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rdpulfer

Earthborne 8/21/17 rdpulfer (L) (5122 words)

14 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

Hey all,

Long time, no submit. Tananarive Due suggested turning a novel idea into a short story, so that's what I'm attempted with this military science fiction premise I've been working on. All feedback is welcome!

 

Edited by rdpulfer
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Welcome back to submitting!

I think this is some of your better work. It kept me engaged the whole time. There were a few minor plot points that could be clarified, but easily fixed with basic editing. There's also a couple points where it looks like you switched from third to first person.

However, I would like a little more to the end. You could make it slightly longer, and give at least some resolution to whether they lived or died, or found their families. You might be able to tie this in with a little more backstory to the MC. You told us he wasn't respected, but never really showed how it happened. I'd also like to learn more of what the aliens were, but I think not describing them at all also works. They rest of the story around the lack of definition just needs to be stronger to make up for it.

Notes while reading:
pg 1: "I moved a hand to my sweaty brown skin and wiped sweat beading down my forehead."
--"sweat" twice. Also, calling out brown skin here reads a little too authorial.

pg 2: "Before, me, I just had to worry about getting intentionally shot"
--extra word

pg 3: “If this is a dream you won’t taste anything,”
--ehhh..I'll accept this, but it's a weak argument.

pg 4: "Frodo nickname" , "now in command of the platoon"
--how did he get the nickname from being in the Forward Operating Base? also, if he's the new guy, how is he in command?

pg 4: "not the least of which was his own"
--my own?

pg 4: "The hot California skin beat down on my already dark skin as I lifted myself out of the Humvee I’d been napping in"
--this is a better callout than the first line. there's a reason for it. Also, was there a jump here? When did he start napping?

pg 6: "“The commander gave you an order,” Porter broke in after a moment of silence. "
--Can't remember which one is Porter. Why does he earn more respect?

pg 8: “Team four actual,” I said, as I radioed Porter. “We’re Oscar Mike.”
--I'm not sure what this means. How does this connect to what Mejers found?

pg 9: "smiling with his mother"
--my mother

pg 10: "because none of us are think"
--missing word

pg 12: “But if we’re in danger of being overrun, we need to run about it.”
--Repeated "run," also not sure what the last phrase means.

pg 14: "firetime"
--??

pg 17: "nothing I got from Detroit lasted more than thirty thousand miles,” Wright chimed in.
--Lol

pg 17: California and Detroit was “hostile"
--California and Texas?

pg 19: "when you were indecisive and near-useless?”
--When was this? It would be good to get a brief flashback on this.

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Thanks Mandamon! I appreciate the feedback and I'm glad you liked it.

Just one note: like I said, this is a novel premise, so I'm struggling with the vagueness of the ending and the aliens' intentions. Any ideas how to go into more details without info-dumping?

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Hmm...not completely sure. Thinking about it more, it may be less about the aliens and more that the ending doesn't have a real resolution. Everyone goes off to search for...something, but there's not a clear direction, so it seems like it's going to lead into another section of story.

Not sure if that helps anything...

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Posted (edited)

16 hours ago, rdpulfer said:

Just one note: like I said, this is a novel premise, so I'm struggling with the vagueness of the ending and the aliens' intentions. Any ideas how to go into more details without info-dumping?

Thanks for the clarification - as I felt that there is basically little point to the story otherwise.

The confusion from first/third person in some places is frustrating (at one point I gave up trying to understand whose mother has cancer), and there a quite a few passages in need of editing - like a record 4 whatevers in the last sentence "The Humvees soon pushed out of whatever was left of Camp Pendleton, and onto the whatever was left of the California freeway, leaving whatever was left of the old world behind, heading into whatever the world had become" (even if it is clear it/s on purpose, 3 times whould suffice).

Otherwise, in most places the writing is clear and cursive, easy to follow, and the reader can "see" quite well the scenes, and can follow what is happening. Maybe a good editing will fix also some of the other not so clear parts.

