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MasterJack

11/11/17 - MasterJack - Character Exploration (G) - 1390 Words

8 posts in this topic

Hey everyone, 

I'm really enjoying submitting, so here I go again.
In this, I'm really just wondering if this character works, I feel like this one turned out much better than the last, tell me what you think.
Thanks,
MasterJack
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I really enjoyed that. It’s intriguing and mysterious. Definitely continue :) 

So onto the critical part of the critique. The character is interesting but I think her personality should be... stronger? Go in to depth with her more and her feelings. Why did she join the Masters? Did she know they were going to be idiots? These are questions you should ask yourself, and use them to flesh her out more. I think Shy is a good character idea, but she doesn’t feel fully three dimensional. If she is going to be a major character, give hints to her backstory. Also, give her quirks that make her more interesting - these can be small things or big things. For lack of a better example, in Stormlight, Kaladin has depression, Shallan lies to herself and Dalinar is obsessed with honour (or honour if you’re American). These really add depth to a character, and they could help with Shy. Oh, and the dialogue is a bit stiff. 

On non-character related stuff, you could benefit from expanding the Master’s meeting into a longer scene - one that could be a separate chapter from the first part. You could use this scene to establish plot lines, build characters (those of the Masters) and world build, as well as setting up the antagonist. Also the prose feels a bit rushed at times. I think some more description at the beginning would make the scene at the beginning much more powerful.

Overall I very much enjoyed this work. It was great. Please continue to write it. Sorry if I was overly critical - this is my first time critiquing.

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I agree with @ICanDream on the character part. Shy needs to be stronger. I don't think she would have gotten where she was being so passive. Overall though, the character is really coming along.

Notes while reading:

pg 1: "and not to be dealt with"
--you could make this more specific and convey a lot more information

pg 1: "It had to contain the power of all three Orders to provide the water for Narthen."
--ok, but why? 

pg 2: "Why couldn’t the Sand Lords have made Narthen out of something other than sand?"
--well, I assume they wouldn't call themselves Sand lords, then... ;-)

pg 3: "That was her deadline."
--Unecessary--you've already told us there's a deadline.

pg 4: "What an indolent imbecile."
--Why does S. think this? He's bringing the meeting to where it needs to be. He's the only one addressing the problem, since S. is just sitting there watching.

pg 5: 1) The masters don't seem very smart and 2) the murderer is sitting right there! Why isn't S doing anything?


Character notes:

1) Regards things as bothers. Does this mean she's very tidy, or doesn't regard much as a threat, or what?

2) Doesn't like sand getting everywhere even though she's probably used to sand being everywhere.

3) Wants to wear the correct outfit to an official function - shows acceptance of hierarchy. I'm leaning toward the "likes things tidy" explanation for the above.

4) I like that she has a categorization of "bother," but at the same time, that doesn't jive with "a deep, lingering sorrow for his death." Which is it?

So in summary, S seems like a tidy person who doesn't want any mess, but also won't speak up if she sees something wrong. She seems content to go along with others until it's nearly too late.

I think you have a good start on this character, but I would argue she needs to be more active. In fact, most of your characters do. Especially for masters, who are supposed to be at the top of their discipline, none are doing anything except the murderer.


 

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Look! It's the first day and I'm doing a crit! BACK ON THE BANDWAGON!

Overall

Interesting. I want more backstory on Shy, and the stones thing (I am not yet even remotely invested in the plot because I don't know anything about it), and more emotion from Shy, but generally this is going in an interesting direction. I'd like to see Shy developed more as a character though, definitely.

 

3 hours ago, Mandamon said:

she needs to be more active. In fact, most of your characters do. Especially for masters, who are supposed to be at the top of their discipline, none are doing anything except the murderer.

Yup, this. #iagreewithmandamon 

As I go

- Redundancy on 'room' there in your first two sentences

- For a woman so blasé about death, I find it hard to believe she is wearing a skirt. Unless you're going to build her as more of an old school 'women wear skirts and I can't be bothered with pants but if you drop a crumb on my floor I will beat you' type of matron. Basically, from what little I know of this woman thus far, her skirts confuse me BUT that doesn't make them wrong. Just makes me have questions. As long as those questions get addressed before she ends up in some battle, I'm good

- wasn't TonHar female in the last one? Am I confusing names?

- First part of page two: we don't get a lot of emotion from this woman. I need more emotion. Not like, crying, but is the sandstone cold and it hurts her arthritis? Is she upset about the dirt on her highly impractical but perhaps family heirloom skirt? She doesn't seem to much care about bodies, so is she just sick of having to move dead people around?

- the hairstyle aside makes the woman seem younger, imo. I'd expect her to have irritation more over hairstyles, and changing them

- might make one of those masters in the room at the end female or some gender other than male. Just your friendly gender balance reminder. Ladies be about half the population (unless your world has skewed birthrates, which could totally be a thing)

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HI @MasterJack, and hi everyone!

I"m obviously new if you couldn't tell, so first and foremost - hello!

This is the first time I've given feedback here, so I hope what I have to say is helpful! Certainly I hope to submit some time soon too, so I want to make sure I give useful feedback myself before getting any on my own work.

