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JamesW

2012 July 30-JamesW-Resonance of Steel Ch 1&2

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Submitted this early because of no internet access tomorow.

These are the first two chapters after the prologue. They are set 23 years after the prologue, which introduced two characters who appear here.

For reference: Tosganril is Ganril, and Kellanath is Lanath, from the prologue chapter, the names change when they are leaders of their house. The name Lanath has fantasy expectations (Lan) but the nickname Lan doesn't appear here, nor is the character a tall stone faced figure.

This runs around 5900 words, hopefully not too much longer then acceptable, enjoy!

Summary:

Prologue: Ganril and Lanath are young men, Ganril is betrothed to Lanath's sister Relia. They find a twinblade, who serves the emperor, who has killed Relia and her servants. They fight and kill the twinblade because of an injury inflicted by Relia. The two swear a vow against the emperor as he is the only one who could have ordered a twinblade to attack them.

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A most enjoyable two chapters, sorry it took this long to get to them. I haven’t read the previous iterations of the first two chapters, but I did read through the critiquing thread for them and it looks like you took that advice to heart; the characters are doing something and each has a motivation driving them.

Setting stuff: I liked what I’ve seen of the setting so far, the Krath blades, the different orders. I did have my questions about a society based on the fact that kindness of any kind to those ‘weaker’ than you is a sin. Such a society must be a hard one. It’s clear in most of the characters here (concerned soldiers, Aiden) that these tenets run contrary to what most people actually instinctively feel. Though you do explain the rationale behind it, I still have my doubts, but let’s see if you can pull such a society off.

Language: Language is a little rough here and there, missing words and the like. Such as “The substance was worth”. Another rough sentence is: “However, the concern in their eyes was barely masked, but noticeable.” The fact that it is barely masked is indicative that it’s noticeable, you don’t need to mention it.

Dalen’s skill: It’s good that one of the main character’s is skilful, that makes it easier to like him. However, he might be a bit too skilful. He’s been trained by the Alkeri, which are apparently warriors of renown. He can wield their weapons. He can suppress the Fire of the swords. He can beat any of the fighters he faces, even one older and also trained by the Alkeri. Add to that the fact that he’s part of a powerful family, is friends with another powerful family, he’s got a lot going for him. Maybe too much.

Fight: The fighting reads a little clinical, such as when Dalen first fights the other Alkeri weapon master. They exchange blows, but in no way do we get a feel of the flow of battle. Who has the upper hand and when? It’s all equal. And then suddenly Dalen wins. The second bout feels shorter and more action pact, since this time we actually see the moves. And Dalen goes down, I did like that he didn’t win everything.

Dalen’s conflict: So apparently Ganril is in trouble. I’m not feeling the tension in that yet in Dalen’s POV. In fact in nothing that happens does he give voice or thought to that, though it is the reason he’s there. As such Ganril’s trouble is too sudden to leave much of an impact.

Stimulus herb: I think that Aiden goes for the root too quickly. Yes, he hasn’t slept much, but to immediately take a drug that seems more for emergencies looks a bit excessive. Unless he has a problem taking those things, which, might be an interesting character flaw.

Sickness: Aiden is really concerned about Dalen and his illness. Apparently it’s life threatening, but there are no signs of it in Dalen’s chapter.

Conclusion: I liked these chapters. Both characters are interesting, though Dalen is too skilled to make for a character you can easily care for and worry about. Two of the conflicts, Dalen’s uncle and Aiden’s concern for Dalen, come at the end of their respective chapters and feel tacked on.

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Thanks for the feedback Asmo, I'm still writing up the responses to the two submissions this week, I've been a bit swamped with moving back to school and all.

Just a few comments: The illness is only life-threatening because they both believe he has this illness. He might not be actually sick, but he believes he is, and if a certain group of people discover that he is indeed sick, they'll ritually kill him.

Dalen is intentionally more adept at fighting then many of his peers, his dedication comes from the aforementioned "illness" that he believes he has. He has other advantages that give him an edge, but he isn't immortal.