My only grip with the main character is that it does not seem to be qualified to lead, even by his own admision, and we are not given reasons to why he might possibly develop leadership abilities later on. Why would people follow him, since there is nothing special about him.

As for more details/infodump - since all the heroes have a 3 year gap in knowledge, it should be simple to find somebody competent enough to explain to them what is happening. It would not be out of place since they actually dont know what is going on.

 

Edited by Gustaf Taen
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Very keen to read another one of your stories, RD. Without further ado…

  • As far as I could tell, The only one I encountered was a dusty printer in need of toner.” – lol, great first ‘punch’. I just figured he (?) would know if he’d encountered another.
  • Before, me, I just had to worry about” – really awkward. I can’t get the cadence of this line.
  • “Now it was my turn to bristle. I slowly lowered my rifle.” – Feel like there’s a sentence here.
  • Okay, I see this was in third person before. I won’t pick every one, but there are some instances of hang-over.
  • “Then then . . . all of this . . . is real” – Hmm, there’s some weird punctuation going on here. To me, it’s more; “Then… then, all of this… is real?”
  • “S-sorry sit sir.
  • “I said, as convincingly as I he could.” – Okay, this is my last typo for this run!
  • In a short, I firmly believe there is no way you need that section break. I think it flows on fine without it.
  • “I could read the expressions of distaste on more than few Marines” – This was weird for me. More than of few ‘faces’ sounds more natural to me, or more than a few of ‘them’.
  • “hadn’t done me much favors” – many ‘favors’.
  • “MRE” – I don’t know what an MRE is.
  • “The hot California skin beat down” – FFS, unless someone is shooting a porno round the corner, I feel that this might be a typo :P
  • “was too neat to be done by accidental” – grammar.
  • “The base’s previous occupants had made sure the base wouldn’t…” – repetition always sounds jarring, to me at least, and therefore to the 5.4% of the population like me.
  • The last line of the section, which refers to them sunning themselves is good, but it doesn’t land for me. There’s a lot of untidiness in this draft, which clearly needs several more passes, but what’s new – that’s what we do :)
  • Again, I don’t think you need the sections breaks. I think the lines you have preceding the section breaks are nice, crisp ‘closers’, and the next lines are quite clearly ‘pick-ups’ after a pause or time passing. I like that aspect, which I think you’ve handled well, the feeling of time passing and going from scene to scene.
  • “the old-fashioned way”
  • “Pendleton didn’t just vanish overnight” – so does that mean the town, since they are in the base?
  • “The only what then in your mind” – Awkward, confusing.
  • “to retrieve an MRE to snake on” – no clue what this means.
  • “If any Command was out there, they were playing smart and quiet” – I'm finding a lot of the language confusing. I think the writing can be tightened up a lot. This just confuses me though. Is he thinking about their Command? Why would it be smart for them to be quiet? Where is the threat? I think there’s a lack of focus in the story and it’s suffering for that, at the moment. Kind of rambling, I feel.
  • “Team four actual,” I said, as I radioed Porter. “We’re Oscar Mike” – Huh? Don’t know what this means.
  • “Flower pedals now whittled by three years’ neglect” – Roses riding bicycles?! Now that’s clever. Also, possessive form of years.
  • “Mejers looking fugitively” – Yeah, this sounds extra weird when used a second time. The word is ‘furtive’. I’ve never heard of ‘fugitive’ used in this way.
  • “It wasn’t nuclear – there’s no radiation. Wasn’t biological, because none of us are think. I don’t know what it was, but until I know otherwise, I have to assume it’s still out there” – This here; this is great, it really beds us down in the mystery of it all. I realise when I read this line that you haven’t been playing up the mystery much at all, and that really has been missing from the story. I think this line should be way up front, much closer to the start.
  • “I was jolted from my stupor” – I'm confused here. Is this next section after Wright left? No, because he’s still there, and it feels like the conversation between them didn’t even happen. Also, there’s some tense confusion before the end of the page.
  • There is a tendency to repeat the same work in close proximity. I don’t like that, personally, because it’s not really used for effect, it feels like it needs another word to break it up, e.g. “Wright’s point Humvee pushed out, with another Humvee close behind, and my Humvee bringing up the rear” – I get that they're all h/vs and that’s what marines use, but you could call one ‘vehicle’ and not lose anything.
  • The Humvees were taking most of the damage, with the large beams cutting out even sections of the Humvees” – really, you wouldn’t “John was taking most of the damage, with large beams cutting out sections of John.” would you?
  • “towards the source of the running cry
  • ARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! – Did you read this again before you subbed it? The typos are driving me BANANASSSSS!
  • “Parker said, nodding to the wreckage. I could make out the pale flesh of a limp arm hanging out of the wreckage.” – Again. Maybe I'm the only one calling this, but that doesn’t mean I'm wrong.
  • “I wasn’t thrilled to hear my Marines were hiding ordinances from me” – good line. There are some really good lines in the story. I think that’s the most frustrating thing. I can see the good story in there trying to fight its way out.
  • “No country on Earth made this” – Don’t tell me, show me; I want the wonder of alien tech.
  • “California and Detroit was were “hostile”” – Previsouly, it was Cali and Texas.
  • “Get used to it” – get used to what, the indecisiveness? Unclear.

