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aeromancer

Reading Excuses - 3/20/17 - aeromancer - Quenched in Flames(Slight L,V)

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Here's a brief one-shot. I'd like feedback on the atmosphere, principally. Also, seeing as there's a brief tangent on the nature of good and evil, comments on that would also be appreciated. (Wouldn't mind getting sidetracked into a weapon-forging discussion either, but if wishes were fishes no one would  go hungry except people who really don't like fish.) Violence isn't beyond what I normally send, the reason I put slight 'L' is because (while the language is tame compared to what other people use), it's beyond what I normally do.

Also, yes, the protagonist is a villain. Just in case you were wondering.

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I'm not getting much in the way of atmosphere here beyond "generic western European fantasyland." I feel like it's maybe supposed to make me feel ominous? But, it's not quite doing that for me. 

 
I am engaged with Ra. She is interesting and mysterious. 
 
"greyscale" - (gray scale) this is a newish (circa 1930s/1940s) word associated with film and television, and more recently with computing. It seems out of place in the fantasy story you've set up.
 
D's name might be a bit on the nose for the power set.
 
Fight scene POV switch. Up to that point, the section had been from D's perspective, and he'd been referring to her as "the woman." I don't think she ever introduced herself to him? Once the fighting starts, she's being referred to as Ra, and it's more from her perspective.  
 
I liked the fight scene, it was well-staged. The braid bit is a kind of over the top, though. 
 
"The first soldier slowly approached her from behind" the one that she just stabbed through the calf and into the ground?
 
"I meet out justice" mete
 
I don't see her as a villain, really.
 
I am confused by the ending. Why was he bad? What was going on? Is Ra dead? Is Ru the same person and Ra was an alias? are they some kind of human person+otherworldly spirit duo? Is this an "absolute power corrupts absolutely" thing? Is magic forbidden? 
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29 minutes ago, industrialistDragon said:

"greyscale" - (gray scale) this is a newish (circa 1930s/1940s) word associated with film and television, and more recently with computing. It seems out of place in the fantasy story you've set up.

Well, yes. But the way Rune's power set works is such as seeing the world in gray except for traces of other powers, so I felt justified in it's usage. Probably just worth swapping to 'gray', I suppose.

29 minutes ago, industrialistDragon said:

Fight scene POV switch. Up to that point, the section had been from D's perspective, and he'd been referring to her as "the woman." I don't think she ever introduced herself to him? Once the fighting starts, she's being referred to as Ra, and it's more from her perspective.  

This is my fault. I meant to have Rune introduce herself, but I kept swapping what name she was using, so I suppose I forgot to put that in.

29 minutes ago, industrialistDragon said:

D's name might be a bit on the nose for the power set.

(laughs) Yeah, it's Latin for Destiny. I have an unhealthy obsession with using names that secretly mean things if you're good with ancient languages, word puzzles, or both.

29 minutes ago, industrialistDragon said:

I liked the fight scene, it was well-staged. The braid bit is a kind of over the top, though. 

"The first soldier slowly approached her from behind" the one that she just stabbed through the calf and into the ground?

Rune's character is part of a larger universe, and Rune, in it, has a reputation for using her hair as a weapon. This is because her hair has limited movement on it's own, and a couple unique properties. The hair wasn't strictly necessary, but it's in line with her character. The first soldier was elbowed, second was stabbed, I believe.

29 minutes ago, industrialistDragon said:

I am confused by the ending. Why was he bad? What was going on? Is Ra dead? Is Ru the same person and Ra was an alias? are they some kind of human person+otherworldly spirit duo? Is this an "absolute power corrupts absolutely" thing? Is magic forbidden? 

