jParker

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  1. Hey Silk, Do you mind taking me off the list? Life's been getting really busy and I'm not sure I'll be able to be a consistent participant. It's been great, but the next phase of things demands more of my time. Thanks.
  2. Well, I have to say, while it was short, it got pretty dang enjoyable. Strengths You took an well-worn phenomenon--that "one" roommate everyone has had--and delivered them a just-desserts in a funny (if predictable way). Decent characterization given the length. Opportunities I'm going to be a total hypocrite here, but brevity is key when doing short fiction. There are more than a few instances of run-on sentences (last line, first paragraph) or places where verbal economy would make everything a lot tighter (first full paragraph on p. 3). Luckily, this is one of those things that (I'm told) comes with time and practice. Similarly, your narrative style leans more towards telling than showing, but as above, this is one of those things that comes with practice. King, Gaiman, and Chesterton also have involved narrators and it seems to work just fine for them. However, the beginning is rather weak--perhaps this is a side-effect of my reading choices, but I prefer big openings. Sergio Leone openings (where you leave the camera running for fifteen minutes before any dialogue comes in) can work, but usually not in something this short. Again, the length inhibits any amount of tension (dramatic or comedic) that you can build. In fine, a laudable introduction to your portfolio. I look forward to your next submission.
  3. Welcome Mark. Glad you're here. I should probably start with things that worked for me. I loved the idea of the prologue and the introduction of the setting, very old-world mythic, maybe a reworking of Theseus. Creatures and stories that haven't been told in a hot minute. I also like the idea of Julia, of a female character who is actually superior to the male protagonist. However, there's a lot of opportunities for improvement. While reading, the male novelist joke was always in my head. (If you're unfamiliar with this, please look it up. It's hilarious and also deals with a lot of cliches in male-written fiction.) We've got a generic Mary Sue protagonist--strong in every way, control over himself and his environment who will always win out the day, with no character flaws to speak of--and a "strong" female lead. I use quotations because while she's physically stronger, Julia still falls into that pit of a woman needs a man, despite all appearances. Every scene is so stinted and void of drama that I am unable to empathize with a character--in fact, I go the opposite direction and begin deriding the work, just because it's been done so much. Note: There is a substantive market in popular fiction for this kind of work. If you want to write that kind of story, that is A-okay. I personally subscribe to a more genre-oriented, post-feminist approach and so that's going to be the tone of my commentary. Similarly, the prose is drier than the Mojave. Your penchant for substituting for third-person pronouns for actual names, for using the passive tense (e.g. "she moved fast but he was expecting it this time" for both offenses) is a really good way to disengage the reader. Again, this is one of those things that won't necessarily kill your work--Herbert also had dry prose and he seems to have done okay--but it makes it a lot harder for a work to shine. Throw in the fact that the magic system comes in as a deus ex machina--absolutely no foreshadowing, violating two of Sanderson's laws--and...well, if I had gotten this book at the library, it would be sitting in a drop-box. I realize that this is a huge wall of criticism and one of my personal pet peeves is critiquing without direct suggestions for improvement, something that is discouraged here. If you would like this (which seems unlikely), feel free to message me. If not, well, no hard feelings. We are not our work, thankfully. Again, welcome. We're glad you're here.