Firstly, well done. It's a very detailed piece and you have obviously spent a lot of time working out the world Shy inhabits, it's magic systems, politics, etc. That effort is really visible on the page. You have some excellent foundations to set your story in I think.

In terms of Shy, she takes a little bit of a backseat to your world building in this piece. She isn't the centre of it. We move very quickly from a murder, to a magic system, to clothing, then to politics, in a very short time. I'm finding it hard to nail down who she is, and I think that is the reason why. I would like to see this rewritten in a way that put's Shy first, and the world building second, OR at least transforms the world building so that it works in harmony with the character building of Shy herself.

To give one example, early in the piece she names FangTar as the killer while considering the mechanics, and explanations of the murder. But how does she feel about that? Who is FangTar? Do we want to suspect him ? When considering how the magic was performed what does that tell her about the person who did it? In turn what does that tell us about Shy? I suspect with the depth of your world building here you could write a whole chapter on just her deductions behind how the murder took place and why, and it would be captivating. Maybe that's all this needs to be?

On that note, I appreciate that you are exploring a character here, so I assume this is unlikely to be an actual chapter in your novel. If you do choose to make this a chapter, or use it as the basis for one, can you consider that core of what is going on in it? For example, about mid-way through the piece we read "Without the Stone to replenish the Well, they could probably last a month. That was her deadline." That's pretty big if you ask me, that should be the first line of the chapter, that seems like it would be Shy's core motivation at the point in time this chapter takes place. What if the first line was "Shy had a month. After that they were all finished." That would give a reader urgency, and add some weight to the need to unravel the mysteries. 

I hope this helps, I think there is promise here, and with some sharpening of the focus Shy could be a really good character in a very immersive world.

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I can definitely see improvement in your writing, so keep up the good work!

 

That said, I agree with the others here, that S seems very superficial and somewhat shallow. The lack of reaction to events around her, the death of a friend, or even just a collaborator, combined with the relatively large amount of attention paid to clothes and tidiness makes it seem like she doesn't really care about anything of substance. She is reading slightly older, though, so that's good. I am more interested in her than I was in previous characters.

 

Pedant time again, though. Sandstone IRL is actually one of the less dense rock types. It's density can very a decent amount depending on the kinds of minerals that comprise it, but even at its heaviest, it's still pretty lightweight as far as rocks go.  Not that a big chunk wouldn't be heavy,  but describing it as dense doesn't seem right.... 

I also agree that it seems a bit odd for someone who has lived in sand their whole life to be thinking about how troublesome sand is, as if she's used to something different. 

And I definitely, definitely agree with @Mandamon and others that the protagonist needs to be more active. The one who does things has been almost uniformly the villain, and it makes me wonder a bit if maybe he shouldn't have a go at being the protagonist instead of all these others who are just reacting, at best. I'd be interested to read about why he wants to steal the thing that's key to the city's survival, why he thinks his life is worth the slow death of an entire city -- or even species, from the other stories? This is the last settlement, yes? 

Shy is getting there, too, though, so don't be discouraged! 

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Interested to read more of your stuff, and I'm intrigued by the title, because everything starts (and ends) with character.

