Warmacky

2022/06/27 - Warmacky - Trinity's Will

9 posts in this topic

Hey Everyone,

Thanks for taking the time to read this and giving me a forum to get feedback!  You are all awesome.

This is a first draft of chapter one for a series I have been outlining in detail for several months.  I'm open to any criticisms you want to give in any format that is convenient for you.  For my general beta readers I've had success using Mary Robinette Kowal's 4 question structure:

  • What is boring?
  • What is confusing?
  • What did you not believe?
  • What was cool?

So if that structure appeals to you, feel free to use it.

Given that this is chapter one, I'm also interested in what "promises" (to use the Writing Excuses terminology) you take away from this chapter that you would expect to be fulfilled by the end.

I want to find the time this year to keep adding new chapters to this book.  Getting feedback motivates me to keep going and keeps me accountable so thank you again!

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Posted (edited)

Hello! :)

I think this is your first sub, so congrats!

 

So, disclaimer: I've been MIA for a while because I've had intense brain fog and haven't felt like I was able to put 100% into my critiques (and I still don't feel like I'm able to) but its been so dead lately that I feel like a mediocre critique is better than no critique, right?! anyway, Im very rusty so take everything I say with a grain of salt because im going to spew a lot of nonsense :D

 

pg 1

-very intense opening paragraph! The writing itself is done very well. I'm hooked so far

pg 2

-L must have some trauma to think she’ll get yelled at for screaming in a fire

-“Heart rate slowly falling to a terrified gallop” wouldn't her heart rate quicken rather than “slowly fall?” like quicken (or something) into a gallop? Slowly fall and gallop seem to be contradicting each other, imo. 

-”Drift—ngs” i’d be mindful of the capitalization here— I know that's super nitpicky but i assume this is a term similar to something like “younglings” from star wars and you wouldn’t capitalize that. Unless it's some kind of title… then you can disregard :)

-”ironing” this is cute lol

pg 3

“that was A’s foot” oh no, he’s dead huh :(

“Whose there?” i think it’s “who’s”

pg 5

“Her head met the cold steel frame” this isn’t a major problem but her blacking out feels kind of abrupt. I feel like there should be some sort of build up to this moment and then some sort of break between this paragraph and the next when she wakes up. But im not sure if that would improve anything at all. just feels like the impact would be more meaningful if it was built up a bit more (though Idk where this story is going yet so i might be wrong in this)

“her mind groped” im not crazy about this wording since groped has a usually negative connotation

pg 6

-so far i think the only major changes i would make would be to maybe cut things down a bit. I think having a child wake up to a fire and attempt to escape is a good opening but it could be tighter (it could always be, right?) though i haven’t read the rest yet so this is subject to change

“The room burst into light” so she’s in a room? I thought she had contemplated being outside, especially with the mention of a horizon

“She suddenly remembered where she was… building on fire” see this seems like it could almost be another chapter. this recap would work perfectly in chapter 2. though, ending the chapter with a blackout might be overdone? Im not sure. I know i do it a lot

pg 7

-”a bit annoyed… a bit fuzzy” again this is super nit picky but these “a bit” ’s feel repetitive and too close to each other

-”pressing the question would just get her more assignments” sheesh this girl must've really gone through it 

pg 8

“ '..new body.' explained” should be a comma instead of period

pg 11

-I had assumed this was third limited in L’s perspective but now im not sure. 

-“‘essential nutrition’. I think the period should be on the inside of the quotation 

pg 12

-wait E was killed?? sheeeesh, brutal

 

Overall:

There were a few other small grammar mistakes i didn't point out (mostly capitalization issues) but other than that I think the writing is really well done! Now onto the plot. I have absolutely no idea where this story is going and im not sure about the setting either. is this the future? the past? what is life like outside the place L resides in? whats the state of the rest of the world? it seems semi dystopian. i definitely dont think we need all those answers right away but it would be nice to have some sort of inkling of where the story might go other than "this young girl is going to save the universe, possibly because fate says so." it feels a bit vague. That's not to say I disliked it or am not on board, I'm just not sure what the main problem is or why the universe needs saving.

To your questions:

What is boring? I don't think anything was particularly boring, but it could be tightened up a bit. I can't exactly tell you what to cut (i know, SUPER unhelpful) but it could be streamlined for sure. You sort of lost me at the end of page 6, because i dont do well with otherworldly spiral devices. This almost feels like a prologue. I'm not sure if the inciting incident is the fire or the visitor because I dont know what events come next. im left with a ton of questions and no answers. you could argue that that's the point of a first chapter, but uh in this case, i at least want some idea of whats going on. maybe if we got some clue as to why the place was on fire that would help? there isn't really a payoff to the very intense first paragraph. I guess the visitor could have started it to make sure there weren't any witnesses but surely there was an easier solution to that since they can blink out of existence?

