Severian4Scadrial

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Everything posted by Severian4Scadrial

  1. Great stuff, Alderant! Shad for one has this series called Fantasy Rearmed, where he comes up with realistic weapons for fantastical monsters: really gets the gears turning. I'll add a few resources -- some light reference books, mostly-- just for grins: - A Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer is a fantastic resource if you're gunning for that authentic High Middle Ages feel. It's funny, readable, and full of references, and because it's meant for a hypothetical "traveler," it includes a lot of practical details -- the type reenactors obsess over and normal social historians don't -- that you might want to filch for a fantasy setting. - Kristina Sessa's Daily Life in Late Antiquity lacks the premise but fulfills much the same function for an earlier era. It condenses a lot of archaeological studies and denser social history work into a few short chapters that give you a surprisingly vivid picture of what it might have been like to live in the 4th-6th centuries in the Roman Empire. - For rural settings in an early industrial world (something we never quite think about -- it's always Bas Lang Steampunk, I find), check out Jack Larkin's The Reshaping of Everyday Life. It's written by the resident historian at a living history museum representing an 1830s village in rural New England, and damnation is this thing detailed (I can now tell you, for instance, why my Necromantic Blacksmith's Apprentice does not, in fact, wear gloves).
  2. James Purferoy as Kelsier if he's not too old. Aaaaaand wait for it... Denzel Washington as the Lord Ruler in his older form.
  3. The old man from the plantation Kelsier meets in the beginning should be... SAM ELLIOT
  4. Personally I'd rather go for Fassbender as Kelsier. He gets typecast a lot as the Resident Creeper (probably because of Prometheus), but he can also pull off Kelsier's joking side, and the man is, after all, supposed to be dreadfully intimidating. Chris Pine wouldn't be bad, but I'd be getting way too much of a Captain Kirk vibe. As for Hoid, I'm all over Paul Bettany (if you're skeptical, check out his performance as Geoffrey Chaucer in A Knight's Tale).
  5. So can I just say I love this forum already? I've been getting so much in-depth feedback on my first submission -- especially my problems writing a world filled with horrible bigots -- it's kind of crazy. I'm in the middle of a frantic worldbuilding session which has presently turned to two characters from rival but oddly similar cultures having a really gawdy fashion show-down. One's quite possibly the most powerful woman in the Sporavian League, and the other's this gruff warrior who's slaughtered his way through just about every conflict in the past twenty years; the ambassadors on both sides are face-palming furiously. This is a good day.
  6. Thanks for the tip @industrialistDragon, I'll definitely check out those articles. Come to think of it, I haven't yet introduced any characters who would bat an eye at this sort of stuff, but I might make some of the surrounding cultures less amenable to it, to the point where they could confront E over her treatment of E2 and others like her. I generally tend to shy away from dropping a character with mostly modern worldviews into a place like this just to give the audience a reference point, but it would actually be an interesting gimmick to slather on all sorts of other horrible things to the said person and watch our two characters joust. That, at least, might reasonably be presented through a neutral lens and not attract recrimination. And you're right, for seven years E pretty much exclusively interacts with E2 (well, outside of M, who she also considers sub-human, which enables her to not be horribly paranoid around him). E2 appears in book one before she's tortured, her tongue is cut out, and she completely breaks down (hers is less a born disability than WW1-veteran level PTSD, which I'm still working on portraying properly). She also teaches E most of her practical knowledge, especially her mad gambling skills, which come in handy later It's not entirely cruelty and dehumanization on E's side either. She does teach E2 how to read and write, it just comes across (hopefully), as rather like teaching a dog to sit or roll over; it's less hatred than E positively refuses to let herself love the woman. ---> Edit: damnation you just prompted what's probably going to be a whole night of straight worldbuilding. I'd been looking to flesh out the neighboring Kingdom to which E and co. eventually flee after a coup, and I think the outline's actually got rolling now... all because I had to think of a viable culture that would get really, really offended at E's attitude towards disabled people and R's caste-ism. They're horribly patronizing, because they hold up the "weakest" members of their society as examples of their parent clan's strength (the analogy one character uses, I believe, will be like male peacocks trailing about with all those extra feathers). I think, though, that horribly patronizing but outwardly if selfishly kind vs. overt discrimination might produce something closer to useful commentary than I had with my background meanness. So uh... thanks.