  4. I'm not really sure what to think with this passage.Granted, I missed last week's submission, so that may be a contributing factor (don't you just love exam season?), but I'm unsure why I suddenly care about Sir Jenqis. I don't recall really any interaction with him--which may be different in a real book, rather than a weekly submission--and am puzzled why his death is important. Similarly, the Theracians were the folks we just stomped in a war like twenty-ish years ago, right? So them coming back is bad. But I'm not entirely convinced of how awful they are--so far they're shadows and conjecture and Benam, the only character who would have encountered them, hasn't done much to enlighten us on their badassery. However, I did like that we were coming back to Ahma's point of view, that we're getting a slow, simple view of the world, a blue-collar POV rather than a retired hero or an upstart thief. She's not at all good in a fight, but her thinking's quick--which a) seems to fit and works really well without going into fantasy cliche of every protagonist is a master swordsman. I find myself rooting for her without really knowing why, not necessarily that she'll win, but find a quiet happy life that never comes to heroes. One thing that really bugged me though was that nobody pressed for details on the supposed thief. "You have no idea what he looks like, which means you pretty much saw a dark shape flit out the window. Yeah....we'll get *right* on that." The fact that there are corpses would change that, but probably also cast suspicion on Ahma, since she cried "thief" not "murderer", something she clearly would have known to be untrue. Just every bit of that interaction bothers me--I doubt it would go down like that. But that's me.
  5. I've got some mixed feelings about this chapter. As the Commandante mentioned, your prose is pretty loose, but that's immaterial. We're back to action, which I like a lot. I've consistently thought of this as a kind of swashbuckling adventure, something like Pirates of Penzance, and we're finally back to it. Even better, Covelle--good as he thinks he is--isn't good enough. I love fail cycles, especially this close to a climax. However, I'm really unsure what this climax is going to be. Were we fighting the duke all along? What is Covelle trying to achieve with his skullduggery? You mention the barque as a frame of reference midway through the first chapter, but spend relatively little time on its importance, making the callback a little jarring. And while Commandante mentioned the magic, why don't we see any consequences of the fireball? Sure, Dyllis is probably having a little bit, but the porter should have a massive reaction. Either he's on fire or he's just seen a witch try to hex him--the real world parallel of the event. Instead we just skip on, treating him like a true tertiary character. tl;dr I like it, but revision is definitely needed to tighten the scope, both small- and big-picture.
  6. I actually really liked this chapter. You've got a lot of interesting personalities coming into the mix and while I wish Nina was a little more active, I'm not sure it would be a character-consistent direction. Strengths As above, characters. But also doing exposition without overdoing it--e.g. setting up expectations re: Dan and Madison to be fulfilled or subverted. Your prose felt a lot tighter here than it has in the past. And while it may not be the most ideal scene, it felt like it would be at home in a more popular-style novel (someone like Jasper Fforde, for instance). Opportunities Again, external references. I get that making post-hoc references to currently popular personalities is fun, but it's cheap and in a year or two, could become a drag on the actual storytelling. I find it highly unlikely that Justin Bieber is still going to be relevant in twenty years--most celebrities from '94 are gone from the spotlight, save the infamous like O.J. Simpson. You're gambling hard on something that doesn't have that big of a payoff and that drops me out of the story. And as above, I wish Nina was an active participant in her world. Even just having opinions on the interactions taking place before her would be nice. Straight narration doesn't do a whole lot for me. Edit: Is it just me or are there inconsistent tenses too? I've seen it done for dramatic effect really well, but without scene breaks, it comes across as careless. tl;dr While there's still room to improve, you're getting a lot better.
  7. This bit seems like it's full of potential--a gritty flashback to the spoils of victory, intrigue, and a bit of Benedick-Beatrice action. There's a lot that I could like about this chapter. However, it feels very primitive. I don't know if you just have less time now than in the beginning, but this feels like it could stand a few more revisions. The bit with Nertin and Ghintor nearly lost me--I'm confused about who's doing what, the connections behind people getting involved--and while the flashback could be cool, I didn't nearly feel it. For comparison's sake, let's use the execution scene in the first Mistborn. There's a lot of description that revolts the readers; it's horrible and nauseating. Here, we see a little bit of that, the unpleasantness of death mixed with the blind pride of victory, but you could probably stand to linger. Really develop a feel for what it was like. For example, why use hanging instead of crucifixion? That way, the defeated linger and more people can get in on the gloating. I also agree with "the rest of the kingsmen". While it's great for intrigue--it definitely kept me tuned for next time--I had to go back and reread and search for it, which is something I dislike. All in all, not bad, but I'd like to see it again after some revision.
