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Robinski

20140804 - Robinski - Waifs and Strays - Submission 2 (-) 2710 words

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I have edited my first submission with your excellent comments. One of the changes was a reordering of a couple of scenes, resulting in the ‘thought sequence’ – which did not find favour in the middle of Chapter 1 (quite rightly) – relocating to the start of Chapter 2 – which means you get to read it again. I hope you don’t mind. Apologies for any disorientation the change may cause.

 

Chapter 1 introduced Ahma (the barmaid); Benam (the dock ganger and former kingsman) and Covelle (the smuggler?). It also introduced the notion that casting exists, but someone/thing has outlawed it. Last week’s submission now contains the following sentence;

 

“King Menalothen would not pick Benam for his elite regiment now.”

 

...intended to define ‘kingsman’ and introduce King Menalothen. Just pretend you read it last week.

 

All comments greatly appreciated.

 

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Yes, that works so much better as a chapter opening. I don't mind reading it again at all, now that it's in a proper place. ;)

 

There is a very strong sense of setting in this chapter, which I enjoyed very much. Aham going about her day was nice, although I do caution that showing the "normal day" scene right before things go to hell is considered something of a cliché. I don't mind it myself, especially if having a calm, normal life is important to the character, but I thought it something to bring up.

 

That out of the way, as I said, I get very strong sense of setting in this section, and the world feels significantly more vibrant. I'm getting a much stronger sense of Ahma now; who she is, what she does, what she wants in life. There was a good amount of that before, but it came across very strongly here.

 

I loved the banter between her and Benam, and the smooth transition into Benam's pov that followed. I found myself liking him more in this chapter -- not that I disliked him before, but I just... didn't exactly care. I do much more now, after seeing things more deeply in his perspective. 

 

Covelle has the potential to be a very fun character, and I sincerely hope you deliver on that potential. That's all I have on him. xD

 

-----

 

On page 4, 'One day she would have a fine horse like the stallions the dukes provided to carry the mail. Then she could travel.'

 

You did an excellent job showing her desires throughout the scene, and explaining why she has two jobs and why she is so focused on money without every coming out and directly saying "She was saving up money for a fine horse and traveling." I also like that while she seems comfortable with her life as it is, she still has this yearning to see the world, and how these very different attitudes are not in conflict with each other.

 

 

On page 8, 'She had a fine figure, homely.'

 

"Homely" means unattractive or plain, which is a bit at odds with her having a fine figure. Unless he was referring to her face in a contrast to her body; if that's the case, it needs to be clearly. Although I suspect you meant to use "comely."

 

 

On page 8/9, 'Three or four young lads spilled out of a tavern on the corner where the main street bent like a shallow ‘S’.'

 

Similar to the last chapter with 'sylph,' referring to S indicates that their alphabet is a the same, which knocked me out a bit. While I can accept that fantasy novels are "in-translation," which justifies them having the same words we do, having them use the same writing system is too much for me to accept (unless of course this is set in a fantasy version of our world, and I missed that completely; if that is the case, ignore me!)

 

Additionally, I was worried for about half a second with this line that we were heading into a "old warrior gets into a fight with several strapping young men to show the reader he's still got skills" scene. Needless to say, I am so happy you didn't take it in that direction, and went a much more enjoyable route. :D

 

 

On page 10, 'The pipe smoke was making his eyes run, but he didn’t want to leave without thanking the lad, who had raised his spirits despite everything. He couldn’t see the fellow.'

 

I find myself wondering what happened to the lad. Benam runs out to try and find him, then spots people moving a crate, and then the whole matter of the boy who bought him a drink is forgotten. Probably not important, but I'm still left wondering. Having that so near to him spotting suspicious figures in the night immediately made me think that the fellow was either a) involved in these clandestine activities, or B) had stumbled upon them and might now be dead or in danger.

 

 

On page 11. 'Benam was on the left, talking to the barmaid, a stout woman with a welcoming smile who clearly had strength in her arms.'

 

Is Benam talking to Ahma, or a different barmaid? I ask because "stout" refers to a short, heavy build, generally, which seems to contradict how (I thought, at least) Ahma's figure had been described (sylph-like, which means thin). If this is a completely different barmaid, then ignore this comment entirely. :P

 

---

 

Overall, very nice job. I look forward to what comes next.

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I'm still enjoying the setting and the writing.

 

That first section definitely works better in this context, though it still felt a little insubstantial to me, I wasn't sure what it added to the story. Though it's worth noting that, ironically given the forums we're discussing this on, I don't read a lot of epic fantasy, and this is the sort of scene that seems to work for that audience.