  7. Hello Hello Hello, This is the first chapter of the second part of a fantasy duology. The atrociously long summary of Part One (like Aeromancer's timeline from last post, only if necessary) is in the e-mail, as well as some specific questions that reveal plot details and such. I'd love any and all feedback! Best, Severian
  8. True. It might be a bit difficult because both narrators (R and the mysterious fellow from this chapter) are actual characters in the story who are just as manifestly Godawful as everyone else, but, given this, I think there is a way to solve it. For one thing, this issue only really comes up in book two with E, and The Narrator only really merges with E over time; the bigotry of the narrative voice, or at least, the report of the Narrative voice given in the story, might actually be a good metric of him starting to take on E's opinions. I'll certainly check out Kindred to see how Butler does it. For another, having a bigoted character narrate the story doesn't, I think, exclude presenting this sort of thought as cruelty. I'll just have to remember to include as much material as possible that we the audience would find problematic to highlight the contrast between what the narrator is trying to tell us and what he or she is actually doing. When Frankish Chroniclers celebrate the Sack of Jerusalem and start crowing about the victorious knights' kill counts, modern audiences understand instantly that theirs is an evil perspective, at least according to our perception of the world, because the said Chroniclers had gleefully described how the Crusaders had slaughtered thirty thousand men women and children and piled their bodies in the streets. What I really need to avoid doing is sort of brushing over the cruelty of the narrator's perspective, as I do believe I did here. To drive the point home, I might, for instance, have E say something terribly demeaning offhand to E2, but then make sure to record the other character's reaction; even if the Narrator, by way of E, hardly notices it or thinks it's "only natural," we're meant to notice the incongruity. So yeah, head up that's what I'm juggling -- all the characters, including the narrators, share some awful beliefs -- so please feel free to look for that in the upcoming submissions if you like. > skin tones (not quoting because quote doesn't want to work). Oh I agree. I'm kind of experimenting with the whole skin tones thing, because skin tone doesn't really play much of a factor in these peoples' worldview. They can be horribly, horribly racist, but in a more Graeco-Roman way; Hippocrates, for instance, really closely linked physical and moral characteristics, linked both to land, and believed that by moving from one place to another you could only go downhill (thereby a German will always be strong and emotionally-compromised, even if he moves to perfectly-balanced Greece), but he never really connected this to skin color. I may apply some good old Tacitean Geographic Determinism here, but I'm hoping to describe skin color as just another physical characteristic, like hair or eye color. Most people in this series look sort of Mediterranean and darker, though if you head far enough North they start going white. I've pictured E as having darker skin than most people in the capital, and R, who's from rather a Northerly region, as quite a bit paler, but I'm not sure how much of a marker to make that. People with pale skin are usually associated with a stereotype of barbaric brutishness, because people from that climate usually have pale skin, but it's not discrimination against the skin color, per se, as people who come from an area cold enough to be white.