What is confusing? Nothing, I think everything that happened was pretty clear. I know that sounds contradictory to what i just said lol but based solely on the things that did happen, it wasnt confusing. I of course dont know what some of the words mean (drift—ngs, trinity, etc), but they give off a scifi/supernatural feel and i assume i'll come to learn them later so im not complaining about that.

What did you not believe? hmm. everything was okay until the visitor appeared with that floating disk thing. once they arrived I was like, "ah, this is supernatural then." which was a BIT jarring but only because i went into this story completely blind, and we started with a fire that seemed like it could happen in our modern world. (however, the use of "warping" does tell me that this is another place, i dont wanna discredit that)

What was cool? this might be weird to think, and im not sure i'd call it cool, but i liked the end when the visitor unalived that kid. only because that sets the tone for me. this being is doing things that could be for the greater good but are also brutal. im not sure if they're good or bad, or if i should like them or not, and i like that in a story.

Promises? I guess expect to see this girl save the universe from... something. maybe she'll be used by some higher beings/organization. I also expect that line about meaning well and doing good to come into play later and the main character to struggle with that dilemma.

Overall, i'd be interested to see where this goes! Again, I'm sorry I couldn't have more insightful things to say! But I hoped i helped even a little! :)

Edited by karamel
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Very helpful!  Thank you for taking the time to go through it.  Don't sell yourself short, this looks like 100% quality work to me!  I hope to see you around on the forums more often so I can return the favor :)

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First of all, welcome!  And congratulations on your first submission :) 

This was an interesting chapter, and I’m curious to see where it’s going. The writing was smooth and easy to read, which is always great to see in new submissions. 

  • What is boring?

I wouldn’t necessarily say boring, but I would be cautious about using too much description in the action-y sequences early on.  The description itself is really great prose-wise, but when we don’t know enough about L to be really attached to her at the very beginning, it’s hard for the tension to really grab a reader if the action is split up by a lot of descriptive lines.  It’s probably worth trimming back a some of the description to keep pacing up.  The first paragraph gives four sentences describing L’s physical response to the smoke, but you should be able to condense those into two strong sentences at most to keep it from dragging.

  • What is confusing?

Not sure what the intended audience is, but that would be made clearer in shelf-placement and back-of-book summary.

I could have used more information about the setting.  I pieced together that it seems to be some sort of future earth, but I don’t have a good sense of how far future or what sort of environment L is in. Not having these sorts of framework details set made it difficult to place some of the other interesting world details, as I wasn’t sure how they fit into the world.

Could have also used more solid information on who L is.  Swapping out some of the physical descriptions in paragraph one with a sentence or two that will really make us engage with her would be really helpful in feeling the stakes throughout.

Not quite confusing, but it fits here better than other categories, I’m curious as to what your plans are in regard to religious themes of the story.  It touches on the subject here, but I’m not sure if it will carry through.  If it is central to the story, I’d tread lightly on having a futuristic version of a current religion unless you’re knowledgeable of the religion’s history and what changes make sense to set in over time based on existing theology.  It doesn’t need to be spelled out in the story, but you, as the writer should have a sense of how it got from point A to point B, and make sure point B holds together in and of itself if it's something people actually believe.

  • What did you not believe?

I mentioned a couple things in the line-by-line comments. Nothing major, just a couple of things that made me pause and frown skeptically.  And depending on where things are going on the religion front, there are a couple things there that I’m not sure match up entirely (though it depends where things are going and how much focus you’re putting on that.  And very few people other than me will care anyway)

  • What was cool?

I’m always a fan of good world-relevant swear words (I think too much about these sorts of things…), and am curious to see where the ones you use through here come from in the world.
I’m always fascinated by future-earth settings, and if this is a future earth with superheroes, I am looking forward to seeing how that pans out :) 

Promises:
Other than running into a more superpowered form of L later, I’m not sure.  We have a very action-y scene here, but it’s not really clear what L’s goals and motivations will be going forward, or what she will be working against to do that.  Having those things early on make it far easier to engage with a character (feel free to take a look at how badly I’ve done at this in my early chapter submissions for proof that I’m fully sympathetic to how difficult it is to cram all of this into a first chapter).

Pg 1:

I don’t think I know enough about what’s going on to feel the amount of tension I’m supposed to here.  That’s a common challenge of starting with an action-y scene. We don’t have enough tie to the characters to feel the threat deeply.

“flush with strain” this is iffy pov-wise, since L wouldn’t know what her own face looks like here.

The language of the description itself is really good through here, but there might be a little too much of it.  The longer we go without knowing much about our MC, the harder it’s going to be for a reader to engage. And the more detailed description we get in an action-y scene, the more it’s going to slow down the pacing.