The Alkeri are just tribal people with a wide variety of weapons, each tribe has their preferred weapons but the variety of weapons gives them a lot of their prowess.

And the drug is one of his flaws, its part of his struggle.

The reason given for the society to not feel pity is given in the religion, but it is grounded in something much more practical. The planet itself used to have a fairly normal, day/night cycle, but a cataclysmic event caused a sudden shift. The days/nights became roughly 300 days each, and as a result mankind was almost completely wiped out, there was very little shelter capable of housing people safely during the 4 months out of the year where the surface became uninhabitable. The "culling the weak" was a survival thing, if a person didn't pull their weight they weren't worth saving.

That was several thousands of years before this, and as such they've adapted to their strange system of day/night and are much more able to survive.

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I usually wait to post until I can read several chapters together, I’m not someone who can evaluate early chapters entirely on their own. So I’ll do all three here.

Prologue: Pretty boring to me, mostly because of the beginning, followed by a repetitive fight.

The memories within the fight are very interesting though, as is Krathsteel itself. Loving that angle, the blades alive with their own memories. I found the idea of dying with the Fire in you being something so threatening a friend would kill someone close to them over, very engaging. I foresee some really tense moments in a close contest to the death. Attributing the blades to a creator, and not named for some material or area they come from was a pleasant surprise. I was expecting some sort of special mineral/area that specialized and held a monopoly on their construction. i.e the Emperor.

I also enjoyed the acclimation to the climate the people have made, living underground for long periods of time could make for good setting and limited environment, especially if things get heated while everyone is in enclosed spaces.

Swearing on their blades seemed a little cliché, but I’m rather interested at this point where it will take these characters. I love long term vengeance plots.

Chapter 1: Pretty good. Short and sweet, though the action sequences are still pretty bland to me. Rank and file, non-explosive sort of reaction for me; which kills the tension. Just back and forth, Dalen seems extremely good for facing a similarly trained, elder warrior than himself, even though he supposedly worries about it in his own head…he goes on to dominate the fight. Stringing it out when he didn’t even have to.

Loved Ganril showing up at the end—under cover it would seem. I’m gathering at this point Lan and Gan had a bit of a fallout and Gan is none too pleased. Very interest with where that will go.

Though pretty short, mostly focusing on the fighting, I thought it set up the coming events of the first quarter or so of the book pretty well.

I would really like at least some development of setting, the location of where they are, beyond a vague notion of some northern/southern arctic day-night cycles. We get nothing on the city, the mansion?/castle?/house? Not even a descriptive bearing on where the fight is taking place. A gaping hole in my interest in the chapter, nothing to really get me into the setting of the story.

Chapter 2: Again, pretty good. I like the Purifier role, and Aiden’s conflict of caring too much. Dalen’s illness is a little bit of a surprise, but I like it. Coupled with Aiden caring deeply, it could either be a good ploy by Dalen or an interesting backstory.

Rough society you’re setting up, though tying it with religion is sound, be careful to remember the differences in attitude as you switch viewpoints. It’s a great opportunity for some distinctive voices in the characters.

Rasoa seems stiff, though admittedly we don’t get much of her here, so my opinion is open to change on her. Everyone seems to want to care about others, and Rasoa obviously sees it in Aiden the way she tries to reiterate their beliefs, but the guards cared, and then Aiden cares, it already seems unsustainable that an entire culture could keep up this façade with so many rebelling openly against it. We don’t know how long they’ve kept these beliefs, but know that you can’t hold down an entire people like that more than a couple generations, not when everyone openly wears a deviant attitude like that. The lower classes would very quickly begin to confide in each other and it all breaks down from there.

I’m divided on the assassin in the castle. A snake in the nest is often exciting to read, but you have Gan hiding from Lan in the castle (that’s what I gathered anyway), and an assassin also hiding from Lan as well as hiding from his target Gan. A little convoluted so early on, but that’s not saying I’m not open to some clarity in development as a reader. Just seems tacked on, and everyone has the ability to hide so easily in a Great Lord’s own manor.