  9. Thank you all for your wonderful feedback; it looks like I've got my work cut out for me! I know I'm not really supposed to respond to these things, but in times like these, one may have to ask for a bit of proscription, or at least a bit more advice going forward, as well as, as I have seen other posters do, explain some of the ways I might go about fixing these issues. Agreed. I'm thinking of moving up the connection between the bodies and E's visions; I didn't have her connect them at first because it would feel too much like a paranormal mystery story, but I do agree it needs a bit of urgency. The other thing I'm getting overall here is that most of this chapter doesn't work without a hefty helping of Part One. I'm actually thinking, partly based on somebody's comment that E comes across as eleven or twelve, of just blasting away the timeskip between Parts One and Two and making them one long damnation book, thereby giving E more time to interact with M and come into her full abilities (and full ability to not be a passive character) before the wedding. The looming threat of war was there for added urgency, but everyone's feedback that it all comes too fast is making me think that the last thing we need right now is another layer of plot just to ramp up the stakes; it means, if anything, that the murder plot won't get sufficient treatment, when this is what turns E into, uh, what she becomes later. Hrm. This is interesting. Thank you all for this one, because in my current outline the Narrator is introduced in a sudden transition from R's first-person narration in book one (R stops writing, and this mysteriously semi-omniscient thing just picks up where he left off). I'll have to make sure this is considerably less jarring than I'd originally planned it, especially since it all happens in one of Part One's most important scenes, and that said shift comes across as a first-person character shift from the get-go, not just a sudden jump to third person. The Narrator is rather a complicated character (yes, he, or part of him, appears in this chapter, for everyone asking), who isn't really comfortable with the pronoun I just yet -- he won't be for a long time; this is, in fact, a goal of his -- but for purposes of clarity I might wind up moving his narration later to allow him to reflect and cross-analyze things (I have been having some difficulty with time, especially in Part One where I'd originally thought of R's narration as a journal, but then got horribly annoyed writing it). Yeah I need a big revision here, even if I wind up introducing it at the end of Part One; there's too many damnation characters! I think a lot of this could be fixed if I just moved E's reveal earlier; I may have fallen into that auld trap the denizens of r/fantasy call false mystery, whereby, for no apparent in-world reason, I try to conceal characters' identity to heighten the tension. I'm hoping this will work out better if I add some explanation about the heist (the idol, for instance, came from the tomb they robbed) and restrict full character descriptions to people who actually talk. ________________ This one I'm looking for some advice on: She is, in fact, human. Alas... The Unfortunate Implications are precisely why I described her as such. E and the Narrator (for complicated reasons that are explained later and that I never really sufficiently introduced here, largely because of E) have an unfortunate opinion of both servants and disabled people. E, in a dreadful amplification of a common trend in her society, tends to view people with physical or mental disabilities as sub-human, something she desperately needs to avoid becoming, because that, in her mind, would justify all the wrongs done to her. It doesn't help that she's got both in spades, and she's only comfortable interacting with people she can look down upon; this comes out in the worst way possible when she goes full Kill Bill later. The problem is... how do I do this without coming across as an absolute asshat? These views are widely held in her society, and they're pretty much never challenged. She's not supposed to grow out of them (in fact much of this story is her, and, in part one, her father, adamantly refusing to do things like grow as a person, and thereby killing thousands), but they are a key and really nasty expression of one of her primary character motives. Obviously I need to axe the "simian" metaphor in the next draft, because it's confusing and offensive, but, overall, are there any suggestions as to how I could do this as a background bit of awfulness that might come out at random moments without seeming like I endorse it? (It might help that part of the plot is the reader slowly realizing that she's kind of the villain here, or the closest thing to a villain the story will actually have, but it's not like anyone else is any better; R and A, both lowborn, think nothing of slaughtering rioters -- and I mean slaughtering, not the normal tear gas and night stick stuff you see today -- because in this world most people are considered, theologically if not literally, the Emperor's personal property).
  10. So... Osmosis Jones? (Actually, though, please write an Osmosis Jones book).
  11. theory

    "... I will not make a good pair of boots; please put the knife away."
  12. theory

    Not sure if it would be plausible or not, but Shallan the Necromancer would be absolutely awesome. (Even if she's only raising the dead to chat).
  13. Mistborn: Directed by Quentin Tarantino, with Samuel L. Jackson as Kelsier, Christoph Waltz as Breeze, Uma Thurman as Shan Elarial, and Tim Roth as the Lord Ruler.
