Lightbearer

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  1. Respecting your beta readers time is minimal writer's etiquette. Your comment above is explicitly disdainful and ad hominem because now you are framing me 'someone' as unworthy of being addressed; this isn't an attack on my discourse but on me. I am petrified.
  2. I am not a staunch atheist, which is why I always loved Sanderson's treatment of religion. The way he shows (not tells) that people need it, the glimmer of hope in immortality he introduces in his work. My commentary on religion in this case explicitly referred to how it's practiced in real life, and particularly to the jarring dichotomy between moral teachings and application. I doubt anyone wants to dispute that any religion has poor practitioners. You surely understand that a story broaching a potentially difficult moral topic must be treated very carefully primarily by the one who writes it in order to ensure that ideas are passed with utmost clarity. Since stories are meant to induce reactions in readers, being upset when they do is a paradox. Especially when said reactions are induced by the characters. Regardless, I apologize that my comments came across as disdainful. They are not -- and especially not to you personally. I understand why you take comments on the story personally, we all know what it's like having our brainchild criticized. However, mine are beta reader's comments with a good dose of understanding of how storytelling conventions work and seeing them misinterpreted when they were given in good faith is a great disappointment. I am sorry I invested time in this only to be told off for honest commentary when my positive commentaries previously were well received. Lesson learned, I will not repeat my imprudence. That being said, I will repeat, at the risk of being banned if this is indeed what passes as an uprising against forum rules, that the problems with the story are the following: - it's not set up that the witch is dangerous and she is not shown to be dangerous during the fight; - it's not set up and shown that the characters have certain personality traits, we are told; what we are shown is quite the opposite of what we're told. - in the absence of the above, a moral system in which it's okay for two men, one of them armed, to attack a weaker opponent is also not convincingly set up. Because of this, we get the following problem. Readers are left to rely on preexisting conventions. One such convention is that, in our world, there was such a thing as the Inquisition. While historically the Inquisition did not do most of the things attributed to it in movies and books, the trope of the inquisition has been used so far and wide as to become ingrained in the reader's consciousness, e.g. Jordan's Children of the Light. Another is that if it looks and feels like a Christian prayer, then it is a Christian prayer, which is why Sanderson himself constructs religions from the ground up, with their own traditions, prayers, and beliefs in order to avoid confusion by literalist readers like me. Another trope is that of the enlightened medical professional of the Middle Ages, risking life and limb to steal bodies despite ignorant oppression in order to advance medicine or alternatively pursue own goals, one embodiment of the trope being Frankenstein. A writer must be aware of tropes and how they will be read, especially when they are played together and also happen to be in theme. The trope of the dissection rhymes too well with the trope of the inquisitor, especially when the inquisitor tells a prayer before killing the witch. I was shown a morally ambiguous deed done by a Christian and then judged for calling it. Without the proper setup, the story pushes readers to assign these tropes on the characters, situations etc. I say 'pushes' because human beings like patterns and we will apply known patterns on new situations any time we can. That is how foreshadowing works in the first place. If I am ever to be banned from anywhere for expressing eloquent criticism with arguments, I will not have lost anything.