Once again, a very noticeable lack of any sort of environmental bearings and aesthetic descriptions; hardly a setting at all so far. He’s in a castle with a barracks…looking out at fields of farms instead of city growing around it? Nothing to go on for the setting of their world. Does everyone always live underground? So far it’s really detracting from my immersion in a story I otherwise find pretty interesting to this point. Can’t wait to read more!

Also, there is no reason you should explain the Fire any further at this point imo. The descriptive feeling of it in battle is more than enough to give the reader an idea of what it does to a person. Anything more, this early in the story would be an unneeded info dump. Let the magic of it unfold naturally through the story. I think you’re doing great with that so far.

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Thanks for the feedback Elwynn, I'll put a note in to add more on the setting come revision time. Ganril hiding in the manor is mostly from outside eyes, he isn't hiding from his friend. Next chapter that get's resolved, so there's only one person who is hiding.

Also I might not have mentioned this, but the Assassin character wasn't hiding in the Manor, he was in an inn in the city, he just slipped into finish off the guard he had wounded earlier.

Again, that is the lack of setting description coming through, but I'll work more of that into the book. For now the tightly confined nature of the story to this single location doesn't leave a great deal of description available that doesn't feel like it's in excess.

Your comment about the fight scenes seeming clinical is spot on. It is either a characteristic of my inexperience as a writer, or it was completely intentional, given the nature of the combatants. That they're wielding blades which grant them a lot of innate ability lends to a clinical feel to their fighting, their main advantages coming from noticing weakness and evaluating the scene. I'm not certain if I just need more experience in writing these scenes, or if the feel of the blades, and how combat works that influenced me to write it in that way.

JW

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You have a then where you need a than. (Sorry, pet peeve.) The Father more graceful then the son.

There's the occasional awkward sentence. We all have those, just watch out for them on editing runs.

The big dramatic monologue feels awkward...

It isn't a flaw to hold your spear looser in one hand. The stance you describe there is exactly what you are supposed to do. By keeping your left hand loose you allow it to act as a guide(like a pool cue) and extend your reach.(more of that I have experience with the weapon stuff.) As has been said, your fights are a bit dull.

That first one. It amounts to They hopped around until he finally whacked her in the leg.

Were I to write it, it would look like this(noting again that I have used both weapons.)

The woman brought her halberd around, sweeping towards the man's legs. With surprising agility the spearman leapt over her swing, stabbing towards the halberdier's vulnerable right shoulder. She brought the heavy weapon's haft up, narrowly parrying the spear. The pair hacked and stabbed at each other, weapons clacking against eachother, sweat pouring down their faces. Finally the spearman scored a hit on the woman's exposed leg. The fight was done. She bowed and then limped away, shoulders slumped in defeat.

I know it isn't an important fight, but it's early and no matter what you do, your first fight needs to create a good first impression. Several times through writing my scene I had to literally act out how I'd manage the swings. It showed me where each thing makes me vulnerable, which makes the fight seem more realistic and well thought out. The clinical nature is in your lack of description, not the blades. These blades grant immense skill, make the fighters awesome. Fights don't need to be long to be awesome. In truth the only time a fight takes more than 30 seconds in when the opponent has a giant shield that you just can't get past... (I hate shields.)

Like any other aspect of writing, knowing about the material is important. You've said you don't know much about sword fighting yet. Try to get that experience. Find a Belegarth or Dagohir group nearby and go hit people with sticks. I promise it'll be fun eventually. This wiki has every Bel group in existence on it. http://geddon.org/California I bet one of these is close to you. Tell them you're a writer and looking for experience. Odds are they're an understanding lot.

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That's a great suggestion, and thanks. I don't have a lot of experience, and I suppose I can't learn everything I want to do just through writing it. I very much do appreciate the advice.

I'll look into it at some point, I didn't even know about a group like that, but thanks for it. I've had some limited practice with foam weapons, but nothing near what I want to be writing.