“reddening eyes” another pov error, unless we aren’t actually in L’s pov.

Pg 2:

“warping” I’m curious to see how this reflects the culture of the world.

“she dreaded the implications…” this isn’t carrying as much tension as it seems like it should since we don’t know much about L or these other people yet.

“unit” looks a little funny not capitalized

Pg 3:

It is probably worth checking with someone more medically minded than me, but L being healthy enough to be up and around to escape when the smoke has apparently killed A seems iffy if they’re in the same room unless A had some sort of medical issue.

Pg 4:

Where’s the soot on the latch coming from if the fire isn’t in the room? And what is hurting her fingers?

Pg 5:

“using one foot to brace…” This isn’t as effective a maneuver as it might seem. She isn’t likely to have enough strength to create enough friction between foot and wall for her foot to not just slide down to the floor. And if she’s pulling away from the wall with enough force to counteract gravity, she’d better have some incredibly solid grip strength.  We don’t know much about her physically, but it doesn’t seem like she’s get super strength.

Oof. Concussion check there. A head blow significant enough to knock her out would almost definitely come with a concussion. Vision blurring, trouble staying awake, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, confusion.

Might want a line break between scenes.

Pg 6:

If the door was already hot to the touch before, I’d guess that the fire behind it would be significant enough that opening the door would risk creating a fireball of sorts as the fire is given a sudden fresh supply of oxygen to burn through.  Granted, the effect may not be as dramatic as I’m thinking it would be, but it is probably worth looking into a bit.

Pg 7-9
I’m feeling a little lost in the world through here.  There are a lot of things that seem like they’ll be really interesting with more context, but without any base structure to tie them to, it’s going to be hard to keep them in mind when that context is added later.  Having interesting details, but no understanding of how they fit into the world is a little like helplessly standing in the entry to a house you’ve been invited to for the first time, wondering what to do with your jacket and umbrella and shoes while your host is already moving on to give you a tour of the place.  We need some metaphorical coat hooks or shoe racks or something to help us see how the details interact with the world so that we are free to focus on the rest of the story. 

Pg 9
If religion is going to be a central point of the story, you may want to be careful about comments you’re making about existing religions, even if you’re planning to critique aspects of them. And you’ll want to make sure that the form of religion you’re presenting as true holds together within the story. Not sure where you’re planning to go with that from the scene here, but my instincts say to tread lightly (as I’ve seen religions done very poorly far too many times). 

If you need anyone to bounce ideas off of along those lines, or to help poke at sci-fi-world religions to find gaps where things might not hold together, I’m your gal.

Also, if the world does have a sturdy religious focus, whether the majority of the people practice it or not, you’re safe to include religious-based profanity in addition to the other curse words that have been used thus far. Nothing expresses hatred/anger/displeasure quite like the flippant use of things people hold sacred.

Pg 10:

“for Gods”  - if Trin- is supposed to be some sort of monotheistic deity, would these people believe other gods exist?  This also probably shouldn’t be capitalized.  The Judeo-Christian God is capitalized because it’s a name and title of sorts (and probably also a self-contained statement of monotheism), and therefore a proper noun. But when pluralized, you’re moving away from the proper noun usage. Especially if the name of the deity has shifted to Trin- in common usage.

Pg 11:

Not sure what the target age group is, and you can always get away with a little vocabulary that the reader can take as “this means smart stuff” jargon, but you may want to run the paragraphs connecting pages 10 and 11 past some others to see how understandable they are to a younger audience (assuming by L’s apparent age that this is MG?)

“Knowing she would be out” pov jump.  You’ll probably want some sort of scene break or chapter break here if you want to shift povs.

“flavor exploded” another pov jump

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Posted (edited)

Lots of great points, thank you so much!

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

If you need anyone to bounce ideas off of along those lines, or to help poke at sci-fi-world religions to find gaps where things might not hold together, I’m your gal.

I will absolutely take you up on this!  The religions are major characters and closely connected to the plot in this story.  Making them feel real and influential on the society around them is challenging, but is part of what makes speculative fiction so much fun!

Edited by Warmacky
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Congrats on the first submission! Sorry it's sort of dead around here this week...

I think @C_Vallion did an excellent job of summing up points here. I'll add my own, but they're similar.

Boring: Not exactly boring, but this could be tightened up a whole lot. There are a lot of adverbs in the first few pages, and L.'s fight through the smoke was long enough I'm not certain she would have survived. Getting to the inciting incident (the angel arriving) on maybe page 5 instead of 9 would tighten this up a whole lot.

Confusing: I got lost with the room description in the middle, I think because this was so long. I'm assuming there was black smoke everywhere, but it wasn't mentioned as the defining feature. A little more of where L thinks room landmarks are might help. I wasn't too worried about the time period. I was thinking lower tech than us at first, but it seems this is probably a near-future secondary world instead.