 

I was in two minds about the section showing Ahma's daily life. On the one hand it nicely showed the details of this world and this character. On the other hand, it didn't seem to move the story along at all, and I didn't come out of it with a very different perception of her from when I went into it. I don't know whether I'm being over-critical because I've got my reading-for-comments hat on, but I wanted things to get moving. Once she started talking with Benam it worked better for me because there was a little spark of conversational conflict, a development of relationships as well as characters.

 

I also found the last scene a bit vague and confusing, possibly because I don't remember who this character is and I'm left unclear about what he's doing. Slightly more of a reminder of that might have helped.

 

Overall, still a cool setting and interesting characters, I just want a stronger sense of purpose to what they're doing.

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Oh yes, that scene works a lot better as a chapter start. I enjoyed the scenes with Ahma and Benam as it fleshed out their normal lives, but in the coming chapters I’d like to see a conflict for them to deal with to move the story along. So far the two of them are just running their normal lives. Covelle seems to be up to something, following Benam around, but the reasons for it are unclear. What is he after?

 

The scene with Covelle also worked less well for me, maybe because it was short and I found that what was happening was confusing.

 

Multiple POVs per chapter: This is mostly a style preference, as I both prefer to have one POV per chapter when I write and when I read. It makes it easier to bond with the characters if you’re with them for longer periods of time. That’s what I liked about this chapter, it felt that Ahma and Benam got more screen-time. Covelle on the other hand appeared as an afterthought and for a cheap (in my opinion) cliff-hanger ending.

 

Confusing last scene: I found the last scene confusing in terms  of chronology. I think that’s because there are too many inns in this chapter. The one that Ahma works in, the one Benam met the young fellows in and then he goes to a third one? In and out, in and out. The chronology of the scene shift wasn’t clear – I think Benam went into a third inn, Covelle followed him and then some thugs show up. Is that correct? Or is this the second inn with the young fellows and Covelle followed him there, placing the start of this scene at the start of Benam’s scene chronologically?

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Many thanks, chaps, great stuff. I will respond to each of your comments in instalments, as I am on the road today.

 

@Shiv - Very pleased that you found the characters accessible, and that I seem to be getting them across. On Page 8, I swithered over homely for a while, thought about comely, tried a couple of other things and went back to homely. I agree it's not right - I will revisit this again. On the 'S' thing, well, maybe their letter 'glump' happens to look like our 'S'. I know what you mean, I think I'll take them under advisement. I've added a paragraph covering Benam parting from the young man, who has returned when Benam returns to the bar. A couple of ideas came from it actually.

 

Ah, now, on Page 11 Benam is talking to Ahma. I toiled over stout too, still don't like it and will change, but... Ahma is described in the once Prologue as not being sylphlike, she's curvacious, definitely not thin. Definitely in the Marilyn Munroe / Joan from Mad Man mold.        

 

Please you enjoyed the chapter, more on its way.

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@Andy: I hear you on those things, thank you. I note what you say about Covelle, but can't help thinking that if you were reading through you would have less of an issue. Acutally, considering that he was in disguise the first time you encountered him, perhaps I should be gratified that you don't remember him. Yes..., I think this might just be the perfect outcome!

 

The last scene is the newest bit, so I haven't been through it again, but will be soon. On Ahma's day, I'm hoping that in a read through that won't dwell on the mind. The cut point is a bit unfortunate - I was constrained by the Write About Dragons submission limit (not constrained enough, eh James?  ;-)

 

Much appreciated.

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Hi Robinski.

 

Being perfectly honest, I only managed to read to the end of this chapter because I felt compelled to do so because of all the time you have spent sharing your thoughts with me on my work.

 

Yes, the setting was nice, and yes we get some sense of the character, but it was just so much description and such that I found myself zoning out repeatedly while reading it.

 

Some of this is just that there isn't a lot happening... she walks to work, she passes some people on the way, she does some work, she gets changed, she does some other work. Then finally we get a little action/activity when she talks to Benham... that part is pretty interesting, but then we flip over to Benham and he starts describing things some more.

 

Some of this is also that there is a fair bit of passive voice in the work... or at least passive description. "Ahma started passing a straggling line of farm workers..." She started doing it?  Why not "She walked past a line of farm workers"?

 

The last part of the problem, I think, is that it seems like much of the description isn't giving me anything more than description. I'm not getting a sense of Ahma's feelings for many of these things, nor does much of it seem to move the story further.

 

In the end, I honestly feel like I could cut out 75% of the text here and have roughly what I have now... but quicker.

 

Try mixing in some dialogue. Try getting in some more action. Read each sentence and ask yourself:

"Do I need this information to further plot or character?"

"Is this sentence showing us at least two things?"