I'm hoping that I'll get better at writing the scenes as I do more of them, so hopefully that is going to be the case. I'll look into one of those groups, and at least try and get a better idea about what I'm doing.

JW

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Good plan. Sorry my post is a little surly. It's been a long day. I really enjoyed the chapters... The dialogue and pacing are fantastic.

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If the only part you have issue with is the fight scenes, I find that more then acceptable. It's your expertise and not mine, so I count that as a win. Worldbuilding, description, interest, pacing, dialogue, those are my key focuses, if I suck at fight scenes now, I can come back to them after another 100k words and hope they turn out better.

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Ashamed to think it took me so long to get around to it. But here it is! My feedback for chapter 1&2.

Chapter 1:

Overview:

I remember reading through the chapter the first time and feeling that it felt more like a prologue than a first chapter -- I think I might even have mentioned it to you on IRC. Part of this, I think, is due to the lack of conflict or mystery. I didnt feel like there was any real hook that grabbed me. We don't know much about Dalen or his motivations, only that he achieves his goal with appearant ease. I must say that the chapter did get a bit better on the second readin though, after having read the prologue as the prologue added another layer to it.

Ganril and Lanath:

I have to admit I would never have spotted them had you not pointed out the name changes -- in fact, I missed them both the first readthough. The fact that they are there makes the prologue seem more integrated in the plot, but at the same time there is also a disconnect between the the prologue and the first chapter. Why does Ganril remain hidden? It does introduce some mystery but at the same time you also make it seem like there has been a falling out between Ganril and Lanath. Now this could be a story all on it's own but at the same time we just read them swaring an bloodoath to take vengence on the emperor so the it makes it seem very odd. It does give chapter one some more depth, which is nice, but I think it still needs some clarification.

Fight scenes:

You seem to have a problem adding tention to the fight scenes. There was some tension when Celias stepped up and we see that he too is trained in Alkeri weapons. The tension don't last long however. Dalen is just way too good a figher for such tension to last. There is ways to make a really a fight with a really capable fighter interesting without relying on tension. Anticipation is often a better tool to emply then. The characters moment of triumph isn't about victory over a harder foe but rather it is when they stop 'holding back' and show what they are truly made of. It might not be the most logical fight in the history of fights, why would you hold back when you are taking a beating after all? Trust me though it works, and depending on setting there might actually be good reasons for hold back. There are of course other ways too but I felt like I should mention that the alternatives are there.

Misc:

I liked the characters -- more so after the re-read but I still liked them the first time through as well. I kept looking for any semblance of an antagonist though -- but I put that down to me trying to find a potential conflic rather than me thinking that the chapter needing an antagonist of any form ^^;

Speaking of characters, I am wondering if the chapter might have gotten a bit deeper if it also had a POV section from Ganril. It might help clear things up a bit -- though for all I know that would ruin parts of the plot further ahead, but I felt like I should throw it out there.

As it stands I still think it feels more like a prologue/into than a chapter 1, its a good story but it is also very selfcontained and doesn't seem to have anything directly to do with chapter 2. Speaking of chapter 2...

Chapter 2:

Overview:

I really liked chapter 2. It had a strong start and I felt the whole chapter had was solid. I did think that it was a big all out siege going on at the start though so the guards leaning back against the wall took me a bit of guard. This might be due to the apparent urgency that at the beginning of the chapter with details like the Stimulus herb that Asmodemon mentioned. Other than that I can't recall any moments that took me out of the story or made me pause.

Purifier:

I liked this one a lot, and the cataloging of the herbs in particular. It was a small line but it really added a lot of flavour to me. From what I can gather part of the reason this role isn't seen as a worthy part seems to be the inherent compassion of the role -- it is hard to try and heal people if you don't care if they live or die after all. It would be an interesting conflict so see between the view of the society -- and its religion -- and the role of the purifier. I imagine its a role everyone wants to be filled, in case they ever have need of it, but has an inherent stigma to it. In a way it makes the role even more of a noble one.

