CommandanteLemming

2014/09/08 - CommandanteLemming - Haruwin, Submission 1 (L)

7 posts in this topic

Hello all, 

 
"Millenial Reign" will return next week, but in it's absence I wanted your thoughts on a setting I'm experimenting with. This is a beginning - not sure for what or for how long of a piece - it's concept art essentially. 
 
Mostly I'm interested in comments on how you think the setting works - it's drawn from a text-based free-form roleplaying game I was involved in on an Alternate History Wiki last year. And it got me thinking about the morality and ethics of authors engaging their characters (or in this case entire nations) wars, genocides and the like - and I wanted to write a worm's eye view from the "real" people who had to deal with our crap. How do children of such capricious gods perceive their own existence?
 
It's an alternate present based off a deviation point about six-hundred years ago, and I'm not even bothering trying to make it plausible (it's inherently implausible) - but I'm wondering what people would make of themselves in such a fundamentally twisted world. Most of the details of the worldbuilding are so strange because the history was crowdsourced, so I'm interested to see if it works, or if it's just nuts.
 
That, and suggestions on where to go. I don't know what happens next - at least not for Tacitus and Praxedes - don't know whether it's going to be dramatic, or how long the end piece will be. 
Edited by CommandanteLemming
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Concept art, a good term for this entry.

 

So, the idea is really cool. There's clearly a ton of detail in the world that makes it feel real, not just there for the sake of being there. That said, it's a bit of a problem when the plot is centered on characters who are aware of this. It's one thing to have your history completely warped, but I think it pushes things a bit when the central characters are also history/culture nerds.

 

You have a good starting point with a worm's eye view. Characters with allergies, relationships, day-to-day problems. I'd like to see more of that because story is all character, and since you have so much world, let it be background. That's really my only critique since the piece is so short: the worldbuilding gets in its own way and, as you said, there's no clear idea of what happens next.

 

When I was learning about worldbuilding, I encountered a good handful of writers who do nothing but build worlds from the ground up, flesh out history, geography, language, and then ignore it for lack of character and story. You've got a game to back you up, but to get the most out of your story I'd say take us a level deeper, and let the cool stuff come naturally. The stranger your world, the more real it needs to feel, and there's not enough plot/character for me to get that feeling.

 

So, tons of cool stuff, but I'm as uncertain as you are on where you could go with it. Sorry if that's not too helpful. :P

Edited by jagabond
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I went through a "What? WHAT? ...what?" reaction a handful of times here. You do not punch us with your world, which is great in a short story. It feels sort of eerily natural, which makes absolutely no sense to me.

 

I sort of enjoyed it, but it really went nowhere. I have this introduction chapter with the kelpie chips, which is really cool, and then I get this really nice samurai chapter, but it just ends. It could be a preface for the kelpie chapter, but it is not. It could be the start of a cool story, but it is not. But what is it then?

 

I did enjoy your characters, and your writing as well, although I am a poor indication. The only thing that really glared at me as a flaw is the lack on a proper ending. I just felt like "and?" or "why would you tell me that?", as this reveals nothing about human nature, has no obvious emotion or idea you are sending, and is not enough of a story to justify calling it whole just quite yet.

 

I did enjoy the fact that they are history nerds. I was following history nerds in an alien history, and I was not to disoriented. Which is a mark of decent writing, I believe. I was actually more disoriented from the names of the kelpie eaters than the history itself, which can be seen as either bad naming or good writing.

 

 

Keep it up! I enjoyed this!

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Jagabond - thanks for the comments. I definitely agree the characters need strengthened after this test drive. Character is the entire reason I'm going back to this world - the worldbuilding is long since over with in the proper sense. Prax is forming herself pretty well after marinating, Tacitus not so much. There are a couple ways I could go with this that have come to mind - may ask about those after a few more comments come in. If this continues, they will probably stay history nerds for a number of reasons (I always wondered about history nerds in this world and the garbage they had to sort through, plus the plot requires access to said garbage). But they'll probably be working their way through grad school so Praxedes is going to need a real job - probably at one of the casinos, there are lots of those in Ona Yagich.

 

Tal -  The "eerily natural" comment makes me VERY happy! That was the idea. It's not meant to be a short story and this is only the beginning. If it ever matures, it's going to have to trace the whole history of this civilization to make sense of itself. If I were to keep working on it, then it's going to be at least a long-ish short story or novella, maybe more. But it's also a side project for when I get bored with Millenial Reign and need to cleanse the brain - so I'm not stressing about it at the moment. 

 

As for the naming conventions - I know they are a problem. Since this is game-derived, I had a very complex (and decidedly un-literary) system of naming conventions for this society. They were un-pronouncable, sometimes absurdly long, often had many diacritics, and always referenced obscure saints and mythology figures. For now I decided that maintaining the integrity of the source material (and mocking it) is better than simplifying it. 

Edited by CommandanteLemming
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I thought this was cool, but then, I like alternate histories.  Even though the footnotes take you out of the story, I enjoyed them for what they were.

 

Now, to make this a "real" story if you have the intent to write something and publish it somewhere so more than just players of the game will read it...

 

There's certainly a lot of material to pull from here, and you have sort of a prebuilt society to draw from.  You could easily turn this into a story, and not even have to justify the breakoff point from our history.

 

Contrary to what you say above, most people aren't going to care what exactly happened as long as you have some general clues like Japan has overseas colonies, and the New World is on equal footing with the Old world, or whatever actually happened.  If you don't know where to go, I would resist the urge to delve into the history more than you need to, and focus more on how the characters develop.

 

The problem with having a really cool setting and not knowing what to do with it, is that you often get a weak story.  If you want suggestions, I would take another story idea you have with strong plot and character ideas and blend it in with this setting.  That way the overall story will still be strong and you get to use this neat setting.
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Thanks! Right now I'm thinking of getting even more trippy with it and using the world a jumping off point into the ethics of authorship - do we desensitize ourselves to what we are putting our characters through? 

 

Basically the plot I'm working on is that Praxedes is playing the same game I did - except she's gaming our world, and all of our nasty historical tragedies are just strategic or comedic ploys by a bunch of bored college students in an alternate reality. Then that opens the door for weird dimension shifting stuff where Praxedes meets the gamer who created her reality (not me - but rather a fictional real-world  clone of herself), and eventually sees all of the suffering she caused in our world. Prax would be my main POV character and I'd stick pretty heavily to the perception that her world is real and it's we who are the fakes (her history would be told in flashback - ours as flippant chatroom strategy sessions).

 

That gets me entirely away from this as fantasy universe and presents me with some challenges in terms of portraying internet activity as action on the page, and of explaining a very obscure sector of geekdom to a wider audience, but it could be a fun sandbox. 

Edited by CommandanteLemming
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Very interesting. I was troubled to begin with at the mention in the foreword of "painstakingly detail", but I thought you handled it well, revealing just enough to allow the story to progress without burdening the reader with too much detail.

The setting feels alive with local colour, but you don't weigh the writing down with the description, which I think is absolutely the right approach.

I'm interested to see where the plot is going. There are no overt signposts or promises to the reader as yet, that I have spotted anyway. I'm intrigued to learn more about this interesting setting.

 

I think you're plot ideas sounds interesting - something a bit different - and very challenging to pull off. I await the next installment (which I already have!) with interest.

 

(As with Millenial, I've tracked some comments and will email then to you).

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