 

I'm sorry. I know this is probably harsh, but I wanted to give you my honest reaction here.

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manaheim - don't fret too much about it.  I gave him similar grief about this section over at the WaD submissions.  Someone else with the same reaction means I don't feel as bad about it now  ;)

 

And, I think you get a pass on the "giving harsh feedback" for several more submissions!

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I think this section is a lot stronger than the previous installment; the world does feel more vibrant, more fleshed out, the characters more than just placeholders for plot. I am still a little surprised to see that it's summer (Ahma's bit left me with more of an early autumn feeling), but that's relatively insignificant.

 

However, I still don't really get what's going on with Benam. He's a hero of war, now a customs inspector but also a master-at-arms? Add in his interaction with Ahma and he just feels very generic, a stock deconstruction. Why do I care about him? What does he want out of life? What is he working towards? Unless he's a Kvothe Kingkiller, in which case, he doesn't feel nearly despondent enough.

 

Covelle, on the other hand, I like, but his POV section felt so cluttered and chaotic that I was really unclear on what was going on. He's tracking Benam to a dockside inn, who is investigating some potentially questionable activity (not anything the least bit verboten), and Covelle's all ready to be a Gentleman Bastard--wit and cunning and Flynning--then thugs come in and mess everything up? It's a solid cliffhanger, but partly because I just want to find out what the aech is going on.

 

All told, much better but still room for improvement.

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@Asmodemon: Thank you. The cutoff for this submission is artificial, since I'm limited by the limit for the Write About Dragons group and don't want to get out of sync. Suffice to say, the scene is not finished, although I suppose it could be a cliffhanger, but its not my intention, and there will be more to Covelle's pov in this chapter.

The main part of the story will have one or two pov's, I feel I need the three main characters to be introduced and they do not start together. I'm glad that Ahma and Benam seem to be convincing most people.

I accept the last scene is confused at present. For one thing, it's not finished, but I'll be rewriting and I might start with it next week, once rewritten.

Thank you for reading.

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@Manaheim: firstly, thanks for persevering.

On description, I gotta say I don't see it quite that way. I'll accept that there'd could be more dialogue, although the characters don't spend much time together to begin with, and I don't won't generate pointless conversations. These are solitary people to a large extent.

Also, I'd note to all that I've only submitted 5,000 words so far because of the pattern for WaD, which I think is hampering the flow. These are not excuses btw, they're reasons!! My point being that the conflict will come more quickly if it was being read through.

I appreciate your comments. I certainly wouldn't want anything other than your honest opinion. We're obviously going to agree to differ on some of these points (I hope!). And please, don't feel you have to read it because I read yours, I will not by offended if you don't comment.

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"I gave him similar grief about this section over at the WaD submissions."

Ooh, I can hardly wait, I haven't got to that stuff yet.

Edited by Robinski
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@JP: Appreciate the comments. I'm glad that things are working for you in the scene. I'm also glad that you enjoy Covelle more than Benam, in the sense that you're attaching to a different character than other people, which was was part of the idea.

There is a leap of logic in the scene which hasn't come off it seems, so I'll fix that. As noted, this scene is not finished, so it will play out more.

Thanks again.

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I think that’s because there are too many inns in this chapter. The one that Ahma works in, the one Benam met the young fellows in and then he goes to a third one?

 

I omittted replying to this point before (was waiting for Steve Earle to come on stage, bit distracted). It does state in Covelle's pov that Benam goes into The Crowded Inn, which we know is the first one where Ahma works. I go back to my previous point that I think there is more of a disconnect in reading shorter submission a week apart, I'm hoping this follows better in the full form.

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Mandamon... :lol: Please don't give me license to get harsh. That's a baaaaaaaad idea. :lol:  Thanks for making me laugh.

 

Robinski... I oversimplified my comments. I felt compelled ALSO because I value the time you've spent and I very much want to do whatever I can to pay it back in kind. (same goes for everyone on here.)

 

And I was being a little unfair when I said that was the ONLY reason I kept reading. Sorry. I was a little tired when I posted that.

 

Sorry the remarks weren't more helpful. I'm going to go to bed now. :/

Edited by manaheim
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Ha ha, I understand, head on keyboard syndrome, certainly been there.

It's absolutely fine. There's no point in me getting kind words ffrom everyone all the time (as if!). Seriously though, if something turns you off I need to know that of course, and I'd be lying if I said I hadn't struggled through some submissions over the last year.

Sorry I haven't yet got to reviewing your next sumission or anyone else's for that matter. It's purely down to the workload for Write About Dragons; lectures; 9 critiques and 2,000 words of my own each week, it's almost like work.

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