  • I like ST’s tone from the start, it slightly puts me in mind of Cadsuane Melaidhrin from RJ’s Wheel of Time; disdainful, remote.
  • Repetition of ‘room’ close together.
  • I confused by her going to the door. Surely, she came in the door.
  • Combinations of the orders… were dangerous, and not to be dealt with.” – the second bit is confusing, not sure ‘dealt’ works. I was thinking ‘trifled with’. Rather old-fashioned, but ‘messed with’ would be out of the pseudo historical context.
  • Nice succinct introduction of the power of the stone.
  • Don’t really like ‘Thumped’ as a special magical term, because it doesn’t sound special, it sounds vague and a bit generic. I think it should sound magical.
  • A group of guards had entered after her to clean up the mess” – I suggest including this earlier, because it will change the reader’s image of what’s going on in the room. Then you can describe the guards making noise and pacing around, which sets a different tone than if Shy is in there alone.
  • Discarding the clothing” – So, is she throwing it away? Seems a bit extreme. Ask your mum (mom?) about a process called ‘washing’. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that! :lol: )
  • robe embroidery was everything” – suggested for flow. Prose is cap able of having lyricism, I believe, and that comes from flow and scan and rhythm. Punchlines and reveals land better (typically) when they are ‘decluttered’. Rule of Three, rules! Thus, in this line, I think you can delete ‘robe’, because we already know where the embroidery is, and it leaves you with a nice little ‘triplet’*, which lands really nicely, imo.
  • I’m a bit confused as to why the other masters would not believe Shy. Surely, they would have the evidence of their own eyes that the stone was gone, and all the guards, the dead ones included (their bodies) can confirm this.
  • That was her deadline” – But, will there not be damage and decay, degradation, in the meantime? Won’t the lack of the stone be noticed right away? I'm a bit unclear on that, but presume that things won’t suddenly ‘switch off’ after a month? Or is that when the degradation will start? Also, does the stone have to be removed from the planet for the damage to start? I'm not clear where FT has gone. Also, I'm not clear what he wants the stone for. If the planet, or rather the civilisation will be destroyed, there would be nothing for him to have dominion over, unless he’s planning on reforming the world in his own image. I would like to know more about the stakes. The motivations of the villain are very important for any story. Often more important than the motivations of the hero, who often is just trying to set things right, which is fairly obvious and straightforward.
  • handmaid was always bugging her to try” – this is a really modern word and sounds bang out of context. I would suggest replacing with a more ‘in tone’ word, like ‘pestering’, for example. More importantly, however, I like her frame of mind as she goes into the hall. Although she’s not looking forward to the meeting, she’s cold, dispassionate, in control—I like that.
  • Those chairs would be were for servants and attendants” – positivity and preciseness are very important, I think, for producing convincing narrative, and stories in general. I already like your style: I find it pretty direct and clear, and it will become more sophisticated and colourful with experience (I think). One really easy win, I have found, is to replace language that is imprecise. So here, leave the reader in no doubt who the chairs are for. Perhaps there are already some servants, stewards, attendants present or taking their seats. Whatever, but it’s a useful skill to catch yourself when you are writing something like ‘Shy thought that maybe she should get some lunch after the meeting’ to ‘Shy’s stomach groaned. She would have to eat after this session: fainting was not an option.” (Please excuse random fan-fic example.)
  • That left one empty chair” – Now then. This is back to the point about the guards. From your description of this room, there is no mention of any people in it, any noise of chatter, scraping of chairs on the ground, coughing, etc. Because of that, I assumed the room was empty, but actually, it’s full of people. I know it takes a bit longer, but with a couple of sentences, you could give the reader a much better description of what it is like when Shy walks into the room: the noise, the smell, colours or robes, etc. There’s a great deal of mood and setting and world-building opportunity in a situation like that, or you can just paint a picture of noise and activity in a line or two, but still add greatly to the reader’s experience.
  • I was kind of taken aback that FT was at the meeting. I think it’s because I don’t fully understand the implications of the stone being removed. I presume he’s not carrying it around in his pocket? Does it emanate power? Can it be detected from a distance? I don’t really know enough about it.
  • ignoring the theft” – this rather contradicts the earlier thought that no one would believe her that the stone was gone. Ah, or was it that no one would believe FT had taken it? Maybe I picked that up wrong.
  • I'm starting to get an impression of some of the masters, which is good, but I have no idea what they look like. Description is something that is kind of light in your writing. You need not spend many words on it, but it can really help you building side characters and underline their character traits (that you have described) by giving the reader a physical characteristic(s) to attach the character to. I think it’s easier for the reader to imagine a generic council chamber (which I am doing), but harder when it comes to characters. Age, build, clothing, mood/demeanour (which you have given us), all add into character and draw the reader into the scene visually as well as with content.

I enjoyed this again. Your direct style makes it easy to keep reading, but I think there is good scope to build this up and give it more impact by including some description. There are other points of clarity mentioned above. Also, it feels like we are coming out of the scene quite early. I know that ‘in late, out early’ is a thing, but there is a great opportunity here for world-building, background, character, plot development. You’ve got the (a?) protag and the antagonist in the same room fresh after the horrible crime has been committed. It feels to me like a promise to the reader that there is a confrontation coming, even if it is not an open one.

I’m still enjoying this story as it develops. I think it would benefit from some detail, background and perhaps more sophistication / complexity. I don’t mean muddle it with too much detail (often, that’s my trick/failing!!), but to linger and dig into the implications, the stakes, the characters and their exchanges, which is where the best stories earn their top marks, I think.

Looking forward to reading more.

<R>

 

(*not actually a triplet, which is a different thing, in poetry)

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On 11/12/2017 at 4:38 PM, ICanDream said:

I think her personality should be... stronger? Go in to depth with her more and her feelings. Why did she join the Masters? Did she know they were going to be idiots? These are questions you should ask yourself, and use them to flesh her out more. I think Shy is a good character idea, but she doesn’t feel fully three dimensional.

Exactly this!!

On 11/12/2017 at 4:38 PM, ICanDream said:

expanding the Master’s meeting into a longer scene

...and this!

On 11/12/2017 at 8:02 PM, kais said:

Look! It's the first day and I'm doing a crit! BACK ON THE BANDWAGON!

Yay! I have yet to read your critiques of TMM. I am excited and nervous all over again!!! :D 

On 11/12/2017 at 8:02 PM, kais said:

I want more backstory on Shy, and the stones thing

Yes, I felt the same.

On 11/12/2017 at 10:06 PM, toomsta said:

HI @MasterJack, and hi everyone!

Hi @toomsta, welcome to Reading Excuses!! :) 

On 11/12/2017 at 10:06 PM, toomsta said:

You have some excellent foundations to set your story

I agree with this, but will again comment on the detail. I think in fact that needs to be a fair bit more, particular in terms of descriptions and the underlying background of how the stone, the planet, the society all work.

6 hours ago, industrialistDragon said:

I can definitely see improvement in your writing, so keep up the good work!

Yes! I meant to say that and forgot. Keep going @MasterJack. Really glad you're enjoying it so much :) 

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