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Robinski

Robinski - Waifs and Strays - Part 1 (V)

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Well, it feels like a while since I submitted something, can't remember the last time my palms were sweating (oh, wait, Chapter 8 of Without Honour...).

Anyway, this is the Prologue and Chapter 1 of my latest project, 'Waifs and Strays', which is planned as a 30,000 word novella, which I'm writing as part going through Brandon's 'Write About Dragons' on-line writing course, which a group of about six of us on RE are doing between now and October.

All comments gratefully received. I feel bound to say that this is a very first draft. I've already slated some problems and enhancements to go back and fix/do, so apologies if there are any bloopers in there.

Cheers, Robinski

 

 

[Okay, so it's 23:11 on Sunday - so sue me.]

Edited by Robinski
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I saw this thread and was totally like "Oh crap, Robinski posted something last week and I didn't give him any feedback on it?!?!?! AAAAAAA!! CRAP CRAP CRAP!"

 

Then I realized you're like 5 hours ahead of me.

 

:lol:

 

Looking forward to reading it. :)

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I read the story before reading your comments, so I'll adjust knowing it's an intended novella.

 

I am very hard on prologues. It's hard to tell their relevance to later in the story, and usually the one thing they showcase is something I feel could be given better exposure. I felt that a bit here, but again, I don't yet know what the story is "about", so I'm optimistic.

 

The only lines that really bothered me were "preserve her ample modesty" and "generous hips". In Chapter 1, none of the three similar-feeling men are described like this. So details like this never seem necessary to me.

 

As for Chapter 1:

 

We have Lufmatho, Matwess, Thredur, and the capital, and of course they're all on the map. We also have Levali, which I realize on a second look is the festival they mention. A lot of names to keep track of, as well as three shifting POVs, not counting one from the prologue, in about 13 pages. I'm fine with obscure first chapters, but I never quite got grounded in any of them. It won't be until I read the next pages that I can cement any of these events or characters in my mind. Covelle, Ghintor, Bentam blur together a bit, except one is a hero, one is a harbormaster, and there's some trouble on the docks.

 

My real critique, though, is the language. Not the prose, which is solid. But the vernacular, the dialogue, and turns of phrase felt different for the sake of being different. I understand you're doing a challenge that demands quick words, but the general atmosphere of the world feels a bit ad-libbed, in order to sound like its own place. The magical interlude felt vague, and I'm sure it's cool and important, but without something to really grab on to, it feels a bit too familiar.

 

So, with too many proper nouns blurring together, and a strange fantasy dialect, I wasn't able to really get drawn in to any one part of the story. The prose is fine, and I see glimpses of things I can probably get into, but thus far my main problem is that there isn't enough of any one thing. For the first 13 pages, this isn't a big deal. But if this work is at 30,000 words, I wonder if it needs so many shifting POVs and different threads starting at once?

 

Curious, indeed. Bring on chapter 2!

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I like the Cornish-style setting with its smugglers and evocative names, though like Jared I think you're dropping in a few too many names too fast, it makes it hard to get a good fix on any of them,

 

I don't read many novellas, so I'm not too sure how they work pacing-wise, but this felt like a slow start. Lots of skipping between POVs, not much development in any of them. I didn't feel a compelling need or driver for conflict around any of the characters. Using so many POV characters in such a short space didn't help, and the italicised magical aside felt particularly vague in an otherwise concrete setting.

 

The conflicts seemed to get settled fairly easily. The smuggler has no setbacks or apparent challenges getting past the authorities, even the attack at the end felt insubstantial.

 

It terms of language, I enjoyed the prose, which flowed nicely, and the dialogue - the vernacular didn't bother me at all.

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Oh man, I am so excited to see the next installment of this. I recently finished Lies of Locke Lamora and this reminds me greatly of it. Swashbuckling and strong, buxom innkeepers? Man, I am so down for that. Throw in a magic system that seems to be functional, but not have some definite consequences, and, well...

 

However, like the others, the prologue didn't really work for me. There's a lot going on and I didn't really get a sense of who/what was important. I get that casting is important, but taboo, but I'm not sure how much I should (or do) care about the romance plot. It's something I haven't seen in a hot minute, but that novella length thing seems like it might be an inhibiting factor. There's just so much and I'd hate for loose threads to remain afterwards.