  14. I liked his gruffer side in book 1 better than his Kingly persona, but I never really minded that too much. What irritated me about Elend was how the moral crisis was handled; he never actually did anything that would make the reader question him. I jumped for joy at the line "if I ever become like the Lord Ruler, let me know," because I expected that Elend would become like the Lord Ruler, and Vin, even though she couldn't care less about human rights and all that jazz, would have to break through to her husband. There was a lot of potential here -- especially if he started to get like his father, but was still really nice to Vin -- and instead we got a whole wad of half-baked internal monologue.
  15. NICE I may be contacting you when my worldbuilding strays north-westwards. There's some Anglo-Saxon types out there about to come marauding, and when I do get there I'd love help making a society like that somewhat realistic (or just with names -- all my "barbarian" names thus far are just ripped out of old Gothic and Frankish royal lists, and they all end with "ric" or "bert!")
  16. Possible Fix: Just switch from the Latin (Daemon) to the Greek (δαίμων, transliterated Daimon): avoids the Elder Scrolls parallels, and also, if this is what you're going for, lends it some cool connotations. Daimon in Ancient Greek isn't, strictly speaking, demon; it was often used that way in a Christian context, but it really means a sort of Godlike power that nestles in peoples' heads and nudges them in various directions. I've seen it translated as "by the power of Good or Evil." They'd describe someone as happy, moral, or fulfilled with eudaimon: literally "well-demoned." Anyway, it's a suggestion; my Greek is rather awful, so I can't really go into more depth. Personally I wasn't aware of the Elder Scrolls connection (even though I've played waaay too much Skyrim), but even so I don't think using Daemon would be all that problematic if you think it sounds better; all you'd have to do is say it's from the Latin
  17. Tl;Dr -- looking like a cool premise and an interesting character, but needs a little tightening. This is probably the Plague of Draft One, but I've given a few suggestions on how to go about it in Draft Two if you're looking for them. __________ THE GOOD: Heiresses with DEMONS IN THEIR HEADS? Hell yeah. These same people putting on their best poker-face to hide their madness? Hell yeah. (I'll get it out there right now; if you happen to read my next submission, well, great minds think alike. I'm looking forward to seeing more of your take on this concept). Your character descriptions are spot-on. IM just jumped off the page. I have some problems with internal monologue and info-dumping here (see below), but what you get right, you really get right. I'm a big fan of distinctive side-characters, and I love the way your physical descriptions bring them out. Speaking of world-building, this is a really interesting take on a Matriarchy. It kind of reminds me of Robin Hobb's Out-Islanders (women do land stuff, men do sea stuff, but land stuff involves, you know, owning all the land, so we have a de-facto Matriarchy), but also seems really distinctive. Is there any particular reason why this society prizes motherhood above all else, to the extent that its dominant sex (I'm assuming a Matriarchy here, because it's a Queendom where women seem to own all the property) is valued primarily for birthing children? You don't have to answer this in the first chapter -- it's a good thing to leave unanswered! -- it just fills me with, I think, precisely the sort of vague dread you may have been going for, because after you introduce F's heritage, I'm getting the distinct sense that Demons may have wiped out a significant portion of the population not too long ago. The Demon, by the by, seems like a pretty cool character. I'm looking forward to those two bantering (see below). F's reaction to A's transformation on p. 11 is a really good indication of her isolation. Nice show-don't tell moment if you're looking (see below) for ways to vary how you convey information. ________________ THE ADVICE: That being said, F's internal monologue, thought it gives a good sense of her terrible depression, seems to me a tad overdone. I get that a character like her might realistically be stuck on a cycle of self-loathing, but I think some of it can come out more naturally. I.E. (Just some ideas to play with): Give her some time to reveal her situation slowly. If she can't tell anyone else about her feelings, let her mouth run with her demon. Let her talk about specific things that reveal these aspects of her character, rather than telling us how terrible she feels. She hates the