  3. Overall comments: - I wish this story were a postmodern deconstruction of why it's bad to think like an inquisitor and why it's a fallacy to take for granted that the viewpoint character is good. - Do you edit or are these first drafts? - there are many confusing things in the story overall; for instance I didn't get in the previous parts that the brightwolf spoke to P and how P is now using S's moral compass as an argument that the witch must be doing something bad if it scared even him; it's another motivation reveal that's not been foreshadowed. I can read through and don't care much but it's jarring, it's like having missed the episode in the series. - the witch's personality isn't working; there's a part in the beginning where she is one person and then she switches for no reason, actually harming her own position - fight completely unrealistic - the story is suffering of the villain problem; because the MC has no clear personality and goals, I find myself sympathizing with the villain at the end because at least she clearly wants something with a passion - I hate P. - sorry, this part works least of all 3 - anti-foreshadowing - suspension of disbelief suffers a lot due to lack of tension and showing actual danger - T is the only good thing - totally with @Mandamon ethics-wise (note I've only read his/her post after reading the story and writing my comments) Comments while reading: Pg.1 - good opening, I liked seeing the witch's instruments in the room Pg. 2 - "That one’s appearance and weapons match one P. from the Guild." I would've liked her to pick on something that would feel very personal like a specific weapon or a mannerism or even his looks, like when Z made that first deduction on the brightwolf. This would make the story feel immediate and give character development to P. Pg. 2 - "There’s no rule against tunneling out a lab" - I don't know how to read this tunneling bit, is it like quantum tunneling? Pg. 3 - conscious is an adjective, conscience is the word you need; you've had this one once more in part 2 end of pg. 3 - I like the witch; she has a personality pg. 4 - "who seeks to place herself as the supreme arbiter of morality" - she comes across as amoral and Z comes across as self-righteous, conceited, and naive when he states she's doing something she's obviously not trying to do; so far I haven't seen the witch doing anything especially vile so it's hard to take his word. He's naive at best and at worst he's trying to build himself a nice straw man that he can attack later on to support his own moral views. Is he an inquisitor? They think like that. pg. 5 - so the witch is a medical practitioner; so far I believe her and am on her side (pending other revelations) Z.'s little speech end of pg. 5 to beginning of pg. 6 is why the dark ages were called the dark ages; he's falling straight into villain camp for me now, typical inquisitor; supporting his narrow mindedness with the idea that a life is a life when those people wanted their remains to be put to good use in medical experimentation is just yuck pg. 8 - "lies" - Oh! it says something that T's the only character i'm taking seriously between him, P, and Z pg. 8 - "even your twisted mind had to acknowledge that you were harming them" - this comes across as contrived when it was already established she was using bodies already dead and that those people agreed to offer their bodies for experiments. Not both can be true. pg. 8 - what she says about T comes across as contrived following P's statement of arrest; it's mustache-twirling "let me convince you I'm a villain". If she's so sure of herself that she isn't worrying about arrest, she wouldn't feel the need to talk so much with the people who came for her. pg. 8 - she keeps piling on the 'let me tell you how villainous i am' after having tried hard to convince them she's ethical. It's not working. I thought she's an interesting character but 4 pages later I'm proved wrong; it's falling into cliche pg. 8 - "your corpse will do nicely" had me rolling my eyes; does she have anything to back that mouth up with now that the centipede is dead? pg. 9 - "the witch launched herself at P." is not threatening, she's a woman and he has a shield and is armed; she should be dead in .5 seconds. She has nothing to back that mouth up with, which means she isn't thinking clearly, which means she's got a mental health problem. pg. 9 - the talons are still not scary and P is a wimp; 2 inches of talons vs 36 inches of blade isn't a fight, is a slaughter. He's got a shield too so him fearing her is disgusting. pg. 10 - "pattern of blocks and stabs" - fight is completely unrealistic. If he 'blocked' her 'talons' once, she'd have no fingers left. There is no such thing as fighting an armed opponent, as any good self defense video on YouTube will show. I recommend Ramsey Dewey's channel. It might work if the witch was established as an astounding fighter previously, but she wasn't. It's just some coward shithead trying to slaughter a woman in a basement without evidence because he's afraid of her big mouth and offended by corpses pg. 11- quipping after harming an unarmed and weaker opponent is disgusting pg. 11 - the claim she killed people is unsubstantiated. She said they were already dead and T didn't disagree, as I pointed out before. She didn't kill them, they were already dead, that's already established as true by T. pg. 11 - "if you kill someone in cold blood, out of rage and hatred, that will destroy a part of you" - how about if you just attack them and cut their arm without evidence? I guess that's totally cool. pg. 12 - "Cut off her arm if you must, to protect yourself" - hanging a lantern on the vileness of P attacking an unarmed woman with Z's ascent won't solve your moral problem as P isn't protecting himself. He's just a peasant with a pitchfork - worse, sword - attacking an unarmed woman without evidence. That's the whole shtick behind the inquisition and it's hard