to any useful conclusions about what he should do with his life. I think that trying to force a conclusion through his thick skull would be awkward and unfaithful to his character, so I'm thinking about having the story focus more on Rose's perspective instead. Let her deal with his contradictions and indecisiveness while coming to her own conclusions. Of course, that basically means a full rewrite from Rose's PoV, but I think that will also eliminate some of the awkward butler-and-maid dialogue (because she doesn't really care as much about the motives of the other astronauts, so I won't have to jam as much in).
  8. I really liked the setting here, and honestly that was most of what pulled me along in the story. It's easy to tell that Rachel isn't quite human right off the bat, and her powers are super awesome. The whole mist thing made me feel like I was seeing the world through an entirely different lens. I wanted to keep reading because I wanted to see who or what Rachel really was, and how that would interact with Destinaire and whatever he was trying to do. The whole bit at the end about choice and consequences was also super interesting. Using fantasy magic to bring up moral dilemmas is always a nice touch. Downloading the file and opening it up, I was surprised how short you managed to keep the word count, mostly because it felt like you were trying to get so many different ideas across. In fact, it felt like you had to explain so much for us to even understand what's going on that you weren't able to use that space to tie the story together. It also felt like you had to dump a lot of info on us because you simply didn't have the time to show us everything that we needed to know in 4k words. For example, I was confused when the whole "Order" thing popped up, and I only know the bare minimum about it to understand what's happening between Rune and Destinaire. It's still an abstract concept in my mind, and I can't really make any conclusions about it with the information given. This left somewhat of a strange feeling in me. I loved a lot of the ideas in this story, but it felt like I could only see what was happening on a surface level. Honestly, I think that there's enough that you can do with the city and the characters to find material to write about for an entire novella. It would give you more space to delve into the awesome worldbuilding stuff and it would allow you to show rather than tell us about a lot of the mechanics that are playing out in the background. In addition to confusing setting points, I would also love to hear more about character motivations. Maybe you could get more specific about what exactly compels Rune to do what she's doing rather than simply stating that she's out to kill Order hosts because of their power. And I would be interested in looking closer at the way Rune thinks and how that is different from the way humans think (her commentary about choices was fascinating, and I would like to see her go into more depth). I would love to hear more about Destinaire and why he created the utopia city... sure, many people would like to make a happy city with happy people, but what separates Destinaire from those who don't? What small differences make his utopia city different than someone else's hypothetical utopia? Where do his insecurities with power come from (he's clearly not comfortable around people he can't control)? I got the impression that you knew the answers but felt too rushed to explain. Expanding this into a novella would also allow you to play more with the ideas after establishing them and allow you to hit at a unified point. Also, I noticed the same PoV switch as Mandamon. It felt a little jarring. I don't read/write short stories that often and they're not my strong suit, so you can take my suggestions with a grain of salt. But I really do feel like there's a lot in here that you could explore in more detail by switching this story to a longer format. Either that or maybe cut some of the worldbuilding out...? But then again, most of it's needed to understand basic character motives. This is why I always struggle to write short stories that are fantasy. Thanks for critiquing my story and I hope that this helped!
  9. Hey, everyone. I'm pretty new to the forums so I figured that I might as well post something here. Gotta put myself out there somehow, right? I'm thinking about magic systems for a book that I eventually plan to write. A magic system that I'm thinking about revolves around two mechanics that are quite broad, so broad that I'm a little worried. I have a specific direction that I want to take with these mechanics, but I want to see what impressions people have when I mention concepts that I have. These two concepts are: -Mages function as spirits after death and can possess other people (including other mages). Once the spirit of a mage possessed a body, it cannot leave until the body dies. -Mages can manipulate crystal structures of solids and can absorb magical energy found in special fantasy glow crystals. -The general setting of this story is a fantasy land similar to America or Britain in WWII (nationalism, struggle against fascism, fate of the world on the line, all that stuff) If you saw a book that revolved around this type of magic, would you be excited? Skeptical? What would you expect to see from these mechanics? What would you want to see? What would you want not to see? How do you think that the magic would interact with a culture similar to WWII America or Britain? In the spoiler below, I lay out my thoughts in more detail, but I'm hoping to get first impressions on broad concepts to see what direction people would expect me to head in and see I'm missing something that people would want covered. If you do look at the spoiler, perhaps you could form impressions of your own first and then see if you are satisfied by what I came up with? Thank you for reading through my post!