endless cycle of courtship? Let her muse to her Demon -- unless I'm getting this character wrong and she's loath to talk to it as well; in that case it's fine if she just tells us -- that she's forgotten the name of the guy she's going to meet, but he'll probably be a horrible little Chull Barnacle anyway. Follow that with some of her raging monologues, and we get the sense that she can't escape her thoughts without being hit on the head with them. Overall, I agree with some of the other posters that the first nine pages can be significantly cut down. I think this will come naturally once you start trimming the internal monologue. It would've been nice to know her heritage earlier, or have some indication of it (a one-line thought -- just moving what you've already got a little earlier as a reaction to a different thing -- when she sees the peasants outside, or something similar, would do the trick). As I mentioned above, the dialogue with the demon was awesome. Gimme more. This may come out in later chapters, but it's a really good way of cutting through F's constant morbidity (which, I think, is a solid feature of her character that you should maintain). A character like that needs a foil; the wicked and playful demon is perfect for this role, so give him some stage space! F also has a strange reaction to the peasants on the road. Sure, everyone would feel bad seeing a family struggling along in the cold, but would you really have to fight down -- I mean physically, quite intensely, fight down -- the urge to run out and solve these peoples' problems? She's acting like she has a Superman complex (r.e. Kaladin), which, unless there's just been a massive disaster by which everyone feels overwhelmed and her especially because she can't do anything about it, you may want to revisit unless it's a very conscious character choice. Unless you want this to be a defining feature of her character, or unless she's never seen a peasant before, a vague sense of helplessness (because she's stuck doing useless things, because she feels personally inadequate, because her demonic blood makes her unable to do her job) would work better here. Most people might be sufficiently Beguilted to toss some change to a roadside beggar, but they won't charge out of the car and dump their life savings on the street. _____________ SOME PROSE NITPICKERY This isn't usually the place for it, but I have long suffered the same malady I see here, and I can't help but offer some tips. You managed to craft some really nice images: the intro piece with the drapery and the grey sky comes to mind, as well as that part on p. 10 where she jumps out of the carriage. I could picture that in slow motion. It was gorgeous. Unfortunately, there are quite a few places where it gets clunky. I can see what you're going for, and the tone fits the story, it just sometimes collapses under its own weight. It's not quite purple -- though, having as I do a weakness for verbosity, I'm often willing to forgive a particularly deep mauve -- in fact at times it's really crisp and even terse; you simply rely too much on adjectives. Take, for example, p. 2, when, trying to remember her conversation with her mother, your character describes the experience as obscured, incomprehensible, and indistinguishable from my surroundings. Those words mean pretty much the same thing. Sometimes you can get away with rattling off descriptors like that to slowly whittle a reader down to exactly what you'd like him to picture; I'm sure we've both encountered authors who do it brilliantly. Problem is it's really damnation difficult to do well. Each word needs to present a very specific image. They've got to hit the reader in just the right place, with just the right cadence. Yours roll off the tongue reasonably well, but they don't give us anything new. (tl;dr -- swap vague descriptors and synonym-pileup, where appropriate, for specific images that stick in the head. Your character descriptions are a good model for editing the rest).
  18. I'm up for Monday if it's open.
  19. GIMME (Seriously, though, fantasy rarely touches the Pike and Shot era, and I love psychological stuff).
  20. Coming right up Submission #1 is the first chapter of Part 2 of that project (I'm working on both simultaneously). It is a bit different from what I normally write (Part 1 is more of a low-magic Intrigue-Fest, but the recent outline revision wiped out most of my previously-drafted chapters). I actually haven't read any Vance -- I'm getting to it already! -- but Gene Wolfe's New Sun series is basically Vance 2.0, so I can at least count myself a fan of the genre. Also... By the Forgotten Gods, man! That's a lot of writing! Gets on knees. Bows repeatedly.