Religion

Just felt I should point out some conflicting parts.

His last act was both a gift and a punishment to us.

You could argue that when Krath 'died' he didn't simply punish humanity for their sins he too showed compassion in giving them the gift of Krathsteeel. Even in death he showed compassion. Of course this isn't really a conflict as such but for a society that sees compassion as a weakness -- and as one of its core tenets no less -- it seems like a bit of an oversight. I mean someone must have thought something similar as I did in the history of the world.

Misc

Dalen's illness comes a bit out of the blue, adding to the prologue feel of the first chapter. A lot of things seem to have happened between chapter 1 and 2 if such a severe illness is now threatening Dalen's life.

On page 19:

Aiden knew he would find no peace in the Halls.

This comes right after a long discussion about the dying soldier. Even though it's on a new line this line read like Aiden knew the dying soldier would find no place in the Halls rather than Aiden himself not having a place in the Halls when he dies.

The warmth of the sun was still a pleasing site after the last turn of darkness.

Ignoring the typo, the warmth is not seen but rather felt right?

On Page 23:

She looked into Aiden’s eyes, feeling that this was enough. It was more then he had heard her speak in the entire year she had known him, yet she seemed so passionate about it. He really knew so little about her.

It almost felt like you had suddenly switch POV for about half a paragraph. Parts of this paragraph is how she feels about it and also, she had known him not he had known her.

Sum up:

I like what I have read and I like the setting.

There are a few things that I got stuck on -- as seen above -- but nothing that would keep me from continuing with the novel. Less LoL and more writing :D

-TSD

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I've mentioned before about Dalen's illness, but perhaps I could clarify a bit more. The next two chapters have another perspective, giving a lot more insight into the effects of the Fire, and how it effects an individual in combat. When I enter revision stage I'll try and clarify the two big concerns that people have, the out of the blue feeling of Dalen's illness as well as the fight scenes, and the lack of realism/tension within them.

As usual thanks for the feedback! It's appreciated and it helps.

One more note for you TSD, I realized the other day when I wrote a self-contained short story that if I plan out the entirety of what I'm going to write, the writing itself takes little to no time. I had a story idea for a DnD character, and wrote a backstory in short story form. It was something like 17 pages in a day, or 3000 words. I'm working my way through a more thorough outline for the entire book, so that when I get back into it the writing itself is much more efficient.

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Despite everyone else apologizing, I'm getting this reviewed well after they did. Is there a prize?

First of all, I have to say I like the background and setting for this, although I agree that it would be nice to see a bit more of the physical setting via description in the text. (The occasional small description of minor ideas would be nice as well). From here, it looks like you have a solid background (though I knew that from your prior submission) and setting, with some thought in the details that makes it different. The pacing was good, and by the end I was left wanting to read more.

However, despite everything going for it, I almost stopped reading due to one factor. I'll admit right up front that this can be easily solved in revision, and shouldn't be a problem for the critique, but I noticed it multiple times. That is, many sentences have commas that seem to break the flow of the sentence awkwardly. Some examples:

The realization that he’d been standing still in a hallway looking like a child, one years away from his Forgeday was humiliating.

Standing next to him was an unfamiliar woman, but one whose robes, white and black could only be Aiden’s partner, a Daughter of Malcora.

Several of the veterans, those waiting for the younger Mentors to finish their displays had begun staring at Dalen.

In each of these (and others), it appears you are adding in an aside or explanatory text but missing the punctuation to indicate you are returning to the main idea. Each time I encountered one, I had to re-read it a couple times to figure out what was going on. This, combined with many other longer, more intricate sentences, seemed to slow the narrative. This was a sufficient contrast to the content of the first chapter that together, they nearly made me skip the chapter, or at least skim it for useful information.

Enough of that. There were some other places where I thought you could use a bit more clarity or add some information that would help the reader out.