to trick readers into believing otherwise. Moreover, if I'm not invested in your protag, his words won't make me think better of that other jerk. They just make me think Z's self deluded. pg. 13 - "Did… did she get me" - No dude, you're just a stupid coward pg. 13 - no idea why T went on the witch's chest and why she isn't bleeding to death from her severed arm. Or maybe she is and these two dudes don't care. They clearly came here to kill her and that's it. pg. 13 - 14 - if T is projecting the witch's emotions on them, he's clearly not eating but moving them; also I don't understand why that doesn't happen every time he's sampling feelings pg. 14 "N. scored a series of slashes across left arm as she calmly walked past him" - last time I saw her she was on the floor, badly wounded. This isn't making any sense past 'she's the villain and the plot asked for it' pg. 15 - Z's expositional dialog infodump on witch powers comes too late and still doesn't establish her as a threat to an armed fighter. Much like Z's poor excuse of P's armed attack on an unarmed opponent, it's too little, too late pg. 15 - why is the witch still villain-monologuing to explain peristaltic arteries? it's a cliche. "No Mr Bond, I expect you to dine!" Also peristaltic arteries still don't explain the lack of pain. Does she also have the adaptive nociceptors of changelings in Culture novels? Why didn't these men notice she isn't bleeding, was it because they never tried to give their their victim first aid because they were too busy philosophising on the meaning of morality and their own motivations? Was it because they were too busy to frame her as super dangerous without any evidence? pg. 15 reveal "we created them" was not only not foreshadowed but anti-foreshadowed earlier when the witch asked Z where he got T from pg. 16 - the witch got T, injured P and got him out of the fight, and is now leisurely talking to Z instead of fleeing with T or killing them both quickly and throwing the bodies in the furnace or maybe using them in experiments. This shows me clearly she doesn't want to kill them because she's not used to killing people, or she simply can't kill them. In my mind, she's sitting a yard away from Z with T on her shoulder and talking without doing anything. pg. 16 - "A wall made of will, and determination" doesn't stop poisoned talons. Also makes me want to punch this guy because using telling as character development does the opposite thing. So far I haven't seen this guy willful and determined and his actions haven't showed him so. At this point, he's coming across as a Mary Sue because I have to be told he's these things without any merit on his side. He's just a self-righteous twit who lucked into a cool pet. His belief is also not established so using it now is Deus ex machina. pg. 16 - "Z believed [...] greater purpose to all that happens, and there were greater designs in place" - this is called apophenia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apophenia; I thought this is a secondary world where magic might enact a greater purpose. But since you're introducing Christianity right away, it tells me the world is a lot more like ours than I thought. I kind of like that reveal, I don't have a problem with it and it ties in nicely with how Z was foreshadowed as an inquisitor. However, the great problem is that in the great real life, there's no such thing as a greater pattern and purpose, which means Z is self deluded. pg. 17 - "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death" Now I know I was right that Z is an inquisitor. Since the witch didn't display any extraordinary power to harm them, I guess I was right in my first evaluation of them all. Two men, one armed, came to look for a woman who was probably schizophrenic, and finally killed her, justifying their deeds with a flimsy self-righteous ethical code. pg. 17 - that T kills the witch feels like on-the-nose moral fable ending. Neither P nor Z had to do it (not for lack of wanting), but the villain was killed by her own villainy. It doesn't work. It feels hypocritical. pg. 19 - Z is waxing philosophical some more and it's falling equally short "That’s why she had no remorse for killing either one of us." - more trying to justify 'oh the witch was evil' without substantial showing of evidence prior "And how it will happen, if they’re left unchecked" - by brave people like Z and P who got the thick side of the moral stick. I haven't seen any evidence they're good in this story and I can't assume they are just because we follow their viewpoint. There are stories with villain protags out there. I'm writing an antihero at the moment. pg. 21 - "Nagischt brought this on herself with her own choices" It wasn't her choice that they invaded her lab. Z is so preachy. end - T can't be blamed for his own nature. Z instead can be blamed for being a hypocrite who routinely uses T to kill while pretending to try to talk the witch out of it first. He's an inquisitor, and a symbol of what's wrong with how many religions are practiced. In fact, he embodies many things that are vile about Christianity, like othering, blaming mental illness on the sufferer, self-righteousness, judging others and so on. The 'lack of hatred' thing seems a poor excuse and he's probably having some sociopathic traits if he can distance himself so well from what he's doing. There's also tons of self-deception in him. I wish this story were a postmodern deconstruction trying to show why it's bad to think that way and why it's bad to take for granted that the viewpoint character is good. It's not that Z comes across as particularly vile, but if you look at what he does, and not at what he thinks about himself, things change. There's a jarring contrast between how he sees himself and what he does and that's called self-deception.
  4. Yep. @aeromancer if you're editing the manuscript as we go, I'd be happy to read it again at the end (wouldn't mind one big submission).