I would also clarify what audience you mean this for, as it will help us critique. Based on the age of the character, this seems like it's going to MG or maybe YA?

Didn't Believe:

1) I don't she would have survived that long in a smoky room with no exit, especially if all the other kids had died.

2) Speaking of which, where did E. come from at the end?

3) Getting knocked out during the escape from a fire would certainly have killed her.

4) There wasn't enough emotion from seeing her friends dead.

Awesome:

Cool story premise, and I like that you immediately set up Trinity as the villain (noting the promise here). You have an inciting incident in chapter 1, which is a big achievement by itself! The angel is also a cool character, and I hope they show back up as an antagonist (another promise). I also love the box unfolding.

Great job!

 

Notes while reading:

pg 1: There's a lot of description of choking in the first paragraph but not much else. It's a bit repetitive. Can the first two paragraphs be combined?

pg 1: There are lots of adverbs

pg 2: "She couldn’t think about that now."
--I always see this as the easy way out. Is there another way to express this?

pg 3: "reminding herself which side should have a pulse"
--don't...both sides have a pulse?

pg 4: "She thought about her fellow..."
--It's been 4 pages now stuck in a room filled with smoke. I'm hoping she gets out soon. She can only survive so long.

pg 4: "grave robbing"
--But she convinced herself earlier that he could be helped. There's some emotional connection missing here.

pg 5: "as she came to"
--yeah...she's dead from smoke inhalation by this point...

pg 6: "released the sphere which hovered into the air,"
--isn't this room filled with smoke?
--ah, it clears the smoke, but maybe look at the order of things here.

pg 7: “Unfortunately, your journey has scarcely begun.”
--hmm...smells of "chosen one."

pg 8: “To save the universe of course.”
--yep.

pg 10: "“That’s why humans should trust Trinity absolutely and not deviate from their wishes."
--well that's not suspicious.

pg 11: there's a POV switch here. You might want a break to show that.

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Thank you!  My first drafts always tend towards too long.  Really appreciate the comments!

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On 7/2/2022 at 9:56 AM, Warmacky said:

Lots of great points, thank you so much!

I will absolutely take you up on this!  The religions are major characters and closely connected to the plot in this story.  Making them feel real and influential on the society around them is challenging, but is part of what makes speculative fiction so much fun!

Glad to help. Feel free to send me a message on here whenever :) 

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Sorry I'm late!

Overall: I think you’ve got a solid inciting incident, but the thing I’m missing most is an idea of how that inciting incident takes us forward. I don’t need all the answers, of course, not nearly, but at the moment I don’t even know whether the main character is going to be L or the mysterious stranger.

My biggest stumbling block other than that was a lack of sense of urgency. It seemed like it took a long time for L to start doing anything about the fire, for the fire to advance, and for L and the stranger to have their conversations, which made the situation feel less urgent than I think it otherwise would have, as there’s some fairly strong description throughout.

I also stumbled at multiple points over the POV – I wasn’t sure whether it was meant to be in limited from L’s perspective, or omniscient.

My LBLs are mostly reiterations of the above, but hopefully seeing the specific points where I stumbled is more useful than beating a dead horse ;)

As I read:

Minor, but because it’s the first paragraph and therefore important – there are potential POV issues here. The first couple of lines suggest that it’s a limited third-person POV but a couple of the descriptors read as a more omniscient POV (i.e. “gaunt” face) which kept me from getting fully immersed.

P2 We’re getting some good descriptions of the smoke, but it felt like it took us a while to reach the point where a. we realize it’s a fire (as opposed to chemicals or whatever) and b. where L actually attempts to do something about it.

Halfway down p2, first indication that L is actually quite young; we’ve been getting language from her POV that seems much more advanced than that up to now, so her stumbling on “irony” (while great of itself) was hard to take in context.

P4 Getting mixed messages about how severe the smoke/fire situation is – it seems to have killed several of L’s colleagues just from smoke inhalation (as I don’t think we’ve seen any flames yet) but L herself is still fine and not even trying to leave, instead rifling through A’s things.

“…she would work one of his sewage tank shifts…” Confused. Isn’t A dead?

I’m confused by the blocking at the top of p5. I actually thought that the kids were locked in the room until I went back and realized that there were flames outside the door, because it’s not at all clear that the way out is completely blocked, or that the flames are advancing in any way. 

The fact that L is pausing to have a long philosophical conversation with this person is also bringing the sense of urgency down IMO.

POV slippage again at the end of the chapter – we seem to be briefly in E’s point of view, then the stranger’s, then … maybe? back to L at the very end of the chapter. Alternatively if the whole chapter is supposed to be in an omniscient POV, smoothing that out earlier would make what otherwise seems like slippage here less of an issue.

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