  • Name changes: I feel we need to know about the changed names soon, if not right at the very beginning. I think that would connect the prologue to the book more strongly, plus show that enough time has passed that both of the characters have inherited their houses (and had children).
  • Aiden: At first, I thought he was one of the brethren Dalen was talking about. A bit more about him standing out (and their previous relationship) at this point would be beneficial, I think. Additionally, you might be able to work in the background for the name change.
  • Andu Staff: I'd like more description of it beyond half/half and unbalanced. In particular, how is it unbalanced? What makes that better than a balanced weapon?
  • Pair of blades: Dalen thinks this at the end of his Krathsteel fight. However, I don't know if he is wielding one or two. Everything else is written as one, but this part makes me confused.
  • Quick End: I realize you need to keep the story moving, but to me it appears abrupt that the Kellanath would abruptly declare the competition over after only having seen half of the mentors. Along with the emphasis on tradition, it seems he would at least allow Dalen (and possibly Celias) to still be challenged by the others. You might resolve this by having a traditional recognition of the best of the blade masters present by the other masters themselves, therefore having them cause the challenge to be done quickly. (Something like this also establishes Dalen's credentials by his peers.)
  • Stimulants: I thought this was a good idea, but would suggest adding a bit of hesitation to Aiden before ingesting them. Something to hint at it being a bad idea to just take them willy-nilly.
  • Rosoa's talk: To me, this seemed out of place and the closest thing to info dumping. The pacing survives somewhat, because it's good to have somewhat confrontational discussion, but the content didn't do anything for me.

The others make some good points as well. Finally, regarding Dalen's illness, I think if you show his mortality being on his mind at least once or twice in his chapter, that might be enough to not make Aiden's thoughts come out of the blue. There are hints, I think, but perhaps if it was more explicit.

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Yeah no worries on the timing, any and all feedback is appreciated.

I've been trying to tone down my inappropriate comma usage. I'm still quite new at this and haven't really worked out how to properly break my sentences. My issue is that I think in sentences like those with those commas, broken awkwardly and often with extra information that isn't particularly needed. I'm working on fixing that in my writing.

Thanks for pointing out those other parts of exposition that I could put in earlier. Some of those you mentioned I have already thought of, and some of it shows up in the next two chapters.

Rosoa's speech to him was info dumping, I'll admit to that. I'll either end up cutting it entirely or trimming it back to be a lot sharper. I'm considering putting a bit of that earlier, perhaps while he is working on healing the attacked guardsman. I hesitated before putting it in because it was a lot more info dump then most of what I was writing so it'll get changed.

The names are clarified in the next chapter, we actually see Ganril and Lanath interacting, we find the reason for him being there and why he is hiding. We also get to see Zerath, the other son and friend of Dalen.

The "pair of blades" is meant to be ambiguous, the assumption can be that he is either a twinblade, or the "Pair of blades" that his parents had is the reference here. Celias mentions that he didn't stand a chance because both of Dalen's parents had weapons, which I thought was indicative of which meaning his thoughts were bent towards, but I can clarify that.

Thanks again for the feedback, I'll be looking through all of this when I hit revision stages (Eventually, not for a long while yet though).

JW

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The names are clarified in the next chapter, we actually see Ganril and Lanath interacting, we find the reason for him being there and why he is hiding. We also get to see Zerath, the other son and friend of Dalen.

Regarding the name thing, I was thinking something like "Tellanath entered with his son Zerath, who would one day inherit the lordship, and the 'Tel-' prefix to his name." Smarter readers will get the hint and figure out the connection between Lanath and Tellanath. The others will find out in a chapter or two, and could then look back at the hint and think they could have figured it out. It makes the story seem a little more immersive when a reader knows enough to be figuring stuff like that out on their own.

Of course, you could make it a little easier yet if there was a defining characteristic of each presented in the prologue, then mentioned again with the description of each character (with their new name) in the first chapters. You could read about tags and traits here (near the bottom) on Jim Butcher's blog, which is the sort of thing I was thinking about.

Caleb

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