 

But, this is your journey. I'm just along for the ride.

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I like the story so far and I’d like to read more and see where you are taking the setting and the characters. What I'm hoping for in the coming parts is to see what makes this setting special and I want to get to know these characters better. What I hope not to see is even more character POVs.

 

Setting: So far the setting feels like a pretty straightforward fantasy fare with inns, smugglers and swords and a hint of magic (if the prologue and the cursive interlude are any indication). So far it’s not that memorable, but I think you’re going more for a character piece than a setting piece with this novella.

 

I do like how the names you’ve thrown out so far fit together.

 

Oh, and nice map.

 

Characters: Every POV character so far does have something I like about them as a first impression, but they’re introduced so quickly and then we move to the next scene with a new POV, that I never get more than that first impression. It makes me worry that there are too many characters, too  quickly, especially since you said this is a novella: in about 2200 words I count four POV’s: Ahma, Covelle, the unnamed woman in the cursive interlude, and Bedam.

 

Conflicts: Every character on introduction starts with a problem. That’s a good way to draw in the reader, but then you also solve the problem right away.

 

Ahma has a man on fire in her tavern, but she douses the flame. Patrons start a problem, but other patrons throw the trouble-makers out.

Covelle is worried about the smuggled goods going through customs and then the goods go through customs.

The unknown woman worries about her magic and has her worries assuaged.

Benam is old and isn’t the fighter he used to be, then he gets in a fight, but with the help of a friend he beats that fight down.

 

Every problem is solved right away. It made things feel anti-climactic.

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Thank you for the comments, guys, much appreciated. I'm reassured to hear that some of the things that bothered you were things that were not sitting easily with me. I've written a couple of novellas before about 300 years ago, before I had the slightest clue what I was doing, as opposed to now, when I just have very little idea, so pacing will need some work, I suspect.

 

I find your comments really helpful though, they're giving me focus and confirming some of my concerns - that's excellent.

 

@Jagabond: I take your point about the 'sexist' comments. On the place names, Matwess has no direct bearing and could be dropped, and I deliberately didn't name the capitol in this chapter for that reason. The magic is vague, in part because I didn't want to dump detail. Your dialect observation is interesting, I'll think on that, as some seem okay with it.

 

@AndyK: Glad you liked the setting. As most of you guys know by now, I a bit of POV junkie, but I'm hoping to keep it to two here, but I don't like putting side characters with main characters just so the reader (through the protagonist(s)) can witness events or learn things, so there will be the occasional side POV.

 

@JP: I'm hearing you and others on the prologue and I agree. I'm going to change that, probably bring the Flaming Slap Fight (anyone get the Writing Prompt reference?) into Chapter 1 or drop it. I still feel, that I want a prologue, but I need to be very clear about its purpose.

 

@Asmodemon: You and others mention the resolution of mini conflicts being quick, and also the setting being a bit generic. Right on both counts of course, and the reason why. It is intended to be a character piece. I'm not a big world-builder, and if I'm only getting 30,000 on this course, I want them to concentrate on character. There is a big conflict coming, and I have introduced it, you just don't know it yet, perhaps!

 

Comments greatly appreciated, many thanks...<rolls up sleeves, cracks knuckles>

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Wait--the reading excuses version got a map!  Now I'll have to read both!

also feeling like I'm missing out when I don't comment here as well.  But I think everyone else caught the same things I did--especially the multiple POVs  ;)

 

I'll argue a little on the sexist comments with Jagabond.  I really liked the phrase "preserve her ample modesty," in that she's both covered and...ample.  While yes, the men weren't described the same way, it also gives a lot of flavor to the setting and how people might dress.  For someone to be described like that (to me) is more a sign of the what is normal in the setting vs. what our conceptions are now.  Leigh Butler has a great thread on the "read of Ice and Fire" on Tor.com and makes some great comments on how GRRM portrays the views against women in the Game of Thrones books, while still making a good point vs. today's society.   

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Thank you, Mr. Complex!

 

I'm going to keep the descriptions of Ahma, I'm with you on the colour, but JagaB is right in that I need to add something to describe the men folk, for balance and to help distinguish them. Good tip on the Leigh Butler - something else for me to read (arrgghh!).