There’s a good idea here, but this version lacks focus and punch. I feel like it’s rambling, without a clear direction and through line. I think it would benefit a lot from paring down; the narrative feels, I don’t know, scattered. Also, there’s a lot of jargon in the story that distances me from it. Maybe it’s squaddie lingo, military-speak, but a lot of it is lost on me. Maybe people who read military fiction know what OM means, but I don’t, and I would be considering putting the story down if it continued to exclude me in that way.

Another big issue, probably the biggest actually. I’m having significant problems remembering any of the characters. I’m not sure any of them have any character, apart from the one guy who was an ‑‑‑hole. I can’t picture any of them. I think it’s okay for the protag to be a blank canvas, as long as the people around him are real and different, but for me, they're all basically anonymous at the moment.

The ending fell a bit flat for me. I think because I never felt engaged with the characters. I can see the arc you’re going for with Wright, which kind of works, but I think it will take major tidying up and overhaul for me to start rooting for these guys. I know you can do that.

The grammar, typos and tense errors (due to presumable conversion) really kill my ability to stay engaged with the story for critiquing purposes. It’s a bit of a mess in this form. I would be very pleased to see another version of this after an overhaul.

And for the love of Pete, ellipses, man, ellipses!! ;)

<R>

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Thanks @Robinski and @Gustaf Taen

I wrote this in 3rd person first and then decided it read better in 1st, but clearly I still have some residual POV shifts to fix.

It's clear I have a little more editing to do too. Thanks for the suggestions! 

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This is the first time I've seen something of yours, so yay! I like the premise and the POV made it feel very lived-in, however this was a rough one for me. 

I shared many of the confusing parts with @Robinski, The first/third person flip-flops in particular really confused me, to the point where I had to reread some passages 3 or 4 times to figure out what was going on. 

 But on a meta level, I'm confused as to what sort of piece this is. Is it a short story? Is it a novel outline? 

If it's a short story, then I feel like there are major issues with the plot and characterization. As others have mentioned, we get very little information about our main protagonists, and what we do get is told to us, or it is assumed we already know most of it. There were three (four?) protagonists that I could figure out, and I couldn't keep any of them straight. As to how many other men were there, I have no idea.

The amount of jargon had me bouncing off of passages hard. Jargon assumes the reader already knows the deeper meaning to the phrase or acronyms. If I said I did a 400 SKiPS followed by 2x(10 x 50 on the :55) with 200k @ :25 rest in between, I would be accurately describing the first half of a moderately intense swimming workout, but unless you're also enmeshed in swim team workout culture, you probably wouldn't know that, let alone be able to figure out what a SKiPS set is from context. Some jargon is fine, even necessary (i'd expect it in a military piece like this) but too much just starts to sound like babble, and jargon without context is setting the reader up for failure.  