  21. @aeromancer pointed me to this Very Old Thread for introductions, so I might as well introduce myself! I hail from Reddit r/fantasywriters, where I critiqued quite a bit but very rarely posted because, while I've nothing at all close to publication or indeed simple completion, ambition oft exceeds ability, and I'm positively paranoid about letting cats out of bags. I write mostly relatively dark, low-magic fantasy, as well as some historical fiction set in the Later Roman Empire and Barbarian successor states. My main project -- which is nowhere near a full first draft, but which I have been outlining and drafting random bits of for a good while now -- is a two-part epic about the ruling family of a crumbling empire who live in a particularly strange palace. I've also got several other stories set in that world, which takes cues, like most of my work, from 5th-6th century A.D. Europe and Central Asia, and which may best be considered a sort of Late Antique Dying Earth setting, with magic substituted -- per Clarke, backwards -- for technology. Oh, I'll also dabble in science-fiction occasionally, though as science is for me -- see above -- essentially witchcraft, it's usually just an excuse to write something modern and fantastical. Being as I am relatively tired of historical and fantastical fiction saddling its characters with -- aside from, occasionally, a new twist on a current political issue or a thorny custom or two that gets in the way of certain characters marrying or shaking hands properly -- modern western worldviews, most of my fantasy elements center on moral systems. Our fantasy worlds, after all, ought to have developed completely different philosophical traditions than our own world. It's a simple matter of convenience that most authors choose to copy and paste; I can't fault them -- they choose to focus on things like elaborate magic systems, detailed history, or brilliant new species, and this is not a lesser choice -- but I do see some potential for expansion here. Though the religion is a descendant of an old magic system I made back when this was a high fantasy story and so can get ludicrously complicated, my main project doesn't explore this effect as much as I'd like, but some upcoming stories set in the Merchant Republic down the road certainly will. (Open for book recommendations for books that do this: I don't encounter enough of them. I'm certainly no philosopher, so -- though thankfully taking a broad philosophical tradition and filtering it down to popular moral belief doesn't necessarily require the wisdom of the ancients -- I'd love worldbuilding tips when I do wade deeper into this). Aside from Sanderson, my favorite fantasy authors are Gene Wolfe, Mervyn Peake, and Robin Hobb. I also love Tolkein, particularly his battle descriptions -- I'll often turn to a random page in Return of the King if I need to get out of Academia Mode and jumpstart my creative side -- but I'm afraid I can't go toe-to-toe with hardcore fans who've delved into the deep dark depths of the ChristopherCanon. _______ What I can help with: Prose Nitpicks (kinda), character details (need a character to stand out? I'll come up with something weird). What I need help with: Even plotting, writing non-climax scenes that aren't just fluff (I write two kinds of scenes: strolling down the street yakking about Big Cahuna Burgers, or fighting to the death against mortal enemies), PACING.
  22. True. I think part of this point may have just been me already knowing the protagonist's position. As you said, I'm slightly allergic to info-dumps generally and, being used as I am to Robin Hobb working fans into a frenzy trying to figure out the Fool's gender, I probably reacted more strongly to that particular instance than will most people here. Somehow or other it should probably be established early on, considering it's a submission requirement, but -- well, see below -- I believe it could be presented more concisely. Speaking of which, I never noticed a single instance of awkward substitution of binary pronouns for a non-binary character -- as I did in my critique -- or of the even more awkward "they." Nice one, OP. Between this and my Advice for New Writers post, I may be positioning myself -- to engage in a little Egotism -- as the resident Hammer of Info-dumps. Feel free to wield it against my own upcoming submission, whose narrator delights in a good info-dump.