 

p.s. Sorry about the map, I couldn't figure images on Google Docs, but should have mentioned the map. I'll get that sorted for next Monday.

Edited by Robinski
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Finally got 10 seconds to breathe... so I read your submission. Yay. :)

 

Definitely interesting, and I quite liked the Ghintor/Benham thing. They both seemed like intriguing characters.

 

The prologue thing felt very out of alignment with the rest...but then each set of characters felt a little out of alignment with all the others anyway. That's not necessarily a problem, but I did note it. 

 

I'm with jagabond on prologues, btw. Fit it into the natural story or cut it. 9 times out of 10 the prologue is something we don't get to for so long that by the time we do I'm like "wait... who are these people?"

 

There were several places where I wasn't TOTALLY sure who was talking, and several where I wasn't totally sure what was happening. The conflicts seemed to halt so abruptly that I had no idea how they had stopped. PARTICULARLY the last one between Benham and whomever was attacking him. I was totally lost on that one.

 

There were also a few cases where I felt like you dropped in a name or an object (like the belaying pin) where it had not been referenced before.  This led me to scan back in the chapter several times to try to see if I missed something.

 

I'd also like a little more information on our characters. Some sort of identifying hook or characteristic.

 

Still, very curious to read more.

 

Some more specific comments...

 

"When Ahma grabbed your collar, you went quietly."
This confused me for a moment. I thought this was referring to an event, which made me unsure if the barmaid was ahma… or if ahma was being grabbed by an unnamed barmaid.

"She snatched up two pitchers and ran at the burning man as he thrashed through tables and chairs..."
Feels like some variation of this should be your opening paragraph. The real action is here. May as well start here and blend some bits in from your current P1.

"Some were already moving, but her shout stung others ."
I didn't understand this.

“That idiot, my bill of lading is ashes. I will not stand for this!”
Wasn't sure who was talking here.

"Ibdal  moaned as hands turned him over. Ahma stepped towards the advancing man and slapped him across the face."
Might be good to give us his name a little sooner. This is the burning guy, right?

"smoking quietly ."
Not to be glib, but... vs. smoking noisily? :)

"Ahma linked arms with the old man. “Maybe I’ll tame you.” Lynell didn’t say anything, but she thought that the old man paled slightly. "
The latter part of this seems weak. She thought? Or he did? Slightly?

"Benam had already sized up the gobby man and moved on to his friend . "
I was having a hard time with this. I wasn't sure if a friend had been introduced and I just missed it, or if you're dropping the friend on us without explanation of who or what he is.

"Benam’s proof of the quiet one’s ability was the lack of warning , but his old ears just picked out the whisper of steal  o"
I had to read this a couple times to understand what you meant.
Also, "steal" instead of "steel".

"His knee howled as he twisted, throwing up an arm and dropping the belaying pin  f..."
Belaying pin? I didn't see anywhere where he picked this up or there was even evidence of these being present.

"“Your friend will need to catch you up. He’ll be spending a night or two at the duke’s pleasure.” "
It wasn't clear to me who was talking here.
 

Edited by manaheim
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Oh and I totally got the "flaming slap fight" reference and laughed and laughed and laughed. :)

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These are great comments, thank you. It's really interesting to put together the comments from the Write About Dragons readers and you guys (accepting that a couple are on both) and seeing where the comments overlap - it gives an excellent focus on the bits that are really causing issues.

 

And glad you got the Slap Fight thing, it's probably a bit self-indulgent, but hey ho.

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Later on in my story Candace comments about a baseball hat with sea turtles stitched into it. That's totally me making reference to my wife. These little indulgences are fun, and odds are no one will get them except the people who know you and know you well, so... meh. Screw it. :)

 

Glad my comments were helpful. Sorry they were so late. I've started up a new client and two new contracts in the past couple weeks, so I'm crazy full-out at work during the week.  Fortunately, it usually is dead quiet on weekends. :)

Edited by manaheim
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Hee, hee - nice on the hat.

 

Yeah, work's a real inconvience, I'm going out back to water my money tree (still steadfastly refuses to bear fruit).

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Will do! Just you though, obvs starts to lose its value if we tell anyone else...

Edited by Robinski
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Okay, sorry about getting to this late. It's been a busy week (made busier by trying to finish chapter 2 of Wavepainter in time for Monday).