  10. -Yep, I'll change it. -I'll change that too. -Heh, this is actually about how I feel being in school for science. Only the best get paid for doing research, and even then it's a lot of menial labor. The postdoc in my lab described research as being "not that different from working in a factory." So while it's impressive that Jason got here, Apollo thinks that the job isn't really fulfilling. I'll see if I can find a better way to word that idea. At first I read this as the dialogue "unbelievably bad" and was super concerned. Looking at the page again, the biggest part that sticks out to me is Apollo's block of text that swings into me trying to describe his motives in an awkward way. Was there anything else specifically that you noticed about this page? I'll probably add in a justification for why he thinks that about Apollo. This is a struggle for me because it's actually how I try to talk. I try to state something obvious that everyone agrees on to suggest something more subtle (Jason still wants to be a supportive big brother and validate Rose's feelings while Rose doesn't want Jason to worry about her for losing family). I can see why it's jarring, but I'm not sure how to change it while preserving the dynamic that I want to get across. Do you have any ideas? I'll look into it. Part of the problem is that Jason isn't really looking for immediate resolution, and I don't want to twist his character to force it. Curse you Jason; why must you be so tough to work with? You're not imagining it; there's quite a bit of awkward dialogue. Ah, thanks. That's super encouraging. I think the reason I like this story more than most others I've written is that I do think that Jason and Rose set up an interesting dynamic while they try to deal with a relative age reversal. I just wish that I could communicate it better... I'm not sure if you ever feel this way, but I sometimes feel that I'm letting my characters down if I don't write them well. So I'll try to do them justice for this story!
  11. Thanks! You hit a lot of the points that I was concerned about here, so I'm glad that we're on the same page (no pun intended) about my story. I didn't want to say this up front since I wanted to see if people would notice something wrong without me telling them (which clearly happened), but the whole depressed/suicide bit was a more recent addition. I felt like Jason didn't have enough of his own problem and was mostly worrying about Rose, and I wanted to give him more of an internal struggle. Right, his general attitude does seem to be at odds with his past, but it was difficult to know what to do about the discrepancy because it's honestly quite similar to how I act now. A few things that I should probably clear up when I'm editing the story, but I'll say now so you know what I'm talking about: -Jason fantasized about suicide, but he never actually tried to kill himself. -Similarly, Rose slitted her wrists as an escape from reality but had no intention of killing herself The ending is something that I think I'll have more trouble with. The problem is that Jason doesn't really know what he wants. He might try to kill himself, he might want to find friends, and he might want to go back into space, but until he decides he's tagging along with the only person he feels that he can trust. I can see why that wouldn't be a compelling ending, but I'm at somewhat of a loss for how to change it. Theoretically, light speed travel should completely freeze time, right? The astronauts assume that they're going so close to the speed of light that any time passing for them is negligible, but I didn't want to spend too much time on that idea since it was really only important to set up the age gap between Rose and Jason. This was in reference to Apollo's statement that Jason's role in the space program wasn't unique and could easily be automated. I think it fits. Ah, I can totally see why it came off this way (always so obvious in retrospect). To me, the maid and butler bit would be more acceptable than in most circumstances because the characters are actually figuring out the new dynamic as they go. The reality that Rose went from being four years younger than Jason to four years older than him is just hitting him, and he says some obvious things because of it. On the same note, Rose is literally doing the math in her head right then to figure out how much older she is than Jason after he left for eight years and came back the same age. And she's trying to imply while describing their aunt and uncle that Jason shouldn't worry too much about how she's coping with their deaths because it wasn't a huge loss for her. She feels that it's more polite to reinforce her lack of dynamic with them rather than claiming outright that their deaths didn't affect her. ...But all that being said, I can see why it's still a problem and I won't be able to type out the above paragraph for every reader who comes across this story. I'll give it a thorough edit, but I might end up asking more questions about this part. I'll fix the "here" part. I meant the planet of Aphrodite Not surprised. I almost took this out and left it in just in case I was the only one who thought that it was a bit shaky. I agree completely. Thanks for your critique!