  23. This is my first critique, so I do hope I'm doing this right and it's at least somewhat helpful. Overall: very compelling setting and character, and I'd like to read more, just needs some tweaks -- which I've enumerated below for you to consider in Draft 2 -- with regard to plot presentation. _____________ First off -- I love the voice. You've got a gruff character who's evidently been through hell, so feel free to play into it. I like the feeling that she's talking into the camera, and the short, snappy sentences really convince us she's been standing out in the dust for hours on end. That, you certainly didn't overdo. I think, however, you do need to watch your world-dumps. E seems like a terribly nostalgic person, but she doesn't need to reminisce every other paragraph for us to get a picture of her pain. Give us images -- the snow freezing over the river so she can walk home worked particularly well -- not an explanation of how Earth abandoned Q that presumably anyone the character might have a chance to relate this to would already know. The simple lack of supplies and dwindling population will let us put that together. Constantly mentioning "it's like this sort of thing I used to remember on Earth," combined with one or two specific memories, ought to let you cut some of the explanation. You've already done a good deal of this: it was a perfect character moment when E pointed out that one of the Ms' garments was dyed Earth blue. (That being said, some of your more direct monologue sections do work. That part at the beginning of p. 11 -- I couldn't give her the ocean -- could make a Koloss start sniffling. Just err on the side of ruthless cutting and you'll be fine with a few moments like these; this one fits particularly well with the one or two specific memories portion of our Pyramid of Nostalgic Regret). Same thing with your explanation of the gender question on p. 7. This might just be because I read your critique request and so knew already that the protagonist would not conform to traditional gender roles, but I'd already gotten the sense by that point that she was something different. By the end of the story, I knew for sure. If she's not going to define exactly how she identifies herself, that means she presumably isn't quite sure. As she's a first-person narrator, we shouldn't be so sure either, especially considering the only way to state this explicitly comes across as rather a forward statement of purpose; it's much better for the audience to accept this character as an intriguing part of the story and engage with her organically than for you to tell them what they're supposed to be seeing. (It's also reasonably simple to understand that Q is an all-female planet from the way you describe it, so you don't really need to say this either if we're only introduced to female characters, or at least characters who aren't explicitly male). I didn't get much of a sense of E's scientific expertise, and actually didn't realize she was a scientist until after I read your critique request a second time. I think this can be done with the method above: just have her throw around scientific terms, or describe things in scientific ways. You tell us the beetle has five legs: it probably has something -- from what little I can remember of elementary biology -- to do with some sort of mutation of some alpha gene somewhere that you'd absolutely be in a better position to describe than me, so let her describe it that way. We all walk a fine line with jargon, but I think this can be more of a persuasion than anything else, a throwaway line or two, almost field notes that would instinctively pop into her head, about something she studies (or at least used to). The prose is gorgeous. I already said its structure enhances the voice really well, but I can't emphasize this enough. If security wasn't so tight, I'd start quoting lines. E's the perfect character for internal monologue one-liners, and you've a gift for them. I do have some nitpicks -- certain sections are a tad clunky and certain metaphors a tad overdrawn -- but this is a first draft, so there's no real use mentioning them; just watch for odd-sounding descriptions (there's a particular instance with snowshoes if you're wondering what I'm talking about, or, catchers' mitts from baseball, unless there's some other kind of catcher's mitt on Q) when editing. It's not as explicit as the descriptive world-building, but I'd also try and make the dialogue a bit more vague. Let the characters introduce themselves, talk about inane things. This is a bit of personal preference creeping in -- I tend to have this beef with a lot of authors -- and it may run contrary to your world; the damnation dust gets everywhere, so people can't help but be get to the point. However, if you are just reflexively shoving conversations towards the plot -- don't worry, you haven't pulled a Ken Follett -- I'd consider letting them off the leash a little; these two are sisters after all, and I feel like they'd only get to something like N snapping at E to join the council and change things goddammit