 

The Prologue

 

...this was a rough one, I'm not gonna lie.

 

At the forefront is the already mentioned general iffyness of prologues. I like prologues, but for me, they have to do even more than a normal chapter does. Prologues need to set something up that cannot be set up anywhere else in the story, for one reason or another. The Ice Monster prologue in Game of Thrones is a good example of this, as it sets up the fantastical elements in a story where you won't get to see said elements for some time, and it sets up the presence of a Threat.

 

The prologue in The Eye of the World shows the end of the previous Age, giving a glimpse into the world that was destroyed and the scope of the threat.

 

The prologue in Red Seas Under Red Skies starts us off near the end of the actual story, setting up an in media res situation where we then turn the page, and go back several months, and making the reader wonder how the characters got to that point from the point we begin the story at.

 

I'm not saying that you should axe the prologue, but I hope to see exactly how it fits in with the rest of the story very soon. I couldn't see exactly what this prologue was establishing, and if it's not doing something that couldn't be done by making it a chapter, or part of a chapter, I'd suggest just making it a chapter.

 

I usually don't worry about sentence-level things, but there were a few that stood out to me.

 

"Ahma growled with anger and skipped out..."
 
I like Ahma, but have to say skipping is not generally something people do in anger...
 
"No one would call the barmaid sylph-like..."
 
Okay, this one is a personal pet peeve of mine. I have to ask -- are there sylphs in this world, or in the mythology of this world? If the answer is no to either, than having a character described as "sylph-like" doesn't fit. It may be a small thing, but like I said, it's a pet peeve. I read a fantasy novel that described a character as "ogre-like" or some variation thereof, but the world it was set on did not have ogres or legends of ogres.
 
Small nit, I realize. :P
 
Overall, I get the feeling this was written out fairly quickly, especially compared to the first chapter. I'd like to see it again after a through polishing - assuming, of course, you determine that it's actually necessary. ;)
 
_____
 
Chapter One

 

Much cleaner, much more polished. I love the opening line.

 

'Covelle smoothed his fake moustache and cast a level gaze at Lufmatho’s harbour-master. “That’s enough to turn an honest man to smuggling.”'

 

Funny, and sets up an obvious conflict from the opening gate. Dude is lying to people, which instantly gets attention, and in the first line of dialogue insists he's an honest man. Absolutely perfect.

 

The characters were fairly well-established. I liked the concept of the Hero of the city who was now past his prime. 

 

As mentioned above by someone else I'm too lazy to scroll up to check the name of, there were points when I didn't know who was talking.

 

 

Benam turned away, but not quick enough.

 
“You were the duke’s man, the Hero of Lufmatho.” Benam sighed, turned back. “You put my brother down last year. He can’t lift a blade now.”
 
“Maybe it’s well he can’t play with men’s toys,” grunted Benam.

 

I had to read this two or three times to figure out Benam wasn't the one saying all of these lines.

 

Overall, curious to read more. :)

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Thank you Shivertongue, no such thing as late comments, just more (useful) comments - thank you. YOu've picked up some good ones there. Response as follows;

 

I think you have nicely summed up what almost everyone has said about the prologue when you say it needs to "set something up that cannot be set up anywhere else in the story". I had decided before now to bring that first section into Chapter 1 and replace it with another prologue. I had an idea for this, but your comment his just cemented it. Thank you.

 

"skipped out..." - yes, I'll accept that - I think a  person can could separate their anger from their action, but I agree that the tone is in conflict - I'll try to replace.

 

On "sylph-like", I know what you're saying and I'm alive to that one (usually). In this case, I see not reason for there not to be legends of sylphs in this neck of the woods, so I'm going to keep it.

 

Yeah, the who-said-what stuff has all been overhauled.

 

Thanks again, very helpful :)

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On "sylph-like", I know what you're saying and I'm alive to that one (usually). In this case, I see not reason for there not to be legends of sylphs in this neck of the woods, so I'm going to keep it.

 

 

Yes, very good :D

 

It's really as simple a solution as that in every case. A very small nit, as I admitted before, but one that really bothers me when it's not addressed. It glares out at me, like describing within the text an accent as Irish-sounding, but there's no Ireland in that world.

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Like describing within the text an accent as Irish-sounding, but there's no Ireland in that world.

 

Yes, totally!

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