  8. damnation it andy, you keep putting down my opinion, but earlier and more concisely than I can. This chapter worked a lot better for me, but was still pretty rough. As previously mentioned, throwing the date around can be effective, but came off flashy and cheap. Not to mention that it dates the story pretty heavily. If you're wrong, you suddenly go from being a neat story to a quaint little thing, not unlike early depictions of the year 2000 (or even Back to the Future and 2015). It's bad news bears and should minimize that sort of thing, unless you want to do Herbert-level worldbuilding. The blocking on the train was okay. I imagine a typically-crowded DC train, with the two teenagers crammed slightly fore of Nina. And frankly, you could probably afford to cut a little of their interaction--the bit with Davis' book seemed overmuch--and still have it suffice for foreshadowing. We see enough for the gun to be on the mantle. As far as an opening shot, describing the waiting passengers, that could really work. Sergio Leone made it work really well. A lineup of people doing various things and then a rushing Nina barely climbing aboard the train could set the tone (provided that's the tone you want to set--a small town girl utterly out of place). Also, a lot of the office scene did very little for me. I love the attitude folks have about her being late--I know out here in the Midwest we don't care that much, but folks from the Seaboard seem to care quite a bit--but the characters seem like cardboard cutouts. Especially since the photocopier is given equal exposition. The fact that Davis isn't described either, whether being or doing, makes me think she might be a disembodied voice. That's one of the little tricks of dialogue that I know I am less than great at.
  9. I agree with andy. This chapter really worked for me, a lot more than the last one. Exposition seemed to be reasonably well done--dialogue is almost always preferable to a monologue. Especially when people disagree, so we get to see various perspectives. For me, it makes for a more vivid world. However, at points, it seemed like Dyllis was unnaturally quiet on things, especially on casting and the king. This is something she feels strongly about--why not have a diatribe? A good old-fashioned fight between the prodigal son and the hunted witch might be really interesting, since it seems Covelle isn't quite sure where he stands (i.e. he's a highwayman, but also comes across as still vaguely supportive of his dad). And as above, I love tangible cost for magic. Out of curiosity, what happens to the sacrificed body parts? Do they vanish or burn or shrivel or what? Sanderson's laws are great, but so are Newton's. Much more excited about the next installment.
  10. 1. I have to reference Robert Jordan on this one. Apocrypha states that back when Eye of the World wasn't yet published, he and his wife were fighting about this character. The character wasn't really well-developed but Jordan insisted that he would become really important in later books. His wife countered that if he kept bogging down the story, there wouldn't be any later books. The character got scrapped and merged into other protagonists. Frankly, if you spend so much time on this family that I lose interest in the story, it doesn't really matter. How big is this event that the family is involved in? Are we going to be able to see them sufficiently so that it doesn't come out of nowhere? Basically: can you pare them away and still have it work? If not, it really depends on what function they serve, e.g. Buddy Pine versus Gollum. 2. Andy hit it on the head. If we're not going to be there, minimize the detail. Nobody cares about a place they're not going to see. 3. You can do the exposition by throwing her straight into national politics. Have her react in a naive, innocent manner when maybe she shouldn't. If push comes to shove, have a character comment on how she's not in Kansas anymore (because it's close enough to Wisconsin when you're on the Seaboard). 5. I got the hint. It's generally a safe assumption that your readers are clever. Date stamps are plenty; even just having references to the older Priscilla suffices. There's enough that anybody who's struggling can go back and get the realization.
  11. I think it could be, but you'd have to change the tone of the passage. As it stands, it reads more like shepherding. If he's urgent and kind of fed up with her unfamiliarity, he'd be dragging her. It'd be a lot less tolerant. Actually, that would probably work and afford some conflict between the two.