  12. Hi, everyone. This is my first submission, and I'm hoping that you get a chance to look at it. I'm planning to submit this story for as part of an application for a creative writing class. I've been toying with it for months, and I wanted to see what you all think. It's a sci-fi story about isolation and connection in a world colonized by humans. I'm choosing this piece because I think it's one of my strongest short stories (for whatever that's worth), so hopefully it will be worth your time to read and critique. As for comments, anything helps. I'm not sure if the science makes any sense, but hopefully I'm getting it right (I dive into an extremely basic attempt to understand and use the theory of relativity). I'm also assuming that the people judging my application for the creative writing class won't be familiar with sci-fi or fantasy, so I tried to remove a lot of the jargon that I would normally use. Also, I'm sent the email out to what should have been the right place and I'm assuming you all got it. If something went wrong with my submission, please let me know.
  13. He did? I didn't think that. He was scrabbling around in the leaves and I'm sure there's a reference to him becoming increasingly frantic. Yeah, I wasn't really happy with my ability to understand and communicate why that scene didn't quite click for me. You're right, of course. He does scream and scramble around. But for me, something still wasn't there. Maybe I could take another crack at it. Hopefully I do a better job of explaining it this time @kaisa. I focus heavily (both in writing and reading) on dialogue. I think that R didn't quite work for me in that scene because while he was scrambling around, his dialogue sounded even and controlled. It felt almost like I was dealing with two different characters. He was emoting and he was talking, but it didn't feel to me like his emotion was coming through while he was talking. I'm guessing that you wanted R to be in control of himself even as he is frantic, but in his words I didn't feel like there was a whole lot challenging his self-control. As someone who writes characters that emote basically any time they ever talk (it can be a problem sometimes haha), I'm sure I'm on the extreme end of the spectrum and there may be absolutely nothing wrong with the scene. But I hope that you consider my opinion when you go through and decide that for yourself.
  14. Ah I'm so happy to be done with my chem lab report. I actually have time to read and write critiques now. I'm a little late to the party, and I see that people have already talked about a lot of stuff that I would have said, but I'll try to add in a few comments when I can. I'm sure that you'll catch this when you're going back to edit, so I won't spend too much time on this, but being draft zero there's naturally a bit of passive voice, a few weak verbs, and an over-reliance on adverbs that could be cleaned up a bit. I wouldn't have mentioned it at all except for the fact that it was the first thing I noticed when jumping into your story, and I wanted to let you know so that you could make absolutely sure that a reader wouldn't get the same impression. I really like how S and R seem disconnected with each other. I can almost picture an actual barrier that prevents them from understanding each other. You did such a good job that it was a little jarring to hear S explain to me that they lived in worlds out of sync after you already showed that exact concept with dialogue. But I can tell that you focused a lot of attention on making S feel disconnected with R, and to an extent the old "establishment" of alchemy, and it's an important point to establish for developing the motives for S's character. I think the reason that S's self-important attitude works is precisely because he feels that he doesn't fully fit into the established guild system (meaning that he needs another way to validate his interests and work), so I would recommend hitting that point as often as you can... while still being subtle about it. Gosh, being a writer is hard. Aside from that, I wasn't really able to connect with R as well as I would hoping. It could be because of me being super emotional as a person, but I found it a little strange that he seemed so calm when dealing with the murder tree. I get the impression that this may not have been your intention (like... he does scream and shout; I get that), but that's how it came off to me. I suppose that I expected something about his demeanor to be tense or deadly serious, or something else that would convey fear through a stoic expression. And his transition from a chastising master to dependent seems a little sharp to me. From his words to S after the tree attack, I would expect him to retain some of his confidence and hardness while letting a few cracks in his tone/expression reveal to S the desperation beneath. But the way I write is heavily focused on describing expressions/voices/posture, so I may just be trying to make your work conform with my arbitrary style. Always a possibility where my critiques are concerned. I think that's it for my comments. I like S' character now, but I think that S will really click if you keep establishing the guilds as a place where S really doesn't fit in. (Also, I noticed that S' gender isn't really mentioned, so I've just been referring to S as a "he." Feel free to correct me if I'm missing something. )
  15. Yep, it looks like things are indeed getting crowded. It looks like there's room, so I'd like to take a spot on the 20th for my first submission. I have a short story that I would like critiqued before I submit it as a writing sample for a creative writing class application.