  5. In general, everything readers don't know and is essential for characterization or plot should be reflected in the story somehow. If Z is a combat veteran, put two sentences at the very beginning to frame him as such. E.g. "he knew what sort the brightwolf before him was, he fought alongside them 8 years back in the Battle of Shatterhill. That memory made him scratch the wound on his back without thinking." or something. I didn't catch it from the story Yes, suck was a typo and I corrected it. I was giving an example to illustrate what I mean by showing. My point is, use variation between writing devices and remember many readers want to see the cool stuff. Then make the contrast between scenes more stark. Let P and Z be extra casual about the rats, maybe even scare them off. Then heighten tension with the centipede. I can tell they're friends. If other beta readers bring it up, you should consider putting their background story in the story. Having it here doesn't help the story itself. He's a source of chaos but a very honest one. He's fun and a real plot maker. Also he's likely small and cute and everybody likes dragons.
  6. Overall: - I like the story's atmosphere and it's interesting. - Add more showing, reduce dialog. - Edit and tighten the writing, eliminate extra words and make it snappier Page 2: how is Z going to identify himself as a Seeker by talking to the alchemist? Is it part of the magic or is it obvious in their mannerisms? P.3: Firevein - cool word! In general, some of the writing feels like telling even though it's not telling as such. And you could be showing in the same number of words. For example, in pg. 4, the alchemist is instructing P. to find the relaxant by describing it through dialog. This feels like telling. Instead, you could do this: "the alchemist pointed a long red claw of a nail to the table (note characterization of alchemist), making Z and P turn to look. There, a blue swirl of liquid shone mysteriously inside a tall bottle tagged [insert name here]. Inside the blue swirl, tiny dots of light flowed around buffeted by an impossible current." This allows you to show the stuff to readers without the telling implied by dialog. Switch from dialog to graphical visuals as often as you can to create variation, especially when you have something worth showing off. Make characters point at stuff and then zoom on that stuff to show it to readers. Trim the dialog by removing inessential words. For instance in pg. 4, instead of “I don’t mind you waiting in the front, but you can leave and come back if you want to.”, you could have "wait out front or return later." While in real dialog you get a lot of filler, in stories it's best to have short and snappy sentences. Or even better, show the alchemist closing shop while telling the two visitors to return in 10 minutes. Then Z can say directly "we'll wait out front." Even if you decided to dramatize/show a scene, you can summarize portions of it, use action instead of dialog, show visuals instead of dialog - in general make dynamic switches where a different writing tool can help you send the point across just as well. You know where Kelsier meets Preservation, he could've told him "i am very upset with you." What he did was way more powerful "he decked the man." Dialog is not always the better option. Experiment with tools. Is the POV close 3rd? Perhaps you can make it closer by showing Z's reactions to what's going on because right now there's a bit of distance between him and the reader - I can't spot where it's coming from. Pg. 6: once the alchemist returns, Z is talking to her directly, no more whispering and using Tempter. Is that a continuity error? Pg. 6 last paragraph: "P. sighed" needs to be in a new paragraph since it's a different character performing the action. Edit and streamline. For example pg.8 “Alcohol?” P. blinked, surprise, then noticed Z. was offering him the vial that he’d bought. “No, I don’t drink on job. And stop trying to change the subject!” can be written as "P. blinked surprised as Z. offered him the vial. "I don't drink on the job. Don't try to change the subject!"" Pg. 9: using curiosity as a superpower is very cool but I don't get how curiosity enables Z to make deductions. The deduction isn't very obvious because you haven't foreshadowed his conclusion by showing the tower or the place where they are. Instead of feeling like an 'of course!' moment, it feels improvised. I don't follow the logic of the deduction. Okay, the hiding would be close, sure, but why the tower, what makes it good for something illegal and how did Z know it must be something illegal? If this curiosity power offers exceptional deduction abilities, I need to follow the logic. If it enables something like clairvoyance, i need to know that Z sees images. Pg. 11: conscious should be conscience Pg. 12: before they're attacked, you could create some tension by having them speak quietly and not much, stop to listen, hold their breath, show the place and make it ominous etc. Rise stakes and tension with the monsters too, e.g. "their rabid bite could turn a person insane." Make me fear for the protag. Pg. 13: motivations and character observations about each other don't need to be included in