No, De wasn't bad, there's nothing going on geyond what you read. Rachel isn't dead, she's just a disguise that Rune wears (Rune has limited shapeshifting abilities). Rune isn't a human host to an otherwordly spirit for two reasons. One, her original species wasn't human. Two, she was never alive in the first place, so when she received the 'otherwordly' spirit (it's a bit more complex than that, but for now that shall suffice), so there was no host to overwrite. Well, this gets interesting, as Rune as an a pretty complex backstory and simplistic motives. Her job is to kill Order hosts. She's tasked with this by her father/creator, the reason being that Orders are too dangerous to allow in the mortal realm. The reason isn't because absolute power corrupts absolutely, Rune kills them because she's born to do that. Her job is killing Orders who have the ability to use their powers to their full extent. The reason she was created for that isn't because the Shadows were afraid Orders would turn dark. Shadows couldn't care less. That being said, 'magic is forbidden' is kind of an oversimplification. There are powerful forces in the world overall which don't appreciate magic, but the rule of thumb in the world is that everyone in it has access to 'magic', of sorts. The species determine which one you have access to, but everyone has some form of it, so isn't any government which forbids it. Though, having a 'Children of the Light'-esque group isn't a bad idea. You've given me food for thought.

Edited by aeromancer
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An interesting story. I thought the worldbuilding was good, if generic, but had some problems with the plot. Also, the POV seemed to switch in the middle from omniscient to limited 3rd, focusing on Rachel. Then it went back to omni at the end.
The excuse that Destinare committed evil because he thought Rachel would hurt him is a little weak to me. Yes, he was too quick to action, but Rachel exploited it and her reputation to drive the situation. As for the town itself, I didn't see any indication that the inhabitants couldn't leave if they chose. If the question is either to live in a more efficient city or not, I don't see that as a big problem.

Agree with @industrialistDragon that Destinare is a bit on the nose. You don't even need Latin to see that connection.

Re: you explanation of the ending above, generally, my thought is, if you need to commit that big a paragraph to explain it, more of that information needs to go in the story. I also saw this is weak on the ending, because you never really asked or answered a question. This one would be good to apply the MICE quotient to and see what you're trying to address.

Notes while reading:

pg 1: Interesting--this is in 3rd omniscient? I like the way you use it to show how the driver and Rachel see each other.

pg 2: I'm interested as to where Rachel comes from that haggling is such a large part of the culture--enough to see the minor differences here.

pg 4: "She wished she could tell the difference, but that wasn’t within her powers"
--Rachel seems to be a construct or robot of some sort?

pg 4: "To her, lying was no different than telling the truth"
--I would try to show this.

pg 4: "She chewed carefully, but tasted nothing. As usual."
--the "as usual" part makes me think that she has tasted something in the past. If that's not the case, you could probably cut it.

pg 5: "I’m not so good at explaining things"
--one too many "goods"

pg 5: "Unconsciously, her expression shifted, becoming hawk-like"
--since page 2, this has been limited POV from Rachel. If that's the case, she can't see her own face.

pg 5: "The innkeeper had told her a group of scholars had spent two weeks watching the bustle to try and learn how Corromast did it."
--Something is nagging me about this and I don't know what. The populace should have some opinions if they are part of the efficiency, maybe?

pg 6: "Not that Rachel had intended to spot the urchin, of course, she just needed to make the attempt for the bait to work."
--awkward. Also very coincidental that he shows up at that instant.

pg 6: "Her brown eyes glowed, and shifted to greyscale, as did her vision of the world around her"
--again, seeing things outside of Rachel's POV

pg 7: "The effects are marginal..."
--the next few paragraphs are infodumpy. How does Rachel know this?

pg 8: "and four guards posed no threat whatsoever"
--There have been several repetitions of this, and it's reducing the tension. It makes me care less about Rachel.

pg 9: back to omni POV?

pg 9, end: very infodumpy.

pg 10: "I’m not sure why you call what I would do ‘killing’"
--fairly simple...if she causes someone to die, that's killing. If not, she didn't.

pg 11: "the wooden circle"
--have we seen this before?

pg 11: "twisting their destiny so that they’d always be fanatically loyal."
--show, don't tell.

pg 12: "The inn fell."
--unneeded.

pg 12: "His powers had protected him from the impact"
--by controlling destiny? how?
"Another moment or two, and he’d be able to restore the inn back before it fell"
--confused. This sounds like controlling time, not destiny.

pg 12: "host of an Order"
--is this referring to Destinare? awkward.

pg 13: "“Clever. The knife may have been mine..."
--expositing...

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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. :D 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! :D 

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