after a significant buildup. Because it's such a significant plotline, I also felt like you could have mentioned T's ailment and fatal decision a little more obliquely. It may be possible -- you'd have to try it out and see if it actually worked -- to get the whole thing across with a few mentions of E's favorite memories of T randomly inserted, combined with a simple, curt reference to how she went out into the desert to die. As is, while I certainly didn't see the ending coming, the passages on T seemed rather too overtly flagged as a DRAMATIC CHARACTER MOMENT, where I think, if we're dealing with a grieving character, she ought to insert T wherever possible into the material I described in my second paragraph. This may be out of character -- E may be trying to repress memories of T -- but from the way she describes it in the current draft it appears rather that she is awash with them, which I feel could come out more organically. That being said, the ending hits like a ton of bricks. The world-building really draws you in. I want to know how these people live in such a desolate environment, and I found myself relishing your descriptions of it. When that last line rolls out, it feels like the Star Destroyer suddenly bursting across the screen in the first few shots of Star Wars. This is going to be one hell of a ride. tl;dr -- Compelling, necessary character buy-in, spot-on worldbuilding, interesting through-line: Hell Yeah. Too much Info-Dumping: Also yes. ____________ Edit: in retrospect this critique does seem rather prescriptive rather than descriptive. I usually like to suggest solutions to problems I may encounter, but if you feel like I'm doing it too much, or in a way that warps your second draft -- a phenomenon about which I've heard several authors complain when showing early drafts to writing groups -- please do tell me.
  24. A Guideline, and then a Practice: (1) Show, don't tell. You've (a) probably heard this before, and I'm (b) hardly qualified to relay it considering I never finish anything I try to write, but in addition to the usual advice to keep your hand tight, I find a lot of people in Newbland -- myself included -- tend either to rely overmuch on character thoughts, or simply info-dump motivations and the like. Once they're past that stage, they info-dump through dialogue: witty though they may be, characters speak of the plot, all the plot, and nothing but the plot. This is a matter of preference to some extent -- I for one sometimes find even Lord Sanderson's early books a bit too fond of simply slapping us with information (I know Elend isn't sure whether he's doing the right thing, now show him doing something genuinely awful so we question it too) -- but I think the general rule is to ensure the characters never convey directly to the audience or each-other anything they or the person to whom they're talking already know, and that the narrator never directly conveys anything the characters wouldn't care to convey themselves. Of course, it all depends on the type of narrator. First-person narrators will obviously tell a bit more if they're sufficiently chatty. Personally I'm fond of the old Dostoevsky trick -- the omniscient narrator whose personality influences the story but who may or may not be a character in it, only revealing himself with phrases like "I believe Mistress Vin was rather afraid at the moment," or "Our Heroes ..." -- which does let me cheat on some of these things. In any case, the more the reader has to figure out, and, by means of your expertly (or in my case, horribly inexpertly) placed breadcrumbs, is prodded to figure out, the more they'll pay attention, and the more certain aspects of the story, especially dialogue, will feel realistic. (2) Experiment! All the other posters have said some great things -- write a lot (I need to take this advice), and read things you find exceptionally well-written -- but I for one have found great value in simply trying out entirely new writing styles. What happens when I forbid myself to use the word 'was?' Interesting things, I tell you: horrible and clunky things, but interesting things I can use nonetheless. If you're of a lyrical bent, play with cadence. I couldn't stand Ernest Hemingway after I read Farewell to Arms -- I'm more a Mervyn Peake sort of fellow -- but I found a good rhythm for battle scenes when I modified his own Artisanal Incoherence and added a dash of Jeff Shaara: it annoys the hell out of me if I use it for more than a few pages, but those pages hit like a ton of bricks. Even if you're not into strange and distinctive character voices or complicated wordplay, try to shake things up a little. It doesn't have to be prose; if you find your protagonists are all sniveling young urchins with a heart of gold, write a nobleman looking to cap off a long battlefield career by slaughtering those peasants over the next ridge while he recites Boccaccio. Anyway, hope this helps, and Happy Writing!
  25. > Killing Shallan I am fire. You are stick. Now burn, you filthy murderer. No seriously, though, if one of them has to die, it's Adolin.