on-the-nose dialog. You can keep them internalized as close POV thoughts or show them through actions. For example, you can say "Z didn't mean to complain but that cut had been close. "I'd be more careful with that sword," he told the man, "if you want the customer alive and able to pay you." Pg. 13: if Z is protected against harm like he says, why is he complaining/worried? It makes him sound a bit fussy. Now it's too late for me to fear for him especially if I didn't fear before the kerfuffle. Pg. 14: why is P assuming Z hates whitchbeasts? It feels like it's only to give him an occasion to explain the conflict with the witch. But that conflict can be explained well as Z's inner thoughts in a closer POV. E.g. "the witch's presence nearby made Z's skin twitch and crinkle in distaste. The abomination used moonlight to twist life itself, spawning more dark creatures." You don't have to have Z explaining this to P, who presumably already knows about it since he lives in the same world. Pg. 14: P's standpoint that witches don't distort life feels like a strawman in the presence of monstrous rats who attack people, especially after said rats tried to kill him. Pg.15: If T. is an abomination and Z has such strong opinions on him, how come he's willing to adopt T as a pet? Normally people aren't so tolerant. Unless there's a story that motivates his choice. Pg. 18: Z's thoughts during battle are long, orderly sentences. Write shorter, choppier sentences to heighten tension. Also he's guessing what his new partner wants him to do, which is improbable. More likely he'd think the man set him up for a trap or would just get scared. Pg. 19: T is definitely my favorite character. Pg.20: I still have trouble visualizing how everyone looks like. Hope this helps, happy to answer questions.
  7. Sorry for coming late to the party, Gerard here. Here's my feedback (please note i am bad with names). The good parts: - very atmospheric writing, especially the intro in the woods - cool world, promising magic system; did I read it right that this world doesn't have daylight at all but only 2 moons? - the intro was intriguing and I was ready to continue reading had there been more About the characters: - I couldn't visualize the pet and it's a shame because I was curious; a good description right after he's introduced wouldn't hurt. Also when he goes hhh, I'm not sure how to read that. Maybe describe it once, e.g. it's a hiss? - the Brightwolf was a jerk - if that was the intention, well done. - I couldn't relate to the MC; hook me to his inner world. I have no idea what he's doing, what he thinks, what drives him. Sure, I get there's something mysterious about the town but I don't care yet. I also don't understand why he got to the Guild and asked about the brightwolf he just met, as if that was his point for getting there. Give me some cool bits to keep me interested. - All male cast is intentional? There are no women in the village at all? About execution: - After the intro, I had trouble visualizing what was going on. - After the MC got to the Guild, I lost track of what was going on and couldn't see the people. The dialog felt a bit like talking heads. Ground the speakers more; if they're not critical for the story later on, instead of giving them names I need to remember, use identifiers, e.g. 'the curly gruff man'. - Here and there the writing was a bit wordy. While in the opening it was very atmospheric, the wordiness didn't carry well where things got crowded. For instance, instance of saying 'X said this' and then adding a beat, simply use the beat instead of 'said'. Streamline and make it a bit leaner. Then you'll be able to use that space to add description of speakers. - Too many things introduced too quickly but without detailing. So I know there are several types of magic practitioners who use moonlight in different ways but I don't know what they do, how, why etc, they're just intangible taxonomy. - The scope is too wide for a short and there's too much dialog and introduction. This reads like the first chapter of a book. That's not a bad thing because it reads nicely, but if you want to make it a short, perhaps consider to trim it down and make it punchier. Hope this helps.
  8. I only have a cool and an unclear. Cool: I liked how you foreshadowed there's going to be something in the coffee. I was able to tell that something's about to happen when you mentioned the special ingredient. Unclear: the conversation with the guy in the bathroom. The guy is shifting in-between two consecutive replies from insulting her to flirting with her. This made me confused about his motivations so I had to read the whole passage twice.
  9. Hi everyone, I'm a new member of the Reading Excuses writing group. As a big Sanderson fan, I'm familiar with his writing theory lectures and podcast so I'm using his terminology when I say I'm available for alpha reading if an industry professional (or close) opinion is needed in theoretical physics, math, human biology (physiology, some biochem, neuroscience). I'm also a pretty good troper and tend to shoot gods and devils that step out of machinery. My work schedule is normally pretty crowded but I'm very willing to lend a hand if the result is a good book.