Scene cuts feel jumpy to me, as if I'm reading excerpts out of something bigger and someone was told to chop it up to fit a predetermined page limit. The resolution, as mentioned, basically isn't. It feels like a chapter or an act break. 

If it's a novel outline, then I'd say it needs some work, and an ending of course, but the bones are good and I'd be interested to read more!  As it is, though, it doesn't hold up as a short story. 

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Thanks @industrialistDragon Someone gave me the idea of starting a novel premise as a short story, so this is a first attempt at that - and a rough one at that. It seems that it still needs a little work (okay, a lot of work).

I appreciate the note on the military jargon. I've been trying to depict it as accurate (I don't have any military experience, so it's amounted to a ton of research on my part). However, it's clear I've gone a bit overboard in that department.

The 1st/3rd shifts are unintentional - leftovers from a previous draft, so it looks like I have so more work to do there. Thanks again for everyone's feedback.

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7 hours ago, rdpulfer said:

it's clear I've gone a bit overboard in that department

I don't mind the jargon, per se, but need subtle indicators for what it means. OM, I still have no clue, because the context didn't clarify for me.

I'll repeat, I'd be happy to read another draft. I thought it had potential.

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Glad to see you submitting again! Sorry I'm a bit behind.

 

Overall

I'm left confused. I don't actually know what happened so that this company somehow lost three years. Were they abducted? 

On 8/23/2017 at 2:54 PM, Robinski said:

There’s a good idea here, but this version lacks focus and punch. I feel like it’s rambling, without a clear direction and through line.

I agree with this statement completely. I like the idea, but it wanders and leaves me scratching my head. Unlike the others, the jargon didn't bother me, as I just skipped it (I'm used to doing this when reading science stuff anyway). I think the story has a decent foundation, just needs cleaning and toning.

 

As I go

- fair few typos in page one alone. Might want to read this thing aloud to yourself to help with cleanup

- page two is pretty heavy on dialogue tags. You don't need them every time someone talks, especially if there are only two people

- is there a reason this is jumping from first person to third?

- page four: I'm confused at this point. Are they in Afghanistan or California? Are they fighting aliens or something else?

- page eight: So. Confused. Did I miss the hook/plot train? What is going on?

- page eight: flower petals don't last three years. Three months, maybe, but they're well decayed at three years

 

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On 04/09/2017 at 3:09 AM, kais said:

I'm used to doing this when reading science stuff anyway

Said the professional scientist... What now?!

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39 minutes ago, Robinski said:

What now?!

We love our jargon, but most of it is completely unnecessary. Unless the paper is directly in your field, jargon is so specific that it's best to just skip. You can get the main ideas without the complex words.

Basically we just like to sound smart, even if no one else gets it. 

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On 9/3/2017 at 9:09 PM, kais said:

Glad to see you submitting again! Sorry I'm a bit behind.

 

Overall

I'm left confused. I don't actually know what happened so that this company somehow lost three years. Were they abducted? 

I agree with this statement completely. I like the idea, but it wanders and leaves me scratching my head. Unlike the others, the jargon didn't bother me, as I just skipped it (I'm used to doing this when reading science stuff anyway). I think the story has a decent foundation, just needs cleaning and toning.

 

As I go

- fair few typos in page one alone. Might want to read this thing aloud to yourself to help with cleanup

- page two is pretty heavy on dialogue tags. You don't need them every time someone talks, especially if there are only two people

- is there a reason this is jumping from first person to third?

- page four: I'm confused at this point. Are they in Afghanistan or California? Are they fighting aliens or something else?

- page eight: So. Confused. Did I miss the hook/plot train? What is going on?

- page eight: flower petals don't last three years. Three months, maybe, but they're well decayed at three years

 

Thanks Kais. This was my first attempt trying to whittle down a planned novel into a short story. It clearly needs some fine-tuning :)

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