  12. I'm not sure what substantively took place in this chapter. We see the duke's men briefly, but it feels mostly like an attempt at Covelle's clemency by Benam and the duo escaping to some hideout. The big question looming overhead is why Covelle is having to lead Dyllis so closely--I get that probably doesn't know their destination, but at points it feels like undoing the lock somehow blinded her, in addition to the effect on Covelle's mind. Smaller questions include the politics between dukes and the king, specifically jurisdictional disputes; where exactly is this story heading; whether Ahma-Benam are going to be a will-they-won't-they. Things that don't matter outside the scope of crafting. I feel slightly guilty that I can't give better feedback, but this chapter just felt very bland. I'd love for something to happen, even if it's just people sitting and talking about what the hell just happened.
  13. I'm uncertain what the protocol here is, especially since this wasn't cleared before hand, but I read the story and giving feedback seems the principled thing to do. If that's not the case, I apologize. Anyway... Commandante, welcome to RE. This is pretty good for a first submission, far above my first. I will disclose that this is not my usual thing--near-future stuff hasn't ever done much for me--which means that I am not your target market (read: my notes aren't as important as I think they are). The premise of cultural mutability, about what changes and what stays the same and--more importantly--how that affects people is really cool to me. However, in my experience that tends to be through some massive event, a catalyst for exploration. Obviously that wasn't here, nor should it be. Most books don't start with that big a bang. That being said, what does transpire doesn't do much for me. The characters seem paper figures for a plot device, which can be tolerated if there's a really strong plot. The dialogue is wooden and doesn't flow; it doesn't feel like a natural conversation between two people; it feels like something someone wrote. The whole thing feels more like a Hollywood production, leached of verisimilitude. Prissy's reaction to the baptism seems like a cue for really dramatic history, but I cannot fathom something so awful that makes a stalwart adult burst out of a ceremony. There may be something, but low drama like that makes a big promise that you really have to follow through on. Similarly, Nina's promotion feels like a Hollywood conveyance of small-town life rather than the real thing. I live in Kansas and my entire life has been in small towns. Yes, there's a huge amount of pride when somebody finally gets out, but it's rarely in a big speech format. Your mom tells everyone at the supermarket, your dad brags in the only bar. And again, that huge move from local to national only exists in Hollywood. While suspension of disbelief is a-okay (this is a SFF forum, for Chrissakes), you're asking a lot right off the bat. By no means am I saying to quit submitting--it's only through continual effort that we improve--but a lot of the issues I have are typical of new writers. Keep working and posting (though you should probably verify with Silk in the future).
  14. Agreed. I think James S.A. Corey does this really well actually, with a lot of stuff going on and only realizing the main thrust of the plot about halfway in. Granted, he also has a lot of events derailing the protagonists and drops a lot of hints that they're not doing what they should be, but it can work. Conversely, I can also see a prologue working really well at disclosing the actual theme. At this point, it's still an artistic choice.
  15. Harumph. This submission felt rushed, just slap-dashed together to get something in for a deadline. The recycled bit at the beginning (while helpful for jogging a memory) means very little material is actually new. And that didn't work very well at all. I've seen fight scenes go a bunch of different ways, but this one felt...off. Covelle is apparently an adept knife-fighter and an even better wordsmith (even though the best he can come up with is "Everybody calm down"?). What, exactly, is he bad at that? How did he develop such broad proficiency at a seeming youth? He feels like he wants to be a likable rogue, but right now he just doesn't feel plausible. What's more is the girl and her casting--she can apparently summon enough will and strength to set a man aflame, but that's it? While I am grateful for you not going into an explanation of the magic system in the middle of a crisis, the whole scene between Dyllis and Covelle seems wasted. He distrusts her, but not enough to leave her behind; she's a mysterious sorceress with this honed skill , but is complete crap when the chips are down. What is even going on here? I do like Benam's struggles though. Some folks seem to think that being good with one weapon makes you a master with anything. Realistically, he probably hasn't had much reason to invest in knife-fighting. tl;dr Not very impressed. Maybe it's better to miss a deadline than to make it with chum.